The MRC Goes On Rogan Patrol, Part 2
The Media Research Center remains in permanent Joe Rogan defense mode -- even when his love for saying the N-word on his podcast was irrefutably documented.
By Terry Krepel
Part 1 of this story is here.
The Media Research Center is so dedicated to defending COVID misinformation that when podcaster Joe Rogan was busted for letting anti-vaxxers like Robert Malone and Peter McCullough, it rushed to shoehorn Rogan into its right-wing victim narrative. As criticism of Rogan mounted, the MRC doubled down on its defense.
When rock legend Neil Young demanded that Spotify either drop Rogan or stop streaming his music, Alexander Hall sneered on Jan. 25:
Neil Young has reportedly demanded that Spotify become a safe space for him. The Once-legendary Canadian-American singer delivered an ultimatum to Spotify, according to Rolling Stone: Get rid of the massively popular Joe Rogan Experience podcast or lose his music.
Hall didn't dispute Young's statement that Rogan spreads misinformation -- perhaps because he knows it's true. And insisting that misinformation not be spread is not the same thing as hiding in a "safe space."
The next day, Nicholas Fondacaro put "misinformation" in scare quotes when talking about what Rogan has done -- because the MRC will never unequivocally acknowledge any right-winger spreads misinformation -- but he seemed surprised that "The View" co-host Joy Behar came to Rogan's defense. On Jan. 27, Hall tried to feel superior over Young after Spotify chose Rogan over Young's music, claiming that "Young may have drastically overestimated his popularity and influence" and sneering again, "Old man, look at your life." The same day, Autumn Johnson joined the scare-quote brigade:
U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy called on Big Tech to remove Joe Rogan’s podcast because of so-called COVID-19 “misinformation,” on Tuesday.
Johnson made no effort to prove that Rogan wasn't spreading misinformation, making her scare quotes a lazy way out.
On Jan. 29, it was Jeffrey Lord's turn to lash out at Young for standing up for truth, falsely declaring of him, "Who knew rocker Neil Young was into censorship?" He claimed Rogan and other anti-vaxxers were spreading misinformation but, rather, "different views on the vaccine," going on to huff: "Make no mistake. America is involved in a battle royal with leftist censors who are determined to silence any and all views on any and all subjects they don’t like."
Johnson returned on Jan. 30 to complain about "another aging lefty rocker" criticizing Rogan:
Spotify has faced more criticism for its decision to keep Joe Rogan’s podcast on the platform. Last week, artist Neil Young challenged the music streaming platform to remove the podcast or remove his music. Spotify removed his music.
Johnson didn't dispute Mitchell's contention that Rogan was irresponsibly "spreading lies." But she waited until nearly the end of her post to admit that "Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said the company will now add a content advisory on podcasts that mentions COVID-19. The user will then be directed to information about the virus from physicians and other health officials.
The next day, Rogan issued a video addressing the controversy surrounding him. Hall was bizarrely gleeful that it could be considered a "non-apology" and seemed absolutely giddy about labeling him a "world-famous podcaster":
World-famous podcaster Joe Rogan stirred up controversy with Cancel Culture mobs by interviewing medical professionals who questioned shifting narratives of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, rocker Neil Young pulled his music from Spotify in protest, causing Spotify and Rogan himself to respond.
One example of this that Rogan cited, according to Hall, regarded the origin of COVID-19, which he "claims that were censored for being so-called “conspiracy theories,” but now are the predominant explanations for the course of the pandemic. Hall linked to an old NewsBusters post complaining that an article at the unreliable far-right site ZeroHedge claiming that COVID-19 was weaponized by China, citing another article claiming the virus was a leak from the Wuhan lab as evidence that this is now the "predominant explanation" -- even though that wasn't exactly what ZeroHedge was claiming. Meanwhile, there's still plenty of evidence that discredits the lab-leak theory.
Hall also wrote:
“If you said, ‘I don't think cloth masks work, you would be banned from social media. Now, that’s openly and repeatedly stated on CNN. If you said ‘I think it's possible that COVID-19 came from a lab’ you’d be banned from many social media platforms, now that's on the cover of Newsweek.”
But cloth masks do have a level of effectiveness, though not as good as N95 or KN95 masks. Rogan is lying when he claims they don't work at all.
Hall seemed disappointed to report that Rogan said "he would accept disclaimers on his podcasts about COVID-19 'saying that you should speak with your physician and that these people and the opinions that they express are contrary to the opinions of the consensus of experts.'" And, curiously, he again repeated Young's contention that Spotify hosts like Rogan were "spreading fake information about vaccines" and "potentially causing death to those who believe the disinformation" without making an effort to dispute the claim.
