Disney “crossed a line”
Allie Beth Stuckey | The entertainment giant no longer deserves special privileges in the Sunshine State
On Thursday, the Republican-majority Florida legislature passed a bill abolishing The Walt Disney Company’s self-governing jurisdiction near Orlando known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District. State lawmakers established the district in 1967 and provided Disney with near-total control over its zoning, infrastructure, and more. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law on Friday.
The move comes amid controversy surrounding Florida’s new education law, which primarily requires the state’s public schools to disclose information about children’s well-being to their parents and prohibits kindergarten through third-grade teachers from holding formal classroom discussions about “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”
Critics refer to the legislation as the “Don’t Say Gay” law, claiming it harms teachers and children who identify as LGBTQ. As I wrote for WORLD Opinions last month, these kinds of protestations to the law are dishonest at best and profoundly disturbing at worst. It is wise and just public policy to prevent children from being exposed to indoctrinating ideology concerning gender and sexuality, especially without the informed consent of their parents.
Disney, however, believes passionately in the need to teach 5-year-olds about the wonders of puberty blockers and sexual confusion. On Instagram, the company claimed that prohibiting instruction of young children about gender-switching represents an infringement upon “basic human rights.” Disney stopped all political donations in Florida in protest. After Gov. DeSantis signed the bill into law, the company released a statement announcing its “goal” of seeing the law “repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts.”
To many, including Republican lawmakers in the Sunshine State, the California-based entertainment giant had declared war.
At a news conference, Gov. DeSantis responded to Disney’s statement: “I think that crossed a line. This state is governed by the interests of the people of the state of Florida. It is not based on the demands of California corporate executives.”
And so, Republicans in the state legislature made a move unfamiliar (and uncomfortable) to many in the GOP: They set themselves against a lucrative corporation by stripping away privileges that other companies do not have. The state acted in the interest of children and, in doing so, communicated it would not reward nefarious ideology with special privileges.
The pro-business party of the free market—which tends to reward corporations with special carve-outs, tax breaks, and incentives with the knowledge that the success of these businesses will have a trickle-down benefit for constituents—is awakening to a reality grasped by many conservative voters long ago: Influential corporations, not just the government, can subvert liberty and democratic processes.
For example, social media companies like Twitter and Facebook may not have the power to eliminate a person’s First Amendment rights. Still, they can artificially engineer public dialogue by deplatforming voices they don’t like. They can even suppress the circulation of information that may hurt the campaign of their preferred candidate. Amazon can remove books that disagree with its progressive ideology.
Ideologically motivated censorship waged by our country’s main purveyors of information and speech platforms has the power to shape public opinion, which, in turn, shapes public policy. And not only that, but a country in which a person is technically, by law, free to say what he or she believes but is prohibited from doing so by virtually every megaphone available isn’t really all that free.
When Disney promises its commitment to the reversal of a law passed by legislators and signed into law by a governor, all duly elected by the people of Florida, it is declaring its intention to subvert the people’s will and impose its own. That’s not democracy. It’s more like a corporate oligarchy, and as people who disdain all forms of tyranny, conservatives should oppose it.
Resistance looks like using the government as a useful check against these too-powerful corporations. Refusing to honor special privileges for companies, as Florida is doing now, is one example. Conservatives must recognize that the threat to individual freedom and the values we seek to preserve comes not only from the government but also from any influential, bureaucratic, corporate, power-hungry entity.
Besides, the government picking favorites by affording some companies goodies it does not afford others is not free-market capitalism. It’s cronyism from the start, and it is not a principle conservatives should tolerate.
Gov. DeSantis and Florida Republicans are making the right move not just for the people of their state but also for the country. They are pioneering a new era of conservative leadership in which conservatism recognizes that the political, cultural, and moral battle we face will not be waged with corporate carve-outs but by wielding all the tools constitutionally available to us to oppose institutionalized left-wing ideology.
May other state leaders—and woke corporations—take note.
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