One of the most important lessons I was ever taught by my parents was this sentence that I heard over and over again as a small child: “The world doesn’t revolve around you Stephen.”
The time that I most vividly remember being reminded of that was one day, as a child, going to the elementary school to find out who my teacher would be for the year. I saw the door, I ran to it and right before I could fling it open my mom stopped me. She told me that I had cut off a woman in front of us and made me open the door for her. While extremely young, that moment was a low feeling. I felt bad because, even though I couldn’t articulate it at the time, I had completely disregarded another human being, and acted like I wasn’t sharing this planet with her.
It’s the lesson that helped me not linger in my hotep phase of 2009-10. I turned down that dark road when those YouTube videos came out that supposedly proved that Beyoncé, Rihanna, and all other pop stars were in the Illuminati. I thought about that time in my life when an old video was tweeted out by Awful Announcing’s Ben Koo, originally sent out by Jordan Heck of The Sporting News.
It was a clip from a 2018 episode of Pardon The Interruption. Stephen Curry had gone on a podcast and said that he wasn’t entirely sure that people had ever landed on the moon around the same time that Kyrie Irving’s brain first started to break when he said that the earth was flat. ESPN’s Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser scolded the two for holding such ridiculous beliefs. They discussed how that kind of thinking can lead to Holocaust and slavery denial. While it’s a slippery slope argument, a person with those viewpoints doesn’t have to slide too far down to fall into a dangerous place.
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The video struck me because during those 2009-10 years I also questioned the moon landing. I was starting to question the world around me and started looking for alternative places to get “real” news. My mind was in that place because of some YouTube videos I watched by night while, by day, finishing up courses to receive a broadcast journalism degree. My mind got out of that place because, for one I started hanging around journalists and watching fewer conspiracy videos, and also, I realized that I didn’t possess any knowledge about secret societies and had no evidence the seminal moments in world history did not occur. History is real and the evils of the music industry are because of the greedy and power-hungry people who run it. No special devil-worshiping cult is necessary for people to only care about power and profit, and to be certain that the world revolves around themselves.
Why Wilbon and Kornheiser were so correct to jump on Irving and Curry — who both went on to say that they made those comments in jest — is that type of open denial of history and science is dangerous. Once people believe that they have acquired some type of knowledge that elevates them to a reality of their own creation, credibility to them becomes whatever information satiates their ego.
It’s how a viable coalition of people can upend democracy in this country by refusing to believe in the validity of an election because their candidate lost. As well as a home invader breaking into the residence of the Speaker of the House and causing head trauma to her husband with a hammer. The assailant did it because, allegedly, he wanted to tie Nancy Pelosi, who was not in the home at the time, and demand that she tell the truth. What truth? Whatever truth this man believed which, judging from his social media posts, would be Q-Anon and other far-right wing conspiracy that have no factual basis.
But according to some right-wing politicians, and the current owner of Twitter, the words from David DePape’s own mouth and social media accounts don’t matter. A person becoming dangerous after mainlining dangerous rhetoric can’t be true because it goes against the beliefs of people who are certain that they are the arbiters of truth. So out comes a new conspiracy theory, that it was a scorned gay lover who went after Paul Pelosi. The conspiracy theorists have gone this far, why not add some homophobia to the mix?
On election day, Nov. 8, 2022, there are people running for office who amplify this type of deranged thinking, and are fighting to make sure that those voices are the only ones who get to decide who runs this country.
Four years after Wilbon and Kornheiser called for basic human humility in respecting the events of the past, the effort to make reality murky grows more and more fierce. Mostly, because a powerful minority of people refuse to believe that the sun does not rise and set on them. None of us own this planet. Many of us currently alive saw a new millennium, but there is no way we will live long enough to see the next one. No person can make it to 1,000 years, and one millennium is a mere blip of time when compared to how long earth has existed.
This world does not revolve around us or our intellect. If more people don’t learn that childhood lesson, there won’t be a world worth living in for much longer.
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