Not long after the onset of the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) 2023 strike, striking writers gathered outside of Netflix’s headquarters in Manhattan earlier this afternoon, gathering the attention of the world and one prominent figure in particular: U.S. Representative Ro Khanna, whose jurisdiction over the 17th district places him up close and personal with the beating heart of Silicon Valley. Despite that, Rep. Ro Khanna had arrived to stand with – not against – the WGA writers who were on strike demanding fair pay and working conditions, calling them the “heart and soul of the entertainment we watch.”
The issue of why the WGA is striking is, of course, multi-faceted: similar to their last strike in 2007, the WGA writers are demanding that big-name production companies like Netflix, NBC, and others provide them with rightful pay and better working conditions under the new streaming-based model that’s taken over the entertainment industry, rather than continuing to endorse the short-staffed, “production crunch” based culture that writers have been speaking out against for some time.
Unlike the 2007-2008 strike, however, the 2023 WGA strike is also taking care to address the rising concerns surrounding AI writing, which could stand to wipe out the concept of a writer’s room entirely. Since it’s obviously cheaper to hire an AI than a writing crew and AI programs like ChatGPT are growing increasingly more capable of generating screenplays, songs, and scripts, there’s a growing fear that companies like Netflix will cut out their human writers and move to entirely AI-generated content.
Congressman Ro Khanna Stands With WGA Strike, Calls AI “Cheapening of Art”
Because of this fear, the picketers outside of Netflix’s headquarters in Manhattan were probably wary – and rightfully so – when Rep. Ro Khanna (D) arrived on the scene, only for Khanna to give an uplifting speech in favor of the WGA writers through a bullhorn.
“Many of us in Congress will be standing with you in your just fight,” he announced to cheers from the crowd. When speaking to Deadline on the matter, Ro Khanna confirmed his support for the 2023 WGA Strike, stating that “Writers are the heart and soul of the entertainment that we watch,” and that the model for paying them a fair amount has changed in recent years “because of the technology in my district in Silicon Valley.”
“That means that writers need to be paid fairly in the new streaming model,” he said, “and they need to have a seat at the table to figure out how AI is going to work. And given that I represent Silicon Valley that is producing this technology change. I want to stand in solidarity with writers.”
Watch as U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) gives a rousing speech to demonstrators outside Netflix’s Manhattan headquarters today: “We need to uplift our writers. We need to pay our writers what they deserve…” #WritersStrike pic.twitter.com/c1Maqt0RvI
— Deadline Hollywood (@DEADLINE) May 3, 2023
Despite the growing sophistication of AI-based platforms like ChatGPT, Khanna has stated that he doesn’t believe that AI-generated content will ever truly and totally replace the soul of humanity’s greatest works, calling the increasing reliance on AI “the coarsening of thinking” and “the cheapening of art.”
“ChatGPT is not going to produce Hamlet,” Khanna said, “And it’s not going to produce Yeats. The human imagination, the human capacity for suffering, the human capacity to understand historical context is still required for great writing…So we need writers to have the best thinking, to have the best art. They make contributions to humanity. And it is naïve to think that AI can replicate that in the ways that we would want to celebrate.”
Today marks the second day of the WGA strike, with protestors picketing across New York. WGA East has expressed further plans to picket at Brooklyn’s Broadway Stages and Queens’ Silvercup Studios tomorrow and in the coming days.