This guest post is authored by Mitch Nemeth
Societal responses to the global health pandemic over the past few months have exposed the large crack in our social fabric. Some may characterize this as creating two dueling ideas for combatting the challenges of the day, but, regardless of the number of competing ideas, we are being challenged with conflicting worldviews. Nowhere has this become more obvious than in the online debate that occurs largely outside of the mainstream media ecosystem.
If you are an avid consumer of mainstream, or legacy, media content from the likes of NBC, ABC, and CNN, it is likely that you are inclined to adhere to a set of assumptions uncommon among consumers of non-mainstream content. Non-mainstream content often derives from platforms such as YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook.
One of the best analyses of this paradigm shift in society is provided by Eric Weinstein on Joe Rogan’s podcast. As Weinstein correctly stated, some daily YouTube shows receive more views than television shows. Podcast shows like the Joe Rogan Experience, The Ben Shapiro Show, The Dan Bongino Show, and Barstool Sports’ different shows all generate considerable discussion; each show has developed its own unique following in the years past.
You may have heard of these shows tangentially, but it is likely that these are mostly unknown to the consumers of legacy media. Some of this obscurity among the public-at-large was cleared when Elon Musk first agreed to appear on Joe Rogan’s podcast. Rogan’s first interview with Musk lasted for around two and a half hours, as opposed to the short segments common on cable televisions. As Mashable writes, the show “is a fascinating look into the mind of Musk;” long-form podcasts gives viewers an in-depth look into the mind of Elon Musk and other prominent figures.
Why is this relevant? Rogan’s podcasts with prominent figures demonstrate 1) the increasing popularity of non-legacy media and 2) that behind the cameras of legacy media are everyday people with different opinions than expressed on the highly orchestrated television networks. Unlike television networks, most podcasts do not feature teleprompters with talking points handed down by upper management. Why? Because podcasts are generally created by individual content creators in a decentralized environment, which allows diverse opinions to flourish.
Elon Musk’s persona, best described by FEE.org’s Dan Sanchez, embodies the sentiment felt by many, which is the implicit rejection of the status quo. Former FDA chief Scott Gottlieb on CNBC commented on Musk’s recent antics, “I think that reflects a growing sentiment in this country.” Musk has also characterized government-enforced quarantines of healthy populations as “fascist” and as forcible imprisonment “against all…constitutional rights.” In his May 7th interview with Joe Rogan, Musk characterized spendthrift politicians as believing that the economy is a “magic horn of plenty,” while adding that “if you don’t make stuff, [then] there’s no stuff.”
What is so surprising about Musk’s commentary on many of these issues is how contrarian this sounds compared to the hysterical news coverage by the legacy news media. However, much of Musk’s commentary on the economic fallout of the virus and the un-American elements of lockdowns seem reasonable to a large portion of Americans.
In the United States, we are taught that “more informed debate is exactly what we need to make wise decisions,” says Tucker Carlson. “Unfortunately for all of us, informed debate is exactly what the authorities don’t want. They want unquestioned obedience.” Unfortunately for elected officials, this clamping down on civil liberties and freedom of speech will only last as long as the American public allows it.
As the USA TODAY reported, Americans “are slowly starting to leave their homes after quickly complying with social distancing,” despite differences in local policy. Perhaps, we ought to return to the understanding that the economy consists of self-governing individuals, who decide for themselves, as is advocated by free-thinkers like Elon Musk and Barstool Sports’ Dave Portnoy. We must also put to rest the top-down command-and-control governance that has come to dominate so much of the country. While Elon Musk may be only an example of an opponent of lockdowns, his persona and his civil disobedience exemplifies the slow demise in institutional power the legacy media once boasted. To understand the power of Elon Musk, we must look at the divide in consumption of and trust in mainstream media and new decentralized platforms.