Spotify and the Joe Rogan Controversy

When I came back inside from taking the dog out this morning my wife had on NPR. I listened to it a bit while making myself breakfast and they eventually got around to talking about Joe Rogan and Spotify. Now I am a big supporter of Spotify. I have had it for several years and it is the main place where I listen to music. However, their response to Joe Rogan spreading disinformation on their platform is horrendous.

I am not certain who I heard giving the interview or what their connection to Spotify is, only that he was representing them in the interview and that he wasn’t just a caller he was an official representative of the Spotify brand. His response to why Spotify shouldn’t de-platform Rogan and bears no responsibility for what he says is because they have rappers on the platform that sing about all sorts of things.

As a fan of the late great DMX, I am well aware of some of the things rappers sing about. Take for instance the DMX line, “If you got a daughter older than 15, Imma rape her.” That is a disgusting and outright evil line, but that is the character that DMX is playing in that song. It is a song about violent and sadistic revenge and is emblematic of the time of the late 1990s when so much of our art and culture focused on violent revenge fantasies like the GTA video games or Quentin Tarintino movies.

Here is the thing. As violent and disturbing as DMX’s lyrics are they are fiction, and there is that nasty bit of singling out rappers as being racist. Rob Zombie is on Spotify and has lyrics on par with anything DMX put out.

Joe Rogan is not art. He isn’t fantasy. It is the difference between an Agatha Christie novel and The Anarchists Cookbook. Joe Rogan is purporting himself to be a factual authority. While his program isn’t the news nor does it pretend to be he is still talking about and reacting to current events and bears some social responsibility for the things he says.

Here is the part that is tricky. Spotify’s only recourse is to de-platform Rogan. They are not his employer and therefore cannot suspend him like Westwood One used to do with Howard Stern when he would go too far. Spotify does have an exclusive rights deal with Rogan so perhaps something similar to a suspension could be achieved but we live in the age of the internet. Rogan would find another outlet. Spotify has the exclusive rights deal with him because they want his audience and his audience would follow him.

Dealing with Rogan is far above my paygrade, and it is a decision I am glad I don’t have to make. What I do know is that comparing an allegedly fact-based podcast to works of art is not the way to do things. Especially when that comparison is tinged with racism.

Joe Rogan deserves some sort of punishment, and perhaps being called a moron in the public manner as he is now is the exact punishment he deserves. Rogan craves attention and he is currently getting it, but will he learn a lesson from it or will he continue to spread misinformation about vaccines and the coronavirus on his podcast.

That is the big question. The solution should be to turn people like Rogan into a force for good. I don’t know what could persuade Rogan to see the light and start spreading truth instead of lies but whatever that is should happen. So many people that could have and should have been forces of good that helped convince the vaccine-hesitant to get the vaccine have instead embedded themselves in the camp of misinformation, lies, and public harm.

When doing the right thing is so simple the excuse for doing the wrong thing is beyond my understanding. Are Joe Rogan, Aaron Rogers, Kyrie Irving, and others like them afraid that if they say the vaccine is safe that they will lose their audience, following, and money? What, exactly, is it that they fear?

I may never understand people like Joe Rogan or the people that like people like Joe Rogan, but I do know that I got the vaccine, suffered no side effects, and have helped to keep my family and community safe during these tough times, but as we’ve seen this really doesn’t work unless we all do our part, and when those with power and influence refuse to be part of the solution matters only become worse.

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