I am so full of anger and hatred that it’s 3:00am and I can’t sleep.
There are conversations going on about Joe Rogan. Fucking hell, it’s one of my worst nightmares: the dumb asshole jock who somehow managed to become one of the most popular (and therefore significant) media figures in America. He’s right up there with Oprah and Elvis: good old-fashioned American anti-intellectualism at its max.
And Neil Young, bless his heart, opened the door by asking the question which was: “why do I have to put up with this shit?”
There are so many things left unsaid, so I’m going to say a few of them. For one thing, Young implicitly points out a problem with the music ecosystem: the labels still control you, even if you’re Neil Fucking Young. The label is now called “Spotify” or whatever but it’s still positioning itself across the public’s artistic experience, trying to cash in by paying the creative talent as little as possible – nothing new, there. The fact that it has a prettier user interface doesn’t change the fact that it’s a reprehensible organization. Nobody should pay Spotify for a membership, because when they do that, they’re participating in techbros’ relentless drive to push down the market value of everything.
I’m fortunate and in the course of my life I’ve bought dozens of albums and then CDs of Neil Young’s music (I wore out 3 copies of Live Rust) and I know that the leeches at Warner/EMI pocketed virtually all of that, but that’s maybe beside the point. It does explain why I was unmoved when the capitalists tried to make us weep on behalf of the labels that were seeing their lifeline jeopardized by MP3 publishers – watching apex predators tear eachother new bloody assholes is, after all, free entertainment. But the thing we cannot forget in all of this is Spotify paid Joe Rogan $100 mil. Remember when we all hated SiriusXM for turning the Howard Stern shit-hose into a galactic embarrassment? It’s the same thing: space aliens are going to hear Stern and nudge a rock into our orbit. When they hear Rogan they will realize they didn’t need to bother but by then it’ll be too late.
Spotify made some free speech-loving mumbles about how Rogan’s Just Asking Questions, but mainly their response was: “What? We paid good money for that.” Therein is the problem: anyone who is everyone ought to have uninstalled Spotify and asked for their money back when Spotify decided to have their own wholly-owned subsidiary buttsuck. It could have been any buttsuck, too, it really didn’t matter. Spotify is crying some crocodile tears about how they don’t want to control Joe, and they’ll put a warning blurb on his show, etc., but the fact is that they decided to pay him a huge amount of money to bring his dumb jock routine to their label. It’d be as if SiriusXM said, “What, Howard Stern is an asshole? We are shocked to learn this!”
Then, Rogan made his elaborate not-pology, basically saying that he’s just a dumb jock, and he’s a curious guy who likes to interview trolls. Basically, he’s pulling the Oprah excuse, “I didn’t create ‘Doctor’ Phil, I just uh… promoted him and handed him my microphone. He’s the grifter, not me!” Everyone is playing the same song, and it’s edging perilously close to the “free speech” defense. You know, that one? It’s usually followed around by its nasty little cousin “Both sides”. And that’s where I have to stop and call ‘bullshit’ on the whole thing.
It’s not “just asking questions” or “Rogan’s opinion” when we are talking about lying with knowledge. Telling lies that you know are lies. Sure, Rogan is a dumb jock but that’s because he chooses to play that role, and was indeed chosen by Spotify to play that role. I’m not going to give that excuse. (I don’t excuse Oprah, either) – why not? Because all of these lying assholes have full-time staff that research, manage, arrange, and outline their ‘spontaneous’ interviews. As the conspiracy dipshits say, “the truth is out there” – well, let me say categorically that anyone with a functioning brain can learn enough virology in 24 hours to know that a livestock dewormer is not going to be an effective antiviral.
It’s that simple.
Rogan doesn’t get to slide off saying, “I’m just asking these questions” because the fact is that the questions aren’t even worth asking. The most generous we can be about Rogan or Oprah is that they should have done better quality control over their research staff, but that would only be in the context of “I’m sorry…” If Rogan was a cool guy, which he isn’t, he’d spend the next 2 days “researching thoroughly” the topic of vaccines and would announce that he’d had a revelation from god in the form of listening to TWIV for 2 days and now he was going to bring antivaxxers onto his show and flay them verbally and publicly. The American people would probably be just as entertained by that, and a bit of verbal thuggery would actually be more “on brand” for Joe Rogan’s dumb jock persona.
This whole thing is, basically, like religion: if you have a functioning brain you can do the research and you’ll realize it’s bullshit. Therefore, the only way you can believe the bullshit is that you didn’t do the research or the thinking – or you have been knowingly lying all along. I’m going to go out on a limb here and bet that Rogan actually has someone on his staff that is responsible for helping him phrase his statements so they aren’t actionable. Otherwise, Spotify would be vulnerable to lawsuits for giving medical advice that results in people coming to harm. It’s not “entertainment” folks, and even if it were, Spotify is probably set up to lose more in lawsuits than they’ll ever make from Rogan. And, for the record, I don’t think Oprah is such a natural smoothie that it was purely by accident that ‘Doctor’ Phil was kept plausibly deniable. Oprah is a multi-billion-dollar media target and every word that comes out of her mouth passes through an attorney before it is uttered into the mic.
