Melissa Chen, one time supporter of Amos Yee, said that she will ‘die on the hill’ of Joe Rogan drawing strong criticisms from several local internet personalities.
Melissa Chen, a Singapore-born journalist who practices her craft in Boston, has drawn criticism from several local personalities for her strong support for Joe Rogan’s Covid-19 misinformation.
On May 19, 2020, Rogan announced that he had signed a multi-year licensing deal with Spotify worth an estimated $100 million, In January 2022, 270 scientists, physicians, professors, doctors, and healthcare workers wrote an open letter to Spotify expressing concern over “false and societally harmful assertions” on the The Joe Rogan Experience (JRE) and asked Spotify to “establish a clear and public policy to moderate misinformation on its platform.”
The 270 signatories took issue with Rogan “broadcasting misinformation, particularly regarding the COVID-19 pandemic” and more specifically “a highly controversial episode featuring guest Dr. Robert Malone (#1757). The episode has been criticized for promoting baseless conspiracy theories, including “an unfounded theory that societal leaders have ‘hypnotized’ the public.”
The signatories further assert that “Dr. Malone is one of two recent JRE guests who has compared pandemic policies to the Holocaust. These actions are not only objectionable and offensive, but also medically and culturally dangerous.” The signatories also note that Malone was suspended from Twitter “for spreading misinformation about COVID-19”.
On January 24, 2022, musician Neil Young posted an open letter threatening to remove his music from Spotify if they did not remove the podcast The Joe Rogan Experience from their service. The podcast, one of Spotify’s most popular, has been criticized for spreading COVID-19 misinformation. Young wrote that “Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform”.
On January 26, Spotify removed Young’s music; a spokesperson said Spotify wanted “all the world’s music and audio content to be available to Spotify users” and that it had a “great responsibility in balancing both safety for listeners and freedom for creators”. On January 29, Joni Mitchell removed her catalogue from Spotify in support of long-time friend and fellow polio survivor “Neil Young and the global scientific and medical communities on this issue”.
In response to the controversy, Rogan said that he would try harder to maintain a neutral point of view in his podcasts, and said that he agreed with Spotify adding a disclaimer to the beginning of his videos.
On 7 February, in sharing a photo she had taken with Joe Rogan 2 years ago, Melissa Chen threw her full support behind Joe Rogan. She tweeted that she “will die on this hill. You cannot buy authenticity and love.”
“The reason people love Joe Rogan is because the conversations he has on his podcast reflect the conversations that people have in real life. For starters, the format. It’s long and searching and not set up,” she added.
Yes, I will die on this hill. You cannot buy authenticity and love. The reason people *love* Joe Rogan is because the conversations he has on his podcast reflect the conversations that people have in real life.
For starters, the format. It’s long and searching and not set up pic.twitter.com/MguXLYUloF
— Melissa Chen (@MsMelChen) February 6, 2022
On the same day, Lakshmi Ganapathi strongly rebuked Chen for flippantly supporting Rogan. Lakshmi is a Singaporean infectious disease pediatrician working in Boston. Writing in her Facebook, Lakshmi said, “She is able to flippantly say she is willing to “die” on the Joe Rogan hill, because you know what, she’s actually going to be ok, unlike the thousands who are truly dying because they believed the pure lies someone said on TV or a show like Joe Rogan’s.”
“How do I know? Because for two years, between my husband and I, this is what we have been dealing with, reliving the trauma of losing so many literally to disinformation (thanks to Fox news, Joe Rogan and their ilk) with no end in sight.
“So yes, I will absolutely and resolutely say that anyone who aids COVID-19 disinformation has blood on their hands. I frankly do not care for your free speech. Because you know what preventable deaths leave behind? Loved ones caught in the prison of guilt, grief and regret. How’s that for freedom?”
Sudhir Vadaketh, a former senior editor with the Economist Intelligence Unit and renowned socio-political commentator said, “the problems with vaccine lies and misinformation…is that the damage is real in terms of human lives and can take decades to correct–no matter how much more speech is thrown at it.”
He added, “Vaccine skepticism? Sure, we should have skepticism about everything in this world. But the skepticism must be founded on facts; not lies, like those spewed by Dr. Robert Malone, Joe Rogan’s guest.”
Chen rose to prominence when she became a strong advocate for Amos Yee, a Singaporean student who had been arrested and imprisoned for publishing materials (depicting Lee Kuan Yew in a negative way) that the government of Singapore considered to be insulting. Chen assisted Yee when the latter fled to the United States and claimed political asylum.
Yee severed ties with Chen in 2017. Chen later called for Yee to be deported after he expressed pro-pedophilia opinions and created pro-pedophilia content. Chen is also a strong critic of the People’s Republic of China’s weak human rights record, curtailing of free speech, and foreign policy. She is also a critic of Singapore’s restrictions on free speech.