Joe Rogan Hosts Chris Rufo, Demonizes Trans People

"How come something that used to be considered a mental illness just 10 years ago is now at a precedent? Now it's a valuable asset? Now it's an important part of our community?"

Joe Rogan Hosts Chris Rufo, Demonizes Trans People
Header image via YouTube/Joe Rogan.

This week Joe Rogan, who last month renewed his partnership with Spotify for a reported $250 million, sat down with Chris Rufo, the far-right propagandist behind recent moral panics over critical race theory, DEI initiatives, LGBTQ people, and gender-affirming healthcare (and who a few weeks ago suggested that recreational sex is to blame for various social ills). Their shared disgust with trans people consumes much of the conversation, from criticism of drag queen story hours to polemicizing by Rufo about the “radicalization of gender ideology in schools.” Midway through the episode, Rogan himself launches on a grisly tirade about trans people, complaining that “something that used to be considered a mental illness” is now “an important part of our community.”

It is hardly news that Rogan is transphobic. His penchant for anti-trans rhetoric has been amply documented, including in this newsletter. While this latest episode, in which he amiably chats with a prominent American fascist, may not represent any new frontier for the podcaster, I think it is still worth observing his increasing comfort with out-and-out hate speech. With Rogan as with so many other comedians, we can see the Overton window shift in real time, in the mainstreaming of anti-trans ideology, anti-immigrant sentiments, Covid and vaccine denialism, antisemitism, and all manner of good old-fashioned racism. Consider Rogan’s latest rant, which follows an explanation that the “George Floyd riots” inspired him to move from California to Texas for the sake of his family’s safety:

ROGAN: This is bad. It’s not hard to imagine that our society, given the current situation and given the current influences, it's going in that direction, and if I was another country I'd be fucking pumped. I was looking at—what’s that lady's name? Rachel, whatever it is. The admiral, first female admiral? 
RUFO: Sir—or madam—Rachel Levine. 
ROGAN: Madam. Wonderful. Hilarious. And this other one that was, some recent trans military person who was saying we should all put our pronouns in all of our emails, even if it's obvious. Like, shut the fuck up. Shut the fuck up. How come something that used to be considered a mental illness just 10 years ago is now at a precedent? Now it's a valuable asset? Now it's an important part of our community? Now it's not—like if you found out someone was suicidal, would you want them in charge of the nukes? You wouldn't, right? Well, you know, just on paper, the amount of trans people that are suicidal is much higher than everyone else. Like, isn't it something insane? Like 40%? It's something crazy like that.
What are you doing? Like, are we ignoring facts and statistics? If you know that someone is a bipolar schizophrenic and you got 'em working on a gun range, you’d say, "Harry, we just pulled your file, and you fucking fly off the handle, and you have 113 violent episodes since you're a teenager. Gimme that gun, you motherfucker. Get outta here. You can't work here anymore.”
RUFO: It's like putting Kanye in charge of like an air wing in the Air Force or something. I don't know about that. 
ROGAN: It's just nuts. Where we have decided that—listen. I have full sympathy for someone who has gender dysphoria. I've met many people that I truly believe they have somewhere in there they are a woman and they got stuck in a man's body. And I think that's real. And I think that's always happened. But. But. When you make that more powerful than just being a normal person, more preferable than just being a normal person, subject to less scrutiny than being a normal person. Just a regular per—like, I'm not saying you should discriminate against trans people. I think you should just let everybody be whoever the they are. But don't tell me that I'm supposed to ignore all the other things that could be at play.
Say if you are a biological male inmate and you decide that you're a woman and you wanna transition to women's prisons, which in California 47 men have done. Don't tell me that just because you're trans, like I'm supposed to abandon that. Like I'm supposed to ignore that sex offenders could just walk into a women's locker room with an erection. And everyone's supposed to ignore that. 
Like, what do you do? Now you are fucking up the acceptance of trans people. 'Cause you're saying that, that trans people are gonna come along with all these sex offenders, which is not really true. There's a lot of the trans people that aren't sex offenders. They're just trans. These other people are taking advantage of this massive loophole that you've left in here and you're victimizing female professional athletes, female college athletes. You're jeopardizing scholarships for those athletes. You're doing a lot of things that fuck up biological women and there's no consideration for that at all.
RUFO: Yeah, and look at this kind of sorority house, I think is probably the best example of this phenomenon. Where you have some, you know, six-two male that is now bunking with a house full of women, young women in a sorority house somewhere. And look, obviously, you know, this guy's a pervert. Full stop. That is a kind of patently obvious thing, right? Exploiting it, they're manipulating it. [Ed. note: Rufo doesn't offer any context here, but I think he must be talking about the Wyoming student whose sorority sisters filed a lawsuit to try to get her kicked out of the organization.]
ROGAN: It certainly could be. You should certainly consider the possibility that he's a pervert.
RUFO: I think it's at the minimum a big, bright red flag that is waving in your face. But the question is an institutional question. You know, the fathers of these young girls, the deans of the universities, the university presidents. It's like, hey, wait a minute. Like, accommodate this person. Try to talk to this person, figure out what the deal is, assess whether it actually is kind of a real threat or not. Figure out some alternate arrangement for this person. But especially if the young women are telling you, "We don't want this. We're uncomfortable with this. We don't like this. Get this person out." It's a failure on our social institutions that we haven't developed any kind of method for solving this problem.
ROGAN: Well, it also shows our oppression hierarchy. That we have always protected women from sexual predators, unless that sexual predator identifies as a group that is a social hierarchy above biological women, which is a trans woman. And that's where we're at. And it just shows that this is cult thinking. We're in a cult. This is a doctrine that could have been created in the top of a mountain by a wizard. It's nonsense. It's fucking nonsense. And somehow or another, it is the norm in a lot of universities and it's fucking crazy. And these women that have to deal with this shit, it's fucking nuts that people aren't insanely outraged and that it's not stopped immediately.

I’ll trust that in March 2024 you don’t need me to go line by line explaining how detached from reality and unbelievably dangerous this all is. Suffice it to say, this is all completely detached from reality and unbelievably dangerous. I know I just said this the other day about a bunch of other comics, but it’s a matter of some urgency that comedy’s decent people vocally distance themselves from Rogan. He’s spent the last five years taking a massive portion of the industry down a rabbit hole that could only end up here, with two powerful men demonizing a vulnerable minority on one of the biggest platforms in media. This is a hate movement building right in front of us, in real time, with the eager participation of comedy demigod Joe Rogan.

We cannot afford to keep indulging the fantasy that bigotry in comedy has no relationship with the real-life political persecution of minority groups. The literal architect of these campaigns isn’t sitting down with Rogan for fun, he’s sitting down with Rogan because Rogan is useful to him. Here’s how Rufo put it himself in the episode:

My goal for the past year especially is to radicalize America's elites. To show them the problems that our country is facing and then to summon them to courageous action to fix it. Because as we get people who have something to lose, when they start talking, people listen. I live on a small farm in rural Washington State. There's only so much I can do personally. But certainly with the book that I wrote, with the articles that I'm doing, with the media engagement that I'm trying to drive, what I’ve found is that the attitude among America's elites—finance, tech, entertainment—have [sic] changed dramatically in the last few years. And we just have to get them over that hump.

To summon them to courageous action to fix it. Gosh, I wonder what exactly that might entail?