Oh, you mean the guy they say faked that attack?

This is "the boy who cried wolf." Not very self-explanatory, is it? Needs word balloons. Sorry. Best I could find.

This is “the boy who cried wolf.” Not very self-explanatory, is it? Needs word balloons. Sorry. Best I could find.

There’s nothing stupider in political discourse than the game left and right play in trying to catch each other out for being hypocritical, or inconsistent, or unfair. I’m talking about the kind of J’Accuse! assertions that the ones asserting them think are devastating, but are persuasive to no one but the already brainwashed. These facile, leap-to-judgment “arguments,” generally found on social media, sort of make me feel ashamed to be a human in the 21st century.

I find it doubly irritating when news media are being unjustly accused of the above sins (this is from the right 90 percent of the time). But that’s me; your mileage may vary. (Sorry, Bryan — you hadn’t used that today, so I grabbed it.)

This is not even an extreme example, but it’s one at hand, so I share it:

I had a number of thoughts in quick succession about this when it appeared the other day:

  • Who reads the print version of The Washington Post? I don’t. I can’t even get the print edition where I live, but I prefer the iPad app anyway.
  • Maybe Hume isn’t being a jerk. Maybe he’s really decrying the death — or at least rapid decline — of print. It actually is a real problem that things that happen fairly early in the evening do not make it into the print version. Back when I was in charge of the paper at night, here and in Wichita, I’d be putting breaking news into the paper at 1 a.m. and later. With the super-early press times now, I have seen things that did indeed break as early as 8 fail to make it into The State. No skin off this reader’s nose, but it means folks like my parents who depend on the dead-tree version get the breaking news two days later. Anyway, in this generous interpretation, Hume’s “Democracy Dies in Darkness” crack was a lament that things that happen after sundown aren’t in the next day’s paper.
  • Nah, that’s probably not what he meant, I decide after looking at some of his other Tweets.
  • In any case, there was way more than I was interested in reading about this absurd (according to the cops) affair — in The Post, and elsewhere. In the online editions, I mean — the place where news organizations focus most of their effort and attention these days.
  • And I gotta tell ya, Brit — the first I remember hearing about this incident, there was already doubt being cast on this guy’s story. Maybe that’s because that’s when the story got big in the biased news media you decry. (Another cause was that I’d never heard of this “Jussie” person before that coverage.) Maybe I did half-hear something about it before that, but not consciously. Having spent decades of my life having to very quickly pick the real news out from the boring background, I long ago learned to filter out “dog bites man” stuff. “TV actor you never heard of attacked” is a headline that puts me to sleep by the third word. “Cops: Actor faked attack for the publicity” is a hed that might make me read a graf or two, and maybe shake my once at the foolishness in this world before moving on.
  • Oh, wait — is this about the fact that some of the overexcited Democratic presidential hopefuls leaped to express sympathy for this guy before facts were known? Well, they made fools of themselves, didn’t they (but with kind intentions, apparently)? But that’s on them. They are not The Washington Post, and The Washington Post is not them, despite the fantasies of those who see the world in binary either-or, us-vs.-them terms. No connection.

Personally, I like what the NYT‘s David Leonhardt said about cases such as this, two days before Hume’s Tweet:

Ms. Harris said in response to the question about her use of the ‘modern day lynching’ phrase,” as Katharine Seelye of The Times reported. “After a moment, she said, ‘I think the facts are still unfolding and I’m very concerned’ about the initial allegation by Mr. Smollett. She said ‘there should be an investigation’ and declined to comment further until it was complete.”

Her final instinct there was the best one. Making sweeping pronouncements about unverified criminal allegations isn’t a good idea — not now, not three weeks ago. It’s especially problematic with matters involving race, gender and sexuality, which ignite particular political passions.

Everyone — and definitely anyone running for president — should know by now that it’s O.K. to wait before weighing in on a hot topic. As the most recent Democratic president famously said, “I like to know what I’m talking about before I speak.”…

Good advice, that.

33 thoughts on “Oh, you mean the guy they say faked that attack?

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Oh, and by the way, Brit, apparently the guy’s name is “Jussie,” not “Jessie.” Don’t ask me why, but people’s names are what they are.

