By Guy Shepherd
Two aging Canadian folk-singers, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, the Adam and Eve of the ’60s, are protesting again.
Against what? China’s genocide against the Muslim Uighurs? No, something more ominous. They are joining forces — and leveraging their playlist fans — to pressure Spotify to deplatform Joe Rogan.
If you are not up on the modern zeitgeist, Joe Rogan is the most influential voice in America today. Joe Rogan is the straw that stirs the national conversation. So much so that Spotify was happy to land him at the $100 million price point. It’s worth noting that Spotify did not make Rogan the most listened-to man in America. Joe Rogan and his listeners built the Joe Rogan Experience. Rogan’s hyper loyal audience is prominently male and in the sweet demographic spot for advertising. The Joe Rogan Experience boasts a greater mind share than Fox, MSNBC, and CNN — and not for just a given program, but for their total share of voice. In other words, Spotify got a steal at $100 million.
Neil and Joni are hunting at the top of the mainstream food chain. The problem — at least for Joni and Neil and their righteous cause — is that Joe Rogan is not terrible at all.
One hopes it’s just political theater for two aging revolutionaries. Their combined individual residuals checks are so meager that it’s worth the free PR that “punching up” offers. Failing in the service of a noble cause is a very ’60s things to do. It allows two once-upon-a-time who’s who to ride off into the sunset with their self-righteousness fully recharged so they can die legends in their own minds.
More likely, it’s an invitation to other artists, activist subscribers and more importantly those woke advertisers—of which there are many—to pile on so they collectively create enough pressure to bend the knee of Spotify’s CEO, Daniel Ek, while getting a little virtue spray of free publicity.
To date, the wastrel formerly known as Prince Harry and his wife Meghan have talked about putting their $25 million advance from Spotify on the line. The odds of them actually giving back the $25 mil is very low. Rumors are they have money problems as well as talent problems. And Crosby, Stills, and Nash have joined their former band mate Neil’s jihad against Spotify and the Joe Rogan Experience. They no longer own the rights to their music but who cares?
But more importantly, has anyone from “Camp Censor” thought about what would happen to the cause of censorship by going after Joe Rogan? Not to mention what it would mean if they actually succeeded in deplatforming Joe.
My read of the tea leaves: this does not work out well for the cause of Orwellian censorship—lose or win.
What’s the rationale for going after Rogan? Here is my best guess: Because of Rogan’s outsized audience and popular standing, he has been deemed “too big to think for himself.” The censors hold that with great audience comes great responsibility—and Joe Rogan is being irresponsible about who he allows on his podcast and into his musings. Joe has shown an unwillingness to think within sanctioned lines, and for this sin the Experience must be deplatformed and dispossessed.
It’s also bad timing—and timing matters. Faucism is no longer ascendant. So time, science and reality have been trending in favor of Rogan.
And it’s also a marked departure from the “Rules for Censors” playbook and its “punch-down” strategy that has served the chilling cause of censorship so well. Go after the midsize guppies but leave the whales alone. If you go after the guppies, you send a chilling message both up and down the food chain. The obvious exceptions to this rule was Twitter’s deplatforming of Trump and temporarily suspending the New York Post during the final days of the election.
News Alert: Joe Rogan is not Donald Trump. In fact, Joe Rogan is the least divisive, most intellectually promiscuous and broadly admired person in the media. Like Ferris Bueller, Joe Rogan is seen as a “righteous dude” by tens of millions of Americans. Rogan has the respect and trust of a Walter Cronkite, but with sleeve tattoos. In short, Joe Rogan is the last person that the Wokerati ought to poke because he is so refreshingly liberal, fair, decent and open-minded. In attacking Rogan, they are showing how intolerant they are and how scary their pursuit of truth is at core.
Neil and Joni, if your side wins—and Spotify bends the knee to your demands—it will mark peak woke and the beginning of your end. In defeat, Joe will just go elsewhere and everyone with a genuinely liberal bone in their body will follow. Most importantly, our present “Eat Me Last” public posture—from which you benefit mightily—will crumble. Enough people will see clearly the threat you pose to open-inquiry and they will gird their loins, say “enough!” and start pushing back at scale.
It’s ironic that two aging hippies are waging a Tet-offensive of sorts against Joe Rogan. Walter Cronkite’s change of mind on the war was the tipping point that changed the American mind and turned it against the Vietnam War. The attack on Rogan just might mark the beginning of the end of the progressive war on free inquiry.
As Joe Rogan goes, so goes America.
PS: If we wanted to know what a genuine liberal looks, thinks, and sings like today, we’d listen to Van Morrison’s recently released eulogy for Western Man. It explains the progressive fall of these two liberal muses—Neil and Joni—and what’s at stake. Meanwhile, Rogan is blazing a “new path to freedom.”
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