The Jussie Smollett matter is riveting. The rush to judgment is exactly the hallmark of the Left — rushing to convict Brett M. Kavanaugh based on lies, damned lies, and more damned lies. Rushing to convict the Duke lacrosse players. Rushing to convict the rapist of Lena Dunham for a rape that never happened. Rushing to convict a Columbia University student, even as he was shamed and disgraced publicly by “The Mattress Girl,” with Columbia University ultimately having to settle with him. Rushing to convict the University of Virginia fraternity. Rushing to convict the people accused by Al Sharpton over Tawana Brawley. Rushing to believe the Ferguson Michael Brown “Hands up, Don’t Shoot!” lie and racing to convict a good police officer. Rushing to convict more good police officers in Baltimore over the Freddie Gray lies. And the Trayvon Martin lies. Rushing to convict Nick Sandmann.
The Smollett verdict is not yet in, so I am not ready to convict. But the story at its core was hokey and raises questions broadly in at least two areas:
(i) What’s with all the Left-wing cruel and vicious hoaxes that depict very good Americans as racist, sexist, homophobic, and xenophobic in order to tar-and-feather conservatives in general, and Caucasian heterosexual male supporters of President Trump in particular?
(ii) What’s with the compulsion to be seen as a victim?
These actually are two separate issues. In Jussie Smollett’s case, the story was so hard to digest. He never was on the horizon of Trump supporters. Trump supporters have feelings about Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters, Ocasio-Cortez, Alec Baldwin, Joe Scarborough, Rachel Maddow, Robert De Niro, Jim Comey, Andrew McCabe, Michael Cohen, Kathy Griffin, Adam Schiff, and many others who take unfair potshots at the President, lie about him, and seemingly live for no other primary purpose but to destroy him. By contrast, Trump supporters mostly never heard of Jussie Smollett until a week or two ago. Trump supporters, by and large, do not watch “Empire” and probably do not even know what it is about. The world of Trump Conservatism simply is not the world of the hip-hop music industry. Therefore, the premise that Trump supporters would target a non-entity in their world for a quasi-lynching was preposterous.
If someone were going to try quasi-lynching a person, it furthermore is preposterous to believe that they also would not have beaten him up badly. Yet the police photo of Smollett after the supposed incident shows one small facial bruise or cut. That does not make sense. Nor does it make sense that people would roam such a Chicago neighborhood with a rope. Nor that they would yell in the middle of the street “This is MAGA country.” First of all, Trump supporters do not go around yelling “MAGA.” It is not a secret mantra. At Trump rallies, thousands chant “Build the Wall!” “Lock her Up!” “Drain the Swamp!” “USA! USA!” No one starts chanting “MAGA!” Rather, that apparently is what a hate-Trump person might assume that Trump people say.
So the whole story was hokey. But it did open some long-overdue conversations:
1. Hate Hoaxes
A gentleman named Andrew Ngo has tweeted a stunningly long compilation of Hate Hoaxes. Another long list, just during President Trump’s first two years, can be found here. What these have in common is a desire to defame and socially destroy a wide swath of good people — well exceeding a hundred million Americans — by connoting that, as a class of people, all American conservatives are bigots, racists, misogynists, homophobes, and xenophobes. That is, beyond the Left’s underlying calumny and lie that conservatives all secretly harbor such feelings in their innermost hearts, these hoaxes aim with striking imagery to grab national attention and to feed the stereotype. No one ever put the lie so succinctly as did Hillary Clinton when she threw all hundred-million-plus into one “Basketful of Deplorables.” But beyond Hillary, this lie is taught every day in the social sciences classes of colleges throughout the United States. Conservatives slept and snored as the campuses were being taken over and as education as we experienced it had come to an end. Now, even as conservatives pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in tuition or sign for such amounts of Parent PLUS loans that will leave them in hock for years, they continue sending their children to these moral wastelands where their generations are being inculcated with false narratives:
1. The country is pocked with the evil of White male privilege.
2. America is evil and the cause of most misery throughout the world.
3. While you are privileged to be here, others are starving and homeless. They deserve what you have.
4. It is not fair that every person in this country lacks a nice home and full health coverage.
5. The world is on the verge of ending because American corporate interests are polluting the air in pursuit of profits.
6. Every person in the world has the same right as you do to live in this country and be a citizen here.
7. Your parents never told you these truths, did they?
8. Your pastors, priests, and rabbis never told you these truths either because religion is evil.
9. Religion is homophobic, denies a woman’s right to choose, and “imagine” how wonderful the world would be without G-d.
This is how an Ocasio-Cortez could emerge with a graduate degree in economics and yet think that her Green New Deal makes sense. This is why so many among the younger generation now contemplate that socialism is a good thing. It is because they take one class after another after another, and each professor professes the same mantra. The academic departments who interview new professors hire those who toe the line. They self-perpetuate. Once they are granted tenure, they never can be fired, so they have no restraints, not even the restraint of truth-telling. A non-tenured professor can lose his or her job by lying, but a tenured professor is set for life as long as he or she avoids manifesting undue hatred towards a subset of students and avoids acts of sexual immorality with students.