    I might have heard it that way, too, I admit. Except in my mind I’d have spelled it “Jesse.”

    Of course, if I’d been moved to write something about it and publish it, I’d have checked…

  2. Barry

    Brit Hume is very partisan. He doesn’t hide it anymore like he tried to do before his half way retired.

  3. bud

    This really is rather inconsequential. The guy reported the incident and there weren’t any major problems with his story until he refused to give up his phone. Fox News now has an excuse to never believe any accusation of Trump supporters acting inappropriately. It could be open season on gay, black folks.

    1. Doug Ross

      Inconsequential? Nearly every Democratic candidate for President expressed outrage at this phony event and used it to fire up their base to believe that racism is rampant and out of control. Then they went all “let’s let this be decided in the courts” when it turned out they were duped. The daily manufactured outrage about every tiny thing is what is going to give Trump an actual shot at winning. We’ve been hearing for 2+ years that the world is coming to and end, that Trump would be impeached, that Trump would be nuking countries, that Trump was Putin’s puppet, that abortion was going to be outlawed… NONE OF IT HAS HAPPENED! It’s been a typical presidency with ups and downs combined with Trump’s tweets driving Democrats insane. He is playing them like fiddle… one sentence can drive a meltdown in the liberal media. (Meanwhile, they secretly are LOVING the ratings and clicks and revenue it generates — they would hate to see Pence as President now).

      1. bud

        The daily manufactured outrage about every tiny thing is what is going to give Trump an actual shot at winning.

        Note really. No one’s mind ever gets changed regardless of what Trump says or does. What could give Trump a chance is a continued robust economy.

      2. Barry

        This didn’t start with Trump. Obama and Bill Clinton would sneeze and Fox and right wing radio would fall back on their “end of the world” talking points along with Glenn Beck’s radio ads for emergency food supplies because of the impending collapse of society.

      3. Brad Warthen Post author

        “Nearly every Democratic candidate for President expressed outrage…”

        I don’t know how many it was, but it’s a useful thing to observe how people handle these things.

        But here’s the thing about this… while this story didn’t interest ME until it turned out this guy had (allegedly, but I tend to believe the cops) faked this, presidential candidates don’t have the luxury of ignoring stuff like this.

        I have decried this many times, but the president of the United States has been the national Empathizer in Chief since at least the Clinton administration. It’s stupid, but the whole country waits with bated breath to see what the president — even this president — will say about whatever people are nattering about today. So candidates for president are required to do the same thing.

        The PERFECT candidate to me would be someone who just declines to answer, saying, “I’m running to be president of the United States; I don’t see how that bears upon the job.” But that candidate doesn’t exist. Even my man Joe commented on this.

        That said, let me pose this question: What harm did these candidates do expressing sympathy with a guy who said he was beaten up? It wasn’t hurting anybody. Why was it such a “gotcha?”

        It’s an interesting thing to contemplate. If a person DID get beaten up, wouldn’t it be the normal human thing to decry the act? Yes, I realize Democrats make an Identity Politics ritual of this, talking “hate crime” and such, and personally I have little truck with that. But I have sympathy for a black gay guy being beaten up — if that happened — just as I would anyone else. And while I don’t think it should a “hate crime” because I don’t believe in such, I certainly would see it as a crime, and one that should be fully prosecuted under the law.

        Do the people who act like these candidates were wrong to sympathize think that something like that should NOT be a crime?

        Seriously, what’s the “gotcha!” here? I sort of get it, but I want to see how y’all describe it…

        1. Doug Ross

          The gotcha is that when the hoax was revealed, the level of outrage toward the offender didn’t match the level of outrage at the phony attack. There was no mea culpa, no recognition that their statements caused more harm than good. The proper response would have been: “I was wrong. I should have waited for the facts to come out before assuming that Jussie Smolletts claims were evidence of some greater national issue regarding racism in America. I will be more cautious in the future.”

          The irony is that a black woman and black man are two of the frontrunners in the race to the Presidency in a country that is supposedly so overrun with racists.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            But isn’t that kinda what Kamala Harris DID? See the quote in the original post — didn’t she sort of learn her lesson and say, “Whoa! I think we’d better wait until this is all sorted out.”

