The attempt to cancel Joe Rogan has moved through its predictable stages. First, you had a slew of concerned doctors — which included a large number of people who were not, actually, doctors — raise their stethoscopes outside Spotify headquarters about Rogan’s meandering lengthy interviews with people they deem unacceptable sharing their perspectives regarding the Covid pandemic.
This was framed in the press without any regard for the actual expertise of those raising the claims. Nor was there any investigation into whether these people themselves held views now deemed dubious about masking, school shutdowns, economic lockdowns, treatment methods, or how effective the vaccines would be — all of which would be relevant to the veracity of their Rogan critiques.
The Tried and True Playbook
The approach was very obviously an activation of the Cathedral — that is, the organized combination of elite power represented by a priesthood of media, academia, politicians and activist groups all funded by corporate tithes. They cracked open a similar playbook to the many “open letters” which assured the American people the powers that be possessed incontrovertible evidence that Donald Trump was elected via a Russian conspiracy, or that Hunter Biden’s laptop was a fraudulent Russian creation.
The experts are concerned. The media dutifully reports. The institutes release their findings. And the people must listen for our safety and security and the sake of our democracy. The clerisy of the all-powerful woke religion has declared what reality is. So let it be written, so let it be done.
What’s so interesting about the Rogan attack is that, at least initially, it failed. It failed because Rogan occupies a seat of influence and power that is far above his station, from the Cathedral’s perspective. There is power in numbers, and even if they view his listeners as rabble listening to the rambling queries of a barbarian Khan from the steppes, they are too numerous and engaged to not know what’s going on and recognize the playbook for what it is.
Keep in mind, of course, that it is this rabble that is the problem. The Cathedral can’t cancel them all, they are too numerous, so instead they seek to take down Rogan both to deny his followers a gathering point, and to send a message of any other lower tier podcaster or commentator lest they entertain ill-advised contrarian ideas.
The tactical failure of this attack of the nursing students is of a piece with why Rogan is popular in the first place — his willingness to bring in interesting, contrarian guests who break with elite consensus on all manner of topics.
Enlisting the Boomers
So they moved on to Spotify’s business model. If the experts couldn’t break things open, perhaps aging Boomer musicians can! Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, and an assortment of corrupt has-beens dutifully went along as Boomers do. This had as much of an effect as the wind off a duck’s back, except perhaps to inform Twitter that Mary Trump and Roxane Gay had Spotify podcasts, lost now to the mists of time. The Cathedral needed much bigger names, and they couldn’t get them.
The failure of these initial sorties was driven in part by Spotify’s investment in Rogan as the tentpole of their podcasting effort. The Swedes who own it (kind of) realize “internal” critics like Harry and Meghan are lazy entitled people who will never deliver on their contract, while Rogan, despite his wealth, still approaches his job with the blue collar values of a working stand-up.
Remember: This is how they do things. This is how they have always done things. In the very recent past, it worked. They are only frustrated now because they find that it no longer works.
It Always Goes Back To Racism
So the anti-Rogan forces moved on to yet another new tactic in their campaign. If they could not cancel him for featuring the views of contrarian experts — many of whom have vastly more experience in the areas of work at the center of debates about Covid, and who are trusted by audiences in part because they are far more humble in applying their perspectives than your typical paid CNN commentator — the Cathedral would have to cancel him for something more conventional: in this case, being a racist.
They had to dredge up something else, and what they chose was his use of the n-word, frequently via quotations of other people’s work, but not always, and his affinity for racially insensitive jokes.
Of course, if this is the justification for taking Rogan down, it would create a blast radius that would envelop an enormous number of authors and comedians — like King Kong teetering atop the Empire State Building, such a fall would crush those whose careers he helped launch and anyone who dared to laugh at his inappropriate humor. And any smart listener will notice that it was only after Rogan began to bring on guests who regularly challenged the Cathedral’s Covid narrative that his past jokes became a problematic issue where celebrities of all kinds must take a side.
But it’s important to understand this is not the end of the playbook, not by far. Fans should expect him to be forced to face allegations of sexual misogyny, of inappropriate behavior backstage, of a litany of sins both understandable and predictable.
Rogan seems largely unprepared for this because he did not set out to become the most influential podcaster in the country. He didn’t think in terms of what was acceptable to say in mixed company or while drinking with his comedian friends. He set out to bring an everyman quality to the interview process, and to talk to interesting people about things that interest him. But this is the way this works now. Run afoul of the Cathedral, and eventually the Grand Inquisitor shows up at your door, confident as always that the persecution you are about to receive is for the benefit of the people, and of you.
Censorship By Proxy
In this case, the target is big enough that he cannot be thoroughly eradicated, but his power can be diminished. The guest lists can be more restricted. The corporate sponsorships can disappear. Rogan can be forced from Amazon servers, his clips from Google and YouTube, sharing of his work banned by Facebook and Twitter, and all will be legal and allowable and fine according to all the people who don’t know what time it is.
It is an approach particularly familiar to those who have engaged in lengthy court cases in recent years battling for their right to exercise their religious freedom. If you run any kind of business which achieves success without genuflecting to the right causes, the powers that be — media, academic, administrative, bureaucratic, legal — will be turned on you. Comply, or your access is cut off. Self-censor, or else.
The chief danger to freedom of thought and speech at this moment is not the direct interference of … any official body. If publishers and editors exert themselves to keep certain topics out of print, it is not because they are frightened of prosecution but because they are frightened of public opinion. In this country intellectual cowardice is the worst enemy a writer or journalist has to face … The sinister fact about literary censorship in England is that it is largely voluntary.
Unpopular ideas can be silenced, and inconvenient facts kept dark, without the need for any official ban … the same kind of veiled censorship also operates in books and periodicals, as well as in plays, films, and radio. At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is “not done” to say it … Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing, either in the popular press or in the highbrow periodicals.
What is positive for Americans who favor freedom of thought is that the problem of the Cathedral is now a well-established fact, receiving universal recognition. The threat, once dismissed, is now known. What we lack are uniting solutions.
Some think that just being politically powerful enough that the threat merchants back down is the answer. They could cite a similar situation, though one with legal ramifications, which played out in the GoFundMe treatment of the fundraiser for the freedom-minded trucker convoy. But there, the threat of investigation from Florida and Texas was enough to put fear into the online fundraiser. If the only answer is “win more elections,” I remain unconvinced.
What we should consider now is: how do we prevent this from happening — not for Rogan, for whom the rabble will still follow him wherever he goes, or for the convoy, because any effort that raises 10 million dollars will get attention for where the money goes (exception: BLM), but for the next Joe Rogan.
Somewhere, at this very moment, there is a podcaster doing their work with a tenth or a hundredth of his listenership, who labors without an audience and whose guests are nowhere as prominent but just as compelling, and this very day the Cathedral can, without any thought or ramifications at all, decide to crush them like a bug.
So for those of us who want to fight back in defense of freedom of thought the question becomes: What weapons do we offer her?