It’s been a controversial month for podcaster Joe Rogan and his current employer, Spotify. There’s been ongoing controversy surrounding alleged misinformation being spread on his podcast.
Spotify has taken down over 100 episodes of The Joe Rogan Experience. This move comes in response to an Instagram video by American musician India Arie. It features a compilation of the podcast host using racial slurs, including the N-word.
Joe Rogan has a spotty history in covering the pandemic on his program. He doesn’t quite come out as someone who believes Covid is a hoax. His views, however, are landing him in hot water. Topics like the CDC, the use of horse dewormers to treat the virus are points of contention. And the utilisation of his platform to host people with opinions that medical experts have decried.
In particular, a recent interview with US cardiologist Peter McCullough and vaccine scientist Dr. Robert Malone has sparked calls from various people to cancel his long-running popular podcast. The biggest name in this saga is music legend Neil Young, who demanded the platform cancel Rogan’s podcast or take his music off it. He was then joined by Crosby, Stills, and Nash (with whom he has famously collaborated) and Joni Mitchell.
Amidst this ongoing issue causing problems for Joe Rogan and Spotify, another problematic aspect of the podcast’s style has come under fire. Singer India. Arie has posted a video to her Instagram, which has since gone viral. It features a compilation of Rogan using various racial slurs over the span of the podcast. Some of its worst include a particular podcast episode removed, which referred to his seeing a movie in a Black neighbourhood where he says, “it was like we were in ‘Planet of the Apes.'” In response to the backlash around this clip, Rogan posts a 9-minute apology video to his Instagram over the weekend.
“I’m making this video to talk about the most regretful and shameful thing that I’ve ever had to talk about publicly. There’s a video that’s out; that’s a compilation of me saying the N-word. It’s a video that’s made of clips taken out of context of me of… 12 years of conversations on my podcast, and it’s all smushed together, and it looks fuckin’ horrible, even to me. Now I know that to most people, there’s no context where a white person is ever allowed to say that word, never mind publicly on a podcast, and I agree with that.”
Joe Rogan mentions that he hadn’t used the particular term in a long time, but did used to think using it “in context” was ok – a view that has since changed. “Now, I haven’t said it in years, but for a long time, when I would bring that word up — like if it would come up in conversation — instead of saying ‘the N-word’, I would just say the word,” he said. “I thought as long as it was in context, people would understand what I was doing.”
“Not The Answer”
Despite these controversies, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek has doubled down on the company’s support for their embattled star.
“While I strongly condemn what Joe has said … I want to make one point very clear — I do not believe that silencing Joe is the answer,”
says Mr. Ek. “We should have clear lines around content and take action when they are crossed, but canceling voices is a slippery slope.”
In addition, Ek said Spotify was committing “an incremental investment of $100 million” for “music (artists and songwriters) and audio content from historically marginalized groups.” This does feel a bit like a bandaid for a bullet wound, a position the company has been forced into. Ultimately this ongoing support of Rogan smacks of protecting their prior investment (also $100 million).
The company also announced plans last month to add advisories to any podcast episode discussing Covid-19 which would direct listeners to a “dedicated Covid-19 Hub” with facts and up-to-date information from scientists and public health authorities.
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