            Which, as Leonhardt said, was what she should have said to begin with…

            1. Doug Ross

              No, she didn’t acknowledge making a mistake personally or saying she herself contributed to the outrage with her Twitter rant, It was the equivalent of the “If anyone was offended, I apologize” non-apology.

              1. bud

                Doug you are losing your mind over this non-story. It’s just not that important. Did you get this worked up over Trump’s comments after Charlottesville? Or the Access Hollywood tape? Or the caging of Children by Trump? Dude, you really need to get your priorities in order. Trump is a vile, disgusting, grotesque narcissist who really is stirring up fear and hatred against many non WASP groups. The Dems simply showed a bit of compassion for a man who claimed he was attacked. This may help stir up the wacky Trump base but otherwise people recognize this for the non story that it is.

                1. Doug Ross

                  Must everything go back to something trump said? Why do you constantly look for a false equivalence?

                  Harris and Booker and others screwed up and wrongly tried to fan the flames of racism. They are characters in a play at this point.

                  It’s a non story to you because it shows just how crazed Democrat s are today. They’ve been deranged for two and a half years.

        2. Brad Warthen Post author

          Another point I meant to make there…

          The folks pouncing on Dems who sympathized with this guy seem to be implying that they should have known it was a lie — and therein lies their fault.

          But to believe that, it seems you have to believe one of the following:

          • That people who say they’ve been beaten up are usually lying.
          • That black people who say they’ve been beaten up are usually lying.
          • That gay people who say they’ve been beaten up are usually lying.
          • That celebrities who say they’ve been beaten up are usually lying.

          … or some combination of the above. And maybe someone can show me stats that support one of those assertions, but until I see them, I doubt that any of them are true.

          So again — aside from being to quick to empathize and emote, which does bug me, what did these people do wrong?

          It’s not like the guy accused any specific person of having attacked him. (Or did he? I’m looking back and not seeing where he did.) So no one was libeled by the accusation — unless we say that guys wearing ski masks as a class have been wronged, and that’s thin. I learned in journalism law that it’s hard to libel a group of people larger than 100.

          Anyway, what did they do that was so bad?

          1. Doug Ross

            You need to go back and review the “facts” that Smollet claimed at the start. It had nothing to do with not believing racist attacks happen — it’s that his claims didn’t pass the sniff test for many people right off the bat. He gets in a fight with two people but somehow his Subway sandwich is saved? And he walks back to his apartment with the “noose” around his neck? The red flags were going off immediately.

            “Jan. 29
            — Smollett reports he was attacked by two men while out getting food from a Subway sandwich shop around 2 a.m. The actor, black and openly gay, said he was walking back to his apartment in the 300 block of East North Water Street when two men walked up, yelled racial and homophobic slurs, declared “This is MAGA country,” hit him and wrapped a noose around his neck.”

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              “his claims didn’t pass the sniff test for many people right off the bat”

              Maybe that’s why the cops looked into it further.

              Or maybe they did so because he was stupid enough to write that guy a check…

        3. bud

          What harm did these candidates do expressing sympathy with a guy who said he was beaten up? It wasn’t hurting anybody. Why was it such a “gotcha?”

          Absolutely none, zero. Yet that doesn’t stop the Fox News media from losing their minds over it. This really is a pretty small story that should have gone away by now.

          1. Doug Ross

            Must everything go back to something trump said? Why do you constantly look for a false equivalence?

            Harris and Booker and others screwed up and wrongly tried to fan the flames of racism. They are characters in a play at this point.

            It’s a non story to you because it shows just how crazed Democrat s are today. They’ve been deranged for two and a half years.

            1. bud

              Ok that’s a fair point. My answer is simply that the Democrats really didn’t do much wrong. They correctly noted that assaults by Trump supporters against a variety of non wasp groups are up, like the coast guard Lt., and used the false Smollett allegation as an example. The fact that Smollett lied does not change the reality of the situation as a whole. Simply put, Trump has driven a rise in civil rights assaults.

              1. Doug Ross

                “Simply put, Trump has driven a rise in civil rights assaults.”

                Correlation does not equal causation. Add to that the fact that supposed civil rights assaults are now more publicized due to the media hype machine. There is no verifiable way to accurately tally those events.

