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 headsets and microphones, and a few feet between us. Not a single interruption. No mobile phones. No distractions. No break in the bathroom.
In an age of shorter, sharper content – responding to a shortened human attention span – one of the country’s most popular podcasts delivers conversations that are exceptionally long and particularly deep.
Many friends have warned me against accepting Joe’s invitation. “There is no more room for reasonable conversations,” one person told me. “He’s a brawler and he’s not playing fair,” another warned. In fact, when I told Joe at the start of the podcast that I disagreed with his apparent views on Covid vaccines, ivermectin, and many other things in between, part of me thought the MMA the former Taekwondo champion might rush across the table and strangle my neck. But, instead, he smiled and we left.
OK, I’m beautifying here, but Joe Rogan is the only guy in the country that I wanted to exchange views with in a real dialogue – one that could potentially 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 just a sower of doubt, a creator of chaos? Or was there something more? Was he asking questions begging to be asked, fueled by the necessary mistrust and skepticism?
In the lion’s den
It was not What Joe Rogan thinks what interested me the most was How? ‘Or’ What he thinks. This is what I really wanted to understand.
The truth is, I have always been a naturally skeptical person myself. One of my personal heroes, physicist Edwin Hubble, once said that a scientist has “healthy skepticism, suspended judgment and disciplined imagination, not only about the ideas of others but also of their own.”
It’s a good way to think about the world – full of honesty and humility. I live by this, and I think Joe can also 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 rascal and more as a kind of guardian of the galaxy, pointing out the missteps made by big institutions like government and mainstream medicine, and then wondering aloud if we are. can always trust them to make recommendations. or even warrants for the rest of us. For many, he represents a queen bee in a beehive spirit, above all doing free will and personal freedom.
Your fist’s free will stops where my nose begins
When I said 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 individual freedoms, but also to recognize the unique threat posed by a highly contagious disease? He seemed to agree, but quickly responded with a common misconception about the overall usefulness of vaccines.
If the vaccinated transmit as much as the unvaccinated, why are they really needed?
It was as if Joe and I were now in the octagon, going around in circles. He was staring at me intently now, eyebrows raised. I admitted that the vaccinated could still carry the virus at similar loads to the unvaccinated, but I quickly added – before he could claim victory – that there was more to the story.
I shared data with Joe showing that vaccinees were eight times less likely to be infected in the first place, and their viral load decreased faster if they were infected, making them contagious for a shorter period of time and less likely to spread the virus. virus.
Vaccines aren’t perfect, but he had to agree that they are certainly a valuable tool in helping to control the spread of the virus. And, they’re especially effective in preventing people from getting seriously ill or dying. They can also help prevent the development of Long Covid, a chronic disease condition that some people develop after natural infection, even if their access to the acute phase of the infection was mild.
What he said next surprised me
So it turns out that Joe Rogan almost got vaccinated. It was a headline. It was a few months ago when he was in Las Vegas. He had a scheduled appointment but had logistical obstacles and was unable to make it. He has presented this story as proof that he is not necessarily “anti-vaccine,” although he constantly raises questions questioning their legitimacy.
It’s that kind of back-and-forth that makes it hard to spot Joe Rogan, both in martial arts and in a podcast interview.
For example: Although he occasionally ranted against masks, “The Joe Rogan Experience” masks bearing his logo are available for sale on his website. I even bought one in advance and gave it to him as a gift. He looked surprised. (By the way, they are made in China.)
Despite a minimization of Covid risks often heard on Joe’s podcast, his private studio prioritizes safety. A nurse was on hand to perform a quick Covid test before we started. We were even checked for the presence of antibodies with a finger prick blood test.
We both had antibodies – his from natural immunity, mine from the vaccine. I was vaccinated in December of last year and Rogan contracted Covid at the end of August. Even though 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 kidding. And, I didn’t have the heart to tell him that my antibody line was significantly thicker than his anyway.
The nuance of immunity
It bears repeating that no one should choose infection over vaccination. It has been the concern of many public health officials since the early days of the pandemic. If nothing else comes out of my conversation with Joe Rogan, I hope at least that point will. Far too many people have fallen seriously ill and died, even after effective vaccines became available. In the past three months alone, there have been more than 90,000 preventable deaths from Covid-19 in the United States among unvaccinated adults, according to new analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
At the same time, an Israeli study drew a lot of attention after it appeared to show that natural immunity offered significant protection – even stronger than two doses of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine in people who had never been infected. “
So the question Joe, like many others, asks himself: why should those who have already had Covid still get vaccinated?
That’s a good question, and the one I raised myself
with Dr Anthony Fauci back in early September. At the time, he told me that there was no firm answer on this and that they were still figuring out what recommendations should go ahead and how long-lasting natural immunity is. long-term. “
Part of the problem is that we still don’t have a clear idea of how many people have contracted Covid in the United States. The official number is around 45 million, but due to the continued lack of sufficient testing, it remains uncertain. And many antibody tests currently available have high rates of false negative and false positive results, often making them unreliable as evidence of immunity.
Another problem with natural immunity is that it can vary widely depending on the age of the individual and the severity of their disease. Milder illness in the elderly has often resulted in the production of fewer antibodies.
Some studies have shown that between 30 and 40% of people who have recovered from Covid have no detectable neutralizing antibodies at all. This probably explains why a recent study showed that unvaccinated people who already had Covid were more than twice as likely to be re-infected as those who had also been vaccinated.
I told Joe that even in the Israel study, the authors concluded by recommending that people who had recovered from Covid still receive a vaccine. And when Joe emphasized the risk of myocarditis in children who receive the vaccine, especially young boys, I countered just as strongly that the risk of myocarditis was found to be much higher for infected children under the age of. 16 years old compared to their uninfected peers. . These numbers eclipse the risk of myocarditis in children who receive the vaccine (and, of course, most cases of myocarditis can be treated without hospitalization). For me, the risk-benefit analysis is clear: vaccination is safer than infection.
I guess a small part of me thought I could change Joe Rogan’s opinion on vaccines. After this last exchange, I realized that it was probably futile. His decision was made, and there would still be a lot of carefully packaged misinformation out there to back up his beliefs. The truth is, I’m still glad I did. My three-hour conversation wasn’t just with Rogan. If only a few of his listeners were convinced, it would have been worth it.