First they came for the freaks – Milo Yiannopoulos and Alex Jones – and we did nothing because, you know, freaks.
Then they came for the US Senator Tom Cotton, and we did nothing because you know, Republicans.
Then they came for the President of the United States, and we did nothing because, 'freak' and Republican.
Now they've come for Joe Rogan, and maybe that matters more because he's kind of the average Joe – neither freak nor Republican – but will we do anything?
Rogan may be a turning point, or he might be just an inflection on the long ride into darkness.
Sectarianism isn't universal in societies, but its remnants are startlingly recent in our own.
My parents were state school kids, born in 1912 and 1922 in Brisbane and Townsville respectively. When they went to school it was customary for the State School (Protestant) and Catholic kids to hurl abuse and stones at each other. Everyone knew which department stores were owned by Protestants and which by Catholics, just as there were legal and accounting firms that exclusively hired on a sectarian basis. Many shopped for goods and legal and accounting advice accordingly. In the police force there were the Knights of Columbus on one side of the divide and the Masons on the other. And so on.
The worst thing that could happen to a Protestant family was their son or daughter marrying a Catholic because the church would swallow the kids as a condition of allowing the marriage and their whole lineage would be lost to the Pope.
When I was a child in the sixties and seventies, those rifts still existed. When, as a Protestant, I went to a Catholic school in 1969 it was more or less unprecedented. I have lawyer friends my age who joined firms hiring on the basis of denomination as well as results.
But it could have been worse. Between 1517 and 1712 (but mostly before 1648) there was a series of religious wars in Europe as a result of the Protestant Reformation. 1648 marked the Westphalian Peace, and 1712 the Toggenburg War. It's the echoes of these wars that were still resounding in Australia in the mid-20th century. These wars also shaped the Constitution of the United State of America, particularly the First Amendment, as well as its system of checks and balances.
We thought we had put sectarianism behind us and then along comes Cancel Culture. It's the same phenomenon, just substitute politics for religion and round we go again. Instead of Catholic versus Protestant it's the Woke versus Awake.
Which brings us to the latest potential martyr in the Culture Wars – Joe Rogan. Rogan is a behemoth, not just physically imposing but a broadcasting giant. He's gone from being a stand-up comic and colour reporter for UFC to the host of the Joe Rogan Experience with an audience for each of his podcasts around 11 million.
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