Over the past few weeks, many of you asked why I was “refusing” to join the chorus of those expressing sympathy for Jussie Smollett and outrage at his (phantom) attackers. No doubt this was because, like nearly everyone, you found this actor’s harrowing tale of racist and homophobic victimization so convincing.
Indeed, it speaks volumes that no less a person than President Trump was leading that chorus, which included a who’s who of politics, entertainment, sports, and social media. Now comes this, according to CNN on Feb. 1:
Arrested and charged
More than three weeks after he alleged that he was the victim of a hate crime, actor Jussie Smollett has been arrested on suspicion of filing a false report about it, Chicago police said Thursday morning.
Smollett faces a felony charge of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false report claiming he was attacked by two men, including one who was masked, in the early morning of January 29 in Chicago. He alleged they yelled racist and homophobic slurs, tied a rope around his neck and poured an unknown substance on him.
Truth be told, I smelled a rat from the outset. Close friends will attest as much. But there can be no greater evidence of my disbelief than my refusal to join that Smollett chorus.
Nobody can accuse me of being hesitant to express my opinion on politically charged events of the day. That’s what I do here. But I pride myself on being assiduously informed and scrupulously fair-minded. This means that, despite my inclination to believe even #MeToo victims, I always reserve judgment until credible and corroborating facts allow me to chime in.
Don’t need approval
It probably helps that I never felt the need to join the maddening crowd of twits on social media, where spewing baseless opinions and snarky comments (on everything) is the best way to win “likes” and influence “followers.” I have decried this dumbing down of public discourse in many commentaries, including “Why I Hate Twitter,” posted on February 1, 2013.
What’s more, I am old enough to remember the infamous Tawana Brawley case (which is why the Rev. Al Sharpton would’ve been well-advised to keep his mouth shut in this case).
And we all know that White folks like Charles Stuart and Susan Smith have a shameful history of falsely blaming Blacks for their crimes, real and imagined. I refer you to the litany of racial hoaxes that Katheryn RussellBrown documents in her 1998 book, “The Color of Crime: Racial Hoaxes, White Fear, Black Protectionism, Police Harassment, and Other Macroaggressions.”
Mind you, this does not mean that I have always been right. But on those rare occasions when I was not, I never hesitated to ‘fess up – as a search on my blog of “I was wrong” will show.
This is why I have little regard for those who rush to judgment based on little more than tribal passions. And that regard roils into contempt when they compound that rush by deleting posts and tweets in a vain attempt to avoid fessing up to their mistakes.
A sick man
That said, I have seen and read enough to believe that Smollett is a sick, misguided man. But this does not avail him of any diminished-capacity defense. Because,
Meanwhile, Smollett has probably never been happier. And he can be forgiven for assuming that his high-priced lawyer, Mark Geragos, will do for him what he has repeatedly done for Chris Brown: namely, get him off without doing any time. Justice would have Smollett serve “time-out” for at least half of the many years he faces for this and related crimes.
Sadly, he probably couldn’t care less about the repercussions his sensational lies will have on real hate crimes against Black, Jewish, and LGBTQ people, which are in fact on the rise. Case in point: the media are providing wall-to-wall coverage of this hoax while practically ignoring the February arrest of a White nationalist who was plotting to massacre thousands, most notably Black and Jewish politicians and reporters.
Even closer to home, Smollett probably couldn’t care less that he has now made a mockery of the positive and life-affirming role he plays as a beloved, openly gay man on the hit TV show, “Empire.”
Anthony L. Hall is a native of The Bahamas with an international law practice in Washington, D.C. Read his columns and daily weblog at www.theipinionsjournal.com. Click on this commentary at www.flcourier.