Until last month, I had never heard of Jussie Smollett. (I don’t watch television.)
I was vaguely aware of a television show called Empire, but I couldn’t have told you whether it was still on the air or not. And I certainly couldn’t have told you anything about an obscure gay actor on the show.
All of that changed last month when Smollett claimed he had been attacked by Trump-supporting white people in red MAGA hats. I quickly got sick of the story when progressives were screaming about the alleged attack, calling it a “modern-day lynching” and all sorts of nonsense that people say when their biases are confirmed.
For the last week, the tables have turned and Smollett has been arrested for making the whole thing up. Now I’m sick of conservatives screaming about the hoax. Their overreaction is just as insane as the reaction from the left was last month.
I just want to know why we allow media to fill our minds — and take our attention — with stories about nobodies such as Jussie Smollett.
Unless you knew Smollett or worked with him, this story never made any difference in your life. It certainly never made any difference in my life.
We have somehow allowed media to convince us that every isolated outrage matters in our lives, but that’s a lie. Even if the alleged attack had happened the way Smollett claimed, it wouldn’t have mattered — and it wouldn’t have said anything about the actual way in which blacks and gays are treated in this country.
Individual stories can be outrageous, but they prove absolutely nothing. If these sorts of attacks were happening in multiple places around the country, there would be a pattern. It would show a systemic problem that more of us should know about. But even if it had been true, one attack on an obscure actor by a couple of alleged right-wing hoodlums would have proven nothing.
One incident of almost any kind is meaningless, but we’ve allowed media to convince us that each of these sorts of stories matter to us. We’re trained to believe that we’re supposed to have opinions about these incidents — and we’re supposed to use these isolated incidents to advance our political agendas.
When news of the alleged attack first came out last month, I didn’t form any strong opinion about it, but when I heard that the assailants were alleged to have shouted, “This is MAGA country,” I knew that part was a lie. That’s not the way actual Trump-loving racists would talk. (Seriously.) And it made the weaknesses in the rest of the story even more suspect.
But the more appalling point is that I even knew enough about this story to have an opinion. I should have never heard about it. It’s meaningless to me. But we have opened wide the gateways of media — to the point that we have meaningless digital sewage pumped into our lives every day.
Very little of life is actually experienced in terms of identity-group conflict, but if you follow the news media even casually, you could be forgiven for assuming these group conflicts are central to public life for most people.
That’s because keeping those conflicts stirred up helps two groups. It serves the financial interests of the media companies, which don’t make a nickel if you turn them off. So they have to keep us outraged. And all these conflicts serve the interests of the “political activists” who are determined to gain political power to force their agendas — right or left — on the rest of us.
These media feeding frenzies do not serve us. They only steal our time. They take our attention away from the things in our lives which truly matter. Think about it. Every minute that we spend forming opinions about people such as Smollett — or thousands of others — is a minute which is gone from our ever-shortening lives.
Now that Smollett turns out to have made the whole thing up — legally it’s not proven, but I’m convinced — conservatives are playing the same game which the progressives were playing last month. They’re pretending this story matters and that it tells us something about those evil and stupid people on the left.
It does nothing of the sort. One man who made up ridiculous charges — which have been easy to disprove, apparently — but that doesn’t tell us anything about black men in general or gay men in general. It’s just one selfish man who tried to manipulate a society in a way that would have boosted his career.
This isn’t a story which tells us anything meaningful about progressives or anything meaningful about conservatives — and certainly nothing about their intellectual bankruptcy. It’s a story that tells us something sickening about a media culture which is eager to use outrage to divide people further and get more people to watch — all because we’ve allowed them to make us believe that a nobody such as Jussie Smollett actually matters to us.
But he doesn’t matter to me or to you. I’ll be happy if I never hear his name again.