Osays it was the size of his audience that made him so dangerous. Another suggested it was the fact that the average age of his listeners was only 24, and therefore particularly persuasive.
Another expert said he seemed to have a personality cult. One said he repeatedly spread misinformation about Covid and ignored calls to stop.
These are just some of the accusations leveled at podcaster, influencer and sometimes actor Joe Rogan by more than 150 scientists, doctors and medical professionals who said the 54-year-old was “extraordinarily dangerous”.
In one open letterthe experts called on Spotify, host of the The Joe Rogan Experience (JRE) podcast, to take action to stop the spread of misinformation about the coronavirus and the effectiveness and safety of vaccines.
“Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, Joe Rogan has repeatedly aired misleading and false claims on his podcast, causing distrust in science and medicine,” the experts from the United States, Canada wrote. , Great Britain and Australia.
“He discouraged vaccination in young people and children, falsely asserted that mRNA vaccines are ‘gene therapy’, promoted the off-label use of ivermectin to treat COVID-19 (contrary to warnings from the FDA) 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 Center in Paterson, New Jersey, said The Independent at the very heart of the threat was the large number of people receiving this misinformation,
At least 11 million people tune in to every episode of The JREwhile Rogan claimed in 2019 that his show received 190 million downloads per month.
“Much of the alarm stems from Rogan’s huge following. If an anti-science, anti-vaccine personality has 10 followers, the impact would be minimal. I’d have just as much of a problem with the comments, but that would always create less total damage,” he said.
“Rogan has millions of subscribers and tens of millions of downloads/month. Combining anti-science, anti-vaccine rhetoric with a big platform is a huge problem and, in this case, a huge threat. for public health.
Imogen Coe, founding dean of the faculty of science at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada, claimed that Rogan did not just spread disinformation once, but continued to do so.
“Why would anyone knowingly share information that is potentially harmful to the health and well-being of others? This needs to be addressed and healthcare professionals in particular have a duty of care and scientists have an ethical responsibility to express themselves,” she said.
Joe Rogan continues to ignore covid science even though he reads it aloud
Asked how an open society should balance freedom of expression and discussion with the need to tackle misinformation about the spread of Covid, she said: ‘There seems to be confusion with ‘free society’, meaning anyone can say anything, including misinformation and lies, without being held accountable. »
She added, “The lies and misinformation that lead to illness and death (which happens when scientific consensus and public health guidelines are undermined) must surely be challenged in a free society.”
The signatories to the letter spanned all disciplines and included a number of psychologists concerned about the influence Rogan appears to have on his audience.
The letter highlighted the average age of The JRE the listener was only 24 years old, and that data from Washington State in the United States suggested that “unvaccinated 12-34 year olds are 12 times more likely to be hospitalized with Covid than those who are fully vaccinated”.
“People get sick and die when doctors 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 great platform from which they can amplify misinformation. If the pandemic has had a silver lining, it’s that it has highlighted the dangers of tolerating a culture that allows pseudoscience to go unchecked.
The open letter came as the impact of Covid continues to reverberate globally. the total number of dead of the virus is close to 5.5 million, including 850,000 in the United States.
Meanwhile, in Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is fighting for his political life after it was revealed he and his staff were hosting parties in the garden of his Downing St offices while the rest of the country was locked out.
In Australia, which has taken some of the toughest measures against Covid, Novak Djokovic, the world number one in men’s tennis and a skeptic of vaccines, was recently expelled and missed the Australian Open after the authorities decided that he could not enter the country as he had done. not have been vaccinated – a federal requirement.
Another signatory, Eden Maness, a psychiatry researcher at Harvard Medical School, pointed out that the pandemic is now entering its third year.
“Allowing discredited individuals on a popular podcast to offer debunked and potentially dangerous misinformation related to Covid, and its treatment – particularly when that podcast’s target population is largely young adults who mistakenly believe that they are insensitive to the detrimental and potentially long-term consequences of this disease – is dangerous, irresponsible and likely to lead to further confusion between what is actually useful and what is counterproductive,” he said. she declared.
The letter’s editors drew particular attention to one episode, featuring Dr Robert Malone, a 63-year-old American virologist “who was suspended from Twitter for spreading false information about Covid”.
He said Dr Malone used his appearance to further promote many unsubstantiated claims, including several lies about Covid vaccines and an unsubstantiated theory that company executives “hypnotized” the public. He said he was among several of Rogan’s recent guests who compared pandemic politics to the Holocaust.
“These actions are not only reprehensible and offensive, but also medically and culturally dangerous,” he said. He added: “It’s not just a scientific or medical concern; it is a sociological problem of devastating proportions.
A British health expert who signed the letter but asked not to be identified in this article said that, like many others, they fit into their vaccine activism amid their professional medical work and juggle life during the pandemic.
“I do vaccine work in my limited free time,” they said.
Walter Ian Lipkin, professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, said: “The Joe Rogan Experience has the largest audience on Spotify.
Spotify paid Rogan $100 million to host his podcast under an exclusive deal struck in 2020. Neither he nor Spotify responded to inquiries from The Independent.
In their letter, the experts concluded: “This is not just a scientific or medical concern; it’s a sociological problem of devastating proportions and Spotify is responsible for enabling this activity to thrive on its platform.
“We, the undersigned doctors, nurses, scientists and educators, therefore call on Spotify to immediately establish a clear and public policy to moderate misinformation on its platform.”