He likened it to the understanding that he is not one to be “encouraging people who haven’t taken a gun safety course to run out and buy an AR-15.” Now, taken totally out of context, I could see how some may misconstrue those words as a form of “cultural elitism,” but when broken down, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, one of Mike’s fans decided to totally oversimplify his statements (and even called me out for supporting Mike). He said that “Mike thinks that there’s a class of better voters out there.” Wow, such a hot take, but it couldn’t have been further from the message. Like the class act he is, Mike took the time to set his “fan” straight.
First of all, this is all in response to comments Mike made months ago, but have resurfaced as of late. When he was pressed on whether he would encourage his fans to vote, Mike responded that he didn’t think it was wise to leverage his fame and platform to tell the uninformed to vote. He then compared the constitutional right of owning a gun to that of voting by stating that “it’s just not responsible” to tell someone to get a gun who hasn’t been trained.
“That would be like encouraging everyone to buy an AR-15, simply because they have the right to bear arms,” wrote Rowe. “I would need to know a few things about them before offering that kind of encouragement. For instance, do they know how to care for a weapon? Can they afford the cost of the weapon? Do they have a history of violence? Are they mentally stable?
In short, are they responsible citizens?”
As a celebrity, Mike understands that millions of people take what he says very seriously and fortunately, he is someone who doesn’t take that with a grain of salt. The man thinks before he speaks, which is a quality so rare these days that, of course, someone has to whine about a sentiment that isn’t even there. Rather than understanding the fact that Mike is choosing not to use his position of celebrity to encourage political action, the blogger poses this from out of left-field: “who is Mike Rowe-certified to vote, since it’s apparently as dangerous as people arming themselves to the gills? People who ‘read more.'”
In response to this comment, Mike decided to directly answer it himself:
“It’s true – I am guilty of encouraging people to read books. But I didn’t just say ‘read more,'” replied Mike. “I mentioned very specific authors who impacted me, and very specific books that helped me form a worldview I could articulate and defend. “The Road to Serfdom” and “Economics in One Lesson” both helped me become a more informed voter. So I recommend them to everyone. Likewise, there are many books I do not recommend.”
Like I said before, it’s a gross oversimplification to take Mike’s statements resemble something like a “don’t vote” sentiment. But hot-takes are a lot easier than trying to understand. The keyboard warrior then proceeded to insult Mike’s intelligence by pondering, “I’m suddenly curious to see Mike’s bookshelf. Because it would be funny if even
Mike didn’t meet his own literacy standard for being encourage-able to vote.” Of course, Mike addressed this as well, even posting pictures of his personal bookshelf:
“Yes, Rick. That would indeed be hysterical,” continued Rowe. “Here’s a look at a few of my shelves at home. Try not to pee yourself with mirth. And don’t be confused — I’m not suggesting that reading is the only way to get educated. If you’d rather watch documentaries or listen to lectures on You Tube, that’s fine by me. The important thing is to form a worldview you can articulate and defend. That seems a sensible thing to do, before exercising a right that impacts everyone.”
This is the part that really grinds my gears and is so far from Mike’s message that it no doubt struck a chord with the TV personality we’ve come to love and respect over the years:
“But, what’s so surprising is that, for a guy who normally thinks everyone has the potential to shape and contribute to society with hard work, Mike thinks that there’s a class of better voters out there and that stupid people should maybe sit out the election so that we don’t elect Trump or Hillary.”
EXCEPT, THAT ISN’T WHAT HE SAID!
Look, sometimes, comprehension is hard. I get that. Some may think Mike is blindly telling people to sit out the election, but that’s because they don’t know what it’s like to have millions of people care what you think. So while flippantly saying “go vote” may sound nice to the few family members who read your blog, it’s never “responsible” to encourage strangers to do anything. Mike calls the writer out for it as well, but he’s a lot nicer than I am. Take a look at Rowe’s response to haters.
