Joe Rogan controversy: Ex-Mumford & Sons member compares calls to nix Spotify podcast to Soviet-era censorship

Former Mumford & Sons band member Winston Marshall released a lengthy essay comparing calls for action against Joe Rogan’s podcast on Spotify to Soviet-era censorship. 

On Thursday, Marshall released an essay on Substack with the title “When Artists Become the Censors” in which he criticizes artists like Neil Young, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Joni Mitchell, Nils Lofgren and India Arie, all of whom have pulled their music off Spotify until it addresses misinformation on “The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast. 

In his essay, Marshall begins by discussing the state of music censorship in the Soviet Union in 1984 before comparing it to the conditions that Spotify is facing today as calls for it to pull Rogan’s work mount. He even called out Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, who previously voiced their “concerns” about misinformation on Spotify. 

“Of course, Spotify is a private company; they’re under no obligation to platform anybody. So while this campaign doesn’t breach Rogan’s First Amendment rights, it is a clear stand against the cultural norm of free speech,” he wrote. “And those standing passionately against speech – a growing list that includes Joni Mitchell, Harry and Megan, the comedian Stewart Lee, the singer India Arie, and Young’s old bandmates, Crosby, Stills and Nash – are all apparently liberals. Strange, that.”

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Singer Winston Marshall, formerly of Mumford and Sons, released an essay about censorship on Spotify.

Singer Winston Marshall, formerly of Mumford and Sons, released an essay about censorship on Spotify.
(Scott Dudelson/Getty Images)

He added: “How can any artist possibly create without free speech? How are they supposed to be artists if they’re scared that making a mistake or taking a risk that another artist doesn’t like will get them kicked off the very platform that allows them to share their art in the first place?”

Marshall went on to note that he faced similar calls for self-censorship earlier this year, when he decided to leave Mumford & Sons amid a slew of backlash to a tweet in which he seemingly shared his support for “Unmasked,” a book by right-wing writer-activist Andy Ngo that attacked far-left militant groups collectively known as antifa. 

“I could have stayed in the band. But it would’ve meant self-censorship. Or lying. So I left,” he wrote.

Musicians have called for Joe Rogan to be pulled off Spotify for spreading misinformation.

Musicians have called for Joe Rogan to be pulled off Spotify for spreading misinformation.
(Michael S. Schwartz/Getty Images  |  getty)

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Marshall went on to explain that he believes there is a singular point of view that is promoted in the music industry, specifically naming topics like diversity, Brexit, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and antifa. He noted that any break from that puts artists who are supposed to be rebellious at great risk from their own kind. 

“All communities are prone to a degree of homogeneity,” Marshall wrote. “That’s forgivable, but not good. The music industry is no exception. With each new year and each new divisive issue, the creative industries quickly settle into a new orthodoxy. Oddly, that groupthink is often pro-establishment.” 

Winston Marshall criticized the musicians pulling their music off  Spotify. 

Winston Marshall criticized the musicians pulling their music off  Spotify. 
(Tim Mosenfelder/WireImage)

Later in the essay, he added: “Under this sort of pressure, who can be surprised that artists are acting less like artists – the way they imagine themselves, anyway – and more like, well, Soviet drones? If artists at the top of their game face this kind of pressure, who can imagine what it’s like for those who dare to think differently and have far fewer resources and far less security?”

He concluded his thoughts on the matter by criticizing the White House for leaning on Spotify to do something about the misinformation on the platform

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Spotify has refused to deplatform Rogan thus far. However, it has announced that it will start taking measures to add disclaimers to content that may contain controversial information and made its policies on the matter public. Rogan also released a lengthy video in which he defended his podcast against the ongoing criticism.

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