Charlotte's Web Thoughts
Charlotte's Web Thoughts
The Joe Rogan Fiasco is Not About "Free Speech"

The Joe Rogan Fiasco is Not About "Free Speech"

Spotify is not entitled to our money.
(image credit: Jeff Bottari / Contributor)

At this point, I imagine most of you have seen the backlash over Spotify continuing to pay podcast host Joe Rogan a $100m contract despite his persistent COVID disinformation, use of racial slurs, violent misogyny, transphobia, and, well, general lack of accountability over what he says to millions of listeners who loyally tune-in for every episode he produces.

Like many others in the past few weeks, I ended my Spotify subscription. It's a bummer, but there are too many other great music streaming apps out there to continue paying for this service without the guilt of where my money is going (and not going, e.g. artists). And I don't think I'll miss it. Easy decision.

Rogan’s fans and everyone adjacent to that world have been whining that his “free speech” is being “violated” by the exodus of artists and subscribers from Spotify that we’ve seen recently.

So, let’s be clear about what’s happening.

This isn't about "free speech".

The government is not punishing Joe Rogan.

Private citizens are deciding they no longer want to give their own money and content to Spotify while Joe Rogan fans apparently believe that he and Spotify are entitled to our money and artists' content.

Comedians should be able to say just about whatever they want without fear of being arrested or otherwise punished by the government.

But that doesn't mean Rogan or any other comedian or any other person is entitled to the platforms we use, the money we spend, or, least of all, our agreement and praise.

Rogan's fans aren't angry because Rogan's "truth telling" is being attacked. They're angry because they're seriously under the belief that "free speech" somehow means Rogan is exempt from criticism and consequences (and by extension, his fans) just by virtue of having an opinion.

Because his fans have opinions, too. Many of those opinions are deliriously uninformed, at best, and I'm being incredibly charitable in that framing. Many of his fans have rightly been told their opinions suck by family and friends and colleagues, and it pisses them off.

Many of his fans truly see themselves as torch bearers for The Truth. Everyone else is a conformist sheep. Everyone else has bought into The Official Story™ out of fear and not because, you know, we recognize there are immutable facts impervious to wishes cast with nickels.

Many of his fans are like that guy in the old joke who's driving home after work and gets a call from his wife. She tells him to be careful because she heard on the radio there's a jerk driving the wrong way on the highway. He's like: "Honey, it's worse! There are hundreds of them!"

Yes, the government often sucks. Yes, much of the media can be irresponsible and divisive and sloppy. Yes, it can be frustrating to be reminded that we're all frail and imperfect human beings who make mistakes.

But that doesn't mean we get to "create" our own facts.

Regardless, Spotify can still keep Joe Rogan, and more than likely, they will. That's their prerogative. That is entirely out of our control.

And we can still choose where to spend our money and time and where to offer our artistry. That is not "oppression". That's agency.

If Joe Rogan's fans want to make Spotify the place where "feelings" reign supreme over facts, no one is stopping them. But telling everyone else that we are morally obligated to continue giving Spotify our money and content (because "free speech") is completely absurd.

No thanks.

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Charlotte's Web Thoughts
Charlotte's Web Thoughts
Charlotte Clymer is a writer and LGBTQ advocate. You've probably seen her on Twitter (@cmclymer). This is the podcast version of her blog "Charlotte's Web Thoughts", which you can subscribe to here: