Who’s To Blame, Joe Rogan or Spotify?

Maya Dunkelman

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graphic by Maya Dunkelman

What is worse, Joe Rogan spreading racist remarks and covid-misinformation, or Spotify giving him the platform to do so?

     You tell me which is worse: Joe Rogan spreading racist remarks and COVID-misinformation, or Spotify giving him the platform to do so?

  Pulling in a steady 11 million viewers each episode, The Joe Rogan Experience podcast has retained the number one spot on the Spotify charts, since signing with Spotify in May of 2020. Joe Rogan’s successes showed zero mercy, as his numbers were only rising and interviewees would line up at the door for a chance of exposure on his overwhelmingly successful podcast. 

 As of recent, Rogan has titled the scale right, with most of his ideals aligning with those of the more conservative guests that accompany him on the show. Of those ideas, bold COVID-misinformation stands alone. 

  Ivermectin as a valid treatment for COVID, “COVID hypnosis”, the idea that people are being hypnotized by health officials/mainstream media, guests comparing COVID to Nazi Germany, and microchip conspiracy theories are among those ideas.

    The public conversation started when 200 doctors and professors wrote a petition to Spotify on January 12th, calling out Spotify and its number one podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience, for their spread of false information and advice respecting COVID-19. Since then 1,000 more medical professionals have signed. 

  Rogan claims his job is to “just talk to people”; however, Rogan’s neutrality in his interviews has faded to black. His ongoing COVID conversations are leaving some Spotify users and artists ready for his curtain to close. 

  The first of those artists was rock star Neil Young, followed closely by singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, who requested Spotify to remove their music from the platform. More threats from podcasters Mary L. TrumpScott Galloway, and Roxane Gay to either halt new content or remove their podcasts entirely were also made public.

  To add to the pile of COVID-misinformation, podcast clips of Rogan saying racial slurs from as long as twelve years ago were starting to spread among social media. Posting a quick response in the form of an Instagram video, Rogan describes his actions as “the most regretful and shameful thing that I’ve ever had to talk about publicly”. 

  Spotify needed to quickly determine their values and which route they were about to take to retreat the  maze of conflict headed their way. Whichever route Spotify were to decide, they could not avoid being under intense scrutiny. Too much censorship versus not enough, where do they find the happy medium? 

  Spotify decided the medium would be removing 70 Joe Rogan Experience podcast episodes from their platform regarding COVID-misinformation. The CEO of Spotify, Daniel Ek, said “It is important to me that we don’t take on the position of being content censor while also making sure that there are rules in place and consequences for those who violate them.” The Joe Rogan Experience was not canceled by Spotify, but rather given a warning. 

  The creation cannot become more powerful than the creator.

  Even Joe Rogan in his enormous fame is not above the platform that signed him back in 2020. To this point, Ek mentions how, even though Rogan is essential to Spotify, he, nor anyone, is above the policy and rules. 

  Although Ek, and the rest of Spotify’s staff, have also removed all episodes containing Rogan’s use of racial slurs, a consensus of dissatisfaction was set almost immediately. In CEO Ek’s words, “… I realize some will want more… I want to make one point very clear—I do not believe that silencing Joe is the answer.”

 Some argue it’s Ek’s interest in the company’s future of becoming a more diverse audio company that drove this belief. People like Washington University professor Adia Wingfield believe that Spotify is potentially allowing other people on the platform to preach racist ideas, and removing the videos is not nearly enough. 

  Others like a more blunt Erik Gordon, a professor at the University of Michigan, goes as far as to say, “They need to settle up with Rogan, let him go to a home that will be consistent with who he is. And everybody will be better off.” In a platform consistently run by liberals, is making Rogan the future face of your company in your best interest?   

  Ultimately, that is for Spotify to decide in the coming future. And for you: What is worse, Joe Rogan spreading racist remarks and COVID-misinformation, or Spotify giving him the platform to do so?