Column: Spotify CEO ‘s Joe Rogan apology memo evades truth

Spotify just declared its most recent podcast, “Sorry, Not Sorry,” in which billionaire CEOs explore the most productive means to appear to be to apologize for profiting from content material that is offensive in traditionally oppressive approaches without having really executing just about anything about it.

Kicking factors off is Spotify’s own Daniel Ek in conversation with Netflix’s Ted Sarandos.

Ok, there is no these kinds of podcast. Nevertheless. But it absolutely looks as although they’ve been evaluating notes. Ek applied the weekend to take a webpage out of Sarandos’ playbook by sending his workforce a memo created, a person assumes, to keep his personnel from having the current Joe-Rogan-on-Spotify controversy to a Dave-Chappelle-on-Netflix amount.

Previous calendar year, Chappelle’s newest comedy show for Netflix revolved, in big aspect, all over the comedian’s anger at being “canceled” (because nothing says canceled like a Netflix unique) for producing transphobic jokes by — hold out for it — making a lot more transphobic jokes. Lots of associates of Netflix staffwere so outraged they staged a walkout, and just previous 7 days the streamer’s editorial and publishing manager in film, who is trans, resigned.

Rogan, a comedian, actor and former “Fear Factor” host, has develop into a well known podcast provocateur recognized for his irreverent usually takes and wild assortment of friends, freely (some would say irresponsibly) talking about politics, culture and in some scenarios conspiracy theories. Not astonishingly, Rogan has been a vocal pandemic skeptic, applying his system to distribute detrimental misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine, like his belief that healthy youthful people do not need to have to get vaccinated. When he contracted COVID previous slide, he instructed listeners, he tried out almost everything to struggle it, like the unhelpful and probably damaging ivermectin.

The previous handful of months have the truly feel of a predictable script. Just after Spotify obtained “The Joe Rogan Experience” for a noted $100 million in May perhaps 2020, folks inside and outdoors the enterprise protested. Just after his Dec. 20 interview with vaccine skeptic Robert Malone, a group of experts sent a letter of protest not much afterwards, Neil Younger and Joni Mitchell yanked their audio from the platform.

Inspite of Ek’s efforts to clarify that Spotify is not in any way dependable for the material from which it makes its funds, #CancelSpotify persisted, forcing the company to — lastly — publish interior rules for eradicating or flagging COVID-19 misinformation. Rogan, for his portion, issued a 50 percent-baked apology, promising to do greater when generating it distinct that any criticism of him places “free speech” at stake.

Then musician India Arie, who is Black, posted a online video montage of Rogan declaring the N-word more than 20 instances. And when once more, we were taken care of to a white person apologizing for making use of the N-term when declaring he did not signify it in a racist way he considered it was leisure.

Rogan again apologized, and eliminated 70 episodes of “The Joe Rogan Experience” from Spotify.

And last but not least, the unavoidable capper: The spectacle of nevertheless a further CEO apologizing for content material he admits he knew was hurtful to numerous though explaining that there was no way in hell he would quit advertising and marketing the present that developed it due to the fact it helps make so a lot damn income.

Perfectly, Ek did not occur suitable out and say that, however. Instead Ek, like Sarandos, acknowledged the ache even though acting as if he experienced totally nothing to do with it.

“There are no phrases I can say to adequately express how deeply sorry I am for the way The Joe Rogan Encounter controversy proceeds to impression every of you,” Ek wrote in a memo obtained by the Los Angeles Times. “Not only are some of Joe Rogan’s reviews unbelievably hurtful — I want to make obvious that they do not depict the values of this firm.”

But, Ek ongoing, he does not imagine “that silencing Joe is the response.”

To be obvious, “The Joe Rogan Experience” was a wildly productive podcast with thousands and thousands of listeners extended before it grew to become Spotify’s best podcast. Must the platform come to a decision to dump Rogan, he would in no way be “silenced” if history is any sign, his followers would boost. They just would not be shelling out cash to Spotify.

So what Ek really should have explained was: “To give up raking in earnings from Joe is not the reply.”

As a substitute, he followed Sarandos down the familiar gaslit path by trying to equate Spotify’s financial gain-driven dedication to Rogan with Rogan’s First Modification legal rights, which have never been in hazard.

The hijacking of the 1st Modification for enjoyable and financial gain is a thing we’ve seen a lot of these days in a lot of quarters, criticism and phone calls for accountability are straight away answered with grievances about cancel society and censorship when no 1 is in the minimum threat of currently being canceled or censored. It is the typical “I’m not a bully, you are a bully for telling me I’m a bully” protection of bullies in all places.

Joe Rogan is, between several other factors, living, respiratory evidence that People are indeed allowed to say whichever they feel, feel and feel with no concern of censure. He is a skilled provocateur, airing the sort of attendees and conversations that would never make it earlier the ethics/news suggestions of a lot of mainstream media platforms. It is past disingenuous for Ek to say Spotify’s No. 1 podcast is not emblematic of Spotify’s brand. You can’t eat your cake and fake you obtain it offensive too.

Ek designed it quite distinct that Spotify’s connection with Rogan was part of the company’s mentioned aim of getting an audio system for extra than 50 million creators and 1 billion end users. To execute this, i.e., to make Spotify a wildly effective and even a lot more rewarding firm, Ek wrote, “these kinds of disputes will be inevitable” but “worth the exertion.”

In other text, the agony induced by Rogan, whether by anti-vaccine lies or racist pejoratives, is just the rate people today need to pay back for Spotify to continue to make income for Ek and his shareholders.

In numerous ways, Ek was a lot more trustworthy than Sarandos — who, in answering to the Chappelle protests, cis-mansplained well known comedy as remaining subjective: One person’s ache was another’s belly laugh, and the reputation of Chappelle’s specials proved their cultural worthy of. But the two guys are equally misrepresenting an even much more crucial point. As mentioned by my colleagues Wendy Lee and Matt Pearce, they are making an attempt to develop into media moguls with no accepting the kind of accountability “media” once entailed. Ek insists he is not in any way “publishing” Rogan, simply platforming him. And paying him, and advertising and marketing him, and making him a linchpin in Spotify’s progress.

The deletion of those people podcasts with the N-word proves the difference doesn’t subject. Though Spotify is not by any definition aspect of news media, its headlong pursuit of podcasts raises issues songs (usually) does not. People today listening to a podcast, in particular 1 with interviews, may not be as very clear about the delineation in between enjoyment and journalism. But that is a entire other challenge.

In the case of the Sorry, Not Sorry memos, the question comes down, as it often does, to revenue. There is practically nothing improper with Ek seeking his firm to rake in the dough and dominate the sector — Spotify is a for-earnings enterprise that several folks appreciate. Ek is entitled to appreciate the results of his innovation.

He, like Sarandos, is effectively telling his personnel, “I comprehend my actions could trigger you ache and/or hurt but I stand by them because they are superior for the bottom line.”

Which is definitely his correct and, alas, the way capitalism generally works. But have the decency to personal that and not fake that you are shocked, stunned to learn that a podcast that is popular in huge component due to the fact of its willingness to offend individuals is normally offensive. Ek got what he paid for, and an apology with out at least an attempt at redress isn’t an apology, it is an insult.

Or ever more, an inside memo.