More On: Joe Rogan
If you don't like his show, don't watch or listen to it – but don't shut him up.
“If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.”
— John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)
The notion of free speech has befuddled the United States for over two and a half centuries.
The founders were subjected to a British colonial rule that condemned criticism of the British king. However, immediately after the enactment of the Bill of Rights, in which the First Amendment clearly demands that Congress shall make no legislation abridging the freedom of expression, Congress adopted the Alien and Sedition Acts, which criminalized deliberately criticizing the government.
Thousands of newspaper editors and journalists in the North who were critical of President Abraham Lincoln's choices during the Civil War were arrested and imprisoned without trial by the military during the War Between the States.
During World War I, President Woodrow Wilson employed the forerunner to the FBI to arrest people who read out loud the Declaration of Independence and performed German beer hall songs in front of draft registration offices. Mr. Wilson said that the First Amendment only applied to Congress and not to the president as commander in chief. His Justice Department successfully punished anyone who spoke out against American engagement in the war.
The government pursued free speech in the 1950s because it was judged a clear and present menace to national security. None of it was true. In a well-known California case, the defendant was convicted of planning to overthrow the government just by attending a Communist Party conference, despite the fact that she opposed the resolution calling for the revolution.
It wasn't until 1969, that the Supreme Court unanimously decided that all benign speech is totally protected, and all speech is innocuous when there is time for other speech to oppose it.
Their popularity was just as harmful as the prosecutions themselves. The defendants were frequently unsympathetic, and their rhetoric was generally avoided and despised. The government's task was made simpler as a result.
However, the First Amendment only protects speech from the reach of the government. It does not protect it from private access. To put it another way, if your speech offends the government, it cannot suit or punish you today. However, if you work for a private organization, your supervisor can punish you for workplace speech that violates restrictions.
All of this serves as context for the current public controversy involving podcaster Joe Rogan. Mr. Rogan is the undisputed king of podcasting. He has a considerably greater number of viewers and listens than anyone else in the industry. As a result, he is a target for individuals who oppose his ideals.
Mr. Rogan has made his podcasts available on Spotify. Mr. Rogan's program is not produced by Spotify. It does not produce his work, choose his guests, or write his scripts. It does nothing more than make Mr. Rogan's show available to its paying clients.
Some of its clients and other licensees have stated that Mr. Rogan's tone, choice of words, and comments made by some of his guests have offended them. This started a few weeks ago, when Mr. Rogan, a proponent of personal liberty, interviewed two doctors who fought against the government, Big Pharma, and medical elites' attitudes on vaccines and face masks.
Mr. Rogan became anathema as a result of what his guests said, and leftists demanded that he be removed off Spotify. Leaving aside the financial implications of such a removal – the Spotify/Rogan partnership is worth more than $100 million — the activists who want Rogan silenced would prefer that there be no public debate on health care because they despise and fear liberating speech.
To put it another way, certain performers who have licensed their material to Spotify, as well as their followers who listen to Spotify, are outraged by Mr. Rogan's guests and want him silenced.
Is it possible to have the right not to feel offended? Obviously not.
However, freedom of expression is an inherent right. It originates inside each of us. Its core is that individuals have a natural freedom to think as they desire, express what they think, and listen to whoever they choose, without the consent of the government or a consensus of the loudest.
To those who seek to suppress Mr. Rogan, consider how this country would be if the strongest voices could stifle all others. The collision and free flow of ideas is essential to freedom. We've succeeded in keeping the government out of the business of regulating and penalizing speech since 1969; now we have to keep the crowd out.
Do Mr. Rogan's detractors truly want the bad old days to return? I ask because those who despise and fear Mr. Rogan's opinions also despise and fear his freedom — and their next move will be to use the government to silence him. It is only a short step from hostility to silence to speech punishment.
Mr. Rogan, on the other hand, has the inherent right to say anything he wants and to speak with whoever he wants. Only his voluntary license deal with Spotify mitigates this for him. And listeners have the freedom to choose whether or not to listen to Mr. Rogan. The Natural Law protects our rights against all intruders, not just the government. Neither you nor the government have the legal authority to remove my "Vote for Ron Paul" yard sign.
To put it another way, if the theater owner allows it, you can cry "Fire!" in a crowded theater. Mr. Rogan can say whatever he wants on Spotify, and he can offer platforms to individuals who question the establishment; if you don't like his program, don't watch or listen.
More speech is the moral and constitutional solution for despised speech. Joe, don't give up.