The unstoppable Joe Rogan

He’s in his mid-50s, a martial artist, UFC color commentator and comedic actor. And he’s the biggest thing to hit the airwaves since Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern.

Joe Rogan doesn’t come from central casting. Neither did Limbaugh or Stern. The guy does have the three things you can’t teach that most other commentators lack: authenticity, unpredictability and fearlessness. 

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) tried to censor Stern. In 1992, the government fined Stern’s employer, Infinity Broadcasting, $600,000 for indecent content. In 1995, another fine was levied for $1.7 million. For context, when Stern first got into radio in the 1970s, he earned $93.00 per week. 

Same thing happened to Limbaugh, whom many liberals called on the FCC to be taken off the air. Fortunately, Stern and Limbaugh prevailed. Because if their right to free speech had been taken away, you can be sure the dominoes would have quickly fallen against anyone deemed to be out of line or to have the “wrong” opinion, which isn’t the way free speech works.

Rogan – who draws more than 11 million listeners per day on Spotify – is next in line to receive heat. U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy recently demanded that Big Tech and the government pull the podcast off the air, citing what he deemed as misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines. 

Murthy’s call to censor Rogan regards the host’s recent interview with Dr. Robert Malone, who bills himself as having played a crucial role in the creation of mRNA vaccines. During a marathon conversation typical of podcasts, Malone concluded that current COVID-19 vaccines simply do not work the way they’re sold and have side effects that aren’t being reported. 

The Malone interview wasn’t just a one-off on Rogan’s show. A few weeks ago, a letter said to be signed by “270 scientists and healthcare professionals” called on Spotify to take action against Rogan for being “a menace to public health.” Rogan defended himself earlier this week in an Instagram interview. 

“The problem that I have with misinformation, especially today, is that many of the things that we thought of as misinformation just a short while ago are now accepted as fact,” Rogan explained. “Like for instance, eight months ago if you said ‘if you get vaccinated, you could still catch Covid, and you could still spread Covid. You would be removed from social media.” 

He has a point. 

Musician Neil Young, who also has a deal with Spotify, gave the company a public ultimatum: “They can have Rogan or Young. Not both.”

Spotify chose Rogan, an easy choice from a business perspective, given that it reportedly paid $100 million for exclusive rights to Rogan’s podcast in May 2020. A few days later, another singer of the Vietnam era, Joni Mitchell, pulled her library from Spotify. 

“We want all the world’s music and audio content to be available to Spotify users,” the company said in response on Jan. 26. “With that comes great responsibility in balancing both safety for listeners and freedom for creators. We have detailed content policies in place and we’ve removed over 20,000 podcast episodes related to Covid since the start of the pandemic.” 

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said in an Axios interview that Rogan shouldn’t be silenced while strongly condemning his past comments.  

As controversy and attention continues to build around Rogan, so does media coverage.

We all know how this works from here: Seemingly everybody and anybody has gone through every podcast Rogan has ever done, thousands upon thousands of hours of free-flowing conversation extending more than a decade, to find something – anything – incriminating. Rogan uttered racial slurs on the podcast, which he insists were taken out of context. 

“It’s a video that’s made of clips taken out of context of me of 12 years of conversations on my podcast,” Rogan said in an Instagram apology. “It’s all smushed together and it looks f—— horrible, even to me.”

“I know that to most people, there is no context where a white person is ever allowed to say that word, never mind publicly on a podcast, and I agree with that now. I haven’t said it in years. Instead of saying ‘the N-word,’ I would just say the word. I thought as long as it was in context, people would understand what I was doing,” he added. 

Rogan’s defense was that he would apply the n-word when discussing comics of the past who used the word, such as Redd Foxx and Lenny Bruce. Still, Rogan said “it is the most regretful and shameful thing that I’ve ever had to talk about publicly.” 

Spotify proceeded to remove 70 more episodes of The Joe Rogan Experience but continues to stick by the host. And if Spotify folds, rival Rumble has offered Rogan $100 million to join its platform. 

Nobody with a microphone and an opinion gets more attention than Rogan right now. And more people are now tuning in out of curiosity as a result. Conservatives are embracing him more despite that he is a liberal. (He supported Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for president in 2020.) It’s profoundly fascinating to watch. 

Agree or disagree with Joe Rogan. That’s ultimately the point. And those who disagree are likely his most loyal listeners. 

It all goes back to a famous scene in Howard Stern’s movie, “Private Parts,” which chronicled his life. 

A marketing guru is tasked by Stern’s program director to determine who is listening to his show and for how long. 

Researcher: The average radio listener listens for 18 minutes a day. The average Howard Stern fan listens for – Are you ready for this? – an hour and 20 minutes.

Program director: How could this be?

Researcher: Answer most commonly given: “I want to see what he’ll say next.”

Program director: All right, fine. But what about the people who hate Stern?

Researcher: Good point. The average Stern hater listens for two and a half hours a day.

Program director: But…if they hate him, why do they listen?

Researcher: Most common answer: “I want to see what he’ll say next.”

That’s Joe Rogan in 2022. His haters keep calling for him to be canceled and censored. And the more that keeps happening, the more failures that occur and the bigger this giant will grow. 

Joe Concha is a media and politics columnist.

Tags Bernie Sanders COVID-19 misinformation Fake News Howard Stern Infinity Broadcasting Joe Rogan Joe Rogan Mass media misinformation Podcasting Robert W. Malone Shock jocks Spotify The Joe Rogan Experience Vivek Murthy

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