This year streaming giant Netflix purchased the rights to the documentary “Knock Down the House,” conceived and created by Rachel Lears, for $10 million. The film follows four women running outsider far-left campaigns for Congress in the 2018 cycle.
The most notable of these women is current New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has become a household name and one of the most prominent Democrat members of the House. Netflix is now streaming a documentary that feels like a love letter to AOC. In fact, what it feels like even more is a political ad.
But you don’t have to take my word for it, just look at this tweet from Justice Democrats, the progressive PAC that was behind Ocasio-Cortez’s shocking underdog victory.
Clearly Justice Democrats think the documentary is complimentary and glowing enough that they can use it to raise money for AOC and other far-left candidates. This makes a lot of sense since, according to a Vanity Fair profile of Lears last year, Justice Democrats was one of the organizations she went to in order to find the women candidates she would follow to speak truth to Donald Trump’s power.
Lears is quite candid that the film was conceived as a reaction to Trump’s election and as a way to highlight those who oppose him. This is not an objective examination of interesting subjects, but a product meant to promote these politicians and their messages. In this sense, both Lears, who raised $28,000 to fund the project, and Netflix, which paid $10 million for it, are contributing to the political fortunes of both Ocasio-Cortez and Justice Democrats.
To be clear, this kind of contribution to a candidate is perfectly legal. The Supreme Court has been clear on this point, most recently in its Citizens United decision. An unkind movie about Hillary Clinton violated the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, also known as the McCain-Feingold Act, caused that Supreme Court case in the first place. The court rightfully found that the government has no place stopping corporate entities from airing movies about political candidates.
The Supreme Court made the right decision, but of course that isn’t exactly how far-left Democrats look at it. No, they like to tell us, as often as possible, that corporate influence in our politics is a great scourge on our nation. However, the last time I checked, Netflix is itself a big ol’ corporation. Besides “Knock Down the House” Netflix is producing a series curated by Barack and Michelle Obama. So what gives?
Media and entertainment have always been a carve-out progressives use to approve of political corporate messaging they deem acceptable. Presumably, this is because it so often mirrors their own political ideologies and priorities. But if Netflix is and should be free to spend $10 million on “Knock Down the House” and offer it to millions of subscribers, why shouldn’t Citizens United be allowed to spend money to air a movie about Hillary Clinton?
It might be argued that Netflix is making these programming decisions based purely upon a profit motive and without a political purpose. This is almost impossible to really know, just as we don’t know exactly why social media companies disproportionately punish conservative accounts for supposedly violating their rules. But even if clicks were all Netflix cared about, it doesn’t matter. All kinds of corporate money in political messaging is spent based on a profit motive. A corporation might want lower taxes, or less regulation, or more regulation on competitors, so they support candidates and parties that align with their interest.
If Ocasio-Cortez and Justice Democrats really believe corporations spending millions of dollars to push political ideas is a bad thing, they should condemn Netflix’s contribution to their political efforts, not use it to raise more coins for their coffers. But they don’t really believe that. They don’t really believe that corporations don’t have speech rights because they aren’t persons. They know that theater companies, universities, and Planned Parenthood, which are all corporations, have First Amendment rights. They just don’t like it when conservatives exercise those rights.
Netflix is every bit as much a corporation as any other corporation. And in streaming “Knock Down the House” it is clearly and decidedly benefiting the Justice Democrats’ political ambitions. That’s fine. They can do what they please. But the next time a conservative corporation wants to air a political ad or engage in political messaging, let’s not hear that big, moneyed interests should stay out of politics.