I said this the first time to a close friend of mine that I hadn’t contacted since before the pandemic started. To be honest, I’d pretty much stopped talking to him since Trump was elected. We’d gone to see a few movies in the intervening years, but it was clear that my road and his road had diverged at some point, and he has never been willing to tolerate differing ideas. I’m not exactly the tolerating type myself. In both cases this intolerance can probably be chalked up to too much Ayn Rand and not enough social conscience.
We were having a conversation about architecture that strayed into the subject of plague avoidance and that is when he said “looks like we’re on opposite sides of the coin about covid.” There are no sides to public health. It is regrettable that Republicans have decided that there are sides.
The wife chastised me about this exchange when I related it to her later. “Don’t you want to have friends?” Sure I want to have friends. I’d like to have family too. I’d prefer they were friends and family that had a clue about public health and critical thinking, but I don’t appear to have a lot of choice these days when it comes to friends and family.
There isn’t a side when it comes to public health. This isn’t a controversial statement; or rather it shouldn’t be controversial if what you value is science and health and you want to conserve those two things. If what you value is instead capitalism and unfettered freedom, then what you will get is the kind of plague spreaders that are running rampant around us today in the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Joe Rogan is the poster child for these magical-thinking, plague-spreading zombies around us all today. This bit of news trivia showed up in my inbox the other day:
Spotify said on Wednesday that it had begun removing [Neil Young]’s music from the streaming service, two days after he briefly posted a public letter calling on Spotify to choose between him and Joe Rogan, the star podcast host who has been accused of spreading misinformation about the coronavirus and vaccines.
Young’s challenge to Spotify has become a high-profile, if unexpected, flash point in the battle over misinformation and free speech online. It also raised questions about the power of performing artists to control where their work is heard.
In a statement posted to his website on Wednesday, Young called Spotify “the home of life threatening Covid misinformation.” He added: “Lies being sold for money.”nytimes.com
I hate to break it to Neil Young, the choice was always going to be clear to Spotify. Neil Young is a great artist, but he’s not as popular as Joe Rogan. Spotify would be feeding its rivals if it were to abandon Rogan’s podcast. He’d still have the podcast available on public feeds everywhere and it would only be a matter of time before some other audio platform would snap his content up. Sure, they shouldn’t have given him a million dollars for exclusive first rights to new podcasts, and many skeptics of the plan said this at the time. That’s water under the bridge now, that million dollars is gone like our chance to stop COVID-19 from becoming endemic in the population is gone. Hindsight is always 20/20.
I’ve listened to several episodes of the Joe Rogan Experience over the years. The title of the show is itself an unwanted finger jabbed in the metaphorical eye since it is a ripoff of one of the all-time guitar legends the Jimi Hendrix experience. The content of the podcast is basically the ramblings of a drunken buffoon and whatever guest that he’s invited onto the show to get drunk and embarrass in front of his audience. Everyone laughs and the audience loves it and he has millions of subscribers, I just don’t happen to be one of them. If I want to listen to drunken ramblings, even above-par drunken ramblings, I can just get drunk with friends or family and the ramble occurs naturally.
It is a common refrain of mine when asked why I don’t get autographs from stars when I go to conventions that the signature doesn’t mean anything. Now, if I could sit down across from whoever it is and have a cup of whatever to drink while we talk, that would be an experience that I would relish. I want to have those conversations though, I don’t want to listen to Joe Rogan have those conversations. It is a pointless exercise in jealousy to listen, thinking I’m part of that conversation. It would be like watching football thinking you are part of the game. You aren’t, but feel free to think you are anyway.
Joe Rogan just wants to be an entertainer, he doesn’t want to be a source of information. I think we’ve heard that line a few times now. Joe Rogan may not want to be a source and yet he is a source of disinformation especially when he has people like Robert Malone on the show. He just wants his conversations to be interesting, following a standard media model of interviewing the people on the fringe of accepted norms. He may not know it, but he’s using an editorial algorithm that renders the result of giving the platform for the world’s largest podcast audience (millions of streams) to the people most likely to be wrong; and not just wrong, but people who are wrong and actively seeking to spread their wrong ideas to more people. (SGU #865, Neurologica)
With an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, JRE, which is hosted exclusively on Spotify, is the world’s largest podcast and has tremendous influence,” the letter reads. “Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, though the company presently has no misinformation policy.An Open Letter to Spotify from Health Experts
Joe Rogan’s guests are just asking questions about COVID? They don’t buy the bullshit? They think public health isn’t important? They don’t understand public health and how it keeps all of us alive day in and day out. Public health information is where you get your understanding of what kinds of foods are safe to eat, unless you are one of those brave souls picking mushrooms for yourself in the forest. Public health is how you understand to wash your hands regularly. Public health is the reason to clean sidewalks, mow parks, spay and neuter pets, etcetera, etcetera, ad infinitum. Public health is how we get access to the vaccinations that have saved countless millions of lives.
The difference with COVID-19 is that the federal government has not chosen to write laws that would mandate enforcement of public health guidelines. This problem should be rectified immediately as far as I’m concerned. Mandate the COVID vaccine. Mandate staying home if you are sick. Mandate masking up if you go out during elevated public health alert times. Put it down in law so that there isn’t room to argue about it anymore. Do it or stop pretending you are doing anything to help the current crisis we find ourselves in.
In the meantime, devoid of convictions or leviable crimes, Joe Rogan can’t justifiably be removed from Spotify’s streaming service unless Spotify itself deems it prudent to distance themselves from him. Considering the growing artist boycott, they might want to think seriously about that. The one thing that would make me stop using Spotify would be not having the music there I want to listen to. I go somewhere else for my podcasts anyway. If there was government enforcement of public health guidelines then Joe Rogan might have a problem. So long as there isn’t enforcement and he continues to entertain the masses, he’s safe in the general sense. Highly liable to die from a preventable disease, but otherwise safe, apparently.
These are arguments that were thrown at me as counters to the observation that there are no sides to public health.
- Coronavirus was created in a lab/leaked from a lab – The lab leak theory was and is racist if the person saying it (like Trump) is a racist. SARS-CoV-2 didn’t leak out of a lab. It might have been contracted and spread by a lax technician gathering samples. It definitely was not created in a lab.
- Masks won’t stop SARS-CoV-2 – Masks are effective. Some masks are more effective than others. The confusion about masks arose from public officials who didn’t want to alarm the public by saying the virus was airborne. They did more harm than good with their foot dragging. Saying masks aren’t effective is misinformation. There is no legal penalty for spreading misinformation. Yet.
- The vaccines don’t stop COVID – The vaccines will stop the spread if everyone gets a vaccine. The vaccines have saved millions of lives. Getting all your vaccinations will save your life unless you are in the 0.01% that are adversely affected. Only medicine can inform you of this physical deficiency. Your pastor can’t do that for you. Saying that vaccines don’t stop COVID is misinformation.
- There absolutely is more than one side. The official narrative has changed so much, it’s head-spinning to keep up with their nonsense. Sane people realize this. – That is a faulty or hasty generalization and a thinly veiled ad hominem. It isn’t an argument I can take seriously. The title remains uncontested.