The Smollett case is a rerun of the Covington hoax, which mobilized an identical longing on the part of the media and political elites to confirm the narrative of American racism, now exacerbated in the era of Trump. Native American activist Nathan Phillips concocted an outright lie about his interaction with the Covington Catholic High School students, and he, too, became an instant, revered celebrity. Then as now, public figure after public figure announced that MAGA hats were the very symbol of white supremacy. Alyssa Milano declared that “the MAGA hat is the new white hood.” New York Times columnist Charles Blow called MAGA hats the “new iconography of white supremacy.” Other recent credulously received phony claims of white racism include the Jazmine Barnes case in Houston and racial-profiling charges against a South Carolina cop. Andy Ngo has collected many more. Now that Smollett’s story is falling apart, he is clinging to his victim identity any way he can: his lawyers say that he feels “victimized” by reports that he played a role in the assault.

The Smollett and Covington cases, and others, are grounded in the #BelieveSurvivors mantra of the Kavanaugh hearings: the Left demands utter credence toward any claim of racism and sexism, and the merest act of questioning these claims or trying to pin down details is regarded as hateful. Anti-racism—preferably of a performative nature—is now the national religion of white elites, who would rather blame themselves (and the deplorables) for nonexistent racism than speak honestly about the behavioral problems and academic skills gaps that lead to ongoing socioeconomic disparities. The Senate just passed an anti-lynching bill, backed by Senators Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Tim Scott—as if lynchings were a fact of our current reality. Don’t be surprised if Democrats appropriate funding for a new underground railroad.