The Great NASCAR Noose Drama turned out to be one of those rare panic-button stories where everyone lived happily ever after. Or so it appeared.
There were three reasons to be happy about how the story played out. First, authorities investigated thoroughly a report that a noose was found in the garage of Bubba Wallace — an outspoken supporter of Black Lives Matter competing in a sport mostly identified with white, Southern fans. NASCAR dived in. The Department of Justice dived in. Fifteen Federal Bureau of Investigation agents descended on the scene.
The next chapter in the story was more good news. NASCAR drivers publicly showed their support for their brother in velocity, pushing his car to the front of the field for the GEICO 500 at Talladega Speedway on Monday, past an infield painted with the legend “#IStandWithBubba.”
On Tuesday morning, Wallace posted a tweet labeled “My Family” that showed a 30-second video of the other drivers shepherding him and his No. 43 car to the front row. Wallace, wearing an American-flag face mask, teared up at this show of brotherhood. Hurrah!
The best news of all came later Tuesday, when the FBI, NASCAR and the Justice Department discovered the “noose” was just an innocuous rope used to manually pull down the garage door. The rope had been there since last October, long before that particular garage had been assigned to Wallace. Phew.
Wallace, and every other American, had excellent reason to be on edge this spring and summer, and if somebody leaves a noose in a black guy’s home or working space, it should be checked out. Nevertheless, a lot of these incidents have turned out to be fake noose, as it were, over the years.
So the media might have reported the facts calmly instead of going batspit crazy by stating unequivocally that a noose had definitely been left in Wallace’s garage as a racist gesture.
Virtually every news outlet did this. No one, I predict, will be fired or even disciplined for getting the story wrong, because erring in the direction of hysteria is, if anything, mandatory for the media these days. “Gotta get those clicks” is the cynical explanation we tell each other, but the actual explanation is even worse: “Gotta advance the narrative that America is a roiling cauldron of 24/7 hate.” It isn’t.
The disappointing epilogue of this saga, however, is that the media couldn’t utter the words “we were wrong,” and everyone seems determined to live crankily ever after. Wallace could have stepped up and thanked everyone who backed him and been a symbol of thoughtfulness, reconciliation and calm for the rest of his life. His endorsement value would have skyrocketed. Instead, he refused to take the win: “It wasn’t directed at me,” Wallace said angrily on CNN, “but it was a noose.”
Huh? The whole point of the investigation is that Wallace is the sole black driver at the top level. If it wasn’t meant for him, it was meant for . . . a white driver? Then how was it a hideous symbol of racist Southern lynch mobs?
Atlantic columnist Jemele Hill said on Monday that the not-noose was part and parcel of a racist institution, “a disgusting reminder of who this sport is for.”
Afterward, she doubled down with a tweet claiming, “It. Was. A. Noose. They just don’t believe it was directed at Bubba Wallace.” So why is she or anyone else angry on Bubba’s behalf? Al Sharpton tripled down, saying on MSNBC that he wanted the probe to continue until, I suppose, the answer he wants has been supplied. Coincidentally, the more hate crimes are in the news, the more airtime Sharpton gets.
Why is Sharpton appearing on MSNBC to discuss hate crimes that didn’t really happen, anyway? Does Bernie Madoff get to appear on CNBC to give investment tips?
“Even if they did not know that Bubba Wallace was going to use that stall, why was a noose in the stall?” Sharpton said on MSNBC. “Clearly, from what we just saw from Bubba Wallace, it does not seem he, who is the victim and possible target in this matter, seems to be satisfied with this.”
Victim? Target? If the “noose” wasn’t meant for Bubba, nothing happened to Bubba, and nothing racist happened at all. Turn those frowns upside down, Bubba, Jemele and Al. No noose is good noose. And anger addiction makes America a worse place.
Kyle Smith is critic-at-large for National Review.