Basketball icon and vaunted social justice warrior Kareem Abdul-Jabbar came away furious from the first round of the Democratic Party’s presidential debates this week and proposed some remedies to prevent his ire in the future.
Writing in The Hollywood Reporter, Abdul-Jabbar had nothing positive to say about any of the candidates this week and declared Trump the winner to what he described as a game of “Presidential Musical Chairs.”
“The newest season of the reality show ‘Side-eyeing Toward Washington’ kicked off this week with the Democrats’ Horde of Hopefuls having engaged in two nights of televised scoffing, snarking and Spanglish,” said Kareem. “While it’s all very entertaining to witness the drama of ambitious politicians jockeying for the last seat in Presidential Musical Chairs, the abilities necessary to be successful in this quiz show format of debate are not the same abilities necessary to be the leader of the free world.”
Rather than attack the actual candidates, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar blamed the debate format and the media culture that enabled such displays of grandstanding.
“Because of the structure of these debates, the facts become less relevant than the style of delivery,” he lamented. “With only one minute to answer questions about complex issues, the goal is to say something tweet-worthy rather than explore the issues in depth. To verbally elbow to the front of the pack.”
“As a screen nation, we voters have come to rely on such funhouse mirror versions of the issues, with truth stretched, compacted and fractured into amusing memes and gifs rather than illuminating discourse,” he continued. “Trump mastered this pageantry format in his 2016 campaign. The quagmire of immigration issues got reduced to ‘Build that wall!’ And, rather than address the intricacies of his opponents’ policies, Trump just chanted, ‘Lock her up!’ or gave them middle school nicknames like ‘Sleepy Joe.’ His idea is that American voters’ intellectual capacity is limited to three syllables.”
In the end, Abdul-Jabbar feels that debates are not a reliable way to assess presidential candidates and justify “laziness.” He also takes the media to task for publishing a series of “Who Won and Who Lost” articles the morning after the debate, which reduces ideas into a performance.
“I like most of these candidates and most of the ideas they offered for bettering the country, though not all are qualified to be president,” he said. “The only winners are those whose personalities managed to shake loose enough donations to keep their campaign running. Interrupting, insulting or talking over others doesn’t show a forceful person, just rudeness engendered by the circumstances. It’s Battle Royale in a TV studio. It’s Luke P. kneeing a rival’s head on The Bachelorette. The loser is an informed citizenry.”
Abdul-Jabbar then proposes some rather unworkable solutions that would A.) Make the debates unwatchable; B.) Make them too long; C.) Not eliminate bias. For starters, he proposes having “qualified logicians present at each debate to post on a giant screen behind the candidates every time they articulate a logical fallacy.” And if that’s not enough, he proposes active fact-checking to take place, interrupting a candidate every time a fact-checker wishes to correct them.
“Yes, it’s fun television. But too much is at stake to devalue this important tool in selecting a president who will set the moral, social and economic course of the country. We can’t just go with our gut when handing out that final rose,” he concluded.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar made headlines recently when he endorsed Hollywood’s boycott of Georgia and Alabama for enacting anti-abortion laws.