I don’t think I’ve ever had such a long conversation with anyone. Seriously, think about it. We sat in a windowless podcast booth with two sets of headphones and microphones, and a few feet between us. Not a single interruption. No cell phones. No distractions. There are no breaks in the bathroom.
At a time when we want shorter and sharper content, which responds to abbreviated periods of human attention, one of the most popular podcasts in the country presents conversations that last exceptionally and that deepen especially.
Many friends warned me not to accept Joe’s invitation. “There’s already little room for reasonable conversations,” one person told me. “It’s a fight and it doesn’t play clean,” warned another. In fact, when I told Joe at the beginning of the podcast that I disagreed with his apparent views on vaccines against Covid, ivermectin, and many other things in between, part of me thought that MMA, a former champion of Taekwondo, I could throw myself over the table and strangle my neck. But instead, he smiled and we left.
Okay, I’m beautifying here, but Joe Rogan is the only one in the country with whom I wanted to exchange views in a real dialogue, which could be one of the most important conversations in this whole pandemic. After listening to his podcasts for a while now, I wanted to know: was Joe simply a sower of doubts, a creator of chaos? Or was there something else? Was he asking questions that they asked to be asked, fueled by the necessary suspicion and skepticism?
In the lion’s den
It was not like that what Joe Rogan thinks what interested me the most was how he thinks. This is what I really wanted to understand.
The truth is, I’ve always been a naturally skeptical person. One of my personal heroes, physicist Edwin Hubble, said a scientist has “healthy skepticism, a suspended judgment, and a disciplined imagination, not only about other people’s ideas, but also about their own.”
It is a good way of thinking about the world, full of honesty and humility. I live with that, and I think Joe can too to some extent. He will be the first to point out that he is not a doctor or a scientist who has studied these subjects. Instead, he seems to see himself less as a rapper and more as a sort of guardian of the galaxy, pointing out the wrong steps of big institutions like government and general medicine, and then wondering out loud. if you can still rely on them to make recommendations or even mandates for the rest of us. For many, it represents a queen bee in a beehive mind, advancing free will and personal freedom above all else.
The free will of your fist ends where my nose begins
When I told this to Joe, the MMA fighter, he stopped, sat down, and listened for a while. I asked him: is it not possible to firmly defend personal freedoms, but also to recognize the unique threat posed by a highly contagious disease? He seemed to agree, but he quickly countered with a common misconception about the general usefulness of vaccines.
If vaccinated people transmit the same as unvaccinated people, why are they really needed?
Vaccines are not perfect, but he had to accept that they are certainly a worthy tool to help control the spread of the virus. And they are particularly effective in preventing people from suffering serious illness or dying. They can also help prevent the development of long Covid, a chronic disease state that some people develop after the natural infection, even if their attack with the acute phase of the infection was mild.
What he said next surprised me
So it turns out that Joe Rogan almost got vaccinated. That was a headline. It was a few months ago when I was in Las Vegas. I had a scheduled appointment, but I had logistical hurdles and couldn’t get there. He offered this story as proof that it is not necessarily “anti-vaccine,” even if it constantly raises issues that question its legitimacy.
This kind of back and forth makes it hard to fix Joe Rogan, both in martial arts and in a podcast interview.
Despite minimizing the risks Covid often feels on Joe’s podcast, his private studio prioritizes safety. A nurse was present to perform a quick Covid test before starting. We were even checked for antibodies with a blood test to prick our finger.
We both carried antibodies: his for natural immunity, mine for the vaccine. I was vaccinated in December last year and Rogan hired Covid in late August. Although this antibody test could only detect the presence of antibodies and not their strength, Joe was very proud of his test, insisting that the thickness of his lines must mean stronger immunity. I’m pretty sure he was joking. And I didn’t have the heart to tell him that my antibody line was significantly thicker than his.
The nuance of immunity
So the question Joe raises, like many others: why should those who had Covid still get the vaccine?
Another problem with natural immunity is that it can vary substantially depending on the age of the individual and the degree of disease in which they are. Mild diseases in the elderly often result in the production of fewer antibodies.
I guess a small part of me thought I might change Joe Rogan’s opinion on vaccines. After that last exchange, I realized it was probably useless. His mind was determined and there would always be a lot of misinformation perfectly packaged to support his convictions. The truth is, though, I’m still glad I did. My three-hour conversation wasn’t just with Rogan. If only some of his listeners were convinced, it would have been worth it.
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