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Disney Strikes Back
Plus: Is Trump Inevitable?
“Disney expressed its opinion on state legislation and was then punished by the State for doing so.” — WALT DISNEY PARKS AND RESORTS U.S., INC Vs. RONALD D. DESANTIS
Someone should have whispered to Ron DeSantis: Be careful what you wish for.
He wanted a fight with Disney, and now he’s got one. Good and hard. On Wednesday, the entertainment giant filed a blockbuster federal lawsuit that directly targets DeSantis’s crusade of political revenge.
It is a banger:
A targeted campaign of government retaliation—orchestrated at every step by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney’s protected speech—now threatens Disney’s business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region, and violates its constitutional rights.
Today’s action is the latest strike: At the Governor’s bidding, the State’s oversight board has purported to “void” publicly noticed and duly agreed development contracts, which had laid the foundation for billions of Disney’s investment dollars and thousands of jobs.
This government action was patently retaliatory, patently anti-business, and patently unconstitutional. But the Governor and his allies have made clear they do not care and will not stop.
The Governor recently declared that his team would not only “void the development agreement”—just as they did today—but also planned “to look at things like taxes on the hotels,” “tolls on the roads,” “developing some of the property that the district owns” with “more amusement parks,” and even putting a “state prison” next to Walt Disney World. “Who knows? I just think the possibilities are endless,” he said.
Disney regrets that it has come to this. But having exhausted efforts to seek a resolution, the Company is left with no choice but to file this lawsuit to protect its cast members, guests, and local development partners from a relentless campaign to weaponize government power against Disney in retaliation for expressing a political viewpoint unpopular with certain State officials.
By now you know the story. Or maybe not, since who really remembers what this slap fight is really about, other than the Florida’s governor’s obsessive desire to fight against the “wokeness” of something something something? It all began after company executives criticized what became known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
DeSantis and his Republican allies were so incensed by Disney’s comments that they immediately launched efforts to punish the company legislatively — including stripping Disney of the self-governing status that it had enjoyed for decades. It’s gotten a lot messier since.
DeSantis has been in a back-and-forth with Disney over the control over the thousands of acres that’s home to the Magic Kingdom and other theme parks. In February, Disney quietly, through a bureaucratic vote, gained back control of the Orlando-area park — though state officials didn’t learn of it until March. Disney’s move left DeSantis administration officials scrambling to respond, and the governor ordered an investigation into the California-based corporation.
Politically, the whole thing has been a fiasco. Chris Christie mocked him:
“That’s not the guy I want sitting across from President Xi [Jinping] ... or sitting across from [President Vladimir] Putin and trying to resolve what’s happening in Ukraine, if you can’t see around a corner [Disney CEO] Bob Iger created for you,” Christie said Tuesday during a livestreamed interview with Semafor, adding: “I don’t think Ron DeSantis is a conservative, based on his actions towards Disney.”
Donald Trump taunted him on Truth Social:
Disney’s next move will be the announcement that no more money will be invested in Florida because of the Governor — In fact, they could even announce a slow withdrawal or sale of certain properties, or the whole thing. Watch! That would be a killer. In the meantime, this is all so unnecessary, a political STUNT!
And yesterday, Nikki Haley trolled DeSantis by inviting Disney to move to South Carolina.
And now, here comes the lawsuit.
Governor DeSantis announced that Disney’s statement had “crossed the line”—a line evidently separating permissible speech from intolerable speech—and launched a barrage of threats against the Company in immediate response.
Since then, the Governor, the State Legislature, and the Governor’s handpicked local government regulators have moved beyond threats to official action, employing the machinery of the State in a coordinated campaign to damage Disney’s ability to do business in Florida. State leaders have not been subtle about their reasons for government intervention.
They have proudly declared that Disney deserves this fate because of what Disney said. This is as clear a case of retaliation as this Court is ever likely to see.
In other words: DeSantis waded into this quagmire, only to find himself in way over his head.
The Bud Light Freak-Out
Conservatives surrendered on gay marriage, but kept their fear about societal change bottled up. Plus Murdoch has zero Tucks to give. Semafor’s Benjy Sarlin joined me on Wednesday’s Bulwark podcast.
Meanwhile, the NYT is reporting: “On Eve of Trial, Discovery of Carlson Texts Set Off Crisis Atop Fox.”
Private messages sent by Mr. Carlson that had been redacted in legal filings showed him making highly offensive and crude remarks that went beyond the inflammatory, often racist comments of his prime-time show and anything disclosed in the lead-up to the trial.
