By Matt Taibbi
The press tries and fails to hype a crisis into existence over Dave Chappelle’s new Netflix special.
First, there were the numbers. Over the course of the last week, news commentators predicted a huge demonstration of Netflix employees in protest of comedian Dave Chappelle’s The Closer special, with Yahoo! typifying coverage. “Reports say that one thousand Netflix employees — nearly 10% of the company’s workforce,” they wrote, “are planning an October 20 walkout to protest the Chappelle special.”
The Hollywood Reporter did say “at least one thousand” were planning on participating in a “virtual walkout,” whatever that is, but noted the story first came out in The Verge, which talked about a “company-wide” demonstration. Others followed, mostly without any hint that any of the reporters involved talked to anyone at Netflix but the demonstration’s organizers.
Nobody checked, because everyone liked the narrative as was. As a result, “at least one thousand” became gospel, via headlines like Gizmodo’s “1,000 Netflix Employees Are Reportedly Planning Walkout to Protest New Chappelle Special,” or The Independent inviting us to “watch live” as “more than one thousand Netflix employees are set to walk out of their jobs on Wednesday.”
By this Wednesday, October 20th, the day of the planned walkout, the story became “hundreds of Netflix employees and supporters are expected” to show up (CNN). Then, as the event started, it became “hundreds of protesters stood in solidarity with” Netflix’s employees, per The Daily Beast, for instance. Then NBC told us “Hundreds rally outside Netflix,” where protesting employees who lined up outside were “met with roaring applause.”
How many employees walked out? Not one news organization put the real number in a headline, and only a few had the guts to even tweet that the actual protest was reduced in the end to the famed Arrested Development meme: