We live in an era that has never provided the developed world with easier access to information. We also live in an era that has never provided the developed world with the spreading and consumption of information with such ease. Think about it. We are all given such a wonderful gift. The ability to send and receive knowledge, as well as valuable information instantly, yet more often than ever, it seems like we’re collectively misusing it.
The Jussie Smollett story is one that perfectly embodies this poor behavior. It also highlights the need for a less reactionary type of journalism, and constant feedback loop. News should slowly develop as an ongoing, melodramatic thread, with reserved judgment as it organically evolves. Patience, right? Imagine that.
Let’s catch you up if you have lived under a rock for three weeks. The night before the Polar Vortex in Chicago, an actor from the Fox series Empire is grossly attacked. How? He was beat up outside, in the dark, cold night, by two other white guys in ‘red hats’ spouting ‘this is MAGA country’ all in the south side of Chicago. So, you ask yourself? Why is an actor roaming around the streets of Chicago on a weeknight in the winter on one of the coldest nights of the year? How do two Trump supporters happen to just run into him and beat him up? Oh yeah, all of this with no other witnesses. Well, if you asked either of these questions, or any variation of it, you get branded a racist or bigot. Why? Well, the most important part of the story has been left out until now. He is an openly gay, black man. Bingo! Remember Covington a few weeks ago? This is even better! Instead of a smug, MAGA-hat wearing white boy at a pro-life rally smirking at a Native American Vietnam Vet, we now have two MAGA-hat wearing white guys beating up a famous black gay actor all in the name of Trump! How can this get any better!? Too good to be true? Funny you ask. It was.
Fast forward three weeks through some amazing journalism by local Chicago media, and not to mention tireless investigating from the Chicago PD, who surely had nothing better to do in the crime ridden city solving and fighting real crime. Now, Jussie Smollett is being investigated as a criminal in the case, and the gig appears up. Let’s digest what just happened.
Think of this. Venezuela is a story that has developed for many years. Trump and Mueller is two years in the making. Covington took on a new storyline daily for a full week. And now, this. There are countless story lines that keep developing. Your job as a consumer of information is to reserve judgment, comprehend the facts, and develop an unbiased opinion as more pieces of the puzzle come to the table. Yeah, good luck with that one. It’s not like you have a life or something. So, how do we consume information in this era? We can’t just remove the apps and hide under a box no matter how much we try. We can’t actually consume each story and watch it progress day by day. There isn’t enough time and it isn’t realistic. So, we’re left with the unfortunate part of gradually getting a headline without context here, a little research there, and a headline with context now and then. Then, we blame the media, politicians, celebrities, or all the above for our misconstrued information. Really? Aren’t we the problem? We consume it. We click. We read. We act like we care. We try to stay informed. We continue to take a stance without knowing any of the facts, either! Come on now. We’re all guilty.
Here’s the deal with this case. Another example of the media moving too quick, but to their defense, they were reporting what the Chicago Police were telling them, as well as what Jussie was actually saying. Lest we forget the Robin Roberts GMA interview. Also, it is important that it was a few vocal people who were looking down on us by exclaiming how dare we don’t realize this racial crisis Trump is creating in our country. They, and their bloviating are certainly not excused. Maybe, and just maybe, their publicists will finally win the argument and take control of their Twitter accounts to avoid unforced errors like this. Also, enough with demanding famous people comment on every topic instantly, and enough with famous people caving into the pressure. We need a truce to reserve judgment. Ask yourself this about patience. When did skepticism become partisan? Can’t we all just relax?
Today, the real victim is Jussie, and thankfully he is the only victim. This could have gone much worse. It isn’t out of line to think something this egregious at the surface could have ignited a race riot. He was seeking martyrdom. He was looking for the grandest spotlight. He was trying to become a Rodney King. Anyone who goes to a length like this to stage something like that is deeply flawed. He has a problem, and needs to desperately find help. Our lives will go on. And, unlike Covington, there really weren’t victims in this one. There were just journalists, politicians, and celebrities going too far, because one man went way too far.
Did anyone learn a lesson? Nope. Give it thirty-days, and the media, politicians, and celebrities will jump the gun again on a story without knowing the context and facts. Laziness gets the click-bait out there first, the lazy readers click the wildest headline, and media companies receive compensation for how many clicks they get. It’s a vicious cycle, isn’t it?