This Man Is Not Bright

This Man Is Not Bright
Image:Douglas P. DeFelice / Stringer (Getty Images)

Here’s what I know about Joe Rogan: He was the host of Fear Factor or something back in the 2000s, he is involved with UFC shit, and he has a podcast that a lot of dudes like. As someone who rarely watched Fear Factor, doesn’t give a shit about UFC, and gives even less of a shit about podcasts, this man is of little consequence in my life, and I wish it could have stayed that way. But without fail, every other week, Rogan becomes a trending topic for some (deeply stupid) reason, and as someone whose job it is to consume news, I am forced to have some modicum of awareness of what Joe Rogan is up to. My conclusion is this: He’s not a very smart man.

There’s plenty of historical evidence for that, but Rogan really upped the ante in a recent episode of his podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience, in which he claimed that straight white men are silenced by so-called “woke culture.”

From the New York Post, emphasis ours:

“Can you make a good comedy movie any more, or have they made it so dangerous in terms of being cancelled, that comedy movies are no longer something you can do?” Rogan asked.
“You can never be woke enough, that’s the problem,” he proclaimed. “It keeps going. It keeps going further and further and further down the line, and if you get to the point where you capitulate, where you agree to all these demands, it’ll eventually get to — straight white men are not allowed to talk. Because it’s your privilege to express yourself when other people of color have been silenced throughout history.”
He continued, “It will be[come], you’re not allowed to go outside. Because so many people were imprisoned for so many …”
Rogan was interrupted by a laughing [Joe] List[, a comedian]. “I’m not joking,” the 53-year-old podcaster said. “It really will get there. It’s that crazy.”

There’s something to be said about the risk that art becomes toothless and risk-averse due to fear of being targeted by well-meaning but overly handwringing social media campaigns. Actor and musician Donald Glover expressed a similar sentiment just last week, in which he lamented that there are so many boring, unadventurous works of media these days because people are “afraid of getting canceled.” While Glover’s glomming on to the wildly imprecise, anti-SJW lexicon of “cancel culture” is unfortunate, the overall point is easy enough to empathize with: There’s a tendency on social media to conclude that the depiction of something controversial automatically means supporting that controversial thing. It’s no wonder, then, that Joshua Safran, a writer and producer of the Gossip Girl reboot (as well as the original), insists that Gossip Girl 2.0 won’t include slut-shaming or catfights. “Those are not things I believe need to be in this show for it to be fun. Or any show?” Safran tweeted. “GG2 is sex positive and our characters use their brains, not their brawn, to take you out!” We can do without the catfights, but teenagers are assholes and slut-shame, sex positivity be damned. You can depict that without showing support for it.

But the idea that this is a plight for straight white men exclusively is absurd. So too is the idea that we’re on a slippery slope swiftly moving toward white men being silenced in this country. To believe this is to disbelieve the way power works. A white man getting called out for posting a bad tweet or a white man’s comedic film trending for a day because of a sexist scene is not the same as white men being silenced in our society. Out in the real world, outside of social media platforms—a place Rogan apparently hasn’t resided for a while—white men haven’t shut the fuck up yet, and they’re unlikely to start now.

In fact, Rogan is a perfect example of this: He gets “canceled” every other week, and yet, he continues to open his mouth and prattle on about bullshit he regularly admits to knowing nothing about. After years of getting dragged, the wokemob hasn’t detained him or stopped him from collecting a bag, and he continues, despite supposed silencing, to have one of the most popular podcasts in the country. They haven’t stopped the straight white men on Fox News either, or the straight white men in Congress and state legislatures, or that one straight white man you went to high school with who posts the occasional right-wing meme on Facebook. They haven’t silenced the straight white guy complaining about mask mandates, the straight white guy driving around with a thin blue line bumper sticker, or the straight white guys who love to act like condescending jackasses in my Twitter mentions.

And, importantly, the woke mob hasn’t canceled the straight white man who lives in my house and dares express disdain toward my binge-watching sessions of The Nanny. But maybe they should.

There is a legitimate conversation to be had about art, risk, and controversy at a time when all of the above are prone to being loudly misconstrued. But fears that straight white men will be muzzled plays into a boogeyman that only seems to exists in the minds of people who are mad they can’t say offensive slurs “retard” anymore. Who wants to bet that that little social nicety grinds Rogan’s gears too?

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