It’s been a week since I went through the looking glass of the most popular podcast in the world. Two and a half million people have wondered “who the hell is this Melissa Chen” and then googled me only to find doctors by the same name in their area.
They were also treated to a very public freakout that was partly triggered by the energy drink I was using as a crutch and scapegoat because it’s too embarrassing to admit that I, a fullt grown adult, have chronic fear of public speaking. My Twitter follower count has already increased by 100% which isn’t as flattering as you think. I’m haunted by the thought of what proportion of these new followers are avid offense archeologists, studying my Twitter feed with a microaggression magnifying glass? To be sure, nothing has ever prepared me to deal with this level of attention and exposure.
First things first, a big thank you to Mr. Joe Rogan. Almost all JRE guests are widely-recognized household names that include politicians, CEOs, celebrities, athletes and scientists. I can’t remember the last time Joe introduced a total unknown to the world, can you? Well on Valentine’s Day 2020, he did. He took a big risk on me and for that, I am so grateful.
Joe was also really smooth and instrumental in calming me down after the panic attack hit. It takes a lot of professionalism to make sure that a 2.5 hour conversation doesn’t get derailed and I came away more impressed with what Joe does with his show than before I entered the lair.
Speaking of which, what a man cave it is. It’s basically a Disneyland for Bros who are bicurious about wellness trends. Where else would you have a gym with Captain America barbell plates alongside a sensory deprivation tank in a large warehouse that boasts a multi-car garage and a kitchen with tumeric latte-making functionality?
Needless to say, once I found my groove (I was still nervous throughout, just hid it better), Joe and I were vibing based on the common denominators of mutual dude energy, curiosity and a disdain for the crazy and woke.
The Reactions & Aftermath
This maybe giving too much fodder to all the armchair psychiatrists out there, but I have always adopted self-loathing as a defense mechanism. The idea is that there’s just no way that anyone else can hate me any more than I already hate myself so all the insults hurled my way could do no harm to my teflon-coated stoicism. It works pretty well, although the major draw back is having to navigate life with crippling self-doubt.
I was well aware of the degenerative cesspool of vitriol that is the YouTube comments section and expected the worst. The next morning after the interview went live, I got a text from Joe himself that read:
“This is a friendly reminder not to read the comments”
Naturally, I read the comments, because the Thug Life Chose Me ™. Overwhelmingly, it was nothing but an eruption of goodwill and outright flattery. Don’t get me wrong, there was the occasional nutbag comment that makes you seriously question the wisdom of democracy, but overall the tone was gracious and even adulatory.
To say I’m still shell-shocked at how likeable I come across on camera is very understated. I’ve always had a disagreeable disposition. In fact, sometimes I think that’s where my humor comes from. To be funny requires the ability to be a bit of an asshole and believe me, I have plenty of that in reserve.
One week on and I’m still mired in the Sisyphean task of chipping away at the emails that have piled up in my inbox. Many people sent heartfelt messages offering their time and skills to help build the website I described below in the video clip (at 3’34”), a portal to track how the Free World is selling its soul to the Chinese Communist Party (both inside and out of China) and monitor the ways in which a growing number of companies are becoming complicit in Chinese censorship.
Several have commented on how brave I am to be speaking about this subject on a popular podcast. This isn’t bravery for a few reasons:
1. I don’t have family in China. I can’t trace my ancestry to a single living relative currently living in China, so the CCP cannot use familial ties as leverage on me
2. I grew up in a culture steeped in Confucian values, so I understand the cultural mindset of the Chinese on an almost visceral level
3. It helps to have a Chinese face talking about China (lest you’re accused of racism)
Bravery is what propels the activists and dissidents *inside* China, the ones who dare to speak out against the CCP from within, where the stakes are “disappearances” or imprisonment. I’m safe. I’m doing it from within the most comfortable, freest place on the planet.
I suspect that one of the other reasons that I resonated so much with Joe’s audience is that the main theme that ties in my origins story and the various strands of my life’s work is in preserving or fighting for a world without limits, deficits or access to information and knowledge. That means fighting censorship and the structural reasons why gaps in access exist and figuring out how to democratize it.
One of the most common themes of emails I received was from military vets who served in the Middle East. Many shared their experience of deployment, their observations and variations of the following:
“if we only dropped less bombs and fired less bullets, and gave them laptops and books instead, we would’ve achieved the goal of cultivating a society in which democracy and freedom can take root.”
The Ideas Beyond Borders website was also flooded with messages from volunteers offering to translate Wikipedia articles and books with us, and Arabic readers who were delighted that we were generating and disseminating verboten knowledge. I’m floored by the enthusiasm people seem to have for wanting to be a part of this – to be brutally frank, I don’t think I sold the idea very well. There were a lot of things I left out or wished I had said differently but in the moment, was too angst-ridden to think clearly.
There were a few other take-aways:
Had to google. Uh thanks, I guess?
An eternal face chair. So generous!
Apparently I am a spy
Just to recap I’m a half Asa Akira, half Alex Jones hybrid who works for the CIA
Ultimately, my faith in humanity has been restored. I did not receive a single dick pic (this isn’t a challenge). Once again, thank you to all who persevered through the first few distressing minutes or so, stuck around till I found my stride, and then listened to the contents of my stream of consciousness and then bothered to comment or write. I appreciate all the letters, and I promise I will respond to each and every one of them.
For now, the only downside to the Rogan Bump is having to explain to the new followers all my insider-jokes that I used to just throw around casually with my smaller community of followers and friends. If you see me spouting anything weird (something about being a proto-fascist, say), you’re just going to have to accept that this is just who I am as a person. 🙏