Jussie Smollett Hoax: Before We Get to the Jokes …

By Al Perrotta Published on February 21, 2019

The filing of charges against Jussie Smollett for staging his cruel hate crime against Trump supporters — and a hate crime is exactly what he did even if that isn’t the formal charge — will be met with glee in some quarters.

Certainly the case is already a feast of humorous memes. See the one with Smollett in O.J.’s infamous white bronco with his Subway sandwich on top? See the one proclaiming “America is so great Jussie Smollett had to hire two Nigerians to be oppressed”? Having lived for this sort of story during my days writing topical humor, I get it. Professional and amateur humorists will feed on this for weeks.

The Entertainment World

However, I suspect your late night comedians and Saturday Night Lives and your Joy Behars and your Hollywood entertainers will be light on the jokes. They have spent the past two years using their God-given gift of jest as daggers against Donald Trump and his supporters. They’ve been driven by the rage of “resistance.” Driven to displays of meanness. Driven to dreams of violence. And now one of their own has been driven to criminal acts.

It’s hard to imagine honesty out of the likes of Stephen Colbert or Jimmy Kimmel. They’re too invested in the same hate, the same narrative that sent Smollett out into minus 20 degree weather to get punched by his own friends.

Unlike Smollett they will not beat themselves up over it.

Instead the jokes, the commentary, you’ll hear out of those circles will find their way back to make Trump and his supporters their target. The set up will be Jussie, but the butt of the jokes will be Deplorables.

Keep an eye out for that sleight of hand. It’s a pretty clever trick comedy writers have. You can always find a way to twist the joke your desired direction. To deflect. Humor is supposed to stand for the victims. But you will not see the late night comedians stand on the side of Trump supporters, who for three weeks were accused of a modern-day lynching. If Alec Baldwin appears on SNL as Trump reacting to Smollett’s arrest, he will still portray the dangerous buffoon.

For an industry so self-consumed it is remarkably self unaware.

A Caution to Those Who Will Mock

Obviously, on the other side of the political spectrum, we will be flooded with jokes and gags at Jussie Smollett’s expense. Actress Ellen Page, who went on Colbert to rant that the attack was Mike Pence’s fault, will be spoofed. Sen. Kamala Harris’ stuttering response when asked about allegations her “friend” Jussie Smollett had staged the attack will follow her around the campaign trail like a devoted puppy.

Again, I get it. Again, I’m not going to pretend to be high and mighty. Smart-aleck cracks have been drifting in and out of my mind for days. Tips on how to get a hate crime hoax right the next time. (“Tip One: If you’re going to say your assailants shouted ‘This is MAGA Country’ BE in MAGA Country!”) Memes. One-liners. Using Smollet to make other points. You know why I didn’t say “Trump Got Jussied by the Justice Department” when writing about Andrew McCabe earlier today? Because I couldn’t find a place to fit it.

Yet as I caution myself I caution others. This isn’t a time to be flip. This was a very dangerous story. How might somebody have acted out revenge on Trump supporters for the “attack” on Smollett? What might Antifa or Black Lives Matter have done? What about crazed copycats? Thank God it was so cold that week.

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This is, at its core, a very sad story. Because a whole group of innocent people were slandered. Because the hoax stoked racial tensions. Because it showed again just how corrupt and utterly eager the media is to condemn anything connected to Trump. Because it gave fuel to political opportunists. Because he made friends and his show look like idiots. Because Smollett has hurt actual victims of racism and homophobia.

And because tears are shed in heaven when an unquestionably gifted individual squandered his gifts. Especially in this case, when Smollett squandered his gifts in an act of malice.

Those Lost in Chicago

The most tragic angle of this story is found on the streets of Chicago itself. At least 20 detectives were assigned to the Jussie Smollett case. Since Smollet filed what the police say is a false report 18 people have been murdered in Chicago. How many hundreds and hundreds of man-hours did Smollett divert from those cases?

Which grieving families will be denied justice because Jussie Smollett didn’t like how the last election turned out? Chicago solves only 17% of its murders. What murderers remain on the street? Who else will die because detectives were chasing down phantom attackers? Given Chicago’s leanings, odds are great it won’t be a Deplorable.

Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass is grieved how the politicians and the celebrities used the story. He’s angered at how the case abused the time of those 20 detectives. He closes his column in a way that should break our heart.

A few weeks ago, after Smollett began telling his tale — in which he’s the hero fighting oppression and hatred — a 1-year-old child was shot in the head.

It looked like a street gang may have been targeting his mother. She’s been shot before. The child, Dejon Irving, is on life support.

I don’t think there were two dozen detectives assigned to Dejon Irving’s case. But he’s not a star to be used by politicians in pursuit of power. He’s not a symbol.

Politicians don’t tweet his name. He’s just a little boy from Chicago, shot in the head.

As Smollett prepares to fight the charges, as the elites fight to spin the story back their way, little Dejon fights for his life.

Perhaps, perhaps, rather than rip down Smollett, we need to be lifting up Dejon. We need to be praying for the real victims of Chicago’s bloody streets. We need to be praying for this nation.

Instead of false cries of “This is MAGA Country,” we need to offer true shouts of “This is One Country, Under God.”

And when the shouting’s done, maybe then we can find a way to laugh … together.

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