Netflix: We're Not In The Truth To Power Business, We're In The Entertainment Business

from the good-to-know dept

You may recall that back in January Netflix took something of a public pounding for pulling an episode of Hasan Minhaj’s Patriot Act, after Minhaj went hard at Mohammad bin Salman. Netflix pulled the episode inside of Saudi Arabia when the country claimed the episode violated the kingdom’s internet laws, which mostly revolve around keeping any criticism of the Saudi royal family off of the internet. Critics in America and elsewhere slammed Netflix for kissing the Saudi family’s ring, while still others pointed out that the episode was still available on Netflix’s YouTube page, including in Saudi Arabia. Some even argued that Netflix knew that all of this would be Streisanded, actually getting the episode more attention in Saudi Arabia that way.

Such strategic moves to hold to moral values doesn’t appear to have been reality, however, as Netflix CEO Reed Hastings recently came out and publicly washed his company’s hands of any kind of value-based stance.

‘We’re not in the truth-to-power business. We’re in the entertainment business.’

That’s Reed Hastings, chief executive of Netflix Inc., defending a decision earlier this year to pull an episode of comedian Hasan Minaj’s “Patriot Act,” which was critical of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, keeping it from airing in Saudi Arabia.

“We can accomplish a lot more by being entertainment and influencing a global conversation about how people live than trying to be another news channel,” Hastings said Wednesday in an interview at the New York Times’ Dealbook Conference.

I can’t say I know for sure exactly who is supposed to be the intended audience for Hastings’ remarks, but sure as hell hope the creative public is listening. For content creators, Netflix has made it abundantly clear that it will not support disruptive art in the face of authoritarian criticism. Given how much of art and content is specifically designed to speak truth to power, and given just how squishy many governments legal justifications for censorship are, the future is certain to be filled with these types of take down requests. Do artists really want to utilize such a platform for expression?

Making all of this even more frustrating is where Hastings decides the lines should be drawn, which only serves to throw all of this into more confusion.

Hastings added a caveat on how far he would go: “If they can came to us and said you can’t have gay content, we wouldn’t do that. We would not comply with that.”

What the hell? I’m all in favor of supporting the rights of the LGBT community, but there are plenty of governments out there that are unfriendly to that community, to art made by and about that community, and plenty have laws against such expression. You know, like Russia, for instance. Why is Netflix willing to defy Mother Russia on “gay content” (weird phrase), but Hasan Minhaj’s mainstream criticism of MBS’s actions somehow are ripe for censoring?

It’s a disappointing stance for Netflix to take. Although, to be fair, bowing to authoritarian regimes has become something of a fad lately.

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Comments on “Netflix: We're Not In The Truth To Power Business, We're In The Entertainment Business”

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Anonymous Coward says:

It’s fine to operate within local laws in foreign countries.

Someone I know was going to have a large conference in Saudi Arabia but it was moved to South Africa when it was discovered a number of participants were homosexual. It is not discriminatory to not expose people to the death penalty for homosexual or otherwise banned behavior in foreign lands with very different laws.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I don’t know who exactly was the ultimate decision maker but the company or companies who were putting on the conference operate there. I only know some of the people who were working on details of the conference, not the highest level decision makers.

There are worse places in the world than Saudi Arabia. Only tolerating perfect ideological partners is not a good strategy for any endeavor. I do not agree with many Saudi laws but the country has a number of positive attributes.

There are less free places in the world. There are much more impoverished places in the world. There are more dangerous places in the world. There are countries with much worse human rights records also even if I personally would not want to be under the Saudi legal jurisdiction.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Business does not require visiting the locale of those with which one does business. Backroom deals however …

There are worse … so why not? Ummm maybe because other places are better? Do you expect the participants to be all male? So many reasons – but like you said .. why not.

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bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:13 Re:

Again, where are you getting any of this stuff about bigotry from? What the hell is your point beyond “that other guy hates Saudis” and “TFG is a bigot”? And neither of those things are evident from what was said.

And before you try to call me a bigot, I personally am ambivalent on this particular issue. On the one hand, I totally get where Netflix is coming from about having to decide which moral standards are most worth standing up for despite losing money for it; on the other hand, I don’t really agree with the specific stance Netflix chose in this particular instance. It’s entirely plausible that I may agree with the main point you were trying to make. And even if I don’t, it may have still been a point worth considering. However, I cannot discern what that point is after all the name-calling.

That’s what TFG was saying: you very well might have had something worth listening to in this discussion. Indeed, one person even thought it was worth debating seriously. However, when you were reduced to calling you’re perceived opponents racist over and over again without providing anything of substance, your point got lost in the noise you created.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:16 Re:

Businesses that operate in Saudi Arabia have to operate under Saudi law or fire their staff and leave.

