Podcaster Joe Rogan has apologised after recently resurfaced tweets that showed him using racial slurs has had him come under fire.
Amidst the controversy surrounding his podcast and alleged coronavirus misinformation, Rogan has been shown to have used the ‘n-word’ to describe black people, in a video recorded almost fifteen years ago.
He has since apologised for the tweets and promised to learn from his mistakes, but many do not think that is enough. Many have called for him to have his contract with Spotify terminated, and even prosecuted for hate speech.
Others think it’s part of a smear campaign to assassinate Rogan’s character and use it as an excuse to exclude him from public life and social media, in regards to his podcast series ‘The Joe Rogan Experience’, which has seen viewership equal and even surpass mainstream media networks and television channels.
They point out that the timing of the resurfaced video is suspicious.
Google defines redemption as ‘the action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil.’ Like Joe Rogan, other public figures have been put under fire for various sins. It’s understandable how and why people are angry (irrespective of the timing of certain actions), but even so, we should put things in context and perspective.
West Ham defender Kurt Zouma recently came under fire for filming himself kicking his cat. His actions have been rightly condemned and he will have to face the consequences. However, we should look at the bigger picture here; society’s unwillingness to forgive and redeem certain public figures is, for the most part, quite disturbing.
To punish someone for a crime or offence and to give them a second chance to redeem themselves are not mutually exclusive; the two can coexist, and when given the opportunity, can go on to do amazing things.
Actor Robert Downey Jr. at one point found himself behind bars for drug offences. Having his wife leave him, being addicted to drugs and being in and out of rehab centres for years, he was finally rehabilitated and went on to play the Marvel Comic character Tony Stark/Iron Man. Due to this role, he has become one of Hollywood’s most highly paid stars.
Golf legend Tiger Woods was at the top of his game during the 90s but fell from grace in the eyes of the public due to his multiple infidelities. He fell to world number 58 in 2011 before ascending back to the number one spot in 2014. In 2019 he won the Masters, his first major championship in eleven years, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from then-President Donald Trump.
Had these two characters not been given the chance to redeem themselves, they would not be remembered in the same way as they are today. So the question is, what is it that they did – or didn’t do – that makes them more redeemable than Zouma or Rogan? Why are people calling for Zouma and Rogan to be effectively made social pariahs and for the right to earn a living to be taken away, but not for Woods and Downey?
What makes a person more redeemable than somebody else? Is there a hierarchy of sins or crimes? Does light animal cruelty or alleged Covid misinformation trump drug addiction and infidelity? Who decides what redemption is, and what does it look like?
Many would argue that it depends on the nature of the crime, and this is true to a certain extent. With a few particular crimes, there is a stigma that comes attached with it and for good reason. Sexual assault/rape and crimes against children seem to be the main two that come to mind. Even being merely accused of such a crime will irreparably damage a person’s reputation, innocent or guilty.
However, for the most part, there isn’t that much that separates the public from public figures. Public figures are human beings and as such are prone to the same weaknesses and temptations as all human beings. Money, sex, drugs, alcoholism and other pleasurable things are appealing to the common man, so why not the public figure?
Why do we hold them to higher standards? Why do we put them on pedestals and assume they are morally superior to the general public? Are we that foolish? Many of us, if put in similar situations as some of these aforementioned characters, would act in similar ways.
One could be defied to find a man who wasn’t at least tempted by being able to date – and bed – any woman he wanted, due to his sheer wealth and status. One could also be defied to find a person who isn’t prone to seek out unhealthy and destructive devices through which to channel their inner struggles if given the choice.
It would be interesting to find out what happens when a person who joins the mob finds themselves on the other side of the firing line. Chrissy Teigen, model and wife of singer John Legend, was known for being ‘America’s sweetheart’; only to discover that she was actually a bully in the past, encouraging many celebrities to actively take their own lives.
Under her own brand of ‘justice’, she should never be allowed back into the public sphere, right? If racial slurs from fifteen years ago represent Rogan’s character today, then tweets from Teigen eleven years ago, urging people to commit suicide, should also represent Tiegen’s character today, logically.
So what does redemption look like? It looks like society giving public figures the chance to prove their worth and redeeming qualities. It also means to think rationally and put things into perspective and find out if any crimes were actually committed.
It’s a tricky question to answer, but what is for certain is that it must start with a societal change and a willingness to forgive and give people second chances. However, due to society’s seemingly unquenchable thirst for social justice and ‘cancelling’, it is a world that we are unlikely to experience, unfortunately.
Zouma’s actions against his cat were reprehensible, but the reaction to it by the British public was unwarranted and disproportional and is more of a reflection of the British public’s zoophilic moral compass than Zouma’s character.
Rogan made the mistake of challenging traditional journalism and getting more viewership than lots of mainstream media channels simply by being open, honest and transparent. He has apologised for the racial slurs he used. Many feel that he should be punished, but why now and not before (a conversation for another day)?
Society needs to be more forgiving and understanding. There needs to be the same eagerness and willingness to rehabilitate and forgive as there is to punish and chastise. Of course, punishments are an inevitable consequence of actions, but the chance to do better must be given also.
Failure to do so will have a devastating impact on society at large going forward.