I agree with your general point. Censorship is not the answer. I think aging rockers, though, can ask for their own music not to be associated with an outlet they think actively promotes falsehoods, though. Up to them. If I have a product and some unsavory group wants to make money by selling it, I'm within bounds to say "no thanks."

All your points are true, especially about forbidden fruit. But the fringe liars are going to complain about censorship either way. It's all part of the vast government conspiracy against them. Unless Robert Malone is embraced by the CDC and FDA and President Biden, and given a platform to spout his false and misleading and emotionally manipulative information, he's going to drone on about how he's being censored and persecuted. Blah blah blah.

And yet we still have a problem, when people like Malone are given free rein to spout un-fact-checked claims, and someone as influential and credulous as Rogan promotes him. Rogan is sharp and asks good questions, but he doesn't have the scientific background to understand or check up on the answers. So he's basically at this hustler's mercy. And then so is his audience of bazillions, most of whom also don't have the scientific background to understand or fact-check his claims.

I tried to respond in my own newsletter to the recent Rogan episode with Malone, and I found just how true Brandolini’s Law is: “The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude larger than is needed to produce it.” After 7000 words, I'd barely scratched the surface of what was misleading and untrue. I wore out.

And then of course his fans say "what about this this and this." It's like a football field full of dandelions. You'll never get them all.

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Corporate censorship is not illegal. But it should be. We live in a republic. We can give ourselves these rights.

Cigarettes cannot be advertised. Food companies have to list ingredients. Private companies have to make cakes for weddings that are against their religion.

So let's make it illegal for Google, Twitter, Facebook to be arbitrars of what is authoritative and what is misinformation... Spotify has a good policy on this that is clear and without judgement or reliance on captured government agencies.

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Michael, your first point about low expectations, and the compulsion some people have to curate information for others, would seem to deny one of the foundational justifications for broad participation in democracy: that our governance improves when everyone has a say in the process. (The other justification, that we are more inclined to accept the outcomes of the democratic process when we think we had an equal say in a fair process is also undermined by current partisan efforts.)

But if we claim that some people can't handle "bad" information, with specific references to politics and campaigns, then how can we justify universal democratic participation? Of course, this assumes that people who make these claims are being honest, and not simply using rhetoric to disenfranchise people they don't like.

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In a deadly Covid pandemic world of 11 million rational, logical and reasonable young males who listen to Joe Rogan what you state would make sense. However, even if this were true for just 5% of Rogan's audience that leaves many millions who are likely to believe that he knows what he's talking about when discounts how deadly Covid is, how vaccines against Covid are worthless and dangerous and unproven harmful psuedo-remedies are better. Michael, is this really the time and subject to argue the issue of censorship and the cause of "two-sides" to every issue when the stakes are so deadly? I'm a huge fan of yours and I get what you're point, but in this case it borders on the magical thinking you have done so much to dispel. 270 doctors, virologists and immunologists just agree that is let alone ICU nurses and morticians.

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This "censorious protesting" is evidently unproductive for the reasons you say and more.

If anything, it can only increase support for Rogan & co. This is evident.

But in today's world many people have a problem with live-and-let-live (and therefore I have a problem with them), and many people are more interested in pointless virtue signaling than in actual outcomes.

At the end of the day, it is not Rogan who tried to force Spotify to cancel Young. It is the other way around, and that is enough for me to side with Rogan and Spotify.

I have listened to only a few Rogan episodes, and I have never been a fan. But I'm a fan now. I followed him on Twitter etc. as a statement of support.

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Straw man. You're accusing Young and Mitchell of censorious behavior. It's not.

They're behavior is both saying their moral foundation precludes their occupying the same channel as JRE. That's it. It's their right. I know you agree with that.

Ultimately this whole thing is a public good, a lesson in individual decisionmaking, in this case both Spotify's and its talent.

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After reading some of the comments about the complexities and misunderstandings of many scientific findings, it occurred to me that virtually every news article about science contains flaws or misrepresentations (I know some researchers who refuse to speak to Journalists after being misquoted once too often).

These articles and interviews aren't "All or Nothing" - they usually contain a lot of truth and some falsehoods. From the very best to the very worst: they pretty much all contain a mix of truth and falsehood - and on top of that, they have a mix of clear statements and confusing statements (which makes it harder to determine if it is a falsehood or just a poorly worded truth).

What is the falsehood threshold to trigger censorship? 50% 25% 5% 0.01% (Also, how the heck can we determine these percentages?)

If we took a "Zero Tolerance" approach to scientific falsehoods online, then Youtube would have to remove a helluva lot of educational videos...