Further, when holding conferences, multinational companies with local employees have to comply with foreign laws when they have meetings in foreign countries or shut down in those countries. That would also require firing the foreign staff.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:17 Re:

from above:
"advocating policies that would keep all Saudi women out of international businesses"

  • Please point out exactly where this occurred.

To which you replied by not pointing out exactly where in this particular thread, this advocating occurred. Perhaps you misunderstood what was typed?

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bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:21 Re:

It is your problem if you want to be taken seriously.

If you’re “blind, functionally illiterate, or too intellectually incapable” to just copy-and-paste the quote from the other guy that has led you to conclude that they are a bigot, then we have no reason to believe they are a bigot as you assert.

I really don’t think that’s an unreasonable expectation, and you really should’ve expected this given how we always ask people for citations for their claims.

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bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:23 Re:

I don’t think you understand what “bigot” means.

It doesn’t mean “someone who asks for evidence to support your accusation that someone else is a bigot and chooses to ignore accusations made by people who refuse to provide evidence for their claims.”

It doesn’t mean “someone who suggests a policy that may, in certain specific circumstances, lead to some discrimination in order to avoid legal repercussions, even when that person had not considered that as a potential consequence”.

It doesn’t mean “someone who is being an idiot or being ignorant”.

And it certainly doesn’t mean “someone who disagrees with you or points out flaws in your argument”.

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bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:25 Re:

This has nothing to do with the KKK. I have never said anything supporting the KKK or said that they aren’t bigots. They absolutely are bigots, and I absolutely don’t support their bigotry.

At any rate, I’m not supporting any particular side of the discussion. I’m saying you are accusing someone of bigotry, but I don’t believe you have provided sufficient evidence to support that conclusion, so I am not yet ready to agree. If there is bigotry on the part of the other commenters on here, it is nowhere near as clearly bigotry as anything the KKK has ever said or done (their mission statement alone is clearly and inherently bigoted).

How is it bigotry (or supporting bigotry) to simply ask for evidence of bigotry before concluding that a given person is a bigot? How is it bigotry (or supporting bigotry) to reject a positive claim that isn’t sufficiently supported by provided evidence?

How is this:

Groundless accusations and childish insults are all you’ve got I see, nice to have that confirmed yet again. Well, enjoy the impotent rage and tantrum I guess.

evidence of bigotry (or supporting bigotry)?

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bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:19 Re:

Clearly you’re unfamiliar with “Hanlon’s Razor”.

Also, I’m now horribly confused. I thought you said the “bigoted” position was requiring foreigners to comply with Saudi law, which would supposedly keep foreigners from meeting Saudi women (through means I’m not 100% clear on but think I get the gist of), and now you seem to be saying that banning foreigners from complying with Saudi laws is bigoted and bans foreigners from meeting Saudi women.

At any rate, if effectively banning Saudi women from meeting foreigners is an inadvertent or unintended possible consequence of a policy that is not otherwise bigoted, then I probably wouldn’t consider the policy itself inherently bigoted on its own, and I certainly would not consider someone advocating for that policy without them knowing or understanding that that possibility exists a bigot. That doesn’t necessarily make the policy or advocacy for it acceptable in my view, but I don’t think it’s bigotry if the reasons and thoughts behind it are not bigoted.

But for the sake of argument, let’s say that that is the case. I’m still horribly confused on the following points that I sincerely hope you can clarify for me:

  • What is the specific policy that you believe will ban (effectively or entirely) Saudi women from making contact with foreigners?
  • What specific quote leads you to believe that someone in this comment section is advocating that policy?
  • How exactly would this policy ban Saudi women from making contact with foreigners?

I’ve asked these things several times, and I still haven’t gotten an answer. And by the way, when I said this:

Also, that sounds like the Saudi laws are what’s bigoted here, not the proposed policy.

