What Jussie Smollett is accused of doing ranks as the ultimate tribute to the philosophy called Postmodernism.
Academics, certainly in the humanities and social sciences, should rally to the defense of Jussie Smollett. If they don’t, then they don’t take their own ideas seriously.
What Jussie Smollett is accused of doing ranks as the ultimate tribute to the philosophy called Postmodernism. It is the quintessential Postmodernist “crime.”
But why in heaven’s name should we be surprised? Jussie Smollett’s mindset is that of millions of Americans who feel literally threatened, attacked, demeaned, and (figuratively) “lynched” by President Trump. Those feelings saturate media commentary, on and off the air, and many a family breakfast table conversation.
Postmodernism is a big topic. It is literally the Western philosophy developed and elaborated since the Enlightenment (the era that gave birth to “Modernism”), to which Postmodernism was a reaction. The theory has been spun out at least since Immanuel Kant and his contemporaries and now, it is fair to say, dominates American and European higher education—almost across the board in the humanities, significantly in the social sciences, and increasingly in the “hard” sciences.
A big topic, so we must simplify. Take as our text the article in the Encyclopedia Britannica by its director of philosophy, Brian Duignan. He makes each point about Postmodernism by contrast to Modernism. For brevity, I will do that only with his first point:
Modernism, originating in the Eighteenth Century Enlightenment, held that there is an objective natural reality.
Modernism, originating in the Eighteenth Century Enlightenment, held that “There is an objective natural reality, a reality whose existence and properties are logically independent of human beings—of their minds, their societies, their social practices, or their investigative techniques. Postmodernists dismiss this idea. … Such reality as there is … is a conceptual construct, an artifact. … The postmodern denial of this [Modernist] viewpoint … is sometimes expressed by saying that there is no such thing as Truth.”
Of course, Jussie Smollett is not psychotic. He seems to be an intelligent, articulate, high-achieving young man. He sees buildings and trees and automobiles just as you and I do. But … what is the reality? The “real” reality?
It is on that question that Postmodernist ideas—indoctrination, I would call it—dominate our universities and almost everything we view as “educated” discourse (e.g., in the media) around us every day. The reality of contemporary society for each individual, Postmodernism insists, is group identity—and specifically group political identity because, absent objective reality, and absent the efficacy of reason, the “real” world is one of power relations. Everyone’s actual reality is the engulfing web of racial, ethnic, national, sexual, gender, and economic oppressors and oppressed.
If you have not read The Diversity Delusion by Manhattan Institute Senior Scholar Heather Mac Donald, you should. Today, the self-perception at our leading universities is that they are embattled against endemic racism, sexism, and xenophobia daily on their campuses and in the world around them. Every day is a pitched battle against these pervasive evils.
To take just one area: The level of “rapes” and “attempted rapes” universities reported to the federal agencies indicates that our elite universities are hellholes of abuse for young women—even if, as Mac Donald demonstrates, very large percentages of those victims realize only months later that they have been raped, or can’t decide if they have been raped, or, frequently, refuse to agree that they have been raped. It doesn’t matter: the “real” reality is a male-dominated, oppressive, omnipresent “rape culture.” (I trust you caught some of the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings.)
To return to the Britannica: “Postmodernism [is] … a movement characterized by broad skepticism, subjectivism, or relativism; a general suspicion of reason; and an acute sensitivity to the role of ideology in asserting and maintaining political and economic power [emphasis added].
There it is. Not reality, truth, reason, and evidence. No, Jussie Smollett is an educated, culturally sophisticated, and, to say the least, ideologically ‘in tune’ man. His reality, on the streets of Chicago, in his role in Empire, and in the world in which Donald Trump is President is his oppression. As a black man, as a gay man, as a leftist ideologue. It does not matter if he never is attacked or insulted “in reality.” It does not matter that he earns a reported $1 million a year. It does not matter that neither he nor anyone else is being lynched.
None of that is the “real” reality. He is black and the white race oppresses the black race. If no one screams racial and sexual slurs at him, well, that is only “so-called objective reality.” If no one ever has evinced an inclination to lynch him, that, too, is only “so-called objective reality.”
Nothing actually was done to Jussie Smollett, but everyone knew instantly exactly what it meant about the “real” America, Americans, and Donald Trump.
