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Joe Rogan and the Anatomy of an Influence Campaign
These two developments are the result of a carefully executed influence campaign, and so I figured now would be a good time to go over how influence campaigns work.
(This is what they teach you in a strategic political communications class for an advanced degree. I hope you find it interesting.)
Joe Rogan, Dr. Robert Malone, and Spotify: A Case Study
Imagine that you are highly motivated to make people believe that the only effective way to beat COVID-19 is to receive the vaccine—a multi-billion dollar product that earns the manufacturers tens of thousands of dollars every minute. You would be against anything that leads to “vaccine hesitancy,” which includes promoting information that suggests that there are cheap and effective ways to treat COVID.
You certainly wouldn’t want experts like Dr. Robert Malone to have a platform, because he is saying just that.
Fortunately for you, Dr. Malone was prevented from communicating to his (small) audience of Twitter followers after Twitter banned his account.
That, for a time, was an effective containment option.
Unfortunately for you, Dr. Malone was able to bypass this gatekeeping measure. On Dec. 31, 2021, he sat down to talk with chatty and inquisitive comedian and MMA commentator Joe Rogan, which allowed Dr. Malone to spread his message to somewhere between 11 million and 200 million people.
This is cataclysmic for you. It’s time to go into emergency mode. YouTube, being a team player, promptly banned the episode. But Spotify, which bought the right to host the JRE in a $100 million deal in 2020, kept it up.
By allowing Joe Rogan to allow Dr. Robert Malone to share his information, Spotify is a god-level threat to the pro-vaccine cause.
Why exactly is sharing information a threat?
You might already know that one of the tenets of the modern regime is that all social interactions are a power dynamic. To achieve its ends, the regime has spent over 100 years studying power dynamics, and has it down to a science.
Sociologist Manual Castells defines power as “the relational capacity that enables a social actor to influence asymmetrically the decision of other social actor(s) in ways that favor the empowered actor’s will, and values.”
What determines the actor’s will and values?
“Meaning is constructed in society through the process of communicative action. Cognitive rationalization provides the basis of communicative action. Cognitive rationalization provides the basis for the action of the actors.”
In other words, people have power so long as they are able to “articulate [their] interests and values.” For the regime to fight an upward battle against the truth, it needs to fastidiously control what people hear and believe.
If your mission is to ensure that the maximum amount of people are vaccinated, then Dr. Malone—along with anyone who gives him a platform—poses a supreme threat.
To alter this state of affairs, you need power. Power, according to political scientist Robert Dahl, can be summarized like this: “A has power over B to the extent that he can get B to do something that B would not otherwise do.”
You know that Joe Rogan and Dr. Malone aren’t going to budge. That leaves Spotify as the malleable variable. The question, then, is: How do you (A) compel Spotify (B) to remove the Dr. Malone episode (w)?
Here’s what hasn’t achieved w so far.
Some 270 “medical experts” sent an open letter to Spotify on Jan. 10, saying: “Dr. Malone’s interview has reached many tens of millions of listeners vulnerable to predatory medical misinformation... This is not only a scientific or medical concern; it is a sociological issue of devastating proportions and Spotify is responsible for allowing this activity to thrive on its platform.” The open letter had no effect.
Neil Young gave Spotify an ultimatum: me or Rogan. Spotify chose Rogan. “We want all the world’s music and audio content to be available to Spotify users. With that comes great responsibility in balancing both safety for listeners and freedom for creators,” Spotify told The Hollywood Report. “We regret Neil’s decision to remove his music from Spotify, but hope to welcome him back soon.” All this achieved was Young losing 60% of his streaming revenue.
Other musicians like Joni Mitchell and Nils Lofgren pulled their music from Spotify, and White House press secretary Jen Psaki ominously called on Spotify to do more to call out “mis- and dis-information.” These acts also did not achieve w.
A handful of medical nerds, aging and inconsequential musicians, and even a White House spokesperson did not have the social influence to compel Spotify to sacrifice its bottom line.
When your leverage over a target fails to achieve the desired result, then your next option is to expand the parameters of the conflict to enlist a larger support base.
On Jan. 31, musician India Arie—a black woman—announced that she would also be removing her music from Spotify in protest. But unlike the other musicians, her reasons weren’t just about COVID. “I find Joe Rogan problematic for reasons OTHER than his Covid interviews… FOR ME ITS ALSO HIS language around race.”