“Again, with the straw-man argument. You’re just making stuff up” said Rowe. “There is no ‘better class’ of voter out there; it’s just us, Rick – the good, the bad, and the ignorant – all jammed into one happy class. You and I agree, (I think,) that no one in the class should be denied their right to vote. The difference, is that you want EVERYONE in the class to cast a ballot – regardless of what kind of person they are. I don’t. But do you really think that makes me an elitist?”
No, Mike, this doesn’t make you an elitist at all. In fact, I’d argue that it makes you one of the more responsible influencers in popular culture we have (seriously, exaggerate a lot, but Mike is the absolute man). Clearly this “Rick” isn’t picking up what Rowe is putting down, and rather than TRY to understand, he paints Mike as a star who looks down on the feeble-minded, which couldn’t be further from the truth. “Rick the Writer” then decides to interject his political science expertise to explain the correlation between high voter turnout and the quality of candidates with this intelligent statement of “fact”: “Low voter turnout elects unpopular candidates. The solution to this isn’t fewer voters; it’s more.” Is there data to support this? No, not at all. Mike decides that this line of thinking is part of the problem:
“I don’t think more voters lead to better candidates,” said Rowe. “I think better candidates rise from a more informed citizenry. And I’m not persuaded that anyone benefits from casting an uninformed vote, just because their favorite celebrity tells them to. Except of course, their favorite celebrity’s favorite candidate. Which brings me to the final point – the only one you didn’t address. Do you really think any celebrity would publicly “Rock the Vote,” if they suspected a larger turnout would disadvantage their candidate? I think most sensible people realize that celebrities who lecture us on the importance of voting, are really trying to influence the outcome of the election. Honestly, I have no problem with that. But spare me the kabuki of “impartiality.” If you’re famous, and you want me to vote for Trump, just say so. Then tell me why. Make your case, and be prepared to defend it. Likewise, Clinton. If you think doing so publicly might be bad for your career, then let’s talk it over in a bar somewhere, privately. But please, don’t hide your agenda behind some clever Public Service Announcement that challenges people you’ve never met to exercise a “duty” that doesn’t exist. That’s cowardly, and your
fans know it.”
You see, Rick (and those who share Rick’s sentiments), Mike simply wants to encourage people to educate themselves. For some reason, people took that as an insult to our country’s democratic process, but I’d argue those same people are who Mike is talking about. If we want better, smarter politicians, then we need a better, smarter population (not just more people). Unfortunately for Rick and those like him, Mike’s message is totally lost and is replaced by a simplistic argument that didn’t exist in the first place. Mike isn’t telling people not to vote, he just isn’t telling everyone in the world to do it, and he explains why at length (which I commented on and commended him for). Then, for some reason or another, Rick the Writer, decides to make fun of Mike’s foundation and the T-shirts he was promoting by saying “at least I’m not trying to sell you a t-shirt off of apathy and low self-worth.” Not realizing that Rowe has raised over $4 million in “work ethic scholarships”.
“Thanks to the support from the people on this page, we’ve trained over 500 people to work as welders, electricians, carpenters, plumbers, and HVAC specialists. Modest, by most foundation standards, but not bad for a bunch of elitists, trading in apathy and low self-worth!”
After taking this blogger to task with point after point carefully laid out, Rick the Writer decided to issue an apology to Mike for his post being “more personal in tone than I meant it to be.”
You see, it’s fun to go “for the gut” when nobody reads your work, but suddenly a celebrity hears your nasty words and you feel the need to apologize. Come on, man, at least stand by your words. You can’t make fun of a guy for raising money for a foundation and then turn right around and sing your praises for the man. You just called him an elitist and he set you straight. Tell it like it is.
Thanks for setting the record straight, Mike. Clearly what you said has touched a nerve in Americans all over, but hopefully most of them understand where you are coming from. This is why we love you! Maybe you should run, next time!
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