In This Episode
- People gathered in solidarity with trans Netflix employees and their allies who held a walkout, yesterday, in protest of the streaming service’s endorsing and platforming of Dave Chappelle’s transphobia. We hear from B. Pagels-Minor, a now-former Netflix employee who was fired for allegedly leaking confidential information to the press, which they deny doing.
- And in headlines: the man responsible for the 2018 high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, pleaded guilty, the Biden administration laid out plans to vaccinate children aged 5-11, and Facebook plans to rebrand and change the company’s name.
- The 19th: “Netflix employees and their allies walk out over company’s handling of anti-trans Chappelle special” – https://bit.ly/3vxtn1d
Gideon Resnick: It’s Thursday, October 21st. I’m Gideon Resnick.
Tre’vell Anderson: And I’m Tre’vell Anderson, and this is What A Day the best podcast for when you’re driving around looking for gas that doesn’t cost a million dollars.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, if the flashing red prices you’re seeing are making you sick, turn us on and we’ll help you relax.
Tre’vell Anderson: Gas should definitely cost less than a king-sized candy bar per gallon. I need somebody to get it together for us.
Gideon Resnick: Please. On today’s show, the FDA authorizes additional boosters and the White House has a plan for kids vaccinations. Plus, Facebook maybe gears up for a rebrand.
Tre’vell Anderson: But first:
Gideon Resnick: [chanting: Team trans!]
Tre’vell Anderson: That is the sound of protesters shouting “Team Trans” from yesterday’s demonstration outside of Netflix here where I am in Los Angeles. Folks gathered in solidarity with trans Netflix employees and their allies who held a walkout in protest of the streaming service’s endorsing and platforming of Dave Chappelle’s transphobia.
Gideon Resnick: Right. And so can you give us a really quick reminder for those who need catching up? Like how did we get to this moment?
Tre’vell Anderson: Sure, so earlier this month, the comedian special The Closer debuted on Netflix, featuring a host of supposed jokes, ultimately at the expense of Black queer and trans folks. In the special, Chappelle misgenders a former friend who died by suicide after defending him, he complains that transgender people accuse him of, quote, “punching down” and he suggests that only white people are queer. He also sides with noted anti-trans author J.K. Rowling, asserting that he is quote, “team turf”—hence the chant you heard at the demonstration of “team trans.”
Gideon Resnick: It’s like the most odious thing that J.K. Rowling has publicly said or done for like ten years and being the guy who was like: actually, she’s got a point. Really, really rough. And just a point of clarity, “turf” refers to a brand of feminism that believes trans women are not women. So Tre’vell, leading up to yesterday’s demonstration, there had been a lot of efforts by trans employees at Netflix to really verbalize the community’s issues with the special. And you talked with one of them.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, or, well, a former employee. I caught up yesterday with B. Pagels-Minor. B, at the time the special was released on the platform, worked for Netflix and was one of the leaders of their employee resource group for trans folks called “Trans Star.” They are the now former employee who was fired for allegedly leaking confidential information to the press, which they deny doing. And they walked me through the initial conversations they had with the company about the special.
Pagels-Minor: When the special dropped October 5th, most of us weren’t really aware of the content of it, and so it was really October 6 that people started discussing it, we started seeing articles about it. And then within Trans Star, we started having conversations about how did we want to proceed and how might we educate the company on how dangerous this content was? But there’s misgendering. It completely erases Black trans people, and by erasing Black trans people, you’re actually creating more harmful content as well because, you know, we know that Black trans people are harmed at a far greater level. I started reaching out to our various VP allies and started making them aware of how damaging and dangerous this content was and how, like, you know, we should have a conversation about what was going on around it. At no point did we actually say take down this like special. What we said was, Oh, by the way, like, you know, for instance, that it’s LGBTQ+ History Month, so it probably wasn’t a good month to drop this special. Did you know the turf terminology is actually very radical? We would categorize it as a hate group. Maybe the world hasn’t considered it a hate group yet, but that’s like very, very dangerous rhetoric to have on our service, and it’s going to hurt us long term. And so the conversation was very civil and it was really coming from a place of education.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I mean, it sounds like they were really talking in good faith to people who just did not know what they were doing here. And at the same time, Netflix’s CEO Ted Sarandos started responding to employees and other critiques that were coming from outside the company. What has he been saying in all of this?
