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Has Joe Rogan Already Waved the White Flag on Free Expression?

Spotify promptly erased select episodes of Rogan's 'Experience.' What's next?

Joe Rogan became a very wealthy man when he signed up with Spotify earlier this year.

But at what price?

The former “Fear Factor” host inked a reported $100 million deal with the audio platform, a move that could make his already massive showcase a cultural sensation.

In a way, it already was.

The comedian’s higher profile interviews, and comments, on the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast routinely generated headlines across the cultural landscape.

He backed Sen. Bernie Sanders, and the Left rose up in outrage. Later, he blasted Joe Biden as mentally unfit for the White House, and more headlines rolled.

Joe Rogan on Joe Biden's Speaking Problems "Trumps Going to Eat Him Alive"

Through it all, Rogan said what he wanted to say without filter. And it showed.

Has that already changed?

Spotify began adding Rogan’s existing episodes to its lineup as part of its massive deal with the sitcom star turned podcaster.

And, right out of the chute, several critical shows were left behind. The following interview guests didn’t make the Spotify cut, according to Fox News:

  • Alex Jones, InfoWars
  • Milo Yiannopoulos
  • David Seaman
  • Owen Benjamin
  • Stefan Molyneux
  • Milo Yiannopoulos
  • Gavin McInnes
  • Charles C. Johnson
  • Sargon of Akkad
  • Chris D’Elia
  • Joey Diaz
  • Gavin McInnes
  • Tommy Chong
  • Canadian podcast host Mikhaila Peterson

What do they have in common? Controversy.

Some, like Jones, McInnes and Yiannopoulos, are routinely banned by various platforms. Others, like D’Elia and Diaz, have been accused of sexual assault. Several guests are considered right of center, if not aggressively so.

Part of Rogan’s fame is that he’ll talk to almost anyone. Left. Right. Comedian. Provocateur. Regular Joe or Jane. It’s a no holds barred conversation, often stretching to the three hour mark. And beyond.

What emerges can be silly, challenging, thought-provoking or unexpected. It’s the kind of raw conversation rarely heard on conventional platforms. It’s one of many reasons why Rogan matters, and how he developed such a gargantuan fan base.

Will that sense of freedom vanish under the new deal?

Rogan has yet to respond to TheHill.com on the matter. He’s also not discussing it on Twitter, where he could clear up matters with a single Tweet.

Rogan swore nothing would change about the podcast once he officially joined Spotify.

“It’s just a licensing deal, so Spotify won’t have any creative control over the show. It will be the exact same show. We’re going to be working with the same crew doing the exact same show.”

Does anyone believe that now?

They shouldn’t have believed it at the time. Major corporations are increasingly woke … and risk averse. That’s even more obvious in the post George Floyd era.

So what does this mean for Rogan’s “Experience” moving forward? Will Team Spotify have a say in who Rogan can, and can’t, interview? Will select parts of those conversations get excised before reaching the masses?

Will Rogan, in essence, lose an integral part of his persona? If so, a fair number of conservative fans may give up on him, even though Rogan is by no means a conservative superstar.

The latest news makes one wonder why he inked that deal in the first place.

A side note: Billboard reports Spotify’s stock price sank after news of select episodes getting yanked from the archive hit the web.

UPDATE: Alex Jones reportedly contacted Rogan about the matter and says the missing episodes will soon join the migrated Spotify lineup. Rogan has yet to address the matter on his Twitter account, though. Spotify’s Twitter account also lacks any explanation, and both parties refused to comment on the matter when press outlets first broached the subject.

UPDATE (9/17/2020): Vice reports that Spotify staffers are up in arms over Rogan episodes they deemed “transphobic.” The streaming giant is holding its ground, for now, but the story offers more details.

“a total of 10 meetings have been held with various groups and individuals to hear their respective concerns,” [Spotify CEO Daniel] Ek said, according to three sources. “And some of them want Rogan removed because of things he’s said in the past.”

In other words … stay tuned.

More importantly, fears that past Rogan shows wouldn’t make the transition to Spotify appear to be true.

The company has made content moderation decisions to not port several other older JRE episodes to the platform, however. Episodes #911 and #1255, both of which feature Alex Jones, are not hosted on Spotify. In 2018, Spotify removed Alex Jones’ own podcast from its platform for “hate content.” Spotify is also not hosting episodes in which Rogan interviewed far-right personalities Gavin McInnes and Chuck Johnson.

How will this impact guest selection moving forward? How else will Rogan be muzzled moving forward? Rogan’s meteoric rise is due, partly, to his ability to talk to anyone at any time.

Rogan got rich from his Spotify deal … but at what cost?

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