We need to talk about the attack on Jussie Smollett and the right’s cognitive dissonance

When I posted yesterday, the Jussie Smollett hate crime story had just appeared in my news feeds, and I mentioned it along with what details were known at the time. Since the story broke, we have some more information about the horrific attack: Smollett was punched in the face, had a rope wrapped around his neck and was doused with bleach while his attackers yelled, “This is MAGA country,” and called him a “faggot” and a “nigger.”

He went to an apartment after the attack where he called the police. When they arrived, Smollett still had the noose around his neck. After taking his statement, the officers suggested he go to a hospital to have the lacerations around his neck looked at. There, he was treated for a broken rib. The Chicago police are looking for any and all video footage from the area where the attack took place, but as of now, they have not found video of the attackers or a vehicle. According to The New York Times, the FBI is now looking into a letter Fox received threatening Smollett. Reportedly, it read in cut out letters: “You will die black fag.” It also contained  a white powdery substance which is believed to have been crushed up Tylenol.

Obviously, Smollett’s co-stars and co-workers have offered their support, including show creator Lee Daniels:


Danny Strong, Co-Creator of Empire:

Taraji P. Henson:

View this post on Instagram

I wish what happened to my baby was just one big bad joke but it wasn’t and we all feel his pain right now. @jussiesmollett is pure love to the bone AND THAT IS WHY SO MANY ARE FEELING HIS PAIN BECAUSE IT IS OUR PAIN!!! I tell you one thing HATE WILL NOT WIN!!!! My baby is resilient and love still lives in him. The devil and his minions are very busy right now but one thing is for sure and two things are for certain #GODIS and that is all I know. This song needs to be downloaded until it goes triple platinum because the message is NEEDED. #weareresilientpeople AND #weaintgoingnowhereuntillwearefinished. The love so many have for him just goes to show HE IS LOVE!!!! I LOVE YOU MY BABY MY BABY!!! #LOVEWINSALWAYS. 🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾💋💋💋

A post shared by taraji p henson (@tarajiphenson) on

Terrence Howard gave an interview to Good Morning America where he said: “I heard he’s getting better. You know, he’s angry. But I know Jussie. Jussie’s anger will dissipate and he will forgive these people for what they did. But he won’t, and we cannot forget their actions. They have to be forgiven because it was done out of ignorance.”

Fox put out a statement: “We are deeply saddened and outraged to learn that a member of our EMPIRE family, Jussie Smollett, was viciously attacked last night. We send our love to Jussie, who is resilient and strong, and we will work with law enforcement to bring these perpetrators to justice. The entire studio, network and production stands united in the face of any despicable act of violence and hate — and especially against one of our own.”

In fact, almost all of Hollywood and many politicians had something to say about the attack; you can read many of them here and here.

GLAAD, SAG-AFTRA and the NAACP have also put out statements in support of Smollett, with the NAACP specifically calling out President Trump:

“The rise in hate crimes is directly linked to President Donald J. Trump’s racist and xenophobic rhetoric. It is dangerous for any society to allow a tone of divisiveness and hatred to dominate the political discourse. As this rhetoric continues to bleed into our everyday lives, dangerous behavior will continue to place many law-abiding individuals at risk. We pray for a full physical and mental recovery for Jussie Smollett and many unnamed victims of this forum of hate-based terrorism.”

And they’re not wrong — according to The New York Times:

Hate crimes have been rising in recent years; According to the most recent nationwide data from the F.B.I., they increased 17 percent in 2017 from the year before.

Of the more than 7,100 recorded incidents attributed to prejudice in 2017, roughly 60 percent were caused by biases involving race, ethnicity and ancestry. About 16 percent were attacks on sexual orientation.

Hate crimes are generally underreported. The F.B.I. survey was based on self-reporting from more than 16,000 law enforcement agencies.

The Chicago Police Department reported 41 hate crimes in 2017, down from 51 the year before, according to the F.B.I. Of the 41, 16 were attacks on a person’s race or ethnicity; eight were related to sexual orientation or gender identity; and 17 were motivated by religious bias.

The story has exploded into a full-blown culture battle because nothing makes the right (and the Russian bots designed to amplify our incivility towards one another) more animated than suggesting that their racist and hateful President’s racist and hateful sloganeering might inspire racist and hateful behavior on the part of his racist and hateful followers. If you venture into the #JussieSmollett hashtag on Twitter, you’ll find plenty of suggestions that this is a hoax or a publicity stunt designed to smear Trump and his supporters.

You can read more of these responses here if you have the stomach for it. (It’s a link to RawStory, not to any right-wing publications.)

Since the story broke, I have been cycling through a mix of fury and profound sadness, while waiting for this inevitable response from the right, this refusal to take responsibility, this insistence that their discriminatory positions and rhetoric doesn’t inspire hateful action. I familiar with it; most of my family would consider themselves conservative and if you asked them, they would insist that there is no hate in their hearts. They don’t hate anyone, they just don’t believe that gays/immigrants/people of color/other religions should be given “preferential treatment.” And by “preferential treatment” they mean equal rights to marry, have a job, vote, participate in government, or otherwise live their lives as unencumbered as straight white Christians.

