Numerous artists whose work appears on Spotify decided to pull their content from the streaming platform in response to COVID-19 misinformation perpetuated by “The Joe Rogan Experience.” Others followed suit, especially when a video of Rogan repeatedly saying the n-word circulated online. This action is long overdue as Rogan is a notorious misogynist, racist, transphobe — you get the idea. Regardless, little material change will result from this reckoning and conservatives will have more fodder for their “cancel culture” crusade.
While I commend artists like Neil Young for standing against misinformation during a pandemic that is killing thousands daily in the United States, I also question why no similar threats to Spotify were made earlier. When Rogan was offered a reported $100 million dollars by Spotify to feature “The Joe Rogan Experience” as an exclusive, why was his deadly rhetoric against transgender people and people of color not taken as seriously?
Clearly, there is an impetus to stand against Rogan’s bigotry that fuels hate crimes. 2021 marked the deadliest year on record for transgender and gender nonconforming people in the U.S. with 54 deaths, according to a report by the Human Rights Campaign. In just the first week of 2022, two Black trans women, Amariey Lej and Duval Princess, were killed. According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program’s 2021 statistics, there were 5,227 reported incidents where Race/Ethnicity/Ancestry was a motivating factor.
However, the worst part of the situation is that regardless of whether Spotify caved in to demands to drop Rogan’s podcasts, other distributors would readily host the podcast and its many devoted fans would follow. He has already been offered $100 million by right-wing video site Rumble to switch platforms. Unsurprisingly, such platforms are ready to support pandemic pseudo-science, comparing trans people to animals and the usage of slurs. At this point it is clear that Rogan will never actually be deplatformed, even if Spotify reverts its decision not to “cancel” the creator.
However, Spotify has now made their content guidelines public. In future situations, artists on the platform can theoretically be held accountable. This has resulted in over 100 episodes of the podcast being pulled from Spotify, according to JREmissing.com. Hopefully, Spotify plans to keep enforcing such guidelines, though this means much else of its catalog may face similar backlash.
This situation has brought the irony of “cancel culture” to light. Rogan has yet to face any significant repercussions for his actions, he continues to profit and dominate the news cycle. At the same time, conservative pundits can set the terms of cultural conversations. Moral of the story: We need to deplatform harmful internet celebrities before they become celebrities, before they become too big to fail.