media

Jussie Smollett’s ABC

THERE is no accounting for taste, but it’s a fair surmise that few Quadrant Online visitors are devoted followers of the TV series Empire, which focuses on the intrigues and power plays of rap ‘music’ impresarios. Lately, however, the series might have registered more widely, as one of its stars, Jussie Smollett, was widely reported, not least by our very own ABC, to have been assaulted in the frigid wee hours of a snowy Chicago night by a pair of — yes, you guessed it — red-hatted white men who were said to have waylaid the young actor on his way home from a sandwich shop and battered him more than somewhat. The mystery biff artists were reported to have concluded the incident by dousing him in bleach, which they just happened to be carrying at 2am, while announcing gay black men aren’t welcome in “Trump country”, also hanging a noose about his neck for good measure.

A curious tale to begin with, it has grown more so as the Chicago Police Department’s efforts to establish the chain of the evening’s events have uncovered a wealth of discordant information. Despite the neighbourhood of the alleged assault being monitored top-to-tail by surveillance cameras, not an inch of footage capturing an attack has come to light.

What has been uncovered rather tends to support the theory that Mr Smollett staged the entire affair, perhaps in a bid to raise his public profile and avoid his character being being written out of  Empire‘s plotline. More than a week after the purported attack, for example, investigators found a re-used hot-sauce bottle with traces of bleach still inside, a discovery which raised suspicions that it might well have been planted after the fact to bolster the original and daily more dubious complaint to police.

Now comes a further erosion of the Smollett version: two men — Nigerians as it happens, not white fans of Donald Trump, have been taken in for questioning and their home raided, with bleach found and “a red hat” as well. According to some accounts they have been placed under arrest, although other reports have not be quite so definite on this point (see update below). What is known is that they are friends of Mr Smollett, have worked as extras on Empire, were in the neighbourhood at the time. Investigators also have identified them as the two shadowy figures captured in contemporaneous security-camera footage. Those figures, just by the way, were also identified by Smollett as his attackers.

Australian readers might find little unusual in this story, not least because improbable tales of Trumpian toxicity have been six-a-penny since the first days of this outsiders’ presidency. The Sydney Morning Herald‘s strangely disappeared man in North American, multiple Walkley winner Paul McGeough, provided what may well stand forevermore as the greatest example of confirmation bias since the New York Times‘ Walter Duranty informed Americans that the kulaks couldn’t be happier and reports of genocidal famine in Stalin’s USSR needed truckloads of salt. It’s worth quoting an extended slab of McGeough’s, er, reporting because almost all incidents he mentions beneath the November 19, 2016, headline ‘Make America Hate Again‘ turned out to be hoaxes. To help set the record straight, which two years later the SMH still has not done, the links inserted below lead to the real stories

In California, Turkish-American student Esra Altun was attacked in a parking lot at San Jose State University by a man who wrenched off her hijab and attempted to choke her with it. In New York, Fariha Nizam, a Bengali-American born and raised in the US, was berated on a city bus by an older white couple demanding that she remove her hijab.

In Michigan, police say a Muslim woman in Ann Arbor was reportedly made to remove her hijab by a white man who threatened to set her ablaze with a lighter. In Texas, a Zambian student on her way to classes at Baylor University was called a n—-r and pushed from the footpath by a male student who told her he was “just trying to make America great again”.

In New York state, students hung a black doll from a noose in an elevator at Canisius College in Buffalo. At the University of Pennsylvania, black freshman students were added to GroupMe chats, in which they were invited to “daily lynchings”.

At a middle school in Michigan, the white students taunted their Latino classmates with a Trump slogan – “Build a wall!” – and at a school in New Jersey, they chanted: “Ten feet higher! Ten feet higher!” In Georgia, an anonymous note was passed to a Muslim teacher saying her “headscarf isn’t allowed any more” and “hang yourself with it”.

In Maryland, a banner announcing a Spanish-language service at a church in Silver Springs was defaced with the words “Trump nation whites only”. In New York state, a swastika and the “Make America White Again” slogan were painted on the wall of a dugout at a softball field in Wellsville. In Indiana, “Heil Trump” and a swastika were daubed on a church.

In the Pennsylvania suburbs, a woman found her car daubed with “Trump rules!” and “Black bitch”. In North Carolina, graffiti on a Durham wall read, “Black lives don’t matter and neither does your vote”.

In those cases where no arrests were made, initial claims remain blanketed with clouds of darkest doubt. For those interested, scores of similar hoaxes perpetrated by their alleged victims are listed here.

