“It’s in the things I do and say
And if I wanna live I gotta
Die to myself someday.” — Paul Hewson
Two news stories dominated the weekend news cycle and I had to decide which one I wanted to tackle first. I suppose I could have also said neither and just written another fluff piece. That’s another distinct possibility. So, for full disclosure, I am deciding to take the story of the GOP censuring Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney and kicking that one down the road.
The story of the day is the continuing saga of Joe Rogan and the cheap calls of censorship on the other side. Yogi Berra originally coined the phrase deja vu all over again. He was good for the zany one-liner. Right wing media and other social media commenters are caught in a loop (or are coughing loof as my daughter used to say).
The online dictionary defines censorship as the suppression or prohibition of any parts of books, films, or news that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to security. I’ve said this a few times in these parts, but the first amendment guarantees no one access to a platform. So, people lobbying Spotify or applying pressure to Spotify has no bearing on whether Congress passes a law to ban Joe Rogan’s speech.
Now, the social media warriors have unleashed the hounds of war on Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. That’s their right. As you might suspect, they have played on the fact that Young’s audience trends on the older side of the ledger. Some of them are quite humorous, so I’ve reluctantly tipped my cap to some of their attempts of humor. Again, it is an example of people exercising their free speech to counteract others exercising their free speech.
Spotify chose to pull episodes of Rogan’s podcast. It started off with 70 and then it was pushed to 110 as the article above suggests. By the time you read this it could be more. These episodes were pulled based on liberal use of the “n” word during those episodes. As it pertains to this story, one can imagine the fluid nature of Rogan’s place on the Spotify catalog. There could become a point where his place is just too toxic to keep around.
Again, I will keep repeating myself until people get it through their thick skulls. You do not have a right to a platform. You do not have a right to a platform. No really, you do not have a right to a platform. You can say what you want to say. You can record it so other people can hear it. Spotify and other platforms have the right to say no. You do not have a right to a platform.
Of course, this wouldn’t be so maddening if many of the same people that were up in arms about Joe Rogan were also not the ones in favor of banning books from school libraries across the country. The irony is palpable. On the one hand we stand up and vilify Neil Young for getting the ball rolling on Joe Rogan and then on the other hand fight tooth and nail over certain books being in our children’s library. Some day someone needs to explain the difference to me.
In this instance, a student in Grandbury ISD said it far better than I could. She told the school board that no government has ever banned books from public consumption and ever been seen in history as the good guys. At first blush, it would appear that banning a book from a school library and pressuring a platform to drop a podcast are the same thing. If you squint hard enough and close one eye it is exactly the same thing.
Except that isn’t reality. Rogan’s podcasts have been available on a number of different platforms. So, if Spotify were to drop Rogan you could easily see another platform adding him. People that want to find Rogan on their virtual radio dial will find him. People that want to find Neil Young’s music will find him. No amount of snark, feaux outrage, or false equivalencies will ever change that fact. You do not have the right to a platform.
We live in a world of shoulds. It has been common for a people to mix up their coulds and their shoulds. Can Spotify pull Joe Rogan’s podcasts? Of course they can. Can your local school library decided not to carry certain books? That one is a little harder, but the answer is yes. The question is whether they should do those things. As long as we are asking the right questions we can eventually get to the right answers.