Spotify’s Joe Rogan once again peddled harmful anti-trans rhetoric during his January 25 podcast, suggesting that social acceptance of trans people is a sign of “civilizations collapsing” while his guest, right-wing provocateur Jordan Peterson, equated being trans to a “sociological contagion” comparable to “satanic ritual abuse.”
Rogan has frequently used his platform to promote smears against trans people, spread conspiracy theories, and espouse COVID-19 misinformation. His show is streamed exclusively on Spotify and is the most popular podcast on the platform. As The Washington Post has noted, “With an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, Rogan reaches nearly four times as many people as prime-time cable hosts such as Sean Hannity of Fox News Channel and Rachel Maddow of MSNBC.”
Peterson is a former Canadian psychology professor who rose to prominence in far-right circles by promoting extreme misogynistic and anti-trans rhetoric. Peterson largely disappeared from the public sphere in 2019 but has recently returned to his role as a darling of the right-wing propaganda machine, with 4.5 million subscribers on his YouTube channel alone.
Peterson claimed that being trans is a “sociological contagion” comparable to “satanic ritual abuse"
During the podcast, Rogan and Peterson speculated on what causes a person to be trans. Peterson asserted that the answer is a “sociological contagion” comparable to “the satanic ritual abuse accusations that emerged in daycares in the 1980s,” referring to the “rash of false allegations” about supposed occult child abuse that fueled the “satanic panic” during the 1980s and early 1990s.
Peterson repeated his opposition to the Canadian federal Bill C-16, which amended the country’s human right protections to include gender identity, and baselessly asserted that amending “sex categories” in nondiscrimination measures would “fatally confuse thousands of young girls.”
Rogan also cited the work of anti-trans author Abigail Shrier -- a previous guest on his podcast -- around the inaccurate concept of “rapid onset gender dysphoria.” Rapid onset gender dysphoria comes from a flawed and since-corrected study by Brown University researcher Dr. Lisa Littman which suggested that trans youth -- primarily trans boys -- are rapidly identifying as trans due to “social and peer contagion.” Littman’s study has been described by a colleague as “below scientific standards,” as it relied on “survey responses from parents who had visited sites promoting anti-trans views,” and it did not actually survey trans youth themselves.
Rogan and Peterson also suggested that trans people are a sign of “civilizations collapsing”
Later in the same episode, Rogan and Peterson suggested that the acceptance of trans people is a sign of “civilizations collapsing.”
This bizarre theory has been an ongoing fixation for Rogan. In September 2020, he discussed this claim with The Spectator’s Douglas Murray, who asserted that trans issues “will be seen to be a late-empire, a bad sign of things falling apart.” Notably, Rogan has repeated this claim in several episodes of his podcast since, including on September 24, 2020, September 15, 2021, and January 20.
Despite Rogan repeatedly espousing misinformation and bigotry to his large audience, Spotify has refused to take any action to quell his harmful commentary. On January 12, 270 doctors, physicians, and science educators published an open letter “calling on Spotify to take action against the mass-misinformation events which continue to occur on its platform.” The letter has since gained over 1,000 signatures.