Joe Rogan’s Apology May be Sincere, But That’s Not the Point

The issue is what kind of privilege allows us to not think (or care) about the impact of our words and actions

Tim Wise

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Image: A dumbbell, Andrii Sedykh, Shutterstock, standard license, purchased by author

For the sake of argument, I’ll assume that Joe Rogan is being truthful when he says he’s deeply sorry about repeating the n-word 24 times on his podcast.

I know some will criticize me for even this degree of generosity, but seriously, settle down. I don’t need you to tell me about all the vile things Rogan has said and the horrible people he’s had on his show.

I know, and I’m getting to that.

The thing is, I have a point to make, and I don’t need Joe Rogan to be a terrible, evil bigot to make it.

In fact, the point is stronger if we don’t assume he’s those things. Being a despicable human being is an easy out. It’s the possibility that he’s not — even the likelihood of itwhich magnifies the awfulness.

And let’s face it, even if you could successfully affix the label of “world’s worst person” to Rogan, it’s not likely to change anything.

Being a despicable human being is too easy an out. It’s precisely the possibility that he’s not, which magnifies the harm he’s done.

He’s not getting canceled. Spotify isn’t scared of those of us who reside firmly in left and anti-racist Twitter. And they aren’t likely to be moved by the pulling of music, even by artists as accomplished as Neil Young, India.Arie or Joni Mitchell. Boycott them if you like, whether for their contract with Rogan or because they exploit artists with their paltry payouts. But it won’t likely matter. Spotify’s coins are straight.

As are Rogan’s, which is why I’m willing to believe he might actually regret using the n-word, as well as his putridly racist comment about black neighborhoods being like The Planet of the Apes.

Because he didn’t have to apologize for any of it. His bank account wouldn’t have suffered had he said nothing or even doubled down.

If anything, there will be more dude-bros angry at him for apologizing — who will decide…

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Tim Wise

Anti-racism educator and author of 9 books, including White Like Me and, most recently, Dispatches from the Race War (City Lights, December 2020)