There is only one problem. Although most students emerge brainwashed — and they will be this way for the next many decades at least, until reality hits them in the face — many of the brainwashed, and all of the “resistance” who will not be intimidated by Leftist professors, share a common bewilderment: So where is the evidence of all the hate that exists? It just is not out there. Yes, it is found among trolls on the anonymous comments sections of social media and online publications. The lies and the hate, always so easy to spread when posting anonymously under a pseudonym from Mom’s basement. But out in the open, where is the widespread endemic hate? Where are all those hateful Whites, hateful men, hateful Catholics and Jews and Christians, hateful heterosexuals? Where are the lynchings like the ones that the KKK Democrats perpetrated 150 years ago? Where are the gay-bashings that still were evident fifty years ago? Where is the anti-Muslim, anti-this, anti-that hatred that our professors taught us all about? Why is it that all the White people we meet, the men, the Jews and Christians and Catholics, the Caucasians who descend from various parts of Europe, the heterosexuals, the conservatives, the Trump supporters — why is it that all these people, the ones whom we actually meet in real life, are very good and decent people? It does not make sense. Where in the world are all the Deplorables — and why don’t we ever encounter any in real life, only in classroom social science lectures and during late-night “comedy” monologues, and in fictional movies?
That conundrum is at the crux of these hoaxes. It has been said: “The hardest thing of all is to find a black cat in a dark room with no windows in the middle of the night — especially when there is no cat in the room.”
It is the desperate effort by the Left to create actual evidence of the “Basketful of Deplorables” Big Lie that gives rise to these continued ongoing hoaxes.
2. The Need for Some to Be Victims
Some people find happiness only in their sense of suffering. They need to feel that they suffer. They live off sympathy. They wallow in it. This phenomenon transcends the political. It is part of the greater human condition.
I have encountered this situation often enough in my thirty-plus years as a rabbi. Often the congregational rabbi or the pastor or priest is the “first responder” — the first person approached in a situation that might be medical, educational, marital, psychological. If the situation is manageable and can be handled with compassion, active listening, caring, and sound advice and follow-up, the clergy can handle it alone. On many other occasions, experienced clergy are trained as “first responders” to discern signs that the situation requires longer-term referral to a medical doctor, an educator, a therapist.
I had a person who wanted a pastoral session with me every week just to complain about how terrible her life is. In reality, it quickly became clear to me that she had little to complain about. She was in good health, financially secure, enjoyed a coterie of friends. But she wallowed in her obsessive self-pity. As one session began, I suggested that she accompany me to the hospital where I would be doing my weekly rounds of visiting the sick. She agreed. There we saw adult terminal patients and children with diseases that imperiled whether they would reach adulthood. We encountered real pain and suffering. Yet many of them were so inspiring because all they could say, even as I held back tears and maintained a supportive “poker face,” was how happy they were.
When we left the hospital, this woman who had accompanied me immediately reverted to complaining. She had absorbed nothing. She was utterly obsessed with self-pity. Ultimately, I had to refer her to a therapist. And sure enough, not long later, it came back to me that she now was adding to her litany of life complaints that the Rabbi had invited her to do hospital rounds with him because the Rabbi thought that her problems were not more pernicious than were the problems in the hospital’s ICU.
I have known many such wallowers. They love and live for the attention that their complaining attracts their way. “Oh my, I hope you are feeling better! What — you’re not? It is even worse today? Oh, how sorry I feel for you!” That is their mother’s milk. They live for it and lap it up. There are so many variations on this phenomenon that every reader of this column probably is nodding in agreement, thinking of a wallower. (And, by the way, if you are a wallower, I am so sorry, and I hope you will be feeling better, and I am so sorry if it even is worse today.)
3. Jussie Smollett — the Synergy
Among conservatives, there certainly are some obsessed with self-pity, too, but many more conservatives ultimately are motivated at their philosophical core by the ethic of positivism and hard work and responsibility to others. When most conservatives face severe difficulties, they may grumble and grouse, but they rapidly respond by understanding that they have to figure it out on their own or with their close family and friends. They may have to work longer hours or take on a second job. They may have to downsize and skimp. They know the concept of delayed gratification. Certainly, not all conservatives are this way, but this is the dominant philosophy and practice among conservatives. And many conservatives place great trust in G-d. “G-d helps those who help themselves.” By believing deeply in a loving G-d who assists the self-helper, a person often is strengthened to know that there is a greater “end game” in some setbacks and suffering, and G-d’s greater purpose will become evident in time.
By contrast, the contemporary Left Weltanschauung is rooted much more in self-pity and in the expectation that “Others” — usually, the Government (i.e., the taxpayers) — have a duty to step in and make it all better. “Others have a duty to provide a ‘Trigger Warning’ before subjecting me to something discomforting. Others have a duty to provide my medical care and to pay for it, to provide my housing, to guarantee me a good bank balance.” In that environment, when one applies for Government assistance — welfare, food stamps, free this, free that — one learns that the only way to get it is by complaining, crying, and telling a tale of woe. If you apply for it and then tell the interviewer that you are richer than Bezos, healthier than Mr. Universe, smarter than Einstein, faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive — you won’t get it. You have to complain. When you face a tough final exam in college, with fear that you will not do well — or, worse, when you get back a disastrously low grade — you have to start crying. It is the only chance to change the grade. And with enough liberal college professors responding to the crying and the disadvantage, it sometimes works.
This is what we are beholding in certain pockets of today’s American society: the synergy of wallowing in self-pity with the need to document evidence of conservative hate that does not exist.