It’s a terrible story. Unconscionable.
Justin “Jussie” Smollett, a black, gay actor, told police that he was attacked by two racist Trump supporters on a Chicago street Jan. 29.
Smollett said that, among other atrocities, the two white men beat him up, poured bleach on him, tied a noose around his neck and shouted, “This is MAGA country,” a reference to President Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan.
The news triggered a torrent of outrage, particularly among progressives and the Hollywood left, who couldn’t wait to exploit this outrageous incident as a not-so-shining example of “Donald Trump’s America.”
Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, of Michigan, tweeted, “The dangerous lies spewing from the right wing is killing and hurting our people.”
The media also grabbed the baton. CNN news anchor Brooke Baldwin grimly declared, “This is America in 2019.”
It would be indeed, if it were only true.
Smollett, who is one of the stars of the show “Empire,” has been arrested and charged with filing a false police report. Police believe he made the whole thing up and staged a hate crime. Numerous published reports say Smollett paid two Nigerian brothers to participate in the “attack.” You would think Smollett would know by now lying to police is frowned upon.
According to the Associated Press, in 2007 a California misdemeanor complaint was filed against Smollett, to which he pleaded no contest, to giving false information to police when he was pulled over for driving while under the influence. Smollett, according to the AP, was accused of identifying himself as his younger brother and signing a false name on the promise to appear in court.
What’s wrong with this guy?
I’m no psychologist but I don’t think anything is wrong with him. Nor do I necessarily think there’s anything emotionally imbalanced with others who make up similar stories.
We love to medicalize bad behavior.
The Daily Signal, the news website of the conservative Heritage Foundation, chronicled 19 hate crime hoaxes since Donald Trump was elected president.
Among the phony stories:
- An openly bisexual student at North Park University, claimed to be the target of hateful notes and emails following Trump’s election in November 2016. NBC News ran with the story. Turned out the student wrote the notes herself.
- A Philadelphia woman claimed in November 2016 that she was harassed at a gas station by white, Trump-supporting males, one of whom pulled a weapon on her. Never happened.
- An 18-year-old Muslim woman in Louisiana claimed in November 2016 that two white men, one of whom was wearing a Trump hat, attacked and robbed her. She made it up.
I could go on, but you get the idea.
If those who concoct such whoppers aren’t emotionally impaired or desperately crying out for attention, why do it?
Dr. Wilfred Reilly, a professor at Kentucky State University, author of the book, “Hate Crime Hoax” and a vocal opponent of white nationalists, told Fox News that “the demand for bigots in America greatly exceeds the supply...”
In other words, if want you to believe, in Donald Trump’s America, that there are roving bands of MAGA-hat wearing racists victimizing minority groups, you’ll do anything, including making a phony police report, to confirm the narrative.
It’s classic groupthink - the willingness to suspend reason and common sense to achieve a consensus which, in this case, is that Americans are meaner and more racist since November, 2016.
Is America a more racially divided country now than it was during World War II, when tens of thousands of Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps?
Is America more racist now than it was during the Jim Crow era?
Hate crimes happen. But those who point to the FBI statistic - reported by media outlets nationwide - that “hate crimes increased by 17 percent in 2017,” need to take a second look. Another 1,000 law enforcement agencies began reporting hate crime statistics in 2017. It would follow that more data would equal more crimes compared to the previous year.
But no matter. Without objective truth, everything is relative.
Rich Manieri is a Philadelphia-born journalist and author. He is currently a professor of journalism at Asbury University in Kentucky. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.