Jussie Smollett is starting to look like a real Lyon king.
The actor, who plays Jamal Lyon on the hit Fox show, Empire, is facing a firestorm of controversy after he filed a police report last month alleging that he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack in Chicago.
Smollett, who is openly gay and black, claimed that two white men called him the n-word and a highly offensive homophobic slur, tied a rope around his neck and poured bleach on him. He claims they did all of this while shouting, “This is MAGA country” – a reference to US President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan.
Too Many Holes In His Story
In the aftermath of Smollett’s claims, many celebrities immediately spoke out in support of the star, including US Senator and presidential hopeful, Kamala Harris who called the act “an attempted modern day lynching.”
But, as the police investigations went into full swing and details started to emerge, Harris fell quiet and said she would wait for the facts to come out. If only she’d adopted that position in the first place.
Considering America’s painful history with black men being lynched it seemed an appropriate response at the time. The problem is, Chicago police say Smollett made it all up. They allege the Empire star staged the entire incident by hiring two Nigerian brothers to carry out the attack. It is further alleged that he orchestrated the beatdown because he was unhappy with his salary on Empire. What ever happened to just asking for a raise?
Smollett, once considered a victim, a survivor and by his own words, “the gay Tupac”, is now being called a liar, a deceiver and a potential felon. (It’s a felony to file a false police report in Chicago.)
The Impact On The LGBTQ Community
Not only did Smollett’s alleged acts divert attention and resources away from real crimes, it also put the LGBTQ community in a difficult spot.
The community, which is already a target, has endured years of police not taking attacks on its members seriously. If social media is any indication, things may become even more difficult for them.
There is already a tendency to downplay violence against that community. No doubt there will be some who will question the next person that comes out claiming to be a victim of a hate crime.
Trump’s supporters were also negatively impacted by this ordeal. While there are those who may have very little compassion for anyone who supports the US president, the fact remains that those who chose to sport the MAGA hats or T-shirts were targeted and ostracized even more in the aftermath of the allegations.
Trump has already reacted to this situation and is definitely having his ‘I told you so’ moment, and he should. In this instance, Smollett’s claims really did amount to #fakenews.
The Lynch Mob Mentality
This Jussie Smollett ordeal is indeed disappointing, But, it also exposes another problem – society’s growing lynch mob mentality, particularly on social media.
The same people who, a month ago, were flooding Smollett’s social media pages with love and support in the aftermath of his alleged attack are now demonizing him, bullying him and even wishing death on him.
The lone voices in the wilderness that are appealing for calm and civility are either being drowned out or are finding themselves on the receiving end of the mob’s ire.
Social media has emboldened bullies who operate with the premise of lynching first and asking questions last.
These swift and emotional responses appear to be bandwagonism at its worst where anyone with an opposing view is shut down.
Going Against The Grain
It doesn’t just start with Smollett. Many around the world are quite familiar with the infamous Beyhive, Beyonce Knowles’ rabid fan base, which takes great pleasure in attacking anyone who even mildly criticizes the singer.
The assaults cause such consternation, that very few people, celebrity or non-celebrity, are willing to say anything negative about Knowles, even if the criticism is warranted.
By going against the grain, they easily become ostracized and thus, a target.
Years ago, when I was active on Facebook, I witnessed a few people who I typically thought of as very rational, verbally destroy someone who disagreed with their stance. This wasn’t a simple disagreement; this was a full verbal assault on that person because they had a difference of opinion and it got very personal.
One-by-one others would chime in and the conversation continued to devolve.
A woman I know on Facebook tagged me in the post, essentially pulling me into a conversation I had no intention of joining. She had one simple command, “Rogan, get her!” My response was: “Sweetie, I don’t do mob moves” and quickly exited the platform. I have no idea what was said about me after I left and I did not care. I was not about to allow someone to use me to advance their cause and I certainly was not about to tear that stranger down.”
How many times have we heard a rumor about someone locally and immediately started offering up our opinion without knowing the full details? We immediately destroy that person’s reputation without knowing the full background. We go purely off of emotion. Then, as the details are revealed, we pull back. But, by then, the damage is already done. Then, we move on to the next target.
Some will say it’s human nature. But, humans evolve. So, our attitudes should as well.