Henry Z. ’25
Spotify should not do anything about Joe Rogan’s podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience. The podcast is currently enveloped in a controversy surrounding things he and others on his show said about the COVID-19 vaccine and pandemic. Specifically, he hosted virologist Robert Malone, who has been accused of spreading unfounded conspiracy theories about the vaccine. Additionally, Rogan stated that young, healthy people don’t need the vaccine—though he later elaborated that he wasn’t against vaccination in general. He also promoted ivermectin as a potential treatment for Covid; ivermectin’s ability to combat the coronavirus is still uncertain and it can cause adverse effects when taken incorrectly and without a proper prescription.
Regardless of whether what he said was incorrect, giving media corporations the authority to strike down people’s opinions is, in effect, akin to censorship from the state. If the first amendment makes it unconstitutional and illegal for the government to prohibit opposition and dissent (in most cases), shouldn’t tech companies be subject to the same rules? Even though Spotify is a private entity, its power is comparable to that of governments in regards to the spread of speech, given the size of its user base. For Spotify to take down the podcast would set a precedent that allows for corporations to restrict speech that should be protected under the first amendment. Would the people who drafted the Bill of Rights more than 200 years ago be fine with prohibiting speech just because it wasn’t done by the state? Certainly, the circulation of misleading information isn’t ideal, but to me, letting these ideas be subject to counter-arguments and further debate seems far more preferable than hiding away ideas deemed unacceptable. Information that is factual and truthful should be able to prevail by virtue of having proper arguments and evidence for them. With how polarizing the subject of the COVID-19 vaccine is, and considering how skepticism towards the vaccine stems partly from a distrust of pharmaceutical companies and the media, seeing a corporation censor someone with that view is likely only going to solidify that belief.
Joe Rogan is not and does not claim to be a news journalist. No one should get facts about COVID from him, but if they do, that’s their choice. Rogan is an entertainer. People are allowed to have opinions in this country, and true to that, Rogan’s guests run the gamut of views. Just because you disagree with someone doesn’t mean they should be silenced. The artists who pulled their music (including Neil Young, ironically a free speech advocate) are trying to force a private company to censor their content so it aligns with their politics.
If people don’t like what Joe Rogan airs, they don’t have to listen. He’s not on public airwaves. As a private company, Spotify chooses whether or not to censor its content. If Spotify censored foul language, specifically the slur Rogan apologized for, there would be a lot less music to listen to. People wanting Spotify to restrict its content is cancel culture plain and simple – it’s progressive liberals trying to police thought. Not unlike school districts trying to ban certain books. For years, liberals in Hollywood have mocked the FCC for censoring words and bleeping things out. Now those same liberals are trying to censor someone’s words because they don’t like them. \
Unlike Spotify, Lakeside chooses differently: it only tolerates specific language and has no tolerance for even non-harmful language outside the group-think vernacular. The language expectations of Lakeside make it difficult for students with opinions about gun rights, abortion, immigration, and other polarizing topics to be heard unless they are in line with local progressive trends. Lakeside can set those language expectations because Lakeside, like Spotify, is a private institution. I may not completely agree with Lakeside’s institutional language expectations, but I comply because that’s the expectation and simply using their words doesn’t change my opinions. Spotify has set different standards for their content as is their prerogative.
Lakeside claims to host an “all-inclusive environment” in which all voices are heard and welcome, but Lakeside students whose beliefs are more conservative are implicitly and hypocritically silenced. Spotify and Joe Rogan are at least honest about hosting programs and music that represent diverse viewpoints, no matter how uncomfortable the topics are. People want to remove the diversity of opinion Spotify airs because it is politically inconvenient, and this would set a dangerous precedent for other forms of “problematic” content in the future. In the words of George Orwell, “If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”