• May 25, 2022

In Florida, Disney Is Throwing in the Towel

 In Florida, Disney Is Throwing in the Towel

A demonstrator wearing a rainbow color face mask takes part in a protest as Disney’s employees demonstrate against Florida’s Parental Rights Education bill in Glendale, Calif., March 22, 2022. (Ringo Chiu/Reuters)

Remember that magma-hot cultural controversy from, oh, two weeks ago? The media are trying to keep it going (see the WaPo story from a couple of days ago that features hilarious Dr. Evil-like Democrats warning that Republicans are losing because Disney is “the third rail of Florida politics”), but Disney has obviously thought better of taking on Ron DeSantis in Florida. Its current strategy is the forget-we-said-anything move.

Disney must have blanched and shrieked two weeks ago when DeSantis, rather than rolling over for being falsely dubbed homophobic and a hatemonger, began openly discussing cutting off Disney’s sweetheart tax break, via the Reedy Creek Development District, that allows Disney to essentially be its own government in the Orlando area. At the same time, Fox News was riling up parents and potentially turning Disney’s own customers against it, parents were fighting back with op-ed pieces and television appearances, public-opinion polls were showing support for the parental-notification law, and the Manhattan Institute’s Chris Rufo published the infamous tape of a Disney executive boasting of “my not-so-secret gay agenda.”

Disney, with the full weight of the showbiz culture behind it, thought it was playing with house money. What could go wrong by proclaiming yourself to be opposed to homophobia? Plenty, it turned out. American consumers are irritated with companies that take partisan political positions on controversial topics. It now appears obvious that Disney never should have injected itself into the debate in the first place. So its new tack is to avail itself of the opportunity of choosing tactful silence and hoping the whole thing blows over. The WSJ today: “Disney . . . declined to comment on criticism from lawmakers. Inside the company, some executives have expressed disappointment that Disney has become politicized, said people familiar with their thinking.”

As the kids say: LOL. A Florida lawmaker says in the piece that he believes Disney’s decision to denounce the parental-notification bill was made in California, which of course has a very different culture from Florida, but no matter how left-wing the state a Disney executive may be sitting in, he should understand that his customers come from a wide range of political convictions, and he should decline to wade into political controversies.

A further note on dogs that didn’t bark: Not only is Disney backing down, note that the bill really had nothing to do with Disney in the first place. Disney is simply a large corporation that, like many other large corporations, does business in Florida. Did any other large corporations speak up about this bill? Not that I have heard of. Coming on the heels of the boycott-Georgia debacle that happened just a year ago, the lack of organized corporate opposition to the Florida law may be an indicator that American firms have changed their minds about the wisdom of taking overtly progressive positions on divisive issues.

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