Some Thoughts on Joe Rogan & Alex Jones

So… Alex Jones was on ‘The Joe Rogan Experience’ podcast again several days ago, for an almost five hour long episode. (Which is, by the by, easily the longest podcast episode I’ve ever come across in my life.) I must admit, when I saw this pop up in my new-podcasts feed, I was very intrigued to hear it. For reasons I’ll expound upon in just a moment. I hope you won’t mind being a little patient here. Besides, isn’t that one of the components of enlightenment which the Headspace™ meditation app has granted you? (Of course, I was taught how to meditate during an ultra exclusive nine-year silent retreat hosted by transhumanist half-cyborg monks on the dark side of the moon. But, hey, I’m sure that learning from an… app… is just as good. ˢᶜʳᵉʷ ʸᵒᵘ ᵖᵒˢᵉʳ)

First off, let me say that I have somewhat mixed feelings about Joe Rogan. I’ve been listening to his podcast, albeit very much on and off, since close to when it first started. And obviously its place, in the public consciousness, on the Mount Rushmore of long-running quality podcasts is well-deserved. There have been some truly excellent episodes, featuring really in-depth conversations with fascinating thinkers and personalities. I feel I’ve learned quite a lot from it. And I’ve always liked his unapologetically long-form, one-on-one conversational podcast format (though he’s also branched out into other setups). It has been widely influential in the podcast space and with good reason. I’d even say it was one of the inspirations for the form my own podcast takes.

The evolution of Rogan as a person and of his opinions over the years has been both stark and fairly admirable. Not to mention, very interesting to watch. In his current form, I have heard him say many astute or thoughtful or compassionate things. Many things I have agreed with and respected that he said. But I have also heard him say (flippantly or otherwise) some very stupid and even repugnant things. Listing them all would perhaps be gratuitous. In recent memory though, I’ve heard him make comments about fat people which clearly betray a deep-seated form of disdain or disgust for them and their fatness. And some of the ridiculing, dismissive things he has said about being transgender do not exactly redound to his credit either. Far from it. Likewise, his knee-jerk tendency to, when the subject enters a discussion, bring up things like the outlier cases of unethical doctors carelessly prescribing very young children hormone-therapy drugs is revealing and unsettling. And it summons something else to mind. This is in no way a direct analogy, but it is somewhat reminiscent of how a few decades ago anti-gay campaigners would make the bad faith misdirect of bringing up the tiny percentage of homosexual predators or pedophiles in response to the question of whether homosexuality should be normalized in society.

At any rate, I’ve sometimes seen him be laudably receptive to well-founded and well-meaning criticism from his audience. One of the most notable examples of such backlash is the negative reaction to not just him having Alex Jones as a friend and defending him, but also having him on the podcast without ever truly confronting the disgusting, sinister falsehoods he has made a career out of promulgating. The most well-known of which, of course, is his explicit, full-throated denial that the massacre of both children and teachers at Sandy Hook really took place. (You can find montages of him declaring this incessantly.) Interestingly, after a while Rogan seemed to actually acknowledge the validity of this criticism. And also, to a lesser extent, how deeply, deeply fucked up it was that Jones had been promoting those hideous lies. He even stressed that he wasn’t inclined to have Jones back on because of this.

But then he did. Like I said, just several days ago. And what made me want to listen to it was that I figured it would surely be a sort of… reckoning. I mean, it would have to be, right? Rogan would finally seek to do what he had neglected to do for so long and address to Jones himself how grave and disturbing his misdeeds were.

Alas. ‘Twas not to be.

The first twenty minutes of the episode tell the whole tale really. If you watch it, you’ll see what a web of mealymouthed excuse-making and deceit Rogan lets (and sometimes helps) this scumbag spin. It’s fucking stunning. Truly, it’s like Rogan becomes amnesiac. More than that even: it’s like he’s hypnotised. It’s actually kind of disquieting to observe. He doesn’t offer any pushback on Jones taking no accountability whatsoever and blaming everyone else but himself for what he said. I’m not exaggerating here. You could parse and re-parse the transcript for millennia and still find no trace of any real apology or contrition. And the worst part is that Rogan even feigns asking him probing questions, creating the barest pretence of grilling him or holding his feet to the fire. It’s a painfully transparent show. One can’t help but feel like Rogan is straight up trying to help Jones rehabilitate his thoroughly toxic image, which is sickening to behold.

