Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Jussie Smollet Syndrome

Just because somebody falsely cries wolf doesn't mean wolves don't exist.

I refrained from commenting on the Jussie Smollett case since it came out, as I thought the story sounded fishy from the get-go.  I mean, after all, two white guys in Chicago wearing MAGA hats, beating a black man and saying "This is Trump Country!" - in Chicago - it just sounds off.

In Chicago.

Just seems not likely.  Idaho, maybe.  Chicago, no.

But it was best to let it lie and see how it played out, and as it turns out, it was a hoax - a cruel hoax at that.

Cruel, as some folks on the right will use this as an excuse to downplay the incidence of real racial violence, or to argue that "hate crime" laws should be abolished.   And make no mistake about it, racially motivated crimes do exist - and are horrific - which makes Mr. Smollet's false claims all the more odious.   Racists have dragged a black man behind a pickup truck until he was dead.  Racist teenagers went looking for black men to beat up and ran one over - again, with a pickup truck.

So it is pretty odious in light of real hate crimes like that, to fake a hate crime just to keep from being written out of a television show.

Of course, as some argue, all crimes are hate crimes.  I recounted before how a group of angry young black men (four in all) chased me and a friend of mine as we took an ill-advised shortcut across campus at night.   The lead one had an 18" section of galvanized steel pipe that he no doubt would have used to bash our heads in.  Whether the motive was robbery, our race, or perhaps sexual orientation, I do not know.   All I know is that I ran like hell toward civilization until they gave up the pursuit.  When we called the Police, they sent someone over who told us "those boys were just having fun with you!" and although they knew who the perpetrators were, they declined to investigate further.   Yes, blame the victim was a popular game, even back then.

I learned a valuable lesson back then.  The Police, in many instances, will only show up and put a toe-tag on your corpse, once a crime has been committed.   The majority of crimes committed in this country - including assaults and murders in many jurisdictions - go unsolved.   The Police often do their best, but often they simply cannot catch or convict the bad guys.   And in other situations, they seem less inclined to even bother to look - depending upon how sympathetic a victim you appear to be.

And that's when the victim mentality comes into play.   The Jussie Smollet case isn't some sort of anomaly.   There have been, over the last few years, a number of faked hate crimes.   Not a substantial number, to be sure.  But it is disturbing that there are any at all.  People have spray-painted their own homes or cars with racial or other slurs, in order to generate sympathy and perhaps a few dollars on a gofundyourself page.   When a schoolbus "monitor" gets nearly 3/4 million dollars after posting of a YouTube video showing her being "bullied" by grade-school kids, you have to think to yourself, "how do I cash in on this victim gig?"

(Back the day, if a kid tried that, the bus would be stopped and the kids thrown off.   Today, parents would howl with outrage if their special snowflakes were treated as such - treatment that they richly deserved.   Maybe the problem isn't "bullying" but letting kids get away with it out of fear of lawsuits from helicopter parents.   Just a thought).

In other words, Jussie Smollet wasn't being irrational or insane when he faked this hate crime, he was making a rational market-based economic choice.   He just did a shitty job of it, is all.   He should have hired two white guys (and paid them more than a few thousand dollars - once again, black people are underpaid compared to their white counterparts!) and staged the attack more convincingly.   If you are going to go the MAGA-hat route, at least do it someplace more convincing than Chicago, Illinois.   Maybe somewhere in rural Indiana, perhaps - not a very far drive from the Windy City.

And yes, I am being a bit sarcastic, but only a little bit. The underlying truth is, when we celebrate victimhood as the greatest achievement a person can attain, it is no wonder that some people would seek out victimhood.    Although the number of people faking hate crimes for one reason or another is rather small, there have been, historically, a number of people who have claimed victimhood of one sort or another, in order to get attention or to get money.   After every disaster, someone is caught claiming to be a victim of fire, flood, or tornado, and asking for money.  And thanks to the Internet, it is all-too-easy to spread your "story" about how you lost it all, and have good-natured and good-hearted people send you a few dollars here and there - adding up to thousands or perhaps even close to a million, in the case of the schoolbus monitor.

Why do people do this?  Well, the financial incentive is certainly there.   Mental illness is also an issue.   A lot of fake crime reports are made by people with emotional problems who want attention.  False rape accusations are particularly troublesome, as they can ruin the lives of the accused and also make it harder for real rapes to be taken seriously.  You'd have to be mentally ill not to see how a fake accusation is such a slap in the face to real victims.   Jussie Smollet claims to be a "victim" here, but his false allegations are particularly troubling in the light of real hate crimes.   His actions are an insult to real victims.   Who in their right mind would do this?  But alas, it already appears that he has some mental health issues - I would not be surprised if substance abuse was also part of the problem.   The point is, no rational-thinking person would do this, unless they were particularly evil.

