Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Jussie Smollett situation reminds us: An example is not proof

                                                                   Basilica di Santa Croce, Florence, Italy

     In an era when everyone’s talking, all the time, silence is a privilege.
     A radical thought from a person paid good money to blow off his big bazoo.
     But never on command. I’m fortunate in that I rarely must comment on any given situation. My boss never shifts the stump of a wet cigar in his mouth and barks, “Steinberg! Your take on the Kershpungen Kerfuffle! Online in 30 minutes!”
     Not yet anyway.
     I do believe in comment, but after reflection. Time is our friend. We are allowed to think about stuff, to see what develops. We don’t have to argue every murky, fluid situation. We can just wait and find out.
      I’d never heard of either Jussie Smollett or his TV show “Empire” before Jan. 29, when the young actor reported being attacked in Chicago. Such things happen — Wrigleyville is next to Boystown, and in the summer, carloads of suburban bully boys are known to assault pedestrians whose step isn’t as heavy as theirs.

     But that wasn’t the situation here. It wasn’t summer; it was 20 below. And he was walking in Streeterville, not on Halsted Street. There was preparation beyond drinking a case of Old Style: a rope, and bleach. And, most incredibly, claims that this is MAGA country, which it certainly is not. Donald Trump won’t show his face here.
Nor was this any random young man on his way home from Sidetrack. This was a celebrity.
     I try not to engage in Facebook tug-o-wars. Better to read and not react. But I came upon a string of comments from people horrified at this attack. Doubts were being raised and the doubters reviled. They needed support. I thought carefully, then wrote:
     “This is a very strange set of facts. Not a typical Chicago crime.”

     I felt safe with that. A couple days later, I came upon another friend out on a limb:
     "I know many will call me an ass for not believing the victim but this story is BS," he wrote.
     To some, that was bigotry rampant.
     "It saddens me that it is easier for people to find this story made up (hospital pictures of injuries, document threats and all) than see this is plausible."
     It seemed cowardly to hurry past. I weighed in:
     "I have to admit, I had the exact same thought. It just seems implausible. Not impossible. But the odds of this celebrity hitting town and running into the cast of 'Deliverance' ... let's just say if I had to bet the ranch, it would be on Some Other Explanation."
     Since then, over the past two weeks, the story has assumed the usual pattern. Blue America waved the bloody shirt—see, this is the nest of haters we must deal with! Now that the blood appears to be ketchup, and perhaps—still perhaps, remember—Smollett cooked this up, hiring the men who supposedly assaulted him for reasons I won't guess at—Red America had a jubilee: see, all this racism and homophobia stuff is a lie. We live in Mayberry where everybody is happy.
     The core problem, ignored by both sides, has nothing to do with whatever happened to Smollett that night. The problem is that an example isn't proof.
     If I want to illustrate that America is a deeply racist country, whose economic success is built upon the dehumanization of black people, the slavers' poisonous worldview still with us to this day, I don't need a street incident to make my case. I can just flop open a history book to almost to any random page. Nor does the country's pervasive homophobia, despite real advances, need to be proven by a mugging.
     When the initial news was seized upon, as Exhibit No. 1 for these woes, those eagerly banging garbage can lids together were playing Trump's game: trot out a dramatic crime then demand a wall.
     When diligent police work cast the attack into question, the Revanchist Right picked up the stick the Left dropped, and made it Exhibit No. 1 for Fake News. More proof that the racism and homophobia we're never acknowledged in the first place does not exist.
     Why does everybody do it? Cherry pick newly-baked facts that we hope will support us? It must show lack of confidence in our view of the world, this constant junkie scramble for new validation.
     See why silence is so attractive? I've said it before: Shutting up is an art form.


  1. I wish I were wise enough to avoid "Facebook tug-of-wars." I state something completely innocuous and nonconfrontational and right away I'm a commie pinko who ought to repeat 7th grade as well as a dupe of the mainstream lying media.


  2. It wasn't 20 below that night. That was the next night. I believe it was just 5 above the night that Smollett faked his attack.
    I also never heard of him & neither did anyone else I knew.
    I knew from the instant I heard about it it was a fake. Nothing about it made sense. Just how did these two racists know where to find a gay black man at 2 AM at Columbus & North Water when it was that cold. I've never even seen a person wearing a MAGA hat in Chicago, as this city hates Trump & everything he stands for. Just seeing his disgusting name on the side of that building where the Sun-Times Building used to be makes me want to vomit!
    Especially since he just flew back to Chicago from NYC that night. On top of that, the police have surveillance recordings of him for all but 60 seconds he was on the streets, & he even was seen going back into his building still carrying the sandwich he bought at the 24 hour Subway, after the faked attack.
    And now we find out that he has yet another lawyer, this time a famous one from California, since I doubt anyone lawyer from Chicago wants the terrible PR defending an obvious liar!
    I can't wait until he's charged & arrested for making a false report to the police & I hope the city sues him for all the money this unnecessary investigation cost, plus punitive damages for what he did to the city's reputation!

  3. I wasn't familiar with Jussie, but I remember his sister Jurnee from later seasons of Friday Night Lights, one of the best shows ever. (A bit off-topic, but worth it if one person is persuaded to watch it. You'll thank me.)

  4. It does have all the signs of a clumsy hoax. Possibly the only thing to find out now is who set it up, the actor or his manager.


  5. At first I drank his red Kool-Aid, but then it began tasting more and more "off"...especially when Jussie (and yeah, that's his given name, not Justin, as I originally thought) became more and more evasive when dealing with the detectives who were busting their butts to crack this "case"...he refused to turn over his cell phone because he had "too many private things on there."

    He made it sound like they were far more than contacts and phone numbers and a call history. Maybe "naked pictures" and selfies of him and some groupie? So f'king what? Did he think that Chicago cops, who have seen almost everything you can imagine (and a lot of things you can't...or don't want to), would be fazed by the "private stuff" on his phone? If you have just had the crap kicked out of you by racist homophobic Trumpistas, wouldn't you want to GLADLY give them as much information as possible?

    This mostly-unknown doofus, and his hired doofuses (doofi?), did not even BEGIN to plan their scam thoroughly enough to make it sound plausible, and it had to be especially airtight to get big-city cops to buy it. His phony death threat didn't get enough attention, so they upped the ante by a considerable margin.

    In these crazy times, such outrageous attention-whoring (fabricating a serious hate crime) deserves the maximum penalty. I hope Jussie Smollett gets majorly fined and ordered to pay restitution to the city, after he does some serious jail time. And after he's done a few years, I hope that Fox, and every other studio, won't hire him to clean their rest rooms. That's what he deserves the most...a career that's toast. We already have enough real hate crimes without having to sort through phony ones. Throw the book at the dude.

  6. This will be the basis for an episode of "Law & Order: SVU" sooner rather than later.

    1. Most likely it already has. Could be where he got the idea for his “attack”

      Bob Y

    2. Some years ago I went looking for a particular episode of "Law and Order" on the Interent Movie Database,and I had to go through every episode of every least twenty-five years' worth. Amazing how many screenplays WERE "ripped from the headlines"...but too many of the rest of them appeared to be ripped from the posterior orifices of screenwriters. Perhaps Mr. Smollett got his idea from one of those.

      I have always despised that series. I don't watch it. One of the rare times I did, young construction workers and young Wall Streeters were battling like the Jets and the Sharks, with fatalities on both sides. Ridiculous. I cannot understand how this show has lasted for so many decades, or why anybody chooses to watch it. Maybe Jussie is one of them.


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