And I believe them: I believe that my conservative family members do not actively hate anyone, would never in a million years attack someone for the color of their skin or their sexual orientation, and, in fact, would find such an act just as abhorrent as I do. But it is this, the fact that a brutal racist and homophobic act is so undeniably awful, so blatantly monstrous that the “nice” conservatives, the ones who insist they don’t hate anyone, are forced to find some other answer, some way to explain away what is obviously unacceptable behavior. And the best they can do is: FAKE NEWS. DIDN’T HAPPEN. WHERE’S THE PROOF. Because to admit that people committed a horrific hate crime while spouting the language of a president they also voted for might require them to actually take a long hard look at whether or not they’ve aligned themselves with a hate-filled movement, and that kind of introspection might lead them to some painful conclusions about the condition of their own hearts and, heaven forfend, maybe consider making some changes.

And before I get off my soap box, let me add that a large part of the right’s refusal to believe Smollett’s story isn’t something so kind or generous to them as a simple case of cognitive dissonance, but rather an internalized set of beliefs that automatically dismisses the experiences of people of color, of women, of the LGBTQ community. Let’s call it white male privilege. And of course there are openly hateful people on the right, people who I’m sure are cheering the attack on this man.

But the bottom line is we have a president who insisted that white nationalists were “fine people,” who calls African-American football players who have the temerity to use their publicity to call for equal justice “sons of bitches,” who takes Hispanic children away from their parents, sometimes forever, and a vice-president whose wife works in a school that bans homosexual students and parents. This is an openly, proudly anti-LGBTQ and anti-POC administration, so why is it so hard to accept that some of their followers would be openly, proudly and violently anti-LGBTQ and anti-POC?

In other TV news

SPOILER ALERT: Cersei will walk up and down stairs in the final season of Game of Thrones. I WARNED YOU IT WAS A SPOILER.

Maroon 5 will not be holding a pre-Super Bowl Halftime Show press conference because the NFL is scared that people will ask them about the choice to perform when Colin Kaepernick exists.

BREAKING: Meghan Markle will probably not appear on Suits again. I hope you prepared your fainting couch before reading that sentence.

There will never be a Good Place crossover with any of the other Schurverse shows, even though they have clearly already done one with that Lil’ Sebastian cameo.

As for whether or not Luke Cage will ever come back, the star of the series offers you a resounding ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

This is just a very long piece about how wonderful HBO is. It’s supposed to be about their strategy in the streaming era, but it’s really about how wonderful HBO is.

CNBC is launching a show this summer about how sometimes the super-wealthy have a hard time selling their unimaginably expensive houses. You know, like how sometimes you think your house is worth $20 million, but you can only get $14 million for it? SO RELATABLE. Also, very good reading the room, CNBC.

The delayed State of the Union is messing up NBC’s entire schedule. THANKS, OBAMA.

Nick Cannon is your new Wendy Williams. For now.

The Emmys are done with your changing categories shenanigans.

This is Us’ series finale is tied to the “her” in last season’s finale, according to Susan Kelechi (Beth). HMMM.

Jordan Peele’s upcoming movie, Us, was inspired by a classic episode of The Twilight Zone which you can stream on Netflix right now. And oh, God, it just now occurred to me: be prepared for the inevitable This is Us/ Us mashups once this movie premieres.

If you just can’t wait for Stranger Things to return, here’s an excerpt from the prequel novel which will be released Tuesday.

Kamala Harris’ CNN townhall was a ratings success. (I mean, the numbers were relatively small, but it did well in the demographic targets.)


Sex Monster News

Adam Targum, an executive producer on NCIS: New Orleans, has been fired for “alleged demeaning words, aggressive disposition and combative leadership style.” Adios, asshole.


In Development

Casting News

Mark Your Calendars

  • Pearson will debut on USA … soon?


James Ingram, Singer and song writer


The Real Housewives of New Jersey: Margaret makes some shocking accusations about Jennifer (her husband cheats on her). 8 p.m., Bravo

Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television*: The ultra-meta comedy is back for its second season — and it knows it. YouTube

A Quiet Place: BE QUIET.  7 p.m., Epix

Late Night:

  • Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon: Kenan Thompson, Luis Fonsi
  • Late Night with Seth Meyers: Megan Mullally, Killer Mike, Claire Adam, Brendan Buckley
  • The Late Show with Stephen Colbert: John Heilemann, Mark McKinnon, Alex Wagner, Max Greenfield
  • The Late Late Show with James Corden: Kevin Hart, Stephen James, Phosphorescent
  • Jimmy Kimmel Live: Billy Crystal, Desus Nice and the Kid Mero, Emily King
  • The Daily Show: Chris Christie
  • Conan: Pete Holmes
  • Busy Tonight: Josh Groban
  • Watch What Happens Live: Wendy McLendon-Covey, Margaret Josephs

WEDS. 7:00 7:30 8:00 8:30 9:00 9:30
ABC The Goldbergs
Modern Family
Single Parents
Match Game
CBS Big Brother: Celebrity Edition
The Big Bang Theory
Young Sheldon
Criminal Minds
CW Riverdale
All American
FOX Gordon Ramsay’s 24 Hours to Hell and Back
The Masked Singer
NBC Chicago Med
Chicago Fire
Chicago P.D.

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