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A void that screams back in our own voice
Kyrie Irving's willful ignorance shows its cards.
The bummer to me is how blasé.
Which makes me realize I shouldn’t respond the same way in picking the words to use when I write about this.
So, the danger to me is how willfully ignorant. Carelessly, recklessly, blithely ignorant, so much so that it’s showing its cards.
When Kyrie Irving posts anything it is something. He knows this because he lives in the same world we all do. When anyone posts something, whether it’s news, a sourced and cited thread, a joke, a photo, a link to something else, it’s something. This is in some ways specific to the NBA and also, not at all. Maybe it’s something 46 people see instead of 4.6 million, but we made social media into a conduit where from your fingers go not to god’s ears, but direct to creation. We are making something out of nothing all the time.
Some of this is about the need to put things out there, and where those feelings stem from. The impulsivity of posting is not, really, impulsive anymore. We want a void that screams back but we want it to be in an echo. Irving, anyone, can click around the internet and read, watch, listen for hours, when you pull yourself out to post or posture a question, you’ve already thought it through to the answer you’d like. I keep meaning to ask whether I can open a trap on the pipe in the bathroom sink to get something out, and whether I need to shut off the water, and if so, how do I do that? The answer I really want is that it will be easy. It doesn’t matter if I’ve already walked myself through the steps why it won’t be. But the cesspool I’m trying to clear out and the one Irving, knowingly, tops up, are totally different in their potential for harm.
Some of this is how we handle so much information, always, incessantly. Some of this is the breaking down of public education, and what that means for critical thinking. Some of this is the ability to tailor your entire world to just the things you believe, or want to believe, and what will feed, streamlined, algorithm optimized, into strengthening that. To not have to face any pushback or questioning, or when you do, to feel so sure of the information you’ve built a world for yourself out of that you can deflect, demean, turn tail and shrug it off. Some of that is this world we’ve made out of convenience, an individual’s needs surpassing all others in immediacy and importance, that the first response to a little pressure, a little pushback, to someone saying, “Well, let me get this straight” is “Fuck you”.
Some of this is a person like Irving who has lived in bubble enforced by his own skill. An elite athlete, told for a long time he is an elite athlete (he is), but within that, the willing (on our part) remove from the rest of the world that celebrity brings and within that, the clarity of an occasional no. As in no, that’s not right, or no, that’s not a good idea. It doesn’t matter who is saying the no. None of this is about who has the bigger right to pick and choose what gets put out there. We’re well past that. Everything’s out there.
“We’re in 2022,” Irving said, “history is not supposed to be hidden from anybody.”
And on that note, some of this is about Amazon, or access to information, and that goes back to critical thinking and loss of how necessary educational legwork is. That fastening up your handle on something — a set of beliefs, a grasp on history — can’t always be achieved by a rabbit hole of YouTubes. It doesn’t have to come from formal, traditional institutions that can be economically or prejudicially prohibitive, it can be from the library, it can be from reading a book, it can be from being challenged and feeling the snag of curiosity as a balm on the sting of being questioned, but some of this is about the loss of difficulty in learning and the proliferation, instead, of “knowing”. To be right, and to be finished talking about something because you are right.
Irving says “all I do is post things for my community and my people and those that it’s actually going to impact, anybody else that has criticism, it obviously wasn’t meant for them”, which is a peephole narrow perspective for someone who, seconds earlier, was urging people to look beyond the historic connotations of the words Semitism, or anti-Semitism, and instead look to their etymology — the widest (and historic) possible way to look at language. It’s also incredibly cowardly. Underscoring what it is, again, to know (to be right) instead of learning (to be challenged).
Some of this is about the perception of media’s place in sports, or anywhere, and the changing perception of what sports should include. For Irving to, eventually, curtail questioning about his aggregation of Alex Jones, about sharing an anti-Semitic video, because the questions weren’t about basketball, is a convenient out as much as it is a glaring non sequitur when none of his teammates, nor his coach, wanted to talk about how bad a game of basketball it was they just played. Steve Nash said blankly, “That was a disaster”, Kevin Durant, when asked what the mood was in the locker room after the game was, said, “What you think? We lost three games, four games in a row? You want us to be excited about that?” and Ben Simmons, mostly, shared his visualization for what the team could be, “I believe we can be the best team in the NBA.”
Some of that is about the discrepancy between what people equate with being on the job and reacting to your job, that as a reporter who covers basketball you are to act as if you’re on a factory floor producing it the entire time your feet tramp around an arena. No job is that narrow. There is atmosphere to everything. Some of this is the erosion of what people think journalism is and what they actually want, which is no different than what they already know. Some of that is the erosion of trust, in general, or the perception of the wider world as hostile, misleading, something you can only believe with your own two eyes and even then, want to wait for more information when you don’t like what you see.
Some of this, maybe, is seeing basketball as a bastion outside of all that. A hallowed ground of refuge. But then how do you square the harmful things the people participating in it do with your perception of the product? Do you squint and pretend you don’t see it? How about when it gets closer to you? Even organized religion, however overdue, is not exempt from this kind of reckoning.
Some of this is just shitty, is dangerous, is negligent, and it’s necessary to call it what it is.
Some of this is a little of everything, and that’s what makes it hard to get a handle on, but you lose all your leverage in interrogating multitudes when you stop hearing anybody’s voice but your own.
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