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Spotify’s big Joe Rogan controversy continues

By | Published on Thursday 10 February 2022

Joe Rogan

The debates continue in relation to Spotify’s Joe Rogan problem. Among those contributing to that debate of late are Joe Rogan himself, some of his leading musical critics – including Neil Young and India Arie – plus a New York state official who oversees a pension fund that owns Spotify shares. Oh, and Donald Trump.

The official is New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. He is the sole trustee of the New York State Common Retirement Fund, one of the largest investment funds in the world, and – according to Reuters – he oversees funds that, as of the end of 2021, together held $41 million worth of Spotify stock, which equates to the 73rd largest stake in the company.

In the wake of all the recent controversy around COVID misinformation in the Spotify exclusive podcast the Joe Rogan Experience, DiNapoli wants more information on what the streaming firm is doing to counter harmful content uploaded to its platform. He also urged the company to have a better system via which users can flag problematic content and sought clarity on how the Spotify board oversees content risks and enforcement.

After the Neil Young instigated artist boycott of Spotify – in protest at misinformation on JRE – gained momentum last month, boss man Daniel Ek insisted that his company had good policies for dealing with harmful content, but admitted it needed to do more to communicate those policies. He also committed to sign-post COVID information approved by the scientific consensus alongside any podcasts that include chat about the coronavirus.

According to Reuters, DiNapoli wrote in a letter to Ek: “As we have seen with other technology and media companies who host or publish content, the failure to successfully moderate content on a company’s platforms can lead to various reputational, regulatory, legal, and financial risks”.

Of course, last weekend, the Rogan controversy moved on from the COVID misinformation in his podcast to racist language and comments that the podcaster had used in old editions of the programme. It was Arie who put the spotlight on the latter, posting a video that compiled clips of Rogan using the n-word.

Having issued an apology over that past content on Instagram at the weekend, Rogan also discussed the ongoing controversy on an edition of his podcast this week and at a subsequent stand-up show in Austin, Texas. At the latter, according to TMZ, he admitted that his various uses of the n-word that appeared in the recent complication video looked “racist as fuck”.

“Even to me! I’m me and I’m watching it saying, ‘Stop saying it!’”, Rogan added. “I put my cursor over the video and I’m like, ‘Four more minutes?!'” But, he, insisted, “I haven’t used that word in years. But it’s kind of weird people will get really mad if you use that word and tweet about it on a phone that’s made by slaves”.

As for the COVID misinformation, Rogan argued that he “talks shit for a living” and people shouldn’t be taking COVID advice from his podcast. “If you’re taking vaccine advice from me, is that really my fault?” he said.

Referencing his time as host of the TV show ‘Fear Factor’, he added: “What dumb shit were you about to do when my stupid idea sounded better? ‘You know that dude who made people eat animal dicks on TV? How does he feel about medicine?’ If you want my advice, don’t take my advice”.

Few of Rogan’s critics have been placated by his apologies, nor Ek’s commitments around Spotify’s content policies. And the podcaster concluding that it’s not really his fault if people take COVID advice from a professional shit talker will likely piss people off more, the point being that when your podcast is as big as Rogan’s it is inevitably influential, and he needs to factor that in when he or his guests make controversial remarks.

However, Arie has said that she thought Rogan’s specific apology around his use of the n-word was decent and genuine. Speaking on Monday on CNN’s ‘Don Lemon Tonight’ programme, she said: “I have to say, I did think he did a fine job with his apology. He said a lot of the things I would want to hear someone say. The thing that stuck out for me most was when he said, ‘it’s not my word to use'”.

Noting Rogan’s reassurance that he no longer uses the n-word, she added: “I think changed behaviour is what we’re really looking for”.

But Neil Young, for one, is not placated by Rogan or Ek’s comments and apologies. In a new post on his website on Monday calling on his fans to act on various political issues, including climate change, he also returned to Spotify’s misinformation problem.

“Join me as I move my money away from the damage causers or you will unintentionally be one of them”, he wrote. “You have the power to change the world. We can do it together. Your grandchildren will thank you in history”.

“To the musicians and creators in the world, I say this”, he added. “You must be able to find a better place than Spotify to be the home of your art”.

And, “to the workers at Spotify, I say Daniel Ek is your big problem – not Joe Rogan. Ek pulls the strings. Get out of that place before it eats up your soul. The only goals stated by Ek are about numbers – not art, not creativity”.

Noting that his Spotify boycott was motivated by an open letter from 250+ scientists and medics criticising Rogan, he went on: “Notice that Ek never mentions the medical professionals who started this conversation. Look, one last time – at the statements Ek has made. Then be free and take the good path”.

Also not impressed with Rogan’s recent statements are right wing pundits and politicians in the US – though for different reasons, obviously. They think Rogan should just stop apologising. And that includes a certain Donald Trump.

“Joe Rogan is an interesting and popular guy, but he’s got to stop apologising to the fake news and radical left maniacs and lunatics”, the former US President said on his website earlier this week. “How many ways can you say you’re sorry? Joe, just go about what you do so well and don’t let them make you look weak and frightened. That’s not you and it never will be!”.