I was trying to ask for clarification. Note that I said it sounds like it’s not the policy, not the law, that is itself bigoted. I am acknowledging the possibility that I am misunderstanding you. I apologize for not being clearer on that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:20 Re:


  1. Go up to the top and find where the accusations of misogyny (a form of bigotry) started.
  2. Bitch at that person about Halnon’s razor.
  3. If you don’t want to be associated with someone’s side, which you now are, stay out of the argument. Right now you are on one of the bigot sides.
  4. I am not a muslim and do not agree with Sharia law but a giant swath of the globe and world population has some form of it, including Saudi Arabia so if a company does business globally they operate in Sharia law states.
  5. Telling people not to comply with Sharia law while abroad and operating inside the borders of countries with legal systems based on Sharia law is also a form of bigotry.
  6. I also don’t agree with absolute monarchy unless I somehow get to be the monarch (not likely) so don’t try to pigeonhole me into trying to defend legal systems I disagree with. It is a separate issue.
  7. Saudi women (and other civilian women visiting Saudi Arabia) have to put up with a dress code and male guardianship system (ie hanging out with men thing) as a part of its law.
  8. If they do not do this law while in Saudi Arabia they will just see the inside of a jail cell instead of foreigners they wish to meet. That goes for both the Saudi and foreign women unless they are visiting military or diplomats with immunity or similar.
  9. Both the Saudi laws and the proposed policy may fairly be described as bigoted.
  10. All of this was pretty clearly spelled out if you had read the thread. I still have to assume you read the thread and are pretending not to be on a bigoted side even though you clearly are.
bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:21 Re:

  1. I am unclear on exactly whose misogyny was supposedly “being called out”. For all I know, it could be a reference to the misogynistic laws in Saudi Arabia. It doesn’t sound like they were calling you a bigot to me, but maybe I’m wrong about that. By contrast, it’s clear who you’re accusing of bigotry.
  2. That’s a “whataboutism”. If you want to know why I’m not telling them about Hanlon’s Razor and such, it’s because they mentioned misogyny once (as opposed to dozens of times), I don’t know who or what they’re talking about exactly (whereas I know exactly who you’re accusing of bigotry), and they only appear to have a single target for their accusation (while you are more indiscriminate). I will ask them for clarification on who or what they’re referring to, but their alleged transgression is nowhere near the same scale as yours. And regardless, that’s not terribly relevant to your case.
  3. How many times to I have to say it? Prior to this comment, I had not yet taken a side! You’re creating a false dichotomy. Not every argument has exactly two sides with no middle ground. There can be multiple sides to an argument, and there can be a lot of middle ground between two sides. I’m just trying to be that guy who interrupts an argument to say, “All right everyone, now let’s all just calm down! Now, what exactly is going on, and how did we get here?” I am saying that you have the burden of proof, but that’s just how logical arguments work.
  4. I have no argument with this point.
  5. I do disagree with this. If someone objects to and refuses to follow a law that they disagree with as, say, misogynistic or otherwise unjust, that doesn’t become bigoted solely based on the fact that that law was imposed for religious reason. If they follow the same principles in other, non-Muslim-dominated countries, then I don’t see any bigotry here. I’m not saying that that’s necessarily okay or justified, or that there shouldn’t be consequences for it. I’m just saying that I wouldn’t necessarily call that “bigotry”.
  6. Agreed, though I never said or suggested you were defending the Saudi government.
  7. I presume that this characterization is accurate, so no arguments here.
  8. This is also a reasonable assumption which I don’t completely disagree with. Maybe I’d nitpick a few bits, but nothing of real, material substance.
  9. Here, I’m confused. Is a policy of refusing to follow a bigoted law necessarily a bigoted policy just because the law is based on a “holy book” and/or the consequences of the policy may lead to discriminatory consequences, even if the consequences are not the intention behind the policy? I don’t believe that that’s the case.

First, if the policy applies to any law that is considered bigoted in the same or similar manner, regardless of reasons for the law, then the fact that the law is based on religion doesn’t make the policy of refusing to follow that law bigoted against that religion. As an example, many (though not all) transphobic bathroom laws are based on religious beliefs. A company may decide not to follow any of them because it feels those laws are discriminatory towards transgendered people. Is that policy bigoted?

Second, what makes a policy bigoted is, in my opinion, largely a question of intent. Clearly, the intent of the policy is to refuse to follow a law that is bigoted against women. The result of the policy may be discriminatory against Saudi women, but that was not the intention. (Plus, it seems to me that whether you follow Saudi law or not, based on your argument, Saudi women would be equally discriminated against either way. Such a policy could be considered futile or counterproductive, but I wouldn’t say it’s bigoted.)

Even if the policy may be bigoted regardless of whether the intent or justification behind it is bigoted or not, that does not make the person proposing the policy a bigot. Whether a person is bigoted is very much a question of intent and beliefs. Proposing a policy against bigotry that may happen to have unintended consequences that lead to discriminatory results is not, itself, bigotry.

So, based entirely on your characterization of the discussion, assuming all your factual claims are true, I would say that there is not sufficient justification for calling the person proposing the policy you describe a bigot. They might be, but the evidence doesn’t really support that, so I have to say that, on balance, the accusation of bigotry towards any of the commenters is unjustified at this point in time.

