It’s difficult to say exactly when I first discovered Joe Rogan but it was sometime around 2016 or 2017 when he came up in a YouTube recommendation. Prior to listening to a full podcast I always had a sense of who he was, but then not knowing him, his name had swirled around before but if pressed, I couldn’t say much about him.
It was around this time that I’d say podcasts reached critical mass. I remember I was in the process of moving, something very time consuming and frankly dull, so to pass the hours I began listening to podcasts and was hooked.
At the time you couldn’t watch a YouTube video with your phone shut off your phone which was a major drawback for audio only listeners like myself who used podcasts to fill in the “chores” part of life: doing dishes, shopping, cleaning, taking out garbage, etc. Hence my interest in podcast apps vs YouTube. After all, what was the point of watching someone talking. I even model my own YouTube channel after a podcast even though I don’t have my own podcast channel only because I can’t imagine anyone watching me talk for 30 minutes, but that’s my preference.
Rogan, among some other podcasts nicely filled this gap of dead time. If you peruse my site and get to know more about me, it’s clear why I’d find much commonality with him and became a fan.
A Challenge to the Media Establishment
Rogan was a pioneer in taking on the media establishment. Having listened to many podcasts, I believe he is authentic as one can be for public consumption. Like all of us he has a private life and like all of us public Joe Rogan I’m sure is a stark contract to public Joe Rogan. In any case, it’s a level of authenticity not easily seen due to technology developments.
Simply compare his open setting approach to the legacy form of media. Rather than “pundits” shouting at each other in little boxes with a time crunch before commercials, Rogan would allow his guests to explore topics at length, take sequesters, and basically provide the intimacy of a private conversation to the public at large. He’d also do his ads at the beginning of the show which you could just skip over. For most of his shows I’d just start at the 7:00 – 8:00 minute mark, not feeling I missed much. I’d say that’s what made his model successful and is now the standard.
Obviously this made Rogan dangerous to the establishment (legacy media, political parties, Hollywood) because he couldn’t be controlled in a time where speech is very much under threat. And what happens to those we can’t control in modern society? Well, the media establishment attacks him with nasty names and words in a vein attempt to de-legitimatize him. This strategy was successful for those who can’t relate to him but for the intellectual curious like myself, I am always interested to hear who the establishment says you shouldn’t listen to. It’s just like Rotten Tomatoes telling you not to listen to Dave Chappelle’s special 🙂
The reaction to Rogan only further galvanized my interest since I figured he was onto something if he could pose such a threat without actually taking any direct action himself. In essence, this is the appeal of Rogan. Unlike the actors and actresses (usually uneducated but pretending to be very informed) we see on mainstream media, Rogan simply presents himself as he is and while he is wearing a mask like we all do, it’s a positive step in the right direction and far more authentic than anything we’ve had thus far.
Why Rogan Became a Target
The greatest attack the establishment levied on Rogan is being “alt right adjacent” which is just the latest mumbo jumbo of word spaghetti used to describe someone they see as a threat. Ask someone to define “alt right adjacent” and they simply cannot tell you in clear terms what it means or who fits into the category. In an era that has become more and more polarized, Rogan would host those from all political spectrums and backgrounds on his show, which is another factor in his success.
I mention the idea of legacy media because people are slowly waking up to the fact that the news we consume is neither informative nor educational, it’s propaganda. While there will always be those who take the news at large, I’m confident its a habit now to Google a big news story or topic and sift through the information, in many cases finding the source you like to report on it.
As I mentioned in a previous post, the news is now fragmented and based on your bias, you can find your own take. Such an approach is exhaustive making it refreshing to find someone like Rogan who will take a subject matter expert and allow the listener to join in on the discussion. You don’t always get all the answers but it’s far more of an informative journey than what you’d ever find on mainstream outlets on both sides of the aisle.
Because Rogan would take relatively unknown intellectuals from a variety of backgrounds and invite them on his platform, he gave them a brief spotlight they otherwise would not have had, and for this reason the establishment attacked him.
Peak Joe Rogan
The title of my piece reflects that Rogan peaked out at the time he moved to Spotify and out of California. I have mixed feelings about the decision.
On the one hand, Rogan is an athlete and exposes himself to many athletes. He’s also a comedian and entertainer. You don’t have to be a genius to realize we all have our time and place. Only the cream of the crop can maintain their place and as audiences age, so do their tastes. This is why Kid Rock became a country singer and Kanye West does gospel now. It’s why OJ Simpson retired when he did to pursue acting, same with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Those who could recognize their peak knew when it was time to leave are some of the biggest successes; those who don’t end up looking like failures by society. I think this is what Rogan recognized. He paved the way for podcasts and set a standard so when a the offer of a lifetime came he took it.
Still Work To Do
The other side of me thinks that there was more work to do. While there are only so many times Rogan can highlight guests, we are living in quite a divided period and I felt he was the one voice that those like myself could relate to. Personally Bernie Sanders is too radical for me, but I’d listen to him if Rogan hosts him and same for those who I disagree with.
He’s now left a gap and while many of those he has hosted have started their own gigs, none had the command of Rogan. Prior to the 2020 election, some of his comments would be enough to briefly garner the attention of the news cycle. Now that he’s behind a paywall, he’s effectively chosen to silo himself to his host of hardcore fans and slowly recede into irrelevance like Howard Stern.
With the above in mind, I’ll also say it’s probably not the last we’ve heard of Rogan, but when he comes up again it will probably be something different, just like podcasting. I guess until then we’ll have to stay tuned.