Spotify, an extremely popular free music streaming platform, is grappling not only a legal dilemma but also a moral one. Joe Rogan’s podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience, recently has been under fire for spreading misinformation about COVID-19 and giving rise to conspiracy theorists. His list of transgressions doesn’t end there: Rogan has also made blatantly racist marks, such as comparing black people to apes and insinuating that they are subhuman, as well as insensitive comments about the LGBTQ+ community, to scratch the surface. Artists on Spotify have threatened to remove their music from the platform, disgusted with Spotify’s lack of care towards Rogan’s behavior. Some artists went through with this, starting with Neil Young, and including musicians such as Joni Mitchell, David Crosby, and Graham Nash, to name a few.
More specifically, Rogan has been spreading the typical misinformation circulating among right-wings—that vaccines are detrimental. He has taken to giving medical advice about alternatives to the COVID-19 vaccine, convincing listeners of the 99% efficacy of ivermectin, for which there is little medical evidence. In actuality, ivermectin has been known to cause incessant vomiting and dizziness, seizures, loss of body movement control, etc. Rogan discourages young people—of about 21 years—from taking the vaccine, saying “‘Should I get vaccinated?’ I’ll go no.’” This is exactly what his listeners want to hear, an example of confirmation bias at work. Most of his demographic are young and white, as well as right-wing. Rogan’s podcast appeals specifically to this demographic, giving them cause to “feel that it’s entirely within reason for them to fear women, transgender people, vaccines and more.” Rogan does not present his opinions in an outwardly angry way but instead masks his hateful attitude under a gentle mask of calmness and reasonableness. Anyone that sounds remotely as rational as Rogan appeals to audiences, but more specifically, audiences that agree with his viewpoints. His charisma helps him get away with misinformation, as he sounds sensible and trustworthy, appealing to his xenophobic audience. Rogan knows that what he says is not considered “socially acceptable,” but because there’s an audience for it, he knows that he will always have supporters.
People and artists are angry that Spotify is not holding Rogan accountable, but instead funding his podcast. The CEO of Spotify, Daniel Ek, has stated that Rogan’s ideologies “do not represent the values of this company,” however he still does nothing to remove his influence from the platform. This is seemingly contradictory, but in the context of modern-day capitalism, it makes sense — Spotify loves the money that Rogan is making. If at some point, he starts costing them more than he earns for them, then they will drop him. Thus, if more artists leave the platform and more people become outraged with his actions and words, then Spotify will take action. However, in today’s society ruled by cancel culture, people forget easily and Rogan may not face action as soon as he deserves. Even though he becomes “canceled,” people will forgive him over time.