Off The Wall: My Potential Debasement

Don't Follow Your Passion Mike Rowe Prager U

Dan Krzykowski writes…

Mike – I just saw your Graduation Speech at Prager University. I encourage you not to do that. Read the comments on their other videos to see the kind of community Prager attracts. He’s a charlatan. He’s a dangerous ideologue who wraps terrible, divisive thinking in the trappings of actual logic and research. Really. I respect you a lot, but you debase yourself by associating with that community.

Hi Dan

I appreciate your concern for my reputation, but I’m confused. If you respect me as much as you claim to, and you really believe the community at Prager University has embraced a dangerous set of beliefs, why would you want to discourage me from challenging their ideology? I mean, how can we challenge bad ideas, if we don’t confront them with better ideas?

I get that you don’t like Prager, but beyond your personal animus, I’m wondering if you have any ideas of your own? Honestly, I can’t tell, because all you’ve done in your post is attack a man you’ve never met, and point to a string of anonymous comments on the internet to justify your feelings. That strikes me as… unpersuasive. If you care at all about changing ideas and attitudes, you have to offer something more than name-calling; you have to make a case for whatever it is you actually believe.

Some quick context, for those new to this page. A couple years ago, when I first appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher, many conservatives responded with a level of indignation I can only describe as “righteous.” They didn’t care at all about the content of my conversation with Bill, or the benefit to my scholarship program; they only cared about voicing their contempt for the man sitting next to me. Like you, they told me that I had “debased myself” by associating with someone they didn’t like.

Later that week, when I appeared on The Glenn Beck program, it was my liberal friends who had a virtual meltdown. Even though Glenn helped me raise tens of thousands of dollars for a worthwhile scholarship program, the optics were just too much for them to reconcile. They said I had “cheapened my brand” by sharing the goals of my foundation with a “dangerous ideologue.”

It gets better.

When I narrated a commercial in support of US manufacturing, paid for by Walmart, thousands of liberals called me a corporate shill, and organized labor threatened me with a boycott.

When I put my TV show on CNN, thousands of conservatives rushed to tell me that even though they “respected” me, there was simply “NO WAY” they could ever bring themselves to watch anything on that “commie network.”

Most recently, my involvement with Project Jumpstart was roundly praised by every single liberal I know. (Jumpstart is a pre-apprentice program in Baltimore that my foundation supports. They prepare minorities and non-violent offenders for careers in the skilled trades, and their success rate is stunning.) But – when I thanked Charles Koch for his financial assistance, those same liberals came running to this very page, pitchforks in hand, sniffing the air for signs of sulfur and searching for old men with horns and cloven hooves.

“The Koch Brothers? How could you, Mike?? How could you?!”

Point is Dan, your post is hardly unique. Our country is filled with people who believe their feelings are more persuasive than their arguments. I don’t know if this is a symptom of arrogance, impatience, laziness, cowardice, or all of the above, but there’s no denying it – millions of Americans are no longer interested in persuasion – they are interested only in telling the world how they feel, and then using those feelings to justify their actions.

Consider the Confederate flag. Many people now insist upon removing that flag from the public square, because the sight of it offends them. And yet, many of those calling for its removal are the same people demanding the right to burn The American Flag wherever it suits them. In other words, they want the right to offend, but they can’t bear to be offended.

Consider the administrators in public universities. Somehow, they’ve gotten it into their heads that it’s OK for their students to shout down speakers they don’t like. Overnight it seems, the feelings of the students have become more important than the first amendment rights of anyone who disagrees with them.

The hell of it is, it’s not even the students fault; it’s our fault. Because we’re no longer rewarding logic and reason; we’re rewarding temper tantrums. We’re no longer focused on justice; we’re focused on “social justice.” We’re no longer appalled by violent crime, we save our deepest disgust for “hate crime.” We’re no longer curious about our actual history; we’re more interested in revising the past to reflect the things we wish had happened, but didn’t. Consequently, people like you are less concerned with what I said, and more concerned with where I said it.

Don’t get me wrong – you’re welcome to express your feelings on this page whenever you’d like. But if you want to have an actual conversation, you’ll need to offer something more convincing than ad hominem attacks and faux concern for my potential “debasement.” Because the only way forward requires me to engage with all kinds of people – some of whom I might not agree with, and some of whom might not occupy a place on your current list of approved figures. That’s the risk I took posting my speech on Prager U, (which can be seen here, by the way, for those of you who missed the original debasement.)

And it’s the risk I’ll happily take again.

Mike

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