Jussie Smollett and the corrupt nexus between race and money

As Jussie Smollett’s trial finally comes to a close, we shouldn’t forget that he did it for the money, using racial resentment for his own fame and fortune.  He understood that stoking racial flames is big business in America today.  How is that possible in a country supposedly run by white supremacists for white supremacists?

Jussie Smollett was a successful actor with a major role on a popular television show and a burgeoning music career, but that wasn’t enough for him.  He wanted more money and a higher profile, and so he created an elaborate hoax designed to exploit simmering racial resentment to advance his career.  He is now on trial for lying to the police and other felonies, but the highly publicized incident where he falsely claimed that Donald Trump supporters attacked him on a cold Chicago night was actually his second attempt at exploiting racial resentment for his own ends.  A couple of weeks before the fake attack, Mr. Smollett sent himself a threatening letter, complete with a suspicious white powder that turned out to be aspirin and words cut out from a magazine like a ransom note in the movies.  The letter was received on January 22 at Cinespace studios in Chicago, prompting the set to shut down and a HAZMAT unit to arrive on the scene, but that stunt didn’t generate the attention Mr. Smollett craved for his career and so he “concocted the staged attack” according to multiple sources.

The staged attack that ultimately garnered the necessary media coverage was a far more elaborate ruse involving two brothers, Ala and Abel Osundario, who worked with Mr. Smollett as a personal trainer.  The brothers apparently agreed to pose as Trump supporters for money, some $3,500, and assault Mr. Smollett while yelling racial and homophobic slurs, complete with a fake noose they had purchased at a nearby hardware store and claims of an unknown liquid dumped on his head.  In the wee hours of January 29, this sad hoax was carried out near a Subway sandwich shop in downtown Chicago.  As Mr. Smollett described it to Good Morning America shortly afterward, “And then I see the attacker, masked. And he said, ‘This is MAGA country, n*****.’ Punches me right in the face. So, I punched his ass back,” Smollett said. “I think what people need to hear is just the truth.”  Mr. Smollett then returned to his apartment, still wearing the fake noose, and if reports are to be believed, carrying his sandwich.

The police were called shortly thereafter, whereupon they dutifully investigating the fake crime, assigning twelve detectives and an FBI agent.  “Given the severity of the allegations, we are taking this investigation very seriously and treating it as a possible hate crime,” a police statement said shortly after the fake attack.  The department went to work, scouring video footage for any information related to the potential hate crime. “The Streeterville neighborhood where the alleged attack occurred has a very high density of city and private surveillance cameras. As of 10 p.m. Tuesday, detectives canvassed and reviewed hundreds of hours of video and have now expanded the search area along the Chicago riverfront hoping to find video to be able to release a public description of the offenders,” explained Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.  “Unfortunately, thus far we have not found any helpful information on a suspect or a suspect’s vehicle to be able to share.”

Left unsaid is why they ever believed this ridiculous story in the first place, no one could be so gullible as to believe that Trump supporters were wandering around in the freezing cold looking for Jussie Smollett in the middle of the night, much less assign a dozen detectives.  If your child was killed on the sidewalk in cold blood, they would do far, far less. Sadly, it’s a sign of our times that the media dutifully fell for the scam as well.  CNN typifies the initial coverage, repeating the obvious fraud without the slightest dash of skepticism.  Instead, they chose to inform readers about how the family responded, condemning the “violent and unprovoked attack” and calling it a “racial and homophobic hate crime.”  “Jussie has told the police everything from the very beginning,” the statement from the family said. “His story has never changed, and we are hopeful they will find these men and bring them to justice.”  “Our family thanks everyone for their prayers and the huge amount of love he has received. We are thankful to our village for your immense support during this trying time,” the statement added. “We are so grateful that God saw him through this cowardly attack alive. Jussie is a warrior whose light cannot be dimmed.”

Rather than question the absurd details, CNN continued to note the “outpouring of support” from his friends, colleagues, peers, and the LGBTQ community.  “Jussie is a true champion for LGBTQ people and is beloved by the community and allies around the world,” a spokesperson for the LGBTQ rights group, GLAAD, said in a statement before the hoax was revealed.  The entertainment industry soon jumped in as well, uncritically offering their full support.  “We are deeply saddened and outraged to learn that a member of our ‘Empire’ family, Jussie Smollett, was viciously attacked last night,” a representative of 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment said in a statement to CNN. “We send our love to Jussie, who is resilient and strong, and we will work with law enforcement to bring these perpetrators to justice. The entire studio, network and production stands united in the face of any despicable act of violence and hate — and especially against one of our own.”

Less than a month later, however, the story fell completely apart and Mr. Smollett was charged by the Chicago Police department for faking the attack.  Even then, sympathetic media personalities like Don Lemon didn’t seem all that concerned.  Instead, he chose to focus on how Mr. Smollett was “innocent until proven guilty” and had “squandered the good will of a whole lot of people” if his story wasn’t true, as if there was any doubt it was false.  “He even lied to a lot of people… including me. And that’s not cool,” Mr. Lemon said on air.  He even offered some public relations advice, recommending cable news instead of the morning shows, lamenting that Mr. Smollet had already “lost the fight in the court of public opinion” like the truth didn’t matter.  “He lost because — not his fault. Maybe people were — I don’t know what they were saying to him, maybe because of his representatives. Who knows? But it was handled poorly.”  “Nothing against morning shows, I love all of my colleagues there, I think they do a great job, but that’s not where it is now,” Mr. Lemon explained further. “Come on a show like this or any of my colleagues and sit down with us live for an hour or however long it takes, answer the questions that need to be answered from real journalists — I shouldn’t say that, from journalists who don’t have to worry about the entertainment arm of their particular company.”  What Mr. Lemon failed to mention:  His own role behind the scenes, actually telling Mr. Smollett privately the police had turned their investigation on him for faking the attack.