That said, I also asked you to provide a quote where the commenter proposed this policy, which you still haven’t done. It ultimately doesn’t matter in this case, really, as I concluded that no bigotry is evident even if the commenter did proposed what you said, but even if it had been bigoted, I’m not 100% certain that that is a fair characterization of the other side, anyway.

  1. I don’t believe it was spelled out all that clearly in the previous discussion, but maybe I’m just being an idiot. A lot of the discussion kinda went over my head and felt splintered. I do thank you for the explanation, which does help clarify things. As for the “pretending” thing, I have been completely genuine from the start. And it was this sort of accusation that led me to bring up Hanlon’s Razor. It wasn’t accusing a specific policy or law of bigotry, or accusing those who propose or support such a policy or law of being a bigot. It’s that you presumed bigotry on my part as opposed to stupidity with little justification for it. In fact, your only justification for it—that it had been explained clearly several times before—was simply false. You still haven’t explained how asking for clarification on something is bigoted, as that was the position I was taking and that you were calling bigoted.

To be clear, I am consciously avoiding taking a stance on whether the proposed policy—as you characterize it—is a good idea or even a moral idea or not. If I had to say, it seems a bit pointless and possibly not worth it, but I’m not taking a firm stance on that; I’m certainly not advocating for it. I’m mostly ambivalent on the whole thing. I just don’t think it’s necessarily bigoted or sufficient evidence of bigotry on the part of the proposer. And I certainly don’t think that questioning that characterization of the proposer or asking for clarification is itself bigotry.

bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:23 Re:

Huh? How did anything I asked I involve personal details of anyone’s life?

I asked for two things:

  1. The quote that makes the proposal at issue (or a link to the specific comment).
  2. An explanation for how the proposed policy was bigoted beyond the fact that, due to uncontrollable circumstances, it wouldn’t solve the problem it’s supposed to and that it violates a law that happens to come from a religion.

Neither of these should involve personal matters at all, especially the first one. Even the second one could just involve a hypothetical or something. I can understand the frustration with overexplaining things, but that doesn’t mean you’re justified in presuming bad faith or bigotry on the part of those who ask for clarification, particularly when you refuse to do so.

If you don’t want to explain, then don’t. We can just agree to disagree and move on, and that’s fine. But don’t make such pitiful excuses, and don’t insult everyone who doesn’t immediately take your side. It’s not helpful to anyone.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:24 Re:

  1. If you go up to the top, some of the misogyny accusations are misplaced because it blames and punishes the wrong people. Explaining the exact contours of this does in fact start to delve too deeply into my personal life.
  2. The policy victim blames and punishes victims. I’m not going to get into a long argument about who is really the bigoted one when it comes to religious differences but there is usually enough blame to go around, though not always.

If you jump into an argument expect to get lumped into a side. It’s your own fault if you don’t do enough to understand before choosing an obviously wrong one.

bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:25 Re:

First, like I said, but you keep ignoring, I didn’t choose a side until you actually answered my questions! So I didn’t choose a side without understanding the conversation. The whole reason I jumped in was to find out about what the conversation was about. Until about two comments ago, I actively avoided choosing a side. In fact, I still haven’t chosen a side for the most part. I’ve only decided that the other side isn’t necessarily bigoted like you claim, setting aside whether they were wrong or right. You were the only one who thought I was on anyone’s side. I do this sort of thing all the time. I frequently insert myself in discussions I don’t understand for the sole purpose of trying to understand before choosing a side, if any. Never before have I been called a bigot or anything like that for doing so. An idiot? Sometimes. A retard? Occasionally. Nosy? Sure. Annoying? Yes. But never a bigot. Most people don’t “lump me in with one side” like you do, especially after I repeatedly make clear that I’m not choosing sides yet, just asking for information. Out of the many, many times I’ve done this, you’re the first one to react like that. And I’ve interacted with some truly terrible people online.

Second, I’m not so sure that it’s obviously wrong. If it’s so obviously wrong, why does no one else agree with you? Why do you think it’s so obvious if you haven’t convinced anyone to take your side?

Third, misogyny was only mentioned by that person exactly once, and it’s unclear to whom or what the accusation was directed towards, though it’s probably not towards you. There wasn’t “some” misogyny accusations; there was one.

