Can you spot the common thread in these tales?

  1. Audrey Seiler was kidnaped from her apartment and held for four days before she managed to escape. [1]
  2. Sang Huynh found a note threatening to burn down the family’s Oregon home if they didn’t leave. [2]
  3. Professor Kerri Dunn was shocked to find her car spray painted with hateful words and symbols. Her windows were smashed, and her tires were slashed. [3]
  4. Several men abducted Winfred L. Stafford from Hastings College in Nebraska at gunpoint. [4]
  5. Paula Oliveira was attacked by three men who cut her and caused her to miscarry. [5]
  6. Hate mail and death threats were sent to Emory University student, Sabrina Collins. [6]
  7. Susan Smith was carjacked, resulting in the death of her two sons as the carjacker crashed the car into a lake. [7]
  8. Jaelynn Sealey found her car on fire and a racial slur painted on her garage. [8]
  9. Arson destroyed the home of Sandra Benson and Freeman Berry and painted racial slurs on their fence. [9]
  10. DeWayne Byrdsong found his Mercedes-Benz spray-painted with racial epithets. [10]
  11. Ashley Todd was robbed, pinned to the ground, and the letter B scratched into her face. [11]
  12. Ahmad Saad Nasim was pelted with eggs while his assailants yelled, “Die, Muslim, die!” [12]
  13. Omobonike Odegbami, a graduate student at Ohio’s Bowling Green State University, got threatening and racially-charged email. [13]
  14. Miranda Prather was attacked after her name was posted at a local laundromat as part of a “hit list.” [14]
  15. In San Francisco, Morton Downey, Jr. had his face painted with a swastika and his head shaved. [15]
  16. Again in San Francisco, a man was abducted, held in a van, and had a swastika carved on his chest. [16]
  17. Jerry Kennedy had his college door burned three times by radicals objecting to his pro-gay literature. [17]
  18. In England, Mohammed Bashir was harrassed and intimidated, and later his shop was bombed. [18]
  19. Chris Barton was attacked, sprayed with gasoline, and narrowly escaped being set on fire. [19]
  20. Jennifer Prissel was beaten by two men who yelled anti-gay slurs, punched her, and cut her in the face. [20]
  21. Jake Thompson of Encinal Elementary School was attacked by ten schoolmates who beat him, tore up his shirt, and held his head in the toilet while saying racial slurs. [21]
  22. Sharmeka Moffitt was attacked by white supremacists and set on fire, burning over 90% of her body. [22]
  23. Charlie Rogers was attacked at home by three masked men, who cut her and tried to burn her house. [23]
  24. Megan Williams was kidnapped, raped, and tortured in 2007 by six whites for about a week. [24]
  25. Tawana Brawley was abducted and raped by six police officers. They wrote racial insults on her, smeared her with feces, and left her in a garbage bag. [25]
  26. Meg Lanker-Simons, a student at the University of Wyoming, received a rape threat via Facebook. [26]
  27. A transgender high school student is physically and sexually assaulted in a bathroom of the Hercules High School campus. [27]
  28. A black student at Grand Valley State University was shocked to find racist messages written on the student’s door. [28]

Did you guess these people were victims of violence and hate crime? That’s a common answer, but that’s not the right one. The common thread running through all these incidents is that the victims themselves committed the crimes. In every incident shown here, the so-called victims cried wolf to the public and the press over a manufactured crime.

Apparently, here in “Happy Valley”–Utah County–we aren’t immune to hate crimes. Along the I-15 freeway near Lindon, Utah, a billboard was attacked twice. Last week someone stole the vinyl sign off the billboard, and this weekend someone defaced the replaced sign with paint. The billboard shows a traditional white chapel superimposed on a rainbow with the words “Alternative Lifestyle? ‘Til death do us part,” and a webpage address. This billboard appears to refer to the current issue of same-sex marriage, a topic which usually meets with some opposition in Utah.

When I drove past the billboard on Monday, I noticed that it had been splattered with paint, and a thought crossed my mind almost instantly–the people who defaced this sign must be the same people who put the sign up in the first place. Could this be nothing more than a publicity stunt?


I dismissed my initial thought and headed home, but a few hours later I noticed that the local nightly news reported this defacement. I realized that whoever had vandalized the billboard was getting the desired publicity. According to Simmons Outdoor Media, the billboard was rented by a group who wishes to remain anonymous–so anonymous, in fact, that they registered their domain under Simmons Media Group LLC’s name. The website was virtually content-free except for a “coming soon” sign. Now they’ve added a form asking people to send tips about the people responsible for stealing their sign (as of this writing, there was no request for information about the sign’s defacement).

Why do I think the sign was defaced by the same people who posted it? There are several reasons:

  • The sign was defaced with yellow and orange paint–not exactly what you would expect from a vandal who wants to destroy the message. Bright colors highlight a sign. A dark color would make more sense.
  • A vandal would paint over the words on the sign, obscuring them. All the words are still clearly visible.
  • A graffiti artist would tag the sign.
  • A person motivated by hate would almost certainly scrawl hateful words on the sign. The only word added is “no”–not exactly a raging example of loathing.
  • Simmons Media Group owns a raft of Utah radio stations, including KXRK (X96) and KJQN. These two stations are labeled as “Alternative Rock” and “Adult Alternative,” respectively.

It seems to me that the Simmons Media Group is playing the victim to promote its radio station(s) in a shameless grab for media attention. According to the media report, local police have been contacted regarding the theft of the sign. If this incident ends up being part of a publicity stunt, Simmons Media will be guilty of filing a false police report, and charges could be filed against the company.

Whenever I try to figure out why something is being done, I ask myself, qui bono? Who benefits? In this case, do the vandals benefit from a particularly lame attempt to obscure the message on the sign? Nope. The only people who benefit from this act of vandalism are the people who put up the sign in the first place. Where before they had only a few signs, now they have free media coverage! And hey, who cares if you cry wolf and stir up emotions? There’s no such thing as bad publicity, right? Based on who stands to benefit, the people who put up the sign are none other than the Simmons Media Group. Sure, they claim an anonymous group paid them to do it. But I just don’t believe it.

It is possible that I am completely wrong, and this sign really was the brainchild of a same-sex marriage group. If that turns out to be the case, I will gladly print out this article and eat it while my wife takes incriminating photographs. But for some reason I think I am safe. I am also expecting to see the paint-splattered billboard up for another two weeks. Gotta get all the attention you can while the getting’s good, dontchaknow?

Addendum (4/26/2004): Over the weekend, the billboard was updated with a new image, and the website was updated today with the same image. Just like the other media hounds who faked their own tragedies, Simmons Media appears to have created this entire incident out of whole cloth in the name of publicity. Incidentally, the web site is no longer asking for information about the sign theft.

Changed Billboard

Here is the email I sent to the Simmons Media Group:

I wrote about your billboard a week ago figuring it was a fake. Now that I see that I was indeed correct, I have some follow-up questions:

Since you stated that you had filed a police report regarding the theft of the billboard, are you concerned about being charged with filing a false police report? Or was this statement more deception along the same lines as the fake defacing of your billboard?

Feel free to read my comments from last week at I look forward to your response.

As of this posting, I have received no response.

Addendum (5/8/2004): And answer came back there none. Are you surprised?

[7] Wikipedia
[14] Wikipedia
[15] Wikipedia
[24] Wikipedia
[25] Wikipedia
[26] Laramie Boomerang
[27] Contra Costa Times
[28] Grand Valley State University website

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