The place of cancel culture, faux rage, and blind ideology have once again raised their ugly heads in the ‘stoush’ around several episodes on the Joe Rogan Experience.
I sit firmly on the side that says more discussion is better than less. More debate, more critique, more conversation. I would go as far to say that when information put out in public is erroneous, misguided, ‘fake’, then even more discussion is needed. However, the modern progressive approach is sadly the opposite. It simply seeks to shut down debate; to silence; to cancel. Instead of demonstrating why an idea is wrong or misguided, today’s zeitgeist is to destroy the speaker - the person(s) initiating any conversation. As I have raised in parliament several times, for progressives, why have to find reasonable arguments when they can simply seek destroy a person’s reputation.
This should be worrying at a number of levels, including the enthusiasm of many mainstream media and political leaders to part of this often slanderous de-platforming or cancelling. These two groups hold enormous power (which is ironic when one considers the Marxist left’s obsession about power and privilege) and clearly do not wish this to be challenged. The likes of Joe Rogan are a direct challenge and threat to their model of power. The covid pandemic has sadly exacerbated much of this, with pretty much a single narrative concerning both the virus itself and the management of the pandemic being allowed. Anyone who raises a contrary opinion is not only to be decried but destroyed. Even here in New Zealand we have seen many raise valid objections and yet either ignored (a modern form of censorship) or their integrity undermined. The place of dissent, once lauded, is now to be disregarded. Scientific inquiry, based upon experimenting, challenging, and conversing has been replaced with monological acquiescence. Accompanying this is – unfortunately - a growing distrust of authority for instead of the public seeing reasoned debate, they see demands of singular compliance and calls for unquestioned acceptance. This may work briefly, but the human mind and spirit yearns for truth through questioning.
What is perhaps more concerning are the principles, or lack thereof, underpinning these calls for cancelation, removal of his work. At the heart of this new modern dogma of cancellation is an utter lack of forgiveness; an inability to see anyway for a supposed transgressor to be redeemed. Alongside this is a deliberate move by progressives (primarily) to conflate an action with the entire person. Put simply, there is little desire to critique the particular but to instead take a particular instance of writing/speaking and to then destroy the person behind them.
Put crudely, the Christian model of forgiveness and redemption which has underpinned the West for more than two millennia are now being replaced with a more much nihilist view (in the spirt of Foucault or Nietzsche) of life; a savage power play where one must always win by having others lose.
With Rogan’s podcast, the desire from those opposing him has not been to critique the episodes deemed wrong. It is instead to destroy him, his career, and his ability to speak ever again. They simply want to get rid of him. I would go as far to suggest that those pushing for his expulsion from the likes of Spotify are threatened by his popularity; a popularity they wish to have for their views instead. In the past, someone who provided wrong information would be challenged, their views shown to be wrong (or not) and then provided the chance to correct and move on - to continue their work. But not in today’s modern world. Instead, there is no forgiveness, no path of redemption. One error is enough to cause the work of a person’s life time rejected, destroyed, and erased; not just the current, but all the work of the past and potential work of the future. We see here a very dangerous change of mindset that the left and progressives have engendered in society. It is not simply what you wrote or said that is wrong, but that you (the author) are wrong. You the person are bad - not simply your words or actions. And as noted above, you are unforgivable, unredeemable. As I say, this is very much at odds with the Christian traditions underpinning of Western society and liberalism. Those students of history will know what societies were like before such values were inculcated and the violence - both in word and deed - that were commonplace. We re-approach these nihilistic attitudes at our peril.
While Rogan is a good example, we can also quickly hold up the example of J.K. Rowling as well. The reaction to her views on biological sex have been vicious to say the least. As we have seen, the progressive elite who oppose her views also progress to suggesting that she is a bad/wrong/evil person, innately. Like Rogan, Rowling’s entire corpus of work is now questioned and rejected. According to progressives, everything she has ever done is wrong. She too is unredeemable; that she created Harry Potter means in effect, those books and movies are now wrong. The only way to move forward is to expunge her from her works as the recent lack of invite to her own books’ anniversary celebrations showed.
Now, some reading this far may ask - why does any this matter? Well, put simply, this dynamic of blame and cancellation never end. They are part of a new fundamentalism that never ends. It always needs new victims. What continues in recent days with Rogan, or Rowling over recent years, will keep seeking new victims.
Finally, two simple points when we reflect on those ‘celebrities’ calling for Rogan to be cancelled. Firstly, they are bullies; using their ‘privilege’ and wealth to bring about an end. Have you noticed not one has debated or discussed the issues? Instead, they have sought publicity through outrage. I find it fascinating how the Left and progressives - so against privilege - are happy to embrace it when it suits their agenda. The second point is a simple one, and the one I will end this op-ed on, and that is who cares what celebrities think? Why is their view of any relevance? What matters is what we think … and we think by engaging ideas, talking, conversing, challenging, and learning.
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