Boomers for Censorship
Neil Young (76), better known as “and Young,” was the first. A few days later, there were rumors that Barry Manilow (78) followed, but he appeared to deny them via Twitter on Friday afternoon. The same day, before the Denny’s early bird special expired, Peter Frampton (71) appears to have joined “and Young’s” tenuous movement. Let’s call it, “Boomers for Censorship.”
If you’re not aware, earlier this week, “and Young” threatened to remove his music catalogue from Spotify if the corporate media behemoth did not remove the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast from its platform. He gave Spotify an ultimatum, ‘It’s Joe Rogan or me.’
It’s not clear whether Spotify assigned this challenge to its accounting department, but a quick glance at Joe Rogan’s download numbers (in the tens of millions) shows that they dwarf the number of music downloads “and Young” gets on the platform. Spotify apparently and politely told Young they were going to stick with Joe.
Spotify then proceeded to remove Young’s music from the platform, forcing all of his fans to dust off their shoeboxes full of 8-track tapes if they want to listen to his music again.
Frampton then weighed in via Twitter. Frampton, or whoever creates his tweets, posted: “Good for you Neil. I’ve always been an Apple guy for streaming. No Joe Rogan for me thank you!”
Frampton didn’t make it clear whether he’d actually remove his music catalogue or not. Clearly, he’s floating a trial balloon to see if other Boomers for Censorship will join him publicly, and then maybe he’ll muster the courage to take a stronger stand to ban free speech.
Funny that Young and Frampton did not offer to go on Rogan’s podcast to debate the points of view with which they have a problem. They didn’t even offer to point out what inaccuracies Rogan has allegedly promulgated, as though the new standard for all podcast content is now a requirement that there be unanimous agreement throughout society on every topic. Instead, they seem to prefer the off switch. Ban it. Erase it. Eliminate it. Censor it.
Boomers for Censorship has some fans, most notably the World Health Organization (WHO), which has gone all in on censorship.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO, tweeted out: "[Neil Young], thanks for standing up against misinformation and inaccuracies around #COVID19 vaccination… Public and private sector, in particular #socialmedia platforms, media, individuals -- we all have a role to play to end this pandemic and infodemic."
“Infodemic.” That’s what how you brand someone else’s point of view to frame it as a threat to public health. Then you can justify the anti-democratic stance of banning and censoring their speech and tyrannically silencing their voice.
Is this just a selfish fading rocker having a tantrum, followed by another relevance-seeking fellow Boomer? Or, is it the start of something bigger?
It’s too early to tell, but if it would be the start of something more, here’s what to look for.
Watch for the first non-Boomer to join in, followed quickly by a sizable number of other artists with more clout individually and collectively. They wouldn’t put their individual music catalogues at risk, but collectively, they could wield some power. Keep in mind, no major music artist would sign on to a movement like this unless he or she had advance assurance from a major corporate entity that their bank accounts would not suffer.
In order for this to happen, a corporate entity, assuming Spotify itself would not be involved, would have to be a catalyst.
Déjà vu All Over Again
On August 26, 2016, a self-centered, second-string NFL quarterback who was starving for attention decided to protest the police. Colin Kaepernick decided to, in a widely regarded sign of disrespect, sit out the playing of the “National Anthem” before a San Francisco 49ers game.
While he didn’t get much attention at first, a photo of his protest went viral on social media and garnered a good share of general media attention the next day.
A lot of NFL fans initially saw the protest more as nothing more than a stunt to demonstrate his dissatisfaction with his second-string playing status. But say nothing for Kaepernick’s media savvy. He had his talking points.
The one problem he faced was that no one appreciated his act of sitting down during the playing of the “National Anthem.” That wasn’t going to help him. Someone appeared to have quickly advised Kaepernick that he’d win more sympathy if he knelt instead of sat, and kneel he did.
Quickly, he went from second-string quarterback to activist. From active player to player-in-exile. From out-of-work athlete to Nike-compensated activist. Kaepernick has provided the model for what Young could become.
All that would need to happen now for Neil Young would be for some corporate entity to get behind him, herald his music, give him a platform, reinvent him as an icon of “courage,” all centered on the need for censorship. That entity would then need to pay richly for a steady stream of other musical artists to join him in his crusade to kill free speech. And the first scalp they would need to take is that of Joe Rogan.
Tim O’Brien is a veteran corporate communications consultant and crisis communicator who operates O’Brien Communications in Pittsburgh. He’s worked with organizations from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups and associations. He’s also the creator and host of the “Shaping Opinion” podcast. Twitter: @OBrienPR. GETTR: TimOBrienUSA