Just because Rogan quasi-apologized for spreading misinformation doesn't mean the MRC had finished defending his right to spread it. Curtis Houck kept up the whining that Rogan was being held accountable in a Jan. 31 post:
All three major broadcast networks continued on Monday morning to do their part in the push to remove Joe Rogan from the public square over his top-rated Spotify podcast under the guise of COVID-19 falsehoods. In the case of ABC, CBS, and NBC, they ratcheted up the rhetoric from when they first covered it last week, calling his show and views “dangerous” “misinformation” with one implicitly tying him to Americans who’ve died from the virus.
Only at the MRC would it be considered "sinister" to hold someone accountable for their behavior. And Houck offered no evidence that "freedom of speech" protests lies and misinformation. Nevertheless, he went on to rant that this was all an "open example of collusion to censor those the liberal media oppose." Never mind that Houck himself gets paid by the MRC to try and censor the speech of people right-wing activists like him oppose.
Alex Christy took a predictable shot at the evil (in the fevered brains of the MRC minions, anyway) Brian Stelter of CNN, complaining that he said that CNN is more trustworthy than Rogan -- an indisputable truth. Still, Christy felt the need to sneer in response that "Stelter's claim that CNN can better discern what is true than the average Joe Rogan listener is not something backed by evidence" -- though he offered no direct comparisons of CNN vs. Rogan.
Catherine Salgado, meanwhile, screamed "DOGPILE!" in the headline of her post:
Leftists called on Spotify to ban popular podcast host Joe Rogan over alleged COVID-19 “misinformation.” Rogan has interviewed doctors on his show who dissent from the left’s COVID-19 narratives.
Notice all the fallacious appeals Salgado invoked -- the ad populum fallacy in touting how Rogan is "enormously popular," and the credentials fallacy in hyping the medical and research credentials of McCullough and Malone and ignoring the fact that both have been repeatedly discredited. And her insistence on putting scare quotes around "misinformation" shows that Salgado is never going to admit Rogan, McCullough and Malone ever misinformed people -- even as she refuses to lift a finger to prove that claim correct, as proven by her false statement that they stand accuse of "dissent[ing] from the left’s COVID-19 narratives." No, they're accused of dissenting from established medical reality, and the fact that Salgado considers medical reality merely a "narrative" from "the left" tells you all you need to know about how the MRC and the rest of the right-wing media have politicized COVID.
Salgado went on to complain:
Many “theories” were aggressively dubbed “misinformation” earlier in the pandemic, such as the lab leak theory of COVID-19 origins and the fact that vaccinated individuals can contract COVID-19. These same “theories” have now been shown to be plausible or true, and authorities have now acknowledged the veracity of emergent facts. Furthermore, while a letter to Spotify from medical and scientific professionals has hundreds of signatures, over 17,000 scientific and medical professionals have signed the Rome Declaration condemning many touted COVID-19 measures.
Again, the lab leak theory has yet to be proven conclusively true, and there's little evidence that COVID-19 is a Chinese-made bioweapon. While there is a Rome Declaration on COVID -- created last May by the European Union -- that's not what Salgado linked to. Instead, she linked to a different declaration from a group of fringe doctors and researchers -- including Malone and McCullough -- who oppose COVID vaccines and have pushed dubious treatments such as ivermectin.
Pro-misinformation advocate Hall complained that the White House wanted to do something about it in a Feb. 2 post:
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki called on music and podcast streaming platform Spotify to tighten its grip on speech to stop so-called “misinformation.” It’s a culture-war tactic often used by the left: Accept some subservience by others to its agenda, but say that’s only a start.
Hall is lying -- Psaki is not calling for "censorship," and Hall knows it. Nevertheless, he kept trying to put that word in her mouth.
Clay Waters used a Feb. 3 post to attack a New York Times reporter over his article on Rogan:
New York Times tech reporter-columnist Kevin Roose took on the controversy between hugely popular podcaster-interviewer Joe Rogan and the music-media streaming provider Spotify over supposed misinformation Rogan spread about Covid vaccines in an interview with a controversial doctor. The story dominated the front of Tuesday’s Business section: “Staying Power Of an Uproar.”
Actually, Clay, it's not hard to identify COVID misinformation -- its just that you and the rest of the MRC pretend that there is no such thing as objective misinformation in order to give the MRC and other right-wing media outlets a lane to spread more.
N-word controversy whataboutism
But when you commit to something the way the MRC has to defending Rogan's COVID misinformation, you're pretty much stuck defending everything he does. A Feb. 1 post by Jeffrey Clark got mad at Rolling Stone magazine for pointing out how Rogan was joined by right-wing guru Jordan Peterson to spread misinformation about climate change:
The left-wing orthodoxy has spoken: Podcast host Joe Rogan must be banished from society. Rolling Stone slammed Rogan and clinical psychologist and University of Toronto professor emeritus Dr. Jordan Peterson in a self-righteous hit piece. Rogan and Peterson’s crime? Having the nerve to discuss climate change.