Fourth, unless you know the other commenter personally, offline, there is absolutely no reason any part of the alleged accusations of misogyny would involve your personal life, even assuming “they” were direct towards you. No part of the discussion appeared to involve anyone’s personal life at all. It primarily revolved around politics, laws, religion, and business. Nothing personal about those. If you’re talking about some accusations about misogyny outside this discussion, they are completely irrelevant anyway. There is simply no good reason why your personal life has to get involved at all to explain any part of this discussion. No one is asking for your life story here. Just pure logic, reasoning, and citations to facts and claims.

Fifth, if you don’t want to “get into a long argument about who is really the bigoted one when it comes to religious differences,” maybe you shouldn’t be calling people bigots so freely.

Sixth, how does the policy victim-blame? I can at least see how you could see it as punishing victims (though it seems to me that it punishes nonvictims more and doesn’t seem to punish victims more than or even differently from the alternative), but it doesn’t seem like it’s blaming any victims.

Let me try to make this as clear as I possibly can. I’m not taking a side over whether the policy is right or wrong or good or bad. I don’t think it’s bigoted, but that’s the only stance I’ve taken over the course of this discussion, and even that was only after you gave enough of an explanation for me to make a judgement call on that; I could change my mind if you gave sufficient justification for calling it bigoted, but at present, that seems unlikely. But again, I am not defending the policy itself; I just don’t feel that “bigoted” is the right word to describe it. It’d be like saying that Hitler wasn’t a dog-hater: that’s not a defense of Hitler or anything; it’s just that out of the many things wrong with him, that wasn’t one of them.

Despite how rude I feel you’re being, I am still going to follow Hanlon’s Razor and assume you’re arguing in good faith. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect that to be reciprocated.

bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:27 Re:


Where was I being a bigot?

When did I ask about your personal life?

I explicitly said I’m not asking about your personal life, which has no conceivable relevance to this discussion in the first place. I explicitly said that I don’t actually disagree with you on whether the proposed policy would be more harmful or helpful in practice.

I have no worldly idea how your personal life could possibly be involved in this discussion. All I asked for was—using only citations from this discussion and logical inferences therefrom—together with explanations of how the language used supports your inferences and conclusion—to explain a few claims that you haven’t explained at all.

You seem completely unwilling to actually address anything I say. You don’t explain how I’m a bigot. You don’t explain what’s so obvious about the discussion. You don’t explain why you’re unwilling to reciprocate my civility. You don’t explain the remark about victim-blaming. You don’t explain how the policy is bigoted, as opposed to a bad idea (BTW, victim-blaming doesn’t necessarily involve bigotry). You provide no quoted language to support your interpretation. You only explained what you believe the proposed policy is and why you feel it’s problematic.

Then you assert—without providing any justification or support—that the policy is bigoted, that the guy suggesting it is a bigot, that anyone who is involved in the discussion in any capacity must take a side, that anyone who does not agree with you on every claim is also a bigot, and that any further explanation will somehow involve your personal life, despite the most personal “question” being “asked” was a suggestion that the only way any of this could involve your personal life is if you personally know the other person offline, which in itself isn’t all that personal.

Honestly, that last one is the most annoying part. This assertion of what I’m going to call the “personal life” privilege makes absolutely no sense. At no point should your personal life have been involved in any of this, and no one asked any questions or said anything that could possibly be considered personal at all, let alone too personal to discuss. I only asked about reasoning based on logic and this discussion, not past experience. If your only reasoning is based on past experience, just say so.

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bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:15 Re:

Please explain exactly what I or TFG said that is bigoted, with quotes, and exactly what makes that bigoted. All that I did was try to explain why nothing TFG said sounded bigoted to me, say that I don’t understand the point you were trying to make, and ask for clarification on your original argument and what exactly the other guy said that was bigoted. In other words, I’m not necessarily saying that they aren’t bigots; I’m just saying that I don’t understand how you came to that conclusion and that all this talk about bigotry is making your argument more unclear than it otherwise would have.

Please explain (preferably with quotes) exactly where the other AC advocated for “policies that would keep all Saudi women out of international businesses” as you assert, and exactly how those policies would keep Saudi women out of international businesses. I am unclear exactly what policy you’re referring to.

Also, neither TFG nor I were advocating for any policy here. In fact, our main point was that we couldn’t tell what policy you were referring to in the first place, so we couldn’t determine whether or not such a policy would be good or bad, or whether it would be bigoted or not. I even said that it’s possible that I’d agree with you if I could tell what you’re talking about, but you’re not making that easy.

