Every day, I try to make the best decisions possible about what I create, what I consume, and who I collaborate with — but living in the world, participating in capitalism, requires moral compromise. I am not looking for purity; it doesn’t exist. Instead, I’m trying to do the best I can, and take a stand when I think I can have an impact.
I would never support censorship. And because I am a writer, I know that language matters. There’s a difference between censorship and curation. When we are not free to express ourselves, when we can be thrown in jail or even lose our lives for speaking freely, that is censorship. When we say, as a society, that bigotry and misinformation are unacceptable, and that people who espouse those ideas don’t deserve access to significant platforms, that’s curation. We are expressing our taste and moral discernment, and saying what we find acceptable and what we do not.
Too many people believe that the right to free speech means the right to say whatever they want, wherever, whenever, on whatever platform they choose, without consequence. They want free speech to exist in a vacuum, free from context, free from criticism. That, like the idea that living in an off-the-grid yurt frees one from the demands, responsibilities and complicities of human society, is an illusion.
Joe Rogan is a curious fellow. I remember him from another reality TV show, “Fear Factor,” which he hosted in the early part of this century. Contestants on the show ate bugs, lay down in beds of snakes or jumped from a helicopter into a lake. It was a garish but entertaining spectacle, the kind of show where you could spend the entire episode with your shoulders hunched up to your ears, cringing as people humiliated and degraded themselves for a chance at $50,000 and 15 minutes of microfame. Around the same time, Mr. Rogan became a mixed martial arts color commentator. He eventually ventured into podcasting, as one does.
Today, Mr. Rogan hosts a wildly popular podcast on Spotify, “The Joe Rogan Experience,” for which he claims he often does little preparation. Episodes are long and meandering, as Mr. Rogan muses on whatever is on his mind — including false claims that Covid vaccines are “essentially a gene therapy,” for example. His guests are often people hovering on the intellectual fringes, purveying dangerous misinformation about Covid and other topics. Sometimes, racism is sprinkled in his conversations, just to keep things interesting. Mr. Rogan says he is curious, merely interested in asking questions. It’s a convenient way of shirking accountability for misleading people about their life-or-death health decisions.