Is Joe Rogan worth trying to engage with?

There’s a reflex, when you think you know about a particular topic, to engage in discussions and disagreements using that knowledge as your primary tool. Most of the time this is fine, but when it comes to debates and public arguments, it turns out that being correct and knowledgeable can count for much less than being a fast talker who’s good at engaging with an audience. When it comes to Joe Rogan, it’s generally not hard to point out where he’s factually wrong, but as with young-earth creationists and climate deniers, that’s often not enough. It’s also important to consider how he responds to disagreement, and whether it’s worth engaging with him at all.

John Stewart recently declared Rogan to be “someone you can engage with”, which prompted Rebecca Watson to take a skeptical look not at whether Rogan is right or wrong about a given issue, but specifically at what happens when he is provably wrong, and someone tries to point that out to him.

And this is perfectly encapsulated in the Josh Zepps interview: Rogan takes approximately 10 seconds to say “for young boys in particular there’s an adverse risk associated with the vaccine: there’s a 2-4 fold increase in incidences of myocarditis.”

Zepps responds “Yes, you know there’s an increase in myocarditis in that cohort from getting COVID as well which exceeds the risk of myocarditis from the vaccine.” That also takes him approximately 10 seconds.

Rogan responds “I don’t think that’s true.” In the next 60 seconds, Rogan reads the article that says Zepps is correct, and argues that it’s not true for children, at which point Zepps needs to dumb it down for him a little to make sure Rogan understands that it IS about the cohort he’s talking about. When it becomes indisputable that Zepps is correct, Rogan objects to the source of the article, and just starts saying complete nonsense: “That is NOT what I’ve read before, and also it’s like even when we’re reading these things where are we getting this from even from the VAERS report, the amount of people that report, the underreporting.”

So he never actually admits that he was wrong. The best he can do is say it’s “interesting” and “not what (he’s) read before.” And that, to Jon Stewart, is an example of someone who isn’t an idealogue, someone we can engage with. And this is the BEST POSSIBLE CIRCUMSTANCE: Rogan was speaking with someone who already knew the actual answer to the single piece of misinformation he happened to spout at that time; Rogan’s opponent was a white man who he respected; and the opponent did not back down when Rogan continued pushing back.

Now let’s see what happens when Rogan says a piece of misinformation and is confronted by an expert in the field on which he’s pontificating, but it’s NOT a white man who he respects. On the Opie and Anthony show, Rogan claims that researchers recently found a new chimpanzee called the Bondo ape in the Congo, a 6 foot tall 400 pound chimp that nests on the ground, walks upright, and kills lions. Then a PhD primatologist calls in. Let’s see what happens (starting at 5:40)!

I bet some of you were thinking “well it’s not because she’s a woman” right up until he yelled “I have a vagina” at the end, weren’t you? Admit it. I mean, he’s also dismissive of men who know more than him but he doesn’t usually have the guts to scream over them quite so heartily.

And again, that was just ONE false claim. It took Rogan about a minute to make it, and when a primatologist had the nerve to point out that he was wrong (which he was: the “Bondi ape” was announced in 2003 and by 2004 researchers confirmed that it was a common chimp), he spent several minutes just screaming epithets over her. In the course of a regular Joe Rogan show, he can make dozens of false and misleading claims that no one would be able to rebut.

It can be difficult to navigate the confluence of free speech and bigotry at times, but this particular instance doesn’t seem particularly hard to figure out. I’m generally of the opinion that when someone has an outsized amount of power, they also have a comparable amount of responsibility to the rest of society. That means that they also are going to have more limits on their freedom, simply because of the damage they can do. Rogan’s massive audience means that he can’t just be some guy talking to people he finds interesting. He has a massive amount of influence, and he’s paid very, very well for that. He is responsible for damage that he does in spreading misinformation, and that should make him more careful about what he says. Hell, it wouldn’t even require him to do more work – at his level of wealth, he could easily pay people to do fact-checking and analysis for him, and to hold his hand through pre-interview research.

For a man with his resources, ignorance is a choice. For a man with his influence, willful ignorance is a danger. I think it’s very respectable for Young and others to choose not to associate with Spotify and Rogan, and all this hand-wringing about freedom of speech rings more than a little hollow. Maybe Rogan will change – I’m not optimistic enough to believe he’ll go away – but in the meantime I think Watson’s right. Rogan isn’t worth engaging with directly, and there are better ways to refute someone than going on their show to debate them. I’m not going to think less of people who keep their work on Spotify because they can’t afford not to – it’s certainly no worse than selling books on Amazon – but I am glad to see that they’re taking at least a little bit of a hit from all this.


  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    Rogan has successfully filled the loudmouth-bigot niche of Rush Limbaugh.

    Jon Stewart apparently aspires to become the next John Cleese. :-<

  2. says

    I feel like he started a lot of us on a journey leftward, but he got off the train early. I suspect it has to do with the effects of wealth.

  3. sonofrojblake says

    become the next John Cleese

    That would have been a great and admirable aspiration if it was 1981.

