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I Hope Neil Young Will Remember

Neil Young isn’t paying Spotify’s bills. We know who is, but that’s not important right now. The latest target of outrage in this country will be a key part of its certain undoing. We need to reverse course quickly.

We’ve become obsessed with calling anything we disagree with dangerous. Joe Rogan is dangerous and so is Anthony Fauci, M.D. depending on who you ask. Calling things dangerous has become conflated with patriotic duty, but let’s shelve that discussion for later as well. 

I had to tune out Howard Stern last year when I realized he was turning the pandemic into schtick. If you want to label anything dangerous, you can start with anyone using the pervasive fear narrative as a money machine, but that’s not why we are here either.  

I don’t want Stern banned because I can silence him by changing the channel to Jersey 101.5. I’d also hate to go down the rabbit hole of trying to find a digital content destination that in no way enables the Chinese Communist Party. It can’t be done so that’s a non-starter. 

I think it’s hysterical that so many people are switching to the fruit company to protest Spotify. When Apple stole my music over a decade ago, I vowed never to let a media company separate me from my playlists and music. That’s another story as well, but if you want to spend all your time porting playlists, God be with you.

We need people to think like Spotify CEO Daniel Ek. I didn’t even know they had billionaires in Sweden, but good for them. Ek is worth more than ABBA. Ek has addressed the current phalanx of criticisms with the following; “While some might want us to pursue a different path, I believe that more speech on more issues can be highly effective in improving the status quo and enhancing the conversation altogether.” My God if there was a sentiment for the times and if it comes down to the CCP or Sweden I’m 100% Sverige. 

Rogan’s a genius and he might be high on the pot every waking hour, but I judge no one. He’s good at what he does and he could have handled this by going Palin on certain media, but he didn’t. He backed it off and made good decisions about the content he didn’t like. He has also committed to speaking to a wider variety of views. Rogan’s expansionist approach will be doing right by himself, the audience and Spotify. Rogan is still the master of his presence domain – as all artists should be – otherwise civilization will collapse and the Vulcans will never dig us out of our great big hole.

Ek and Rogan have identified this as a learning experience. We have to keep evolving, and the only way to do that is to keep the conversation, warts and all.

I’m sure it’s only a coincidence since the lyrics are trending like mad now, but I was driving the kids around and Lyrnryd Skynrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” came on one of my rando Spotify feeds. Said teens were mortified when I started to sing along and wanted to know how I could listen to such racist crap. 

I pulled over at the soonest possible safe moment so I could focus on my response. 

We know that generalizing can be problematic, but I explained the main point of the song was that many  people have been tired of being painted with a broad brush all the way back to ancient times, the 1970’s. I went on to explain that Ronnie Van Zant may have had his problems but musical talent and racism weren’t among them. 

In a way, Ronnie and company were anti-racist pioneers. The Van Zants were just good old boys never meaning no harm, just like the Duke’s. Skynrd’s guys were just poor white kids from the wrong side of a southern town just wanting to play music. And do some other fun, probably unhealthy stuff. You know how I feel about judging.

I really don’t want this piece to be about the confederate states flag but so many people have already reduced and surrendered  Lynyrd Skynyrd’s entire body of work to it, I thought someone has to defend the band named after an Alan Sherman song and a high school gym teacher. Also, I’m keen to meet some Vulcans. 

Given what we know about symbols like the one covering Bo and Luke Duke’s Dodge, I doubt very much we’d see Ronnie perform with it today. Almost everyone I know feels the same way I do when watching the opening scene of “Days of Thunder” and Cole Trickle is right up there with Ricky Bobby for me. I’d imagine it’s the same feeling Rogan had when he decided to pull his “n-word” episodes. 

My emotion ranges from disgust and self loathing to “it was that time and that place,” or “art is what it is, warts and all” because either it’s all off limits or none of it is. I’m sure Don Simpson, Jerry Bruckheimer and Tony Scott (may he rest in peace) would do it differently today. Look at how far we’ve come since 1990. 

It’s OK to be proud of who you are and where you are from as long as you don’t wish others harm and treat everyone as your equal. It’s a simple way of thinking so I can see how it would get lost in today’s social media consumption dumpster fire. How could it not? The system is built to defile anything that isn’t a dopamine trap. 

If we continue down the censor cancel path, I can see a future where we shop for music, news and entertainment with our own warped sense of safety. Facebook makes it safe for bubbles by deleting billions of accounts and deciding which content is harmful. The only real dangerous path is the one in which we rely on tech companies, the mob and government to define our entertainment and information consumption reality. 

What could possibly go wrong? Everything. Everything will go wrong. We won’t evolve. We’ll live to maintain our addiction to digital dopamine triggers and continue thinking the only people worthy of compassion and respect are the ones who think like us. Also, we’ll never achieve warp travel which again, means no Vulcans. Bless their big green hearts.