A publisher I once worked for liked to say, when discussing spendthrift government bureaucrats: what you subsidize, you get more of.
He was referring to things like ethanol, peanuts, or mohair.
Yet his words flashed back to me after Chicago police busted “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett for perpetrating a phony hate crime.
Smollett claimed two Trump-loving brutes mugged him on his way home from Subway at 2 a.m. when it was cold enough to make a polar bear wince. They popped him in the kisser, ringed his neck with a noose, doused him with bleach and berated Smollett for trespassing in “MAGA country.”
Yeah, except none of that happened.
Police say Smollett paid these MAGA gents, who were black Americans of Nigerian descent, $3,500 to unwelcome him to this surprising Trumptown -- which, according to the Chicago Tribune, went harder for Hillary Clinton in 2016 than for hometown hero Barack Obama in 2012.
When Donald Trump won that election, disgruntled pro-Hillary media types griped that the king of Queens benefited from a media-coverage subsidy running an estimated $2 billion.
Consequently, the national media, apparently to atone for covering the actual news event of Trump steamrolling his competitors, have since turned to subsidizing the anti-Trump brigades with the same.
Few in that legion have received more acute media attention and sympathy from anti-Trumpers than those who push the Trump-is-a-Ku-Klux-Klaner angle.
Smelling opportunity, some have launched the hoax-hate-crime industry.
Indefatigable truth seekers -- such as independent journalist Andy Ngo, Glenn Beck’s The Blaze network and the Daily Caller news website -- have chronicled a list of roughly 20 prominent “hate crimes” that enthralled the media but, after further review by the booth, were phonier than a used car salesman’s smile.
Mostly, said cases involved black, Muslim or LGBT folks claiming an assault by the MAGA brigades.
My personal favorite, because of its excessive, insufferable wokeness, was the 5 ½-minute lecture delivered in September 2017 by Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy.
Someone scrawled the N-word outside the dorm rooms of five black students at the academy’s prep school. Silveria then assembled the academy’s 4,000 cadets and faculty and announced, even telling the throng to take out their phones and record him, “If you can’t treat someone with dignity and respect, then get out.”
Silveria’s speech went viral, with 2 million online views. The Washington Post lauded him for a “forceful denunciation” of racism. The Denver Post called it a “powerful lesson.” At least four CNN on-air personalities maintained the general had demonstrated leadership Trump could only dream of.
For the media, conservative columnist Byron York noted, “It was not enough to praise Silveria. One must also denounce Trump.” Some suggested Silveria was poised for a post-military career in politics.
Then, six weeks later, the Air Force’s investigation uncovered that one of the supposed victims had admitted to being the perp.
The cadet quietly left the academy, and the media, while duly covering the findings, strangely declined to offer soaring rhetoric about the evils of lying and wrongfully fomenting hate for Trump and his backers.
After the hoax was revealed, however, Silveria stuck to his rhetorical guns.
In subsequent writings, Silveria suggested his speech was still justified even though the impetus for it was fake, and that he and his staff had been played. For example, in a 1,619-word essay published at CNN.com in February 2018, Silveria extolled the values of diversity in the military, yet devoted just two sentences to the sham hate crime, without identifying the guilty cadet.
The media picked up on that attitude. Once the hoax was known, CNN’s Brooke Baldwin observed of Silveria’s point, “The words ring true. It’s just unfortunate to learn who really [did it].”
Many were, or are, willing to give Smollett the same pass: his attack was fake but his “message” of MAGA-driven hate is real.
That mindset has subsidized the Trump-hating phony victim culture with affirmation, adulation and acclaim. Smollett surely witnessed this, and sought to add his own twist by, according to cops, cashing in for a bigger paycheck.
As conservative writer Matt Walsh and others have noted, the deception of Smollett and others only illustrates that, outside of Charlottesville, Virginia, circa August 2017, the demand for racism and hate in America exceeds its supply. Yet, sadly, as long as we subsidize people like Smollett with attention and the benefit of the doubt, we’ll surely get more of them.
Bill Thompson (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the editorial page editor of The Ledger in Lakeland, Florida.