The Joe Rogan controversy isn’t about truth – it’s about control

The Joe Rogan controversy isn’t about truth – it’s about control. By Kat Rosenfield.

Despite the outcry over misinformation, this was never really a debate about what is or isn’t true. …

But at a time of increasing tribalism and profound loss of public trust in our mainstream media and authority figures, Joe Rogan has come to represent something more: the terrifying power of normal people to like the things they like.

To understand Rogan’s place in the media ecosystem requires one to grasp first the immense size of his pre-Spotify popularity. Spotify did not give Joe Rogan a platform; Joe Rogan built his own platform, independently and one listener at a time, until he’d created a structure so enviably huge that Spotify was willing to pay $100 million to slap their name on it. … Spotify wasn’t so much buying Rogan’s content as they were paying to house his empire, including the millions of loyal listeners who would follow him anywhere he went.

That Rogan could rise to this level of influence is a bitter pill to swallow for those in mainstream media, and not just because he’s found immense financial success in an eternally contracting industry.

Rogan unironically embodies the spirit of an old-school, shoe-leather sort of reporter who is increasingly rare in elite newsrooms: he finds interesting people, asks them probing questions and lets them talk. The open-endedness of these conversations is striking at a moment when many mainstream outlets are driven less by journalistic curiosity and more by a quest to promote moral correctness, and where much of the writing evinces a belief that its reader must be guided if not shoved in the direction of the proper conclusion.

Against this backdrop, Rogan does something fairly radical in eschewing the role of authority (“don’t listen to me” is a frequent refrain on the podcast) while trusting his audience to draw their own conclusions. …

He’s a reminder of what journalism used to be, of what was lost in the pivot from objectivity to moral clarity, including the working-class audience who are turned off by what they see as rampant contempt and condescension from the New York Times and CNNs of the world. …

Here is the heart of the campaign to push Rogan off Spotify. It’s not about stopping misinformation, and it’s not about reducing his influence; indeed, Spotify could renege and cancel Rogan tomorrow, costing themselves $100 million, without costing him a single listener. What people really want is the symbolic satisfaction of kicking him out of the clubhouse. They had a nice place here, with good music and classy people, and here’s Joe Rogan, wearing the wrong clothes, rubbing shoulders with the wrong folks, flouting the etiquette of this rarefied space and generally stinking up the joint.

It’s less about politics than about class, less about disagreement than disgust, and less about what Rogan actually says than how popular he is for saying it. It’s realising that people love him, no matter how much we beg them not to. In the giant fertile chasm between liberal and conservative media, in a vacuum of trust in authority, Joe Rogan has taken root: irreverent, curious, immune to in-group pressure and utterly uncontrollable.

The left has silenced nearly all the non-left voices over the last two decades, so it’s fallen to oddballs like Joe Rogan to inherit all the non-left audience. Sadly, he too will be cancelled or gelded before long. He’s one of the last holdouts because he wasn’t an obvious target for the left, but he is now.