Reporters and editors being an allegedly savvy lot, you might think fanciful tales such as young Jussie Smollett’s alleged bashing might be approached with a measure of wariness. In this particular instance, extreme wariness born of recent experience, as the Smollett saga broke within days of the air leaking out of another recent and Trump-related hoax  — the Covington schoolboys’ alleged monstering of an innocent, peace-loving, Vietnam veteran Native American (who, as it turns out, is none of those things). Our ABC jumped boots-and-all into that one too, only to demonstrate once more how any  institutional urge to allay the lies it has broadcast peters out very quickly indeed. Rather than report in full detail how the Covington kids were blameless — indeed, models of restraint for not responding in kind to the heaped abuse of ratbags from a black religious cult and a publicity-whore Indian — the national broadcaster let the matter drop after the pathetic qualification “it’s not that simple.”

At least in the Covington case there was some slight attempt by the ABC to acknowledge its original reporting of Trump-era racial hatred might have been just a tad overcooked.

In regard to the apparent Smollett hoax, the chronology of its coverage is telling. Immediately upon news breaking of the purported incident, the ABC went with two stories, one on its website plus an audio interview with an Empire executive who left no doubt he believed every word and, predictably, saw Smollett’s ordeal as an example of the further mestastising of the Trump cancer. It’s worth hearing, especially the compere’s editorial sigh at the item’s conclusion.

Those items were broadcast on January 31. As Smollett’s story disintegrated — no witnesses, no CCTV footage, details being added, omitted and changing with the wind — the ABC reported not a word of the mounting evidence that the entire affair was a put-up job. That changed on Friday, February 15, after US media reports that police in Chicago were about charge Mr Smollett with filing a false report. The ABC’s response? Why, it broke its silence on the case by publishing a wire story quoting US authorities as saying it had not been established that the actor is a gross fabricator.

Today, less than 24 hours later, it emerges that those reports of police suspicions weren’t wrong, just premature. As of this writing, Mr Smollett’s body-building Nigerian chums are being grilled  in Cook County police headquarters about their involvement. So far the ABC has not added this latest information to the sum of human knowledge.

What we have in a nutshell is Exhibit Umpteen-G for why the ABC needs its feet held to the fire. It is not simply that the national broadcaster got it wrong, which it most certainly did, or even that it declined to report facts which highlight its reports and reporters’ terminal gullibility, for that is only human nature.

No, the real travesty is that there is a story, the real story of how Trump Derangement Syndrome has led the media into a wasteland of, yes, fake news. The ABC has North American bureaus thickly staffed (no pun intended) and available at a moment’s notice to leap onto planes and report everything from mine collapses in Brazil to the symptoms of global warming in Alaska.

Yet to take a long hard look around its own offices, notice that revered colleagues have no clothes and ‘fess up to the listeners whose taxes underwrite its bias and incompetence, that will never happen until some outside authority makes it happen. We are set to see another example of the ABC’s all-consuming memory hole in the near future, when the long-awaited Mueller investigation of the so-called Russiagate ‘scandal’ is released. If it turns out to be a “nothingburger”, as seems more likely by the day, will the ABC take down and correct 4 Corners breathless three-part “investigation” of Trump’s role as an agent of Moscow? Don’t hold your breath.

Were a politician to pledge a thorough house-cleaning at the ABC, that would almost make their party worth voting for.

UPDATE: The Nigerian brothers were released after 48 hours of questioning in custody with no immediate charges laid, a Chicago police spokesman saying they had provided further lines for investigation. One of those avenues of inquiry arises from the revelation that the rope found around Mr Smollett’s neck was purchased by the bodybuilding duo. Meanwhile, Mr Smollett has hired a prominent defence lawyer to represent him.

12 comments
  • Adelagado

    Can we have more articles from Roger Franklin please. (I’ll admit I only subscribed because of his fabulous excoriation of that disgusting ‘fridges kill more than terrorists’ Q&A show a year or so ago).

  • Jody

    On Thursday morning the AM Program was advocating on behalf of the Labor Party’s border policies, interviewing families in Indonesia who said the boats wouldn’t start coming because ‘it’s too risky and we can’t afford it”. Never mind that the chief customers are single men; the ABC chose to interview families!! It’s the re-election arm of the ALP and its blatant electioneering needs to be called out. But who is going to do it? Why have people turned to custard in dealing with these broadcasting renegades?

    I can’t wait to see Dr. Jordan Peterson on Q&A on Monday night, 25th February. Go Jordan!!!

  • en passant

    Jody,
    It is not a fair fight for Jordan on Q&A. It will be stacked against him and Tony (‘Let me just interrupt for the 20th time’) Jones will makes sure he never gets a chance to answer.
    The audience will also be primed to boo on cue.
    So, with such a stacked program of flammable dead wood, I have no doubt Jordan will incinerate them.