  4. Harry Harris

    We’ve become so lazy about debating actual issues that both sides of any issue dive into ad hominem attacks, “kill the messenger” tirades, and name-calling – leaving behind any substantive discussion. Candidates who try to stay on track (and factual) are ignored by the media, the poorly-informed public, and buried by the propaganda machines of the better-funded interests.
    Far more dangerous than some self-interested jerk who makes a false claim are stealth-funded operations like James O’Keefe who dare to use a phony name that invokes “truth.” They try to entrap, make salacious and false headline claims, release distorted edited recordings and still are quoted and circulated by both gullible and ill-intentioned politicians and their followers long after being debunked. The Planned Parenthood assassination is a good example. I was filmed in 2012 by one of their operatives at a candidate meeting in Sumter SC as he walked around recording conversation, trying to harvest a few words that could be distorted into usable talking points. We’re in a propaganda age, arguing and name-calling over manufactured topics while the real issues and possible solutions are ignored.

  5. Brad Warthen Post author

    Speaking of the phenomenon that this post is about, here’s Lindsey Graham — an intelligent man who used to have some self-respect — in a release today:

    “A new low for House Democrats: holding hearings with Michael Cohen while President Trump negotiates with North Korea about giving up their nuclear arsenal.

    “Democrats’ hatred of Trump is undercutting an important foreign policy effort and is way out of line.

    “If Republicans had pulled such a stunt, the mainstream media would be outraged!”

    I wonder if there’s ANY truth to his concern. Does he really sit with his fingers crossed, hoping that master of diplomacy Donald Trump delivers the world from the North Korean menace? I don’t know whether to take the meeting seriously or not. Given the two dysfunctional clowns involved in the “summit” (in their case, it should probably be called a “nadir”) I feel better if I can laugh it off. To the extent that I take their meeting seriously, it’s terrifying — our fates in the hands of these two?

    But let’s look at that idiotic last line, which plays the “media are the enemy” card — which may be a new low for Lindsey.

    Let’s turn it around: If a Democrat had done what Trump is doing — giving Kim his heart’s desire of meeting on an equal footing with an American president — Lindsey would have gone ballistic…

    1. Doug Ross

      Are you opposed to any President seeking to meet with North Korea? Are you opposed to any efforts to achieve even the smallest concessions from them?

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        1. It would depend on the circumstances. There were good reasons why it didn’t happen before, but that doesn’t mean there might not have come a time when a rational president — you know, one of the 44 — might have found it wise to have such a meeting.

        2. No, I’m not — as long as the efforts are being carried out by someone with a clue.

        1. Barry

          There is an interesting video online showing Fox News hosts and right wingers calling OBama every name in the book because he said he was willing to possibly meet with dictators if American foreign policy goals could be achieved.

          Of course Trump actually does meet with a dictator and it’s the best achievement in the country’s history to the exact same hypocrites.

      2. Brad Warthen Post author

        Of course, I’m deeply impressed by what is happening. It’s nothing short of a miracle. It’s 50 years late, but something finally got Trump to go to Vietnam.

  6. Mr. Smith

    All this self-righteous 20-20 hindsight is doggone silly. I half expect somebody to demand that the recently passed anti-lynching bill be reversed – because it was approved by the Senate under “false pretenses.” And after all, some folks – like the (now former) editor of that itty-bitty paper down in Alabama – apparently think a bit of lynching every now and then would be a good thing.

  7. Bart

    The “summit” was a media and propaganda opportunity for two of the worst leaders ever to capture some headlines and continue the growth of employment for reporters, opinion writers, and “breaking news” from major networks. To cap it off, they met in Hanoi, the object of America’s intent to destroy not so long ago. Kim got his minutes to prove his “bona fides” to his enslaved country and Trump was played like a cheap fiddle – again.

    Wonder what is going to happen to all of the extra bodies employed to do nothing but go after Trump once he is out of the White House? Will Colbert actually have a funny and entertaining comedy routine to open “The Tonight Show”? Without Trump, his ratings would probably the lowest of the low. Of course Fox News will probably hire new employees dedicated to going after a Democrat POTUS and Congress is elected in 2020. Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly will probably resurface on cable or as a guest host on Fox’s night time line-up.

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