Does skepticism equal disbelief? Can one question elements of a particular story while also generally believing stories of its type? And does one story of a terrible crime turning out to be false immediately falsify all stories of all terrible crimes?
These are the hard questions that we should be asking ourselves as the saga of Jussie Smollett continues shift from a hate crime to a hoax.
On Friday morning, right wing fringe types and #QAnon believers on Twitter and Reddit started passing around old tweets from “Guardians of the Galaxy” director James Gunn. They had been dug up by professional conservative outrage pushers, and served as “proof” that Gunn was some kind of horrific child rapist, flaunting his proclivities to the world.
These tweets, some going as far back as 2009, were indeed jokes about pedophilia and sexual contact with children. They’re gross, puerile, offensive, and most of all, not funny.
Then congratulations, you’re an idiot. You destroyed a piece of property worth hundreds of dollars to boycott a company that already has your money, in order to defend a conservative infotainment character who is, in turn, defending a man accused of preying on an underage girl.
While the rest of us are fixated on the Greatest World Series of All Time, Fox News, right wing talk radio, and conservative social media are pushing two scandals in an all-out effort to destroy Hillary Clinton’s presidency.
If you’re objecting by pointing out that Hillary Clinton is not actually the president, let me open a wormhole to a world where it’s easier and more lucrative to pretend she is.
Hence, two concurrent Biggest Scandals Ever being laid at the feet of Hillary Clinton:
As Secretary of State, she sold off America’s stock of precious uranium to the Russians in exchange for bribes (#UraniumOne)
As a presidential candidate, she colluded with the Russians to produce the phony fake news Steele Dossier (#TrumpDossier)
In 2003, Barbra Streisand sued a photographer taking pictures for an endeavor called the California Coastal Records project. Meant to document the erosion of the state’s beaches, the CCRP took one photo approximately every 500 feet all up and down California’s coast.
One of those pictures showed a particularly ritzy part of the Malibu coast, which happened to house Streisand’s mansion. The picture had been downloaded six times before Streisand’s suit, which alleged that the CCRP had violated her privacy, demanded the image be suppressed. The publicity brought by the suit brought a massive spotlight to the image, and it was downloaded nearly half-a-million times over the next month. In attempting to erase the image, Streisand brought it far more attention than it ever would have had otherwise.
This “Streisand Effect” is now cited whenever an attempt to stamp out information only makes that information more available.
Over the weekend, President Trump employed a version of the Streisand Effect to bring a massive spotlight to something that, before, had almost totally faded away from the public eye: NFL players taking a knee during the singing of the National Anthem.