Alas, that little tidbit didn’t come out until the trial this week, almost 3 year later because the original charges against Mr. Smollett, 16 felony counts by a grand jury, were dropped by Cook County District Attorney Kim Foxx.  In other words, there might have been no trial at all if she got her way and Mr. Smollett would’ve gotten off scot free.  “After reviewing all of the facts and circumstances of the case, including Mr. Smollet[t]’s volunteer service in the community and agreement to forfeit his [$10,000] bond to the City of Chicago, we believe this outcome is a just disposition and appropriate resolution to this case,” her office explained.  The statement was later “qualified” after the police department itself reacted with well-justified outrage.  “An alternative disposition does not mean that there were any problems or infirmities with the case or the evidence. We stand behind the Chicago Police Department’s investigation and our decision to approve charges in this case,” they explained again, claiming they “did not exonerate” Smollet.

A special prosecutor was finally appointed after the public outcry.  The new Office of the Special Prosecutor released their report in August 2020, looking to see if Ms. Foxx and her office were “influenced in an improper manner by prominent people who reached out to her to discuss the Initial Smollett Case.”  The special prosecutor ultimately declined to press charges against Ms. Foxx, but found “substantial abuses of discretion and failures”  and that her office had “breached its obligations of honesty and transparency” by making false and/or misleading statements.  The same special prosecutor would ultimately charge Mr. Smollett and the trial wrapped up yesterday.

Incredibly, Mr. Smollett continues to deny the entire sad episode was a hoax.  Instead, he insists he was attacked for real by Ala and Abel Osundario and that the details he reported were true.  He just didn’t know it was them at the time because they were impersonating Trump supporters for some completely unknown reason.  Perhaps needless to say, this ridiculous lie broke down under cross examination earlier this week; so badly, that even progressive outlets like The Daily Beast said he “got totally nailed.”  Mr. Smollett was both testy and evasive at the same time under questioning.  “Do you have any reason to disagree with police testimony that you passed by the intersection three times?” the prosecutor asked.  “I don’t know,” Smollett replied. “I circled around the block.”  “How long were you there?”  “Well you have the surveillance, you have to tell me,” Smollett snapped. “It was three years ago.”  Things were so bad that Mr. Smollett actually told the judge, “I’m just concerned about answering yes or no” after he was being “non-responsive.”  His lawyer wasn’t much better, claiming in closing arguments that “He’s dumb enough to go into Obama’s city and pretend there’s Trump supporters running around with MAGA hats? Give me a break.”

Yes, he was that dumb.  That’s precisely what he did.  The key question, however, is why?  Why did Mr. Smollett believe a hate crime hoax was the key to even more success?  Before we get to a possible answer, consider that it almost worked.  The media jumped on the story and accepted it as true.  The police assigned twelve detectives to an obvious fraud and even the FBI was involved.  If Mr. Smollett was a little smarter and slicker, he might have gotten away with it and today he would be the media-darling survivor of the endemic racism that plagues the United States.

How is that possible if racism and white supremacy are so systemic that people of color move only through various levels of oppression?  The short answer is it’s not.  You cannot reconcile the two:  In a country where racism and homophobia are rampant, a member of either group, much less both, that got beat up in the middle of the night would generate zero coverage.  No one would care.  We know this because this is the way it used to be in the United States before the civil rights movement.  Consider China’s persecution of the Uighurs as well:  According to Chinese state media, the persecuted love being in concentration camps.  It’s described as a positive rather than a negative.  In America today, however, things are radically different and everyone knows it, though they rarely say it.

The truth:  Decrying racism is big business.  Leading “anti-racists” like Robin DiAngelo and Ibram X. Kendi are millionaires, signing lucrative contracts with businesses big and small, even Mr. Kendi’s deal with Netflix.  The “socialist” founder of Black Lives Matter, Patrisse Khan-Cullors, raised so much money after the George Floyd killing that she spent millions on real estate alone including $1.4 million for a home in Malibu complete with ““soaring ceilings, skylights and plenty of windows.”  The purchases were so shocking that the founder of Black Lives Matter in New York, Hawk Newsome called for an investigation.  “If you go around calling yourself a socialist, you have to ask how much of her own personal money is going to charitable causes.  It’s really sad because it makes people doubt the validity of the movement and overlook the fact that it’s the people that carry this movement.”  Companies like Panorama Education, headed by the Attorney General’s son in law, Alexander “Xan” Tanner make millions consulting with school districts to inform them how racist their curriculum truly is.  They recently raised $60 million in funding to “help schools better understand students.”

None of this is possible in a truly racist country, and everyone knows it.  It’s time to admit the truth that crying the racist wolf is a means to money and power, and therefore it will be used.  Mr. Smollett lied about it.  Others make millions lying about it in a different way.

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