Mike took aim in Pajiba Love at Jon Stewart for defending Joe Rogan on his podcast this week, and here’s the thing: I listened to that podcast. I agree with Jon Stewart that Joe Rogan is not as insidious as Tucker Carlson — Joe Manchin is not as bad as Mitch McConnell, but so what? Ben Shapiro is not as bad as Joe Rogan, either, and Spotify carries his podcast, so why aren’t we protesting that? Well, it’s because Spotify isn’t paying Shapiro.
I also agree that Joe Rogan should not necessarily be canceled. Even if I didn’t agree, Joe Rogan can’t be canceled anyway. He’d just move to another platform. His listeners aren’t going away, so the only thing we can do is try and change the message.
Moreover, I’m not sure that I agree with Stewart that the “rhetoric surrounding Joe Rogan is overblown” while also conceding that I’m also sick to death of Joe Rogan rhetoric (I understand the irony). What I don’t understand is why Jon Stewart — and others like him — don’t appreciate how our forms of protest have evolved over the decades. We live in a capitalist society controlled largely by giant corporations, and hitting corporations in the wallet is the most effective form of protest we have in 2022.
We also live in a world where everything feels completely out of our control, so while we seem to have lost control of the pandemic, of the environment, and our political structures, we can still decide where to spend our money. That’s all we have left in our toolbox. A handful of creators and hundreds (thousands?) of people are deleting Spotify because it’s something we do have control over. It’s not necessarily to get Rogan canceled (again, that’s impossible). It is a way to get the people who sign Rogan’s paychecks to listen. If Rogan wants to continue to receive the proceeds of his $100 million contract, he has to follow the rules laid down by Spotify. All we’re trying to do is pressure Spotify to establish some goddamn rules and abide by them.
In defending Joe Rogan, Spotify’s CEO also implied that affecting their bottom line is the only measure we have. Spotify CEO Daniel Ek addressed employees about the controversy in a 15-minute speech yesterday, and in that speech, Ek said, “there are many things that Joe Rogan says that I strongly disagree with and find very offensive.” Why does he allow it anyway? Capitalism, of course.
“We want to get to 50 million creators and a billion users,” Ek added, reinforcing that goal later in the speech. “There will be opinions, ideas, and beliefs that we disagree with strongly and even makes us angry or sad … [but] this really comes down to two things. First, do we believe in our mission: 50 million creators and 1 billion users? And finally, are we willing to consistently enforce our policies on even the loudest and most popular voices on the platform?”
Guess what Spotify prioritizes the most? Obviously, 50 million creators and a billion users. He’s not willing to modify the company’s “bold ambitions,” but he is willing to sacrifice integrity (and public health) for more users. He flat-out tells his employees that the company’s capitalistic ambitions are the most important thing, basically using corporate-speak for “f**k your feelings.” What’s a little misinformation compared to more subscription fees? It can’t be 750 million users and integrity, because integrity doesn’t placate the stockholders.
That’s why consumer protest is the only way to make a corporation listen to us. Money is the only thing they will listen to. Corporations don’t listen to “conversations.” You cannot “debate” a corporation. But you can try, at least, to alter the share price enough so that stockholders will listen. I guess Jon Stewart — who has worked for corporations for the last three decades — no longer understands that.