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These experts say Joe Rogan is ‘extraordinarily dangerous’ to society – here’s why

The 54-year-old podcast host has unique influence, scientists and physicians tell Andrew Buncombe

Thursday 27 January 2022 18:28 GMT
This is not the first time Joe Rogan has been at the centre of controversy
This is not the first time Joe Rogan has been at the centre of controversy (Getty Images)

One said it was the vast size of his audience that made him so dangerous. Another suggested it was the fact the average age of his listeners was just 24, and hence particularly persuadable.

Another expert said he appeared to have a cult of personality. One said he had repeatedly spread misinformation about Covid, and ignored calls to stop.

These were among just some of the accusations levelled at Joe Rogan, podcaster, influencer and sometime actor, from more than 150 scientists, doctors and healthcare professionals who have said the 54-year-old was “extraordinarily dangerous”.

In an open letter, the experts called on Spotify, host of the The Joe Rogan Experience (JRE) podcast, to take action to halt the spread of false information about the coronavirus and the efficacy and safety of vaccines.

“Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, Joe Rogan has repeatedly spread misleading and false claims on his podcast, provoking distrust in science and medicine,” wrote the experts from the US, Canada, Britain and Australia.

“He has discouraged vaccination in young people and children, incorrectly claimed that mRNA vaccines are ‘gene therapy’, promoted off-label use of ivermectin to treat COVID-19 (contrary to FDA warnings), and spread a number of unsubstantiated conspiracy theories.”

One of the signatories, Anand Swaminathan, assistant professor of emergency medicine at St Joseph's University Medical Centre in Paterson, New Jersey, told The Independent at the very core of the threat was the sheer number of people receiving this misinformation,

At least 11m people listen to each episode of The JRE, while Rogan claimed in 2019 his show received 190 million downloads a month.

“Much of the alarm stems from the immense following Rogan has. If an anti-science, anti-vaccine personality has 10 followers, the impact would be minimal. I would have just as much of an issue with the comments but it would still create less total harm,” he said.

“Rogan has millions of followers and tens of millions of downloads/month. The combination of anti-science, anti-vaccine rhetoric with a large platform is an enormous issue and, in this case, an enormous threat to public health.”

Imogen Coe, Founding Dean of the Faculty of Science at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada, claimed Rogan has not simply spread misinformation once, but kept doing so.

“Why would someone deliberately share information that is potentially damaging to the health and well being of others? That needs to be addressed and health professionals in particular have a duty of care and scientists have an ethical responsibility to speak up,” she said.

Joe Rogan continues to ignore covid science even as he reads it out loud

Asked how an open society should balance free speech and discussion with the need to combat misinformation about the spread of Covid, she said: “There appears to be a conflation with ‘free society’ meaning anyone can say anything, including misinformation and falsehoods, without being held accountable for it.”

She added: “Falsehoods and misinformation that lead to illness and death (which happens when scientific consensus and public health directives are undermined) surely must be challenged in a free society.”

The signatories to the letter ranged across disciplines and included a number of psychologists worried about the influence Rogan appears to hold over his audience.

The letter pointed out the average age of The JRE listener was just 24, and that data from Washington state in the US suggested “unvaccinated 12-34 year olds are 12 times more likely to be hospitalised with Covid, than those who are fully vaccinated”.

“People get sick and die when physicians spread misinformation and undermine evidence-based public health interventions,” said Dr Jonathan Stea, a clinical psychologist at Canada’s University of Calgary.

“And celebrities have a large platform from which they can amplify misinformation. If the pandemic has had any silver lining, it’s that it has highlighted the dangers of tolerating a culture that allows pseudoscience to remain unchecked.”

The open letter came as Covid’s impact continues to reverberate globally. The total death toll from the virus is close to 5.5million, with 850,000 of those in the US.

Joe Rogan in 2020 (Douglas P.DeFelice/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, in Britain prime minister Boris Johnson is fighting for his political life after it was revealed he and his staff held drinks parties in the garden of his Downing St offices while the rest of the country was in lockdown.

In Australia, which took some of the toughest measures against Covid, Novak Djokovic, the world’s number one male tennis player, and a vaccine sceptic, was recently deported and has missed the Australian Open after officials ruled he could not enter the country as he had not been vaccinated – a federal requirement.

Another signatory, Eden Maness, a psychiatry research fellow at Harvard Medical School, pointed out the pandemic was now entering its third year.

“Allowing discredited individuals onto a popular podcast to offer debunked and potentially dangerous misinformation related to Covid, and its treatment – particularly when the target demographic of this podcast is largely composed of young adults who erroneously believe they are impervious to the detrimental and potentially long-term consequences of this disease – is dangerous, irresponsible, and likely to result in further conflation of what is actually helpful and what is counterproductive,” she said.

The letter writers drew particular attention to one episode, featuring Dr Robert Malone, a 63-year-old US virologist “who was suspended from Twitter for spreading misinformation about Covid”.

It said Dr Malone used his appearance to further promote numerous baseless claims, including several falsehoods about Covid vaccines and an unfounded theory that societal leaders have “hypnotised” the public. It said he was among several of Rogan’s recent guests who compared pandemic policies to the Holocaust.

“These actions are not only objectionable and offensive, but also medically and culturally dangerous,” it said. It added: “This is not only a scientific or medical concern; it is a sociological issue of devastating proportions.”

One British healthcare expert who signed the letter but asked not to be identified in this article, said that like many others, they were fitting in their vaccine activism amid their professional medical work, and juggling life during the pandemic.

“I do the vaccine work in my limited spare time,” they said.

Walter Ian Lipkin,, a professor of epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, said: “The Joe Rogan Experience has the largest audience on Spotify.”

Spotify paid Rogan $100m to host his podcast in an exclusive deal that was agreed in 2020. Neither he nor Spotify responded to inquiries from The Independent.

In their letter, the experts concluded: “This is not only a scientific or medical concern; it is a sociological issue of devastating proportions and Spotify is responsible for allowing this activity to thrive on its platform.

“We, the undersigned doctors, nurses, scientists, and educators, thus call on Spotify to immediately establish a clear and public policy to moderate misinformation on its platform.”

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