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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Crack down on conservative celebrities' speech — and even left-wing luminaries who aren't woke enough


'The irresponsibility of tweeting irrational and harmful opinions to millions, regardless of the damaging consequences to their country or people's lives, proves that those stars deserve the harsh backlash'

Photo by BET2020/Getty Images for BET NETWORKS

NBA legend-turned-cultural commentator Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said social media companies aren't doing enough to silence "irrational and harmful" posts from conservative celebrities — and even from fellow left-wing luminaries who don't check every woke box.

What are the details?

In his column for the Hollywood Reporter this week, Abdul-Jabbar said that "no matter their previous achievements, celebrities deserve legacy-killing backlash when they spread ignorance."

He first pointed his finger at Rudy Giuliani — the personal lawyer of President Donald Trump — saying that his legacy of "calm authority" in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks in New York City has been overshadowed by his Trump alliance and last month's "cringeworthy news conference about unproven conspiracies while black streaks streamed from his hair." Abdul-Jabbar also ripped Giuliani for being on a "hidden camera in the latest Borat movie with his hand down his pants while lying on a bed in the presence of a teenage girl." (Giuliani insists he was tucking in his shirt.)

Problem for Abdul-Jabbar is that the female in question is a woman, and Giuliani said "at no time before, during, or after the interview was I ever inappropriate. If Sacha Baron Cohen implies otherwise he is a stone-cold liar."

Abdul-Jabbar then turned his attention to conservative actors, saying "Roseanne Barr had achieved the near impossible, sabotaging her career not once but twice. After she left her top-rated sitcom, she faded into irrelevance with out-of-left-field political musings. Seeking to connect to the Trump demographic, ABC gave Roseanne new life, but her character was killed off after she went on a racist rant. James Woods, winner of a Golden Globe and Emmy, was once considered a dynamic actor. Now, after his caustic social commentary tweets, he's viewed as the cranky geezer who won't let you get your ball from his yard. Jon Voight, once a shining star among actors, recently posted a rambling video calling the political left "Satan" and promoting conspiracies about the election, reducing him from brilliant Oscar winner to cultural dumpster diver."

Abdul-Jabbar also found fault with Christian actress Letitia Wright, who starred in "Black Panther," because she "posted a link to a YouTube video questioning the COVID-19 vaccine and vaccines in general. After a tsunami of social media backlash, she wrote: 'My intention was not to hurt anyone. My ONLY intention of posting the video was it raised my concerns with what the vaccine contains and what we are putting in our bodies. Nothing else.'" But Abdul-Jabbar said "at best, that's naive, and at worst, disingenuous. If someone wants to raise concerns — that's legitimate — they need to do basic research: Find facts, statistics and qualified authorities. Because the reality is that when she posts, readers believe she endorses the false conclusions — and that can't be undone."

Left-wingers aren't immune, either

The former NBA great pointed out that famed author J.K. Rowling, a left-winger by just about every measure, took a "stumble from grace" due to her "anti-trans tweets" which "could end up tainting her entire literary legacy." But Rowling doesn't appear to be backing down an inch, most recently declaring that the "climate of fear" around the trans debate needs to end.

"Many are afraid to speak up because they fear for their jobs and even for their personal safety," Rowling said in an interview with Good Housekeeping magazine. "This climate of fear serves nobody well, least of all trans people."

He also ripped John Cleese's "tone-deaf defense of Rowling," saying it "left many fans bitterly disappointed, tarnishing his reputation." But like Rowling, the former Monty Python legend doesn't seem to care about what others think — and unabashedly thinks for himself.

In fact, Cleese accused the rage mob of "wokery, humorless posturing, and moral self-promotion."

"If you can't control your own emotions, you're forced to control other people's behavior," Cleese said of Twitter users who've attacked Rowling and demanded that she shut up. "That's why the touchiest, most oversensitive and easily upset must not set the standard for the rest of us."

Big brother, where art thou?

Concluding his piece, Abdul-Jabbar said social media giants "have begun slapping warnings on some messages that are false, incite violence, or cause harm to society. But this needs to be done with more consistency and vigilance. Studies indicate that when readers see these warnings, they are less likely to read or believe things. However, as another study showed, there can be a backfire effect in which content that isn't flagged, even when inaccurate, is perceived as true."

He added: "The irresponsibility of tweeting irrational and harmful opinions to millions, regardless of the damaging consequences to their country or people's lives, proves that those stars deserve the harsh backlash."

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