As a podcaster, the 51-year-old Rogan is basically what you’d get if a less-neurotic Marc Maron and a less-manic Alex Jones had a baby who looked like a muscular thumb. An enthusiastic, self-deprecating lunk with an abiding fondness for both snake oil and its salesmen, Rogan is funny and friendly and easy to like. His personal politics are a bit hard to nail down. He is not a supporter of President Donald Trump and does not generally host the sorts of overtly political figures who are fixtures on Fox News. “I go left on everything. Basically except guns,” he said recently, though he is also very clearly a libertarian, at least temperamentally. He reminds me of many of the intense, talkative stoners I knew in college, the sorts of people who were always yelling about how graphic novels were literature and who inevitably blamed their professors for being biased against them when they were kicked out of school for pulling a 0.0 GPA. . .
Rogan’s podcast has become an important node in the “Intellectual Dark Web,” a loose network of “classical liberal” writers, scholars, and speakers who claim to have been marginalized by elitist progressives intent on maintaining identitarian orthodoxy. These people inveigh against political correctness and identity politics in publications like Quillette and on YouTube videos and one another’s podcasts. They claim to be personally liberal—like Rogan, they mostly allclaim to “go left on everything”—even as they profess reactionary ideas. They take the fact that their theories and opinions are unpopular among their peers in academia and the media as proof that their peers are suppressive.
In Rogan, they have found an enthusiastic and receptive interlocutor. For the past several years, Rogan has made a point of regularly interviewing the IDW’s leading figures, declining the opportunity to meaningfully challenge them, and laundering their ideas in the process. Over the past year alone, he has hosted long conversations with Harris, the “Sokal Squared” academic hoaxsters Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay, social psychologist and trigger-warning foe Jonathan Haidt, mathematician Eric Weinstein, former Evergreen State College professors Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying, and Canadian psychology professor and anti-PC crusader Jordan Peterson.
We are living in the dumbest period of modern American history, where our centering institutions have destabilized, our governing social norms seem unenforceable, and our fast-food restaurants routinely insult one another on Twitter. Into this breach have stepped myriad articulate charlatans, aggro-provocateurs, and other confident dullards who seek to capitalize on the end of authority by using the internet to proclaim their own truths. Their goal is to convince the world’s least-informed people that they are actually the most-informed people, and they are very good at their jobs.
These grifters, who include the president of the United States, profit by obscuring facts for personal gain. They are working an angle, all of them: the health gurus and conspiracy theorists, the life hackers peddling easy solutions to difficult problems, the IDW stalwarts who sneer at “PC culture” and “identity politics” as a means of reassuring cisgender white males that they are not and have never been the problem. Rogan has given these people a safe space where they and their grifts can feel right at home.
Lots of people in the Brexit thread are asking (understandably) how national politics have gone so far off the rails in the US and the UK over the last few years. Part of the answer can probably be found in the fact that Sam Harris’s latest appearance on Rogan’s podcast already 2.3 million views on Youtube.
Which is why you should watch Natalie Wynn’s take on the alt-right and its ultimate cultural enablers, among which Harris, Rogan, and Dave Rubin are among the most prominent: