Spare me all the pieties about Jussie Smollett
[Disclaimer: Jussie Smollett, like all defendants, is entitled to the presumption of innocence in his forthcoming trial[s]. The following analysis is based on the assumption that the evidence presented by assistant state's attorney Risa Lanier is valid and that the charges against him are true. Registered voters in Cook County, who are members of his potential jury pool, are strongly cautioned that reading further may make them ineligible to sit in judgment at trial.]
Yesterday's cable news airwaves were full of commentary about Jussie Smollett, and now that he has been exposed as a hoaxer, much of it was very good. But there have been a lot of pieties expressed that just stick in my craw. Let's face it: there is a lot of posterior-covering underway by people who jumped on a story that was full of obvious holes, beginning with the notion that Trump-supporters are wandering the streets of a wealthy gay neighborhood in Chicago at 2 A.M., equipped with nooses and bleach bottles, during the polar vortex, and are such fans of Empire that they recognize Smollett and know his background.
Piety number one: No, this crime was not "inexplicable"!
According to the information presented by police superintendent Eddie Johnson and prosecutor Risa Lanier, greed was one root of the hoax. Smollett's pay per episode of Empire has been variously reported as as low as $65,000 and as high as $125,000. Either figure puts him in the dreaded one percent at the top of the income distribution. Progressives love to lecture us about the injustice of high incomes but always exempt their own. Being a progressive is akin to the papal indulgences of the Middle Ages.
But there is another obvious motive: political — hatred of Donald Trump. Drudge has been featuring a picture of him that says it all:
Piety number two: It is tragedy if people claiming to be victims of hate crimes have their allegations questioned.
Chicago superintendent of police Eddie Johnson, who received gushing praise for his heartfelt news conference presentation yesterday, was one of many people making this case:
While all reports of crime, including "hate crimes," deserve thorough investigation, the fact is that fake hate crime reports are epidemic — Tawana Brawley, Duke lacrosse, UVA fraternities, and many other lesser known instances. An entire website, http://www.fakehatecrimes.org, is devoted to the epidemic, and they currently have 349 items, including Smollett. I have repeatedly made the point that there is not enough hate to go around, because our politics and society reward people who claim to be victims.
Piety number three: Blacks, homosexuals, and the City of Chicago are the real victims here.
Yes, Smollett victimized these groups, but they were collateral damage. His intended victims were Trump-supporters, wearer of MAGA hats, and President Trump himself. The POTUS recognized this in a tweet yesterday:
But Superintendent Johnson, while bemoaning the victimization of the other groups, had not a single word about the intended and direct victims of Smollett.
Piety number four: Those politicians and media figures who wrapped themselves in gushing praise and sympathy for Smollett did not just make a "mistake."
The rush to exploit the alleged but phony hate crime was unseemly because of all the holes in the story. But blinded by hatred of Trump, and anxious to benefit themselves, people like Don Lemon of CNN and Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris sought to benefit themselves.
Democrat operative and now professor at USC Robert Shrum told them to just claim it was a "mistake."
Robert Shrum, the veteran Democratic campaign strategist and political science professor at USC, said that the Smollett story is a good lesson for candidates who want to weigh in on such high profile stories. "You can't react with a hair trigger. We've all done it."
He said that the candidates "will probably get asked about it. The simple answer is, 'I made a mistake.'"
Sorry: When you exploit something for personal gain without a moment's consideration of the other side of the story, it's not a mistake; it is a reveal of your cravenness.
Piety number five: Jussie Smollett is insane and needs help, not prison.
Sorry: He planned this hoax for vile reasons of personal and political gain. He is incredibly stupid, leaving a vivid trail of evidence, including paying his henchmen by check! But stupidity and venality are not forms of insanity and do not justify mercy.
As a Trump-supporter living in a city where conservatives who are visible are subject to physical attack, I am angry at the fuel Smollett threw on the fire of Trump-hatred. He deserves no sympathy, no compassion, but he does merit a long prison term for the harm he has inflicted and to help stem the tide of fake hate crimes.