The biggest podcaster in the world. A ‘bro dude father figure’. A firehose of misinformation. A champion of free speech. A 21st-century version of the autodidact from Nausea. Joe Rogan has been given a lot of labels in the last few weeks.
The controversy started about a month ago, when Rogan was slammed for inviting anti vaxxers on his show. Then last week a video came out showing a compilation of all the times Rogan has used ‘the n-word’ over the years.
The furore prompted some, like David Goggins, to come to Rogan’s defence (“Do I think Joe Rogan is racist? No. Was Joe wrong for saying [the n-word]? Yes”) and others to accuse him of representing everything that was wrong with America.
As an opinion piece in CNN recently put it, “The controversy…is about more than racist language or cancel culture – it speaks to deeper truths and persistent lies that help define contemporary America.”
“This myth reflects the lies Americans tell themselves about to race, democracy, free speech and capitalism. Rogan’s genius lies in the fact that he presents himself as an everyman throwback to a quieter age – an era without pandemics or Black Lives Matter protests shining a spotlight on racial privilege,” (CNN).
So: in light of all this controversy, and in light of so many of the conspiracy theorist’s he’s had on his show being debunked – and in light of Rogan himself apologising for so many of his own statements – why do men still trust him? And who are these men?
As Devin Gordon, writing for The Atlantic, put it in 2019: “Few men in America are as popular among American men as Joe Rogan. It’s a massive group congregating in plain sight, and it’s made up of people you know from high school, guys who work three cubicles down, who are still paying off student loans, who forward jealous-girlfriend memes, who spot you at the gym.”
“Single guys. Married guys. White guys, black guys, Dominican guys. Two South Asian friends of mine swear by him. My college roommate. My little brother. Normal guys. American guys.”
The same article later on claims: “It’s impossible to be a Joe Rogan completist, so most of his fans pick a few tributaries. The rest may as well not exist. Who can keep track? Rogan is a key figure in the rise of MMA—Dana White once called him ‘the best fight announcer who has ever called a fight in the history of fighting’—but I don’t care about fighting, so I didn’t listen to any of Joe’s podcasts with fighters. I also didn’t listen to Dr. Phil, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who skipped it, which is just another way of saying there’s no real way to describe ‘Joe Rogan fans.’
“They’re not aligned around any narrow set of curiosities or politics. They’re aligned around Joe.”
why do so many men trust joe rogan? right answers only
— Liz Plank (@feministabulous) February 1, 2022
And why are they aligned around Joe? A Twitter thread recently set out to answer this very question. Though there were quite a few joking (and sneering) answers, the responses, we thought, still gave something of an insight into why many men still trust Joe Rogan (as well as why people think men trust Joe Rogan).
A common theme was Rogan’s relatability. One Twitter user wrote: “He reminds them [men] of their fathers and former coaches. A bunch of small men who projected their own insecurities into abusive behaviours.”
His name is Joe. Regular Joe, Plain Joe, Cup ‘o Joe, hey Joe, GI Joe, Morning Joe… (the last one was obvious shade, but you get it 👀) Joe. His name is Joe. That’s all men need…
— Gérard Mclean (@gerardmclean) February 1, 2022
Another likened Rogan’s pull to that of Trump’s (“he speaks like they do”). A further user wrote: “His program validates some behaviours in men that they may feel invalidated in other spaces of life.”
“Simple lies are more appealing, to lazy people, than complex truths,” another wrote.
Because he legitimises and gives voice to their simplistic world views. Because he legitimises and gives voice to their prejudices.
— The other brother Darryl (@Ship_of_Mike) February 1, 2022
Other Twitter users were more positive on Rogan, calling others out for presuming it’s impossible that Joe Rogan offers anything of value and assuming “anyone who listens to him is deficient in some way.”
One suggested men like him: “Because after 5 beers he’s the one who asks why if elephants are so smart they can’t talk.” There’s also the fact that he “can deadlift a lot.”
Other theories included: “Creatine,” “He tells them what they want to hear, that they don’t need to change or adapt, or do something difficult” and “He speaks with confidence and doesn’t express self-doubt.”
He’s a cooler version of them, a Rush Limbaugh for a new generation/new media. Confirmation bias is part of it. Machismo. Non-conformity-conformity. Groupthink.
— Samuel Seaborn Jr.🐶🍜⚽️🎥🇯🇵🇺🇸🇨🇦 (@SEH49284160) February 1, 2022
Other men say that even though they recognise many aspects of old school masculinity are f*cked, they still feel an emotional affection for that kind of brutal, ‘don’t be a b*tch’ language, having been steeped in it for so long.
“Nostalgia and toxic masculinity,” one wrote.
Another suggested Joe Rogan offers his followers (and guests) a safe space to engage in the type of talk which half of America sees as toxic bigotry and retrograde assholery, and the other half sees as common sense.
At its core, I think he feels like a safe space for many. Ironic maybe, but he’s cultivated this platform that they see as fair and balanced, with that hypermasculine “no one is gonna tell me what to think” ethos behind it too.
— Chuck Aoki (@Aoki5Chuck) February 1, 2022
Another man theorised: “Generally speaking the men who ‘trust’ Joe Rogan prefer rugged individualism over facts, nuance, and complex knowledge. Why seek out true knowledge experts when a comic and combat sports broadcaster has penetrated the mainstream?”
Because Joe Rogan runs 3 hour podcasts with interesting guests. You have to be genuine in that context. His guests cannot rely just repeating talking points and sound bites like you see in those 3-minute interviews on cable news. It’s real talk.
— Egg. Cracking. (@uncracktheegg) February 1, 2022
Along similar lines, another quipped: “They believe they will receive a testosterone boost by association.”
