Brendan O’Neill:

Here’s the thing about Rogan: his success is the least mysterious thing in the 21st-century media landscape. It is the colonisation of the mainstream media by woke elites who all think in the exact same way, and who will hound you off their turf if you don’t, that created the conditions in which a questioning, dissenting pod like Rogan’s could become a global phenomenon. It is the mainstream media’s failures that birthed the success of Rogan and others; it is the stifling of free, frank, deep discussion in the old media that created the space for new media to emerge and flourish. The old hippy Neil Young would have understood that; the newly square Neil Young clearly doesn’t.

I remember a Daily Show skit from way back in the Obama years. The gist of it, of course, was that Republicans were racists. The twist, though, was that they got very indignant if you called them racists, even when they were saying clearly racist things. Jon Stewart’s punchline centered on the amusing irony that they had accepted that being a racist was a bad thing; the problem was that they refused to recognize that they themselves were racist.

Nowadays, progressives have their own version of this cognitive dissonance. They agree that “censorship” is a bad thing; the problem is they refuse to recognize that they themselves have become the censorious prigs they used to mock. They will go through all sorts of mental contortions to avoid admitting that they believe their superior intelligence and morality gives them the right, maybe even the duty, to prevent anyone who disagrees with them from speaking or being heard. They will split any hair and seek any loophole to avoid saying clearly what they mean, because they know it would make them look bad: “You should not be allowed to say that, and you should not be allowed to hear it!”

Censorship is itself a conservative impulse, in that the censors are acting to defend or preserve some sort of intellectual territory or influence. Revolutionaries are always in favor of free this and open that until they finally acquire real power, at which point they predictably turn tyrannical. But maybe it would be more accurate to say that censorship is often favored by formerly-powerful groups who are losing their grip on power. When I was young, the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition were supposedly the big threats to cultural freedom, the hypocritical prigs who wanted to dictate what sorts of books and music and television everyone else was allowed to enjoy. In retrospect, it looks like that brief period was the last, desperate surge of Christian conservatism to preserve its diminishing territory and influence.

All the hysteria over Joe Rogan, and digital media in general, is the product of an elite media class losing its ability to set and control discourse. Like many established, lazy industries, legacy media don’t want competition, and would rather cozy up to state power in exchange for the state “regulating” their competitors out of business. Predictably, their inept attempts to accuse everyone else of being disinformation fascists only hasten the decline of their credibility. It’s no coincidence that they should finally come to resemble the censorious church ladies of decades ago and try to dictate what sort of media everyone else is allowed to enjoy. Once you cross that line and start treating adults as dimwitted children who need supervision and “noble lies” in order to come to the correct decisions, it’s impossible to see any way back to normality that doesn’t pass through your eventual irrelevance.