Joe Rogan is worried. The comedian and podcaster believes if society continues capitulating to “the woke mob,” eventually “straight white men won’t be allowed to talk.”
— Perez (@ThePerezHilton) May 18, 2021
The comments came during a conversation on The Joe Rogan Experience (JRE), Rogan’s immensely popular podcast. That’s the first (and most obvious) irony of his central point here. JRE averages 190 million downloads per month. Spotify paid $100 million for exclusive rights to the podcast in 2020. That doesn’t exactly sound like silencing or censorship. No one’s coming for Joe Rogan’s voice or content. His influence is tremendous, both culturally and politically. His tacit endorsement of Bernie Sanders during the 2020 Democratic primary made more waves than the New York Times‘.
That brings us to the second main irony: how frequently Rogan breaks into internet discourse. Part of that is his chosen medium. Podcasting is incredibly influential, and even in an oversaturated field, Rogan dominates. Its video element makes it easily shareable, perfect for Twitter. Virtually every dumb or controversial thing Rogan (or his guest) says makes its way to the Twitterverse. People either navel gaze at his audacity or internet bro-five at his no bullshit approach. Again, it doesn’t sound like Rogan’s platform is in danger. If anything it’s expanding.
Rogan benefits from the cultural status and privilege he expresses fear for. He’s popular in part because he’s a straight white guy saying these things. He ingratiates his fans by identifying as a regular, no-nonsense type of guy willing to talk about things he doesn’t really know a lot about. His race and political leanings play into that. But this very discussion proves how off-the-rails Rogan’s capable of going. The idea that recognizing cultural trauma, suffering, and subjugation will lead to straight white men not being allowed to talk or express themselves or even go outside is ludicrous. It’s exaggerative at best and fully conspiratorial at worst.
There’s room for a discussion about how politicians and private corporations weaponize current sentiments. There are reasonable questions to ask about woke-ism—for example, is there a point where it becomes more performative than helpful? And if so, when exactly does it begin detracting from (or intentionally subverting) actual solidarity or societal change rather than helping to build it? That’s the kind of conversation worth having about woke culture in general. Rogan, unsurprisingly, doesn’t introduce or frame it that way. He immediately jumps to extremes. Is that because of his regular everyman conversationalist personality? His inability or unwillingness to consider that nuance? Or the fact that he only cares about how woke-ism and “cancel culture” affect how people perceive him and his peers? Take your pick. The answer’s probably yes.