David Heinemeier Hansson

January 28, 2022

Spotify must be afraid of canceling Rogan, right? Right?!

What's stood out most to me about the latest Rogan round over Neil Young's ultimatum is the iron-clad assumption that Spotify surely must – MUST! – agree with the underlying premise. That Rogan is a menace to society because he host guests with divergent views on covid, and because he shares his unsanctioned opinion on the matter. Therefore, the only reason they're not yanking him is fear. Fear of losing subscribers, money, marketshare, whatever. It can't possibly be due to a genuine disagreement with the menace-to-society charge.

Jonathan Haidt talks about this in The Righteous Mind:

Morality binds and blinds. It binds us into ideological teams that fight each other as though the fate of the world depended on our side winning each battle. It blinds us to the fact that each team is composed of good people who have something important to say.

This has always been the case. What's new, or what has intensified due to novel power leaks, is that these fights have focused so heavily on the guerrilla warfare of suppressing speech. What we can't beat with compelling counter speech, we will threaten, extort, or slander our way to exorcising!

But the "we" in this sense is virtually always a small, loud minority with a completely inflated sense of purpose and power. (I should know. I've been in such a minority on plenty of causes over the years 😂).

This inflation is directly proportional to the righteous, moral fever that is whipped up. OH NO! What if some innocent simpleton out there listens to Rogan describe his own covid recovery, and then they get omicron, and then they DIE. What about that, hu? HU?!

Won't somebody please think of the [The Simpsons Did It First]!

What's so interesting about this particular fight is how obvious the prospect of it being lost were from the outset. Like the last attempt to cancel Chapelle at Netflix. If you're going to take on the number one music or video streaming service together with the number one podcaster or comedian, you damn well better come packing more heat than I Don't Like What They're Saying!

Not just because that would make for a more compelling argument in the individual cases, but also because every loss you take in the forum of public opinion sets you up worse for the next attempt. The guaranteed failure to cancel Chapelle or Rogan over these inane speech prohibitions will weaken every future attempt to cancel less resilient figures. This is just basic Sun Tzu strategy!

But this of course returns to McWhorter's key observation: These cancelation attempts are not the product of political movements trying to mobilize mass coalitions on the basis of compelling shared goals. They're religious incantations meant to bless those who condemn. "Winning", as it were, is not the primary objective. Which I guess is some kind of wicked consolation. Given how long the odds of doing so in these cases are.

Meanwhile, the Streisand effect continues to reverb across the realm. Every swing at the king that misses only serves to highlight his glory. Ohhh, this Rogan fellow must really be on to something, if they're that desperate to get him canceled! SUBSCRIBED!

And the injury to the inquisition is then twofold when all these new Streisand subscribers find a curious, broad interviewer who brings on a wide variety of interesting people to talk about their ideas. With barely an iota of the drama that was promised. Thus ensuring all these folks who showed up for the shock will convert on the awe.

Are we actually sure this is not a marketing masterplan concocted by Spotify themselves?? Is Neil Young on the take?? JUST ASKING!

About David Heinemeier Hansson

Creator of Ruby on Rails, co-owner & CTO of 37signals (Basecamp & HEY), best-selling author (REWORK, It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work, REMOTE), Le Mans class-winning racing driver, antitrust advocate, investor in Danish startups, frequent podcast guest, and family man.