NY Times: Netflix has lost its glow because of Chappelle's special (but readers disagree)

(Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

The NY Times put out a piece yesterday headlined “Netflix Loses Its Glow as Critics Target Chappelle Special.” Written by the paper’s media reporter, the basic argument is that Netflix was having a great year until Dave Chappelle’s “The Closer” came along and spoiled everything. Now the entire company is said to be in turmoil because of pressure from both inside and outside the company. The Times got a copy of a transcript of the discussion taking place on Netflix’s internal message system and it sounds like the co-CEOs of the company are refusing to bow to pressure from activists.

One employee questioned whether Netflix was “making the wrong historical choice around hate speech.” In reply, [co-CEO Reed] Hastings wrote: “To your macro question on being on the right side of history, we will always continue to reflect on the tensions between freedom and safety. I do believe that our commitment to artistic expression and pleasing our members is the right long term choice for Netflix, and that we are on the right side, but only time will tell.”…

Replying to an employee who argued that Mr. Chappelle’s words were harmful, Mr. Hastings wrote: “In stand-up comedy, comedians say lots of outrageous things for effect. Some people like the art form, or at least particular comedians, and others do not.”

When another employee expressed an opinion that Mr. Chappelle had a history of homophobia and bigotry, Mr. Hastings said he disagreed, and would welcome the comedian back to Netflix.

“We disagree with your characterization and we’ll continue to work with Dave Chappelle in the future,” he said. “We see him as a unique voice, but can understand if you or others never want to watch his show.”

He added, “We do not see Dave Chappelle as harmful, or in need of any offset, which we obviously and respectfully disagree on.”

The other co-CEO of the company rejected the idea that Chappelle’s show would encourage violence saying, “we have a strong belief that content onscreen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm…Adults can watch violence, assault and abuse — or enjoy shocking stand-up comedy — without it causing them to harm others.” As Ed noted yesterday, the company seems to be standing up to the pressure.

Despite this refusal inside the company to cater to the demands of activists, the piece notes that Netflix remains under pressure thanks to groups like GLAAD which condemned the Chappelle special. You might imagine that NY Times readers would overwhelmingly agree with the activists and those who have criticized Netflix, but in fact the comments trend the other way. A lot of Times‘ readers are tired of activists trying to control what everyone else can see and say. For instance, here’s the most upvoted comment (just over 800 times):

This isn’t really “society” having a debate. This is activists and media trying to act like society is having a huge debate about whether cancelling someone is the right way to deal with disagreement like this. Society, ie the real people the media and activists rarely talk to, have had the same majority opinion since about the time the first amendment was written down. If you don’t like it don’t watch it. Your money, your voice. I know the first amendment is about government but the spirit behind it extends to companies. Those that censor and cancel dissenters lose mass respect.

Another example with nearly 700 upvotes asks whether Netflix is as “mired in controversy” as the article suggests:

To claim that Netflix is “mired in controversy” over this is the real problem with articles like this. In actuality it is most likely a handful of Netflix employees whose voices are amplified all out of proportion. I applaud Reed Hastings and his willingness to stand up to all those people who love free speech until someone says anything they don’t like.

This one about “King Woke” has more than 500 upvotes:

Proof, if any were needed, that woke snowflakes have no sense of humor. A comedian’s job is to poke uncomfortably at society’s wounds and sensitive areas. Even in the Middle Ages, the court jester was allowed to openly mock the king. Too bad King Woke doesn’t get the punchline.

And many people brought up this point. It’s a point I made myself:

What happened to “if you don’t like something, you don’t have to watch it”?

In my opinion, I think what this is really about is the fact that lots of people agree with Dave Chappelle and also find him funny. Those obsessed with cancellation can’t seem to bear the fact that someone might disagree with them, so their only solution is bullying corporations to cancel Chappelle so that they can protect their fragile egos from differences of opinion.

Whenever the right would complain about some form of media they didn’t like the answer was always “don’t watch it” or “don’t buy it.” But no one ever says that to the activist left who always insinuate that speech they don’t like causes harm and therefore needs to be silenced.

Back when Tipper Gore was arguing for rating labels on music as a way to inform parents what their kids are buying, the general consensus was that she was being reactionary and prudish. But the woke don’t bother with calling for labels, they immediately jump to demanding one of the world’s leading comics be deplatformed. And yet, we don’t see a lot of people on the left or in the media mocking them for going way beyond what Tipper Gore called for.

Instead of asking people who don’t like Chappelle to turn off the TV or even unsubscribe from Netflix if they are offended by what he is saying, now we’re told Chappelle needs to be silenced for our own good. This is both dangerous and dumb. It’s good to see that so many readers of the NY Times can see it for what it is. I’ll wrap this up with one more comment in response to the article:

I watched the show. It isn’t transphobic. Even if it were, I don’t think that censorship is appropriate on Netflix. There is no obligation for anyone to pay membership fees or to watch anything. If you don’t like it, don’t subscribe. Censorship is dangerous. There will always be someone offended by something. Who gets to make the decisions? We live in an open and free society. The solution to speech we don’t like is more speech, not censorship. Jaclyn Moore should open her mind to this reality before she, too, winds up on someones “cancel” list.

If you don’t like it, don’t watch it.