I have come to believe that you can divide our species into two categories — the flawed and the deeply flawed. Today I focus on the flawed. We all know that each of us makes many mistakes on the highway of life. There are plenty of flat tires, breakdowns, fender benders and speeding tickets. Sometimes, though, a small mistake, a momentary inattentiveness, can result in a serious crash with permanent consequences.
Just this month there has been a widely publicized matter of a relatively small mistake that resulted in serious personal consequences. Fortunately no one suffered serious bodily injury — just personal humiliation and comic ridicule.
After days of media saturation the story has been told. Empire actor Jussie Smollett paid two brothers to stage a hate crime-like attack on him. To my mind, the plan was flawed from the get-go. Mr. Smollett was seeking a raise in his salary on the show. In my experience, those seeking a boost in their wages typically sit down with the boss at review time, and make their case for a raise emphasizing the quality and quantity of their work, their loyalty and the importance of their contribution to the enterprise. Had I, as an attorney in my law firm, arranged for a friend, posing as a dissatisfied client, to beat me up, my fellow partners would have been sympathetic, but would have been far more interested in how many hours I had billed.
Then there was the scheme itself, which in the account I read was that the two brothers were paid by check $3,500, with the promise of $500 more when the fake attack was completed. Anyone who has ever watched a Coen Brothers movie knows that the deal is straight cash, homie, and you don’t pay almost all the money up front, lest the perpetrators run off with the money. Better yet in this botched job, the equally novice brothers still completed the assignment for a mere $500.
Of course, there was the reality that Chicago has the most extensive video surveillance network in the U.S., with access to 32,000 cameras, not counting businesses and private residences. Inevitably, the cameras caught everything on tape and identified the brothers, who gave Mr. Smollett up.
This was the dumbest plan ever. It made Jerry Lundergaard’s (William Macy) plan to fake his wife’s kidnapping in Fargo seem sheer genius.
Our politicians and mass media, who never miss a chance to exploit our biases, at first framed the developing story as just more evidence of racism and police incompetence. They then quickly whipsawed to how this faked hate crime reporting had set the Civil Rights Movement back a decade.
Meanwhile the world grew hotter and a mass murderer planned his next shooting.
Because no one can condone faking a hate crime, Mr. Smollett faces jail time. His acting career is in jeopardy. I suspect the two brothers, who won’t be charged with any crime, may be able to parlay their 15 seconds of fame into a season of Dancing with the Stars. Mr. Smollett only wanted a raise and a little fame at a time and in an industry where the raison d’eternal is money and celebrity.
These three miscreants are exemplars that hubris exists not only for Greek heroes, but for all of us. We all make lots of small mistakes in our lives. The Fates decide the consequences.