Opinion

Smollett's Hoax Can Be a Turning Point...If We Let It

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Posted: Feb 19, 2019 2:54 PM
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not represent the views of Townhall.com.
Smollett's Hoax Can Be a Turning Point...If We Let It

Source: (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

There’s no need to rehash all the details of the the Jussie Smolett fiasco. By now it’s all been exhaustively covered, even here on the front pages of Townhall. A story so pathetic, ridiculous and ultimately dangerous it deserves wall-to-wall coverage.

However, I have to admit that what I have found most fascinating about this story is watching the usual suspects in the media having to walk back their desperate condemnation of “Trump Nation”. The rational mind might think that after the debacle of the Covington Catholic story, the media talking heads would be more careful to wait for the full facts to emerge during the next “crisis”. After all, having to admit to the world that you were not only wrong about Orange Bad Man™ fans but also inept in your evaluation is highly embarrassing…and a lot of people had to do it. Like…a lot. Even many conservatives let themselves get swept away in the Covington chaos in a frantic attempt to distance themselves from those icky Trump conservatives. Despite what we may say in public, conservative pundits crave mainstream public acceptance just as much a liberal pundits do.

Unsurprisingly - but still disappointingly - the media immediately fell head over heels in love with Smollett’s attack story without even the slightest sign of caution. In fact, it could be said that it was because of the Covington mess that they were so eager to believe this tale. Covington was not only a lie that backfired. It was a years-long narrative of #MAGA hate that collapsed in real time. Smollett’s case was the redemption.

Only it wasn’t a redemption at all. It was yet another glaring condemnation of a media (both on the left and right) that is so completely sold out to a storyline that they are rendered completely useless as any kind of investigative or informative tool…what journalism used to be.

One might say that they’ll never learn. The next case like this that comes along will just be the same tragic leaping to conclusions, the same unfounded hysteria, the same lame narrative.

However, I’ve been doing something I don’t do very often- spending a lot of time in the comments sections of Smollett stories, particularly at liberal sites. What I’m seeing there is making me think perhaps we may have reached a turning point.

I’m seeing a lot of disappointment - which is weird. But I’m also seeing people admit that their disappointment is weird. Think about it - we’re now in a point in our history where people are actively rooting for a hate crime to be true. While there are still plenty of stubborn people out there simply digging their heels in, I’ve been noticing that there are some people who are actually examining their reactions and asking questions.

Certainly (and quite naturally…I’m looking at you S.E.Cupp)  Trump fans feel a bit vindicated that a disgusting crime that was used to make gross generalizations about all Trump voters turned out to be a hoax. However, there’s a productive conversation to be had here.

Journalist Andy Ngo posted an amazing thread detailing the list of fake hate crimes since Trump’s election and it is disturbing; but it’s also illuminating and thanks to Smollett there’s never been a better time to have a discussion about why we’re so desperate to create hate that doesn’t seem to exist - at least not in the quantities the Left would have us believe. I’ve read dozens of threads from people who hate #MAGA and hate Trump and all things conservative; it’s shocking how many of them are starting to ask themselves why these hoaxes keep happening and why they keep falling for it. Perhaps they’re not exactly coming to the conclusions that people on the right aren’t Literally Hitler™, but some are at least beginning to question their willingness to blindly believe every awful story they hear when it comes to #MAGA.

After the Covington Catholic saga, even The View’s Whoopi Goldberg presented the question to her panel peers - why does this keep happening? Why are we constantly reading and believing awful headlines about Trump and his voting base and then constantly having to walk back our rush to judgment after the facts come out?

She’s right to ask that question, and maybe this is a question we should be asking more of our liberal/progressive brethren. Not in a social media format, but when having personal conversations. Instead of shaming people for their willing gullibility, we should take advantage of this moment and follow Goldberg’s lead. Until now, the conservative complaints about the bias and malfeasance of the mainstream media have been like shouting into the wind. Smollett’s story is a unique convergence of pop culture and politics and thus brings that conversation to the forefront of our entertainment-obsessed society. It’s no longer confined to the political wings of media. Everyone is talking about this.

This is a fantastic time to calmly explain frustrations with the media, why the term #FakeNews is rooted in genuine concern and discuss how we can disagree about political strategy and policy without labeling each other as the enemy.

I don’t expect any liberal to suddenly turn their backs on their ideology just because they may be finally seeing how the media is shaping their bias in the most sinister of ways. Neither should you.

Helping people to be just a little more critical of their media sources and the politicians they love and trust is a healthy “win” for the entire country. We don’t need converts and that shouldn’t be the goal. But we can foster a less divisive, obnoxious environment by simply taking advantage of this one moment in time to graciously explain that there are all kinds of legitimate reasons for disliking “the other side” of politics, but there are actually no legitimate reasons for hating them.