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Neil Young keeps on knockin’ the free world

Better to blow up than to fade away?

12 February 2022

9:00 AM

12 February 2022

9:00 AM

The Sixties Revolution has gone the way of the October Revolution and the Chinese Revolution and every other left-wing revolution that comes to mind. The radicalism of yesteryear has transmutated into tyranny, in this case correctism, wokeism and cancel culture. Half a century ago, counter-cultural heroes, not least folk rocker Neil Young, were challenging the last wave of teenage Boomers – that would be me – to think for ourselves and rebel against the Establishment. Now, it appears, these radicals-cum-millionaires were not so much asking us to think for ourselves but purchase their squawky music and think like them.

Toby Young has already explained as well as anyone, in ‘Why Neil Young’s Spotify Boycott is a Mistake’, that cancelling a show such as The Joe Rogan Experience does not serve anyone’s interest, apart, of course, from the power-mad cancellers. For instance, ‘banning doctors like Malone and McCullough from the airwaves’ can only backfire because it ‘will end up entrenching scepticism, persuading the hesitant that there is important safety information about the vaccines that’s being withheld’. Toby Young cites a Royal Society report that makes that very point: banning alleged misinformation from social media will ‘exacerbate feelings of distrust in authorities’.

The libertarian position, one that a folk rocker like Neil Young would have espoused earlier in his career, is you can’t censor bad ideas without censoring good ones. And who, in any case, gets to decide what is a good idea and what is a bad one? To take an obvious instance, the ‘authorities’ led by NIAID director Fauci and his apologists were not so much responsible for circulating misinformation about the genesis of SARS-CoV-2 as mounting a disinformation campaign on the subject.

A fanciful claim on social media suggests that the investment firm which bought 50 per cent of the rights to Young’s musical backlog for $150 million in 2021 is somehow connected to Pfizer Inc. and so, ipso facto, the 76-year-old musician has a financial stake in the campaign against vaccine hesitancy. This makes no sense given Neil Young has already pocketed the money. No conspiracy is needed to explain Neil Young’s attempt to cancel Joe Rogan. If the $150 million has anything to do with Young’s boycott of Spotify, it is that he, unlike less cashed-up artists, can afford to stand by his principles.


But what, exactly, are Neil Young’s ‘principles’? A point made by some is that he suffered from polio as a youngster and, therefore, views vaccination in a largely uncritical light. Fair enough, to some degree, but shouldn’t his principles be informed by the latest facts? Is our ageing folk rocker unaware that even Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla admits three doses of his BNT162b2 brew offers ‘very limited protection’ from contracting Covid-19? Or that a comprehensive study in Israel showed natural immunity attained through infection conferred greater protection from further illness than being jabbed by Pfizer? Or that Omicron, rather than BNTT162b2, might be the ‘vaccine’ that delivers us from the pandemic? I point this out not as an anti-vaxxer but as a disappointed vaccinee.

Neil Young would know more about the shortcomings of the all-roads-lead-to-the-vaccine storyline if he spent time listening to The Joe Rogan Experience rather than trying to cancel the show. In November 2020, for instance, Pfizer was promising ‘95 per cent efficacy against Covid-19 beginning 28 days after the first dose’. Circumstances change, of course, but how are we meant to inform ourselves about those changes and zigzagging government policies if anyone who puts their head above the parapet gets cancelled? Joe Rogan is no more a medical expert than Neil Young and yet I would agree with Vinay Prasad, associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, that Rogan as an interviewer is ‘open-minded’, ‘sceptical’ and hosts a podcast that provides ‘an important forum for debate and dialogue’.

Although Neil Young and Joe Rogan are both multi-millionaire celebrities and both supported Bernie Sanders, they nevertheless epitomise two very different wings of the Democratic party, two very different sides of Bernie Sanders in fact. Sanders simultaneously appealed to the PC brigade with their ‘luxury beliefs’ about social injustice and working-class populists fed up with economic injustice but not willing to go over to Trump. Rogan, a stand-up comedian and long-time UFC commentator, is decidedly in the hard-drinking, weightlifting tell-it-like-it-is camp which has no truck with identity politics.

Delicate souls like Joni Mitchel are all in with Young; Rogan, on the other hand, can count on former UFC champions like Funky@Benaskren to be in his corner: ‘If they can cancel Joe, they can cancel anyone. Time to stand up people.’ Rogan is more likely to attract the support of ordinary wage-earners who are forced to be jabbed three times to maintain their livelihood with what is, technically speaking, an ‘investigational drug’ ineffectual against contracting Omicron and, according to Robert Malone, not without risks. For Neil, Joni, et al., this is ‘dangerous misinformation’. And yet no less than the Swedish Health Agency has just recommended against vaccinating young children.

Neil Young is, in many ways, the personification of the betrayal of the Sixties revolution: the hippy-bohemian minstrel who traded the theme of liberty for the radical’s commitment to The Cause (whatever The Cause happens to be at any given time). His 1989 tune ‘Rockin’ in the Free World’ sounds like a celebration of freedom but on closer inspection is a criticism of the George H.W. Bush administration, then only in its first month of existence. The year 1989 marked the end of Soviet tyranny in Eastern Europe, and the fall of the Berlin Wall, but our Neil was more fixated on the presence of a Republican in the White House.

Six months ago, perhaps, I would have put my money on Spotify cancelling The Joe Rogan Experience. Already Rogan is making apologies or semi-apologies for himself, usually the first sign of inevitable doom. Modern-day leftists are now past masters at the Alinsky tactic of isolating and destroying their enemy one at a time – and Rogan is currently Enemy #1. That said, the UK, Ireland, Denmark and Sweden are now scrapping vaccine passports as the whole mandatory vaccine imperative collapses. Joe Rogan looks as if he might be the beneficiary of some very good timing.

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