Dave Chappelle: free speech or hate speech?

Photo: Gabbo T https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dave_Chappelle 

Dave Chappelle: free speech or hate speech?

Netflix has found itself embroiled in a hot debate over free speech in the United States after a show by famed comedian Dave Chappelle was deemed transphobic by some people, including staff members of the streaming company.

In his show The Closer, the star comedian responds to critics who have accused him in the past of mocking transgender people by saying that gender is a fact and that his critics are overly sensitive.

In this country, you can shoot and kill a black man, but don't you dare offend a gay person, says Dave Chappelle, who is black himself.

The show was condemned by some LGBT+ groups, such as the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), which pointed to studies that have shown that the dissemination of stereotypes about minorities has dire consequences in the real world.

In The Closer, Dave Chappelle compares a transgender woman to a person who blacks her face (blackface), and jokes that he would kill a woman and then put her body in his car.

Grumbling in the ranks

In a message to the company's staff, Ted Sarandos, Netflix's co-CEO of content, said that what was broadcast on screen did not directly translate into harmful consequences in the real world, and that the principle of free speech outweighed a felt outrage - including by its own employees.

A group made up of staff members is planning a walkout later this week to protest Netflix's handling of the crisis.

One employee was fired for releasing confidential information about Dave Chappelle's fee request.

We understand that this employee's action was motivated by a sense of disappointment and hurt at Netflix, but maintaining a culture of trust and transparency is at the heart of our business, the platform reacted.

Ted Sarandos also pointed to the release of other content, such as that of Hannah Gadsby, whose show Nanette told of her experience with homophobia as a lesbian woman.

The latter responded on Instagram with an assassinating post addressed to the manager and castigating his worship of an amoral algorithm.

Playing on the fault lines

Dave Chappelle's case is made complex by the intertwining of different struggles: he is accused of attacking a minority, but repeatedly emphasizes himself to belong to another.

The show draws its energy from one of the most heated debates in popular culture, about competing claims of victimhood, wrote journalist Helen Lewis in The Atlantic magazine.

Some people are drawing parallels between this story and last year's controversy surrounding the author of the Harry Potter saga, J.K. Rowling. She was accused of transphobia when she talked about erasing the concept of gender. If sex is not real, the reality experienced by women around the world is erased, she said.

While the writer emphasized the importance of protecting women's safety, Dave Chappelle recounts his experience as a black man.

According to him, white gay men are a minority until they need to be white again. And the LGBT+ communities have made more progress in a few years than black people have in decades, he says.

There are many fault lines here, Stephen Galloway says. Any one of them could become gaping and create an earthquake.

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