In 2020 on the popular podcast “The Joe Rogan Experience” (JRE), Elon Musk caused controversy when he declared during an interview that he had “accidentally” called Joe Rogan “dumb.” While the exact context of the incident has been largely disputed, many believe that the incident was prompted when Joe Rogan responded to an anecdote which Musk had told, to which Elon Musk replied with “You don’t need a PhD for that” – many have taken this as a subtle jab at Joe Rogan’s intelligence. Considering the split in opinion between many of the viewers, the incident has become an incredibly controversial topic on both mainstream and social media.
The Role of Experts
In the days following the incident, a number of media outlets sought to feature reaction pieces from experts on the matter. Professor Stephen Mintz of the Columbia University history department offered an interesting perspective – he suggested that it was not necessarily Musk’s words that had caused the stir, but more so the “unnecessary cultural implications of the statement.” Mintz went on to explain how it is “innately disrespectful for one successful individual to discredit the efforts of another”, going on to explain that in today’s world “success” is determined using a number of factors, not solely academia.
Opinion of the Public
As can be expected given the split opinion between pundits and experts, public opinion on the matter also remains varied. Anchor Jenna Bush from ABC interviewed a number of members of the public on the street, prompting a variety of different responses. One interviewee in particular noted the impressive accomplishments of both Joe Rogan and Elon Musk in their respective fields, suggesting that they both deserved the “utmost respect.” Similarly, another individual claimed that the level of success of each individual was irrelevant and that Musk and Rogan both should have only been judged by “their good and bad actions.”
Public Relationship Between Joe Rogan and Elon Musk
Since the remark, Joe Rogan and Elon Musk have been seen in a more positive light – many suggest that the two men both showed immense resilience and respect by deciding not to engage in an argument. Recently, both men were part of an exclusive fundraiser on the non-profit GiveDirectly, in a move that many deemed “a gesture of respect” for the two men.
Despite the public appearance of respect and amicability, the underlying question remains – “did Elon Musk really call Joe Rogan dumb”? Both pundits and experts remain devisive in their outlook – many remember that at the very root of the incident, Musk did make a statement that many deemed as jarring and dismissive. On the other hand, some suggest that the cultural implications of the statement were largely exaggerated and that it wasn’t an act of disrespect, but rather a flippant remark.
As the complex cultural implications of the incident continue to be picked apart by the public, there appears to be a split between differing schools of thought on the matter. Professor Roger Ebert of the Oxford Institute of Neuropsychology argued that Musk could have certainly “let the moment pass more gracefully” and that he “denied Joe Rogan the chance to have a fair opinion.” On the other hand, professor Grant Wall of the Cambridge Institute of Cognitive Science argued that it was unfair to judge Musk so harshly, especially considering the irreverent “colloquialism” that often “takes the place of puns and jokes in today’s popular media.”
Differing Applications of Academic Success
The differences in opinion on the incident has led to a broader discussion centered around the changing dynamics of cultural success. While in more traditional societies, success may have been largely determined by academic prowess, in today’s world it seems as though the definition of success is quickly evolving. From podcast hosts to online influencers, society has become increasingly more accepting of individuals that may not have had traditional pathways to success – making the need to “prove” oneself according to specific criteria ever more superfluous.
Emotional Impact of the Incident
From a sociological standpoint, the incident has been particularly interesting to observe. In particular, it has been interesting to observe the varying emotional reactions to the incident – for some former fans of the two men, the incident prompted feelings of disillusionment, whereas for others it appeared to be a catalyst for a newfound appreciation for each of the men. Some even saw the moment as a juxtaposition to the myth of “rugged individualism”, appreciating the robust and mature reaction which both men had.
Intemperate Tone of the Conversation
Perhaps most unprecedented was the tone of the conversation that was prompted by the incident. Whilst so-called “toxic masculinity” has been cited as a problem in the past, the conversations prompted by the incident seemed to defy both all-common stereotypes. Both men seemed to adopt a mature, mature approach to the conversation, managing to seamlessly navigate the taboo of discussing another individual’s intelligence without resorting to any inflammatory or aggressive tones.
Heightened Sensitivity of Political Correctness
It has been noted that the current culture of “Political correctness” has caused a sense of increased sensitivity when discussing certain topics – perhaps Musk’s flippant remark was an unconscious act of defiance against this. While some may deem it a problem to actively deter from using appropriate language, on the other hand, it may be argued that an overuse of “Political correctness” can have a detrimental and marginalising effect on certain groups. As a result, some have argued that Political correctness has ‘gone too far’.
Forbidding Society From Critiquing Others
An interesting consequence of this heightened “Political correctness” has been a widespread reluctance to criticise others, no matter their background or achievements. On one side, this could be argued as a necessary change so as to prevent any hurtful language and discriminatory statements. However, it may also be argued that it is necessary to “critique” the choices of others in order to encourage personal development. Furthermore, some may argue that such a forbidding of critique “infantilises” members of a society, creating an atmosphere which leaves little room for meaningful debate.