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The Right's Cancel Culture Comes for Disney
Plus: The True Believer revisited
(Composite, Photos: GettyImages / Shutterstock)
You can be forgiven if you didn’t have “Right-Wing Jihad Against Disney” on your bingo card for 2022.
But I regret to tell you that the entrepreneurs of culture war have grown tired of ginning up indignation about “Drag Queen Story Hour,” CRT, and the cancellation of Dr. Seuss. And so they have found a bright new shiny object of outrage, that bastion of moral decadence and wokeness, the Walt Disney Company.
This is, of course, the Disney of Mary Poppins, Frozen, Snow White, Moana, Encanto, High School Musical, Finding Nemo, 101 Dalmatians, Fantasia, Coco, Epcot Center, Bambi, Cinderella, Ratatouille, Splash Mountain, Beauty and the Beast, Mister Toad’s Wild Ride, Space Mountain, The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Toy Story, The Princess and the Frog, Remember the Titans, The Mighty Ducks. Old Yeller, and the It’s a Small World After All ride.
But the company has now spoken out against Florida’s new law regulating instruction about sexuality (read gayness), and, since clickbait doesn’t click itself, the new hotness is canceling Disney.
You remember Rufo, of course. He’s this guy:
Rufo has become one of the go-to critics of CRT. His work has appeared in the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal, Fox News, and the NY Post; he has also been featured by Hillsdale College; and touted by the Heritage Foundation.
But here is Rufo, essentially giving away the game. For Rufo, it is all about “branding,’ and the audacity of his charlatanry is breathtaking:
Now, he’s moved on, leading the attack on all things Disney. This week, Rufo fired up the jihad with what he excitedly described as a SCOOP: “Disney corporate president Karey Burke says, "as the mother [of] one transgender child and one pansexual child," she supports having "many, many, many LGBTQIA characters in our stories" and wants a minimum of 50 percent of characters to be LGBTQIA and racial minorities.”
And he attached a video with the smoking wokeness:
Predictably, Rufo’s tweet was picked up by the NY Post, the Christian Broadcasting Network, and Fox News, where hosts repeated his claim. LA Magazine also bit on Rufo’s tweet, writing: “Disney Prez of Entertainment Wants 50 Percent of All Characters Gay or ‘Underrepresented’”.
Karey Burke, president of Disney’s General Entertainment Content, announced on a company-wide Zoom call Monday that as “the mother of two queer children”—one transgender and one pansexual, she elaborated—she intends to drastically ramp up queer visibility within the Magic Kingdom, increasing characters in Disney productions that are LGBTQIA or other underrepresented minorities by a whopping 50 percent by the end of 2022, according to the New York Post via meeting footage obtained by journalist Christopher F. Rufo and posted to Twitter.
But but but..
The video doesn’t say that at all. Nowhere in the video posted by Rufo does Burke say that she “wants a minimum of 50 percent of characters to be LGBTQIA and racial minorities.”
Even the Washington Examiner (which ran a breathless piece declaring: “Of course Disney wants to indoctrinate your children”) acknowledged that, at least on this point, Rufo was full of sh*t.
In the video, Burke does not appear to make the claim regarding half of Disney characters that Rufo cites. However, she does say that "we don't have enough [LGBT] leads," despite having "many, many, many LGBTQIA characters."
But minor details, like actual facts, are unlikely to change the momentum of the right’s assault on Disney. Oliver Darcy writes:
Right now Fox News, conservative talk radio, and a constellation of right-wing websites and influencers are all training their firepower on the entertainment giant. Disney CEO Bob Chapek's belated stand against Florida's "Don't Say Gay" bill has given way to right-wing media portraying the company as a "woke" organization seeking to "groom" children with what they characterize as a radical LGBTQ agenda.
So we get moments of wit and hilarity, like this from culture war maven Laura Ingraham:
Even Tucker has taken time out from his Putin-fluffing:
"They have a sexual agenda for six-year-old children," Fox host Tucker Carlson declared on Wednesday night. "You'd think that's illegal in some way. It's certainly immoral. It's creepy as hell. And yet they are the country's leading purveyor of children's programming. That's a problem, no?"
Meanwhile: Governor Ron DeSantis is reportedly contemplating legislative retaliation against the company.
On Wednesday evening, The Daily Wire’s co-CEO and “god-king” Jeremy Boreing announced at The Daily Wire Company Townhall that the company will “invest a minimum of $100 million over the next three years into a line of live-action and animated children’s entertainment on its streaming platform.” The content will be available to Daily Wire subscribers starting in the Spring of 2023.
As Dorothy Parker once observed: ‘What fresh hell is this?”
