All major US media have reported that on January 29th, 2019, Jussie Smollett, an American actor, a black man, gay and one of the stars of the “Empire” TV show, was assaulted and beaten in the street. According to the actor’s description of this unpleasant event, the two attackers came and started hitting him, insulting him on racial bases, and shouted, among other things: “This is a MAGA country,” which immediately placed the attackers in the group of the current US President Donald Trump followers, as “MAGA” is a phrase that became familiar in public and represents an abbreviation for the main Tramp election parole “Make America Great Again”. Then, in the end, they even put a noose around his neck. With all these scratches on the face and the noose around the neck, he returned to his apartment, from where he called the police and reported the case.
In an atmosphere that you could already cut with a knife in America, where the topic of racially motivated violence is increasingly present, and where the question of sexual orientation continues to cause controversy, the Smollett case immediately became one of the main themes. The actor himself appeared as a guest on television and radio shows, giving statements and interviews in newspapers which made him overnight become another symbol of the victim of identity-motivated violence overnight.
The police regularly informed the public about the course of the investigation and the intensity of the efforts to find the perpetrators. In addition to this, the security camera recording which shows the moment of the attack was published. Not long after the unfortunate event took place, the police announced that two Osundairo brothers, suspected of attacking, were arrested at the Chicago O’Hare Airport.
Only a few days later, another breaking news followed. At a press conference, the Chicago police announced that during the questioning, brothers admitted that the actor had paid them $3,500 to fake an attack on him. According to them, he wanted to draw attention to himself by playing the role of a victim, in order to increase the fee he wasn’t satisfied with. In addition to this, he expected that this additional popularity would enable him to gain bigger and more important acting roles.
After that confession, the Osundairo brothers were released from detention, and on February 21st, Smollett was arrested for filing the fake police report. After paying the bail, he was released from detention immediately, declaring that he was the innocent victim of an unjust legal system and media. He continued shooting the “Empire” TV show. However, the producer of the show announced that the character of Jamal, played by Smollett, would be excluded from the last two episodes of the season.
We will not continue to speculate on whether Smollett really arranged everything or someone set him up. Smollett, the police, prosecution, and lawyers will deal with it in the coming days, weeks and months, so let them do their work. The media will deal with it as well – from tabloids to so-called serious media, and we will surely hear many more theories about what really happened here and why everything turned out that way.
For us, this story is just a reason to ask ourselves if it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which someone can come to this idea and really do that. Let’s be realistic, the question is not difficult at all and the answer to it is simple – it’s possible and there will be more and more cases of similar kind.
Let’s take a look at how we actually got to the point to perceive it as real. First, we were happy that mobile phones also have cameras, so when we come across a beautiful sunset or meet friends we haven’t seen for a long time, we can take a photo and save it forever. Then it quickly became easy and simple to send these beautiful photos to those people we believe they would like to see them and that they will like them. The development of social networks and especially specialized applications for the distribution of visual content facilitated and, at the same time, increased the spreading scope of such content. There was no need to send all these photos and videos to a particular person, but only to publish them on one of the social networks, so that everyone can see them.
When it became so easy and simple and when everyone started doing it, then it was no longer enough to publish the content only when something nice and interesting happened to us. There’s no need to wait for something interesting to happen, to see a beautiful sunset or to be in a good company, so that we can publish it; now we will plan it in advance.
So this is how we started to visit interesting photogenic places in order to send photos to be liked. It is quite normal to make photo of nicely decorated food, served in a restaurant, and post it even before we taste anything from the dish. We choose our outfits based on how our followers will see us after we publish the photo, so we take a preliminary photo in the mirror, because nothing should be left to the case. And when we choose who to meet and hang out with, we use an important criterion which is is how it will look when published and how much envy it will cause among all our followers.
It’s all our reality already. Spoken in the language of film industry, all of this content belongs to the category of documentary. And maybe it’s time to start presenting ourselves and our lives in wider contexts, such as to play in different fiction formats and genres, playing different roles. We already live our own lives, thinking about how others will see them, and the lives of others are more and more perceived as films and TV shows. So why wouldn’t we design it and add a bit of comedy, thriller and drama to all of this. You should just take a little care not to get caught, and even if this happens, there’s no need to worry, everything is quickly forgotten today.
The main advice to young people used to be that they have to become the masters of their destiny. Today, it is much more appropriate to advise them to learn how to act their own lives better. Let them have the case of Jussie Smollett as an example of how this shouldn’t be done.