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Joe Rogan is staying one step ahead of Cancel Culture, but not if the media has anything to say about it.
The host of “The Joe Rogan Experience,” the podcast sensation who joined Spotify last year following a jaw-dropping $100 million deal, is under near-constant attack from his woke critics — and, sadly, journalists who pledge allegiance to the new woke order.
The short list of complaints against Rogan?
- He’s too willing to speak to fringe players like conspiracy monger Alex Jones.
- He’s too willing to give “problematic” voices like Abigail Shrier, a critic of the trans agenda, a platform.
- He’s too willing to question the government’s COVID-19 dog-eared rule book.
- He’s too willing to curse out Cancel Culture.
- He’s too enamored of free speech, worst of all.
Rogan invites guests on his show who have been deplatformed by social media giants (Jones, for example). He blasted Joe Biden as too old during the heat of the 2020 presidential campaign after endorsing an even older Sen. Bernie Sanders in the primaries. More recently he brought up President Biden’s mental fitness anew, something the mainstream media refuses to consider after years of questioning the mental state of Donald Trump.
He ran afoul of COVID-19 narratives in March when he and guest Jamie Metzl, an author, futurist and scientific adviser, questioned the origins of the virus while media and Big Tech were still downplaying connections to the Wuhan lab in China.
These atypical stances should worry us all, say his critics, citing his massive platform and influence over his loyal flock. (Business Insider reported Rogan’s show was downloaded nearly 200 million times a month prior to joining Spotify.)
That ignores the fact he’s a comedian, not a news reporter. He’s best known in some circles for making contestants chug donkey fluids as the host of NBC’s “Fear Factor.” But that hasn’t stopped mainstream journalists from training their digital guns on Rogan.
A July 1 profile in The New York Times about the podcaster contained several low blows suggesting his podcast empire is bad for the country. The feature worried that Rogan’s “social capital” with fans can cause them to attack targets en masse (the same can be said for many celebrities on social media) and noted that being an opinionated straight white male has been very good for business.
The article also feared the “absence of curation, or any discernible editing” in his podcast and how it’s “alarming” to some that he defied the “traditional gatekeeping strictures of mainstream fame.”
Try to find similar warnings in profiles tied to John Oliver, Stephen Colbert or Seth Meyers, late night comics who could keep fact checkers busy with their partisan yuks shared to millions each weeknight. Meyers once called the nightly chaos in Portland little more than “graffiti and light property damage,” for example.
Earlier this month, Axios fretted that independent voices like Rogan’s are rising up as the nation’s trust in traditional media sags, as if the latter wasn’t self-inflicted.
The piece noted it’s “troubling” that Rogan fans “could also lead to an increase in the perception that misinformation runs rampant and that audiences shouldn’t trust anything they see in the news.”
How many fake news scandals can the public endure, from the Covington Catholic kids unfairly slammed as racists to reporters discrediting, without facts, the Hunter Biden laptop story, before they realize Rogan has a point?
In May, Rogan enraged his critics once again when he uncorked the following rant claiming that the new woke comedy rules impede both creativity and who can tell jokes in our Cancel Culture age:
“It’ll eventually get to where straight white men are not allowed to talk because it’s your privilege to express yourself when other people of color have been silenced throughout history,” Rogan said.
In return, CNN host Brian Stelter savaged Rogan during his show, “Reliable Sources”:
“On one level it’s just comical, hearing this rich and famous guy express worries that even though he’s paid to talk for a living he’s going to be silenced in the future. But he’s not the only one talking that way. The fear about ‘woke’ culture, about an overreaction, is pervasive, especially in the right-wing media.”
It’s worth noting that Rogan has fessed up to some of his mistakes over the past year. Last September he apologized for incorrectly saying left-wing activists had been arrested for instigating deadly forest fires in Oregon. He also backpedaled somewhat on suggesting younger people not get the COVID-19 vaccine after media reports all but demanded he change his opinion.
It’s clear why the media feels threatened by Rogan, a comedian still feeling his way around superstardom. He’s part of a new, independent wave of media stars loosening journalism’s stranglehold on cultural narratives.
It’s why Substack, an emerging platform that allows free-thinking reporters like Bari Weiss and Glenn Greenwald to share their work sans traditional filters (and get paid big bucks), is similarly under fire from old-school media voices.
Columbia Journalism Review attacked Substack, in part, for promoting white male voices above others, even though the platform is open to all who command robust social media followings.
New Yorker magazine worried Substack would hurt the mainstream media’s ability to “hold powerful people and institutions to account,” a curious claim given the “Oooh, President Biden is eating butter pecan ice cream” coverage of the current commander in chief.
As the public’s trust in news media craters, people are craving more authentic voices, from pundits to podcasters alike. The marketplace is telling Spotify they want “The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast. The downloads tell the story, not what a handful of critics or reporters think.
Once upon a time, the news media cheered unfettered debate and stood up for the First Amendment. Now, reporters rage against independent forums like Substack and the freewheeling audio platform Clubhouse, and worry a comedian with a massive following might be bad for America.
It’s why they keep pumping out fear-based articles to damage Rogan’s reputation. He’s encouraging listeners to do the last thing they want them to do — think for themselves.
Christian Toto is a columnist, film critic, freelance writer and the editor of HollywoodInToto.com.
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