Joe Rogan may be wrong on Covid but his voice and others should not silenced - Mark Casci

What is so remarkable about Joe Rogan’s rise to become one of the most popular media figures is how it happened almost by accident.

As a stand-up comedian and mixed martial arts commentator, he had a small degree of notoriety in his home country of America but was far from a household name.

Then 11 years ago he launched The Joe Rogan Experience podcast, essentially as a means to broadcast his conversations with friends.

It has since gone on to amass a colossal worldwide following, with an estimated 20 million people listening to each episode.

Joe Rogan's podcast has attracted criticism.

His success is so great that he landed a deal with tech firm Spotify worth a reputed $100m to stream the show.

Rogan’s phenomenal audience reach has made him one of the most influential commentators on the planet.

Over the years he has had world famous musicians, actors and artists on the show, alongside politicians, philosophers, scientists, business leaders and whole host of others.

One of the reasons Rogan has become so popular is his favouring a long-form format in which guests speak with him for up to five hours in a freewheeling and unscripted manner, different from the usual broadcasting medium of short clips packed with sound bites, which can often lack substance.

Rogan has questioned the need for young people to be vaccinated.

It is for this reason that the likes of Bernie Sanders appeared on his podcast when seeking the nomination for the Democratic Party’s candidate for the presidency.

However his show has not been without its controversies. He is often criticised for failing to challenge more extreme views.

In recent weeks this has led to him hitting the headlines for reasons other than his success.

Rogan, who has chosen not to be vaccinated against the virus, has been criticised previously for suggesting that young healthy people should do likewise and has been accused of downplaying the seriousness of the pandemic.

Joe Rogan working for the UFC.

Most recently he hosted a pair of scientists, cardiologist Dr Peter McCullough and virologist Dr Robert Malone. While I will not repeat the comments they made regarding Covid, it would be accurate to say they fell outside the mainstream narrative. Both were criticised by many in the scientific community and at large as being disinformation.

The backlash hit the headlines after Neil Young and Joni Mitchell both withdrew their music from Spotify in protest.

The move has forced Spotify to act, with its boss Daniel Ek announcing the platform will add a content advisory to any discussion about Covid-19. Rogan has himself also pledged to act, saying he will try to “balance out” the opinions expressed on his show.

Regular listeners will know Rogan frequently speaks to guests who express opinions outside the mainstream narrative. He is a well-known opponent of the orthodoxy that Lee Harvey Oswald was solely responsible for the 1963 assassination of JFK, to use but one example.

Rogan has not been vaccinated.

But while some of the commentary around Covid from Rogan has undoubtedly been at best unhelpful and at worst dangerous, silencing people on any topic is never advisable.

Much of the outcry against Rogan stems from the fact that large sections of America’s media are bewildered as to how a comedian built an audience which dwarves their own many times over. The Spotify deal put a huge target on his back.

But the nature of Rogan’s podcast is to host wide-ranging discussions that veer off at tangents and often challenge mainstream assumptions. It is precisely this approach that has made him the world’s top podcast host.

Podcasters, journalists and commentators, large and small, have a duty to be accurate and correct errors when made. But they also have the duty to challenge orthodoxies and established thinking. Such a process can dispel inaccurate views and slay sacred cows in a way that has led to progress for society.

A plurality of voices is essential to any functioning democracy. Everyone should be allowed to be a dissenting voice and all points of view should be subject to interrogation. It is the only way to establish the truth.

Joe Rogan's podcast is one of the most popular in the world.