If forced to pick radio shows or podcasts favored by manly men who like to think about being manly without addressing their own vulnerabilities or whatever, I would choose Howard Stern over Joe Rogan. Howard Stern is lovable in his own way, and has Robin Quivers to bolster his lovability. Joe Rogan is the former Fear Factor host whose podcast is currently number one on Spotify and is generally full of conspiracy theories and bunk. Over the course of the pandemic, Stern ran segments with Dr. Agus, intending to debunk the various conspiracy theories around the vaccines and the pandemic itself, providing a nice public service to his millions of listeners. Rogan, not so much!
On the April 23 episode of his podcast, Rogan suggested that if you are 21 and “healthy,” you do not need to get the vaccine. “If you’re like 21 years old, and you say to me, should I get vaccinated? I’ll go no,” he said. For Rogan, people who are “vulnerable” and otherwise compromised should absolutely get vaccinated, and he assured his listeners that he believes the vaccine is safe. But, for the “healthy” young people wanting to get back to some sort of normalcy, skipping the vaccine is fine.
“Are you healthy? Are you a healthy person?” he said. “Like, look, don’t do anything stupid, but you should take care of yourself. You should — if you’re a healthy person, and you’re exercising all the time, and you’re young, and you’re eating well, like, I don’t think you need to worry about this.”
Parsing Rogan’s logic feels like an impossible task at first, but if you think about what he is saying about “healthy” people getting vaccinated and then you consider his audience (young and oldish men) it all makes a sick, deluded sort of sense. The idea that a person who is young and healthy and “exercising all the time” will not get sick from covid is optimistic; the truth is no one knows how the virus will affect the people it infects. But the optimism Rogan is selling tracks with the image he’s created for himself: a strong, virile paragon of masculinity whose relative health and fitness will be able to defeat the virus if it were to come his way.
Not all men are bad, but quite a lot of them are stupid and motivated by fear. The fact that covid is unpredictable in how it affects the people that it does might lead some men to think that the vaccine is an unnecessary oversight from the medical community, an overcautious correction for a disease that is fatal to the old, the infirm, and the otherwise vulnerable. That’s one way of looking at it, to be sure, but it’s not the right one. Assuming that your health will get you out of the hospital if a disease that we just learned about a little over a year ago comes for you in the bar or the Crossfit gym is breathtakingly ignorant and frankly, annoying. If you or someone you care about is one of the men that listens to Mr. Fear Factor, and actually believes what he says, best of luck. For everyone else, ignore this little man and get your shot.