It’s another disheartening week in the media.

Spotify defends its $100 million investment in Joe Rogan, but libraries and schools across the country are being told or asked to ban books.

They’re completely unrelated issues, except for how they’re not.

If Spotify were to terminate its contract with Rogan, that would reek of cancel culture’s excesses.

Rogan could still amass an audience on Spotify just like every other podcaster. Spotify doesn’t need to pay him nine-figures for exclusive rights to his distribution. It’s not censorship when you pay someone to do a job, don’t like what you’re getting for your money, and then go a different direction.

I’ve had that happen to me in the past. It happened whenever a company decided to spend its money on things that aren’t me (or, in some cases, when a company had no money left to spend). I was canned, not canceled. When it was my choice, I didn’t cancel them; I candidly told them I had another opportunity.

What could Spotify spend money on? A tweet Monday from @Eve6 gives a clue; it racked up 80,000 likes and more than 10,000 retweets.

They posted: “our stupid band gets close to a million monthly streams on spotify. spotify pays out .003 cents per stream. 100% of that goes to our former label sony who is a part owner of spotify. this is why i’m mad”

Eve6 continued: “lemme put it this way if instead of getting 300 million dollars joe rogan was also getting .003 cents per stream that he then had to split with a record company that was a part owner of spotify i would be standing in solidarity with joe rogan”

Yeah, those terms wouldn’t involve canceling anyone. And you’d get a ton of people uniting who wouldn’t care if he advocates vaxing, unvaxing, revaxing, or watching reruns of The Vax of Life.

You know who should be worried about being canceled?


Especially black authors.

Jewish authors.

LGBTQ authors.

LatinX authors.

Anyone who puts a black, Jewish, LGBTQ, or LatinX character in their book.

Anyone who writes about a Nazi in a book.

Anyone who writes about rape in a book.

Anyone who writes about an immigrant in a book.

Anyone who draws a picture in a book showing two people of the same gender sharing an intimate moment together.

Anyone who writes a book about American history — one that’s about all Americans, or all kinds of Americans, or Americans who weren’t in most of our history books when we grew up. Including Native Americans.

Anyone who writes about anything in a book that can make someone feel uncomfortable.

I’m currently re-reading Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth, the book that cemented his reputation as being a self-hating Jew obsessed with writing pornography.

He was none of those things, though that work and certain others did probably cost him a few mentions on the lists of the greatest American authors of the past century. And Sweden never did call him about the Nobel.

Turn to just about any page – any paragraph – and you can probably find a reason to ban this book.

If you’re Jewish, you can probably find a reason (or several) every paragraph that would make some of your relatives, living or dead, uncomfortable.

It is not a book that’s supposed to make you feel comfortable. When my clown friend I mentioned previously asked for a Roth recommendation as she wanted to get into his work, I gave her a copy of Portnoy (I’d much rather give out Roth books than $CMO coins). It should be on the shortlist of funniest books ever written, so it was the obvious choice to share with a clown.

I first started reading Roth in high school, when I wrote my AP English thesis on Philip Roth’s depiction of women.

That meant that my thesis was about two subjects I couldn’t possibly understand: Philip Roth, and women.

My oldest brother, a literature professor and Fulbright scholar, had recommended I tackle it though, and Roth has messed with my head ever since.

I wasn’t ready to read Roth in high school. I wasn’t nearly uncomfortable enough reading Roth in high school, just like I wasn’t uncomfortable enough reading Toni Morrison, or Chinua Achebe, or Franz Kafka. But I got exposed to them anyway, and I have opportunities for my discomfort to grow as I get to understand them better.

We need to grow comfortable being uncomfortable. There’s little growth in constant comfort.

The US Constitution, especially as it was originally written, should make us all uncomfortable. It referred to those who were not “free persons” as three-fifths of a person. There were approximately 700,000 enslaved Americans out of a total population of nearly 4 million in 1790, just after the Constitution was authored and ratified.

The Constitution makes me uncomfortable, but we need to teach it all the more, not ban it from our classrooms and libraries.

It’s hard to find much comfort in where the country is going. Consider this NBC News report of 50 books Texas parents want banned. This isn’t about Texas or the South; there are undoubtedly tons of parents who are my neighbors who are writing such letters here too.

At least Maus is selling briskly after Tennessee parents banned it.

What’s most troubling is that so many of the same people who believe in paying Rogan $100 million to say whatever he wants are okay with banning books full of ideas and idioms and imagery that are brave and bold and beautiful.

While we still have choices to make about who we pay attention to, we have opportunities to be mindful about them.

For me, I’ll take solace in knowing that there is one clown out there who’s a little more uncomfortable thanks to what’s on her nightstand.

Maybe today isn’t a day for consolation though.

I’ll leave you with another tweet, one recently posted by Michael W. Twitty, author of the brilliant book The Cooking Gene and known as @koshersoul on Twitter.

He tweeted:

“I’m a #Black Gay Jew.  #VotingRights are under attack,synagogues are being attacked, Nazis are here, #HBCUs being threatened, Black& #Jewish &Gay authors are seeing our books banned under false pretense.some schools will ban discussion of LGBTQ issues. We are hurting. Im hurting.”

We are hurting.


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