I will not forget when I saw the movie Alien. It was a Sunday afternoon. My wife had no interest in going because while no one can hear you scream in space, they surely can in a theater.
I sat next to a young boy—say 10—and his mom.
There’s the gobsmackingly shocking scene when the xenomorph bursts out of John Hurt’s chest.
The mom looked over at me with her eyes saying, “Say something reassuring to my kid,” and all I could think of was, besides “Holy Shit!” was “You brought the kid here, deal with it.”
That came to mind when I read a story in The Washington Post about actress Evangeline Lilly, who plays the Wasp, a tiny character, in Marvel movies, attending the anti-COVID vaccine mandate rally in Washington DC on January 22.
Lilly, who is known for her arguably blasé approach to COVID (to put it euphemistically), wrote a caption on an Insta post showing protestors that includes, “nobody should ever be forced to inject their body with anything, against their will.”
One of the things that tends to be overlooked about the virus is that just like the aforementioned xenomorph, it requires a human host.
Said hosts, who, say, are walking around in crowds or pulling a Palin and sitting in a restaurant, knowing full well that they have tested positive, have the viruses burst out of their respiratory systems, just like the Alien.
And then, again Alien-like, there are people who are put at risk of bodily harm. Or death. (Just ask >874,000 Americans—wait, we can’t, they’re dead.)
Nobody should ever be forced to have aliens injected into their body against their will by science deniers.
Were COVID characterized by the xenomorph bursting out of humans, if it was characterized as the organic alien that is dedicated to nothing but reproduction (which is what is the case with viruses: they have nothing else to do but try to survive, which is why variants come to be), that would take down the Wasp and even Ripley, perhaps there would be a greater understanding that this is still a situation. While it may have less of a negative impact on people who are healthy (but let’s face it: Americans are generally not particularly healthy: according to the CDC, 16 states have obesity rates of 35% or higher), there are still some 41-million adults under 65 who have medical conditions that put them at high risk of serious illness from infection, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. (There are an additional 51 million >65 years old at risk.)
At this point you are wondering whether (1) you’ve gone to some movie site or (2) a medical site.
And at this point I go to the Rogan/Young/Spotify situation, sort of bringing it back to music because I am unaware of the vocal stylings of Joe Rogan, the man who was made $100-million richer by Daniel Ek, when Spotify put Rogan, comedian, podcaster, ivermectin-taker, under contract.
So as is now well known, Young asked that his music be removed from Spotify. And Spotify removed it. Young wrote on his site on January 26: “SPOTIFY has recently become a very damaging force via its public misinformation lies about COVID. . . . Most of the listeners hearing the unfactual, misleading and false COVID information on SPOTIFY are 24 years old, impressionable and easy to swing to the wrong side of the truth. . . .These young people believe SPOTIFY would never present grossly unfactual information. They unfortunately are wrong.”
Neil, ever the audio purist, noted, “There is an upside for my listeners, people who may be listening to the 60 years of music I have made in my life so far. It is this: many other platforms, Amazon, Apple, and Qobuz, to name a few, present my music today in all its High-Resolution glory—the way it is intended to be heard, while unfortunately SPOTIFY continues to peddle the lowest quality music reproduction.”*
He wrapped it up: “I sincerely hope that other artists and record companies will move off the SPOTIFY platform and stop supporting SPOTIFY’s deadline misinformation about COVID.”
On January 28 Joni Mitchell put a piece on her site headlined “I Stand With Neil Young!” And she is removing her music from Spotify.** She linked to an open letter signed by 270 doctors, nurses, scientists and educators in early January that opens:
On Dec. 31, 2021, the Joe Rogan Experience (JRE), a Spotify-exclusive podcast, uploaded a highly controversial episode featuring guest Dr. Robert Malone (#1757). The episode has been criticized for promoting baseless conspiracy theories and the JRE has a concerning history of broadcasting misinformation, particularly regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. By allowing the propagation of false and societally harmful assertions, Spotify is enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research and sow doubt in the credibility of data-driven guidance offered by medical professionals. JRE #1757 is not the only transgression to occur on the Spotify platform, but a relevant example of the platform’s failure to mitigate the damage it is causing.
We are a coalition of scientists, medical professionals, professors, and science communicators spanning a wide range of fields such as microbiology, immunology, epidemiology, and neuroscience and we are calling on Spotify to take action against the mass-misinformation events which continue to occur on its platform. With an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, JRE is the world’s largest podcast and has tremendous influence. Though Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, the company presently has no misinformation policy.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Joe Rogan has repeatedly spread misleading and false claims on his podcast, provoking distrust in science and medicine. He has discouraged vaccination in young people and children, incorrectly claimed that mRNA vaccines are “gene therapy,” promoted off-label use of ivermectin to treat COVID-19 (contrary to FDA warnings), and spread a number of unsubstantiated conspiracy theories.
And it gets even better.
Perhaps by the time I finish this there will be other musicians who join in. But unless those musicians are the likes of Drake, Ed Sheeran, Bad Bunny, Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, then I am fairly sure there will be a shrug in the offices of Spotify.
Yes, there are some listeners who are dropping their Spotify accounts.
But let’s do a little math.
For an individual account to Spotify it costs $9.99 per month, or $119.88 per year. If there are 11 million listeners to Joe Rogan, that means $119.88 x 11,000,000 = $1,318,680,000.
While the $100-million contract to Rogan may seem crazy, a billion dollars-plus is crazier.
But let’s say that only half of the 11 million subscribers are there because of Rogan. That’s still $659,340,000.
Does anyone really think that Spotify would have said, “Hey, let’s can Rogan and keep Young, Mitchell and [fill in the potential blank]. Ignore the income from Rogan. We’re about the music!”?
Young wrote, “Thank you WARNER BROTHERS for standing with me and taking the hit—losing 60% of my world wide streaming income in the name of Truth.”
The likelihood is that even with over 40 albums—not counting the work with Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills and Nash—it’s not Rogan money.
So the question is whether Young is pissing into the wind.
Not at all. He has raised awareness of the fact that there are people out there spouting crazy shit about COVID. That in itself is a public service.
Spotify will continue. Rogan will keep his job. Young will make music.
But perhaps people will listen more critically to what they hear from actors, game show hosts, reality television performers and, yes, even musicians.
*Surprised that Neil didn’t recommend that people listen to him on physical media. This whole Spotify situation seems to overlook the fact that not everything one consumes musically needs to be streamed.
**I was beginning to think that this is a Canadian phenomenon—listen up Drake, Bieber, The Weeknd—but Evangeline Lilly is Canadian, so that doesn’t hold.