As the battle over the limits of the First Amendment swirls around the blunt-talking persona of podcaster Joe Rogan, the streaming service Spotify has taken steps to appease critics aghast that Rogan’s podcasts have not been consigned to limbo.
Rogan, who has come to symbolize the freedom to say any outrageous thing that turns the orthodox purple with rage, may also find himself battling the Obama juggernaut, according to reports.
During this time of the coronavirus, where one false word can send social media users into oblivion, Rogan has said the unsayable as he questions the efficacy of coronavirus vaccines, makes sport of vaccine mandates, and refuses to slam the door on alternative treatment such as ivermectin. Rogan’s podcast has long relied on eschewing what might be conventionally be called good taste as outrageous one-liners zoom by like mileposts on the road to a raucous good time.
All of this led musician Neil Young to tell the music streaming service Spotify he was taking his golden oldies off of the streaming service unless Spotify muzzled Rogan once and for all. It did not.
Leftists political groups like MoveOn.org are also involved in the censorship push, as commentator Ben Burgis noted at The Daily Beast.
Spotify has tried to hedge by saying it will promote COVID-19 resources that are full of orthodoxy at its purest, akin to warning labels, but that has done little to mute the howls of rage directed at Rogan and Spotify.
On Saturday, it was learned that many Rogan’s former podcasts were no longer available on Spotify. The website JREMissing reported Saturday that 113 episodes of “The Joe Rogan Experience,” have been removed.
The sessions yanked included ones with Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes, YouTube personality Michael Malice, InfoWars founder Alex Jones, and controversial author and commentator Milo Yiannopoulos, according to the New York Post.
The reason for the deletions was not clear Saturday, although the purge came at the same time Rogan was under attack for language attacked as racist in some of his podcasts. On Monday, Singer India.Arie removed her music from Spotify to protests Rogan’s language on the subject of race, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Rogan offered an indirect apology.
“I certainly wasn’t trying to be racist and I certainly would never want to offend someone for entertainment with something as stupid as racism,” Rogan said in an Instagram video posted Saturday in which he admitted there were some things he wished he had not said.
As Rogan deals with that issue, multiple reports from media outlets such as the U.K. Telegraph and the U.K. Daily Mail said former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, may be looking for a new podcasting partner as a three-year deal they made with Spotify in 2019 comes to an end.
The Daily Mail report said that the Obamas have a deal with Spotify similar to Rogans, which is worth about $100 million.
Although that report indicated that the Obamas have other issues with Spotify, the negotiations with a couple that holds outside influence among the left — in the U.S. and globally — cannot help but increase pressure on the streaming service to censor its content to cater to leftist desires.
Although Rogan has landed in hot water for his COVID-related comments, on Friday there was little sign of contrition on that front, the Post reported.
He called a Monreal, Canada, curfew enacted in response to COVID infections “wild.”
“It’s been pretty clear up until this point that all these lockdowns don’t work. They don’t stop the spread,” he said.
Spotify CEO Daniel Ek has said the company cannot cave and shut down Rogan.
“If we want even a shot at achieving our bold ambitions, it will mean having content on Spotify that many of us may not be proud to be associated with,” Ek said told employees Wednesday, according to the technology news website The Verge, which received a leaked video of the speech.
“Not anything goes, but there will be opinions, ideas and beliefs that we disagree with strongly and even makes us angry or sad.”