David Heinemeier Hansson

November 14, 2022

Why is Spotify still linking to the CDC?

Remember when all the noble people of the world stood up to denounce The Covid Misinformation perpetrated on Joe Rogan's podcast? It seems like ages ago, but in fact it was just this January! And okay, it also wasn't all the noble people. Mainly just a couple of old musicians, like Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, who for a moment relived the glory days of the world's attention, as they hammered Spotify for their awful, awful decision to let a popular podcaster have outlawed conversations on outlawed topics. In defiance of The Science and official consensus on Covid!!

Young and Mitchell removed their music from the Swedish streaming service on perhaps the greatest ever rebel ultimatum: Spotify, you must compel Joe Rogan to cite the official line on Covid in all its forms or we will stop rockin' in the free world!

But after the high of the media circus died down, it was hard for most of the musicians who had followed Neil Young off the platform to stick to their convictions. It didn't take long for most of them to return to the service.

The grand concession that Spotify offered to appease the grandiose demand that it's "Me or Joe Rogan!"? That the company would plaster any podcast that seemingly even mentions the pandemic in passing with a bright blue warning label that links to The Official Take on everything that's Correct and True about Covid.

That's how I was reminded about all this nonsense in the first place. I went to Rogan's page on Spotify because I had caught a clip online from his interview with Graham Hancock, and I was curious to hear more. The most visually compelling element of that page is the repeating blue warning bars on nearly every episode. Whether it is a conversation with a fellow comedian, a musician, a scientist, or a journalist, the blue bar beacons about the supposed dangers that might lurk from Covid talk inside these free-flowing conversations.

So I clicked "Learn more" on the blue bar, which took me to a COVID-19 Guide where the first and most prominent link is to this page at the CDC: COVID-19 Vaccination Clinical & Professional Resources. From there, you currently find a barrage of pleas to vaccinate kids as young as 6 months old, booster shots for 5 year olds, and the claim that "children from certain racial and ethnic minority groups are.. more likely to become sick or die from COVID-19". In other words, a huge push to get infants, toddlers, kids, and teenagers vaccinated and boosted. Especially if they're of color.

That's odd, I thought. Why on earth is Spotify, a Swedish streaming service, defacto promoting Covid vaccines to infants and toddlers, when the Swedish government already decided, around the same time the freakout over Rogan was at its peak, that even recommending the vaccine to kids under 12 wasn't going to be on the menu?

In Denmark, the health authorities, which have widely been recognized as having done an excellent job during Covid, also decided over the summer not even to offer the option of a vaccine to kids under 18! And currently only offers booster shots to adults over 50, or people who are immunocompromised.

In Norway, the health authorities went out in January as well with a message that "COVID-19 is rarely harmful for children" and "having COVID-19 gives as good protection as the vaccine against reinfection". No recommendation to vaccinate kids here either.

So a unified Scandinavia has decided that pushing vaccines on kids as a matter of policy just doesn't make sense. The risks don't outweigh the benefits. Besides, most of these kids have had the virus anyway, and are thus well protected going forward.

That is a very different stance to what the CDC continues to push as The Science. So again, why is Spotify still trying to appease the likes of Young or Mitchell with these alarming blue warning bars pointing to information counter to that of health authorities in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark?

Because Covid in America remains a political struggle rather than a medical one, of course. A flame that continues to attract partisan moths. Despite an absolute embarrassment of specific calls that were at one time or another held by The Consensus of The Science turning out to be bunk. Does anyone need a reminder? Here are a few:

That's just a small slice of the countless twists and turns we went through trying to understand Covid-19 and the pandemic it caused. A journey of zig-zagging discovery that ought to have provoked more than just a little hesitation in those eagerly attempting to police any opposition to the temporary conclusions of The Science. Especially since so many of those early conclusions turned out to be wrong!

That's of course how lowercase science works. It produces hypotheses, which are subjected to the real world, and their ability to be disproven is literally the most important part of the process! If a hypothesis doesn't offer room for falsification, it's just not scientific. This falsification process relies on vigorous cross-examination of the evidence. On counter-arguments that may themselves be flawed or wrong, but which test the hypothesis under review. If they fail to rebut, the hypothesis is strengthened, but if they succeed, we have to get back to the drawing board.

Capitalizing The Science and turning it into a consensus cult has done more to undermine public trust in the House of Francis Bacon than even the atom bomb. It's cracked the reputation of scientists who turned dogmatists, and centers for disease control and prevention captured by political directives. It's brought eternal shame on musicians turned narrative cops, and the journalists that breathlessly backed the censorship protocol that was installed at the outset of this pandemic.

No wonder there's a plea emerging for us all to just forget about the whole thing! Who could have known, right?! When we called Rogan a fascist science denier for daring to question whether imposing an experimental new vaccine on everyone and their children, it was all in good faith, so now that the science has proven much of that bunk, I think it's best we just Forget & Forgive! Move on! Nothing to see!

Now I'm actually oddly enough inclined to agree. The world has been torn asunder by extremist convictions of the righteous way. The counter force to this might well actually be forgiveness. I choose to believe that many of the people who went totalitarian did so in good faith, or that it at least started there. But this only works if the lesson that The Science is not truth is integrated fully. That it's a process for discovering and refining the truth, not the truth itself. It's a process that often ends down blind alleys, and has to backtrack. A process that desperately needs the voice of an opposition to test, validate, and properly authenticate knowledge.

A lot to ask, I know, but could we at least start by having Spotify remove those ridiculous blue warning labels from every damn conversation Joe Rogan has that mentions the word Covid?

About David Heinemeier Hansson

Made Basecamp and HEY for the underdogs as co-owner and CTO of 37signals. Created Ruby on Rails. Wrote REWORK, It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work, and REMOTE. Won at Le Mans as a racing driver. Fought the big tech monopolies as an antitrust advocate. Invested in Danish startups.