Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s Appearance on Rogan Highlights a Triumph for Those Opposed to ‘Cancel Culture’
Elon Musk was asked on Wednesday what his message was to companies that paused their ads on his X platform, after a campaign from the progressive activist group Media Matters pressuring companies to leave. “I hope they stop. Don’t advertise,” he told Andrew Ross Sorkin at the New York Times Dealbook Summit. “If someone is going to try to blackmail me with advertising, blackmail me with money, go f‑‑‑ yourself.”
Yes, the eccentric billionaire is a unique messenger in this current media and cultural environment — but the sentiment is notable. A few years ago, there might have been panic if advertisers started fleeing. The cascading effect of DEI-focused, ESG-beholden corporations might be disastrous. But something real and significant has shifted.
This was illustrated recently by an interview Joe Rogan conducted on his hit Spotify podcast with wrestler-turned-actor megastar Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. As is the case on all three-hour Rogan episode, the pair talked about a range of topics — from wrestling to MMA, muscle cars to muscles, the demise of San Francisco to the demise of our social media discourse. The topic that made the most news was when the Rock initially said he had friends who support former President Donald Trump and current President Joe Biden, but when pressed by Rogan, admitted he didn’t have any friends who were Biden fans, just simply friends who are “loyal” to the Democratic party.
Another fascinating political moment that got less attention was when Johnson admitted that “one of the parties” approached him about running for president (while he doesn’t name the party, it sounds to me like the Democrats). He said the individuals presented him actual data that showed why he had a shot to perform well as the nominee — they had actually crunched the numbers on a potential Rock run. “I appreciate it and I’m f‑‑‑ing honored,” he told Rogan. “But it made me think, this is either an incredible thing and I’ve got some pretty decent leadership skills, or things are so f‑‑‑ed up.”
While the substance of the interview was fascinating, just the fact that it happened at all is significant — and instructive. In February 2022, Rogan was going through an attempted cancellation. After efforts to get him deplatformed for his supposedly dangerous Covid views failed, those who hated Rogan and his free speech–focused perspective turned to his instances of racially-insensitive comments, including saying the n-word in old episodes of his show. He apologized, but it did seem for a moment like the campaign would work — with musical artists pulling their songs from Spotify in protest, like they had during the Covid uproar.
Johnson initially backed Rogan — one of the few public figures to do so — but almost immediately was called out and backpedaled. “I was not aware of his n-word use prior to my comments, but now I’ve become educated to his complete narrative,” he tweeted. “Learning moment for me.”
At that time, Rogan was toxic. For a star with a brand to manage, the Rock didn’t want to risk sullying his reputation by supporting someone deemed racist by the loudest voices online.
Well, apparently the Rock has completed his education program, figured out the full narrative, and learned from the moment — and decided that Rogan was just fine to chat with on his podcast after all.
The woke cancel culture was winning in 2020, 2021 and even early 2022. But the pendulum has swung the other direction. Rogan withstood the onslaught, and survived. And Johnson’s appearance was a sign we’re moving, thankfully, toward a more empathetic and less vicious media and culture.
Of course, Johnson’s comments about Biden and Trump illustrate another major shift too — which should make those who push the woke agenda anxious about what the future holds. In September 2020, Johnson offered a full-throated endorsement of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. “As a political independent & centrist, I’ve voted for both parties in the past. In this critical presidential election, I’m endorsing Joe Biden and Kamala Harris,” he tweeted. “Progress takes courage, humanity, empathy, strength, KINDNESS & RESPECT.”
But now Johnson can’t even muster enough spin to admit he has any friends who support the current president, let alone himself. Something significant has shifted.
Over at CNN, Oliver Darcy, one of the chief anti-speech activists masquerading as a journalist today, has been hyping the Media Matters campaign to pressure brands off Musk’s X. “The NFL, Washington Post, and Walmart: Here are the major companies still advertising on X despite Elon Musk’s antisemitic endorsement,” was the headline on one of his articles last week.
This embarrassing partisan stunt doesn’t belong anywhere near a news organization like CNN.
But now we’ve entered a new era, where this sort of nonsense doesn’t have the bite it once did. The cancel mob has been defanged. The Rock is chatting with Rogan about this “f‑‑‑ed up” time in our society. And Elon Musk’s message is simply … GFY.
Steve Krakauer, a NewsNation contributor, is the author of “Uncovered: How the Media Got Cozy with Power, Abandoned Its Principles, and Lost the People” and editor and host of the Fourth Watch newsletter and podcast.