Now that Jussie Smollett has been officially charged with faking his own hate crime, his lie will embolden those he blamed.
When it first revealed itself on our newsfeeds, the story of Jussie Smollett was a grim, easy to understand tableau. For the average Australian, I had not heard of the show, or the actor before the headlines shouted his name, but the accoutrements wielded in the attack were easy to identify. The antagonists were armed with a noose, homophobic epithets and a Trumpian catchphrase (“this is MAGA country”), it seemed unbelievable, but considering it emanated from the country that rebirthed the Nazi and elevated a cartoon frog into a (now banned) hate symbol, it seemed believable, because it was completely unbelievable.
However, wind the clock forward to today, and it is anything but, as Smollett was officially charged with falsely reporting a crime.
Per The New York Times, “…no surveillance cameras caught the attack. There were no witnesses. He had not reported it from the scene, and was still wearing a noose that he said the perpetrators had placed around his neck when he got home. Investigators, though, were able to track two men who appeared on video footage not far from the scene that night. Using ride share data, they discovered the two men were brothers who in fact knew Mr Smollett. One had acted as an extra on “Empire.””
The question, of course, is why.
One theory, of course, is career advancement. As the great anti-Trump fetishism is as great as its opposite force, perhaps Smollett saw an opportunity. It would be easier to grow profile by gaining one. A victim of a hate crime, who happens to be in a pro-black show writes itself; all it took was the will to do it. Plus, Donald Trump tapped into this easy hate, might as well follow the President’s angle and cash in. Clearly, the stunt didn’t work, as his scenes in Empire have been cut, and a question mark now hangs over his career.
The method of his fiction is also telling. The usage of the noose is, of course, a symbol of the hideous evil that grew America. However, the lynching of black citizens is not strictly a curio of a bygone era, it runs under modern examples of actioned racism. Back in November 2018, a single image bracketed social media, showing a prostrate figure hanging from a tree, bordered only by cutting words of his mother, “they lynched my baby.”
The man’s mother was a notable Ferguson activist. Police ruled out the lynching angle, but many still disagree. Many are also questioning the eerily similar deaths of those at Ferguson. You could merely say that Smollett jumped into the current mid-stream. There’s an issue with that, however, as Smollett’s lie now has power. Modern America is a divided land as we know, not purely in the left versus the right, or white versus black, but rather in the truth versus a lie. In the land of Fake News, the legitimacy of each horrific act is held up to the one before it. You can choose not to believe it, because of xyz. The reasons why Smollett did it are now much less important as what is going to be dismissed because of it.
If this kind of attack happened for real, you’d have to assume that the MAGA crowd will cry wolf, reacting to the headlines that viscerally state the details before the crime is investigated.