The Rise of Podcasts, Censorship, and the Art of Conversation
In our increasingly censored society, an interesting avenue for expression is gaining traction—long-form interviews on podcasts. Surprisingly, those leading the charge seem to be comedians. Perhaps it is not so surprising after all. It seems that in the past few years, we’ve lost two major things as a society: our ability to converse and our ability to relax and have fun. We yearn to have those two things restored. Historically, we usually find that it is creative people that bring society’s flaws to the forefront, subsequently reorienting us in a better direction. It is not politicians, scientists, or CEOs that create love and beauty and compassion. It is musicians, comedians, painters, and storytellers who do this. It is artists who bring about real change.
Lately, with all of the confusion brought on by our over-reliance on facts and data (often conflicting or manipulated), we have devolved into attacking one another with reference material, charts, numbers, and ‘sources’ of information. If someone makes a statement, our knee-jerk reaction is not to listen but to refute. Alarmingly, we are even seeing this in our schools. I recently spoke with a high school teacher who felt that she had to be careful about the things she said, because if it was not in line with the ‘information’ being taught to the children, then she could get in trouble. It wasn’t that she would argue or refute the information...she was simply attempting to have a nuanced conversation about it. It is extremely concerning that we cannot express a thought—simply wondering out loud and trying to hash it out—because it is labeled as ‘dangerous misinformation’.
I think this is why people are flocking to these podcasts, especially those hosted by comedians. We crave normal conversation. These interviewers have a guest, whether they agree with that guest’s position or not, and they have a conversation. The wonderful thing about comedians doing this is that it’s relaxed, funny, and non-combative. If tension arises, it is released with humor. People are finally getting to hear a normal conversation take place once again. This is why the recent troubles with Joe Rogan’s podcast episodes being banned from YouTube should make us all stand up and take notice. His censorship should be extremely alarming to us.
Personally, I don’t agree with the majority of Mr. Rogan's opinions. But labeling his interviews as ‘misinformation’ is insidious. Listeners are intelligent enough to hear a conversation between two people and decide for themselves where they stand on the issue. Mr. Rogan has had interviews with everyone from career CIA officials and top psychologists to fringe conspiracy theorists and ‘alien abductees.’ He listens and interacts with them, no matter how logical or illogical their views are. Censors are painting this art of conversation (listening and entertaining someone else’s ideas for the sake of understanding) as ‘spreading misinformation’. This is a dangerous tactic. We should be able to talk freely about even the craziest ideas so that we can learn from one another. It is beneficial that we listen and understand, even if we think the person on the other end of the conversation is completely incorrect. The art of conversation and interviewing involves putting yourself in your guest’s reality for a little while, entertaining their ideas as valid in order to get a sense of how they came to think the way they do, and respecting their views whether you agree or not.
There are many other comedians doing this same type of podcast, and I think it is an encouraging sign. I have heard interviews with border patrol agents, farmers, soldiers, nurses, an ambassador to China, computer hackers, etc. ...all through these comedians’ podcasts. It has been very beneficial to hear the experiences of people on the front lines of real issues instead of reading or hearing reports on the issues from news sources. I have agreed with some interviewees and disagreed with others. Either way, I was intelligent enough, as most people are, to listen to the conversation and decide for myself. We are all getting tired of being fed information and being told what to think. We need to settle down, listen to one another in good humor, and re-learn the art of conversation. If the people in charge are at the point of censoring artists and conversation in our society, this should gravely concern us. We should be able to converse freely. I hope this type of interview format continues to grow and thrive, and I hope that more Catholic and Christian voices enter the conversations. If people are learning to listen instead of debate, then there is an avenue to spread the love of Christ in our society.
You bring up a lot of good points here with censorship, but I'm going to play Devil's advocate on your position.
What would you say if I replied, "Hasn't the Catholic Church practiced censorship throughout its history?"
What about 100 years prior to Martin Luther, The Church burned Jan Hus advocating for communion in both kinds, which the memory of what happened to Hus caused Luther to refrain from public debate during the reformation?
Didn't the Church have an Index of forbidden books?
One might argue that this idea of freedom of conscience and the dignity of conscience is a Classical Liberal idea, but traditionally the Church has promoted "error has no rights."
How would you respond?