The streaming giant is right to stand by its star podcaster
For long-time listeners of The Joe Rogan Experience, our host’s transformation from an amiable, foul-mouthed, weed-fuelled comedian whose podcast was sponsored by a masturbation aid to one of the most prominent voices of our time has been strange to see. His confidence, curiosity and cheerful disinterest in whether or not he might offend someone is a perfect fit for our time. JRE has become not simply a podcast but a one-man media giant (well, two men if you count Jamie the producer).
Given that I have probably heard Joe Rogan’s voice more than anyone’s outside of my family and friends, of course there are elements of his work and style that annoy me. Does he not realise that some of his LA comedian friends are as funny as a bout of gastroenteritis? Does he have to bang on about “regular jobs” when most of his audience listens to him to fill the long, dull hours at their regular jobs? Does anyone care about DMT?
So, I am very open to criticisms of Joe Rogan’s choice of guests and questions. With millions of listeners comes moral and intellectual responsibility, and there have been worthwhile responses to his Covid vaccine scepticism (some of them on his own show).
What I am less open to is the kind of person whose instinctive response to hearing opinions they disagree with is to want them silenced.
An open letter signed by ‘270 experts’ called on Spotify, Rogan’s platform provider, to ‘immediately establish a clear and public policy to moderate misinformation.; These experts included a podcaster, a dentist, a psychologist, a sleep trainer, a “workplace wellness consultant” and a vet.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have since made it their business to get involved and tell the media that they had been “expressing concerns to [their] partners at Spotify about the all too real consequences of Covid misinformation on its platform.” Their partners? Ah, yes. In 2020 the pair signed a multi-year deal worth $25 million with the streaming giant. So far it has yielded a single podcast episode. Often, though not always, the people most interested in moderating other people’s creative output are the people who are least capable of creativity.
You can’t silence Joe Rogan, of course. He had the biggest podcast in the world before he went to Spotify and he would have the biggest podcast in the world if he had to leave. Indeed, if it means that he can keep the $100 million they signed him for and escape their grousing employees, it might be a good deal for him.
Joe Rogan is an institution now: he is bigger than Spotify, Neil Young and even Harry and Meghan. It is JRE’s unfiltered nature and authenticity that make him so appealing in a world of greasy scolds — his more censorious critics could learn something.