Netflix Subscribes to a New Approach on Politics
The year 2022 will remembered for a lot of things, but the rise of the corporate resistance movement has to be near the top. After years of abuse, Republicans were finally George McFly to “Back to the Future”’s Biff, landing a blow on Disney that still stings. Suddenly, woke CEOs, who’d gotten overly comfortable treating conservatives like political punching bags, were forced to stop and think: Could we be next? Now, in the deafening silence of Big Business, there are quiet rumblings that the GOP’s resolve might just have turned the tide.
In board rooms like Netflix’s, the conversation has shifted from how leadership can accommodate its most vocal zealots to striking a balance for every employee. A month after Elon Musk blasted the company, complaining that the “woke mind virus is making Netflix unwatchable,” the streaming service has taken an intentional step to be truly inclusive after last fall’s high-profile spat with staff. Some of the company’s employees were loudly opposed to airing a Dave Chappelle special, where the comedian spoke bluntly about the transgender debate. Netflix refused to cancel the show, despite a protest in front of the company’s Los Angeles offices.
Now, months later, the company has a message for workers: if you can’t handle free speech, don’t let the door hit you. In its new workplace guidelines, Netflix included a section on “artistic expression” that makes it quite clear that they won’t be held hostage by employees who don’t like diverse viewpoints. “Not everyone will like — or agree with — everything on our service,” the guidelines say, adding: “We let viewers decide what’s appropriate for them, versus having Netflix censor specific artists or voices ... Depending on your role, you may need to work on titles you perceive to be harmful. If you’d find it hard to support our content breadth, Netflix may not be the best place for you.”
It was a handful of sentences, but they spoke volumes about the current corporate climate. Disney’s smackdown was a wake-up call to every CEO smart enough to heed it that the days of antagonizing conservatives without consequences are over. Barely two months into that fallout, the backlash against Disney is so ferocious that NBC actually decided to bury its own polling on Bob Chapek’s company. And no wonder. The picture it paints isn’t all that flattering for any media who’s been on board with Disney’s “not-so-secret” LGBT agenda. But the numbers don’t lie, and in a single year, the House of Mouse’s favorability has completely crashed — from +56 to a stunning +3 today. As John Nolte points out, “Those numbers are fine for a politician. They are death for a corporation.”
To Justin Danhof, head of corporate governance at Strive Asset Management, those statistics should be a flashing neon sign for Big Business. “Disney’s a very prominent example of, look, if you go too far, there are certain government actors and consumers that are just going to push back. And I think Disney took a couple of steps too far. Look, you don’t go after someone’s wallet, and you don’t go after their children. And Disney went after children.”
As a result, investors paid a steep price. Chapek paid a steep price. And the Disney brand will be paying the price for attacking parents for the foreseeable future. If there’s a message from Americans, it’s “‘Knock it off. You’ve gone too far,’” Danhof said. “And now, [Republicans are] ... taking action because you’ve just gone over the edge. So I think Disney is a warning case for other corporations.”
Now, as companies like Netflix take small steps away from politics, it’s starting to feel like a bigger shift is underway. Let’s hope that shift results in more self-reflection at the streaming service, which sexually explicit shows like “Cuties” still call home. Still, “It’s a great development,” Danhof agreed, “because we think that corporations are going to achieve the best level of success, both for their customers, consumers, and their employees if they stay focused on their mission ... And what we’ve seen in the last couple of months — and, really, in the last few weeks — is [that] corporations are starting to wake up to the idea that focusing on all of these externalities is something of a distraction...”
Of course, we still have a long way to go. As Danhof pointed out, “There’s still a strong tilt to the Left on a wide array of issues.” Americans have noticed plenty of that over the last few weeks with Starbucks’ abortion payouts and Target’s racks of chest binders. Still, it’s encouraging that at least some businesses are starting to think twice before diving head-first into a heated social debate that destroys public confidence. It’s “the beginning of the beginning,” he suggested. If that’s the case, conservatives will take it.
“For nearly a decade now, American progressivism has been engaged in an all-hands-on-deck attempt to brute-force its way to the political change that its most vocal adherents desire,” NRO points out. “What has happened at Netflix ... [and] among many other businesses, represents a welcome set of cracks to [corporate America’s] delusion.” Big Business is getting the message, so make sure you’re part of sending one. Contact the companies attacking your values and let them know: the pushback is only beginning.
Suzanne Bowdey serves as editorial director and senior writer at The Washington Stand.