Updated: Oct 20, 2020
No matter who is visiting Joe Rogan's podcast, they get a chance. He does not always agree, but he tries to understand. And that, with his far-reaching platform, can help bridge divides. Emma Stenström reflects on one of the worlds most successful podcasters.
Joe Rogan is the mixed martial arts commentator and comedian, who has one of the world's most popular podcasts. Spotify pays almost €100 million for rights to broadcast it.
Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt talks about bubbles and growing divides with Joe Rogan. Millions have listened.
The pod has over 200 million listenings per month, according to Forbes.. Two hundred million. Per month. In Sweden we thought that many listened to Greta Thunberg’s radio speech this summer. It reached one million.
If you want to understand the present, you should follow both Joe and Greta. Joe is a bit of the boys' Greta.
Joe mainly attracts young men. Maybe your son. Maybe your colleagues or customers. Definitely many of my students.
"No one understands young men better than Joe Rogan," it is often said.
So, what does he do? And what can he teach us? I spent part of the late summer listening. Joe talks and talks. He releases several episodes every week. And each episode is two, three, sometimes four hours long. Sometimes they say that young men have problems with attention. It’s obviously a myth. Joe Rogan smashes it. It's probably more about who you talk to, about what, and how. And here we can learn from Joe Rogan.
Diversity is part of the success. Joe Rogan talks about big and small, high and low, private, professional and political issues. And he does it with a blissful mix of guests. Mostly men, but celebrities, martial artists, comedians, academics, politicians, entrepreneurs, and experts.
One day, far-right Alex Jones comes to visit, the next Bernie Sanders.
No matter who is visiting, Joe Rogan is having a respectful conversation. He does not always agree, but he tries to understand. He dismisses no one. Everyone on the show gets a chance.
And that, with his far-reaching platform, can help bridge divides.
I think there is a great need for this. We are tired of generalizations and prejudices. There is a fatigue towards talking down and miscredit others. And we can all be inspired by Joe Rogan's conversational technique. He shares, he shows vulnerability, he makes his guests look smart, and he does not place people in simple categories.
Typical Joe: "Yeah, you're a climate denier, but how are you as a dad?"
I sometimes feel like I am secretly listening to a conversation between men. There is the constant uplifting of each other mixed with long lectures where Joe and his guests tell each other how it is. Bromance mixed with mansplaining, in an outsider’s ears.
But I am also touched by the mix of showing strength and being vulnerable. One minute it is all about guns, the next about struggles to be a good enough dad. A man in Joe’s world is both strong and vulnerable, at the same time. Complex, in other words.
Something that sticks out with Joe, is that he provides self-help to young men. It is all about discipline, eating, and exercise habits. The male body is, without doubt, a temple.
But sure, Joe also derails. I turn off when Joe plays out the victim card and starts nagging that "you can no longer say what you want". It's pretty pathetic when you consider his huge platform. And by the way, this applies to many others who are nagging about the same thing.
When no one else believes in them, he steps forward like a cool daddy figure, and gathers them around a huge, global campfire.
I also get tired when he has to be politically incorrect almost compulsively. Yes, we understand that it is provocative to pay tribute to big cars, hot women, guns, drugs, and red meat. But isn’t it too mainstream these days? And pretty boring?
Although I am at times critical, I am still fascinated. Joe Rogan's popularity is too great to pass unnoticed. He is so big that he probably could influence the outcome of the US election.
He strikes a chord with young men that I think is needed. He arouses curiosity and gives hope. When no one else believes in them, he steps forward like a cool daddy figure, and gathers them around a huge, global campfire.