Joe Rogan Is Still A Public Health Threat

Not content with being antivax, Rogan has lately started arguing that masks don't protect you against disease.

Joe Rogan Is Still A Public Health Threat

One thing I think about a normal, healthy amount is the May 2020 episode of The Joe Rogan Experience in which Rogan and guest Elon Musk agreed that the Covid-19 pandemic was a practice run for a serious pandemic that might actually kill lots of people. “This is not as bad as it could have been,” Rogan proclaimed, as trucks full of corpses still lined the streets of Manhattan. “This is a good dry run for us to appreciate that we need far more resources dedicated towards understanding these diseases, what to do in the case of pandemic, and much more money that goes to funding treatments and some preventative measures.”

This exchange has been on my mind in part because we may now be sleepwalking into an avian flu pandemic with nary a lesson learned from the last one (not that the last one ever ended), and perhaps even with a collective rejection of the lessons we might have learned. Consider Rogan: in the space of a year or so after issuing that warning about the need for preventative measures, he became a full-fledged anti-vaxxer. More recently, he has expanded his opposition to the basic principles of public health by arguing (baselessly) in a number of recent episodes that high-quality masks offer no protection against disease. Here he is last month, speaking with comedian Deric Poston:

In the age of science and reason, people abandon science to confirm their worst fears and to confirm all their weird anxieties. Which is the reason why people believe that a mask that you could breathe out of is going to protect you from a virus that's floating in the air.

And here he is in April, speaking with comedian Akaash Singh:

SINGH: My wife, she got a master’s at NYU and they made them take boosters. Which, I took the vax, I’m fine with that, but boosters, I was like, “I’m not doing it.” If it’s a cold, I’m not vaccinating against a cold. I’m not doing it. And then they made them wear masks until, I think, the middle of 2023, they had to wear masks. Which is insane.
ROGAN: Jesus Christ. There’s no science. Zero science. If you look at the science behind masking, there’s actually legitimate science that breathing those dirty fucking masks with that bacteria inches from your mouth is bad. 
SINGH: That’s fair. 
ROGAN: Yeah, because you’re spitting in this thing, and then this thing is right in front of you, and it’s also warm and moist, so it breeds bacteria. 
SINGH: A surgeon wears a mask to protect someone whose body is cut open. That makes sense.
ROGAN: Yeah, they don’t spit inside of them.
SINGH: He’s not talking, having full conversations. He breathes in it for the surgery, takes it off, that’s it. Another mask or whatever.
ROGAN: And if you wear one of those tight-fitting N-95—what are they called, is that what it is?—if you wear one of those, even that, you’re getting air in. Okay? And you must understand that the particles of whatever virus it is are smaller than the fucking holes that you’re getting air through. You could vape through those things. You ever seen people vape through them? Fucking vape goes everywhere. There’s a doctor who was showing that early on, who’s a respiratory specialist. He was like, “This is insane, and let me show you why it’s insane.” So he takes one of those big JuiceBox vapes that those dorks use—sucking on a robot dick—so he takes this big puff and then blows right through one of them surgical masks. The Covid particles are smaller than the vape particles. It’s nonsense, but it made people feel better.

And here he is with Tony Hinchcliffe two weeks ago, discussing Anthony Fauci’s Congressional testimony (I’ll skip the bit where he endorses lab leak conspiracy theories):

What they did was insane, and they did it in front of everybody. And finally Fauci has to talk about it to people, but he’s still in denial about it all. There’s no science that says masking for children works. There’s no science that says that vaccinating children works. That it’s good, that it’s overall good. And the amount of people that have gotten wrecked by this, they’re starting to talk about it in other countries, and they’re talking about it in other countries, and they haven’t quite gone public with it in all the newspapers in the United States yet. 

And let’s round it out with his May conversation with comedy’s elder statesman Colin Quinn, who cackled in agreement with the following:

ROGAN: You seen these fucking protests that are happening in colleges? First of all, these kids are all wearing masks. They’re outside, they’re protesting, and they’re all wearing masks. I say that it’s like the Democrat’s MAGA hat. 
QUINN: Nice.
ROGAN: That’s what the mask is. You're letting everybody know. You’re letting everybody know that you're a part of the clan, that you're on the good side. “I’m masking, I’m masking for your safety.” They’re just bizarre human beings coming out of colleges today, fully brainwashed. 
QUINN: I say it this way. Let’s say 20% of them are just kids that were raised to hate the West. Everything in the West is bad, they’re brainwashed, which is really, the whole curriculum is 20% of that. Then I’d say 20% are kids that are—they’re the kids that feel like they want to be—like when I was in college. When I was in college—remember this is happening during finals week—so 20% of finals protesters—if somebody came up to me when I was in college and said, “Listen, next week is finals, you know you’re gonna fail, how about this. We’re gonna give you some money from this George Soros found[ation]—it’s a Venmo thing—we’re going to give you money, you stand outside and you block the—not only do you not have to take your finals, you’re gonna block the kids that are gonna make you look bad and pass their finals. You’re gonna block them from coming to class.” I would say, “Gimme the scarf, I’ll put it on right now.”

Perhaps you can see where I’m going with this. Rogan’s anti-mask comments just happen to coincide with a broader push to stigmatize and even criminalize masking by government officials frustrated with its use in pro-Palestine protests. North Carolina passed a mask ban last month. Here in my famously blue city and state of New York, both mayor Eric Adams and governor Kathy Hochul said last week that they’re considering banning masks on the subway. All of this is happening as new variants of the coronavirus swirl around our public and private spaces, and as the bird flu threatens to spark an entirely new and perhaps much deadlier pandemic. 

Hochul and Adams Agree: It’s Time for a Mask Ban on the Subway - Hell Gate
Prepare to share the air. Plus more links for your weekend.

If you are reading this newsletter, I trust you are not someone who needs convincing that N-95 masks do, in fact, offer substantial protection against respiratory viruses. What I would like to dwell on instead is how once again the bold freethinker Joe Rogan has mysteriously wound up on the same side as the ruling establishment. You can see the gears turning in his head during that exchange with Colin Quinn, where he reflexively condemns the antiwar protestors whose position he previously earned headlines for supporting. Forget their beliefs or goals; their use of masks renders them illegitimate, worthy of mockery; brainwashed sheep desperately seeking their in-group’s approval. Never mind what they actually risked for their speech, never mind what they actually suffered. 

The other thing I would like to point out is what all these anti-mask segments actually represent in a material sense: a bunch of very famous comedians on a very large platform condemning their fans to illness, misery, and potentially death. This is not a new thing, of course—the same could be said for everyone who toured in 2020 and 2021, and for everyone who spent the years since falling deep down the antivax rabbit hole. But the fact remains that some people are going to believe what Joe Rogan is telling them, and some of those people are going to get sick as a result. This is just what comedy is now.

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