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The Truth and Propaganda of RFK
If responsible elites do not engage with heterodox thought, they do so to our loss and Russia’s gain.
Just like with Trump, most of the corporate media are once again focusing on aspects of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. which make him out to be a hero among people who do not feel represented by the establishment.
Regardless of your thoughts on vaccines, the tendency has so far been to assign the “anti vax” label right next to Q-Anon instead of at least working with the less clickbait driven designation of RFK wanting more vaccine regulation and testing.
Even with his latest off-the-record dinner conversation on Covid-19 being, as Kennedy said, “intentionally or not” ethnically targeted to spare Jews and Chinese, journalists reacting to it could anyhow try to break through the cult of personality by addressing the tests which RFK claims to back this up. This way it would not feel like there’s something to hide.
Same should be the case with his follow-up claim of Ukrainian biolabs collecting Russian DNA for bioweapon production, as these facilities were available for anyone to inspect and Russia had every opportunity to voice concern that it was being denied access to the research going on there before the war. Not to mention that in Russia and Ukraine most people are an ethnic mix of both (try and find me a pure Russian or Ukrainian).
But the problem is that even with a higher level of responsible reporting separating the wheat from the chaff, most people will still gloss over it in favor of a more heterodox position. This is not surprising given how we were misled about the various aspects of Covid and people were deplatformed for questioning whatever was deemed “the facts”.
Such an attitude was also commonplace in the 60s, 70s, and 80s when it came to the counter-culture’s contrarian perception of the USSR, though in that case the mainstream media was actually right in how it portrayed the Soviets. Which is to say that while it’s especially important to question the mainstream narrative in light of any suppression, it's equally important to question the opposing information as well.
Now with Elon Musk’s Twitter and the potential to limit the Biden Administration’s influence on social media companies, the censorship dam has partially fractured, but the kind of water which bursts forth is contaminated with a good deal of propaganda. Though this is not at all to say that tech sites (or even worse the government) should decide what political inconveniences get filtered out.
Across the Rogan-verse
What does need to be encouraged, on the other hand, is critical thinking with access to different points of view. While a lofty goal for most people, this is more realistic to influence media personalities who have an outsized impact on the culture, such as Joe Rogan. While those on the political extremes are more likely to be against helping Ukraine, if not outright supporting Russia, there are also people like Rogan who, for all the good he has done, unfortunately end up entertaining many of the same talking points by being more around people within the anti establishment side.
Given what transpired with Covid and the media’s reaction to Joe’s own views, this is again an understandable move for a person who would be the first to admit that foreign policy is not his specialty.
Unlike the far left and far right political fringe, Rogan has been liberal minded and against authoritarian overreach, while at the same time valuing self defense and the cultivation of strength. Enough people have resonated with such a common sense attitude to have made The Joe Rogan Experience the most listened to podcast in the world, and introduced many (including myself) to some of the best comedians, ancient civilization discussions, and a resounding takedown of the illiberal identity-based leftist expansion within our schools, government, and cultural institutions.
When it comes to RFK’s appearance on Joe’s podcast, many of the same common sense views on censorship and rightful skepticism (but not rejection) of Big Pharma were on display, but just so the grapes don’t taste too sweet, his anti-NATO pro-Russia isolationism made an appearance as well.
Kennedy cited the so-called “pledge” the US allegedly gave to Russia for NATO to never go into Ukraine back in the 90s as a justification of Russian invasion. However, there has never been any internationally recognized treaty by the NATO member states which would halt Eastward expansion regardless of whatever a US official may have privately said to Gorbachev in the 90s.
There’s no power in any kind of pledge of this nature since American foreign policy changes with new administrations. Furthermore, the US never forced any country to join this defensive alliance, though perhaps to RFK it would be hard to imagine how any of these former Eastern Bloc nations would be scared of Russian expansion given such “friendly” relations they had last century.
Lastly, all NATO member states would have to unanimously approve of a newcomer being accepted into the fold, so one would have to believe that all these countries bend the knee to whatever America wants but Russia has no agency to influence a defensive approach on their part.
Similar justifications for Russia’s invasion were offered by RFK on Lex Fridman’s podcast, but unlike Rogan who is influenced on foreign affairs through those within his circle, Lex is from the USSR and would be informed enough regarding Kennedy’s claims of “14,000 ethnic Russian deaths” as well as the aforementioned NATO promise, so as to (politely) push back.
That Lex did not confront any of these claims could be excused as playing the impartial interviewer, if not for the seriousness of our current situation. It would be similar to a German immigrant media personality in the US interviewing a popular political figure who justifies Hitler’s invasion of Poland after having already taken Czechoslovakia. Yet even in this current climate where stakes are this high, it would be wrong to censor such interviews that intentionally or unintentionally promote Russian talking points within the Rogan-verse.
Regardless of your thoughts on wartime censorship, attempts at silencing such interviews make their message that much more of a forbidden fruit to those rightfully tired of the corporate establishment lies. And it does not help as well that the side most vocal about comparing Putin to Hitler has overplayed this card with Trump and any populist conservative policies he supported.
The Cultural Call to Action
Losing trust in the politically connected media class is no great tragedy on its own, but independent nodes like Joe Rogan are fertile ground for bad actors to influence by themselves or by proxy through combining the truth ignored by our media aristocracy with propagandistic lies.
What makes this all the more tragic is that within the gradient of useful idiots to actual Russian agents, RFK reflects the desire present within many heterodox thinkers for a more cultured elite through his discussion of Albert Camus, existentialism, and stoicism on the aforementioned Fridman podcast.
Compare this to Trump’s unapologetically low-brow Americana or Biden’s elevation of Tik Tok influencers with the cultural sophistication of infants, and it becomes clearer that what’s been missing from the equation on both sides is a level of sophistication which orients society towards higher goals.
Our current elites’ creative bankruptcy should be a further wake up call for classically liberal thinkers aware of Russia’s goals to start engaging on a far greater level with those who downplay the need for Western intervention in this war. The high society currently supporting such interventions has done so in a tepid way in part due to their own connections with Russian oligarchs, as well as not wanting to get in trouble for acting decisively out of greedy self preservation.
In the dimwitted yet college educated culture offsetting Aristotle and Camus in favor of countless gender identities, Joe Rogan and other great cultural nodes will provide the alternative and it would be a big mistake for what’s left of our best intellectuals to ignore this in favor of our decaying university system. Should censorship increase further, pushback against our institutions as a whole will rise in turn, including against any support for Ukraine. This is why those with closer ties to these institutions should embrace the kind of dialogue which occurs in the Rogan-verse and ingratiate themselves to the many communities of heterodox thinkers instead of going on MSNBC to be praised for not accepting a vaccine debate with RFK.
While social media will continue to play a divisive role, actually willing to engage goes a long way to destroying the illusion of Russia invading Ukraine being a partisan issue. It is certainly Russia’s wish for pro-Ukraine thinkers to distance themselves from Rogan and other such personalities since it leaves that much more room for influence through Russia’s proxies and useful idiots. Such engagement will also have the secondary effect of enlightening these very same intellectuals on issues their own circles have ignored, so everyone (except the Russians) benefits.