On December 31st, Joe Rogan had an actual doctor by the name of Robert Malone on his podcast, a doctor who claims to have invented the mRNA vaccine (a specious claim, to say the least). Malone has gone on several podcasts (including Steve Bannon’s), and cable news shows (including Tucker Carlson’s), where he not only touts that he is the inventor of mRNA vaccines but he undermines the very vaccine technology he claims to have invented. His basic argument is that the vaccines were approved too quickly, that side effects are not properly being tracked, that only those who are at the highest risk should be taking them, and that no one under 18 should be vaccinated.
He also believes that our citizenry has become “hypnotized” into wearing masks and getting COVID-19 vaccines due to a concept he called “mass formation psychosis.” Malone claimed on Rogan’s podcast that we are like the Nazis in Germany during the 1920s and ’30s: They were a “very intelligent, highly educated population, and they went barking mad. And how did that happen? The answer is mass formation psychosis. When you have a society that has become decoupled from each other, and has free-floating anxiety, in a sense that things don’t make sense. We can’t understand it. And then their attention gets focused by a leader or series of events on one small point, just like hypnosis. They literally become hypnotized and can be led anywhere.”
Mass Formation Psychosis is not a real thing, though you’d be hard-pressed to believe that if you followed right-wing social media, where they’re using that term on the regular to explain liberals’ obsessions with masks and vaccines. Oh no! How awful! They are preoccupied with surviving. The irony is that if mass formation psychosis were a real thing, it would be an easy way to explain Trump voters.
Malone has been getting around a lot lately, but because his most high-profile appearance was on Joe Rogan’s podcast, it’s getting the most attention. Over 270 doctors, nurses, scientists, and educators signed an open letter this week asking Spotify to curb the spread of misinformation on its podcast platform, which would mean muzzling Joe Rogan, among others.
It’s a real problem when you’ve got a guy being paid $100 million by a corporation and is given free rein to say what he wants to say and have on who he wants to have on his podcast. Spotify has invested a lot of money in Rogan. Rogan makes Spotify even more money than they invested. And Rogan is uncancellable. Attempts to do so have only made him more popular. For Spotify, he’s essentially too big to fail, and even if Spotify got out of their contract with Rogan, someone else would pay him $100 million to spread misinformation.
Short of yelling racial slurs on his podcast (and even that is debatable), there’s nothing that can be done to stop Rogan. YouTube removed the Malone video, and Twitter banned Malone, but there are no consequences for Rogan, and there won’t be. No amount of open letters — or even internal pressure from employees — is going to make a difference. If there’s one thing we can say for so-called “cancel culture,” it’s that at least the threat of “cancellation” sometimes keeps content creators in line. Sometimes. There is no such threat to Rogan. He essentially answers to no one.
For Rogan, there is no obligation to be truthful, and there is no appetite in Congress to establish safeguards because half the people in Congress spread the same misinformation for political advantage. This is an instance where one man with too much power can operate as recklessly and irresponsibly as he’d like and his followers will never abandon him. If that’s not mass formation psychosis, I don’t know what is.