  4. says

    It may not be worth it, but it’s necessary to engage with the topic of Joe Rogan. Because, if nobody does, his fans will be able to conclude that it’s OK edginess to use racist language.and they may feel entitled/empowered to do so, themselves. If Joe Rogan gets publicly pounded and (ideally) loses his job for his racist language, other racists may be a bit more careful what they say. “May” does a lot of work, there.

  5. sonofrojblake says

    @mjr, 5:

    other racists may be a bit more careful what they say. “May” does a lot of work, there.

    I don’t know, but I think you’re being pessimistic. It’s my impression that for a while there the sort of thing you talk about (people being pounded and fired for being racist) did indeed seem to be happening, and crucially seemed to be actually working, and racists did indeed seem to be getting, if nothing else, quieter and more circumspect about when and how they revealed their prejudices. There really seemed to be a period of time where things got better.

    Then Trump got elected.

  6. says

    That bit where he shouts down a Ph.D. primatologist and finishes it off with a misogynistic remark has shown very clearly that he is naught but a bully with a platform. He is, truly, just a dumb jock. With a huge audience who hang onto his every word like he is the next incarnation of Jeebus.

  7. Matt G says

    The old Gish Gallop strikes again. Also: a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth gets its boots on.

  8. StevoR says

    Rebecca Watson is right here as usual – excellent clip.

    Can certainly understand the temptation to engage even with people that aren’t worth it personally here. SIWOTI and getting carried away are familiar issues for me. As are typos given I really suck at typing and previewing sadly.

  9. R Smith says

    The biggest problem is this blog. Your head is so far up your own ass, that you entire life revolves about proving your ridiculous theories right. Even if that means ignoring context.

    Opie And Anthony is a comedy show where people talk the talk, and mess around on a variety of topics. They have scientists, psychologists or etc, on all the time just to shit on them.

    Joe is okay with being wrong and anybody who watches his show can attest to this. The problem is since your head is so far up your ass, you never really took the time to understand how Joe actually speaks. His audience won’t see the stubbornness or tension you see. Rather, they see it is is a bantery exchange of different data sets from various sources. There actually is more agreements between Josh and Joe than disagreements in this podcast. No strongly animated oppositions by Josh. He sounds like a regular guy.

    The problem is that you’re used to all the bs fluff of traditional media and the fakeness. Because you’re a fake person who loves to virtue signal.

    And of course it’s real easy to take him out of context and grab these small snippets of a long conversation. This is why this site gets no clicks and people respect Joe Rogan more. You’re all upset that you haven’t achieved much. Be real.

  10. tuatara says

    R Smith @ 12

    Anyone who discounts the knowledge of another human for no other reason than that other human is female is a despicable arsehole, and anyone who supports said despicable arsehole by complaining that said despicable arsehole is being taken out of context is a despicable arsehole too.

    Be real


    At least Abe’s head isn’t up Rogan’s arse.

  11. StevoR says

    @12. R Smith :

    you entire life revolves about proving your ridiculous theories right

    Which “ridiculuous theories” pecisely and what makes you think those “theories” are original to us? I do not understand what you are referring to here.

    They have scientists, psychologists or etc, on all the time just to shit on them.

    Why do that then? Thatsoudns unpleasant and more like a sexual fetish than a serious or worthwhile show. If its comedy well, there are ways to do good comedy, If its punching down on scientists then why do that and what and who benefits from that?

    Joe is okay with being wrong and anybody who watches his show can attest to this.

    I don’t watch Rogan’s shows but go to Rebecca Watson’s video linked in the OP and look / listen at the section from the tenminutes 40 seconds mark to the fifteen minutes twenty seconds mark. Actually, please do watch and think about the whole Watson video linked here – but that clip especially refutes your claim that Roagn is “okay with being wrong” and also shows how misogynist he is.

    He sounds like a regular guy.

    Does he? define “regular guy” because I guess its not thesort of regular guy I’m familiar with here. He sounds like an angry sexist shock-jock who can’t handle being told he’s wrong especially by a woman to me.

    .. of course it’s real easy to take him out of context and grab these small snippets of a long conversation.

    Okay, what context majes that clip I’ve just noted okay to you? Especially Rogan’s misgynist rant atthe end about having vaginas? In what contecxt exactly si that acceptable?

    Because you’re a fake person who loves to virtue signal. … This is why this site gets no clicks and people respect Joe Rogan more.

    Yet here you are. (Shrug)

    BTW. Speak for yourself. Govice-signal for yourself if you must. You may repect Joe Rogan but I don’t and I’m pretty sure most of those here and even most of those globally don’t. I don’t have respect for Joe Rogan but I have immense respect for Phil Plait, for that primatologist who actually achieved her PhD by years of study and, yes, for Abe Drayton for this blog.

  12. StevoR says

    Joe is okay with being wrong and anybody who watches his show can attest to this.

    menat to be in blockquotes – indented obvs. Typos.

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