The Joe Rogan Controversy

What Joe Rogan and Spotify Did Wrong

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Joe Rogan has recently come under criticism for several instances of covid-19 misinformation on his podcast. For those of you who don’t know, Joe Rogan is known for his experiences as a UFC color commentator, stand-up comedian, actor (the host of “Fear Factor”), as well as for his large social media presence. He is most known for his podcast, the Joe Rogan Experience which amasses over 190 million downloads per month. He is the number 1 most listened to podcast in over 30 markets. Joe Rogan joined the multi-billion dollar streaming service, Spotify in September of 2020. Spotify acquired the exclusive rights to his podcast for allegedly $100 million. Since Joe Rogan has joined Spotify, his number of listeners has grown by 75%. Clearly, if Joe Rogan is worth over $100 million, any controversy surrounding him is big.
In one of his podcasts interviewing discredited doctor, Robert Malone (who has previously stated Americans are hypnotized into wearing masks and getting vaccinated)

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Dr. Malone is one of two recent JRE guests who has compared pandemic policies to the Holocaust. These actions are not only objectionable and offensive, but also medically and culturally dangerous.””

— Group of 270 scientists and doctors on the doctor Joe Rogan interviewed

Rogan stated multiple lines of misinformation regarding covid-19. Saying, “If you’re like 21 years old, and you say to me, should I get vaccinated? I’ll go, no.”

Although Rogan may not be ill-intentioned or malicious in saying this, it is important to remember who Joe Rogan’s audience is. Each episode of Rogan’s podcast averages around 11 million downloads, with the majority of his audience being young people (in their teens to mid twenties especially male). This audience makes up a large demographic of the voting population and are arguably the most easily influenced demographic in the country. Meaning, that when Joe Rogan tells millions of young, impressionable people that they don’t need to get a covid vaccine, millions may believe him. Potentially, putting many more Americans in harm’s way. Covid is real, the vaccine is effective, and you should get it. Anyone who says something else does not understand how we can truly go back to normal.
Joe Rogan apologized for his part in releasing covid-19 misinformation and vowed to have more experts come on to his show.

Now, I don’t have as much of a problem with Joe Rogan himself, but I believe Spotify is the root of this problem. Spotify first resolved this issue by saying they will put up “warning labels” on podcasts (like Rogan’s) that could contain covid misinformation and link the user to other sites that state the scientifically-proven information on covid-19. To me, this does not seem like enough (although Spotify did do more after another Joe Rogan controversy that will be talked about in a moment). Spotify has 406 million users; that’s more than the entire population of the United States. A company with this large of a following has a duty to condemn hateful speech and misinformation, and I can not say they have upheld these values.

After this misinformation first came out, several singers requested to remove their music from Spotify; this means that Spotify could not make any more money off these artists. The first large singer to do so was Neil Young. Neil Young will lose about $750,000 annually from this decision. Now although personally I would be very upset if Neil Young took his music off Spotify, I think if a much larger and more popular singer of this time (like Ariana Grande or Harry Styles), took their music off of Spotify then Spotify may really change. Grammy award winning singer India Arie also pulled her music from Spotify as well. But before she did this, she released a compilation of Joe Rogan using the “n word” in his podcasts 24 times. This caused an even bigger uproar in the media requesting that Spotify combat these wrongs. Joe Rogan apologized repeatedly, saying the clips were taken out of context but he understands how this is “the most regretful and shameful thing that I’ve ever had to talk about publicly.” Spotify’s Chief Executive responded with this, “While I strongly condemn what Joe has said and I agree with his decision to remove past episodes from our platform, I realize some will want more. And I want to make one point very clear—I do not believe that silencing Joe is the answer.”

Spotify has now taken down 113 episodes of Joe Rogan’s podcast after these two large controversies. Although Joe Rogan made a mistake, I think the bigger issue is that Spotify allowed millions of people to hear some of his hateful and inaccurate words. This has made Spotify look like a company that holds money over responsibility. Spotify should have taken down these podcasts without having to have a giant number of people condemning them for allowing Rogan to say this. They should have taken down these episodes because these episodes did not hold true to the values of Spotify. Hopefully, in the future both Joe Rogan and Spotify will be more careful with how they handle these types of situations because they can negatively impact the lives of many of their followers.