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What if Conservatives Pulled off a Jussie Smollett Type of Hoax?

Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP

What would happen if a conservative pulled a reverse Jussie Smollett hoax? Imagine that a prominent right-winger orchestrated a fake assault and enlisted the assistance of friends or associates to pull the scheme off.

I would submit to you, dear reader, that a right-wing assault hoax would be far more convincing than the trick that Smollett attempted to pull off. Indeed, the chances that a conservative would be more likely to successfully deceive folks into thinking a group of leftists physically attacked him are quite high.

The reason why is because conservatives would be far less likely to make the same mistakes that Smollett made.

After news of Smollett’s “assault” garnered national attention, it did not take long for conservatives to figure out that the actor was trying to pull one over on the American people. The details of the story were quite suspicious to anyone who doesn’t live in a progressive echo chamber.

For starters, the notion that white Trump supporters were prowling around in Chicago in the wee hours of the morning was already suspect. Smollett’s assertion that these people were targeting him specifically was a dead giveaway.

According to one of the Osundairo brothers who testified in Smollett’s trial, the actor told them to say “This is MAGA country,” and “Aren’t you that ‘Empire’ f*ggot n*gger?”

When Smollett claimed his attackers made these two statements, it was easy to tell the whole story was a farce. The term “MAGA country” is not, and has never been, a thing on the right. Trump supporters don’t use that term, and they especially wouldn’t use that moniker to describe Chicago, which is a heavily blue city. The very idea is so nonsensical that it is difficult to believe.

Secondly, the “Empire” reference is highly unrealistic for a Trump supporter to use. The reason why is obvious: MAGA folks didn’t watch Empire. In fact, I, along with perhaps seven other conservatives, are probably the only ones on the right who have ever watched a single season. There is absolutely no way that some racist white Trump supporters would even know Smollett exists much less hate him enough to track him down in Chicago on a cold night.

If Smollett had spent more than 15 minutes with a Trump supporter, he would have known better than to concoct these particular details. But his ignorance highlights a reality of which many are unaware.

The fact is, conservatives understand leftists far more than leftists understand conservatives.

In his book “The Righteous Mind,” author Jonathan Haidt discussed a study he conducted with some of his colleagues. The study measured how well liberals and conservatives understood one another. He wrote:

We asked more than two thousand American visitors to fill out the Moral Foundations Questionnaire. One-third of the time they were asked to fill it out normally, answering as themselves. One-third of the time they were asked to fill it out as they think a “typical liberal” would respond. One-third of the time they were asked to fill it out as a “typical conservative” would respond. This design allowed us to examine the stereotypes that each side held about the other. More important, it allowed us to assess how accurate they were by comparing people’s expectations about “typical” partisans to the actual responses from partisans on the left and the right. Who was best able to pretend to be the other?

The results were not too surprising to those who follow politics. The study found that “[m]oderates and conservatives were most accurate in their predictions, whether they were pretending to be liberals or conservatives.”

Haidt noted that those describing themselves as “very liberal” performed the worst on the study. He wrote:

When faced with questions such as “One of the worst things a person could do is hurt a defenseless animal” or ”Justice is the most important requirement for a society,” liberals assumed that conservatives would disagree.

It is for this reason that a conservative would have a better chance of success at pulling off a Smolletesque hoax. They would be more familiar with the left’s lingo and modus operandi.

Of course, it makes sense that conservatives would understand leftists better – progressives wield power over all of the country’s most important and prominent institutions. They reign supreme over universities and the entertainment industry, meaning we are exposed to leftist dogma far more often than leftists are exposed to conservative ideas and viewpoints.

The fact that most leftists are stuck in their own bubbles contributes to the disparity. Most of these folks have never even sat down and had a conversation with a conservative. Everything they know about the right comes from their activist media, which deliberately paints a less-than-flattering portrait of Republicans and conservatives.

There does not seem to be a solution to this problem as of yet. The fact that media is becoming more siloed is contributing to the issue – many of us remain stuck in our own echo chambers. Even though the right’s understanding of the left is more comprehensive than the reverse does not necessarily mean either side has a full understanding of the other. But for now, it appears this is how things are in politics.