Jussie Smollett: True hate crime or another hoax?
As more information about the alleged hate-crime investigation began circulating on Wednesday evening, it showed that once again journalists, politicians and celebrities might have run too hard and too soon with another unfounded allegation. Much like in "The Truth About The Lincoln Memorial Incident," accurate reporting can come only with time, but that didn't stop media figureheads from lambasting all Trump-supporters, again.
Smollett, an actor on a television show, Empire, claimed he was attacked during the early hours on Monday by two people he could not give descriptions of, not even as to their sex. He claimed they hurled racial and homophobic insults as they assaulted him and then proceeded to pour an "unknown liquid" on him before wrapping a thin rope around his neck.
Smollett then told police he went to his friend's apartment with the rope still around his neck and continued to wear it until police were dispatched 45 minutes later. Upon their arrival, Smollett asked them to turn off their body camera recordings. During the initial interview, no mention was made indicating that the attackers were Trump-supporters but TMZ ran the headline "Attackers Shouted 'MAGA Country'" anyway. When police were asked to verify this, they could not, and so they followed up with Smollett, where he then stated that the perpetrators did yell the confusing sentiment.
Before waiting for more information, Kamala Harris, who had an established relationship with the actor, and Cory Booker took to Twitter, where they both offered support to the actor as well as phrasing his attack as a "modern-day lynching." Many accused the two senators of using the incident to promote their anti-lynching legislation despite the fact that no lynching occurred, even if all of Smollett's accusations are true.
Wednesday evening, the AP released a statement from the Chicago police that said, "We haven't seen anybody, at this point, matching the description he gave. Nobody looks menacing, and we didn't find a container anywhere," a reference to a container for the liquid that the actor said was thrown at him. This was after law enforcement reviewed hundreds of hours of surveillance recordings from dozens of businesses in the area where Smollett claimed that the attack happened. A city with almost 20,000 public cameras, indicative of an Orwellian dystopia, had captured no physical evidence that a crime had occurred.
Police later Wednesday night released two photos of "persons of interest" but did not imply that they were suspects of the attack. The grainy images showed a pair walking down a street with no distinguishing features or holding any objects, nor was Smollett in the frames. Chicago police issued the "community alert" since the pair in the video stills could not be identified and there had been an implication of a hate crime. They also reiterated that they still had no proof that confirmed Smollett's story.
The incident sparked recollection of many alleged hate crimes that too quickly prompted social media cries of racism and anti-Trump rhetoric only to be later proved as hoaxes. Breitbart keeps a running tab of over 100 hate crime hoaxes since President Trump's election. Smollett's suspected attack is eerily similar to one from Massachusetts where a 20-year-old man claimed he was the victim of an assault by two racists who called out "Trump country now" during the attack. After police interviewed the "victim," he admitted that he had made the story up to "raise awareness" of issues in the country.
It is still too early to tell whether Jussie Smollett's claims of victimhood are true, false, or somewhere in the exaggerated middle, but that only means that it was too early for outlets like GQ and TMZ to be running stories that place blame at the feet of the president and his supporters for a crime they can't be sure occurred.
There is a natural emotional response to tragic stories, but increasingly, people have been using them to reinforce pigeonholes that they hold on to for completely unrelated reasons – like self-proclaimed activist Alyssa Milano doubling-down on her hate toward the Covington kids, even after video evidence exonerated them, by claiming that "MAGA hats are the new white hoods of the KKK."
Wrath is the sin that fuels anti-Trumpers' feeling of perverse vindication when they hear that something terrible has happened and it coincides with their own philosophies. Then a complete lack of humility is present when it turns out to not be as bad as they first thought or even hoped. Stepping on someone else's sad story as a soapbox to virtue-signal is distasteful. To do so without even confirming the story's authenticity is ignorance. Being unable to re-evaluate when the story is proven false is dangerous.
Connect with Taylor Day on Twitter at @TABYTCHI.