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Roxane Gay on decision to pull podcast from Spotify over Joe Rogan row: ‘I won’t look the other way’

‘I’m trying to do the best I can, and take a stand when I think I can have an impact’

Maanya Sachdeva
Friday 04 February 2022 06:20 GMT
‘No hard feelings’: Joe Rogan on Neil Young, Joni Mitchell boycotting Spotify

Roxane Gay has joined a growing number of musicians and podcasters who have boycotted Spotify over its “ineffective policies” to combat misinformation amid the row surrounding Joe Rogan’s podcast.

The Bad Feminist author also explained her decision to remove her podcast from the Swedish audio streaming giant in an op-ed published by The New York Times on Thursday (3 February), after Neil Young took a stand against rampant Covid misinformation on Rogan’s podcast last month.

The anti-Spotify camp currently includes singer Joni Mitchell, folk rock band Crosby, Stills and Nash, musicians India Arie and Nils Lofgren, as well as podcast host Brene Brown.

Rogan had last year interviewed doctor Robert Malone, who falsely claimed on The Joe Rogan Experience, that Americans were “hypnotised” into wearing masks and getting vaccines.

He provoked more backlash after allowing controversial clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson to go on lengthy “rants” of climate misinformation during an episode that was released on 25 January.

Gay had, earlier on Tuesday (1 February), tweeted she would be removing her podcast The Roxanne Gay Agenda from Spotify over its continued association with Rogan and the rampant misinformation about Covid-19, vaccines and climate change.

In her op-ed, she said she had chosen to make another “small stand” by joining Young, Mitchell and “a growing group of creators”.

Gay also pointed out that she had previously turned down a book deal with Simon & Schuster after learning the publishing company had bought a book by “white supremacist” Milo Yiannopoulos.

She added that her decision was “symbolic, as most such stands are” since the majority of her books are published by Rupert Murdoch-owned Harper Collins that has also “published all kinds of people I find odious, dangerous and amoral.”

“Every day, I try to make the best decisions possible about what I create, what I consume, and who I collaborate with – but living in the world, participating in capitalism, requires moral compromise,” she wrote.

“I am not looking for purity; it doesn’t exist. Instead, I’m trying to do the best I can, and take a stand when I think I can have an impact.”

Addressing the case of “curious fellow” Rogan and his “wildly popular podcast”, Gay said she believed the 54-year-old’s apology over misinformation in certain episodes of The Joe Rogan Experience was simply a “convenient way of shirking accountability for misleading people about their life-or-death health decisions.”

Spotify chief executive Daniel Ek addressed the backlash in a blog post dated 30 January without naming Rogan, while the controversial podcaster made his first comments on Young and Mitchell’s decision to boycott Spotify over his content the following day.

At the time, he promised to research topics like Covid and the climate crisis properly and backed Ek’s decision to add Covid advisory labels on relevant content.

“In the face of the outcry and boycotts,” Gay noted in her open letter, “both [Spotify] and Mr Rogan have made conciliatory gestures”, after which she criticised Spotify’s response as “tepid, ambiguous, and ineffective policies”, writing that the audio company was really just trying to protect “their bottom line”.

Reiterating that she isn’t “trying to impede anyone’s freedom to speak,” Gay wrote: “Joe Rogan and others like him can continue to proudly encourage misinformation and bigotry to vast audiences. They will be well rewarded for their efforts. The platforms sharing these rewards can continue to look the other way.”

“But today at least, I won’t.”

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