JOE ROGAN and MATT WALSH
A few things up front. First, I’m more or less neutral on Joe Rogan. If you don’t know who Joe Rogan is: Where have you been living for the past decade? He is a mega-popular podcaster, comedian, TV personality, actor, fitness guru of sorts. He has something close to 13 million subscribers, and over 2 billion views. He hosts The Joe Rogan Experience. Of course I’ve heard the hubbub about Rogan for years now; on the left he is a right-wing fascist who is in the old-school Gen-X/Early Boomer mold. On the right he is more or less considered some form of hero. He has been a trailblazer in podcasting and has been foremost in draining followers from traditional media and TV. He recently switched to Spotify for a ludicrous amount of money.
Rogan has dialogued and debated with all kinds of people, from Jordan Peterson to Alex Jones to Douglas Murray to, yesterday (11/7/2022), the right-wing commentator Matt Walsh. Walsh writes at The Daily Wire, which I do not subscribe to. Walsh has recently become semi-famous and embroiled in a political controversy over his Daily Wire documentary, What is a Woman?, wherein he basically wanders the country asking trans people this very basic question. I have not seen the film. I admit to being cautiously curious. Probably I will watch it soon.
This interview from yesterday with Walsh—episode #1895—is three hours and eight minutes long. (Much of the appeal in contemporary times of podcasts versus legacy media is the fact that you can have authentic, in-depth conversations which don’t seek click-bait mini-sound bites but rather foster genuine dialogue.) For the record I am a big podcast listener. My favorites are 1. The 5th Column; 2. Sam Harris (Making Sense); 3. Bill Maher; 4. Coleman Hughes. (Not necessarily in that order.) Podcasts, in my opinion, are far superior to traditional 24-hour media because hosts can discuss whatever they want and fairly honestly, at least more so than say CNN or MSNBC. Of course many pods have advertisers which certainly must limit, to some degree, what can safely be said or not. (With the exception of The 5th Column and Sam Harris, who do not have ads.)
I don’t want to get too into the weeds in this post about either Joe Rogan himself or Matt Walsh. But I did find a few things interesting about the interview. Besides being a Substack writer and developmental book editor, I also walk dogs on the side, and I walked three dogs in a row while listening to the discussion between these two men.
My first observation is that Walsh seemed to be pretty vague in general. Full disclaimer, I myself identify as a center-left free-thinking contrarian, skeptic, critical thinker. I’ve only ever voted for Democrats my whole voting history, and I’m including not only national but regional and local races. So that should tell you something. Since 2016—basically since Trump’s rise to power—I have become totally unmoored from the Republican side. They seem to have more or less lost contact with sanity and reality once Trump rattled everyone’s political and cognitive cages like the wild gorilla he is. Being a classical liberal has never been less popular than now, at least as displayed by the major news media.
QUOTE: Rogan: “There’s not a compromise in gay men that want to be married, love and want to formalize their bond so they can see their partner if there’s a medical emergency or if there’s a death where you assign assets to your loved one?”
That said, I also do understand to a large degree why people—especially white working-class voters—cast their ballots for Trump. (This is for another post sometime. Main thing to understand: Most Trumpers didn’t vote FOR Trump; rather they voted AGAINST the Democratic party, and I can see why.) Over the past six years I have watched, sadly, as the extreme wing of the Democratic party has moved further and further away from coalition-building and sanity and closer and closer to the exact reverse side of the nutty Trumpers they claim are evil. When you move far enough to the left you end up holding hands with the right. Two sides of the same extremism coin. Both sides now lie. Alternative facts affect both fringes. And both fringes to some degree own their respective parties. On one hand you’ve got Q-ANON and election deniers; on the other you have “pregnant men” and an untrue myth about police brutality which simply isn’t happening. (Check the Washington Post’s police killings database.)
I went into the Walsh interview with an open mind. Despite his being right-wing, I am curious about his film. Whenever the far left vehemently rejects something nowadays, be it podcast, film, book, speech, etc…there’s usually something important to look at; often all the nuance and meaning and true aim of the thing, whatever it may be, has been sucked out of the leftist discussion.
Walsh arguably started out strong. (Yet he was pretty vague when describing his views on trans kids.) But, when Rogan asked Walsh how many minors were likely on puberty-blockers in the country, Walsh admitted he didn’t know but then said it had to be “in the millions.” Rogan fact-checked him and the number was abysmally low; in the thousands at best. Walsh owned his mistake…but it’s a telling mistake. If he got that detail wrong: What else did he potentially get wrong? There was a trust-line stepped across there, for me.
I also had a general feeling that Walsh’s tone was a bit overly alarmist, dramatic and agenda-based. Biased, I suppose, is the word. And look: No shit, right? Bias is a human trait and it’s on both sides, clearly. But the tone of his voice, coupled with this alarmist sensation I felt, plus his gaff on a major data point; all of this sort of made me squirm.
But it was the last 45 minutes or so of the interview which really made me question Walsh. Rogan, as I said, has always been targeted as a right-wing guy, despite the fact that he’s dialogued with people from all across the political spectrum and has discussed what he considers to be his own classically liberal views. They got into a heated but respectful (which is crucial for fostering a non-censorious environment) disagreement about, mainly, marriage and family and gay rights.
Walsh repeatedly stated that marriage is, according to “Christian morality” (which he adheres to) solely between a man and a woman. This is not new rhetoric, obviously. Conservatives have been screeching this for decades. Walsh’s point seemed to be that marriage is not solely a legal agreement but is basically for more or less one single purpose: Procreation.
Now, I don’t dispute that this is essentially where the institution of marriage stems from originally. It’s to bind the man and woman so they can exist legally and cohabitate and bear children and rear a family. (And so the man can unfairly acquire the woman’s dowry.) However, clearly times change. We’re in the second decade of the twenty-first century. The gay rights movement has shifted the narrative around marriage. Fewer straight people, especially in major cities like San Francisco, New York City, Portland, Chicago, are bearing children. Many are choosing to not even get married, or if they do it’s because they want a legal bond, not for kids but for travel, love, tax purposes. It has in many ways become more of a symbolic act.
Somehow Walsh seems threatened by the notion that men can marry men, women can marry women, and more and more straight young people are choosing to either not have kids and/or not get married. Walsh believes it is a societal “duty” to produce children in a marriage. He seems to have a sort of “originalist” conception of marriage and family. (Just like constitutional originalists who believe everything written in the original document should apply now.) And look: I do think in general that having two caring parents raising a child is better than one parent. And I do think that encouraging family is a good thing in general. Much has been rightly said about low-income communities, cross-racially, and coming from poor single-family homes. But, like Rogan, I don’t think those two parents necessarily have to be “heterosexual.” Why are two male parents bad? Or two female parents? Or for that matter two trans parents?...