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February 21 2019

Jussie Smollett and the Glamour of Victimhood

by Charlotte Hays

"Empire" actor Jussie Smollett, who made headlines and won sympathy after he claimed to have been attacked in subzero Chicago by MAGA hat wearing thugs, is now being charged with a felony. Smollett allegedly filed a false police report.

The Smollett story pushed all  the buttons: a young, gay black man being attacked by Trumpistas with a noose. Still, it seems such an unnecessary thing for Smollett to do. The question is: Why?

John McWhorter thinks he has the answer: victimhood is glamorous.

Writing in the Atlantic (hat tip to Hot Air for spotting it), McWhorter proposes:

Until this twist, smart people were claiming that the attack on Smollett was the story of Donald Trump’s America writ small—that it revealed the terrible plight of minority groups today. But the Smollett story, if the “trajectory” leads to evidence of fakery, would actually reveal something else modern America is about: victimhood chic. Future historians and anthropologists will find this aspect of early-21st-century America peculiar, intriguing, and sad.

. . .

But that’s just it—Smollett, if the latest reporting is true, was an eager puppy, jumping with joyous inattention into American social politics as he has encountered it coming of age in the 21st century. He would have known that in this moment, very important people would find him more interesting for having been hurt on the basis of his identity than for his fine performance on an interesting hit television show. He would have known this so well that it didn’t even occur to him that his story would have to be more credible than the dopey one he threw together about being jumped in near-Arctic temperatures by the only two white bullies in America with a mysterious fondness for a black soap hip-hopera. (Yet again, I’m assuming the latest reporting is accurate.)

Only in an America in which matters of race are not as utterly irredeemable as we are often told could things get to the point that someone would pretend to be tortured in this way, acting oppression rather than suffering it, seeking to play a prophet out of a sense that playing a singer on television is not as glamorous as getting beaten up by white guys. That anyone could feel this way and act on it in the public sphere is, in a twisted way, a kind of privilege, and a sign that we have come further on race than we are often comfortable admitting.

Unfortunately, there was a real victim in the Smollett case.

Even if it were to turn out that there was a grain of truth in his original tale, because he was a celebrity, and because his allegations pushed all the buttons (young gay, black male attacked by thuggish Trumpistas with a noose), the Chicago PD reportedly, according to columnist John Kass, put more than twenty people to his case.

So who was the real victim?

Anybody who really needed help from a PD tied up with "solving" a celebrity case.

John Kass writes:

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.

Celebrities, despite their liberal posturing, are generally all-too willing to accept special treatment, even if it means there is not much time for a 1-year-old boy on life support.

Just for the record, Kass doesn't blame the police.

They work for elected officials who make the calls and who, it seems cared more about Jussie Smollett than Dejon Irving.

 

 



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