It was a glorious moment. Fading rock star Neil Young cast down the gauntlet to streaming platform Spotify. It would have to choose, he declared in an open letter to his manager, between hosting his music or comedian Joe Rogan, the world’s most popular podcaster. He was issuing the ultimatum, he explained, ‘because Spotify is spreading fake information about vaccines—potentially causing death to those who believe the disinformation being spread by them.’
With the air of one who is used to getting what he wants by snapping his fingers, or at least tapping out words in capital letters, he wrote, ‘Please act on this immediately today… I want you to let Spotify know immediately TODAY that I want all my music off its platform.’ He concluded imperiously, ‘They can have Rogan or Young. Not both’.
Imagine the delight of those who have seen their point of view censored repeatedly in traditional and social media, when Spotify responded by saying: ‘We regret Neil’s decision to remove his music from Spotify but hope to welcome him back soon.’
Presumably, it wasn’t the outcome that he’d anticipated. It certainly surprised Mia Farrow who tweeted, ‘Wow @Spotify you chose to keep creepy, dangerous liar Joe Rogan over the magnificent Neil Young?’
Anyone who has read Woody Allen’s autobiographical A Propos of Nothing feels nervous when Farrow mentions creepy dangerous lies.
Young was also backed by Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organisation, who thanked the musician for ‘standing up against misinformation and inaccuracies’ about Covid vaccines opining, ‘We all have a role to play to end this pandemic and infodemic’ especially social media platforms. The WHO’s stand against misinformation during the pandemic is legendary. From faithfully transmitting China’s advice that the virus was not contagious, to orchestrating an investigation into the origins of Covid that concluded that it was more likely that Covid was introduced into China on frozen Australian beef than that it leaked from a lab in Wuhan.
Young’s supporters called for a boycott of Spotify and Newsweek warned that ‘Neil Young Leads Artist Exodus Over Joe Rogan’. So far the exodus amounts to the departure of Joni Mitchell and Young’s long-time collaborator Nils Lofgren who plays in the band Crazy Horse, but that could change. While Young’s ageing cronies were shocked at Spotify’s decision, it’s hardly surprising. The average age of the Josh Rogan Experience listeners is 24 years old and there are at least 11 million. In 2020, Spotify offered Rogan a $100m deal in exchange for exclusive rights to his show. It is the platform’s most popular podcast and possibly the largest audience in the world. And it’s paid off handsomely. Revenue grew by more than 27 per cent in 2021, with double-digit growth in podcasts.
Rogan is not a right-winger. Indeed, in the 2020 election he endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders. This is cold comfort to the authoritarian Left. Worse, after Rogan, the five programs with the largest audiences are all from Fox, starting with Tucker Carlson with 3.24 million viewers. The Left has captured only the last three spots: Rachel Maddow with 2.2 million viewers, the MSNBC prime time average of 1.27 million and the CNN prime time average with a paltry 820,000 viewers. Small wonder Democrats are baying for censorship.
Rogan has been repeatedly criticised during the pandemic. He infuriated his critics by taking ivermectin when he got Covid last year and recovering rapidly. Presidential adviser Dr Anthony Fauci attacked him for saying that healthy young Americans didn’t need to be vaccinated because they could do harm to somebody even if they had no symptoms, and that’s why they should get vaccinated. It was pure misinformation. The Pfizer vaccine trial didn’t test participants for asymptomatic infection or transmission so there was no data to back Fauci’s assertion. Others calling for Rogan to be censored include a group of doctors and scientists and the US Surgeon General.
To appease the censors, Spotify launched a Covid anti-misinformation hub. Hilariously, one of the recommendations on the first day was an interview with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla who is implicitly trusted by the Left even though Pfizer paid $2.3 billion in 2009 for fraudulent marketing, the largest health care fraud settlement in US history.
Ironically, Young’s 2015 album — The Monsanto Years — criticised the corporate greed of Monsanto and its genetically modified food. Monsanto considered taking legal action against him. Yet Young seems blissfully unaware that there are only two degrees of separation between Monsanto and Pfizer, thanks to a merger with, and then a spin-off from a company called Pharmacia.
Monsanto was eventually bought by Bayer, which has been thrilled with Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine. As Stefan Oelrich, head of Bayer’s pharmaceuticals division said at the World Health Summit last year, ‘ultimately the mRNA vaccines are an example of cell and gene therapy’, observing with delight that ‘if we had surveyed the public two years ago (asking) would you be willing to take a gene or cell therapy and inject it into your body we would have probably had a 95 per cent refusal rate’.
It is also ironic that Joni Mitchell wants to censor Rogan for spreading medical misinformation when Mitchell suffers from Morgellons disease which according to the Mayo Clinic is considered by some doctors to be ‘a delusional infestation’. In another era one could imagine that Mitchell would have sympathised with the vaccine-injured and Young’s song, ‘I’ve seen the needle and the damage done’ might have been their anthem. Instead, the minstrels of the Woodstock generation that loathed the military industrial complex are in lockstep with the pharmaceutical industrial complex. And American liberals who were once tolerant of difference, are increasingly determined to silence anyone who doesn’t share their dogmas. Yet rather than admit that they are engaged in censorship, they have simply expanded the definition of hate speech to incorporate anything they deem hateful or harmful which they feel morally virtuous in shutting down.
Young says, ‘I support free speech. I have never been in favour of censorship…(but) I can choose not to have my music support a platform that disseminates harmful information. I am happy and proud to stand in solidarity with the front-line health care workers who risk their lives every day to help others.’ As Mitchell might put it, he’s looked at freedom from both sides now, but it’s only the illusion of freedom that he recalls, he really doesn’t know freedom at all.
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