Eric Hoffer on the “true believer”
In his little masterpiece on the nature of mass movements, Hoffer wrote “The tragic figures in the history of a mass movement are often the intellectual precursors who live long enough to see the downfall of the old order by the action of the masses.”
He described how the “man of words,” made room for the “fanatic.”
By denigrating prevailing beliefs and loyalties, the militant man of words unwittingly creates in the disillusioned masses a hunger for faith. For the majority of people cannot endure the barrenness and futility of their lives unless they have some ardent dedication, or some passionate pursuit in which they can lose themselves. Thus, in spite of himself, the scoffing man of words becomes the precursor of a new faith.
Hoffer described how the “militant man of words” prepares the ground for the rise of a mass movement:
By discrediting prevailing creeds and institutions and detaching from them the allegiance of the people;
By indirectly creating a hunger for faith in the hearts of those who cannot live without it, so that when the new faith is preached it finds an eager response among the disillusioned masses;
By furnishing the doctrine in the slogans of the new faith, and;
By undermining the convictions of the "better people" – those who can get along without faith – so that when the new fanaticism makes its appearance they are without the capacity to resist it.
But, Hoffer wrote, the masses really don’t want freedom of self-expression and self-realization.”
They want freedom from "the fearful burden of free choice,” Freedom from the arduous responsibility of realizing their ineffectual selves and shouldering the blame for the blemished product. They do not want freedom of conscience, but faith — blind, authoritarian faith.
So, in times of revolution, men of words find themselves displaced by what Hoffer calls “The fanatic.”
“Chaos is his element.”
Hoffer writes that the fanatics are basically the mediocrities and wanna-bes. They are “the noncreative men of words.”
The man who wants to write a great book, paint a great picture, create an architectural masterpiece, become a great scientist, and knows that never in all eternity will he be able to realize this, his innermost desire, can find no peace in a stable social order – old or new. He sees his life as irrevocably spoiled in the world perpetually out of joint. He feels at home only in a state of chaos.
For no particular reason, this seemed relevant today.
Why Democrats need to move to the center
Since not everyone seems to understand why the Democrats urgently need a centrist re-set, let us go once more unto the breach with Ruy Teixeira.
Biden, to his credit, is currently trying to respond to market signals and move the party in the direction suggested by the findings above. But it’s a tough slog when the Democratic left is nipping at his heels every step of the way. And offering advice like this, from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), who has 13 million Twitter followers and 8.5 million Instagram followers:
We need to acknowledge that this isn’t just about middle of the road, an increasingly narrow band of independent voters. This is really about the collapse of support among young people, among the Democratic base, who are feeling that they worked overtime to get this president elected and aren’t necessarily being seen.
This all-too-typical disparagement of the political center is precisely the wrong direction for the Democrats to go in. This especially comes into focus when you consider where the big stakes are in the 2022 election—not in AOC’s +25 Democratic-leaning House district and among her progressive activist followers but rather in competitive House districts and swing Senate states, where voters are far, far more moderate.
I had some thoughts.
1. Biden Lied About Hunter’s Laptop
Tim Miller’s latest “Not My Party”:
2. Before the Ukrainians, It Was the Finns Who Kicked Russia’s Ass
Pretty much everyone on the Russian side assured themselves that the war would be over in a flash, that Finland had but a toy army, that a nine-hundred-pound gorilla can sit wherever it wants, and that the Finnish working class would rise up and greet Red Army soldier as liberators from its bourgeois oppressors…
The Russians thought wrong.
Finland’s armed forces outmaneuvered, out-thought, and outfought the Russians with guerrilla tactics powered by blistering morale and the total dedication that free people nearly always have when defending their families, their homes, and their land.
3. ‘The Dragon’: Russia’s Satirical Parable of Autocracy and the Human Spirit
In today’s Bulwark, Cathy Young writes about a 1944 play could have been written as an allegory for Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.
On February 23, the day before Russian troops invaded Ukraine, the Economist ran an article about a 1944 Russian play, The Dragon, by Evgeny Schwartz, depicting it as a remarkably timely exploration of autocracy and its corrupting effects on the human soul. Timely indeed: the play, a trenchant political and philosophical parable in the guise of a fairytale, has ripped-from-the-headlines passages that could have been written as an allegory for Vladimir Putin’s war.
4. A Federal Judge Found That Trump “Likely” Committed Serious Crimes—Now What?
Our democracy survived the Trump coup: Pence drew the red line on Jan. 6th, and Joe Biden, the duly elected president, was sworn in two weeks later. But unless and until Attorney General Merrick Garland or some prosecutor within a state or municipal office musters the courage to indict Trump, and until Congress passes laws protecting the electoral process, the attack on American democracy will not yet have really ended.