When Frank Sinatra sang the words "Chicago that Toddlin Town, even the Preacher Billy Sunday could not have shut it down," he probably had no clue just how Toddlin it really is. For any of you who may have been on a Space Station or in a coma for the last 3 weeks Chicago has no less than 14 candidates, at last count, running for mayor. The news is filled with thousands of words and blabber by all the candidates, the TV commercials are non-stop and it seems nothing else existed in the universe. UNTIL! About 3 weeks ago an actor named Jussie Smollett who is Black and openly gay and one of the stars of a TV show called "Empire" thought it would be a good idea to send himself a racially charged hate filled letter cut from a magazine to his studio, featuring a noose around his neck and ground up Tylenol.
The incident barely garnered a notice in the press. Not to be ignored, he then is accused of staging an assault with all the juicy ingredients, including racism, homophobia, and even threw Trump and his red MAGA hat into the drama. Yesterday after an exhausting 3 week investigation by at least 20 Chicago Police Detectives old Jussie was indicted and arrested for staging the whole event. It's alleged he paid two friends $3,500 to rough him up a bit, put a noose around his neck (another noose) and make it all look real. Before his arrest he managed to be the leading role as the nations leading victim.
Presidential candidates weighed in on how horrible this was, friendly news media types shouted from on high, what kind of town is Chicago, Sodom and Gomorrah was a vacation paradise, compared to a City that could harbor such hate. The blah, blah, blah went on and on and he even managed to appear on Good Morning America with a spectacular performance of victimization. The person who interviewed him did everything but wash his feet, as he whimpered on about his horrific assault.
All through this there were those of us who immediately smelled a strong stench of doo doo, for many, many, reasons. Lots of folks and media choose to believe his story without knowing any of the facts. We have to realize the the news media in America has become this monster beast that needs to be fed, hour, after hour, and by God here was a story so juicy it took over the news on a daily basis. I would have thought it would have taken President Trump to have run naked on the White House lawn to knock the Chicago Mayoral free for all out of the headlines, something a 1-year-old child was not able to do after being shot in the head by a gang thug trying to kill his mother, but this story took over for sure.
About 178 years ago Alexi de Tocqueville originally referred to the United States as an "Exceptional" Country. Like freedom of religion and freedom of speech in the United States, the concept of freedom of the press as it developed has been UNIQUELY American. Our forefathers learned early on from their English masters as far back as 1643 when licensing laws gave the English rulers control over who could operate a printing press.
Their hammer over the people was Common Law, a crime of serious libel. Those old incestuous kings did not like or tolerate any form of criticism or contempt by anyone. Our early framers shed those shackles with the Declaration of Independence. It's certainly understandable that the First Amendment included the freedom of the press and free speech. This was at the heart of de Tocqueville's description of "Exceptionalism" being, free speech for the general population. Imagine the pain for those Monarchs, common folks having a say.
So the Jussie Smollett farce brings us to an interesting place that really no one quite knows how to handle. Certainly nobody with half a mind would ever challenge a free press. But how free, is free, if those who are dispensing information are actually believing a story that was just accepted as true without knowing any of the facts, with the exception of what one person said happened. After all, it had all the elements of a big juicy story, worthy of a Hollywood script. A gay Black man set upon by raging haters, so raging it was orchestrated in 22 degree below zero weather. No matter how this ends nobody can put toothpaste back into the tube. To say that a city was irreparably harmed would not be a stretch. The damage to those folks who in the future are true victims of such attacks, to say they don't happen is pure ignorance, how will their stories be taken.
The news media is America's greatest asset, but like almost anything else great it needs to figure out that the first story is not the story. Inquiry, investigation, and above all patience is a must. If nothing else is learned by this amazing farce it's that first news does not make it factual. Far to many incidents have been proven to be false and sent out by the media, most recently was January 20th last month, it was reported by most news outlets that a group of boys wearing MAGA hats (man does that seem to have a thread) surrounded an elderly native American and shouted taunts and threats, when in fact it turned out they were they victims of taunts and threats. They have since filed a libel suit for 250 million dollars. That may get some media attention for the future.
If we go back to Ferguson, Missouri in the shooting death of Michael Brown by a white police officer, it was reported around the world that Brown had his hands up and shouted, " don't shoot" when in fact that never happened. Some folks to this day are still shouting, "HANDS UP DON'T SHOOT." Brown had earlier robbed a store and choked the owner, and in fact was trying to get the officers gun from him when stopped. None of this came out in time to stop riots and bogus news coverage for months, reporting facts that never happened. No question as I keep reiterating we do need a free press, but we need to have the truth in reporting or it's just another black eye for the truth. Always keep in mind what the late Joe Friday always said. "THE FACTS MA'AM JUST THE FACTS."
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