February 20, 2019

Jussie Smollett

On Monday, CBS Chicago reported that police believe the alleged hate crime assault of actor Jussie Smollett to be a hoax. Smollett had claimed that “two men attacked him in Streeterville early Jan. 29 as he was heading to his apartment. He said they yelled racial and homophobic slurs at him, poured a chemical on him and put a rope around his neck.” CBS Chicago

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From the Left

The left is deeply troubled by the notion that this was a hoax, and warns against knee-jerk reactions to developing news stories.

From the Right

The right argues that the story was dubious from the outset, and criticizes the mainstream media for not being more skeptical.

“I wanted to believe Smollett. I really did. I know that there is a deep, dark racist history in Chicago and, if proved true, this would be just one more point on the list. I wanted to believe him with every fiber of my being, most of all because the consequences if he were lying were almost too awful to contemplate.”
Nana Efua Mumford, Washington Post

“Typically, when gay and transgender people are assaulted -- even murdered -- there is little national media attention given. And now, with Smollett's possible hoax, the names of actual transgendered victims become even harder to hear

“One's natural instinct is to ask ‘why?’ But, if Smollet made up the story, does it really matter what he says?... At a time in which stories of discrimination are met with a disturbing amount of cynicism, the last thing anyone who is a champion of equality wants to see is an openly gay black man give birth to a ‘fake news’ poster child. But, unfortunately, if what police are saying is true, that is what appears to have happened.”
LZ Granderson, CNN

“If Smollett did report a fake crime, he did an incredible disservice to the thousands of people who are victims of real hate crimes every year. Amid a culture war that is tearing America apart at the seams, he may have taken advantage of a woke generation that defaults to believing victims and is trying, in fits and starts, to create a safer and more tolerant world.”
Tina Nguyen, Vanity Fair

“As any reputable police reporter will tell you, it pays to be cautious and make frequent use of qualifiers like ‘allegedly’ and ‘reportedly’ and ‘according to police’ when passing on raw crime reports.”
Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune

“In both the Covington and Smollett cases, liberals were quick to condemn what was, at first glance, unacceptable behavior. In the latter case, even President Trump, who is often criticized for taking his time before commenting on cases where the victims are minorities or from disadvantaged groups, denounced Smollet’s alleged attack as ‘horrible’...

“[But] even though most coverage of the actor’s attack directly reflected police statements, and it was clear the investigation was ongoing, the developing narrative is being taken as a sign that journalists blindly accept any stories with a careless disregard for the facts — particularly those stories that support liberal ideals.”
Amanda Sakuma and German Lopez, Vox

Some argue that “those who dismiss or even condone the marginalizing and oppression of black and LGBTQ citizens will revel in any opportunity to downplay the realities of what it means to be an ‘other’ in America. As is always the case with bigots, any one person’s transgression will be used as ammo for disparaging an entire community or mindset—to decry one incident as proof we’ve ‘gone too far’ in these efforts to ensure our friends, family and neighbors aren’t denigrated by the society in which they live.”
Stereo Williams, Daily Beast

“I won’t let this devastating blow stop me from believing true victims, [but] I will also no longer rely on woke celebrities to dictate the narrative… Too much of the credibility of current social justice work done by local activists is falling on the backs of famed influencers who have proven to be faulty… The cult of celebrity has proven itself once again of derailing the true work of everyday people fighting to survive. It’s high time that we begin to re-focus our attention on their efforts, and not the red carpet draw of those awaiting a close-up for being adjacent to the activism.”
Ernest Owens, Daily Beast

From the Right

The right argues that the story was dubious from the outset, and criticizes the mainstream media for not being more skeptical.

Why did so many on the political Left buy into the obviously incredible story from the moment that it broke? Because it perfectly fit narratives that the Left loves: the narrative of America as racist, homophobic hellhole; the narrative of Trump supporters as violent bigots; the narrative of Trump himself as an inspirational figure for such violent bigots. The story was too good to be true. So no one cared whether it was or not.”
Ben Shapiro, National Review

“Today, it’s not hard to find a grassroots activist on the Left who is convinced that they have a great deal to fear. They’re convinced that they could be a victim of a hate crime… it is also not hard to find a grassroots activist on the Right who is convinced that they have a great deal to fear. They’re convinced that insufficient border and immigration enforcement leave them at higher risk for violent crime… [Smollett] understood that many people in prominent positions would choose to believe his story, because it reaffirmed all of their preexisting beliefs.”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

“If you are inclined to believe that America — especially in the age of Donald Trump — is plagued by racism and homophobia, none of [the] extremely fishy details seemed to register. Indeed, many politicians and journalists seemed to suspend all critical thought in a campaign to indict not just Mr. Smollett’s attackers but the country as a whole…

“The kind of scrutiny and anger reserved for incidents of racial hatred seem limited to episodes that confirm what social justice activists believe should constitute American bigotry. There have been no similar national paroxysms amid a sharp uptick in violence targeting New York City’s Jewish population. Maybe that’s because Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn don’t register for these activists as prototypical victims of violent prejudice.”
Noah Rothman, New York Times

“It is fundamental to the intersectional left to ensure that victimhood is not questioned. Because victimhood is currency. So don’t you dare question a victim! You racist, bigoted, misogynist, homophobe! They need you to believe this country is a racist and bigoted place and always has been…

“[But] hate crime is extremely rare in this country. According to 2017 statistics from the FBI, in a country of almost 326,000,000, there were 8,828 hate crimes in 2017. Over half, or 4,922 of these crimes, were property crimes or intimidation that did not rise to the level of simple assault… All 4,922 of the crimes committed simply because of someone’s race, sexual orientation or religion should rightly be condemned by all. But the condemnation needs to come when all the facts are clear.”
Stacey Lennox, The Resurgent

“In the last three years we’ve seen quite a few high-profile hoaxes which, at the time they happened, were embraced by people on the left as a sign that a climate of hate was sweeping the nation. Some people… seem so eager to prove their political opponents are villains they’ll stage a hoax to prove it. That’s a shame because a) they are smearing a lot of innocent people and b) they make it harder on the next person who reports a real hate crime.”
John Sexton, Hot Air

“While it's impossible to control what cable channels, sites, and pundits suggest, we can all decide to step back from the fray as others rush toward it. We can resolve to wait for evidence, no matter where it may lead, instead of assuming that someone is being entirely truthful or thoroughly dishonest… If Americans truly desire more unity in these fractured times, we must never automatically assume the worst.”
Kimberly Ross, Washington Examiner

“Despite Trump's very real history of making disparaging remarks about all kinds of people, there is not a lot of statistical evidence to support the notion that hate crimes are surging. While it's true that the FBI's count of hate crimes rose 17 percent from 2016 to 2017, it's important to note that 1,000 additional agencies reported information to the FBI in the latter year. It should go without saying, but as the number of agencies participating in the FBI's count of hate crimes grows more numerous, the total number of hate crimes will undoubtedly rise. This does not necessarily mean that hate crimes are surging—just that the authorities undercounted them previously… it's important not to confuse ‘reality’ with ‘narrative.’"
Robby Soave, Reason

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