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I have enjoyed your appearances on Joe's podcast. I think he is a capable interviewer. still - Working with the people coming into the hospital suffering from the results of following the advice of Joe's misinformation spreading guests makes me a bit less moved by the "soft bigotry of low expectations" argument. Humans are easily misled by ideas that confirm their biases, and offering up these ideas without vetting is not just free speech - it is irresponsible of Joe . Spotify couldn't vet his material without delaying broadcasts long enough to do a good job. "I'll just let anyone come on and say anything to my large audience", is just irresponsible. There are not two equivalent sides to every argument - this is a falsehood that has led to much of the trouble we have had in concurring this virus (as well as many of the other goers of our society), pretending all opinions are equally valuable is simply wrong and misleading. Any responsible interviewer should know that.

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That's sounds all very reasonable, but for anyone with a large platform audience (say > 100/500K), some fact checking is needed on certain topics (especially medical) where misinformation can definitely lead to very bad outcomes. A lot of people can't think critically (enough) to filter out misinformation, thus warning labels similar to how Facebook tags content, should be utilised.

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Jan 31, 2022·edited Jan 31, 2022

I say yea to Spotify,

From a Market morning update at Seeking Alpha.

"The solution? Looking to pacify both sides of the free speech vs. harmful misinformation debate, Spotify will add a disclaimer to any podcast episode that addresses COVID-19. "This advisory will direct listeners to our dedicated COVID-19 Hub, a resource that provides easy access to data-driven facts, up-to-date information as shared by scientists, physicians, academics and public health authorities around the world, as well as links to trusted sources." Spotify also published platform rules that will govern what content is and isn't allowed on its service, which will be updated regularly to reflect the changing safety landscape.

Rogan is a fan. He likes the advisory instead of a 'misinformation' ban, saying it would allow users to decide their opinion, even if it goes against the current consensus of medical experts. "The problem I have with the term 'misinformation,' is that many of the things we thought of as misinformation a short while ago are now accepted as fact. For instance, eight months ago, if you said 'if you get vaccinated you can still catch COVID and you can still spread COVID' - they would ban you from certain platforms. Now, that's accepted as fact. If you said, 'I don't think cloth masks work' - you'd be banned from social media. Now, that's openly stated on CNN. If you said, 'I think it's possible that COVID-19 came from a lab' - you'd also be banned. Now, that's on the cover of Newsweek."

I would take some issue with Joe's examples of "supposed" misinformation but in general I think that his willingness to encourage investigation and questioning of "supposed" facts shows that Mr. Shermer's assessment of him and his show is supported.

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Very well said sir

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Here is an example of the kind of discussion about Covid policy tradeoffs that is endangered under the current censorship atmosphere. Please tell me we would be better off without such nuanced (but increasingly endangered) public dialogue. It's not hard to imagine this discussion - and comments on it - being flagged by some big tech "fact-checker" if it was on Facebook or Twitter instead a "respectable online newsletter for health professionals. https://www.medpagetoday.com/special-reports/exclusives/96926?xid=nl_mpt_DHE_2022-01-29&eun=g870924d0r&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Daily%20Headlines%20Top%20Cat%20HeC%20%202022-01-29&utm_term=NL_Daily_DHE_dual-gmail-definition

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Withdrawal of your music is not censoring. Make a choice -Rogan's Malone podcast or my music. Your arguments provide the reason why no youtube antivax or holocaust denier rubbish should be censored. Many informed experts would disagree. You are too pally with the likeable Rogan. It's clouding your judgement.

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GW: As usual, Michael, you have presented a well articulated and thoughtful essay. I do, however, disagree on a few points.

MS: To be clear, this is not a First Amendment free speech issue. The government has nothing to say in the matter. Spotify can do what it wants,...

GW: Yes, Spotify is a private company and can censor or not censor on its platform. It can exercise its property rights. However, this does not mean the government has nothing to say in the matter. Some citizens may say on Spotify things so egregious that the government may need to act to protect the public. “Kill all the white people now!” would be an obvious example of this.

MS: Why should some team of censors (or computer algorithms) dictate what I can and cannot consume? I’ll do my own thinking, thank you.

GW: All people are not like you and cannot or will not do their own thinking or do not possess critical thinking skills or a skeptical attitude. The government may need to protect some people from bad products. Note the analogy of taking poisoned meat off the market.

MS: Forbidden fruit: a natural response many people have to being told that they can’t have something is to want it even more.

GW: I don’t think this is a good argument against censorship. Robbing banks is also forbidden fruit, but we still make laws against robbing banks.

MS: “It was all for that one terrible sin, the first crime ever recorded in the history of humanity—a thought crime no less...

GW: But you then cite two ACTS (not just thoughts) of Eve – “partaking of the fruit” and “inveigled the first man.” So, it was not merely a thought crime.

MS: I’ve devoted a career to studying fringe groups and marginalized beliefs, and I can tell you that they thrive on censorship—literally: membership rolls expand and donations swell whenever their peripheral claims are censored,...

GW: I agree with your claim here, but that is not a sufficient reason to never censor.

