The Atlantic

Jussie Smollett’s Alleged Hoax Will Feed Bigger Hoaxes

If the actor faked a hate crime, he provided fuel for bigoted conspiracy theories. But so does the discourse around his case.
Source: Chicago Police Department / Reuters

Last week, the Alabama small-town newspaper editor Goodloe Sutton published an editorial calling for the Ku Klux Klan to “ride again” and string up nooses in Washington, D.C. Contained in the short, hateful missive was this claim: “Slaves, just freed after the civil war, were not stupid. At times, they borrowed their former masters’ robes and horses and rode through the night to frighten some evil doer.”

The editorial was racist from front to back, but the lines about freed slaves wearing robes represented something particularly vicious: denialism. The KKK, Sutton’s implication went, was in part a hoax by black people. That this suggestion did not square with hiscall for the Klan’s revival didn’t matter. A lie like that exists to justify the unjustifiable. It exists to

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