Michael Porter Jr. is no stranger to controversy on social media, most of it self-created. There was the time he hustled some gamers out of their shoes, or the time he sent out NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s telephone number live. There was his “also pray for the police officers involved in this evil” declaration shortly after the death of George Floyd that certainly seemed to come from a heartfelt place but was ill-received by both the public and some fellow NBA players.
A redditor, ILikePizzaRolls on the NBA Reddit, points out another fearless pronouncement from MPJ, namely that the coronavirus is being used as a means of population control (by which it seems he means to control what the population can do rather than to eliminate certain portions of the population).
He was asked to “speak on this coronavirus thing being over blown to scare people into being controlled.” His response:
“No, that’s facts. I think... personally I think that the coronavirus is being used obviously for a bigger agenda, and it’s being used for population control in terms of just being able to control the masses of people. I mean, because of the virus the whole world is being controlled. I mean you’re required to wear masks, and who knows what’ll happen when this vaccine comes out. You might have to have the vaccine in order to travel.
“Like, that’d be crazy. I’ve never been vaccinated in my life, I’ve never had any shots or anything like that so... it could get crazy, but it’s definitely an agenda behind everything that’s going on right now. All you can do is sit back, and watch what’s going on. Don’t get too emotionally involved, but yeah. I mean it is a serious thing. It’s a real, it’s a real thing, but yes it’s being overblown.”
This was part of a larger Q&A that apparently included his thoughts on Pizzagate as well as other topics. In a country with 150,000 dead from coronavirus it’s hard to imagine the idea of it being overblown, but MPJ is not alone in his thinking. There are numerous YouTube channels devoted to calling it a conspiracy, and Sinclair Broadcast Group - which reaches around 40% of the markets in America - just pulled their planned interview with one of the featured voices in a debunked coronavirus propaganda piece that blamed Anthony Fauci, the President’s advisor on the virus, for creating it after a legion of reputable scientists and others called attention to it.
Porter is not alone in getting bad information, but his willingness to propagate it because he’s “not scared” (as he says in the video) is harmful, especially as he missed time in the bubble because he wanted to throw an indoor birthday party without masks that was followed by his delay in travel until he could pass quarantine protocol.
This isn’t a “shut up and dribble” moment as much as a “please, do not believe YouTube conspiracy theories over scientists, even as the science evolves” moment. Conspiracy theories work because they sound great and are way more interesting, and our brains are wired to readily accept them and cling to them. To quote from this Psychology Today article:
Indeed, our brain has evolved in a dangerous environment where the ability to “fill in the blanks,” to guess the whole from a few parts, conferred important survival advantages. If I can make out from a distance the hidden predator in the bushes, I’m more likely to survive. Thus our brain came to specialize in meaning-making and pattern-finding. In extreme form, this tendency is known as Pareidolia.
While entertaining at times, as when we see a face on the moon and Jesus in a piece of burnt toast, this tendency has a shadow side, since in the absence of a pattern, our brain will tend to invent one and impose it on the world, as when we think that a flipped coin is ‘due’ to hit ‘heads’ after a string of ‘tails,’
More critical thinking is required when faced with the constant stream of information that we have access to now and when any conspiracy theory can be pushed as reality with the click of a button. It doesn’t matter that the anti-vaccine study which postulated that vaccines can cause autism has been roundly discredited and was bad science when given even a cursory glance, it’s out there in the ether now and anyone can pull it into a video and construe it as fact without validation.
Is MPJ right that there might eventually be a requirement to be vaccinated for coronavirus before international travel, especially for a place like the United States that refuses to address it properly? Yes, he is. The fact that he thinks that would be a bad thing is part of the problem. It’s a tough world to sift truth from delusion, but we all have to do our best anyway, and I hope Porter broadens his search parameters in his own quest for it.
This Reddit page has a link to the part of the Snapchat Live with his Coronavirus thoughts, where he says he has never been vaccinated - which is strange, since as Clevis Murray of The Athletic points out, he went to the University of Missouri where vaccinations are supposed to be required prior to attending:
During a Snapchat Q&A Porter Jr. says he's "never been vaccinated in my life. I never had any shots or anything like that."— Clevis Murray (@ClevisMurray) July 29, 2020
The University of Missouri, where Porter Jr. enrolled, requires all students born after 1956 to "comply with the two-dose MMR Immunization Policy."
Here is that segment of his live Snap as well: