“A conversation isn't a co-sign:” An investigation of Joe Rogan and deplatforming

Curator's Note

With great power and success of podcasting comes great responsibility. According to a recent report via The New York Times, approximately one in three Americans listen to podcasts at least once a month. The emergence of podcasting marks a shift away from traditional media (i.e., television and radio) as the means to how information is consumed. No podcast is more evident of this power than that of the highly controversial The Joe Rogan Experience. 

In a June 19, 2019 podcast, comedian Andrew Schulz commented, “a conversation isn't a co-sign” to underscore the ethical dilemma of hosting controversial guests.  Many of Rogan’s controversial guests have been targeted by a recent movement of deplatforming, a form of political activism to restrict and/or deny access of a platform (e.g., a podcast). The framing of deplatforming is often used in tandem with the topic of perpetuating hate speech. Individuals who have been both deplatformed and appeared on Rogan’s podcast including Alex Jones, Milo Yiannopoulos, and Gavin McInnes. Additionally, Rogan hosted Steven Crowder who was demonetized from YouTube but not deplatformed. 

Each platform in question - Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube - provide users with terms of services and policies. Perhaps implicitly unclear is what constitutes as harmful or potentially dangerous dissemination of information. As an example, traditional celebrities have come under scrutiny for using the internet as a platform to spread potentially harmful information such as anti-vaccination messaging. Similar controversies - including Flat Earthers - have struck yet another consideration as to whose ideas are allowed to be showcased online. 

This ethical quandary highlights the double-edged sword of media creation and the rules of the different platforms. YouTube banned Alex Jones and his company, InfoWars, from their platform - as content creators. However, YouTube continues to allow other individuals (e.g., Rogan and Logan Paul) to have Jones on as a guest. Perhaps YouTube has decided that overall viewership and clicks are more important than doubling-down on restricting Alex Jones on their platform.

After all, 823,000 people watching Logan Paul’s Impaulsive with Alex Jones and another 14.8 million people on The Joe Rogan Experience must be good for business.  

Comments

This is a wonderful insight on how certain figures and ideas circulate after deplatforming, and I tend to agree that the pressure of viewership might be the strongest case with a platform like Joe Rogan Experience. Also, the sheer amount and size of celebrity that Rogan book would seem daunting to interfere with. 

However, I also wonder what you think about Rogan as a particular brand persona (or even rhetorical figure), what I call a rogue. Could it be that he performs bending and breaking "rules" or decorum of the platform in such a way as to seem playful, not dangerous for viewership?

Also, does the perception (to those who are already fans) that Rogan has guests from "both sides" in politics, or from a diverse set of intellectual and professional backgrounds, give his brand the sheen of "fair and balanced?"

Finally, how does his performance or guise of dialoguing in terms of rationality and debate buffer controversial figures from censure on his program?

Hey Mark,

Really, really excited to read your post at the end of the week! Funny that we both went with Rogan! smiley

Could it be that he performs bending and breaking "rules" or decorum of the platform in such a way as to seem playful, not dangerous for viewership?

I do think that his natural response is to ride a fine line between "seriousness" and playfulness, which in some ways is the occupational hazard of being a podcaster of major media figures. I'd contend that the "rules" (purposefully quoted for both of us) is part of the issue: there are no explicit rules that exist that prohibit any particular talking points.

Also, does the perception (to those who are already fans) that Rogan has guests from "both sides" in politics, or from a diverse set of intellectual and professional backgrounds, give his brand the sheen of "fair and balanced?"

There is something to be said about the "goodwill" that he has established with his viewer/listener base. My answer is basically: maybe? I do think that the underlying premise promoted is that he is indeed fair and balanced; however, I'm not entirely sure that there is a universe where balancing his guests (i.e., one conservative for one liberal) would help to even the scales.

Finally, how does his performance or guise of dialoguing in terms of rationality and debate buffer controversial figures from censure on his program?

This is the most important question that I do not have a reasonable answer to provide. Going along with the "fair and balanced" sentiment from before, I do believe that Rogan has assumed an "innocent until proven guilty" persona that allows him to host controversial figures. There was a section that I opted to delete about Rogan's conversation with Jack Dorsey from Twitter. The basic sentiment that I wanted to highlight is that there is some inequality in the way that Rogan pushes back on Dorsey in comparison to Jones. 

Hey Mark,

Really, really excited to read your post at the end of the week! Funny that we both went with Rogan! smiley

Could it be that he performs bending and breaking "rules" or decorum of the platform in such a way as to seem playful, not dangerous for viewership?

I do think that his natural response is to ride a fine line between "seriousness" and playfulness, which in some ways is the occupational hazard of being a podcaster of major media figures. I'd contend that the "rules" (purposefully quoted for both of us) is part of the issue: there are no explicit rules that exist that prohibit any particular talking points.

Also, does the perception (to those who are already fans) that Rogan has guests from "both sides" in politics, or from a diverse set of intellectual and professional backgrounds, give his brand the sheen of "fair and balanced?"

There is something to be said about the "goodwill" that he has established with his viewer/listener base. My answer is basically: maybe? I do think that the underlying premise promoted is that he is indeed fair and balanced; however, I'm not entirely sure that there is a universe where balancing his guests (i.e., one conservative for one liberal) would help to even the scales.

Finally, how does his performance or guise of dialoguing in terms of rationality and debate buffer controversial figures from censure on his program?

This is the most important question that I do not have a reasonable answer to provide. Going along with the "fair and balanced" sentiment from before, I do believe that Rogan has assumed an "innocent until proven guilty" persona that allows him to host controversial figures. There was a section that I opted to delete about Rogan's conversation with Jack Dorsey from Twitter. The basic sentiment that I wanted to highlight is that there is some inequality in the way that Rogan pushes back on Dorsey in comparison to Jones. 

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