There’s always been a portion of humanity that resents education or intelligence. That learning or knowledge is either a tool for someone to think they’re better than a lesser learned person or just an unnecessary add-on, like an addition to a house that serves no purpose. Like a deeper understanding of the universe is some high-brow nonsense.
Trolling may not have always been around, but since the internet has existed it’s been as prevalent as anti-intellectualism. I’m not sure which of these camps Kyrie Irving is representing in 2017. It could be either or somewhere in between. He’s been so ridiculous it’s almost impossible. Either way, I see it as an example of everything that’s wrong with discourse in our era and how our country has gotten so stupid. Whatever it is he’s doing is part of the problem.
We can start with early in the year, when Irving began putting his Flat Earth theories out there. He first mentioned it on the Road Trippin’ podcast, then repeated it several times to the dumbfounded media afterwards. (I won’t link to any of this nonsense because it’s just too stupid.) Then he expressed doubts about the moon landing and our ability to photograph Earth from space. Oookay.*
He spouted this off as a different kind of anti-intellectualism, the type where you go against all accepted and verified scientific research and say something demonstrably false. But if you claim it’s an equally viable viewpoint, just different from what’s widely accepted, you can call it an intellectual discussion. Even if it’s absolutely wrong. That’s Irving’s game now. He’s also great at saying stuff that sounds intellectual if you’re vaguely paying attention, but turns out to mean absolutely nothing under any scrutiny. See his entire First Take appearance from last summer for your fill of that.
*FULL DISCLOSURE: I believe in aliens and am unsure if they’ve ever visited Earth, have no problem questioning plenty of government activities, love The X-Files, and have read several books about the JFK assassination. I genuinely appreciate a good conspiracy. Unfortunately, Kyrie has chosen the worst conspiracies.
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Maybe it’s not believing in climate change while 97% of all accepted science indicates it’s happening. It could be believing in Pizzagate through your crack interpretation of symbols in restaurant logos. You could think the Earth is flat despite not one person having ever fallen off the edge. Or you believe the moon landing is fake or that there are no pictures of Earth from space because…I don’t know, you spent 5 minutes on reddit or something?
Irving has only publicly stated his belief in those last two. But is wanting others to believe in those any less stupid or dangerous than the others? He’s used lines like “I’m just asking questions” or “don’t just believe what you’re told, do your own research.” Which, in almost any other context would be correct. You should question what you’re told and practice independent learning. But for many things, especially these big topics, we’ve had thousands of people questioning and researching over hundreds of years. What these people discover is documented and tested and verified many times over. Those people are called scientists.
You may not want to admit it, but they know more than you or me. They just do. They answer these questions because they’re more capable than the rest of us. We’re more capable than they would be at our jobs. That’s how society works. Some skepticism is always necessary; a lack of it and you veer into North Korea territory. But there’s a line between between skeptical and ignorant, and it’s fairly thin.
Rejecting what’s been proven true is dangerous. Science has told me ingesting mercury is harmful. Maybe I question that. Maybe I whip up a spinach-mercury smoothie to do my own research on the topic. Probably a bad idea, right? This dangerous thinking is one thing when you really believe it, even if it’s dumb as hell. It’s another if you don’t believe it and just want to cause a ruckus. It’s a fun activity for some idiots out there that can be just as harmful as that earnest ignorance. That would be trolling. Irving’s in at least one of those camps, and neither are good.
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Irving also used a line like “I just said it to see what would happen, and the media reacted exactly how I thought they would” when he finally admitted he didn’t really believe in a Flat Earth. (I still kind of think he believes, but that’s a whole other deal.) For the life of me, I don’t get that. He lied to get a reaction, then when he got a reaction he acted like he won or proved some kind of point. What fucking point does that prove?
Light-hearted comparison: Remember when Dirk Nowitzki was sick in the 2011 NBA Finals? And when Dwyane Wade and LeBron James walked by cameras pretending to cough and saying “I’m sick”?
Serious comparison: Remember when some alt-right dipshits created a fake white supremacist hand gesture, used it at the White House, then claimed to have owned the libs when they got upset?
Both parties used the Kyrie defense: “we just wanted to see if you’d react and guess what, you did, losers. We win. I can’t believe you got upset when our express purpose was to make you upset.” Making fun of an opponent is just dumb. Believing in a Flat Earth is serious, but not really dangerous. Making light of white supremacy for an internet “joke” is fucked up. These are a long ways apart on the scale, but it is the same scale.
Pissing people off on purpose for no reason than to see them pissed off is a sad tactic used by sad people at the least, dumb people in the middle, and evil people at worst. Decide which of the three previous examples fit where. But making white supremacy just another tool in political discourse is dangerous. Influencing kids to reject facts and science because their favorite basketball player does is also dangerous.
But this type of shit is just par for the course on the internet now. It’s an unreal invention that puts nearly all the knowledge of the universe at our fingertips, and this is what we use it for. Then we wonder why the 2016 Presidential election was so toxic and stupid. That wasn’t Irving’s fault. But he hasn’t been helping.
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Whether he’s just trolling because he’s bored, or he really thinks he can do his research as well as those snooty intellectuals with their degrees and their labcoats, his rhetoric is equal parts unnecessary, harmful and dumb. He’s not a scientist, he’s a basketball player. That doesn’t mean that he is dumb, it just means he plays basketball. Professional athletes, like everyone else, are entitled to their opinions and the right to speak their mind. But if what you’re saying is unnecessary, harmful and dumb, you gotta cut that shit out. And Irving has been all three of those all year.
You can laugh at whatever silly conspiracies he has talked or will talk about, because it is obviously very funny. Even I can’t deny that. But the more I think about it and the more he talks, the more I get pissed off. Beneath those quirky comments, he’s just another part of a much bigger problem in our country. And apparently, not even basketball is safe from it.