We like to think we’ve consigned the “nasty noughties” and its toxic men to “the trashcan of history”, says Gavin Haynes in Unherd. Lads mags like Nuts and Loaded are long-forgotten; today’s menfolk, we are told, are “softer” and “kinder” than the quasi-neanderthals of 20 years ago. It’s a fallacy. To see why, just look at the new chart of the UK’s biggest podcasts. Most of the top 25 are “irredeemably twee”: the likes of No Such Thing As A Fish (“gadzooks trivia from high-end neckbeards”) and The Therapy Crouch (ex-footballer Peter Crouch having a “mind-numbingly pleasant chinwag with his missus”). Yet sitting at the top of the list – and comfortably so – is something very different: The Joe Rogan Experience.
There’s certainly nothing twee about Rogan, a weed-smoking former martial arts commentator living in Austin, Texas. He treats his listeners to conspiracy theories about aliens building Egypt’s pyramids, stories of fugitive Nazis founding colonies in South America, and insights into “what it’s like to kill a moose”. The fact that so many men listen to this stuff is more important than people think. Podcasts are a “confessional booth medium” – unlike with a newspaper or magazine, the person sitting opposite you in the train carriage has no idea what you’re listening to. And what men really want isn’t stuff about “complex relationships” – it’s the men’s magazines of old, in a new format. In other words, the parts of masculinity we thought had been suppressed haven’t gone at all. They’re just “living in a thumb-necked mixed martial artist’s basement in Texas”.