Once this phony confrontation has taken place, the air is supposedly cleared and the slate supposedly wiped clean. Cue four hours of Jones vomiting up an endless stream of bizarre, meandering, semi-incoherent conspiracy theories. (I couldn’t stomach watching the entire thing myself. I’m not quite masochistic enough. So I just skipped through parts of it as necessary.) I frankly came away thinking that Rogan must somehow still think that Jones ranting hysterically about the Nazis collaborating with aliens or cellphone towers emanating mind-control — to name only a few examples — is just too funny/fascinating/entertaining to miss out on. Who cares if he spat on the graves of murdered kids by calling them fictional? His shouty, red-faced, breathless theatrics make for compelling content. And a metric fuckton of views and media attention.

How Rogan could have learned absolutely nothing from the gale-force whirlwind of well-deserved shit he’s taken about this exact thing is just… baffling. And reflects very poorly on him and his judgment.

Anyway, after seeing this minor spectacle of lessons-not-learned and scumbaggery-unpunished, I found myself thinking about Jones himself.

I feel like I should tackle an incidental point first of all, to get it out of the way. It has been, after all, a hot-button topic in recent months.

I’m not sure quite how I feel about the so-called ‘deplatforming’ of Jones and his company from various social media platforms and content providers. Because on the one hand, I absolutely have a few critical things to say about not just what rules these services have, but also about how they sometimes enforce them in an arbitrary or ideology-preferencing way. On the other hand, my libertarian principles reassert themselves. As I do believe that private online companies should (except perhaps in very rare, very extreme circumstances) be able to decide who may use their services on the basis of whatever capricious criteria they like. (And I think these two positions are still wholly coherent and compatible even when subscribed to at the same time.)

There’s an idea, which I cannot believe is slowly gaining social currency in certain circles, which runs counter to that second assertion. I’d wager you’ve heard some version of it by now. It argues that platforms like Twitter or Facebook have become so integral to our ability to interact with and absorb the world around us that they ought to be legally deemed a sort of human right and therefore be banned from excluding anyone. This is of course an absolute non-starter in terms of practicality. Because the best and quickest way to implode any forum of expression or discussion is to revoke its power to moderate what is permissible. But it’s also, in my judgement, absurd and indefensible even when considered in a purely theoretical sense. I think freedom of speech should be sacrosanct, yes. But that in no way entails being guaranteed the right to publish your thoughts on any privately-owned platform you like. That’s the kind of mistaken, simplistic extrapolation a child might make in their middle-school civics class, before being corrected by a kindly teacher. So one expects — alas, lighting the fuse of disappointment — that adults would be mortified to let it pass their lips. Furthermore, inviting your government to exert almost total control over such websites (as would be necessary) is the wet dream of authoritarian bureaucrats everywhere. Because it’s like blithely inching nine-tenths of the way down a slippery slope with a pool of lava at its bottom, whilst just assuming you can scramble back up at any moment. To be clear: the lava is tyranny. Molten tyranny. (Good name for a black-metal band? You bet your sweet ass it is.)

Alright, let’s get back to Jones himself.

I suppose we’re really talking about an age-old archetype here. And the allure of disgusting charlatan-demagogues like Jones isn’t hard to see. They enable a class of perennial losers to believe that they are actually profoundly wised-up. That they have been endowed with a set of secrets, unknown to the hordes of complacent sheeple, which are massive and revelatory. They know all-important things you do not, in other words. They see the deeper layer of reality, the ghastly inner workings of how the world really functions. Whereas you merely see, and are content with believing, the superficial facade made to dupe all the unimaginative, weak-minded suckers. And this attainment of theirs did not simply come about by happenstance, mind you. But rather because they are smarter than you. Because they are braver than you. Brave enough to question and dismantle the orthodoxy on anything and everything. Brave enough to weather the societal scorn they receive for daring to challenge the sacred status quo. It feels good to know that one is cut from this sort of cloth. It’s validating. It gluts the ego. How could it not? Put yourself in their mindset. Everyone around you is blind and dumb and easily led. But you and Alex Jones know the truth about shadow governments and extraterrestrials and demons and vaccines and smartphone brainwashing and the dastardly liberal elite and so on.