Note that Clark barely quotes from the podcast to defend Peterson, suggesting there's probably a lot more to Rolling Stone's analysis that he's ready to admit. Also note that Clark doesn't state the obvious, that neither Rogan nor Peterson have any demonstrated expertise on the issue of climate, as demonstrated by Peterson's bizarre assertion that there's no such thing as climate.
Meanwhile, a new Rogan controversy was brewing. Autumn Johnson hinted at it in a Feb. 5 post noting that "Spotify has removed approximately 70 episodes of" Rogan's podcast, though she misleadingly complained that "Many on the left have attacked Rogan for his promotion of alternative treatments of COVID-19" without proving any link between the two. Meanwhile, a Feb. 6 post by Clay Waters complained that a New York Times opinion piece "called for the massively popular podcaster Joe Rogan to be censored by his hosting platform Spotify" (invoking the ad populum fallacy again). When the writer noted Rogan's history of transphobia and racism and his giving a platform to the likes of Alex Jones, Waters played whataboutism: "Wait until these benighted folks discover the history of Sirius XM podcaster (and former radio shock jock) Howard Stern."
What happened was that a clip compilation was released on Feb. 4 that summarized Rogan's enthusiastic use of the N-word. Alexander Hall couldn't even acknowledge the existence of that clip in a Feb. 7 post, vaguely stating only that there "outrage over past language" and cheering Spotify for continuing to stand by him. Hall also complained that tech writer Kara Swisher called out Rogan defenders for claiming that his critics want to "silence" him when they haven't really done that.
Brian Bradley went full whataboutism in a Feb. 8 post, expressing faux shock that -- gasp! -- rappers say the N-word:
The platform continues to host a ton of content brimming with references to the racial slur, including one Lil’ Jon song that belts the N-word a whopping 152 times. This is after 70 episodes of the well-known Joe Rogan Experience podcast were removed from Spotify over the weekend, reportedly because of the host’s past use of slurs.
Spotify clearly knows better than to try to engage with a bad-faith actor like the MRC. And Bradley certainly won't concede that black rappers use the N-word in a much different context than a white podcaster does -- nor did he mention that Rogan apologized for his use of the N-word.
Johnson served up more whataboutism in a Feb. 10 post:
Since many on the left have called on Spotify to remove Joe Rogan’s podcast from its lineup, it is worth noting that the podcasts of convicted criminals and alleged racists are still up.
The same day, Hall lovingly wrote of "legendary podcaster" Rogan defending himself, with a little added defense of his own:
The embattled legendary podcaster Joe Rogan defended his right to speak his mind on his podcast.
Again: Rogan was not criticized for "questioning Covid narratives"; he was criticized for spreading documented misinformation. The MRC apparently doesn't understand the difference between the two.
Then again, the fact that the MRC won't deny that Rogan spread misinformation could be considered evidence they know he's in the wrong and are just using him anyway to exploit a political issue.
Still pressing the issue
The MRC still defended Rogan even after the furor had largely subsided. Catherine Salgado wrote in a Feb. 11 post:
The leftist group PatriotTakes was part of the release of a controversial video that attacked podcasting star Joe Rogan. PatriotTakes just happens to be reportedly partnered with leftist SuperPAC MeidasTouch, which was funded by actress Bette Midler.
(Also, it's strange how the MRC continues to obsess over what Midler does despite insisting she's not relevant.)
It was not until the second-to-last paragraph of her post that Salgado finally told readers that "PatriotTakes put up clips of Rogan supposedly defending or using the N-word slur." But she weirdly tried to soften the damage by claiming the clip packages "supposedly" show that -- in fact, they indisputably demonstrate that Rogan is doing so by using actual clips of Rogan, and Salgado made no attempt to prove otherwise.
Christian Toto used his Feb. 26 column to gush that "Joe Rogan continues to share his Spotify podcast far and wide despite one of the most aggressive Cancel Culture campaigns in recent memory":
Rogan made some missteps along the way. He apologized to critics who weren’t open to apologies. He agreed to remove dozens of “Joe Rogan Experience” episodes to appease the mob.
Meanwhile, the MRC continues to gush over Rogan's grossness to their shared political enemies. Joseph Vazquez cheered in a Feb. 28 post:
Podcaster and comedian Joe Rogan is clearly fed up with uber-liberal mega-billionaire Bill Gates and his incessant claims that meat-eating is sinful and unhealthy, while at the same time allegedly not being in the best shape himself.
Hey, at least Rogan managed to restrain himself from calling Gates a "motherfucker" -- then again, Vazquez would've been giddy about that too.