We still don’t know exactly what happened in the Jussie Smollett case that has dominated the news cycle for the past week. What we do know is that after the Empire star revealed he was allegedly the victim of a racist and homophobic hate crime, conflicting reports started to emerge suggesting that Smollett may have been involved in orchestrating the incident. Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, the two brothers who were originally considered suspects, both knew Smollett in advance of the attack and told Chicago police that they were hired by Smollett. After the Chicago PD announced they were “shifting the trajectory” of their investigation, Smollett said in a statement that he is “angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with” and that anyone claiming he played a role in his own attack “is lying.”
While it’s too soon to render a verdict on what exactly went down, if the case does prove to be a hoax, the ramifications are hard to overstate. As we’ve seen in the extremely rare cases involving false rape allegations, they serve as ammo for people looking to undermine the credibility of genuine victims (like clockwork, Donald Trump Jr. is already tweeting about Smollett’s story, in which his attackers were originally described as two men shouting, “This is MAGA country”). But what would motivate someone to pretend to be the victim of a hate crime? We called up Dr. Marc Feldman, who is not involved in the case but is an expert on factitious disorder and Munchausen syndrome by proxy, to learn more about “factitious victimization” — a disorder that causes people to feign victimhood for psychological reasons — and how it could come into play in the Smollett case.
What did you think when you first heard this case might be a hoax?
Munchausen syndrome refers to the most extreme examples of “factitious disorder,” which is the official psychiatric term for people who feign illness or injury for intangible reasons. Ever since I encountered my first case of a woman who faked cancer for emotional reasons back in 1989, I’ve obviously been more sensitive to that possibility than most people ever would be. I try not to falsely accuse people and that’s why I am approaching this subject with a little timidity. But when it does arise I think it’s important that we identify it and help educate the public about it. READ MORE: https://www.thecut.com/2019/02/why-would-somebody-fake-a-hate-crime.html