Most people in contact with the public who engaged in vaccine denial didn’t surprise me. Joe Rogan, for example, is an MMA commentator who hosts a daily three-hour podcast where he browses the internet and conducts gormless interviews, nodding at the sentiments of conflicting scammers. Of course, this guy was going to “question the science” and look for “alternative treatments”. His whole life is a great journey of finding alternative treatment for which people pay him considerable sums. Vaccine-resistant Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving has always been a very particular weirdo and a pain in the ass. Aaron Rodgers believes in chemtrail conspiracies. Eric Clapton goes on racist “England for English” rants and sucks at making music. He is the perfect targets paranoid feelings about globalism or whatever.
And then there’s John Stockton. Before the last few months, even the most dedicated NBA fans couldn’t tell you much about John Stockton, the man. He was a great basketball player, the NBA’s all-time leader in assists and steals, the greatest player in Utah Jazz history (sorry, Mailman), and widely considered “dirty low key “. He was late drafted to Gonzaga, a jerry-rigged basketball powerhouse in Spokane, Wash., where Stockton was born and raised. When his NBA career ended, he moved back to Spokane, where he raised his kids and stayed off the radar. For those not from the Pacific Northwest, Spokane is a suburban sprawl in eastern Washington notable for…not much. Anyone retiring there after earning millions playing professional sports is looking to lead a modest life.
He is not associated with any particular political cause or temperament outside of the “steel accent”. Two of his five children, David and Laura, also played for Gonzaga. Until recently, he attended most of Gonzaga’s games, sitting pitchside. When called upon to speak in public, which he seemed reluctant to do, he deflected praise from his teammates. He claimed, in his Hall of Fame speech, that he had “never been the best player on his team.” Wrong, but you got it. He is quiet, discreet and maybe even a little shy. He could have easily lived the rest of his life like he has for the past fifteen years without anyone thinking twice.
But damn it, John only had to “do a significant amount of research” and end up stepping dick first into a pit of the dumbest lies imaginable. You won’t find clips on YouTube of him appearing in “COVID and the Vaccine: Truth, Lies and Misconceptions Revealed,” an anti-vax conspiracy documentary, as they were all taken down from the platform for posing a danger to public health. But, when it was released last June, just as people were getting vaccinated en masse, there was plain old John Stockton, staring at a webcam and telling everyone he’d done “the research” and that these vaccines are apparently extremely dangerous.
Look, I just can’t imagine it’s in John Stockton’s nature to appear in an anti-vaxxer documentary with RFK Jr. and a group of doctors involved in the scam. He’s a guy who returned to Spokane. He’s not attention-hungry or driven by wild passion or a right-wing provocateur who makes money in spades. He’s just a guy, on a computer, asking stupid questions and getting stupid answers that multiply and grow stronger over and over again. People tell you the apocalypse is coming over and over again and not only do you eventually believe it, but it becomes important to you, and you decide it’s so important that you need to speak your truth about the 150 pro athletes who fell died in the field because the vaccine damaged their hearts. (Not true, in case you were wondering.)
“Look, I just can’t imagine it’s in John Stockton’s nature to appear in an anti-vaxxer documentary with RFK Jr. and a group of doctors involved in the scam.”
This week, Stockton, whose only apparent surplus was his Gonzaga season tickets, was asked by the university to stop attending games as long as he refused to wear a mask. He didn’t lose his mind, recording a video of himself ranting about Gonzaga in an SUV or whatever. He spoke to the local Spokane newspaper, told them his goal was to maintain his relationship with Gonzaga, and that he thought that was their concern too: “They’ve made it clear that we’re important to each other. for others and I don’t think that’s going to change.” Moderate, dispassionate and also completely untrue.
It’s incredibly strange that John Stockton, 10-time NBA All-Star and stoic world historic athlete, wanders around his home in Spokane, toasting himself at seven in the morning before riding a stationary bike for an hour, while thinking about how millions of people are dying from COVID vaccines.
But it turns out that we have drastically underestimated the death and virulence of our social media infrastructure. Media that tracks everything you engage with and then bolsters your weirdest curiosities with even more of what you’re looking for is a perfect machine for presenting someone with something false – like, for example, that COVID isn’t real, or that safe and effective mRNA vaccines that can prevent its spread and mitigate its mortality are poison. John Stockton is just one of the millions of mild-mannered Americans who get snookered.