Why the Shaquille O’Neal, Kyrie Irving “Flat Earth” Routine Is NOT Fucking Funny

April 3, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


Over the past month and a half, first Kyrie Irving (a basketball player with the Cleveland Cavaliers) and then Shaquille O’Neal have stated that the Earth is flat. In both cases, these players caused a minor controversy and then backed off, claiming they were joking—though in Irving’s case, continuing to play as if he may really believe it.

Even if this was a “joke,” it was an extremely irresponsible joke. There are all too many people who, through no fault of their own, have been kept ignorant. It is in fact a great crime that this system continues to shroud people in ignorance, as Bob Avakian has put it. Just think of the huge percentage of people who, having gone through the U.S. school system, still do not believe the theory of evolution—a theory which has been proven to be true with the same degree of certitude as the roundness of the Earth! (For instance, according to a 2014 Gallup poll, 42 percent believe in creationism, another 31 percent believe that humans evolved but “God” directed the process, and only one percent said humans evolved with no imaginary being playing a part.) Note the fact that every Republican candidate for president must at the very least claim that the “jury is still out” on this proven fact—and that no Democrat has ever even pointed this out as disqualifying. This ignorance serves a purpose for the powers that be—it prevents people from understanding and changing the world. Why do you think that slaves were killed for learning how to read? And quite frankly, a “joke” like this (again, if indeed it was a joke)—especially at a time when fundamentalist preachers within the Black and Latino communities are being backed up by the ruling class and when a Christian fascist fanatic has been made secretary of education and is hell-bent (if you’ll excuse the expression) on gutting those schools and funneling children into private Christian schools that are no more than ignorance mills—is about as funny as “joking” during slavery times that “slaves will hurt themselves if they learn to read.” And be clear: literal belief in the word of the Bible actually does require a belief that the sun goes around the Earth, rather than the fact that the Earth goes around the sun (and the Catholic Church indeed killed the 16th-century astronomer Giordano Bruno, burning him at the stake, for saying the opposite, among other “heretical” notions). In fact, the slaves needed that knowledge; and the slaves of today need the knowledge of the scientific method in general, including the theory of evolution.

With Shaquille O’Neal, we are talking about someone who is not only a reactionary but a former part-time pig—someone who actually has worked as a deputy pig and “reserve police officer” in the off-season while he was playing in the NBA, and who was part of a botched raid which ended up terrorizing a totally innocent family (and which O’Neal at first lied about being on).

With Kyrie Irving, who is NOT a reactionary, it is actually worse. O’Neal is a pig straight-up, and the fact that he would use his platform to spread ignorance and confusion shouldn’t surprise anyone. But Kyrie Irving has taken stands against murders of Black people by police and (other) white supremacists. To say something like this, in addition to the damage it does in spreading ignorance and wrong methods to the oppressed, has the effect of discrediting him with those who do know that the Earth is not flat. Worse still, Irving at first likened taking this stand to refusing to accept anything from authorities because he was lied to about police murder. If Kyrie was putting people on when he said the Earth is flat, then he is actually discrediting the notion that people should not accept the “official story” at face value. It is in fact TRUE that the authorities in this country lie about virtually everything about Black people, from the horror of slavery to police murder, mass incarceration, and the all-round genocidal attacks on Black and other oppressed nationality peoples. But the response should NOT be to then accept anything that purports to go against “the official story”—and the fact that people among the oppressed today get so caught up in bullshit explanations for oppression like “the Illuminati control the world” ends up serving to keep things the same.

If you are lied to, you get the evidence, you get the FACTS, you apply the scientific method. Again, and this is pointed out very powerfully in Ardea Skybreak’s books on evolution 1 and on science and revolution,2 a) it is a huge crime that the oppressed have been deprived of this understanding, b) they CAN master this, even beginning with a very poor education, and c) such knowledge is absolutely necessary to change the world for the better and emancipate humanity.

Again: if these guys really believe this ignorant stuff, then it is an indictment of this entire system and the way it both maintains the oppressed in ignorance and, as a particular form of that, isolates talented athletes from the oppressed in “basketball factories” that give them just enough knowledge to get through college. If they don’t believe this nonsense, if they were indeed “joking,” then shame on them for this kind of “joke.” And to Kyrie Irving in particular, who has taken good stands in the past: you could do a world of good right now by actually taking up the scientific method and fighting for that... and if you really want to be controversial and cause a storm, then step out there and fight for the importance of people getting into and learning the theory of evolution!


1  The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism: Knowing What's Real and Why It Matters [back]

2 SCIENCE AND REVOLUTION: On the Importance of Science and the Application of Science to Society, the New Synthesis of Communism and the Leadership of Bob Avakian: An Interview with Ardea Skybreak [back]



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