Joe Rogan. Spotify. Neil Young.
Before the latest dustup (Young wants his music off of Spotify because Rogan has used his popular podcast to speak against the coronavirus vaccine), I’ll admit I only knew one of those names — and it wasn’t the first two I mentioned. Neil Young doesn’t make the kind of music I enjoy. Instead I was familiar with his name because he was the cranky dude who made an entire album railing against Monsanto. He also hates biotechnology and farmers who don’t farm organically.
Yet all of a sudden, he became a hero for the science crowd.
So what’s the deal? Rogan had long been a television personality, having appeared on shows like NewsRadio in the late 1990s and Fear Factor in the early 2000s. He launched The Joe Rogan Experience podcast in 2009, and it now has millions of weekly listeners. In 2020, Spotify acquired the exclusive rights to the podcast for $100 million dollars. The show covers a wide array of topics, including current events, politics, and comedy. Sometimes, he’s even delved into agriculture.
In December 2021, Rogan turned things up a notch when he invited Dr. Robert Malone, a controversial infectious disease doctor, onto the show. Malone and Rogan spent three hours telling listeners falsehoods about COVID-19 and the vaccines. It ranged from anti-vaccine nonsense (like the vaccine being more dangerous than the virus) to conspiracy theory drivel (like Biden and others didn’t get real shots on camera).
And that’s when Neil Young came to the rescue. Young has taken the pandemic incredibly seriously. So when he learned about Rogan’s show, he asked his record label to remove all of his music from Spotify. The move made news and the whole thing went mainstream. Suddenly other musicians and entertainers, like Joni Mitchell, Graham Nash, were threatening to do the same thing. And Spotify was under immense pressure to cancel Rogan’s podcast entirely (it’s added labels to certain content, but declined to cancel Rogan).
The whole thing felt a little weird because suddenly Young and I were on the same side. I don’t agree with everything the government did in responding to the pandemic. I didn’t want Rogan’s show canceled over one episode. But it’s dangerous to have a doctor who should — and does — know better than lying to people about vaccine safety.
Unlike me, Young had a way to let Spotify know that he wasn’t happy about it.
Yet Young’s hypocrisy was stunning. He was upset that Rogan did the exact same thing he did a number of years ago. Because whether it’s spewing disinformation about vaccines or biotechnology, it’s all cut from the same cloth.
I was pleased to see I wasn’t the only person who took notice of Young about-face. But some writers who recognized it thought it was fine to brush off Young’s past comments. Take this editorial as an example. The writer thinks Young was wrong about biotechnology, right about Monsanto being evil, and a champion for family farmers (the last one earning an eye-roll from me). So he’s mostly right and we can just let it slide. (Despite this, I actually agree with the article’s main point.)
Except we can’t. We shouldn’t. Vaccine misinformation is bad. So is misinformation about biotechnology, animal agriculture, and pesticides. I wish that folks would’ve stood up against Young the same way they did Rogan (other than myself, of course). Not to cancel him or end his career, but to push back on the wrong information and encourage him to learn more (just like Bill Nye did).
There are now more voices in the modern-agriculture chorus than there were back when Young dropped an anti-Monsanto album. But we need more. And we need them all to keep speaking out.
Amanda Zaluckyj blogs under the name The Farmer’s Daughter USA. Her goal is to promote farmers and tackle the misinformation swirling around the U.S. food industry.