I told my neighbor Swamp Rabbit that the United States leads the world in Covid-19 deaths — we’ve passed the 900,000 mark — partly because of grifters like Joe Rogan, who has used his Spotify podcasts to channel bad medical advice to the large subsection of Americans who are most susceptible to misinformation.
Swamp Rabbit told me to stuff it, Rogan is a courageous showman who refuses to surrender his First Amendment right to voice his opinions, despite pressure from the woke crowd that wants to silence him because he’s not politically correct.
“This isn’t about political correctness,” I told him. “It’s about whether Rogan should be allowed to spread lies that lead to people dying or being hospitalized.”
“It’s his show, Odd Man. He’s got a right to say that peeps should decide for themselves whether to get vaccinated, or to treat Covid with horse de-wormer or horse radish or whatever. It ain’t right for the gov’mint or that old hippie Neil Young to tell the peeps what medicine to take. That’s censorship.”
I tried to keep my cool. “Neil Young didn’t tell anybody what medicine to take. He just said that he doesn’t want his music played on a digital streaming service that allows an ignorant anti-vaxxer to spread dangerous lies about a lethal contagion, either on his own or through guests on his show who are even dumber than he is. Young made Spotify choose between him and Rogan. Spotify chose Rogan because they make more money off his show than off Young’s music.”
Swamp Rabbit laughed. “It’s like that rightwing Constitution expert just wrote — ‘Greed is good for free speech.’ Corporations rule. I didn’t even know who Joe Rogaine was until this here kerfuffle with Neil Young. Turns out he’s got eleven million listeners on Spotify. That buys a whole lot of free speech.”
“It’s not about free speech,” I said, trying one last time. “It’s about whether a private media company with a highly popular show should be obligated to make sure the show doesn’t endanger public health and safety. Spotify isn’t just a platform for music anymore, it’s a producer and publisher, a media services provider. It shouldn’t be censored, but it should voluntarily curate its podcast content in a case like this, don’t you think?”
He scowled. “Curate or censor, what’s the difference? I think you and Neil Young are dinosaurs, and so are Joni Mitchell and Graham Nash and them other snowflakes who pulled their music off Spotify. You don’t fit too good in the 21st century, Odd Man.”
“You’re right,” I said. “I didn’t fit well in the 20th either.”
Footnote: Spotify can handle losing older, socially conscious artists like Young and Mitchell, but it would be fun to watch how the company would react if the acts that get streamed most often — The Weeknd, Taylor Swift and so on — also bailed out.
One more: Before Spotify, Rogan was a comedian of sorts and a reality TV host whose career highlights included eating a cockroach on “Fear Factor” and imitating a disabled kid during a standup routine. He recently posted on Instagram that he’s a “huge fan” of Young and Mitchell. (“l love her music. ‘Chuck E.’s In Love’ is a great song.”) Yes, it’s great, but it was written and performed by Rickie Lee Jones, not Mitchell. No surprise that Rogan apparently knows as much about music as he does about medicine.