Should “The Joe Rogan Experience” be pulled from Spotify?

In its ten-year-plus tenure, “The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast has been the center of multiple controversies. 

One of the primary controversies that has been in the news here lately deals with Rogan’s espousing of misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines, ranging from discouraging young people from getting the vaccine, promoting the use of ivermectin as a suitable treatment for COVID, as well as platforming individuals who spread misinformation.  

Now, Rogan is embroiled in yet another embarrassing situation stemming from his use of the N-word and other (at best) racially insensitive commentary on previous podcasts.

A compilation of clips showing Rogan using the slur on previous podcasts, along with a clip of him joking about a screening of the “Planet of the Apes,” in which he seemed to equate people of African descent to apes, has caused an uproar for Spotify, the streaming service which broadcasts his content. All of this has led to artists such as Neil Young, India Arie and Joni Mitchell to take steps towards leaving Spotify in protest to the spread of misinformation and bigotry. 

Seventy episodes of “The Joe Rogan Experience” have been removed by Spotify due to these controversies. In response to this, Rogan has recently posted a video apologizing for his past actions. 

There have been several back-and-forth discussions about “canceling” Joe Rogan and whether the pushback by other Spotify artists is justified. I would say the criticism towards Rogan is warranted. There are problems with certain guests, along with Rogan himself, spreading harmful misinformation about COVID related matters and the use of the N-word. 

One aspect of “The Joe Rogan Experience” that people enjoy is that it gives an open platform to discuss an array of subjects. Medical professionals such as Dr. Peter McCullough and Robert Malone use this platform as a way of furthering information that is contrary to the facts. Malone, who was previously banned from Twitter for violating its COVID information guidelines, is given another platform to spread false information by appearing on Rogan’s program. 

Due to the size of the podcast’s popularity, it opens the door for misinformation to be treated as fact. 

Rogan himself is also responsible for spreading false info, such as promoting ivermectin, a drug used to combat internal and external parasites in animals and humans, as a suitable treatment for COVID-19. According to the FDA, ivermectin has not been authorized for COVID treatment in humans or animals.  

In addition to this, Rogan has stated he doesn’t believe it is necessary for young people to get vaccinated, despite the CDC recommending that everyone five and older receive the vaccine. COVID-19 poses a threat to everyone, regardless of their age. Getting yourself vaccinated helps stop the spread of the virus. 

It is irresponsible to spread information that is contrary to the facts. Providing a platform to those who do so means Spotify is equally culpable. 

In regards to Rogan’s previous use of the N-word, I understand he was not intending to be offensive in the context of those clips. At the same time, the N-word is one of many words created as a way of demeaning Black people. It has since become a word that Black people have reclaimed for themselves, but that does not mean it is acceptable for Rogan to use it, even if he may have not been doing so in a way that was meant to be offensive.  

The clip in which Rogan joked about seeing “Planet of the Apes” in a majority Black neighborhood, saying “We walked into ‘Planet of the Apes,’ we walked into Africa” was said in bad taste. Regardless of any personal prejudice, the analogy made in the clip was and can be considered an offensive statement. Even though he acknowledges the racist nature of the joke in the video, that does not make the joke okay.   

Both of these controversies have shown Joe Rogan must be held accountable for his actions and allowing for misinformation to become mainstream does more harm than good. Rogan has posted an apology video in light of these events, claiming to do better in the future.  

There are opportunities for someone to change if they chose to. Beliefs and ideas can evolve. While I do not  think that Rogan’s podcast should be removed completely, I do think he should do a better job of moderating the views espoused on the podcast. Similarly, Spotify should consistently enforce its own policies, which ban both misinformation and content that incites racial hatred.

In the end, with freedom of speech comes great responsibility. Joe Rogan and Spotify need to remember that.