Despite the fact that Fox’s trial lawyers had these messages for months, the board and some senior executives were now learning about their details for the first time, setting off a crisis at the highest level of the company, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions.
Is Trump Inevitable?
HENNIKER, N.H. — Standing before a room filled with lightly interested college students, self-described “political tourists” and even some honest-to-God undecided New Hampshire voters, Chris Christie used a town hall here last week to sketch out the political indictment against the defendant, Donald J. Trump, he thinks Republicans must prosecute to deny the former president his party’s nomination.
Yet near the end of his remarks, Christie articulated something more revealing: The sense of fatalism that’s fast gripping Republicans of all stripes about the inevitability of Trump again being the GOP standard bearer.
“What you need to decide is: Are we just going to put this race on autopilot, ‘he’s ahead, let him win, let’s see what happens, how bad can it be?’” said the Trump ally turned Trump enemy.
Christie warned against giving in to such thinking; in fact, the entirety of the former U.S. Attorney’s water-testing stump speech is The Case Against Trump. But in the very hour he was delivering that argument, Trump was on the opposite end of the Eastern Seaboard demonstrating how well-positioned he is at the moment.
1. Nikki Haley Wants to Talk About Abortion
Instead of committing herself to any firm position on abortion, Haley pitched herself as an arbitrator on the subject.
She dismissed the “kind of gotcha bidding war” in abortion politics focused on questions like “How many weeks are you for? How many exceptions are you for?” because “these questions miss the point if the goal is saving as many lives as possible,” something she believes can be done through finding broad “consensus” on the issue. But by refusing to answer the questions about particulars, Haley misses the point of how and why the government is involved in regulating this procedure at all. Or why a group like Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America exists.
2. After Years of Waiting, E. Jean Carroll Testifies on Trump and Trauma
Carroll’s battery claim arises from an alleged rape in a dressing room at the Bergdorf Goodman department store in New York City in 1996, when she was an advice columnist for Elle magazine. “Hey, you are that advice lady,” Carroll recounted Trump saying when she bumped into him while exiting the store. “Hey, you’re that real estate tycoon,” she replied, then agreeing to his request that she give her advice on purchasing a gift. He suggested lingerie, asking her to try a piece on. She joked back and they went together to a dressing room. “Donald Trump was being very light, it was very joshing and pleasant, and very funny,” she said in court yesterday. “Yes, I was flirting the whole time. The comedy was escalating.”
Carroll testified that upon entering the dressing room, Trump “immediately shut the door and shoved me against the wall,” pinning her arms back and banging her head. After pulling down her tights, “His hand, his finger went into my vagina, which was extremely painful. It was a horrible feeling,” Carroll testified. “He put his hand inside me and curved his finger. As a I sit here today, I can still feel it. Then he inserted his penis.” She testified that she has not had sex or been in a romantic relationship since, due to the trauma from the incident. Although Carroll contemporaneously told two friends about what happened, she didn’t go public with her experience until 2019, in the wake of the #MeToo surge.
3. You Have Permission to Be a Smartphone Skeptic
No one wants to come down on the side of tamping off pleasures and suppressing teen activity. Nobody wants to be the wild-eyed internet warrior claiming some toxin that peer-reviewed studies have yet to identify has irreparably harmed their child. No one wants to be the shrill or leaden antagonist of a thousand beloved movies, inciting moral panics, scheming about how to stop the youths from dancing on Sunday. But commercial pioneers are only just beginning to explore new frontiers in the profit-driven, smartphone-enabled weaponization of our own pleasures against us. To limit your moral imagination to the archetypes of the fun-loving rebel versus the stodgy enforcers in response to this emerging reality is to choose to navigate it with blinders on, to be a useful idiot for the robber barons of online life rather than a challenger to the corrupt order they maintain. It is to substitute the arrested, cringing desire to be cool—and, if not young, youth adjacent—for the basic responsibilities of adult rule. And no one else will take up those responsibilities if we do not, although we will still be ruled all the same.
The very basic question that needs to be asked with every product rollout and implementation is what technologies enable a good human life? But even in a time of explainer journalism and “infotainment,” this question is not, ultimately, the province of social scientists, notwithstanding how useful their work may be on the narrower questions involved. It is the free privilege, it is the heavy burden, for all of us, to think—to deliberate and make judgments about human good, about what kind of world we want to live in, and to take action according to that thought.
We rate this: True.