I Didn't Understand Jussie Smollett—Until I Compared Him to Trump | Opinion

My heart broke as I watched Jussie Smollet dragged from the courtroom yesterday, sentenced to 150 days in jail, 30 months of felony probation, over $120,000 in restitution and a $25,00 fine, yet still loudly proclaiming his innocence. I hadn't foreseen how harsh the sentence would be, and I felt bad for Smollett—until he threw up the Black Power fist, and I remembered all the damage he had caused. My brother has chosen himself over the Black community, America, and all of humanity, and it's disgraceful.

I was one of those people who struggled to make sense of Jussie Smollett. Try as I might, I couldn't understand what motivated him to invent and stage a hate crime against himself. I couldn't understand why he would double down and stick to his guns in the face of the overwhelming evidence that he is a fraud. It was only after I read the official Black Lives Matter statement about his trial standing by Smollett despite all the evidence of his fabrication that I finally realized what was happening: Smollett was playing the same game as former President Donald Trump.

Both Smollett and Trump realized something important about our polarized age. They each seem to have bet that if they get 25 percent of the population to buy what you're selling, the political allies of those 25 percent will be willing to look the other way in the face of all your lies. And if you have 25 percent believing you and just over 25 percent willing to be silent, you've got a majority and have hacked democracy.

The truth that Smollett and Trump realized is that a small minority can exercise control over us all if the remainder will not resist them and are unwilling to support the other side.

Jussie Smollett verdict White House statement shameful
The White House has called it "shameful" that actor Jussie Smollett lied to police about a hate crime, even though both Democratic President Joe Biden and Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris have left up tweets expressing support for actor after he claimed to be targeted by a racist and anti-gay hate attack. In this photo, Smollett waves as he follows his attorney to the microphones after his court appearance at Leighton Courthouse on March 26, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty

The far Left was willing to violently defend Smollett no matter what the evidence about his showed, and moderates who lean Left sat in silence, validating the extreme view. There is a similar dynamic occurring with Trump's claims of election fraud, just on the opposite side of the political spectrum.

Both claims were investigated and the evidence proved them to be false. Both frauds were meticulously planned-out and appear designed to exploit polarizing narratives ripping apart our country. But when exposed, the perpetrators stuck to their stories. Legally, it didn't work out as planned, but they did not lose.

Because as long as they can maintain enough public support, they are winning.

And both men have retained sizable support. When the Smollett trial came to an end in December 2021, a Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll survey shared with The Hill showed that 26 percent of respondents still believed Smollett's story. Similarly, according to researchers at the University of Chicago in mid-march, months after the election had been ruled on, 27 percent of respondents still believed the 2020 election had been stolen.

Black Lives Matter, an organization founded in 2013 by Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi (which should not be confused with the greater movement) still explicitly supports Smollett. They made their beliefs known in their official statement, which caused me to realize the game Smollett is playing. The statement says that BLM can "never believe police, especially the Chicago Police Department (CPD) over Jussie Smollett" and the trial is a "white supremacist charade."

If you have the support of over a quarter of the general population, you are in a strong position. Smollett may have ruined his acting career, but as Colin Kapernick has shown, Smollett has a bright future as an activist educating us about the all-encompassing racial discrimination our country was founded on and continues until this day.

Democrats rightly criticized Republicans who were unwilling to clearly condemn Trump's claims of election fraud. And on a smaller scale, it is right to criticize the Democrats who are unwilling to clearly condemn the crimes committed by Smollett—especially those who previously made statements in support of Smollett before the facts were brought to light.

Condemnation of frauds must come from both sides of the aisle. But the condemnations that matter the most come from the same side of the aisle as the fraudster. Criticism from the other side can always be written off as biased. Criticism from within has a higher level of legitimacy. We all have to keep our own side of the street clean.

I condemn the actions of Smollett and call on him to admit his crimes and make a full and sincere apology. And if he were to do this, we must all allow a reconciliation process where Smollett can get his life back, despite the mistakes he has made.

Let's be better than Trump and those who defend his lies.

David Ben Moshe is a writer, speaker, and fitness coach. His work focuses on race relations, criminal justice reform, fitness, Judaism, and Israel. He's currently working on a memoir of his journey from federal prison in the United States to Israel where he lives with his wife and two children. Connect with him on Twitter @RealDBenMoshe.

The views in this article are the writer's own.