Disclaimers: I have never worked for Stack Exchange in particular, nor do I have access to the Teacher's Lounge, so the following is based on public information and my subjective experience working in a couple of other large corporate tech environments. I cannot and do not speak for anyone other than myself. I would also like to emphasize that this answer is intended as an explanation rather than as an excuse. I do not approve of how SE, Inc. has handled this situation and nothing in this answer should be taken as a defense of their actions.
By far the single most common error I see when people talk about tech companies is thinking of a tech company as a monolithic entity. This is simply not accurate. It comes closest to being right when we're talking about very small startups that have not accepted VC money, but frankly, that's rare at best in this industry.
Quoting myself from an LWN comment:
A large corporation is difficult to steer from the top (because of the sheer number of decisions to be made overall) and impossible to steer from the bottom (because the most you can do is convince one manager at a time to support your way of thinking). The people who are really steering are hundreds or thousands of middle managers, each of whom has a slightly different understanding of the business's high-level needs and goals, a moderately different set of internal resources and levers of power, and a radically different understanding of the business's immediate problems. Every now and then, their collective decision-making is bad enough that an executive gets involved and tells them "you screwed up, now fix it." Every now and then, their collective decision-making is good enough that the corporation does something that looks very smart, to an outside observer. But most of the time, the corporation drunkenly shambles in the general direction of profitability, while the outside world tries to figure out what on Earth it could possibly be thinking. This is the wrong question. Corporations don't think. The people running the corporation think, but there are many of them and each one has a peculiar and limited understanding of the corporation's broader scope.
Of course, Stack Exchange, Inc. is too small for this model to apply exactly. But that doesn't mean we can completely ignore the problem. SE is still big enough to have significant chains of command, and is also owned by Prosus, which may not be directly on the org chart but will nevertheless exert influence over upper management. I tend to assume that whoever's in charge of the CM team (presumably Philippe?) is not reporting directly to Prashanth Chandrasekar (the CEO), so there's at least one layer of middle management in the way. We know from Jon Ericson's blog that management at SE was rather "feudal" when he worked there, so even one layer of middle management could impede communication significantly. It is also possible that the ChatGPT diktat was issued by someone other than Prashanth, and so that person needs to become involved in the conversation, which may imply another layer of middle management. The three (or more) of them are now (presumably) playing an elaborate and high-stakes game of telephone, because in a corporate context, it is considered highly irregular to "jump" the chain of command. I tend to imagine that, while Prashanth is probably aware that "the community is upset and the press is writing negative things about us," it is significantly less believable (to me) that Prashanth is directly involved in resolving the issue, because that would normally be the responsibility of Philippe et al., and Prashanth may not understand just how extraordinary and damaging the situation has become.
To make matters worse, community moderation is not a line item. That is, the current strike might not look like a loss, from upper management's perspective. There may be (speculating!) nothing on the books that explicitly says "The community is giving us spam filtering in the form of SmokeDetector and Charcoal, completely for free, and here's all the money we saved by not having to develop and maintain our own anti-spam solution," nor are there similar line items for any of the other things that elected moderators normally do. And so, when the community support is yanked, it doesn't look like the company just lost a valuable asset, even though it did. The accountants will tell you, wrongly, that the cost of the strike to the company is $0, because there is nothing in the company's ledger for them to add up. (To be clear, $0 is a correct response under traditional rules of accounting. It's just that traditional rules of accounting cannot possibly include all forms of economic loss.)
If true, that's frankly an indictment of SE's upper management. They really ought to understand where the economic value of their company comes from, regardless of what's in their ledger. It's possible, even likely, that my understanding here is badly incomplete. It may be the case that SE fully understands the cost of this, and is hoping to placate the community long enough to "pivot" to some other form of content generation (i.e. they want to replace us with LLMs, and keep us quiet until they figure out how to do that). I'm doubtful that would actually work, and as a rule I am skeptical of conspiracy theories involving tech companies, but the near total lack of communication from the company makes it difficult to completely rule out as a hypothesis. In my opinion, the more believable explanation is that the CM team (not SE as a whole, just the CM team) is trying to placate the community in order to survive until next quarter, not in order to eliminate community contributions.
This is unsustainable in the long run. Eventually, the company will realize it has to develop a spam filter, put it on the agenda, get it budgeted and approved, etc., and I would like to think that somebody will ask "why didn't we have to develop that earlier?" Eventually, Philippe will communicate to upper management that this is a "real" crisis, and not just a bunch of hot air in the press. Eventually, eventually, eventually, it'll all percolate up to someone with the ability to rescind the ChatGPT diktat, and that person will hopefully(!) realize that this situation is threatening the company's long-term viability. But it is hardly surprising to me that it has taken them more than a week to do that.