The Jussie Smollett case, in which a young black, gay actor has apparently concocted a tale of being attacked by two white men wearing MAGA hats and shouting anti-gay slurs, is just the latest example of how desperately media elites want to confirm their favored narrative about America: that the country is endemically and lethally racist, sexist, and homophobic, and that the election of Donald Trump both proves and reinforces such bigotry.
The truth: as instances of actual racism get harder and harder to find, the search to find such bigotry becomes increasingly frenzied and unmoored from reality.
Smollett made a not-irrational wager that a patently preposterous narrative about an anti-black, anti-gay hate crime at 2 a.m. in subzero Chicago would be embraced by virtually the entirety of the mainstream media, leading Democratic politicians, Hollywood, and academia, with no one in these cohorts bothering to fact-check his narrative or entertain even armchair skepticism toward it. He also presumed, again with good reason, that to claim victim status would catapult him to the highest echelons of public admiration and accomplishment. And he was right. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker called it a “modern-day lynching.” Joe Biden warned that “we must no longer give this hate safe harbor,” his implication being that we need to stop winking at such racist attacks. If Beale Street Could Talk’s Barry Jenkins lamented, “This what all that hateful mongering has wrought. Are you PROUD???” Good Morning America interviewed Smollett without asking a single critical question about his story.
The examples are as numerous as the retractions will be minimal.
Even the Chicago Police Department was reluctant to express any skepticism toward the Smollett narrative until it had overwhelming evidence of the hoax, since to question the ubiquity of racism today is to invite accusations of racism. Yet the CPD, along with their law enforcement brethren, are surely aware of what the data say regarding hate crimes. In 2017, the FBI reported an additional 1,000 hate crimes from 2016, for a total of 7,000. But an additional 1,000 police agencies participated in hate-crime reporting in 2017, as Reason’s Robby Soave has pointed out, so it’s not clear that that increase is real or simply a result of more reporting. Even if real, 7,000 “hate crimes” in a country this large is an infinitesimal number. And the definition of a hate crime is highly political: very little black-on-white street crime gets classified as such, though hatred for whites undoubtedly drives a considerable fraction of this activity. (Between 2012 and 2015, blacks committed more than 85 percent of interracial violent victimizations between blacks and whites.)
The Smollett case is a rerun of the Covington hoax, which mobilized an identical longing on the part of the media and political elites to confirm the narrative of American racism, now exacerbated in the era of Trump. Native American activist Nathan Phillips concocted an outright lie about his interaction with the Covington Catholic High School students, and he, too, became an instant, revered celebrity. Then as now, public figure after public figure announced that MAGA hats were the very symbol of white supremacy. Alyssa Milano declared that “the MAGA hat is the new white hood.” New York Times columnist Charles Blow called MAGA hats the “new iconography of white supremacy.” Other recent credulously received phony claims of white racism include the Jazmine Barnes case in Houston and racial-profiling charges against a South Carolina cop. Andy Ngo has collected many more. Now that Smollett’s story is falling apart, he is clinging to his victim identity any way he can: his lawyers say that he feels “victimized” by reports that he played a role in the assault.
The Smollett and Covington cases, and others, are grounded in the #BelieveSurvivors mantra of the Kavanaugh hearings: the Left demands utter credence toward any claim of racism and sexism, and the merest act of questioning these claims or trying to pin down details is regarded as hateful. Anti-racism—preferably of a performative nature—is now the national religion of white elites, who would rather blame themselves (and the deplorables) for nonexistent racism than speak honestly about the behavioral problems and academic skills gaps that lead to ongoing socioeconomic disparities. The Senate just passed an anti-lynching bill, backed by Senators Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Tim Scott—as if lynchings were a fact of our current reality. Don’t be surprised if Democrats appropriate funding for a new underground railroad.
The current anti-racist frenzy is the product of a poisoned academic culture that has declared war on Western Civilization and that teaches students, more than anything else, how to hate—to hate the greatest accomplishments of our civilization, to hate America, and to hate one another.
We continue to play with fire.
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