News has surfaced that the black and gay actor Jussie Smollett reportedly paid two Nigerian actors to fake a hate crime attack. There were numerous problems with this story from the beginning but even more as it has played out. For example, he waited quite a while to call the police, only did so after calling his agent, and then refused to hand over his phone which supposedly held key evidence of the attack.
Those with a basic understanding of the benefits of calm, rational thinking already knew to take a step back and pause. As recently as a few weeks ago I used the MAGA hat-wearing controversy to convey lessons from Greek historians on how to calmly reflect and learn the whole story.
Even without knowing Greek history, a simple awareness of the news and the long history of fake hate crimes should have caused people to pause. From major cases like the Duke lacrosse players in 2006, the fake UVA rape story, to all sorts of minor incidents that proved false such as a waitress writing a mean note on her own receipt. The American people should have a healthy skepticism of these vents.
And yet many people didn’t. Politicians and Hollywood elites were quick to use this event to further their agenda. But talking about smarmy and duplicitous politicians is like reporting that a day ends in “y.” Racism still exists in this country, but in certain segments of society such as being a journalist, getting a leg up in academia, or running for president, being a victim actually provides an advantage. In this case it seems Smollett thought his acting career would be enhanced if he could show he was a victim of a racist and homophobic attack.
What he ended up showing is that rational, thoughtful expression trumps his charade, and that America is so great that people have to hire black Nigerians to experience a hate crime.