One of my favorite observations made by F. A. Hayek concerns the semantic detonations of the word ‘social.’ Especially pernicious, he noted, was the conjunction of the word ‘social’ with the word ‘justice.’ ‘Much the worst use of the word “social,”’ he wrote, and ‘one that wholly destroys the meaning of the word it qualifies, is in the almost universally used phrase “social justice.”’
There are, Hayek continued, other instances of this sort of ‘semantic fraud.’ Consider the phrase ‘People’s Democracy.’ The one thing you can be sure of about states describing themselves thus is that they are totalitarian, not democratic.
There is another popular phrase ripe for exposure and repudiation: ‘hate crime.’ What, after all, does the adjective ‘hate’ add to the substantive ‘crime’?
Like ‘social’ in the phrase ‘social justice,’ the word ‘hate’ in ‘hate crime’ is just a bit of emotional filigree, a semantic, janus-faced badge that, on the one hand, morally besmirches the actors and actions they describe and, on the other, kindles a the warm glow of righteous indignation in the breasts of those issuing the accusation.
You could see this process at work in the spontaneous two minutes of hate directed at the MAGA-behatted students from Covington Catholic last month. The instant, hysterical pile-on against the boys was a marvel to behold. All across the political spectrum, self-righteous virtue signalers descended to abominate them in the most extravagant terms. The wretched chap who compared boys to Roman centurions spitting upon the Cross marked a nadir, though one that cannot be held up as an admonition since, having done its damage, it was, shamefully, removed from the internet.
Now we have the example of Jussie Smollett, an actor of whose existence I was unaware until last week when he burst upon the nation’s conscience, the latest victim of a despicable hate crime. Smollett, a black television actor, was set upon by two MAGA-behatted thugs who mixed racial and anti-homosexual epithets with praise for Donald Trump as they beat him up and tied a noose around his neck.
The outrage over this horrible hate crime was as instant and hysterical as that which greeted the unfortunate boys from Covington Catholic. Sens. Kamala Harris and Cory ‘Spartacus’ Booker spoke of ‘a modern day lynching.’ Entertainers like Don Lemon, Van Jones, and Keith Boykin bewailed the episode.
Except, as all the world now knows, Jussie Smollett was not set-upon by Trump-supporting thugs. Quite the contrary, unhappy at his salary, he devised an attention-gaining hoax. He paid two brothers $3,500 to engage in a little carefully rehearsed performance art in front of security cameras. They donned the MAGA hats, scuffled with him, shouted the epithets he had told them to shout, and put a noose around his neck. The visible bruises and scratches on Smollett’s face, however, were apparently self-inflicted.
When the truth came out, Smollett was arrested and charged with filing a false police report. As I write, he is out on bail.
What are we to make of this episode? The Left is outraged, but not because of Smollett’s actions. It is outraged because it distracts attention from the many real ‘hate crimes’ that are perpetrated. Van Jones is unhappy because Jussie Smollett is an ‘icon’ akin to black baseball player Jackie Robinson.
Others are less outraged than disgusted at yet another ‘hate crime’ hoax, an increasingly popular weapon in the armory of politically correct identity politics.
As racial and sexual bigotry continues to recede in the United States, the strange alchemy of egalitarian despotism takes over. This was something that Tocqueville noticed about democratic regimes. The more equal society became, the more trifling differences among people would be seized upon and held up as evidence of iniquity. Similarly, the less real racial bigotry and anti-homosexual animus there is in the United States, the more must be manufactured in order to keep the Fraternal Order of Victims afloat.
Human ingenuity is a marvelous thing. There is a paucity of snow one winter, so a clever chap invents a snow-making machine in order to keep the skiers happy and the money flowing into the till at the local ski resort. In the same way, when there is a dearth of racial or anti-homosexual animus, inventive souls like Jussie Smollett fabricate some in order to keep the wheels spinning on the virtue-signaling machine upon which they are riding.
It’s a mug’s game, but more and more, it seems, it is we, the public who are the mugs in the discreditable game of identity politics we are forced to watch, not unlike those unfortunate souls in Orwell’s 1984 who were forced to watch the daily denunciations of Emmanuel Goldstein, enemy of the people.