You have to think we are climbing our way out of the TV attention span with the lengths which the better podcasts are taking on. I don’t know what their actual impact is, but podcasting now seems a huge, substantial phenomenon. Is there a revolution going on in which the glitz and interruption of the old broadcast and commercials TV becomes to people more and more bizarre? If you don’t regularly watch TV, it is bizarre to see what they do on it from time to time. In the realm of podcasting and online video, UnHerd’s Freddy Sayers is doing something excellent very deliberately. Can’t imagine that being on TV. John Stossel and though I don’t listen to her, I expect Megyn Kelly are examples of people bringing their skills to a new format and thriving. And then there is the whole Joe Rogan apparatus.
I think you have to consider these things in terms of networks and figure out the network. They appear online because they’re networked already, and that is important. The better podcasts are elites networking with elites. I don’t know that much about Joe Rogan (he seems to be the next iteration of what Rush Limbaugh was doing), but he encourages other people to podcast. Jocko Willink is one, Michael Malice is another, and then there is Lex Friedman. All excel at at least one thing, and usually more. And then they all appear on each other’s podcast and you see the nodes of the network corresponding. Jordan Peterson of course bulks large, and he opens up networks for me. The podcasters on the whole seem to be spinning networks and further networks.
I just started on Lex Friedman. 5 or 6 hours of three of his podcasts so far. I took a day off to clean up my room and listened to him along with the self-described anarchist Michael Malice say a lot of interesting things. He did Elon Musk, which is where I started with him. Musk is central to a very interesting network in all this, and that is of course all part of the Joe Rogan network. There is something about discipline, about hyperproductivity, about independent thinking that defines that network. Pushing back on all the rot cheerfully. I am interested in Lex Friedman’s long interviews of elites. You learn about how these people eat, which is extremely peculiar, a kind of repudiation of traditional cuisine, and geared toward hyperproductivity. People have always had diet fads. Lex Friedman tells you in a video about his, which appears to be somewhat based on a robotic approach to shopping, trial and error, and the ideas of this all-conquering keto diet (Atkins 2.0?). Exercise is very central to it all. All these people prepared for action. Is it like the proliferation of Jeeps? A kind of prepper mania? And then you hear about their goals, aspirations, beliefs. What is also interesting is how they are fighting the moment. Mental and emotional toughness is important to them. The cold showers, the punishing routine, reading Solzhenitsyn and Dostoevsky and the concentration camp literature, thinking about it.
What I have most misgivings about is how therapeutic they sometimes sound. That is one of the things I wonder about with Jordan Peterson. We live in a therapeutic age; we want it perhaps like others in the past have not. But should we? We are focused on wellbeing so much. Should you care so much about your own productivity, your own contribution, your own wellbeing? Is this why they talk so much about depression and fighting their own demons and keeping happy? They visualize and have goals. It is not because they think they will have to give an account. But it is because they have something inside that tells them they ought to live as if they will.
I don’t want news as much as I want to understand what is happening. News is a part of it, a small part. There are facts, there is the bare statement of something going on. But without understanding why it is often trivial. In the case of an invasion, just knowing it is happening to your country is enough to go on. It becomes pressing to know why, and highly useful to know why, but just the bare knowledge that it is happening is something one would be grateful for, as opposed to not knowing.
And that is what I find interesting about these long-form podcasts. They are trying to understand a whole lot of things, and they are in a position to know. Now that they’re networking this way, they are also in a position to ask and to have conversations, and they’re just doing it. What an interesting development it is turning out to be.