"Great Show please have Richard Spencer on": The Joe Rogan Experience is one of the most popular podcasts in the world--and an important node in the Intellectual Dark Web where alt-right trolls feel safe to attack the politically correct left. In interviews with such luminaries as Alex Jones and Jordan Peterson, the former Fear Factor host offers a platform for snake oil salesmen of all stripes under the guise of "just asking questions." Justin Peters explores the show and its "freethinking" ethos: "Listening to the show is sort of like crashing an intense, intimate dinner party in which the only courses are whiskey and weed." Double trouble: Us, Jordan Peele's new horror film about a family held hostage by its doppelgängers, is much more elusive than Get Out: Its "moral ambiguities and incomplete catharses don't map onto a known horror template," Dana Stevens writes in her review. And according to Slate's Scaredy Scale--our highly scientific system for determining whether new movies are too scary for you--it's also significantly scarier.
ICYMI: Earlier this summer we broke new ground with RealTalk, a speech synthesis system created by Machine Learning Engineers at Dessa. With their AI-powered text-to-speech system, the team managed to replicate the voice of Joe Rogan, a podcasting legend known for his irreverent takes on consciousness, sports and technology. On top of that, their recreation of Rogan's voice is the most realistic AI voice that's been released to date. If you haven't heard the voice yet, you should. Here's the video we shared on YouTube featuring a medley of their faux Rogan's musings: Since then, the public's response to the work has wowed us.
On Feb. 7, on the 1,241st episode of his podcast, comedian Joe Rogan kicked off a discussion of one of the signal injustices of our time: the deplatforming of jerks on the internet. Rogan was against it, as was his guest, the author and podcaster Sam Harris, who urged Rogan's listeners to consider the plight of all the witty provocateurs who have lately begun to suffer real-life consequences for their trollish online banter. Harris bemoaned a "world where people are having their reputations destroyed and their careers threatened for tweets they sent as teenagers," though he didn't specify whose reputations had been ruined by their teenage tweets, and Rogan didn't ask him to clarify. But the implication was clear: Holding people accountable for what they say and what those words do is an offense far worse than saying cruel, racist, and divisive things in the first place. The reputational damage done to the utterer is the real social problem, not the more diffuse damage done by the utterance. The proximate cause of Harris' smarm was neither a teenager nor a Twitter troll but an actor who had made the rather old-fashioned mistake of saying something dumb to a journalist. In an interview promoting a movie, Liam Neeson had bizarrely volunteered that as a younger man, he had once roamed the streets hoping to be provoked into killing a black man--any black man--in retaliation for a friend's rape. Harris, who has a practiced eye for these things, saw great liberal hypocrisy in the way that many people online had read racism into Neeson's statement. "The irony here for me is you have progressives and people on the far left who receive a disclosure like Liam Neeson's--let's take his--and they just want to see him burned alive, right?" These same people, he mused, "have as a genuine ethical norm the rehabilitation of murderers." It was a flimsy argument but not as flimsy as the point Rogan made next: "Well, they're constantly holding those two contradictions, right?" he said.