Tre’vell Anderson: He basically doubled down in support of Dave Chappelle’s foolishness, originally ultimately saying that Netflix does have a policy against platforming content that incites violence, but that they quote, “Don’t believe The Closer crosses that line.” And B told me that yesterday’s action grew into a walkout in protest only because of what Ted Sarandos had been saying. Here’s B again:
Pagels-Minor: The conversation initially was this is a ton of stress, it’s causing so much drama. On the 20th, let’s have a trans day of rest. So that’s what I called for originally. It was a trans day of rest where it was just supposed to be you know, trans folks need to take some downtime and our allies need take some time to think about how they can support different things. And what ended up actually happening, though, is that then all the Ted emails came out and they were very dismissive, they were very hurtful, and they completely missed the point. Because again, we never asked for the special to come down. What we asked for was parity in content so that there’s trans content, when you see Chappelle’s special, you can also go out and see trans content that tells the whole story of trans people. Like that was the entire goal.
Tre’vell Anderson: But I also want to note two other things. Firstly, there was another trans employee who was suspended while the company investigated claims that the employee tried to attend a meeting they weren’t invited to. That suspension has since been lifted. And then secondly, I want to explicitly state why Ted Sarandos’s statement about comedy not inciting violence is dense, in my opinion, and ahistorical. There is a documented history about the ways language can and does perpetuate various attitudes that manifest as violence, as oppression. There’s even a documentary called Disclosure on Netflix that specifically detailed how comedy at the expense of trans people perpetuates and leads to the epidemic of violence against trans people we’re currently experiencing. FYI, for those who don’t know, 2021 is on track to be the deadliest year on record in the U.S. and Puerto Rico for trans and gender non-conforming people, having already seen at least 41 folks fatally shot or killed by other violent means, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it is awful. And ahead of yesterday’s demonstration, the group that was organizing the walkout released a list of quote unquote “firm asks” of Netflix as a result of all this. So what are they asking for?
Tre’vell Anderson: So in a statement they released, they said quote, “We want the company to adopt measures in the areas of content investment, employee relations and safety, and harm reduction, all of which are necessary to avoid future instances of platforming, transphobia and hate speech.” So in more specific terms, that involves investing more in queer and trans talent and storytelling, hiring trans and non-binary people in leadership roles throughout the company, and putting content warnings on projects flagging transphobic language, misogyny, homophobia, hate speech, etc. Again, they have not and are not asking for Chappelle’s special to be removed from the platform.
Gideon Resnick: Tre’vell, you also got a chance to talk with a reporter who was on the scene there, Kate Sosin, who is the LGBTQ reporter for the outlet The 19th. What do they have to say?
Tre’vell Anderson: One thing they highlighted was that besides B, the majority of the folks who’ve been spokespersons of sorts for this effort have been people outside of the company. Even at the demonstration yesterday, the main speaker and organizer was Ashlee Marie Preston, a Black trans advocate and writer who does not work for the company. Kate suspected that some employees might have been afraid to walk out or otherwise speak out because the company might retaliate and fire them too. But Kate also talked about how there were counter-protesters there as well, harassing the demonstrators.
Kate Sosin: It got so tense in moments that it broke out into physical violence between protesters and counterprotesters at moments, and it was actually scary and uncomfortable to be in that crowd today. For a lot of folks, this was a scary moment, as well as like a moment of demonstration.
Gideon Resnick: I don’t particularly understand leaving work to go and defend a comedy special that you don’t know, two employees who are not happy about it, but that’s just being a Gideon.
Tre’vell Anderson: I want to give the last word on this to B, who had a message for Dave Chappelle in particular.
Pagels-Minor: The thing that I think made me most sad about the Chappelle special is that he tried to boil this down to LGBTQ+/white supremacy versus Black people. I am a Black trans person. I get hatred from LGBTQ+ community. I get hatred from white people. I get hatred from Black people. I’m also from Mississippi. When I go home, I dress different, I talk different, I walk different, right? Because I know that there are certain spaces that I go to that if I don’t act a certain way, I could be killed. On Trans Day of Remembrance on November 20th, the list so far is already more than two thirds Black trans people who were killed for simply being Black and trans. You know, if I could do anything, I would say, Dave Chappelle, you know, I’m pregnant right now, we can’t have a drink, but we can go have some orange juice, OK? And like, we could really just Kiki and talk about how I probably have more in common with him than half the people that he’s hanging out with right now. And I would love to educate him on that point.
Gideon Resnick: And I would love to see and hear that happening if it can happen.
Tre’vell Anderson: You and me both. And that’s the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads.
Gideon Resnick: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Tre’vell Anderson: The man responsible for the 2018 high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, pleaded guilty in a courtroom yesterday. Nicholas Cruz, who is now 23-years old, faced 17 charges of first degree murder and an additional 17 charges of attempted murder. He offered to plead guilty in exchange for 17 consecutive life sentences, but prosecutors and some families of the victims say they will only be satisfied with the death penalty. A South Florida jury will now decide whether Cruz gets life in prison or death. In an emotional courtroom yesterday, the Broward circuit judge read each murder victim’s name out loud, including how many times they had been shot. Cruz responded quote “guilty” when each of the 34 charges were read against him. The plea comes more than three and a half years after the massacre, and the sentencing phase of the trial will begin in early January.