This was an entirely new attack vector on Rogan, and perhaps the most potent one in America right now. After the immense damage unleashed by the George Floyd riots during the 2020 Summer of Love, it’s clear that anything that could be construed as racism against black Americans is outside what is tolerable.
A few days later, Arie posted a compilation of clips of Rogan using the n-word. Immaterial to this development is the following:
Rogan wasn’t calling a black person this term in any of the instances.
In all uses he was quoting someone else using the word, or commentating on the usage of the word itself.
At no point was he disparaging an individual or using it with hateful intent.
This context does not matter—the damage was done.
Rogan himself apologized. This itself is a massive cause for optimism for the pro-vaccine cause. By admitting guilt, he has made it easier for Spotify to justify distancing themselves from him.
The public pressure on Spotify has been increased dramatically by smearing him with COVID misinformation AND racism. This might be enough to move the platform’s position and drop the Dr. Malone interview, and even alter the Rogan contract (perhaps not full-on cancellation but rather a Whoopi-style two-week cooldown period).
If such a result occurs, the you will have achieved a major coup in your campaign to ensure vaccine supremacy, and to protect the public from horse meds.
[Thus concludes our thought experiment.]
Who Exactly Executes the Influence Campaign?
Were all of the attempts to compel Spotify to dump the Dr. Malone interview part of a single influence campaign… perhaps a strategic communications agency acting at the behest of Big Pharma?
No, I wouldn’t make that assertion. There likely isn’t any one puppet master who single-handedly 1) goaded 270 medical experts to write an open letter, 2) convince Neil Young to risk (and lose) 60% of his streaming revenue, AND 3) get India Arie to post the Joe Rogan n-word compilation.
(Although it’s highly likely that some of these actors were assisted by third-parties. I seriously doubt, for example, that Arie scoured thousands of hours of JRE interviews by herself in order to put together a few seconds of clips.)
The great thing about the regime’s narrative is that it is unambiguous. If you want to be on the “right side of history,” then you understand the marching orders. You support the vaccine and are against anything that promotes vaccine hesitancy (like Dr. Malone). To advance the regime’s narrative publicly results in social rewards.
This ensures that support of the regime can be done in a distributed, decentralized manner, and is socially incentivized.
Curtis Yarvin explains this in his conceptualization of the Cathedral, his term for the “information organ” of the modern regime. “In the Cathedral, the Brain is academia; the Voice is journalism; the Foundation is nonprofits; the School is education; and the Conversation is educated opinion.”
What are the greatest sins, according to academia and mainstream media? Clearly it’s racism followed by spreading COVID misinformation. To acknowledge this dogma is to be right.
“The Conversation, the polite opinion of the upper class, is always synoptic with the Voice and the Brain,” says Yarvin. “These are the strongest narrative and philosophy; so they are inherently the best.”
Joe Rogan isn’t a racist, and Dr. Malone doesn’t want people to suffer from COVID. The fact that they are being dragged over the coals as if they are is a sign that they are sharing information that the regime doesn’t want the people to hear. That should be enough to give anyone pause.
How to Survive a Hostile Influence Campaign?
Social media has expanded the number of people who are political actors.
This group is no longer restricted to elected officials and bureaucrats: it also includes anyone with high social influence—whether those actors consider themselves political or not.
That exposes ordinary people to the kinds of public attacks that previously only politicians, those seeking political office, and certain celebrities would ever have to endure in their lifetimes.
How should they handle such attacks? Well, we can learn from Castells: “Meaning is constructed in society through the process of communicative action.”
Rogan could have responded to India Arie by rejecting the premise of her attack. He could have said that simply saying that n-word is not at all the same as calling someone the n-word. The distinction would have been lost on many Americans, but the independents and centrists would have understood.
The fact that he apologized put him on the back foot. There is at least this to say about it: he probably did it because of genuine remorse rather than calculated self-interest. He’s got a big heart, and likely has come to agree that a white person shouldn’t ever say the word, no matter the intent.
Spotify, too, needs to get ahead of the conversation but laying out exactly why they plan on standing by Rogan (if they still do). They then need to say enough is enough and ignore further attempts to remove the Dr. Malone episode.
If Spotify can weather the onslaught long enough for the story to stop garnering infotainment appeal, they just might make it with both their $100-million investment AND reputation (although worse for wear).
The rest of us can only learn from this experience. The lesson is this: so long as you are able to communicate, you still have power. (So never allow yourself to be deprived of all communication channels!)