    • Roger Franklin

      Thanks for the typo spotting, EP

  • ArthurB

    I am also looking forward to seeing Peterson on Q&A, though it is possible that Left and gay activists will succeed in disrupting the show. I will be interested to see whom their ABC chooses for the remainder of the panel. I would love to see how he (Peterson) would cope with our professional whingers such as Clementine Ford and Van Badham, and also how he would argue with ABC stalwarts such as the Man with the Red Bandana.

    http://www.unz.com/video/jordanbpeterson_jordan-peterson-threatens-everything-of-value-in-nz/

    The above video is worth watching, not just for seeing Peterson, but also, at the beginning, how an UnZud shock jock demolishes a left wing activist who complained that Peterson was intent on destroying civilization in NZ.

  • ArthurB

  • whitelaughter

    that fake hate crime site is very useful, thanks!

  • ianl

    > “Were a politician to pledge a thorough house-cleaning at the ABC …”

    Pledge away … no hope of it happening. Being constantly destroyed on both radio and tv with no platform allowed for rebuttal is enough to prevent any pledge actually being carried out. Perhaps the Murdoch media would run rebuttal time for a short while (I wonder ?) but the ABC/Fairfax/Guardian audience never attends that.

    Same answer for Jody’s rhetorical custard question. The MSM together with Facebook, Twitter etc are supreme in their power. The reason behind Trump derangement is that he threatens that power, even ephemerally, by going around them. Their rage at this power loss is incandescent, inchoate. They invite, and duly receive, contempt from a minority of ungullibles but as long is this remains a minority they do *not* care.

    As an aside, it was Sinclair Davidson (I think) who made the point that Jones of Q&A interrupt fame had a record of 150 interruptions to one specific guest panellist within 40 minutes.

  • ianl

    Not Sinclair Davidson, but the person on Davidson’s blog who keeps the score on that Monday evening “Interruption Lotto” that they run about Q&A.
    150 deliberate interruptions in a single programme – just another measurement of entitlement, by Jones …

  • Jody

    en passant and Arthur B: I have tweeted Dr. Peterson to be extremely cautious on Q&A – that he will be sledged by the audience in a set-up designed to destroy conservative values and men in particular. He’s faced tougher crowds before and his usual poise and thoughtfulness is the ballistic missile they cannot handle!! Ergo, the Monk Debate in Canada; do watch that!!

    The ABC is the media organization people support when they’ve outsourced their opinions to groupthink; when they are no longer either coherent enough or brave enough to have formulated, let alone express, an alternate, nuanced opinion. I always think of that 1950s TV show, “Rawhide” when the ABC is discussed: listen to the words!! This is what conservatives need to be doing; NOW.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKC8pSFg1Vw

    I can see the day when the authoritarian dictates of the Left, with its Kremlin double-speak, will be rendered socially unacceptable. You just have to keep telling them their words and actions are reminiscent of the North Korean project and the failed communist states. It will slowly dawn on them that they’ve become agents of the politburo and it’s not too much of a stretch to see them become social outcasts like those who use the ‘N” word or are racist.

    The main problem we have is that the people have been infantilized; through government nanny-state and other quasi-government bodies like HRC. Children were once brought up in famillies with at least one role model to take care of them; these days they are shunted into daycare at an early age – herded, to use the metaphor I prefer – where they are systematically propagandized. I’ve seen many a rainbow flag outside an ‘early learning centre’. I think Gillard belled the cat when she so named these petcare centres. Then, of course, it’s an easy ride to the next stage of propaganda in the educational institutions. Hitler understood that if you got them young you could have them loyal to the end. It’s terribly disheartening, not just because parents have abandoned children to petcare but that they’ve become such sponges for the latest insane fad from the Left.

    OK, if that’s democracy – but I’m NOT GOING TO CONTRIBUTE A CENT TO IT.

  • Tony Thomas

    My complaint to ABC TV today:
    Program: News Victoria 7pm
    Program Date: 2019-02-16
    ABC Service\Network: ABC Television
    ABC Recipient: Audience & Consumer Affairs
    Subject: Breach of impartiality.
    Your Comments: During last Saturday’s 7pm TV news, at about 10mins 30 seconds, an item about Trump and the southern Wall was introduced with an ABC graphic stating
    Border Wall
    Abuse of Power.
    The item included Democratic claims of an abuse of power by Trump over his wall emergency measures.
    The ABC graphic must mean that the ABC endorses that Trump is involved in an “Abuse of Power”. This cannot be correct as US courts are yet to rule on the issue. The graphic is a violation of ABC impartiality guidelines.
    Normal practice would be to put quote marks on, as per “Abuse of Power” Claims. Or “Alleged Abuse of Power”.
    Can ABC TV please put a correction on its website about this?
    Thanks Tony Thomas

  • Jody

    Honestly; the viewers of the ABC already have formulated their views on this and similar subjects and what they’re after is CONFIRMATION BIAS. Complaints are futile; petitions to government to privatize the ABC would be more useful.

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