Gideon Resnick: The Biden administration laid out plans on Wednesday for what the future campaign to vaccinate children aged 5 through 11 will look like. Broadly speaking, the plan involves pediatricians working with parents, smaller vials and needles, and also smaller settings where the shots would actually be administered. Sorry, kids, you won’t the unique thrill of lining up at a convention center that recently housed the 45th annual conference of Southwestern Air Conditioning Vendors. White House officials plan to make the vaccine, which reportedly requires specialized packaging, available to 25,000 pediatricians, hospitals, community health centers and more. Now there is no approved vaccine for this age group at the moment, but the expectation is that federal health officials are likely to sign off on a reduced Pfizer-BioNTech dose as soon as the beginning of November. First, though, an FDA advisory group will meet to review safety and efficacy data next week. Now it’s bedtime for children because we’re going to do grown-up vaccine talk, I have to tell you. Also yesterday, the FDA authorized booster shots of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine, as well for us adults, is signing off on a mix-and-match strategy in which providers can give a booster that is different from the initial one that a person received. And today, advisers to the CDC will meet to discuss this and recommendations on their use. We are going to be speaking to Dr. Abdul El-Sayed later today to get a bit more on all of this, so please send questions our way and we will get them answered.
Tre’vell Anderson: Senate Democrats failed to pass another bill yesterday that would have expanded voting rights protections at the national level. Senate Republicans, who are nothing, if not consistent, all opposed the vote to debate what’s called the Freedom to Vote Act. The measure is in response to incredibly restrictive voting laws that have recently been passed in Republican-led states, if you think you’re having deja vu, you’re basically right. Yesterday’s bill was a scaled down version of a more comprehensive one that got blocked in the Senate in June, which to stay on brand, Senator Joe Manchin refused to endorse. Speaking of Manchin and news stories that are stuck on repeat, President Biden met with members of the Democratic caucus on Tuesday to negotiate his Build Back Better plan. Dems continue to struggle to appease Manchin and his fellow moderates, Senator Kysten Sinema, who are forcing the overall cost of the spending bill to come down. As of now, the party is likely to cut two years of free community college from the legislation, plus a key renewable energy program, which is no big deal since we can probably buy another Earth on Depop. Party leaders have said their new deadline for passing the social safety net and climate plan, along with the one trillion dollar bipartisan infrastructure bill, is by the end of the month.
Gideon Resnick: They’re going to cut this down enough that the only climate initiative will be Joe Manchin planting one tree. That’s what we’re going to do. I am not happy. Facebook has been hard at work recently constructing the Metaverse, a project that combines augmented and VR reality to create an all new digital world where the company is not constantly in trouble for burning holes in teenagers’ brains. The Verge is reporting that in a reflection of Facebook’s prioritization of said metaverse concept, the company is gearing up for a rebrand. The social media site called Facebook will now be one product of a larger, still unnamed umbrella corporation in the same way that Google is part of Alphabet. One name pitch that you can take or leave if you’re in charge of this rebrand is zBerg’s world. Moving on and speaking of Mark Zuckerberg, he was added to a three-year old lawsuit by the D.C. Attorney General yesterday over violating consumer privacy. The case pertains to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, when Facebook let a consulting firm collect data on more than 50 million of their users without consent. Kind of quaint in comparison to what we know now, I guess. That scandal and a more recent one involving internal documents that showed Facebook’s knowledge of the harm products like Instagram caused their users are a few more reasons why the company might be looking for a new identity. Now, personally, I instantly have more trust in zBerg’s world and would happily give them my browsing history, my Social Security, and full control over my attitude towards my own physical appearance.
Tre’vell Anderson: You know what, Gideon? I’m just glad we live in a culture where you can do that, and I cannot.
Gideon Resnick: Exactly right. I am doing it for a good cause, and that cause is to feel bad. And those are the headlines. One more thing before we go. After recording yesterday’s show, there was a small update to a New York Times report about the charges that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is poised to face from a congressional panel. The report says that the homicide and genocide charges have been dropped, but the quote unquote “crimes against humanity” one remains. That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, buy your tickets to the 46th Annual Conference of Southwestern Air Conditioning Vendors, and tell your friends to listen.
Tre’vell Anderson: And if you’re into reading, and not just Earth prices on Depop like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Tre’vell Anderson.
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.
[together] And we’ll see you on zBerg’s World!
Tre’vell Anderson: I won’t actually see you there. I’m going to let you know now.
Gideon Resnick: There’s zero percent chance I will join any metaverse of any kind. My one verse is scary enough and I don’t need another.
Tre’vell Anderson: That’s part, OK?
Gideon Resnick: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lance. Jazzi Marine is our associate producer. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and myself. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.