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Port: If you're trying to silence Joe Rogan, what does that say about your own argument?

Why are voices of authority on the pandemic — public health experts and doctors and scientists — struggling to gain traction with large factions of the public? A large part of the reason is their tendency to speak in stentorian, voice-of-god tones that accept no dissent or debate, even though they're about as fallible as any group of experts.

Joe Rogan introduces fighters during the UFC 269 ceremonial weigh-in  at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Dec. 10, 2021, in Las Vegas.
Joe Rogan introduces fighters during the UFC 269 ceremonial weigh-in at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Dec. 10, 2021, in Las Vegas. The Spotify podcaster is ensnared in a controversy over COVID-19 misinformation.
Carmen Mandato / Getty Images / TNS
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MINOT, N.D. — It plays out over and over again, the cancel culture debate.

In the current news cycle, it's Joe Rogan, who has come under fire for interviewing advocates against the COVID-19 vaccines and promoting some goofy thoughts of his own about the pandemic.

Rogan's hugely successful podcast is currently exclusive on Spotify's platform. Spotify paid $100 million for that privilege, but now a small group of artists are asking for their content to be removed from Spotify's service. Some of Spotify's employees, too, are in revolt .

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Somehow, Trump-aligned "conservatives" went full circle, from prudent skeptics of authoritarianism to its footsoldiers, Rob Port writes.

I don't know what's going to happen at Spotify, but I hope they don't cancel Rogan. Not because I'm enamored with his pandemic hot-takes — please get medical advice from your doctor and not some politician or media figure — but because his only sin seems to be a willingness to make provocative arguments and interview unpopular guests.

Have we reached a point in the trajectory of American culture where we cannot abide those things any longer?

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That's always been the struggle in freedom of speech debates. Private companies such as Spotify aren't obliged to follow the First Amendment as law, but American culture calls us to aspire to the spirit of the First Amendment in how we conduct our lives. And yet, the thing that makes the First Amendment, both as law and philosophy, a necessity is the need to protect speech that makes people angry.

Speech that is uncontroversial needs no protections.

But let's set aside the speech debate, for a moment, and focus on what deplatforming someone like Rogan means for those of us who disagree with the positions he's advocated on the pandemic.

Are we really so unsure of our arguments that we cannot abide them being challenged?

'Impending disaster'; Groups pushing West Fargo and Moorhead schools to adopt mask mandates
Groups push Farg-area school districts to adopt mask mandates.
File Photo

We should be deeply worried that the message sent by the campaign against Rogan and others to the sort of people who have been, or could be, persuaded by anti-vaccination, COVID-conspiracy nonsense, is that we don't think our arguments can withstand scrutiny.

Why are voices of authority on the pandemic — public health experts and doctors and scientists — struggling to gain traction with large factions of the public? A large part of the reason is their tendency to speak in stentorian, voice-of-god tones that accept no dissent or debate, even though they're about as fallible as any group of experts.

Remember when the organizers of anti-lockdown rallies were all but accused of murdering people , but a large group of public health experts endorsed contemporaneous Black Lives Matters protests ?

It wasn't a great look for the public health community.

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I trust the scientists and the doctors. I'm vaccinated. I've tried to be cautious throughout the pandemic. But there's nothing wrong with admitting that these people can make mistakes, even en masse.

As for Rogan? "The tyrant dies and his rule is over," wrote Kierekegaard , "the martyr dies and his rule begins."

Martyrs have been power symbols throughout human history.

Maybe we ought to think twice about martyring, even in a figurative way, those we disagree with.

Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Listen to his Plain Talk Podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RobPort. He can be reached via email at rport@forumcomm.com.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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