Nothing actually was done to Jussie Smollett, but everyone knew instantly exactly what it meant about the “real” America, Americans, and Donald Trump. NAACP President Derrick Johnson said: “The recent racist and homophobic attack on acclaimed actor and activist Jussie Smollett [is caused by] … The rise in hate crimes … directly linked to President Donald J. Trump’s racist and xenophobic rhetoric.”
Maybe you have not heard President Trump’s “racist and xenophobic rhetoric,” but, I assure you, millions of people do hear it every day. And every day they experience themselves as demeaned, threatened, attacked. Not in “so-called objective reality,” but in the “real” Postmodernist reality.
Presidential hopeful Kamala Harris wrote: “This was an attempted modern day lynching. No one should have to fear for their life because of their sexuality or color of their skin. We must confront this hate.”
There was no attempted lynching, no threat based on sexuality or skin color, and no hate. But you may be certain that for Kamala Harris those are part of the “real” reality of America. You don’t see it? Well, of course, it isn’t there in the sense of a “so-called objective reality,” but it is Kamala Harris’s reality.
Presidential hopeful Cory Booker wrote: “The vicious attack on actor Jussie Smollett was an attempted modern-day lynching. … To those in Congress who don’t feel the urgency to pass our Anti-Lynching bill designating lynching as a federal hate crime—I urge you to pay attention.”
The reality of America, as experienced by Cory Booker, is a wave of lynching.
Not everyone brainwashed by Postmodernism would have manifested his view of “real’ reality in the manner that Jussie Smollett chose to express his. After all, the man is an actor. A play staged on the streets of Chicago was his medium of choice for expressing “real” reality, the one behind the bogus “objective reality” of his peaceful, unthreatened, prosperous, adulated life in that city. And so, he ordered the purchase of the rope for the noose, the ski masks, the bleach and—it now is reported—possibly gasoline—to stage what is really happening to gay, black men in Chicago and America. That is a Postmodernist “reality.”
Julian Castro tweeted: “That this happens in today’s America is not surprising, but it is no less heartbreaking. This shakes us to our core.”
Julian Castro already was shaken to his core because race-based, sex-biased beatings and attempted lynching are “not surprising” in the America he experiences. It is not, of course, the “so-called objective reality” of America. It is the “real” reality that he experiences. It is the reality of identity power politics, the omnipresent oppressors and the oppressed.
Notice that none of these commentators addressed the attack as such. Without exception, they addressed the “reality” of the America—or Republican Party—or the Trump administration—in which the attack on Jussie Smollett, for them, existed.
And, for them, philosophically speaking, it did occur. If you understand that, you begin to understand Postmodernism and identity politics. Even framing the “deplorables” for violent crimes is now okay, for some, because, after all, that’s the “real” reality, isn’t it?
But for us grounded in the actual reality, Chicago PD’s Eddie Johnson is a hero for his 47th hour extraction of what may be the truth.
Jussie Smollett’s case became 24/7 headline news because of his celebrity, but, above all, because of the headlong eagerness of enemies of “Make America Great Again” to confirm that, yes, what happened to Jessie Smollett is America, today—yes! Otherwise, though, Smollett is far from the discoverer of the Postmodernist alternative reality.
It took law enforcement awhile to discover that the citizen of the year had set the fire himself.
The “Detroit News” recently reported that Nikki Joly, a homosexual and transgender activist, appeared in court on Feb 1 charged with arson in connection with a fire in his home that killed five pets. His home burned in 2017. The FBI investigated it as a hate crime in part because he claimed he had received threats as a gay rights activist who led a battle for a city ordinance prohibiting discrimination against gays. A local paper named him the Citizen of the Year. It took law enforcement awhile to discover that the citizen of the year had set the fire himself. Police reportedly talked with two co-workers who said Joly was “frustrated” that the controversy over gay rights died down after the ordinance was enacted. Joly seems to have decided that in “reality” it had not died down.
It seems that self-perception as a victim of oppression can lead to serious habits. In August 2017, the British daily, “The Guardian,” reported that Jemma Beale, 25, received a 10-year jail sentence for a series of false rape claims and sexual assault allegations. She claimed she had been sexually assaulted by six men and raped by nine, all strangers, in four different incidents over three years. At the sentencing, the judge said “This trial has revealed … that you are a very, very convincing liar and you enjoy being seen as a victim.”
He added: “The prosecution described your life as a ‘construct of bogus victimhood.’”
Or, some would say, “your very own Postmodernist reality.”