To be clear, I am not taking a stance on anything either you or the other AC were advocating for, nor am I taking a firm stance on whether or not the AC is a bigot or not. (I will tentatively assume he’s not a bigot, but only because I don’t have a particular reason to believe he is, so I have to settle for the default assumption until I have more. It wouldn’t take too much to change that, though.) I am only asking for clarification on what your original point was and what the other AC said that led you to conclude that they are a bigot. That’s it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Article Missed The Point

This article missed the point when it talked about artists creating truth to power works being restricted. Netflix is not a truth to power platform. It is an entertainment platform. Artists that expect an entertainment business to focus on any cause de jour are misunderstanding the business and should find another more appropriate venue for their work.

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Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Article Missed The Point

I’ve heard a few people say this, but not sure I buy it at all. Minhaj’s whole show (similar to John Oliver’s) is about speaking truth to power in an entertaining (i.e., funny) way. It’s what makes the business side of it work. There’s a market for seeing them speak truth to power. And caving on that can also harm the business side as well. A Minhaj or Oliver with their wings clipped are not nearly as interesting.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Article Missed The Point

A Minhaj or Oliver with their wings clipped are not nearly as interesting.

An Oliver who couldn’t criticize those in power would be no different than regular news, someone who just merely regurgitated whatever they were told and presented things as inoffensively as possible lest they offend someone powerful.

Useless and boring in other words.

Bruce C. says:

Re: Re: Article Missed The Point

I’m still having trouble seeing the distinction between "censorship of offensive content" like white supremacy or jihadist terrorism based on Western values and "censorship of offensive content" based on Saudi values (1).

Let’s be clear here. This is an international culture clash, not a moral absolute clash. I’m against the Saudis and Chinese exporting their censorship to the US, But that’s not what happened here. The film was blocked in Saudi Arabia.

Just about all of the world’s population still says "OK, boomer", or more accurately "OK, Yank" when we try to export some of our constitutional freedoms to them. Even the European democracies have greater limitations on speech and the right to bear arms than we do.

Note 1: Yes, I’m conflating "the Saudi Royal family values" with "Saudi values". if you’re going to do business there, you have to take the country’s laws as a representation of their value system. I’m not saying it’s a good representation, just that it’s the only one a business has available on which to base their decisions

bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Article Missed The Point

If this was censored anywhere outside Saudi Arabia, I’d wholeheartedly agree with you. As it stands, however, I am ambivalent on whether I think that Netflix has any particular obligation to “speak truth to power” in every instance everywhere in the world that it does business in, particularly given its business obligations.

This is less of a wing-clipping IMO than an invisible fence blocking a specific area from Minhaj/Oliver. Sure, there’s still some restrictions either way, but in the latter, they can fly all they’d like almost anywhere, just not in one specific area, for legal reasons in this case.

At any rate, sure there’s a market out there for Netflix to “speak truth to power”, but that’s not the market they’re in, which is exactly what the CEO is trying to say here. Sure, part of their market may include some of those who want “truth to power”, but it isn’t Netflix’s focus, and I’m not entirely convinced that it ought to be. Sure, it’d be nice, and not completely unreasonable. I’m just not sure it’s as major or clear-cut of an issue like you’re making it out to be.

This isn’t a case of being primarily in the business of providing factual information (like Wikipedia or news outlets) or providing search results of any content on the internet (like Google) or providing a platform expressly meant to allow individuals to speak their mind (like Facebook or Twitter); this is a private entertainment business. Not only that, but it’s a broadcaster and movie/TV show producer. That changes the equation specifically.

And I don’t believe that using John Oliver like that is necessarily definitive of how all entertainment companies should operate. So long as some entertainment company exists that is willing to “speak truth to power”, I’m not terribly bothered that others are somewhat more cautious.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Article Missed The Point

This is the way I would have taken it until I saw their stance on "gay content".

Either you follow the local laws, or you take a moral stand. You don’t get to follow most local laws and then choose to take some moral stands and avoid being labeled a hypocrite and be attacked by both the repressive regimes who think you aren’t censoring enough and the progressive individuals and organizations who think you’re doing too much.

In other words, it’s not only wrong, it’s bad business sense.

Anonymous Coward says:

GTFO with the disappointment. It’s not Netflix’s responsibility to provide a platform for "disruptive art", or to decide which laws they’re going to obey. They provide a varied catalog of entertaining content in an easily accessible form. That’s it.
We can’t all be self-righteous crusaders for a living.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

If they’re going to censor criticism of politicians because of local laws but leave up "gay content" in defiance of local laws, it is absolutely Netflix’s responsibility to choose which laws they’re going to obey. And they choose poorly. Their morals have a price, which means they aren’t morals, but attitudes of convenience to be dropped at the first sign of inconvenience.

takitus (profile) says:

"We deal in illusions, man! None of this is real."