Because he’s confident, strong (physically), witty (to them), successful, and a free thinker (again, image not reality). A lot of men want to be strong, smart, successful, and confident and if not, at least be associated with someone who is. He checks a lot of boxes.
— The Weird Machine (@weird__machine) February 1, 2022
Further takes can be seen below.
There’s an unconscious unhealed aspect of the collective drawn to low vibrational broadcasting of projections. ‘It’ recognizes the unprocessed feeling as attraction and aligns.
— Mel’s Love Land (@MelsLoveLand) February 1, 2022
I think this sums up the whole Joe Rogan thing perfectly… pic.twitter.com/XRpfhS7dcS
— Richard Kimble M.D. (@DrRichardK_CMH) February 2, 2022
He built up a familiarity over the course of many dude’s whole lives, and then produced content with a ton of celebrities to lure people in, that was amplified by all the platforms for consistently having so many streams. And his content is simple to understand.
— ashley fairbanks (@ziibiing) February 1, 2022
He’s literally just a regular guy talking to people. he’s not pretending to be someone. not trying to be cool. he just smokes and drinks and has a conversation. it’s not a interview or pretending.
— Joseph R Bristol (@datguy_therapy) February 1, 2022
People in general trust people they hear from regularly. His audience trusts him and it’s mostly men because his main exposure recently has been UFC. A sport who’s fans are primarily men. I’ve listened to him for years, but primarily when he has a specific guest or topic.
— Mike Natale (@TheNatale) February 1, 2022
Some of the other reasons men trust Joe Rogan is that many other influential, trusted figures call him a friend and have defended his character on various occasions. He seems to treat his friends with loyalty and receive the same in return.
There’s also the fact that he encourages his listeners to workout, but isn’t an evangelical ‘no cheat days’ kind of guy (he loves whiskey and weed almost as much as he likes saunas and ice baths).
The previously mentioned Atlantic article also makes some good points regarding why many men like Joe Rogan, which we’d like to amplify.
The article, speaking about the podcast episode between Rogan and Elon Musk, wrote: “There was also much sneering at the episode’s faux intellectualism—the way Rogan and Musk often sounded like a couple of freshmen ripping bong hits in a college dorm room at 2 a.m. Which would be a fair analogy, if the other person in the dorm room was Elon Musk, and after everyone passed out he went to the engineering lab and built a rocket.”
In other words, even though Rogan is often accused of being a faux intellectual and having on pretentious guests who use fancy words but say very little, he genuinely has some smart f*ckers on his show.
The same Atlantic journalist also opined that men love Rogan because of his attitude, not his politics, claiming that his enthusiasm for life means many can love listening to him despite him being friends with (and giving airtime to the views of) people they really dislike, like Alex Jones.
“If all you know about Joe Rogan is his Wikipedia entry—Fear Factor, UFC, stand-up, podcasts with Elon Musk and Alex Jones—and if you make no effort to learn more, he might seem like this gang’s pied piper,” the Atlantic article reads. “And he does give them a platform with a massive audience, which is not just a programming choice but a moral one. So you can see why some might view Joe Rogan as Tyler Durden from Fight Club, a movie you just know Joe Rogan loves, based on a novel by a writer you just know Joe Rogan has had on his podcast (Chuck Palahniuk, episode No. 1158).”
“But that’s not why people are obsessed with him. In reality, it’s because Joe Rogan is a tireless optimist, a grab-life-by-the-throat-and-bite-out-its-esophagus kind of guy, and many, many men respond to that. I respond to that. The competitive energy, the drive to succeed, the search for purpose, for self-respect. Get better every day. Master your domain. Total human optimization. A goal so hazy and unreachable that you never stop trying, until you realize with a kind of enviable Zen clarity that the trying is the whole point.”
That’s the good side. The bad side to Joe, according to the same Atlantic article, is that along this journey of human optimisation you can become too self-centred.
“One of the downsides of total human optimization is that you’re always coming up short, and in the wrong stew of testosterone and serotonin, it can turn into a poison of self-loathing and trigger-cocked rage,” the Atlantic article stated. “And a key thing Joe and his fans tend to have in common is a deficit of empathy. He seems unable to process how his tolerance for monsters like Alex Jones plays a role in the wounding of people who don’t deserve it.”
“Jones’s recent appearance on the podcast came after he was sued by families of children and educators murdered in the Sandy Hook massacre—a mass shooting that Jones falsely claimed was a hoax, which families of the victims say prompted his gang of fans to harass them. (Jones has since acknowledged that the Sandy Hook massacre occurred.) So is Joe really nurturing a generation of smarter, healthier, more worldly men, or an army of conspiracy theorists and alt-right super soldiers? At the very least, he shows too much compassion for bad actors, and not enough for people on the receiving end of their attacks.”
Though some argue America needs more ‘across the aisle’ people and interviewers (and friends), the author of this Atlantic article says it’s one of Joe’s biggest flaws: “He wants you to know that he doesn’t agree with much of what they say, but he also wants you to know that off camera they’re the nicest guys. If we all have fatal flaws, this is Joe’s: his insistence on seeing value in people even when he shouldn’t, even when they’ve forfeited any right to it, even when the harm outweighs the good. It comes from a generous place, but it amounts to careless cruelty. He just won’t write people off, and then he compounds the sin by throwing them a lifeline at the moment when they least deserve it.”
On a positive note, in light of his latest controversies, Joe has shown signs of realising this flaw, releasing a video suggesting he will in future provide controversial guests with disclaimers and endeavour to challenge controversial assertions better, while still maintaining the philosophy of inviting a wide range of guests on his show.
There you have it. Some of the reasons men trust Joe Rogan – the “multi-million dollar regular guy.”