By Angie Speaks
Just as you thought the 2020s couldn’t get any more dystopian, we are now witnessing the enthusiastic embrace of corporate censorship by the Left in the name of combatting the nebulous scourge of “misinformation.” Joe Rogan, the most popular podcaster in the English language, has found himself at the center of a firestorm of progressive ire, from scientists to celebrities to rock legends to White House spokespersons acting in their official capacity, all for the crime of allegedly spreading dangerous misinformation and endangering public health.
This absurd pushback is not new; progressives and outraged “experts” have been anxiety ridden for years over the prominence of Rogan’s podcast and its wild success. But the straw that broke the camel’s back has been Rogan’s open skepticism about official Covid narratives. This skepticism has pushed liberal establishment outrage to such a fevered pitch that that it provoked White House press secretary Jen Psaki to urge Spotify, the platform that hosts Rogan’s podcast, to “do more” to combat Covid misinformation on the platform.
Labeling skepticism about official narratives “misinformation” is steadily becoming the liberal establishment’s favored tool to silence and defame dissenting perspectives. The term “misinformation” is often employed with such reckless abandon that one need not actually spread malicious falsehoods to be assailed by it. Thus, a comedian like Rogan, who makes no claim to intellectual authority or expertise, is now at the center of this ridiculous controversy.
Covid has pushed this penchant to another level. Just a year ago, it was considered treasonous heresy and even “racist” to question the narrative pushed by the liberal establishment that the coronavirus has zoonotic origins. The “lab leak” theory was considered beyond the pale — though now, just one year later, it is the consensus view of Covid-19’s likely origins.
Last year, openly questioning the usefulness of cloth masks was shut down by the liberal mainstream — yet now the CDC has cast doubt on their utility. The list goes on: Corporate liberal media browbeat the population into accepting the notion that vaccination curbs transmission of the virus — but in the past year, we have seen this claim repeatedly proven false, with spiking cases even among those who received the booster.
It is utterly hypocritical for establishment liberals to accuse skeptics and dissenters of willfully spreading malicious “misinformation” and call for unconstitutional censorship of their perspectives when their own “facts” have been shown time and again to be fungible.
This hostility towards independent media’s influence is not proof of misinformation but of a deep insecurity. The very existence and success of independent actors unattached to the mainstream media poses a severe threat to the hegemony of corporate media. Accusing dissidents of “misinformation” acts as a moral cover against the misinformation that the liberal establishment is itself guilty of proliferating.
The Joe Rogan/Spotify controversy is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to coercing private platforms to appeal more directly to the establishment’s agenda under the guise of “combating misinformation.” Last year, Substack came under fire for similar reasons, with accusations levied at the platform of profiting off and creating a safe haven for “dangerous ideas and misinformation.” Substack’s vice president of communications, Lulu Cheng Meservey, responded aptly that “if everyone who has ever been wrong about this pandemic were silenced, there would be no one left talking about it at all.”
She perfectly summed up the major contradiction in the liberal wing’s crusade to attack alleged spreaders of misinformation while conveniently ignoring their own mistakes.
The trend of the political, liberal establishment coercing platforms to censor private individuals who contravene its narrative and damage its reputation is not only unconstitutional when it involves government actors; it’s corrosive to all forms of dissent. This trend transcends political lines and affiliations and can impede anyone’s ability to engage in the dialogue that holds those in power accountable.
And yet, these disturbing calls for corporate censorship and government overreach are sadly becoming the norm on the Left. A recent Pew Research Center poll showed that 65 percent of liberals believe the U.S. government should take steps to restrict false information online, even if it restricts freedom of information, and a whopping 67 percent of liberals believe tech companies should take steps to restrict false information online, even if it limits freedom of information.
In other words, the majority of the so-called Left of the American public are inclined to support corporate censorship despite it being glaringly in contradiction with the liberal values they espouse.
Worse, in a confusing and ever-shifting information landscape, the definition of “misinformation” is constantly in flux. The difference between the malicious dissemination of flasehoods and attempts to understand the growing complexities of our current predicament are far too often conflated, especially by an establishment that weaponizes the term “misinformation” to dampen sincere dissent and skepticism. This trend is beginning to foster a very precarious environment for free thinkers, non-conformists and those who are responsible for holding powerful interests accountable.
If someone as prominent and successful as Joe Rogan can fall prey to this kind of malicious witch hunt, what does that mean for those with less power?
The mounting pressure on Spotify to remove The Joe Rogan Experience is indicative of a much more malignant trend that is attempting to corral all dissent into a digital gulag, while the official narrative remains untouched and unchallenged by divergent perspectives. No matter what your political perspective may be, nobody is safe when the “basket of deplorables” is ever expanding.
Angie Speaks is a cultural commentator and cohost of the Low Society Podcast.