Smollett Case gets Closer to Conclusion (Seventh Excerpt on Partisan Fatigue (Too Many))
No one is happy about having to write about this
2/18/19, 6:10 pm EST
By John Corry, photo from Vox
Police now seem pretty sure that Empire actor Jussie Smollett staged a hate crime attack on himself in the streets of Chicago a few weeks ago. Police now want to speak to Smollett a second time, though Smollett is allegedly currently refusing to cooperate. Smollett in the past few days has turned up the victim mentality regarding the incident: on Good Morning, America last week, he said “It's the attackers, but also the attacks,” in reference to his frustration regarding the allegations against him, “It's not necessarily that you don't believe that this is the truth, you don't even want to see the truth.” He’s also repeatedly said through his lawyers how ridiculous it is to question it as such, because there is simply no evidence for it.
It is not yet definitive that Smollett staged the attack, but the evidence is stacking up: two Nigerian brothers (the alleged attackers were white, MAGA-hat wearing and screaming racial and homophobic slurs at the actor) were questioned, and have told Chicago police that they were paid by the actor to attack him that night. As stated above, Smollett is also refusing to cooperate with police (add to his refusal to meet again with the cops: he refused to let them see his phone to corroborate his story until after he’d deleted the majority of its content). In addition are less concise observations, though still odd enough: Smollett wore the rope his attackers used on him until he talked to police over an hour later, Smollett returned home after the attack with his Subway sandwich still intact (they are just gourmet), he waited to contact the police until after he’d been home for over forty minutes, and let’s be honest: no MAGA-hat wearing white folks are watching Empire (which Smollett has made sure to include in his story as being one reason he was attacked (though obviously not nearly as important as the fact that Smollett is BLACK and GAY (if that matters)).
Reports today have also raised the possibility of a more exact reason for why Smollet did it: a week before the attack, Smollett received a letter reading “you will die black fuck” in torn magazine letters, with ‘MAGA’ scrawled on the envelope. It is still possible (different from ‘probable’ (I know, it’s 2019, that word is gone from mainstream politics, but whatever)), but the whole situation just sucks. No one should be getting letters like that, and no one should be staging racially motivated attacks for any reason.
Almost as bad has been the reaction. Luckily, this hasn’t garnered the kind of ABSOLUTE outrage the incident with the Covington high school kids a few weeks ago did, but there have obviously been some rough patches, and with reason: the fact that someone staged an attack like this is fucked up. Clearly, this guy thought that he had to lie in order to get his point across; clearly, he thought that he had no other option. However: clearly, he did have another option (like: not lying about it, for one), and, as we’ve all been reliably informed since we were kids: lying is bad. Our politics right now is nuanced, not ‘divided’, and it takes time to understand where other people are coming from especially in a time of such rapid change, and necessarily assumed good-faith (‘necessarily assumed good-faith’: something you can’t inherently, or through experience, know firsthand, but which you much therefore assume good-will on the parts of those who do).
Ellen Page was on Colbert recently arguing that the attack (as originally reported (as real)) was Vice President Mike Pence’s fault. While that’s far from fully wrong on a fundamental level–anyone who thinks that there’s something wrong with being gay has got some issues–that Pence has been trying to make it harder for gay people to simply be who they are over the course of his long career has merit because he’s done a number of questionable things in that arena, outside of the ‘but they’re his personal beliefs’ argument. A ‘personal belief’ that someone is a ‘sinner’ or somehow less of a person simply because that person is gay is immoral and transcends politics and religion. It has nothing to do with you. But to blame anybody outright like this (in the case of Page on Colbert), and in a situation like this (where two people did something terrible)–and especially in a time of such nuance (dumbasses), but not necessarily–does no one any general good. It makes you feel better about yourself, sure, but so does doing cocaine. Yes, Mike Pence is a douchebag–and his ideology needs to be fought (with argument, not grandstanding)–but the bigger douchebags are the ones who commit violence. As much as Pence might influence it (and I’d say indirectly at best: I have no evidence to think that Pence can think beyond his own bullshit any more than he can hang out with a woman and not try to fuck her (he is Trump’s VP after all (JOKES IS COOL!!! (*JokesTranscendPolitics)))), he’s not the one who committed these actions. To assert an emotional argument that he has anywhere near the responsibility to take for these actions is to ignore that people do what people do, and that action and ideology are two different things.
Again: he might be a dick, but you’re only dividing people more if you’re trying to say that that’s worse than committing violence for any reason.
Anyway: Smollett might be in some deep shit if this is true. That’s unfortunate (generally-speaking). No matter how shitty what he did is (if he definitely did, which we’re still waiting for #AReminder) (and it is very shitty: this is about as divisive as you can get when it comes to racial politics and the inherent emotions involved in it), there’s clearly something wrong with the guy. We can wish he had the audacity to make an actual argument and to care to use his fame as a way to at least attempt to figure out why some people on the right still seem to be such pieces of shit despite general growing acceptance of LGBTQ people and slowing racial tensions (no wait, that was before Obama, my bad (there are obviously arguments to accuse the GOP of racism, and to therefore blame the rising tensions on the reactionary politics of conservatives, but that would ignore the reality that nothing happens in the general public without a fair amount of responsibility from all sides (here’s one from the BBC on how Obama could have ‘been better’ (que the Michele meme here))), but that’s not what he did), but that’s mere hoping-as-futile /> there’s no substance to it. If Smollett lied about being attacked, those who value the morality gained from pained experience over the reality that human perception is a constant balance between fact and emotion ran with the lie because they didn’t want to take the time to construct an argument, or, worse: consider the MAGA people actual people.
‘Well, they don’t consider me a person, so why should I consider them?’
Because you claim to ‘be better’ than they are.
Act like it.