In which Netflix shows the world what actual censorship looks like

Yesterday was a holiday or something — honestly, I have no idea what day of the week it is anymore, and fear that I will continue to exist in this amorphous time bubble until my children return to school sometime next monthsursday? — so there’s not a whole lot of news going on as people in the TV world continue to nurse their New Year’s Eve hangovers. Oh, right! Happy New Year, everyone! I guess I forgot to say that while I was yelling about Louis C.K.

Speaking of comedians and censorship or “censorship,” the one story out there worth talking about today is how Netflix demonstrated to everyone what censorship actually looks like by taking down an episode of Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj at the request of the Saudi Arabian government. The episode criticized the American government’s relationship with Saudi Arabia and Prince Mohammed bin Salman following the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and Saudi Arabia claimed the episode violated their “cybercrime” laws. Netflix released a statement which read in part: “We strongly support artistic freedom worldwide and only removed this episode in Saudi Arabia after we had received a valid legal request — and to comply with local law.” The episode was only removed in Saudi Arabia and is still available for viewing in the rest of the world.

On the one hand, nothing about this story is surprising. It’s not surprising that Saudi Arabia would demand the episode be pulled — they are one of the most oppressive regimes in the world and ranked the third most censored country by the Committee to Protect Journalists. And frankly, it’s not particularly surprising that Netflix would comply with Saudi Arabia’s request: as Mihaj points out in the episode, Silicon Valley is awash in Saudi cash, and Netflix doesn’t want to risk being blocked from a large market. Capitalism has its own moral code that does not necessarily align with the United States’ when it comes to freedom of speech — just ask Google and China. On the other hand, fuck censorship. The one market besides the United States that needed to see this episode the most was Saudi Arabia’s, and it is disappointing that Netflix would do the handiwork of a murderous regime to prevent the truth from being spread far and wide.

But then going back again to the first hand: it ain’t surprising.

Also unsurprising: people are pissed:

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj to catch up on.

Mark Your Calendars

  • The Punisher will return on Netflix “soon” but a now-deleted tweet suggests it could be as early as January 18.

R.I.P.

“Mean” Gene Okerlund, Legendary WWE announcer

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The Masked Singer: This show looks bonkers. Celebrities dress in weird costumes and sing something and then other celebrities try to guess who they are? I don’t even know but those costumes are nightmare fodder. Series premiere. 8 p.m., Fox

grown-ish: Season two premiere. 7 p.m., Freeform

Gordon Ramsay’s 24 Hours to Hell and Back: Season two premiere. 7 p.m., Fox

Project Runway All Stars: If I’m not mistaken, this will be Project Runway‘s last hurrah on Lifetime before it returns to Bravo. Now I am wondering if Bravo will do All Stars? This is being described as All Stars “final season” so, I don’t know? 8 p.m., Lifetime

SEAL Team: Mid-season premiere. 8 p.m., CBS

Criminal Minds: Mid-season premiere. 9 p.m., CBS

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