The Joe Rogan Experience of Masculinity

Curator's Note

Less than a week before this posting, The Joe Rogan Experience (JRE) had Dr. Cornel West as the podcast's featured guest. The overall dynamic of that episode was mutual deference. This episode with a civil rights or progressive activist guest is not an isolated event. The JRE has had guests such as W. Kamua Bell, Michael A. Wood Jr., even Neil deGrasse Tyson, who speaks out against anti-intellectualism. One could get the sense that the JRE and its host subscribe to a sort of liberalist long march of rationality, equality and social justice. However, there is the large disparity, according to Media Matters, between the number of guests who are men versus the very few who are women. It then begins to make sense that JRE exudes a "red blooded" masculine space for discourse. Joe Rogan is an avid outdoorsmen, hunter, martial artist, and heteronormative comedian and thinker. (He once joked with his guest W. Kamua Bell that he was one of those "men" who had been gotten to about not using the word bitch.)  

Extending this masculinist logic, the JRE also embraces returning guests such as Ben Shapiro and Jordan Peterson, men who see themselves rationally arguing against equal rights issues through logic and fact. This all at first seems to fit under a more dated understanding of political discourse whereby ideas from left and right, activist and status quo sources, can be equally well reasoned. Only one can quickly detect that the number of ideas from progressives and "social justice warriors," like women guests, are severely outnumbered by those who oppose them. 

Finally, the holding up of not only Peterson, but importantly of Milo Yiannopoulos and Alex Jones, illustrates how utterly hegemonic, but also maleable and accomodating this masculine space is. What emerges  from these divisive figures on the JRE is ultimately the inextricable link between masculinity and capitalism. One, any time the lofty ideal of freedom of speech is mentioned and its being imperilled by leftist social justice warriors, the critical error is made of linking the 1st ammendment with the right to make money or profit from anything you want to say. Two, the podcast itself is valued and desired for the kind of platform and space it provides. You can have any guest, discuss any topic, and demean any group or cause, and still peddle your wares.  


EMW's picture

This is a very interesting and thought-provoking take on how Rogan, through his macho celebrity platform, mobilizes the discourse of rationality/rationalism in service of an ideological platform that is more or less hostile to feminism and progressivism. Two primary thoughts emerge on the ideological work that Rogan and his guests do with terminology and a point of view shaped by their take on rationalism and what it means:

1. It is used to erase and/or gaslight the perspectives of feminists, women, "social justice warriors," and/or those whom Rogan deems "too" progressive. Language of rationality silences or de-legitimates these divergent points of view: they aren't simply different from Rogan's. In his framing, diverse perspectives lose the ability to be worthy of consideration in the "marketplace" of ideas. By tacitly setting the standpoints with which he disagrees against his construction of reason, Rogan implicitly casts them as irrational (hysterical?), emotional, of misinformed--and therefore unworthy of acknowledging with airtime or consideration under the framework of objectivity and reason he touts. The conspicuous absences, who is excluded and rendered invisible in this discursive space, is quite telling in terms of who is perceived to have access to rationality. Women were once excluded from participation in the public sphere under this logic, and Rogan seems to be operating under a similar mindset and cloaking it in the language of free speech. 

2. The video's total focus on individual psychology and experience at the expense of any discussion or attention paid to the structural aspects of racism is quite telling. By negating any and all mention of systemic racism and instead repeatedly covering the same ground through a back-and-forth conversation about personal choices and behaviors, Rogan and his guest reveal the sort of link between masculinity and capitalism discussed in the curator's note. Without any space opened for structural, systemic critique, the discursive horizon shrinks to that of personal choice, elides any meaningful discussion of power, and thus negates possibility for challenging the principles of capitalism--which, of course, has long held up for admiration the figure of the rugged masculine individual. 

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