When I saw Joe Rogan’s grey face under the headline announcing he’d contracted COVID, I didn’t have to click through to know what he was going to say, or imply.
So I didn’t. But from credible reports I take it it went basically like this:
Rona’s a doozy, bros. I’m taking alternative remedies. Vaccines aren’t my jam. I’m going to keep doing my thing. All that healthy living is paying off now. I’m not an expert, but nobody is, really. I love my freedom.
What else would he say? He’s got a hundred million reasons from Spotify for never having to doubt himself. When it comes to COVID, his vaccine skepticism, and his parade of Ivermectin-hawking guests, he is literally paid to parasitize and existential crisis, and convert it into jokey, bro-science content that degrades public health.
“Degrades” is a little mild, to be honest. It’s more like hijacking the enormous ship of public health to carry him, his besties — and vicariously, his listeners —to an all-inclusive alt-health resort on a private bro island.
It’s a ship that carries centuries of infrastructure and stores of social capital in the hold. It was built in messy and flawed ways by researchers and health care workers whose names we’ll never know. It’s a life-and-death cargo of emotionally-charged freight, laden with every hope people have in their survival, and every doubt they have in the good will of institutions. And Rogan can commandeer the whole load, with nothing but a microphone and a few tattooed sidekicks.
Catching COVID and appearing to recover from it will only embolden him. His body can now express faux humility and triumph at the same time. He’s put skin in the game; disease will not overcome him, and evidence will not shame him. It reminds me of Trump musing that he could shoot a person on 5th Avenue in broad daylight and not lose any voters. Rogan’s not that far off:
I can stand in the middle of Spotify and endanger millions with pseudoscience and lazy opinions, and not lose any listeners.