We Rush to Wrong Judgments, Then We Build on Our False Perceptions

The Jussie Smollett case is but the most recent example.

By Michael Brown Published on February 18, 2019

The narrative has now fallen apart. The hardly credible story of Jussie Smollett has basically been debunked. He was not attacked by homophobic, racist, MAGA-chanting white men. The whole thing was apparently staged. But will that change the general public perception (other than people’s perception of Smollett)? I doubt it.

Instead, we’ll be told that even though this particular attack wasn’t real, blacks and gays are harassed and threatened and attacked on a daily basis across America.

Not only so, we’ll be told that this highly toxic situation is being exacerbated by President Trump and his white supremacist, MAGA rallying cry.

In other words, even though the attack never happened, Trump and his followers are still guilty.

That’s the way things go in today’s instant society, where considered, careful, studious reflection is an all-but-lost art.

Covington Catholic Boys

To be fair, on certain, rare occasions, there is contrition for jumping to wrong conclusions, as in the case of the national media attack on the Covington Catholic boys.

But even then, others continued to look for dirt.

After all, the boys had to be guilty.

They were wearing MAGA hats.

They were at a pro-life rally.

They were white.

They were male.

And they were from a private Catholic school.

How could they not be guilty?

The Smollett Set up

It’s the same with the Jussie Smollett attack.

Who cares that the whole thing was apparently set up? Who cares that the alleged MAGA-fueled culprits were the figment of his imagination?

They’re still out there, everywhere. Only not this time, in person, at that point in time. (For a list of manufactured hate crimes against gays, see here.)

Naturally, there was reason to be skeptical from the first mention of the alleged crime. It just sounded too stereotypical to be true. (Perhaps we could say it sounded too bad to be true.)

There was serious reason for doubt, even without going through all the details as to why the report sounded suspicious.

But this didn’t stop some prominent leaders from weighing in immediately.

Prominent Leaders and a Rush to Judgment

As reported on Ebony.com, “Democratic Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey have spoken out against the racist and homophobic attack on actor Jussie Smollett and think that Congress should get involved, according to NBC News.”

In the words of Booker, “The vicious attack on actor Jussie Smollett was an attempted modern-day lynching. I’m glad he’s safe. To those in Congress who don’t feel the urgency to pass our Anti-Lynching bill designating lynching as a federal hate crime — I urge you to pay attention.”

As expressed by Harris, “@JussieSmollett is one of the kindest, most gentle human beings I know. I’m praying for his quick recovery. This was an attempted modern-day lynching. No one should have to fear for their life because of their sexuality or color of their skin. We must confront this hate.”

Is there any sense of shame from Booker and Harris? Any expression of desire to make this right? Any admission of a rush to judgment?

If so, I haven’t seen it.

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But what I have seen is this.

Booker and Harris rode the wave of outrage after this apparently staged, anything-but-racist-and-homophobic “attack,” to pass an Anti-Lynching Law in the Senate.

Should such a law have been passed years ago? Is it outrageous that lynching has only now been recognized as a federal crime? Is it a terrible insult to the thousands of blacks who were lynched in our country in times past that only in 2019 did this bill become law?

Those are all perfectly valid questions to ask. And it’s very possible that the answer to each of these questions is an emphatic “yes.”

But again, that is not the issue at hand.

The issue is that leaders jumped to a false conclusion and made a rash judgment. Then, rather than regretting their error and apologizing, they rode the wave of false judgment straight into a political victory.

Wouldn’t integrity require a statement with at least some contrition, like this, “While we are thrilled that the Senate has finally made lynching into a federal hate crime, we are saddened to learn that the attack that prompted this bill was bogus and regret the wrong statements we made.”

Don’t hold your breath.

Public Opinion

In most cases, though, it’s not a matter of new laws being passed based on wrong, snap judgments.

It’s a matter of public opinion getting tainted and staying tainted.

This means that someone’s life can be destroyed and or reputation lastingly damaged based on one false accusation.

If the narrative fits our preconceptions and fuels our prejudices, we believe it, thereby fortifying our views.

And if the narrative subsequently falls apart?

No bother. Our preconceptions and prejudices remain strengthened, since feeding our biases, not finding the truth, is our real goal.

It’s a very dangerous situation, and we do well to heed this biblical admonition: “let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger” (James 1:20) — and slow to judgment.

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