This is a nice way to pat your company on the back while making sure everyone knows that your content is 100% harmless:

“We can accomplish a lot more by being entertainment and influencing a global conversation about how people live than trying to be another news channel,” Hastings said Wednesday…

As long as that conversation doesn’t bother anyone and doesn’t actually affect how people live, I guess.

Anonymous Coward says:

Business pure and simple

“ It cannot be put out of view that the exhibition of moving pictures is a business pure and simple, originated and conducted for profit, like other spectacles, not to be regarded, nor intended to be regarded by the Ohio constitution, we think, as part of the press of the country or as organs of public opinion. ”

          ——Mutual Film v Industrial Commission of Ohio (1915), opinion of Mr Justice McKenna, for the U.S. Supreme Court.


[ Overruled by Burstyn v Wilson (1952)

In Mutual Film Corp. v. Industrial Comm’n (1915), a distributor of motion pictures sought to enjoin the enforcement of an Ohio statute which required the prior approval of a board of censors before any motion picture could be publicly exhibited in the state, and which directed the board to approve only such films as it adjudged to be "of a moral, educational or amusing and harmless character." The statute was assailed in part as an unconstitutional abridgment of the freedom of the press guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The District Court rejected this contention, stating that the first eight Amendments were not a restriction on state action. (D.C.N.D. Ohio 1914). On appeal to this Court, plaintiff in its brief abandoned this claim and contended merely that the statute in question violated the freedom of speech and publication guaranteed by the Constitution of Ohio. In affirming the decree of the District Court denying injunctive relief, this Court stated:

      “It cannot be put out of view that the exhibition of moving pictures is a business pure and simple…”


“Business pure and simple, originated and conducted for profit…”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Pure and simple

…as if "the press of the country" or "organs of public opinion" are, or have ever been, anything other than "business pure and simple."

Appellant, Alma Lovell, was convicted in the Recorder’s Court of the City of Griffin, Georgia, of the violation of a city ordinance and was sentenced to imprisonment for fifty days in default of the payment of a fine of fifty dollars. The Superior Court of the county refused sanction of a petition for review; the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the Superior Court; and the Supreme Court of the State denied an application for certiorari. The case comes here on appeal. . . .

Lovell v City of Griffin (1938)

The violation, which is not denied, consisted of the distribution without the required permission of a pamphlet and magazine in the nature of religious tracts, setting forth the gospel of the "Kingdom of Jehovah." Appellant did not apply for a permit, as she regarded herself as sent "by Jehovah to do His work" and that such an application would have been "an act of disobedience to His commandment."

And thus, upon careful consideration of the contention, it is resolved that, “The press of the country” … “is not confined to newspapers and periodicals. It necessarily embraces pamphlets and leaflets. These indeed have been historic weapons…”

Argued February 4, 1938.   Americans in those days watched newsreels, and here’s a few events that would have been in the news in the days leading up to the announcement of the decison, out in the world at large… …March 3, 1938: Oil is discovered in Saudi Arabia. …March 12, 1938: Anschluss! German troops occupy Austria. …March 15, 1938: The Soviet Union announces officially that Nikolai Bukharin has been executed. …March 28, 1938: U.S. Supreme Court announces decision in Lovell versus City of Griffin.

That One Guy (profile) says:

'Really, we would totally stick to our guns then.'

Hastings added a caveat on how far he would go: “If they can came to us and said you can’t have gay content, we wouldn’t do that. We would not comply with that.”

‘… well, until someone in a large enough market says ‘either get rid of the gay content or get out of the country’, in which case our hands would totally be tied, and we would be super sad to comply but we would, because after all we’re in the entertainment business, and you can’t entertain people if you can’t sell them your stuff.’

You don’t get to cave on something as light as ‘no saying mean things about those in power’ and expect to be believed when you then claim that you would refuse to comply with other, equally pathetic laws.

fairuse (profile) says:


One reason Netflix can offer to not let episode on Saudi servers is the government is asking for REGION BLOCK on that episode – no last mile.

Show your hands if you got out-of-the-blue (Excluding Sports) "content blocked in your region". Me? All-Fking-Time! Most abusive at content blocking (Excluding Sports); kings and dictator and religion.

Netflix PR suits must have heebie-jeebies to add Gay assurance to the announcement. Content distribution try to avoid "book burners" but the Pope may call, never know. /I"m messing with religion here.

If anyone thinks religion is not government then [not-my-problem-U-figure-it]

PaulT (profile) says:

Honestly, I see Netflix’s point here, and it’s a good thing not to push them too much. They likely make way more money from their pure entertainment properties, and while it would be nice not to have the kowtow to a particular regime, they already do censor all over the place. Every territory has their own rules, and they have to abide by them. For example if a movie is cut by the BBFC they have to show that cut in the UK or not show the movie. If a film is banned in the UK, they won’t show it.