So, what I am saying is: fuck Spotify. But, you already should know that, too. You should have done your research before you gave them money. You should have thought beyond, “now I don’t have to buy those expensive CDs and I can enjoy all the free music.” The ‘free’ part is the giveaway. And they used the money to fuck us right back. I’m too lazy to install Spotify just so I can delete it, but it’s tempting and that’d be the only way Spotify would wind up on one of my devices.
We have to be a lot less forgiving of the bullshit, “I am just trying to learn…” dodge. Let me speak as someone who used to teach (fairly well-reviewed and popular!) classes around the world: I would not give a 1 hour lecture on any topic whatsoever without developing the expertise, first. It usually took me most of a day to write any given 1 hour presentation and I already knew my topic. If someone offered me $1 mil to do a talk on virology, sure, I would do it but it’d be basically a wad of “this paper says this and this professor says that and isn’t it all cool?” That’s being a cheerleader, not an expert, but I’d take the $1 mil. Anyone who is trying to have a public conversation about any given topic, whatever, owes their audience the simple attention to detail to absorb the supporting knowledge necessary to have the conversation. That’s why I have to hoist another great big “fuck Joe Rogan” flag – he had Jordan Peterson on his show and simply batted the bullshit-ball back and forth; that tells me that he (and his handlers) didn’t do the simplest, most basic research, to figure out that Jordan Peterson is a sociopathic compulsive liar who doesn’t even bother to get his facts straight in the field he professes; never mind the other fields: the guy is omni-wrong. Interviewing Jordan Peterson is not the time to play dumb jock, it’s the time to pull out the verbal knife. That is the only way to get these people off the mainstream media: make them walk off the stage with the rhetorical equivalent a fat lip and a bootprint on the seat of their pants. Any “interviewer” who can’t hold their own against a bullshit artist is, ipso facto, a bullshit artist themself. Or they’re not qualified to hold a mic.
As I write this, I keep thinking of the In Our Time podcast and interviewer Melvyn Bragg. Bragg invites working scientists and researchers on his show, and asks them interesting questions that show that he took the time to research the topic enough not to be stupid. Or, his handlers did the research and Bragg read the notes. I hear the same thing on TWIV: the interviewers are subject matter experts and so are the people they are interviewing. They are not afraid of asking stupid questions because they don’t ask stupid questions – at least not when they’re talking about virology.
So: fuck Spotify, Oprah, ‘Doctor’ Phil, Joe Rogan, and all the other lazy wannabes that were too busy promoting themselves to even do a few basic fact-checks. Fuck them all; they’re emblems of American intellectual laziness and anti-intellectualism, and they dare say ‘do your own research.’ I did my own research, what’s why I’m angry.
And I’m going to have to finish with a related but unrelated topic, namely the incredibly stupid thing Whoopi Goldberg said, namely that the holocaust was not about race. That was about as smart as saying that the KKK wasn’t about race. I’m noticing some swirls in the media-sphere that make it look like Whoopi’s apology is going to be accepted at face value, i.e.: “I said a really dumb thing.” Which she then compounded by saying
some of her best friends are jewish she has a lot of sympathy for the jews. I am only mentioning this because: none of that stuff above is relevant. What is relevant is that: it is not possible to say something that stupid without it resting on a deep well-spring of long-held stupid beliefs. I’m not interested in hearing apologies out of Whoopi. I want to hear an explanation of how someone could, at her age, have failed to learn a fucking thing about the holocaust, and anti-semitism, and the relationship between christianity and anti-semitism. At her age, with her access to information and a microphone, the only thing she would have any business saying would be, “this is a deeply embarrassing topic for me, because when I was raised I was exposed to a bunch of anti-semitic tropes and it took me until adulthood to unwind them and realize that someone had taken a shit in my brain. Then, I had to clean that out and I’m angry about that, and it makes me renew my committment to anti-racism and against ethnic hatred.”
See a pattern here? Like with Rogan’s long-held and carefully guarded ignorance, Goldberg doesn’t get to skate by with “oops who’d’a thunk I said something that makes me sound like I’ve been having lunch with nazis?” Where did you get that idea, Whoopi? How long have you thought the holocaust is not about race? Are you now or have you ever been a fucking idiot? And Joe, how did you manage to avoid learning a goddamn thing about virology, especially since you a) talk about it b) have a popular show with zillions of listeners c) are an embarrassment to your country d) are a profit center for Spotify, which ought to get a class action lawsuit on behalf of everyone who has been harmed by your ignorance.
Neil Young was 26 when he blew out Old Man – a brilliant song about looking forward and backward at the significance of our lives; who we are, who we were, who we will have been. I’ve always loved that song. In this context it’s another riff on the significance of the words we carry, and the impact of our actions on our future selves. Joe Rogan, Oprah, Neil Young, Whoopi Goldberg – all people of a same age, who lived through important events like the Vietnam genocide and the endless fight against American ignorance and racism. One of those people has been thinking about what they’ve learned and what they’re going to share, and the others have not.