Editor’s note: For another opinion see Point: Mad About Joe Rogan? Be Madder at Streaming Monopolies
My name is Michael, and I am a recovering talk show host. And I rise in defense of Joe Rogan.
I make this confession reluctantly, knowing it could mean cancelation, condemnation or — horrors! — becoming the topic of a CNN news panel. (Please not Jim Acosta — anybody but Acosta!)
But I cannot stand by silently any longer. Too much is at stake. No, not Spotify’s stock price or comedian Joe Rogan’s jaw-dropping $100 million licensing deal. What’s at stake is the idea of free speech as a social good.
While we’re making confessions, allow me another one: I’ve never listened to a minute of a Joe Rogan podcast. Based on media reports, he’s either holding wide-open conversations about COVID-19 public health policy with an eclectic mix of experts and celebrity guests; or he’s spreading anti-science disinformation while posting recipes for how to make bootleg ivermectin in your toilet.
Either way, my view is the same: Let him talk.
I’m with Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis on this: “If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the process of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.”
This used to be a given in American society. A decade ago, when I was still on the air — in liberal Boston, Massachusetts, no less — we still looked down on the thin-skinned losers demanding to be protected from ideas that made them feel icky.
The answer to “I don’t like what that guy is saying” was still, “Then change the damn channel!”
Now the goal is to shut down the channel, to force Spotify to dump Rogan or die tryin’. And how embarrassing that the effort to de-platform a performer is being led by “artists” like Neil Young and Joni Mitchell.
As legal scholar Jonathan Turley put it, “Artists against free speech is like athletes against fitness.”
Some have turned the focus on the technology itself: Podcasts have no FCC regulation, social media allows too much false information to flow freely, tech companies have too much control.
But arguments about monopolies and access are meaningless without an audience that demands free speech and open discourse. And based on polls — and the passion of Rogan’s opponents — that’s where we could be headed.
The climate on college campuses is so bad, just half of students say they feel comfortable voicing disagreement with their professors or peers, according to a new Knight-Ipsos poll. That same poll found that, among Americans as a whole, 60 percent support a government-imposed ban on ideas and opinions deemed racist or bigoted.
A Government. Ban. On. Ideas.
A decade ago, that was good for three hours of mockery on my radio show. Today, it’s the view of the majority.
That fact is far more frightening than any tech monopoly or debate over Section 230 regulations.
Grab a copy of Ray Bradbury’s classic novel in defense of free speech, “Fahrenheit 451” — while you still can. You’ll be reminded that the reason books were banned in this fictional future wasn’t because of government tyranny. No, books were banned by popular demand. The citizenry demanded a “safe space,” free from upsetting thoughts and ideas.
Far too many of my fellow citizens are demanding the same today.
Censorship is cowardice. Cancel culture is crybaby crap. You hear an opinion you don’t like? Put on your big girl panties and deal with it, Francis.
Oops. Sorry about getting so saucy. As I said, I’m a recovering talk host.