Our favorite socialist, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), is certainly no stranger to bashing Amazon, but she seems oddly silent after her most recent spat with the retail juggernaut. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez tweeted her displeasure with companies releasing what she called “bland statements w a hashtag” in response to the killing of George Floyd on June 3, then came back later that day to name Amazon specifically, demanding they “stop integrating Ring cameras w/ police depts & selling facial recognition tech to ICE.”
Amazon did not directly respond, but within a week, the company had announced a one-year moratorium on providing facial recognition software to law enforcement agencies. The ACLU said it isn’t enough – but still we have no reaction from the New York representative. Has she simply not had time to respond, or is there more here than meets the eye? Ocasio-Cortez and the online retailer seem to share a love-hate relationship. They’ve certainly shared plenty of hate – as anyone who pays attention can see – yet the company sent more than $20,000 worth of love her way this election cycle. What’s going on here?
Ask and Ye Shall Receive?
“I see a lot of corporations releasing bland statements w a hashtag,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez tweeted in disgust. “No. This moment calls for transformation. Your statement should include your org’s INTERNAL commitments to change, particularly if you’ve been called on it before. Give people change.”
In a second tweet, the New Yorker singled out Amazon and Nextdoor, saying that Amazon should not be making footage from Ring doorbell cameras or the company’s facial recognition software, Rekognition, available to law enforcement.
Here’s the Amazon statement Ms. Ocasio-Cortez found so bland:
“The inequitable and brutal treatment of Black people in our country must stop. Together we stand in solidarity with the Black community – our employees, customers, and partners – in the fight against systemic racism and injustice.”
“Apparently, AOC did not see this statement as a sufficient expression of support for the black community,” wrote Liberty Nation’s Jeff Charles shortly after Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s tweet was posted. “So she slammed the company for working against her open borders agenda, which, ironically enough, disproportionately harms black workers.”
But the irony of her own racism was lost on her – and on the leadership at Amazon as well, it seems, if their June 10 moratorium was indeed motivated by her virtue signaling. Now here’s the company’s blog post announcement:
“We’re implementing a one-year moratorium on police use of Amazon’s facial recognition technology. We will continue to allow organizations like Thorn, the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and Marinus Analytics to use Amazon Rekognition to help rescue human trafficking victims and reunite missing children with their families.”
Here’s the timeline: Amazon released its so-called bland statement on May 31. AOC called the company out on June 3. Amazon announced the moratorium on June 10. So, ask and ye shall receive?
A Strange Relationship Indeed
This isn’t the first time Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and Amazon clashed. As you may recall, she threw a temper tantrum when Amazon looked at New York City for their HQ2 headquarters. In response, the company pulled out. And the head of policy communications, Jodi Seth, laid the blame squarely at the feet of AOC and her progressive pals. The self-declared “democratic socialist,” of course, merely bragged.
Costing her city an estimated 25,000 jobs and $4 billion in potential wages – not to mention $12 billion in economic activity for the area – didn’t exactly win her many friends. Her approval ratings plummeted, and she gained a strong primary challenger for her efforts.
Moving forward in time, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez accused Jeff Bezos of only managing to make it as a billionaire by paying his employees a starvation wage. The company fired back on Twitter, stating that “@AOC is just wrong. Amazon is a leader on pay at $15 min wage + full benefits from day one.” Jumping on into 2020, the representative tweeted in April that Amazon was racist and classist.
Still, the company has – according to opensecrets.org – funded her 2020 campaign to the tune of $20,257 so far. Then, of course, there’s this most recent incident. Only this time, Amazon had no response to AOC’s accusations, but seems to have heeded her words and taken action.
This, and the lack of heated comments back and forth, raises several questions. What does Amazon – or the man behind the company, Jeff Bezos – have to say to her attacks? Was the moratorium in response to her tweet, or was it something already in the works at the time? Should she have acknowledged this action by Amazon, given her prior tweet? Will her behavior toward the company mean an end to the political contributions? Liberty Nation asked these questions of Amazon’s PR staff and Jeff Bezos but received no response.
In the name of fairness and getting to the whole truth, some questions were also asked of Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s press team:
- Amazon made no mention of the representative or her tweet in announcing the moratorium. Should they have?
- She has not yet acknowledged publicly the company’s action. Will/should she?
- Is this enough? Is she satisfied with this action, or should the company do more?
- What more should Amazon do?
Just as with the email to Amazon and Jeff Bezos, we received no reply.
All That Remains Is to Speculate
Without any public statements or direct replies to LN emails, all we can do now is wait and see how the relationship unfolds – and speculate, which is much more entertaining. One might expect this to mean the end of the Bezos Bucks for AOC’s campaign, but that doesn’t account for all the past hostility from before that money was donated. It was in discussing this newly born article idea with Liberty Nation’s Graham J. Noble that another possibility emerged. As Noble said:
“Another question is whether there’s a tacit agreement behind the scenes: Politicians get to publicly posture with criticism of companies like Amazon, but they still take the money that Amazon is happy to donate and endure the public bashing.”
That could explain the lack of return fire from Amazon and AOC’s reticence in the face of company action. Did that Amazon money sweeten the deal a bit, perhaps? Or are we just barking up the wrong tree here? Well, if either Amazon or Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ever find the time to reply to those emails, perhaps we’ll find out.
Read more from James Fite.