I don’t know Joe Rogan that well.
I’ve been on his show three times - once to talk about the mental health dangers of cannabis, an appearance that came out of my book Tell Your Children, twice for Covid and the vaccines. Each time I spent far longer in the studio with him than anywhere else. We shook hands and chatted for a minute before sitting down and a couple minutes afterward.
Then he vanished and I walked to the car waiting for me. The third time I actually felt a little disappointed - Hey, Joe, can’t we hang out? Have a beer? Mainly tired, though. Three hours of intense conversation that millions of people are going to see will do that.
He’s a lot shorter than I am, and a lot stronger; and his security has increased notably since the first time I met him, in February 2019, in those halcyon pre-Spotify days. Now he works from an anonymous office park in Austin, Texas. But back then he was in Los Angeles, in a studio the size of a warehouse and filled with cool toys: vintage guitars, vintage posters, a pool table. Apparently his car collection was at the far end of the warehouse, though I didn’t see it.
The LA warehouse looked like what it was - the man cave to end all man caves, built by a guy who had won life’s lottery and could afford every pleasure he imagined. Rogan was no longer just a comedian. He had built a mammoth audience of young men, the hardest-to-reach and most coveted demographic in the media. Politicians and comedians and authors all clamored to be on his show.
Life was good.
Now Joe Rogan’s in trouble.
Three points can ALL be true.
Rogan’s use of the n-word - and that Planet of the Apes story - are indefensible and humiliating and will haunt him for the rest of his career.
Our woke revolution has brought lots of linguistic rules I’ll argue. Not this one. That word has a unique history and power that give it a unique ugliness. The only slur remotely close might be “kike,” though even it doesn’t compare.
And the problems with the n-word are not new. When he was a Senator from New York, William Seward supposedly said that “no man will ever be President of the United States who spells ‘negro’ with two gs.'‘ That was more than 150 years ago.
So no, I am not going to defend Rogan for what he said. No one should.
Second, I don’t know what is in Joe Rogan’s heart. The clips of him saying the word - to me, anyway - mostly show an overgrown child, thrilled with the pleasure of being naughty, a comedian playing epater les bourgeois with the last unspeakable word rather than a irredeemable and malign racist.
The Planet of the Apes story is worse. Rogan - like all of us - is imperfect, and like many of us sometimes has dark thoughts about race and religion. We are trained, as we should be, to shoo those away and certainly never say them aloud. The fact he did shows at best terrible judgment.
The good news is that Rogan seems to have realized the harm of his words. His mortification appears genuine. I hope and suspect he will follow up his apology this weekend with more words and deeds. Not because he’s going to satisfy his critics, but because he should.
If he does, I hope people will listen to his apologies as closely as they have scrutinized his clips.
Third, what is happening to Rogan right now is not about his use of the n-word.
How do I know?
Because those clips have been around for years - more than a decade, in some cases. They long predate his Spotify deal. They are being used against him right now because they can be, because in having me and a handful of other vaccine and Covid skeptics on Rogan has driven the public health and media establishment mad.
I don’t know if these people believe Joe Rogan is all that stands between them and a Covid-free paradise. I don’t see how they could; they (some of them, anyway) must know the data from European countries with essentially universal adult vaccinations.
But the public health mandarins are both fearful and furious; they staked their political careers and medical reputations on vaccines that have provably failed. Joe Rogan is the last excuse and distraction they have left.
Now they are happy enough to beat him into submission with the hammer he’s given them. Whether or not he survives on Spotify, he has learned he is vulnerable. Very vulnerable. He risks being pushed to the 8chan fringes.
He also knows that maybe he can avoid that fate (assuming there aren’t more, and worse, clips). Along with apologizing - which he should do in any case - Rogan just has to stop asking too many questions about the billion-person medical experiment of 2021. Admit he’s just a comedian who didn’t actually understand The Science. Get back to safe and happy talk about psychedelics and universal basic income.
Put his jester’s hat back on, in other words. Leave Covid behind.
Or he can use his platform to keep asking hard questions.
What will Rogan do? Like I said, I don’t know him particularly well.
I can only hope he takes the hard road. Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.