THE NEW YORK TIMES – Until recently, the clash between the disney group and the state of Florida could seem inconceivable. The Republicans’ attacks on the entertainment giant, which will damage the state’s economy, reflect a sudden drop in the direction of intolerance in a country that seemed increasingly tolerant; and the allegations against Disney are, in a word, insane.
But what is happening in Florida makes sense once we realize that the governor’s objective, Ron DeSantis, and its allies have nothing to do with politics – nor with politics in the conventional sense. Witnessing, instead, symptoms of the GOP’s transformation from a normal political party into a radical movement grounded in conspiracy theories and intimidation.
Regarding the economy: a few months ago, The Tallahassee Democrata local newspaper, ran an article titled “The Mouse That Doesn’t Need to Roar,” arguing that Disney World’s immense role in Florida’s economy has given it undisputed political clout.
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More directly, Disney World is located in a 10,000-hectare “special district” in which the company provides basic utilities while paying property taxes. Last week, however, DeSantis signed legislation that eliminates that district, which will leave local taxpayers in trouble — and also force them into more than $1 billion in debt.
In addition, the resort employs a huge number of people and attracts millions of visitors every year – money-spending visitors that drive Florida’s economy. And, less tangibly, Disney has certainly contributed to Florida’s image as a pleasant place to visit and live. The state’s leisure and hospitality industry is massive, and Disney World is a major reason for that.
All of this, however, was jeopardized when Florida passed the “Don’t Say Gay” law, which not only restricted what schools can say about gender, but also limited its ability to advise students regarding doubts, difficulties or problems without their parents’ consent and paved the way for parents to sue institutions for violations of vaguely defined rules.
New customs and public image
The Disney group said nothing about the legislation during the proceedings. But an entertainment company whose business depends in part on its public image cannot seem out of step with prevailing social mores. And American society as a whole has become much more open about LGBTQ issues than it used to be.
Approval of same-sex marriage grew from 27% in 1996 to 70% last year. So, better late than never – and after legislation passed – the Disney Group CEO finally declared that his company was against the law. The republican response was radical – but, after all, these days, it has always been that way.
Not so long ago, using the power of the state to impose financial penalties on corporations because companies expressed political positions that you disagree with would have been considered unacceptable. In fact, it may even be unconstitutional.
Mickey Mouse Conspiracy Theories
But the attack on the Disney group went far beyond financial reprisal: Mickey Mouse suddenly became part of a vast conspiracy. Florida’s lieutenant governor gave statements to the Newsmax website accusing the Disney group of “indoctrinating” and “sexualizing children” with their “nothing secret agenda.”
It sounds crazy – and it really is – but this has increasingly become the norm for Republicans. Political coverage has not realized how deeply “QAnonized” the Republican Party has become.
As I mentioned the other day, about half of Republicans believe that “senior Democrats are involved in elite sex trafficking networks.” Here’s a more impressive number: 66% of Republicans believe in the “white replacement theory,” agreeing fully or in part with the claim that “the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate with voters from poor countries around the world.” world”.
Because of this mindset, Republicans have adopted policies designed to play on grassroots paranoia and accuse anyone who opposes these policies of being part of a nefarious conspiracy.
And the bizarre nature of the attacks on the Disney group doesn’t just flatter the madness of the Republican base; the magnitude of the absurdity of the attacks is also an intimidating message to the business world that states: “No matter how you conduct your business, how innocuous your behavior really is. If you criticize our actions, or refrain in any way from showing loyalty to our cause, we will find some way to punish you.”
The obvious example in this regard is Viktor Orbán’s Hungary, where the Conservative Political Action Conference will be organized in May. As a recent report by Freedom House in Hungary puts it, “businessmen whose activities are not aligned with the government’s financial or political interest tend to face harassment and intimidation; and are subjected to increasing administrative pressure for a possible acquisition”.
So the fight over Disney is actually a symptom of a much broader and more disturbing development: the “QAnonization” (popularization of a political group that propagates far-right conspiracy theories) and the “organization” of one of the biggest political parties in the US, which puts our democracy at risk. TRANSLATION BY GUILHERME RUSSO