One of the signs that you live in a banana republic is that the people disappear off the streets and are held indefinitely without trial (think Padilla). Another is that shadowy people who aren’t officially there and who everyone says are not subject to ordinary authority beat up detainees (think ‘other agency’ operatives and contractors in Iraq’s prisons). Another is that the nation’s Treasury is looted to give favors to cronies of the junta. Check.
But has it come to the point where even the big fish live in fear? Apparently so. Disney is refusing to let its Mirimax subsidiary distribute a polemical anti-Bush film by Michael Moore. I have no brief for Moore, but the New York Times reports that Mirimax at least believes that Disney’s actions are not justified by its contracts with it.
Be that as it may, the shocking part is not corporate political censorship — we lost that virginity long before the first Bush — but one alleged reason for Disney’s unwillingness to have anything to do with the film: a fear of retaliation from the ruling family!
Disney Forbidding Distribution of Film That Criticizes Bush: Mr. Moore's agent, Ari Emanuel, said that Michael D. Eisner, Disney's chief executive, asked him last spring to pull out of the deal with Miramax. Mr. Emanuel said Mr. Eisner expressed concern that it would endanger tax breaks Disney receives for its theme park, hotels and other ventures in Florida, where Mr. Bush's brother, Jeb, is governor.
“Michael Eisner asked me not to sell this movie to Harvey Weinstein; that doesn't mean I listened to him,” Mr. Emanuel said. “He definitely indicated there were tax incentives he was getting for the Disney corporation and that's why he didn't want me to sell it to Miramax. He didn't want a Disney company involved.”
Disney executives deny that accusation, though they said their displeasure over the deal was made clear to Miramax and Mr. Emanuel.
A senior Disney executive elaborated that the company has the right to quash Miramax's distribution of films if it deems their distribution to be against the interests of the company. Mr. Moore's film, the executive said, is deemed to be against Disney's interests not because of the company's business dealings with the government but because Disney caters to families of all political stripes and believes Mr. Moore's film could alienate many.
Ironically, the film is called “Fahrenheit 911”, presumably an allusion to Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, a book about censorship. Moore's project, apparently, is about the Bush-Saudi connection.
Update: Jack Balkin takes Disney at its word, and argues that this exposes a new danger of media concentration, which he dubs the soft censorship of Corporate Expectations:
The soft censorship of corporate expectations suggests a generally unremarked problem with media concentration: It is often argued that media concentration can actually help foster diversity, because a monopolist will have an economic incentive to produce a diverse menu of media goods in order to capture an increasingly large audience share. But this reasoning neglects the fact that as media become vertically and horizontally integrated, they may become held responsible by politicians and advertisers for everything that they do. That leads them, all other things being equal, to avoid the kinds of attacks and controversies that will get them in hot water with politicians. Thus, although media concentration may produce products that are increasingly diverse from one perspective, they may be increasingly shallow from another. Conversely, in a world in which there are a large number of different players, the chances become higher than one of them is willing to risk the wrath of the powers that be.
This is a real danger, although it's currently too late in the evening for me to figure out whether it's new, or a more elegant formulation of the old.
Another reason for this censorship might involve Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal who is apparently a big investor in Euro-Disney. Here’s a link but I’m certain someone else can find a better one.
Considering the somewhat factually challenged nature of some of Moore’s “documentaries”, I’d be a bit hesitant to accept his agent’s explaination as to why Disney made this move, barring footage of the Eisner remark, and at that, footage that had never seen the inside of Moore’s cutting room. “Allegations” do not a bannana republic make. There has to actually be some truth to them.
The thing which really puzzles me, though, is why somebody who favors campaign finance “reform” would want a major media corporation to be distributing what amounts to a movie length attack ad, an “in kind” campaign donation of enormous value. Is there no potential of the appearance of the possibility of corruption here? 😉 All Disney is doing is voluntarilly getting a couple years ahead of the easily projected trends of campaign finance “reform”; What they do today, and in doing offend you, they’ll do under penalty of law in a few years, if the “reformers” get their way.
Does anytone know Michael Eisner’s email address or a site where I can sign a petition to ask them to release ‘Farenheit’?
Why would Disney want to release a movie by a bad movie producer who has never had a big hit but loves to draw attention to his lies about reality? Bowling for Columbine was the nail in his coffin and he is deliberately trying to draw attention to himself in hopes of people going to see Farnheit once it comes out. He has always produced losers and Disney was smart to dump this one. Disney makes lots of mistakes but that was not one of them.
If anyone thinks voting against Bush is going to magically wipe away censorship, then they are sorely mistaken.
The historical record shows that John Kerry and other Democrats should be expected to practice censorship at multiple levels.
Democrats are far more prone to play the censorship card because they like to broaden their crossover appeal among voters.
They are willing to sell out the First Amendment at the drop of a hat for a few votes. Congressional Democrats probably figure that a substantial amount of people who oppose censorship are not going to vote Republican anyway, so what is there to lose?
A prime example is the Telecommunications Act of 1996. This bill included the Communications Decency Act sponsored by Democrat Jim Exon of Nebraska. Just look at how many Democrat Senators were chomping at the bit to vote for this and get their names on it as sponsors of amendments!
The Republican-appointed Supreme Court ruled in Reno v. ACLU, that the federal Communications Decency Act, as signed by Bill Clinton, was an unconstitutional restriction on free speech, affirming a lower court decision. Yes, these are the same Supreme Court Justices that serve through present day.
Here you can see how the Democrats clamored to pass this bill:
Telecommunications Act of 1996 (S. 652)
Amendment sponsored by Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California
Purpose: To provide for the full scrambling on multichannel video services of sexually explicit adult programming.
Senator John Kerry Voted Yes.
Amendment sponsored by Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota
Purpose: To provide means of limiting the exposure of children to violent programming on television, and for other purposes (V-Chip).
Senator John Kerry voted against a motion to table this amendment.
Conrad Amendment passed as modified by the Lieberman Amendment on a voice vote of the Senate.
Amendment to Conrad Amendment sponsored by Joe Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut
Purpose: To revise the provisions relating to the establishment of a system for rating violence and other objectionable content on television.
Lieberman Amendment to the Conrad Amendment passed on a voice vote of the Senate.
Amendment sponsored by Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont
Purpose: To revise title IV of the bill and provide for a study of the legal and technical means of restricting access to obscenity on interactive telecommunications systems.
Leahy Amendment passed as modified by the Exon Amendment (Communications Decency Act) on a voice vote of the Senate.
Communications Decency Act
Amendment to Leahy Amendment sponsored by James Exon, Democrat of Nebraska
Purpose: To provide protections against harassment, obscenity and indecency to minors by means of telecommunications devices.
Senator John Kerry voted yes.
Telecommunications Act of 1996 (S. 652) passed Senate with amendments.
Senator John Kerry voted yes.
Senate agreed to conference report for the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (S. 652)
Senator John Kerry voted yes.
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 (S. 652), which includes the Communications Decency Act was signed by President Bill Clinton on February 8, 1996.
Again, the Republican-appointed Supreme Court ruled in Reno v. ACLU, that the federal Communications Decency Act was an unconstitutional restriction on free speech.