Lost in the circus surrounding Jussie Smollett’s allegedly fabricated assault, actual attempts on Black life have been reported all month. Resulting in far less media coverage than the aforementioned scandal, news broke Tuesday (Feb. 19) detailing a Coast Guard lieutenant’s plan to assassinate lawmakers and journalists as a part of a larger white supremacist terror attack.
Initially arrested on drug and firearm charges as a result of an investigation led by the Coast Guard Investigative Service, 49-year-old Lt. Christopher Paul Hasson is now being detained for 14 days while prosecutors attempt to add more charges in light of his terror plot.
Arguing for Hasson’s detainment in a motion filed earlier that week, federal prosecutors alleged “the defendant plans to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country.” According to the government, their soon-to-be ex-officer “is a domestic terrorist, bent on committing acts dangerous to human life that are intended to affect governmental conduct.”
Over the course of several years, Hasson reportedly stockpiled ammunition and created a hit-list with intentions of violently counteracting “liberalist/globalist” ideologies that he felt were “destroying” white people. Don Lemon, Corey Booker, Maxine Waters, Angela Davis and Van Jones were among the names found on the excel spreadsheet listing Hasson’s many targets—yet none of those names were said on-air last week as often as Jussie Smollett’s.
When Smollett first reported his attack to the Chicago Police Department at the beginning of the month, before his story unraveled and spawned a dizzying spell of debate and analysis, the Empire actor’s story was mostly met with support and empathy. At the time, the wave of news coverage seemed earnest, well deserved, and poignantly crucial to understanding the unique dangers in being both Black and queer in America.
A little more than three weeks later, coverage of Smollett’s now apparent hoax feels disingenuous, opportunistic and very much like a concerted effort to position the bizarre dishonesty of one man as a justification for ignoring other victims of assault. As the zeitgeist stands today, the CPD is treating the situation as a chance for image reparation, Black homophobes are going out of their way to taunt and mock those who dared to believe a victim's story until given reason not to, and white supremacists have become even more emboldened than they were prior to the fraud—all while news similar to Hasson’s planned terror attack falls on deaf ears.
Just within the past two weekends, 17-year-old Michael Elam was fatally shot by a Chicago police officer, resulting in said officer being placed on desk duty for 30 days; an update arrived in the story of the six Philadelphia police officers who shot and killed Willie McCoy for sleeping in his car, revealing one of the cops, Ryan McMahon, also gunned down an unarmed Black father of two just last year; a former detective from that same Philadelphia police force stood before a grand jury, facing allegations that he raped and intimidated multiple witnesses and suspects while on the job; and the NYPD opened an investigation into Deputy Inspector Emanuel Gonzalez’s instruction to his subordinates to shoot rapper 50 Cent “on site.”
Even when removed from the evergreen narrative of state violence claiming Black bodies, less brutal stories have gone relatively unnoticed as well. Last week, CNN welcomed Jeff Sessions’ ex-spokeswoman to its staff. Sarah Isgur, the former mouthpiece for the famously racist politician, will be coordinating the network’s coverage of the 2020 presidential election. A hiring that should have been met with outrage was instead met with silence, while people’s burning urge to spew Jussie-gate hot takes reached a fever pitch.
Most predictably, the military’s Commander-in-Chief let off a shot of his own on Thursday (Feb. 21), asking Smollett in a tweet “what about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!?” The unfortunate irony in that question is in the fact that Lt. Hasson, the president’s own subordinate officer, seems to be flying under the radar of both Trump and the national media.
The running gag these past few weeks suggests this Black History Month has been the worst on record, in large part due to Jussie Smollett’s transgressions. Not only does that joke trivialize the disturbing allegations the actor is now tasked with disproving, it also minimizes the stories of this and every Black History Month of the past—stories that are otherwise much bigger than a single publicity stunt.
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