It gets really fucking dark when you realize that Jones is catnip for paranoiacs and schizophrenics, both in the clinical sense and the informal sense, who perceive him as corroborating their delusions that vast, entangled conspiracies are omnipresent and invisible persecution is assailing them from all angles. The dangerousness of this cannot be overstated. The guy who, amped up by conspiracy-theory videos, fired an assault rifle inside a restaurant because of the #pizzagate insanity is a prime example. I fear that in time even that will seem like a mere footnote compared to what other lunatics may do in response to similar incendiary fictions.

Now, some people try to argue that Jones is just delivering a sort of over-the-top performance, playing a character basically, simply for entertainment value. Even his own lawyer trotted out this weak-ass gambit as a hail mary during a lawsuit (though Jones himself refuted it.) Okay. Fine. Still, there are many obvious reasons why this most likely isn’t true. But more importantly, even if that were the case, he knows full well that the people watching his videos actually believe that he’s sincere and that what he’s saying is unassailable truth. Which rather invalidates this defense from the ground up.

Personally, my read of Jones is that he probably believes some of the outlandish notions he parrots. But his main priority is simply giving the audience what they want. However ridiculous or ill-founded or repulsive the current conspiracy-theory du jour is, he knows that his fanbase wants to hear it, and hear it spouted as truth.

Let’s recur to the go-to example. Jones’ insistence that the Sandy Hook school shooting was but a hoax is no doubt the conspiracy theory he’s most notorious for promoting and defending. And the scanty ‘evidence’ he presents for it is — surprise, surprise — a threadbare patchwork of nonsense. You can readily imagine the type of thing I’m talking about. One part suspected inconsistencies. One part speculation. One part cynical interpretations/misreadings of obscure details. Fourteen parts guesswork steered by confirmation-bias. Finally, mix it all up into a largely incomprehensible jumble to bamboozle the listener. And there you have it, wrapped up in a bow: a fragrant dollop of horseshit. Which, being easily smeared, can be used to fill in the gaping cracks in your overall theory. Let that bake beneath a scorching sun and a better sealant you’ll be hard-pressed to find. (Though it is a little brittle when set…)

That was all it took, all he felt he needed by way of justification, for him to repeatedly broadcast himself saying Sandy Hook did not happen. And saying it with utmost confidence.

Can you imagine what a mountain of exhaustive, definitive evidence it would take for you to unequivocally claim that those twenty young children were not actually murdered? That they didn’t even exist? That such an inconceivably evil act was completely staged? I mean, really, just take a second. Ponder it. Now add to that what it would take for you to additionally state that the bereaved parents of those killed were just vile ‘crisis actors’ faking their grief over fictional sons and daughters in order to aid in a plot to rob their fellow citizens of firearm-owning rights.

Remember that if you’re wrong, you’ll be causing parents who’ve gone through one of the worst, most horrific tragedies imaginable an added layer of hurt and misery. And you’ll be encouraging unhinged morons to seek them out for harassment and threats and even violence over their alleged nefarious fakery. (Perhaps you’ll even find a way to empathize with just how hellish all this would be for those parents. Unlike Joe Rogan, apparently.)

Not that there’s any reason to believe it was fabricated, but let’s posit a hypothetical alternate universe where the discussion was somehow even warranted. I think it would take a fucking colossal mountain of absolutely rock-solid evidence before I’d even think about groping towards the conclusion that the event could have been a sham. And then a whole other mountain beside it before I’d consider publicly claiming as much.

But not Jones. The sociopathic and depraved crackpot himself. Because he has a show to make, you understand. He wants to give the dipshits who mindlessly adore and revere him like an oracle what they came to hear. He wants to keep the viewership numbers high. And hopefully parlay those eyeballs into selling some survivalist junk and overpriced supplements. That’s all it is. He just wants to make a dollar. Wants to profit off of firehosing the world with just about the most despicable lies one could ever dream up. Consequences be damned. Especially because the most severe consequences are visited on innocent people, not him.

To be blunt, I don’t have any kind of remotely eloquent or poignant way to sign off.

All I can really think to say here is fuck Alex Jones. He’s pretty much human garbage.

And I’ll hope that will suffice as both the summary and last-word for my take on him.

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