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Today's controversy: Joe Rogan's polarizing podcast

February 22, 2022
Photo by Maddie Monroe | The State News

Joe Rogan, one of the most popular podcasters on Spotify, has been under fire recently for spreading what critics define as misinformation and propaganda.

With the pandemic reaching its influence into 2022, there is still controversy on public health and government control, ranging from masks to vaccines. People believe that Joe Rogan has been inflaming this argument by having guests on his podcast that encourage anti-governmental policies by speaking on more of a conspiracy side of the pandemic instead of facts. Many on social media want this to stop, claiming it could be a dangerous way of speaking for public safety.

“I have a feeling that his fanbase appreciates that sort of improvised nature of it … but that lends itself to tons of inaccuracies and they don’t bother fact-checking themselves," journalism freshman Wali Khan said.

Khan, like many others, also believes that Spotify is at fault for the continuous misinformation instead of stepping in and not altering the way facts are presented and not working as a platform that cares about public opinion moderation. He compared it to Facebook fueling the anti-Muslim attacks in India, working not for, but also not against, human rights issues.

“That’s a result of not having enough moderators or not knowing what to do with that amount of content or misinformation,” Khan said.

Other also believe that the company not stepping in is just another capitalistic venture: Spotify paying Rogan a large contract to become exclusive on their platform.

“Spotify was protecting him for as long as they could because they already put $100 million into him,” journalism junior Norene Bassin said.

Khan also said that having Rogan on Spotify is the company winning the streaming wars — acquiring the top producing podcaster, but also having to deal with the consequences of attaining his liabilities. Some of these liabilities that Khan highlighted was Rogan's affinity to agree with his guests so they can continue talking and his fanbase who encourage the anti-vax phenomenon and want to hear their thoughts repeated back to them in the unmoderated form.

Throughout the ignored cries for Spotify to take action until Spotify decided to remove the episodes where slurs were said, Rumble offered Rogan the same amount of money for more freedom at their platform, which is known for being right-wing leaning. However, according to a Complex article, Rogan declined the offer promptly.

“If he goes on Rumble, it's kind of a signifier that he isn’t really committed to the see both sides' ideology, which he is comfortably nestled in between,” Khan said.

Khan also said he believed Rogan apologized for the purpose of wanting to stay mainstream on Spotify.

While many artists would be cancelled for this, many do not believe this fate will ever reach Rogan, instead blowing over in two weeks. Khan believes this is because his fans tend to not follow cancel culture, and Rogan will just need to brave the media tide and wait for another wave later.

“I don’t think Joe Rogan is going to get canceled,” Khan said. “He’s too big for that. Whether or not there will be any legislative sanctions or any corporate sanctions, that’s a different story.”

Khan also believes that this magnifies Rogan's influence on the podcast platform.

“I think the image of a white man starting a podcast has become a meme by now," Khan said. “Instead of going to therapy, they invite guests and talk about trickle down economics. I think it's a particularly American 'disease' for white men to think that it’d be a crime not to share every thought that flies through their head. I think podcasts are the jumping-off point for this 'disease.'”

Many leftists on social media are banning together on this belief and the agenda of fighting information that could be deemed dangerous.

“Finally cracking down on him was necessary to defeat the evil of misinformation campaigns,” Bassin said.

However, fans of Rogan are still going strong, wanting to spread their own appreciation and the belief that their favorite podcaster is not a menace to the information transparency age.

“There's always people on his show that say things that are not true, but the reason I like his show is I've always felt like he does a good job pressing them about things he doesn't agree with or at least having other people on that have different opinions,” media and information senior Andrew Lake said.

Lake also expressed that he doesn't believe that people take advice from his show seriously when some information that could be deemed as a bad opinion is expressed.

“Even if you think the information is bad, I think it's much better to have people argue the information rather than get rid of the information in general," Lake said.

Lake said that these opinions would not be better on Rumble because Rogan would never claim to be right wing and has had many leftists as guests on his podcast, including democratic primaries in the last election, and has publicly said he would support Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Mechanical engineering senior Danny Mondrusov said that Joe Rogan can't spread expert information that could influence the public because he isn't an expert. He doesn't want to spread an agenda — he's just listening to both sides.

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“He’ll talk about everything,” Mondrusov said. “If you listen to him, you’ll hear from him first that he's not an expert on anything. He doesn't claim to be. He’s really just a guy behind a microphone. He always has been, and really all he’s ever claimed to do is be looking for the truth.”

Mondrusov also explained that he is against Spotify stepping into something only Rogan can control, not needing a backing from a platform.

“Joe Rogan is his own platform,” Mondrusov said. “There's nobody that's going to censor somebody who's got more monthly listeners than all of cable news combined.”

Mondrusov believes that this whole situation is highlighting how people cannot be publicly bipartisan anymore, needing to pick one side. Rogan refuses to do so, which makes people angrier.

“You don’t talk for 12 years straight on a podcast without garnering some enemies in the process,” Mondrusov said.

Whichever side of the argument, it is undeniable that this fiasco has exemplified what media can do to the masses and public opinion.

“I think it makes them recognize the gravity of what the media can do," Bassin said. "There's some stuff you just enjoy, but there’s some stuff that people internalize and make that part of their daily lives to such a degree that they can't separate it from entertainment.”

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