MS: Who decides which speech and thought is acceptable and which is unacceptable?

GW: Well, historically, the courts have decided this. But it could also be a government authorized panel of experts in reason, science, law, and debate. Aren’t there some things which should not be said to the general public? Should there be no limits on free speech at all?

MS: The control of speech is how dictatorships and autocracies rule.

GW: Yes, they go too far to one extreme. But as with most things, moderation is possible, even in censorship.

MS: What criteria are used to censor certain speech?

GW: All sorts of criteria, good and bad, HAVE BEEN USED, but the more important question is “what criteria SHOULD and SHOULD NOT be used to censor certain speech?” I think we need to study and do research on this question. It is just another area of morality.

MS: What criteria are used to censor certain speech?...Thoughts that differ from your thoughts?

GW: No, that category is too broad. I have been censored three times on different forums because my thoughts differed from the moderator’s or the majority’s. The issues involved abortion, the existence of God, and the verdict in the Rittenhouse case. This censorship was wrong, but I COULD HAVE said things which should be censored. Censorship is not always wrong and not always right. It depends.

MS: When colleges deplatform speakers or students succeed in silencing a speaker through the heckler’s veto, the right of the audience to hear the speaker’s ideas are violated.

GW: I have never seen a justified instance of this. Colleges are for the open discussion of ideas, for goodness sake!

MS: We might be completely wrong, so hearing criticism or counterpoint gives us the opportunity to change our minds and improve our thinking. No one is infallible.

GW: True. On the other hand, some ideas are blatantly false and others are harmful. Should they ALWAYS be allowed?

MS: To overcome it we must listen to our critics.

GW: Really? Always? Must we listen to our critics who say: “The Covid vaccines don’t work.” “Trump won the 2020 election.” “Jews are an inferior race.” “Kill all white people!” “There’s a fire. Run!” in a crowded theater with no fire.

MS: ...tell others about your beliefs so that they may be tested in the marketplace of ideas...

GW: That’s a great idea from the start, but might censorship be valuable or necessary AFTER the testing has been done and an idea has been PROVEN to be false or harmful?

MS: If I censor you, why shouldn’t you censor me?

GW: No, that’s not how it should work. Parties in disputes should not censor each other! If there is any censorship, it should be by an independent, low-biased or neutral, reasonable third party.

MS: Once customs and laws are in place to silence someone on one topic, what’s to stop people from silencing anyone on any topic that deviates from the accepted canon?

GW: Good question and the answer is “nothing.” The cannon needs to be correct and enforced by the right expert panel! Also, the cannon should be tweaked over time. There is already a cannon on this which has been established by the SCOTUS, but it could be better.

GW: I have not listened to the Joe Rogan podcast, but I have heard rumors that he has expressed opinions about the pandemic or vaccines that are false and/or harmful. I’d have to hear specifics before I would render an opinion on censorship of him

GW: Michael, I agree with you in general. Free speech should be the default. However, I don’t think it, like any right, should be absolute. I think there should be regulations, restrictions, and limitations on speech. I think the government should have the power of censorship in rare, limited, and reasonable circumstances. As you have correctly said, however, we need to be careful to guard against tyranny and dictatorship. We ought not go down the slippery slope.

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Jan 29, 2022·edited Jan 29, 2022

Your essay did not mention the almost 6 million dead worldwide from Covid-19. That number is resonant with us. Most countries in the civilized world, other than the US, reacted to the Holocaust with limitations on hate speech. We have to balance our desire for a free society with our need to be safe and alive. I agree with limitations on hate speech. Hate speech is unique in that its purpose is not to generate discussion, but to arouse animus. Similarly, the purpose of pseudoscientific discussions is to keep people from being vaccinated, and to provide peer-group virtue as a motivation to harm others (by becoming vehicles to spread and incubate new variants). The flag they wave is Freedom as they tramp over the bodies of the 6 million dead.

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Excellent analysis. I Differ on this particular topic regarding Rogan’s guests because they are not outlandish or Shocking. The guests are exposing the disinformation and misinformation coming from government and Corporate Collaborators who are responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths through fear porn And lies regarding alternative treatments that could’ve saved up to 85% of the deaths while the CDC & Pharma spewed lies about the safety & effectiveness of these mRNA novel experimental pathogens. RFK Jr.’s book “The Real Anthony Fauci” brilliant analysis has more controversy in it, but a hell of a lot documented evidence the censors simply cannot tolerate for fear of mass murder charges and admitting to the massive deaths and economic destruction these Govt & Corporate homicidal maniacs have caused. Speaking of mass murder charges: https://www.thedesertreview.com/opinion/columnists/gates-fauci-and-daszak-charged-with-genocide-in-court-filing/article_76c6081c-61b8-11ec-ae59-7718e6d063ed.html

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