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University of London Lithium Components Discussion

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“Staged: The Jussie Smollett Saga” Synopsis/Overview: (A summary of what the story is and what the documentary seeks to achieve) In January 2019, Actor Jussie Smollett performed a staged hate crime attack on himself in the dead of night in Chicago. Smollett claimed he was attacked by two men, who shouted racist and anti-gay slurs at him. They had poured bleach on him and a noose placed around his neck. He was told that “this is MAGA country.” The world was shocked with this display of racial bigotry and hate, and Jussie, who quickly recovered, became revered as a hero and a symbol of overcoming oppression in the modern era. But within weeks, the act would be up. After a damning ABC interview, the broader media start to suspect deception. Police, after corroborating the two supposed attacks, brought in Smollett for questioning. But even after public opinion turned on him and he was indicted by the city of Chicago, Smollett maintained his claim of innocence. Why did he do this? What was he trying to gain? And why did the media fall so quickly for it? Act 1: (What the original story was and how it was covered at the time. Explain with interspersed italics how you plan to depict this in your documentary.) Jussie Smollett is a successful actor, singer and dancer, who stars on the hit television series “Empire.” Jussie is also a gay, black man and the son of a music executive. In 2018 he released a full length album that saw critical and commercial success. [Visuals: Showing clips of Smollett on his show and interview and red carpets, interviews with media journalists] On Jan. 29, 2019, Smollett reported to police that he had been brutally attacked. He claims that after returning to Chicago from a trip, he left his apartment to get a sandwich. It’s the dead of night, and freezing cold. Smollett is returning to his apartment when he is confronted by two hooded men who shout slurs at him: “There’s that ‘Empire’ f*ggot!” Before he can process the situation, the two men are attacking Smollett, smashing his face and ribs. The two attackers brutally and terrifying pour bleach onto Smolletts face, and place a noose around his neck. They were gone as quickly as they came, running into the night and howling “This is MAGA country.” Jussie stumbled back to his apartment with the noose still around his neck. The morning after, he reported these events to the police. [Visuals: News clips of media reports about Smollett’s attack, visuals of police reports, interviews with media journalists] Suddenly, Jussie Smollett was heralded as a brave survivor of a truly despicable crime. The crime in itself is a microcosm of American violence in the Trump era. Jussie made an official statement the next day: “Let me start by saying that I’m OK. My body is strong but my soul is stronger….Despite my frustrations and deep concern with certain inaccuracies and misrepresentations that have been spread, I still believe that justice will be served.” While there were some questions as to the verifiability of this story, the grand consensus was that this was a clear racial hate crime, and that Smollett was truly brave. A video of the two perpetrators is released. The Chicago Police Department, who have been carrying out the investigation, resolve to go to every hardware store in the area and find who bought the rope used in the crime. [Visuals: News clips of media reports about Smollett’s attack, visuals of police reports, interviews with media journalists] Act 2: (What we now know with hindsight: if the initial media coverage was incorrect and what the impact of the story was at the time. Explain how you plan to depict this in your documentary) Following the initial news, large and small corners of the media started to raise questions on the legitimacy of the claims. There were strange details: It was -20 degrees in Chicago the night of. Why were these men singling out Jussie and why did they have rope and bleach? If this attack was so brutal, why did Jussie have minimal injuries? On February 13th, Smollett went on ABC news for an extended interview. Jussie’s interview is dramatic, with forced tears, canned laughter and very long explanations of the most minute details of the occurrence. The interview seems rehearsed, and slightly unhinged. Jussie hopes that the two men who did this will be caught, but doubts that they will be. [Visuals: Footage from ABC interview, visuals of critical news articles, interviews with police and media journalists] After some digging, The police track down the perpetrators at O’Hare international airport. These men are not white supremecist Trump supporters, but are two Nigerian brothers who have appeared as extras on “Empire.” They begin to corroborate with the police and say they were paid to “attack” Smollett. On February 15th, Jussie Smollett is taken in for questioning. The media narrative now turns on Smollett, as it appears that his story is fake and that his injuries were self inflicted. The Chicago police department indict Smollett on multiple felony disorderly conduct. Police superintendent Eddie Johnson and Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel express disappointment and frustrations. Smollett’s charges are dropped shortly after. I plan to depict this in the documentary through news footage and relevant interviews who will break down the narrative piece by piece. [Visuals: Footage of critical news articles, interviews with police and media journalists] Act 3: (Make a connection between the story or issues it raises, as it as then and today) In the year that followed, Smollett would be embroiled in legal battles. He was indicted on multiple counts of public misconduct and filing false police reports, and the city of Chicago filed a lawsuit for the cost of overtime authorities expended investigating the alleged attack, totalling more than $130,000. In November 2019, Smollett filed a countersuit against Chicago claiming that he was the victim of “mass public ridicule and harm” and arguing the suit should be thrown out. Much of the media was forced to eat crow, as they were quick to run with this sensationalized story and play into Smollett’s narrative. Smollett used modern political zeitgeist to capitalize and further his career by channeling the anger in American discourse, shadowboxing with an imagined enemy to advance his selfish agenda. Jussie looked to his musical contemporaries like Childish Gambino and Kendrick Lamar, and their themes of social justice and black violence and sought to reap the success they received from their art. Smollett spun a web of deception, creating a cheap facsimile of the struggles of the oppressed. But as far as his ulterior motives … he has remained silent on the issue. [Visuals: Footage of critical news articles, interviews with police, musical artists and media journalists] Conclusion: (your last chance to impress your audience. Explain how this is a good fit for Retro Report and the importance of the story you’re trying to tell) It is said that we live in a post-truth era. Jussie Smollett didn’t do a good job of faking the news, but he still tricked much of the general public, at least for a short while. It is important to be vigilant, to not be swept away in sensationalism or swayed by identity politics. This is a good fit for Retro Report because of its connection to the modern political era, the imperative need for fact-checking and the fragility of truth in the news cycle. As media reports of violence flash across news feeds, reporters and the public are all drawn to instantly click reports into their existing archetypes of behavior patterns and human nature — what people typically expect in politically charged atmospheres — but like any good journalist, the media should remain skeptical and vigilant for people attempting to control the narrative of a news cycle for their own gain. WRITE A DOCUMENTARY TREATMENT, PITCHING AN IDEA FOR A RETRO REPORT DOCUMENTARY. Choose a topic that fits with Retro Report’s mission: re-examining a big media story from the past, and then positioning it as relevant and insightful to modern life. Remember, Retro Report like their documentaries to have three acts: 1. The story itself as it was covered at the time, 2.
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