The likely end result of giving them heat over this will not be to get them to stand up to the Saudi government – it will be for them to cancel Minaj’s show, and lead to less people being informed about this overall. Hopefully all the whining about this will lead to Saudi citizens finding out the information via other means, but let’s not kill the golden goose because someone refused the eggs..

Sharur says:

Unpopular opinion, but...

Good on Netflix?

I mean, yes, its a horrible deal of censorship in a totalitarian monarchy…but all the time I hear how horrible it is that companies ignore the law when it doesn’t suit them. This is a company obeying a lèse majesté law of a country that they operate in, that requires them to censor the episode (and they are, as far as I can tell, only censoring it in that country).

They are obeying the law. Maybe the law shouldn’t exist (I certainly think it shouldn’t), but it gets really dicy when company decide which laws they will and will not follow.

Just my two cents.

crade (profile) says:

"Hastings added a caveat on how far he would go: “If they can came to us and said you can’t have gay content we wouldn’t do that"

So are you making that discrimination based on the effect the censoring this would have on your bottom line or because of how important this particular issue is to you personally (as opposed to the artists you are supposedly publishing)? Which is worse I wonder

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Whatever his personal feelings on the subject, I’d say it’s undeniable that Hastings’ decision is based on the bottom line there. Censoring a single episode of a single show based on what’s essentially local Saudi politics isn’t going to make a blip on the mainstream radar for the most part. Censoring an issue that’s still as hot button as gay rights could leads to damaging boycotts by large numbers of people.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I haven’t seen the documentary myself, but I’d have to see the clip in context. For example, from another report:

The map was shown as part of a segment from a 1985 TV report that first detailed the allegations against Demjanjuk

If the context is a clip from a contemporary TV program I fail to see the controversy, unless there’s other things in there.

"Some claim this is unintentional but I doubt it is."

Why, what makes you doubt that?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

  • idk, maybe I missed something here but these mistakes occur too often.

"Not only is the map incorrect, but it deceives viewers into believing that Poland was responsible for establishing and maintaining the camps, and for committing crimes therein," Morawiecki said in the letter to Netflix boss Reed Hastings posted on his official Facebook page on Monday.

"As my country did not even exist at that time as an independent state, and millions of Poles were murdered at these sites, this element of ‘The Devil Next Door’ is nothing short of rewriting history," he said.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Yeah, I still need more context. He seems to be taking it as rewriting history, I’m reading it as either displaying history (i.e. it’s a clip from a 1985 TV show so any such thing happened with that show, not the repeated clip on the Netflix doc) or b) someone reading something in that wasn’t intended (again depending on context, were they using a modern map to rewrite history, or to communicate to people where they are in relation to modern geography?).

I’ll reserve judgement till I get a chance to look at it myself, but this sounds far less like Netflix doing something wrong than it does someone getting overly emotional about a 35 year old piece of footage. Understandable sensitive perhaps, but context is key.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

The map was shown as part of a segment from a 1985 TV report that first detailed the allegations against Demjanjuk

Wikipedia diff showing insertion of sentence ahead of footnoted reference to BBC story. Note that searching within this BBC story for “1985” does not show a hit.

Wayback machine copy of BBC story. Don’t see “1985” in any of the captured snapshots.

Of course, you yourself didn’t say that what you described merely as “another report” was via Wikipedia.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"Of course, you yourself didn’t say that what you described merely as “another report” was via Wikipedia."

Does it actually matter? There’s other articles saying the same thing, I just quoted the most convenient.

The point is – there’s not only many possible explanations other than the one that’s been assumed, it’s also possible that this isn’t even Netflix’s own content to begin with. At least I’m reserving judgement until I see the thing, you guys seem intent on hanging Netflix without even bothering to see what the footage looks like in context. That’s a major personal issue for you people, even if you end up being proven correct if you do bother to look at it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Does it actually matter? There’s other articles saying the same thing, I just quoted the most convenient.

Yes. It does. Actually.

Here, btw, is an archived Google search for the wording you used.

The Wikipedia article’s footnoted source, that is, the BBC article, certainly does not support the claim of the sentence which was inserted ahead of the footnote.

If you have another source for the claim, then the Wikipedia article’s references should simply be fixed so that the right sources support what’s stated there.


… you guys seem intent…

Why are you imputing a joint “intent” to me? I’ve made just one previous comment in this thread.

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