In my latest installment of “As the Jussie Smollett Debacle Turns,” I closed with this thought:
If there is sufficient evidence to convict Smollett of these charges, then his sentence should be stiff enough to deter others from trying anything similar.
That was one humongous “IF,” as it turns out.
Hot on the heels of today’s startling, troubling, smack-my-head-inducing news that charges against Smollett have been dropped, in exchange for community service and $10,000, I suppose one might wonder if this saga will actually embolden Jussie-like behavior in the future. (No need to elaborate on what that means—let’s get real here.)
My hunch is that it won’t stir copy cats among those borderline celebrities seeking to take a perilous, false police report-style short-cut to move up a rung on the Rich & Famous Food Chain. That’s because my hunch is that Jussie Smollett’s star has dimmed considerably through this entire shameful spectacle he set in motion.
Meantime, it’s infuriating to ponder the scope of damage wrought by Smollett. A partial list:
*Damage to actual victims of hate crimes, past or future, when people are that much less likely to believe them because of this grand fabrication;
*Damage to the City of Chicago’s reputation, which got dragged through the gutter as a place where such a vile attack could occur;
*Damage to the Police Department, which six weeks ago appeared foolish to have taken so long to get to the bottom of this outrageous scheme and which now appears to have been left hanging out to dry by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office;
*Damage to public safety, because the Police Department’s resources were diverted to chase these mythical bad guys; and
*Damage to the trust of everyone who stood behind Smollett. He used his small measure of celebrity to leverage a lie of epic proportions, and became a bigger celebrity through it.
Smollett is such a dedicated actor that he is maintaining his line that he has been truthful throughout this chain of events. Nobody who understands the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy are fictional is buying this fairy tale, either.
Maybe, beyond his own selfishness, on some level Smollett wanted to shine a light on oppressive truths–the racism, homophobia, and other horrible things that certainly, and tragically, exist in our society.
But the fights against those ills have been undermined by his alleged fabrication. Instead, his name deserves to become a verb. Get ready for “jussied” and “jussying” to enter our lexicon.
Setting the (Stilted) Stage: Jussie Smollett Tale Was a Cynical Checklist for Public Outrage
Manti Te’o Deception Exposes Failings of An All-Too-Easily Duped Media