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Thanks To Neil Young’s Music, I Oppose His Attacks On Joe Rogan’s Free Speech

Neil Young’s music taught us to value freedom of expression above everything else. His music was right, and his cancel attack on Joe Rogan is not.


I grew up listening to Neil Young’s music. In particular, I love his song “A Man Needs a Maid.” It plaintively explores loneliness and heartache, written by a young man affected by the isolation of fame. His reedy, soulful voice brings me right back to college, where I often sat under a peace poster on a ripped leather couch, beer in hand, wondering what my own future would be.

I am both startled and disheartened by the gauntlet Young threw down last week to streaming music giant Spotify. Young essentially stated “him or me” versus the popular podcast “The Joe Rogan Experience,” which offers long-form conversations on various public issues.

Young said, in part, “Spotify has recently become a very damaging force via its public misinformation and lies about Covid.” Thankfully, Spotify responded to the rock star’s flex by refusing to boot Rogan, prompting Young to make good on his threat and remove his music catalog from the platform. This feels like a watershed moment when I must face certain facts: even my old heroes have drunk the Kool-Aid of mass repression, and are willingly signing up for the nanny state’s hollow equity.

Searching for Meaning

I was a teen in the 1970s, peak Neil Young time. I wasn’t a superfan, but Young was part of my college soundtrack, and his stripped-down vocals and spare acoustic guitar stylings always brought to mind imagery of wintery Minnesota landscapes sliced down the middle by a beat-up VW camper.

Behind the wheel was Young — he of the inscrutable expression who was ineffably in tune with human longing, the gifts of simplicity, and those calls of conscience that demand an answer. Music from artists like Young, Jackson Browne, Crosby, Stills, Nash (and sometimes Young), Joni Mitchell, and later Tom Petty prompted me to make foundational in my character things I still consider non-negotiable to a meaningful life: freedom, self-expression, and sacrificial love.

What is the meaning of life? Why are we here? These are the questions these artists helped us plumb. All of us raised amid burgeoning feminism, rising divorce rates, Watergate, and the Cold War found our center in this searching, tender, reflective music that held freedom of expression above everything else. This music made personal freedom our priority, too.

Young and other former freedom-loving artists have the common plague of our day; conditional empathy. If you agree with these former freedom-lovers politically and culturally, obediently joining their ranks on race, abortion, environment-worshipping, and constant facial masking, there is boundless empathy showered upon you. The cause is righteous, the warriors resolute. Peace and love flow your way if you obey.

There must be quiet concessions, of course, but this is always in service to the greater cause: ignore the Lear jets flown to the climate summit, look away from that human baby killed by abortion, disregard that leftist politician making millions off the stock market while railing against capitalism.

Unwilling to share virtual space with Rogan, Young has stamped his feet, taken his ball, and gone home. Instead of being an energized vendor in the marketplace of ideas, Young has withdrawn into an all-or-none proposition; you must agree with him or be deprived of his art.

Twitter is in overdrive regarding the Young-Rogan issue, and is calling on other artists to do the same. Joni Mitchell reportedly has. But if they do, they lose the emotional street cred they built careers on. Such artists can no longer spout off to us about personal freedom and be believed; indeed, they should be laughed at and then roundly dismissed from our national conversations.

It is unsurprising that these limousine liberals do not see the hypocrisy in their actions, but Covid has given them the perfect vehicle in which to force-feed the peasants a one-world ideology. It’s our shared health, right? Even if you don’t care about your own health, a good citizen of the world cares about others, right? Even in the face of science and logic, even when accredited doctors and experts give vastly divergent analyses of this dreaded illness, they persist.

Neil’s Way or the Highway

Rogan isn’t going anywhere. He is Spotify’s top draw, reportedly paid more than $100 million for exclusive rights to his hit podcast.

Rogan made a statement Sunday night that said, in part, “The problem that I have with misinformation, especially today, is that many of the things that we thought of as misinformation just a short while ago are now accepted as fact. For instance, eight months ago if you said, ‘If you get vaccinated, you could still catch Covid, and you could still spread Covid,’ you would be removed from social media. They would ban you from certain platforms. Now that is accepted as fact.”

Spotify has made some changes in light of the controversy. “We have detailed content policies in place and we’ve removed over 20,000 podcast episodes related to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic,” they said in a statement. “We regret Neil’s decision to remove his music from Spotify, but hope to welcome him back soon.”

Rogan, too, is reflecting on some changes: “I think if there’s anything that I have done that I could do better is have more experts with differing opinions right after I have the controversial ones. I would most certainly be open about doing that,” he noted in his statement.

Young seemingly won’t budge, nor offer any ideas of his own that would increase the free flow of thought ant information. That’s not what he wants, after all. It’s his way or no way.

I will continue to listen to Young’s music; he cannot control my use of his music in my affirmations of the personal freedoms he once believed in too. So, in a metaphysical sense, the coin of the realm for these artists, the lyrics of Young’s youth help me to “keep on rockin’ in the free world.”

Young helped raise me to be a strong, independent thinker who will look to no authority other than God. It’s a shame he can’t join me there, where his own music led me and many others.