Joe Rogan is perhaps the most celebrated podcaster out there right now. He recently inked a multimillion-dollar deal with Spotify for his podcast’s streaming rights. So what makes Joe Rogan so completely irresistible to his growing audience?
The nature of media personalities has drastically changed since the ’60s. Firing Line with William F. Buckley, Jr. was a public affairs show hosted by perhaps one of the 20th century’s greatest conservative thinkers. Buckley conducted a long-form interview with a single expert of a certain field (politics, economics, etc.) each episode. The almost-hour long conversation consisted of Buckley stating his points in his signature monotone voice that would compel either a response of agreement by the guest or a rebuttal so polite and controlled in a manner that it would be fairly easy to mistake a point of disagreement as a confirmation of Buckley’s point.
Nowadays, news pundits have no problem raging at their political opponents for the sake of entertainment value. There is no doubt that television personalities and pundits have slowly transformed from being perhaps the pinnacle of culture and intellectual thinking to low-brow, rude, and arrogant versions of their predecessors.
Joe Rogan is breaking that mold.
Rogan is by no means on the same intellectual level as William Buckley. Buckley graduated from Yale with academic honors; Rogan didn’t even attend college. However, Rogan possesses one thing that other modern-day pundits don’t have: an openness to learning. Staggeringly similar to Buckley’s show, JRE (Joe Rogan Experience) is an hour to three-hour-long interview hosted by Rogan, who is sometimes also accompanied by a guest host.
Integrity in lines of questioning and critiques by interviewers are what a lot of people want in this hyperpolarized environment that we live in today. They don’t just want to be given the conclusion, the end result, the final judgment. People want to unpack the rhetoric behind the answers given by guests on their own and they get to do that when they listen to Rogan’s long-form interviews. They want to go through the process of enlightenment alongside the host. They want to be engaged in the debate. That’s what Rogan provides.
Rogan has never launched any hurtful or profane language towards his guests. He has never attacked a person’s character or integrity. That doesn’t mean he goes easy on his guests, though. In a 2018 interview with Twitter’s Vijaya Gadde and Jack Dorsey, Rogan and his guest host, Tim Pool, ruthlessly went after Gadde and Dorsey for having a Leftist bias in their censorship of free speech on Twitter. Unlike many other pundits today, they never yelled at either of them. They never interrupted them. They engaged in a conversation which was not full of conjecture and speculation.
As evidence of Leftist bias at Twitter, Pool cited Twitter taking down Far Right accounts but not Far Left accounts. When Pool asked Gadde and Dorsey to answer for those actions, Gadde merely responded that she had to “go through her records again” and get back to Pool regarding the specific instances Pool saw as Twitter exercising Leftist bias. Gadde’s meek retreat of “having to go back to her sources” not only showed a lack of preparation for the interview but also seemed to prove Pool’s point that Twitter lacked an objective standard of judgment for when an account should or shouldn’t be terminated. Listeners were left with the impression that perhaps Pool had a point about Twitter exercising Leftist bias on their service.
There are people who are satisfied with living in a cultural echo chamber. They like supporting media personalities who defend their own beliefs rather than attempting to truly understand the issue at hand. They watch these personalities not to learn, but to agree. Rogan’s podcast is not for this certain subsection of society. Rogan’s podcasts are for those who relish long debates surrounding the most pertinent issues in our world. Rogan’s listeners don’t mind the periodic silences in the podcast reserved for thinking, understanding, and unpacking complex theories and moral dilemmas. In fact, they relish these moments of silence because it means that there is careful, important introspection taking place.
Rogan’s greatest asset is right in the name of his podcast: it really is an “experience.” It is an intriguing journey in the pursuit of truth-filled with deliberation and reflection that a pursuit of such magnitude requires. And on the journey, with Rogan at the helm, JRE has amassed quite the following.