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Reinventing the Podcast: Is there more than just the alt-right and ‘high-value alpha-males?’

By Aymen Sherwani, June 28 2022

In recent months, podcasts have gotten a really bad reputation. They’re a super accessible medium for anyone to share their thoughts on — well — anything. Because of that, the internet has seen an influx of misinformation being presented as the be-all and end-all by hosts or guests that may or may not be qualified to be doing as such. Of course, the first thing that comes to mind here is The Joe Rogan Experience — while the host himself has his own fair share of allegations surrounding racism and transphobia, what made him truly dangerous is the fact that he allows for public health conspiracies, white supremacy and climate change deniers to all have platforms on his show. To enable that kind of person and imply that they deserve to be heard — despite their views posing a threat to society at large — has gradually changed the realm of podcasts over time. It’s turned into a medium that enables anyone with an ego and enough gall to come forward and say something to do just that — that in itself is a problem if a podcast has a certain degree of recognition. 

For instance, self-proclaimed life coach and co-host of the Fresh and Fit podcast, Myron Gaines, who alleges that he “transforms simps to pimps,” came under fire for misogynistic comments he made and attempted to pass as factual. He stated that “a woman having an Instagram is 100 per cent cheating, especially if she has scantily clad photos of herself on the internet […] if she’s not making money off of it [then] it’s for attention and I think for women, attention is like sex for men.” 

“Women love attention from the opposite gender and if you got [sic] a serious relationship with a girl and she still has a ‘for-sale sign’ around her neck, that’s very disrespectful,” added Gaines, whose platform has over 77.8 thousand followers that are all caught in an echo chamber of denying the existence of toxic masculinity and degrading women for practically breathing. 

Gaines, however, is not alone in holding such an ideology — the niche of a “high-value man” has taken the podcast arena by storm. What this promotes is a community of men that believe a man’s worth rests in his ability to buy a woman’s love materially and a woman’s worth rests on her appearance but also that women who do rely on men for money are gold-diggers — but men who cheat are simply in pursuit of something more valuable. When you have that many people listening to your opinions — and your opinions happen to be incredibly hateful towards women, calling on your listeners to punish them — it’s very likely that some listeners feel emboldened to act on such vitriol. 

Thus, it’s no surprise that now when someone mentions that they’re starting a podcast it’s met with eye-rolls and comments about their personality being a red flag. But it doesn’t have to be this way — in fact — there are podcasts out there that are making positive impacts on their listener communities. They don’t claim to have factual bible-level information, rather, they emphasize the experiences that listeners go through and bring forward solutions and validation.  

For instance, one of my favourite podcasters is Morgan Absher of Two Hot Takes — a doctor of occupational therapy who frequently addresses relationship and familial-based concerns, using her career to often give context to very common experiences like weaponized incompetence, emotional incest/enmeshment or even addressing when to call it quits rather than pursue therapy. Emotional abuse and related issues can be incredibly isolating — albeit incredibly common experiences — Absher addresses them through the objective lens of a professional and creates a community of listeners that don’t feel so alone anymore as a result. Being well-informed about the sort of position you’re in is in-and-of-itself a form of healing. 

Other podcasts, like Our Body Politic take a more active and subjective approach in addressing their listeners about their visions and values. The former, for instance, recently brought on Nelba Márquez-Greene — mother of a victim of the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre and licensed therapist — to talk about her active stance on gun reform, preventing violence and promoting mental health services in school. School shootings — like vaccines and climate change — are very real and pressing issues that deserve to be addressed by people that are qualified to talk about them but not by people like Alex Jones, founder of the Infowars podcast, who called the shooting a government-orchestrated hoax for years, alleging that photos of the grieving parents outside of the schools were hired crisis actors. The danger of misinformation that has been spread by some podcasters is a very harrowing reflection on how our society’s obsession with freedom of speech has gone from allowing for the voices of the marginalized to speak to instead enabling the spread of malicious and inflammatory information. 

Perhaps it’s not podcasts themselves that are the problem here but, rather, the notion that history has always emboldened angry men with privilege into thinking that everything they say is revolutionary and that has resulted in devastating consequences that have gone further unchecked in the Digital Age. The internet is our generation’s Wild West and many things do occur without consequence, but where do we draw the line? Many question if this is the price we pay for freedom — that K-Pop stans can post fan edits of Jungkook on the same platform where Donald Trump encouraged his followers to “save America” and storm the U.S. Capitol. That podcasts of Reddit stories can coexist with those with insane conspiracy theories attributing the efficacy of vaccines to mass-formation psychosis. Our global society as we know it is between a rock and a hard place when it comes to determining whether we want to get dangerously close to fascism by regulating speech or allowing those that pose a risk to others to continue to have a platform. While Spotify went ahead and removed around 70 episodes from The Joe Rogan Experience from their streaming platform, this only makes one thing clear — public opinion is everything. In a world where there are some that use their voices for hate and conspiracy — use yours to hold people accountable. 

This article is a part of our Voices section.

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