Spotify And The Triumphant Return of Morality Policing

Great news, everybody. Popular streaming service Spotify just opened the Pandora’s box of horrible ideas. For whatever reason, they’ve decided it would be a great idea to start policing the music on their platform. Guess the CEO is intent on having the company go under so that he can collect insurance, or whatever it is you collect after your incompetent decision making causes your company to tank.

Not only are they policing their own music libraries, but they are inviting in numerous organizations to handle this task for them. They are partnering with GLADD, The Anti-Defamation League, and the Southern Poverty Law Center among others.

What this means is that GLADD could likely flag any songs that are “homophobic”, i.e. any songs (hip-hop will overwhelmingly be affected) that contain words like fag or faggot, regardless of context. Muslim Advocates might flag any song that doesn’t portray Islam in a squeaky clean manner, or questions the sanctity of organized religion. Then the SPLC is going to arbitrarily flag things as things they are not, as the SPLC is wont to do.

Spotify forming a relationship with the Southern Poverty Law Center is the news that should be the most worrisome here. These other organizations may have decent track records of acting rationally, but the SPLC has an absolutely horrendous track record of doing its job even functionally. For example, they’ve included author and activist Maajid Nawaz on a their list of anti-Muslim extremists. The problem there is that he’s a Muslim who used to be an Islamist (an advocate or supporter of Islamic militancy or fundamentalism), who now speaks out against extremism and terrorism. He’s an anti-extremist Muslim on an anti-Muslim extremist list. It’s almost like the SPLC did zero research into the guy before putting him on a extremist list. This is one of the organizations Spotify is working with to police it’s music library. What could possibly go wrong?

The SPLC has also included the likes of Rand Paul, Ben Carson, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Sam Harris, and Christina Hoff Summers among others on it various “hate group” lists. The organization often relies on guilt by association, or taking content out on context to justify these additions. Anyone with an internet connection can Google search countless articles about the problems with this organization. Spotify evidently couldn’t be bothered to do the same however.

In short, the organization is a joke driven by a complete lack of objectivity and a penchant for smear campaigns and raking in money, all the while pretending to be a non-profit with noble intentions. That’s what happens when an organization who used to fight the KKK no longer has that fight to fight due to legit white supremacy all but drying up. They had to change their business model to justify keeping their doors open and people employed.

So why is it harmful for a company to start outsourcing it’s content verification to outside sources? Beyond the fact that the company in question obviously didn’t research all of the organizations it chose to handle this task, is the fact that we’ve been here before an not much benefit came of it.

This whole situation brings to mind the moral crusades of the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) in the mid eighties. The committee, formed by four pearl-clutching house wives, including Tipper Gore, set out to police the depraved music industry. Tipper Gore, of course, being a good ole progressive Democrat, and not one of those evil conservative Christians who generally get pegged with having the market cornered on being out-of-touch puritans.

The committee only succeeded in having the iconic “Parental Advisory” sticker affixed to offending musical works, but their actual aim was much higher. They wanted albums with explicit lyrics hidden away under the counters. They wanted television and radio to bar songs the committee deemed offensive. They even wanted record labels to “re-assess” the contracts of artists who wrote offensive music.

Keep in mind, anything deemed explicit or offensive for the entire music industry was to be determined by the small staff of the PMRC alone. Their goal was borderline authoritarian, and at the very least completely censorious.

Luckily a group of well known musicians from different musical backgrounds stepped up to combat this moral overreach. Dee Snider, Frank Zappa, and John Denver all testified against the potential harm that could come from this form of blatant censorship, pointing out that what is considered explicit and offensive is completely subjective.

Ultimately, the Parental Advisory stickers were willingly adopted by the RIAA, albeit in a lessened form. Interestingly enough, the Zappa album Jazz From Hell was deemed explicit enough to carry a Parental Advisory stick, despite being an instrumental album, which illustrates the overreach and completely subjective nature of these stickers, and the competency of the PMRC as a whole.

This is all just history repeating itself again and again though. In 1963, The Kingmen’s version of the song Louie Louie was the subject of an FBI investigation that lasted over 2 years due to its alleged obscene lyrics. The lyrics are about as innocuous as can be, but that didn’t stop the song from being banned from play on numerous radio stations across the U.S.

Now here we are in [current year], once again needing to deal with art being policed by the corporations and puritans of the world.

In a turn of events that should be unsurprising to anyone familiar with the sideshow that is moral outrage, a women’s group called Ultraviolet is already trying to abuse this power that Spotify foolishly granted. They’re trying to get Spotify to remove the music of Chris Brown, Eminem, and R Kelly among others whom they feel are anti-woman.

R Kelly and Chris Brown’s lyrics contain nothing misogynistic, mind you. This woman’s group is trying to get a music service to dissociate themselves from these artists because of things the artists have done in their personal lives. This completely undermines the entire reason Spotify brought these groups on board in the first place.

The goal was to police the content of the songs, not to let artist’s personal lives become the focus of scrutiny, and the moral gauge of whether of not they deserve to be on the platform or not.

It’s literally been four days since Spotify announced their ill-advised moral policing initiative, and already the thing is being abused. All this just serves to illustrate the problem with implementing well-intentioned, but poorly conceived proposals such as this. The second you open the door to self-righteous individuals having a say in how your company is operated, the complaints will literally not stop coming. Give someone an inch, and they’ll take it a mile, as the idiom goes. Before Spotify knows it, there will be no music left in their library, because anyone can take issue with absolutely anything for absolutely any reason.

Wait a minute. I just realized that Spotify is a Swedish company. The most satirical country in all of Europe. The country whose newspaper headlines regularly read like over-the-top Onion articles. All of a sudden, absolutely none of this story is surprising in the least. Forget ever reading this article and go about your life. Good day.


Edit (5/23/18):
The Southern Poverty Law Center has proven my point in spectacular fashion yet again. In light of the White House referring to the gang MS-13 as “animals”, the SPLC has taken a hard-nosed stance in calling out the “racism” and… I can’t believe I’m actually typing this… “dehumanization” of this act.

It could easily be argued that an official release from the White House shouldn’t use crude wording like “animals”, but to go on a moral crusade with indictments of racism is borderline buffoonish. Especially as a means to white knight a gang with a long history of human trafficking, arms trafficking, murder of women and children, and child prostitution, among countless other illegal activities that probably shouldn’t be “humanized”. There’s a reason MS-13 is regularly considered one of the world’s most violent gangs.

And yet the SPLC thought it would be a good look to go to bat for an actual gang.

With all the injustice in the world today, the fact that the SPLC chooses this as their battle speaks volumes as to the integrity of the organization. It’s depressing to me that people actually give their hard-earned money to this pointless joke of an organization.