January 31, 2022

Spotify and Neil Young

Following protests of Spotify kicked off by Neil Young over the spread of COVID-19 vaccine misinformation, the music streaming service said that it will add content advisories before podcasts discussing the virus. In a post Sunday, Spotify chief executive Daniel Ek laid out more transparent platform rules given the backlash stirred by Young, who on Wednesday had his music removed from Spotify after the tech giant declined to get rid of episodes of ‘The Joe Rogan Experience,’ which has been criticized for spreading virus misinformation.” AP News

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From the Left

The left is critical of Rogan for spreading misinformation about Covid, and Spotify for financially sponsoring his podcast.

“On the show, Rogan and guests identified as experts have said that vaccination isn't necessary for the young and healthy (they are); that ivermectin is an effective treatment for Covid (it isn't, and using it in large doses poses serious potential health risks); and that people who have Covid face health risks from getting vaccinated (they don't). Rogan's misinformation campaign, which reaches millions of listeners, has been so dangerous that hundreds of public health officials have signed an open letter asking Spotify to intervene…

“How much a streaming platform, like a social media platform, should control what people can say on it is admittedly a difficult question to parse… The Rogan / Spotify situation, though, is less akin to a freewheeling public square than, say, Twitter; there is a business relationship more akin to a traditional media house and its star talent. Rogan isn't a random person on the internet; he's a host imbued with the authority of the company that pays for his show. He should be given room to discuss what he wants, even if that offends people who disagree with him politically. But the company should draw the line at dangerous life-threatening conspiracy theories.”
Jill Filipovic, CNN

“Spotify has weathered these controversies in the past, but Young’s threats might represent the opening of a new phase… Spotify should have known what it was getting when it signed Joe Rogan to a multiyear, $100 million exclusive contract in May 2020. By that point, Rogan had already established a reputation for transphobia and Islamophobia, had compared a Black neighborhood to Planet of the Apes, and hosted, among others, Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes and right-wing troll Milo Yiannopoulos…

“But Spotify was locked in an arms race, trying to gobble up as much real estate in the podcasting world as quickly as possible in an effort to continue growing at a rapid clip. Rogan’s audience was loyal, built-in, and guaranteed to follow him wherever he went. For Spotify, that was all that really mattered… There is an element of just deserts here: In trying to corner the podcast market—a feat it may still succeed at, by the way—it’s mainly succeeded in having to deal with an unending series of controversies.”
Alex Shepard, New Republic

Others ask, “How is it that in an era where we are surrounded by the miracles of unprecedented technological and scientific advancement, millions of people have chosen to trust a stoned MMA enthusiast during [a] health crisis over public health experts?… Everyone knew masks were useless and not worth wearing, until everyone knew it was the opposite… Trump’s pledge to roll out a vaccine within a year was an objective falsehood, to the point that it was ‘fact-checked’ at the time, only for media outlets to criticize him for rolling it out too slowly once exactly that happened…

“The government’s top science advisor, Anthony Fauci, has contradicted himself and admitted to intentionally lying or fudging the numbers in his public messaging, before repeatedly prevaricating before Congress about his agency’s role in the kind of risky research that we still can’t rule out was the source of the virus… As always, censorship and similarly heavy-handed measures are the desperate resort of someone who refuses or has simply given up on tackling the root causes of a problem.”
Branko Marcetic, Jacobin Magazine

From the Right

The right is critical of efforts to censor Rogan, and notes that many on the left have become less supportive of free speech.

The right is critical of efforts to censor Rogan, and notes that many on the left have become less supportive of free speech.

“I’m only an occasional listener to Rogan’s podcast, and any podcast, but seeing the enemies the man has made, and that they oppose him by trying to get him cancelled, makes me eager to defend him, even though I strongly disagree with him on some things (e.g., drugs, porn, Bernie Sanders). Joe Rogan has a right to be wrong, and I have a right to hear him and his guests be wrong, if I want to. Of course Young and Mitchell have the right to pull their music from Spotify, but do they really want to start this war? As artists, do they really want to put themselves in the position of playing self-righteous censors (because that’s what they’re trying to do: compel Spotify to cancel Rogan’s show).”
Rod Dreher, American Conservative

Many on the left were once militant in their support for free expression, believing that misinformed, even offensive, viewpoints were as worthy of airing as any other speech. When the Yale Political Union invited segregationist politician George Wallace to speak at the university, famed civil rights activist Pauli Murray (who was attending law school there) rose to defend freedom of speech. ‘This controversy affects me in a dual sense, for I am both a lawyer committed to civil rights including civil liberties and a Negro who has suffered from the evils of racial segregation,’ she wrote. But she could see no justification to deny Wallace the same freedoms she wanted for all people… This viewpoint bears little resemblance to that of the activists of the modern Left.”
Zaid Jilani, City Journal

“It is ironic that public health officials are now insisting that covid orthodoxy–whatever it is at the moment–be enshrined, and that all questions, doubts or contrary views be censored, given that public health officials have been consistently wrong about covid, and as a result have frequently had to change their opinions and advice…

“If we allow the left to censor conversation about covid because it is a ‘life and death’ issue, what follows? Every foreign policy issue is a life or death issue, so should all criticism of the Biden administration’s Ukraine policy be suppressed?… In a country of 330 million people, pretty much everything is a life or death issue, at some level. Immigration, the federal budget, the composition of the Supreme Court–you name it, lives are arguably at stake. Those who believe in free speech think that the more important the issue, the more vital is vigorous debate. The left sees it otherwise.”
John Hinderaker, Power Line Blog

“What concerns me most about all this is the siloing of society into warring tribes. It’s not enough to signal disagreement with someone when they do or say something boneheaded; the only response is full separation, an immediate partition. There’s something deeply corrosive about attempting to live in a way that demands everyone agree with you, even on a fundamental issue such as vaccination…

“At least for the diverse cultural connoisseur, ‘Rogan or Young, not both’ is a false choice. There’s no real tension in enjoying a beverage from the Israel-based SodaStream while listening to a Pink Floyd album featuring anti-Israel activist Roger Waters, just as there’s no tension in switching from ‘Heart of Gold’ to ‘The Joe Rogan Experience.’ The interesting consumer — the consumer who accepts that art exists separately from the artist and the artist’s political stances — contains multitudes.”
Sonny Bunch, Washington Post

A libertarian's take

“Generally speaking, it's a mug's game to demand that a given platform, service, record label, publishing house, or whatever conform to your singular moral demands. I hesitate to point out something that Neil Young, who has an official YouTube channel, probably already knows: Joe Rogan is also on that platform, with nearly 12 million subscribers. Should Neil Young, in the name of consistency, issue an ultimatum to YouTube and then bolt when the service refuses to yield to his demand? Where exactly does this sort of thing stop? Maybe all of us at our own paywalled sites, secure in our purity of association but with much less to talk about.”
Nick Gillespie, Reason

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