Spotify just earned my respect. It did so by looking cancel culture in the eye, and saying: ‘f@ck you.’ I’ll be taking a subscription to Spotify this afternoon. It’s a safe haven for freedom of speech.
What did Spotify do?
It refused to pull down an episode of Joe Rogan’s podcast hosting Alex Jones.
(Jones is a client of mine. Indeed, this week we filed papers in the United States Supreme Court on Mr. Jones’ behalf, asking the high court to impose a stay on the action brought against Jones in the Connecticut state courts by surviving family members of the Sandy Hook school shootings in 2012.)
Joe Rogan is a podcaster with almost 10 million subscribers. He’s a stand-up comic and mixed-martial arts maven. He’s also a brilliant interviewer, attracting folks from all walks of life and specialties to sit for long-form interviews often for hours at a time. He manages to engage folks with an open-minded sense of curiosity and good humor.
That includes Alex Jones, who has been banned from most social media platforms, and has been treated as a bete noir by platforms and would-be internet censors. He’s a conspiracy theorist. He’s outspoken. He’s a rampaging bull in the China shop of those with precious sensibilities.
Apple has banned Jones. Facebook has banned Jones. Twitter has banned Jones. ITune banned Jones. When folks link to Jones on these platforms, their posts are taken down.
Why? Jones spews hate, they say. Jones spreads misinformation, they say. Jones presents a clear and present danger to our political culture, they say.
Jones is banned for our own good, the censors say. He’s too toxic, too dangerous, too outrageous. He falls outside the Overton Window – the range of acceptable speech in our society. Indeed, I once had a radio show I was about to help create cancelled by a radio station because I represent Jones. I’ve been disinvited from public events for the same reason.
But here’s the thing: Jones has millions of regular listeners who tune in to his daily radio and television shows. He is the creator of Infowars, which hosts other fellow travelers, Owen Shroyer and David Knight, all figures categorized as members of the “alt-right.”
Folks get Jones wrong, dead wrong. Rather than ban him, they ought to be asking, what makes him so popular? It’s the same sort of mistake folks in evaluating Donald Trump. Trump didn’t destroy the country, he’s a canary in the coal mine. The more interesting question is what made his election possible? (Indeed, win or lose, tens of millions of votes will be cast for Trump next week. Why? He resonates with a powerful chord in the American cacophony. It behooves us to listen.)
I am far more worried about the power of censors than I am about the opinions of Alex Jones. I can tune out Jones any time I like, but I cannot hear what a censor forbids me to see, hear or listen to. But folks are begging for censorship just now: Just read Emily Balezon’s recent magazine piece in The New York Timesabout free speech. She supports broader regulation of speech in the public interest. We don’t license journalists in the United States because we do not believe the Government has a monopoly on truth. Is she saying we should?
So back to Rogan and Alex Jones.
Jones sat for a three-plus hour interview on Monday in Rogan’s new studio in Austin, Texas. (Rogan, like Ben Shapiro of the Daily Wire, recently left Los Angeles, disgusted by the politics of the city and extortionate California taxes.) The podcast was broadcast on Tuesday on Spotify, the platform with exclusive rights to Rogan’s show.
Within hours, Spotify was pressured to take down the Jones interview.
Spotify itself banned Jones two years ago for engaging in “hate” speech. It rankled plenty to have Jones appear on Rogan’s show. What to do? Why take down the Jones episode! Cancel Rogan for the day!
Spotify is reported to have entered into a $100 million deal with Rogan for exclusive rights to his show, which began to appear on Spotify this past September. How dare Rogan invite Jones onto the network. Internal staff at Spotify had plenty to say about it.
Spotify didn’t back down. Jones ranted. Rogan tried to fact check what Jones said in real time, finding a lot of what he had to say to be true. The podcast remains on Spotify.
I am relieved and delighted by the discomfort of those enraged.
There is no mob as dangerous as a self-righteous mob. He who owns the guillotine controls the blade. I prefer the voice of the off-beat to the monotone blandishments of the politically correct. Yes, NPR has its place, but it is but one voice in a nation of boisterous shouting.
So, thank you, Spotify, for leaving the Alex Jones episode on Spotify. The republic didn’t collapse, and it won’t do so, at least not from listening to heterodox views. God save us from orthodoxy. I’d feel even better if Spotify would relent and let Jones return.
What say you, Spotify?
Here's a link to the Jones interview on Spotify: http://podcasts.joerogan.net/podcasts/alex-jones-tim-dillon
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