Rogan, the world’s biggest podcaster (he’s also a stand-up comedian and UFC commentator), was accused of spreading COVID-19 misinformation at the start of this year, after having a number of vaccine sceptics on his show.
Rogan, who is being paid big bucks by Spotify (Spotify paid $200 million to be able to host him exclusively, according to The New York Times) later apologised and said that in the future he would follow up controversial episodes with clarification from experts.
Rogan did not go into detail about what this would involve, but he seemed to suggest he’d get on experts holding mainstream views to provide counterpoints to the arguments made (and fact check the information spouted) by his more controversial guests.
Rogan has also come under criticism for using the n-word in old episodes of his podcast, after an edited video compilation went viral earlier this year. Rogan said the remarks were taken out of context, but offered “sincere and humble apologies” regardless.
Addressing the montage, Rogan said: “I’m making this video to talk about the most regretful and shameful thing that I’ve ever had to talk about publicly.”
“There’s a video that’s out, that’s a compilation of me saying the N-word. It’s a video that’s made of clips taken out of context of me of … 12 years of conversations on my podcast, and it’s all smushed together, and it looks f*ckin’ horrible, even to me.”
“Now I know that to most people there’s 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, but for a long time, when I would bring that word up, like if it would come up in conversation, 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.”
Rogan said in some of the instances he was quoting other people or referring to the title of a Richard Pryor comedy album. In another of the clips he is discussing how it is “an unusual word”, and talking about how his thinking has changed: “It’s a word where only one group of people is allowed to use it, they can use in so many different ways. But it’s not my word to use, I’m well aware of that now.”
With all this controversy flying around, many people struggle to understand why Joe Rogan is still so popular.
This feministabulous Twitter thread (“why do so many men trust Joe Rogan? right answers only”), for instance, reveals why a lot of people dislike Rogan.
Answers ranged from sneering (see: “Because he legitimises and gives voice to their simplistic world views” and “he’s the stupid person’s idea of a smart person”) to the slightly more thoughtful (see: “because he speaks like they do”).
As a less snarky effort to explain why many men love Joe Rogan, here are a few reasons we can think of, which explain why so many men still love Joe Rogan, despite the negative connotations now attached to doing so, in many peoples’ minds.
As one Twitter user responded to the above question, Joe Rogan is a refreshing way to get your news and keep up to date with weird and cool new stuff in the world, if you have similar interests to him.
Much in the same way hysterically bored suburbanites prefer getting their news and talking points from A Current Affair and The Project rather than Reuters, it only makes sense that gym bros and stoners and curious souls will prefer getting their news and talking points from someone who resonates with them – someone like Joe Rogan.
Joe Rogan is also made to look better than he really is by much of the mainstream media landscape. If there’s one thing that Joe Rogan’s ‘dumb’ fans and the ‘smart’ uni students that want him cancelled have in common is that they both think our ‘systems are broken’ and that everything is corrupt and needs an overhaul.
Good journalism is often quite dry or requires a fair bit of effort to consume (in the case of, say, The Guardian, you have to actually read it, and in the case of some other outlets, you might even be expected to pay for it!), while bad journalism is – while attention-grabbing and easily digestible – shallow and predictable (again: think of our friendly punching bag, The Project).
Joe Rogan’s podcast, on the other hand, fans say, sits in the sweet spot between the two: he is both authentic and easily digestible (reading is so last century).
As Twitter user Joseph R Bristol put it: “He’s literally just a regular guy talking to people. he’s not pretending to be someone. not trying to be cool. he just smokes and drinks and has a conversation. it’s not a interview or pretending.”
Another wrote: “Because Joe Rogan runs 3 hour podcasts with interesting guests. You have to be genuine in that context. His guests cannot rely just repeating talking points and sound bites like you see in those 3-minute interviews on cable news. It’s real talk.”
As Rogan himself loves to point out, he gets more out of his guests than outlets like CNN or Fox News could ever hope to get in their 2 minute time slots, and, though he often fails to challenge them like a journalist might, in many cases he gets a lot more out of them anyway, after making them feel comfortable (and plying them with whisky and weed).
The problem with this, many people say, is that it lets misinformation go unchallenged. Others say Rogan’s free-flowing format gives his guests just enough rope to hang themselves with. Depending on the episode, either one of the two can happen. But even if it’s not perfect, it’s still preferable, in a lot of people’s eyes, to legacy media, simply because it’s something different and natural feeling, if not fully organic (just like any media outlet, Joe Rogan has biases of his own, too).
But what about the allegations of sexism, racism, and bigotry? Why don’t guys disown Rogan because of this? Essentially, a good portion of the population still love Joe Rogan either because they don’t believe these allegations are true, or because they believe his remarks were taken out of context.
Every adult alive today has probably evolved their understanding of what constitutes racist, sexist and homophobic language during their lives, and so are forgiving, as they have been through the exact same process as Rogan, except without being in the public eye. Others are critical of Rogan for taking so long to get with the times but still love him for his other good qualities (i.e. the vast catalogue of interesting interviews which are available to listen to online, for free), and because other people they admire have vouched for him.
Other guys simply love Rogan because he loves weed and whisky as much as he loves saunas and ice baths (he inspires them to work out more, but not to an intimidating, David Goggins like level).
Others meanwhile, like Devin Gordon, writing for The Atlantic, love Rogan’s lust for life. Gordon wrote in 2019: “But that’s not why people are obsessed with him. In reality, it’s because Joe Rogan is a tireless optimist, a grab-life-by-the-throat-and-bite-out-its-esophagus kind of guy, and many, many men respond to that. I respond to that. The competitive energy, the drive to succeed, the search for purpose, for self-respect. Get better every day. Master your domain. Total human optimization. A goal so hazy and unreachable that you never stop trying, until you realize with a kind of enviable Zen clarity that the trying is the whole point.”
That’s the good side. The bad side to Joe, according to the same Atlantic article, is that along this journey of human optimisation you can become too self-centred.
“One of the downsides of total human optimization is that you’re always coming up short, and in the wrong stew of testosterone and serotonin, it can turn into a poison of self-loathing and trigger-cocked rage,” the Atlantic article stated. “And a key thing Joe and his fans tend to have in common is a deficit of empathy. He seems unable to process how his tolerance for monsters like Alex Jones plays a role in the wounding of people who don’t deserve it.”
Others believe the world needs more ‘across the aisle’ interviewers and refuse to hear a bad word about Rogan because he provides this kind of service.
Also there’s lots of vicarious living going on here I think. He’s talking with people they would like to talk to… athletes, comics, people with wacky/stupid ideas and none of which pose a threat to his viewers since they’re mostly cis white men.— Mike Natale (@TheNatale) February 1, 2022
Other reasons men love Joe Rogan that have been suggested on Twitter include: “confirmation bias coupled with a sense of community” and “People in general trust people they hear from regularly.” He also offers long-form access to many people’s idols and celebrities, which are not often seen elsewhere.
On top of that, an increasing number of people are becoming sick of political posturing and polarization, and (rightly or wrongly as, at the end of the day, everything is political), see Joe Rogan as a relatively apolitical figure, who just talks about trending issues and interesting sh*t without too much of an obvious agenda.
There you have it: a bunch of reasons why a lot of men still love Joe Rogan.