Speaking of evil, it turns out the story of the "homeless stabber" turned out to be a hoax - and not only that, an attempt to cover up a real murder.  This is not to say that homeless people are not, in fact, dangerous.   Getting back to the victim mentality, there are a host of people in this country who would lead you to believe that a man ranting and raving on the sidewalk, haranguing you for money, is just a "victim" of Wall Street greed or Republican malfeasance.  He's just a nice guy who is "down on his luck" (because luck is how you become successful, right?) and it could happen to you in a heartbeat if you miss one mortgage payment.

Nice try.  The reality is that the vast majority of homeless people are folks with severe mental health problems and/or drug and alcohol abuse problems (which often go hand-in-hand, as we are learning over time).    The minority who really are "down on their luck" are not begging on street corners with well-worn "just evicted" signs made of cardboard and a Sharpie®.   Those who really are in trouble are seeking out help from the various agencies that make up our safety net.   The folks begging on the street are usually drug addicts looking for easy money (in addition to the government assistance they receive) to buy drugs with.   You can't buy meth with food stamps.

So in a way, there are two people crying wolf here.  The couple who are accused of murder used the specter of dangerous homeless folks as a means of diverting suspicion from themselves (it didn't work, as seems to be the case in most of these schemes).  They claimed to be the "victims" here when they were not.

But the drug addict panhandling for money is really not much different.  He or she is plying your good nature to get you to believe that they are a "victim" of circumstance and not of their own malfeasance - so you hand over a dollar or two, or - as I have seen in some instances - a crisp new $20 bill.

Good-natured people want to help and want to help those "less fortunate" than ourselves.   And there are legions of con artists out there who play upon our good nature - panhandlers in some countries actually rent children and pets to use as props to garner sympathy from tourists.  I mean, how fucking evil is that?  Renting a child, smearing his face with dirt to make him look sick, and then begging for money for "medicine" for your rented child?   That's like five levels of evil, right there.  Yet we saw this, firsthand, in Mexico, decades ago.  I am sure it still goes on.

If you want to help a homeless person, then donate to a homeless shelter or charity.   Donate to a program that tries to help people get out of homelessness.  Giving money to a panhandler only insures that they have more drugs for that evening - it perpetuates their plight, not alleviates it.   Not only that, but every time you give money to a panhandler, it insures that he will be there the next day - and that more will show up as well.  The bug-light effect kicks in.  When we make being a drug addict an attractive lifestyle alternative, people will engage in it.  When we make it harder, less people will do it.   Sometimes you have to throw the unruly kids off the bus.

The fact that we feel sorry for others speaks volumes about our good nature.  But we shouldn't let our better nature allow others to take advantage of us.   Homeless people are often dangerous people - to themselves, and to others.  They are often the victims of violence, as well.   But again, giving a homeless person a dollar, only insures they can live on the street another night, where they are more likely to be victimized.

Mentally ill people and/or drug addicts are not fun people to be around (and I can attest to this, having grown up in a family of mentally ill drug-addicted people, who were often violent).  While some homeless "advocates" want to make them all out to be gentle, helpless people who mean well and have a "heart of gold" (as often depicted in the movies) the reality is something different.   There are some "aggressive panhandlers" out there who will scream at you and harangue you if you don't give them money - or even physically assault you (it has happened to me).  If you try to fight back, well, you are the bad guy, because, as we know from the movies, homeless people are all nice and just down-on-their-luck.

So what does this have to do with Jussie Smollet?   It all comes down to perception of reality.  If you can act rationally in an irrational world, you can make out like a bandit.   On the other hand, if you are drawn into a series of false narratives, driven by agendas of other people and organizations, you end up in a world of woe.   It may seem that being a victim is a sweet gig, but it rarely works out for anyone involved.  The guy who won "litigation lottery" with his personal injury suit is rarely happy, particularly if he was actually injured, in which case, all the money in the world doesn't make up for being paralyzed or whatever.

Having sympathy for others is a good thing - unless of course, the person is just making a show of it to show everyone that they are better than you because they care about those less fortunate than themselves.   In that case, it is just ugly status-seeking raising its head once again.  And sadly, that seems to be the case, most of the time.   People don't donate money, unless they have have their name emblazoned on a plaque, program, wall, or brick paver.