May 1, 2023

Disney Sues Florida

Walt Disney Co sued Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis [last] Wednesday, asking a court to overturn state efforts to control Disney World… In its lawsuit, Disney accused DeSantis and his supporters of illegally using the state government to punish a company for voicing an opinion that should be protected by free-speech rights… The skirmish began last year after Disney criticized a Florida measure banning classroom discussion of sexuality and gender identity with younger children. DeSantis repeatedly attacked ‘woke Disney’ in public remarks.” Reuters

Here’s our prior coverage of DeSantis and Disney. The Flip Side

Many on both sides argue that Disney appears to have a strong case and that partisanship is shaping both sides’ views of the issue:

“Florida officials did not deny that the move was retaliation for Disney’s political speech; they bragged about it. ‘You kick the hornet’s nest, things come up,’ one state representative remarked. ‘And I will say this: You got me on one thing, this bill does target one company. It targets The Walt Disney Company.’ A state senator explained after voting for the measure that Disney ‘is learning lessons and paying the political price of jumping out there on an issue.’ DeSantis himself later remarked that Disney ‘had clearly crossed a line in its support of indoctrinating very young schoolchildren in woke gender identity politics.’…

“In Disney’s eyes, all of this amounts to a violation of the First Amendment, which generally forbids government officials from punishing private actors for expressing a political viewpoint. ‘The retaliatory reconstitution of Disney’s governing body’s structure through the enactments of Senate Bill 4C and House Bill 9B have chilled and continue to chill Disney’s protected speech,’ the company said in its lawsuit… It is hard to dispute the retaliatory nature of Florida’s actions when so many state officials have been so unambiguous about it.”
Matt Ford, New Republic

“America’s federal, state and local governments control immense resources. Total government spending is over $9 trillion annually, and those are just direct expenditures. The government also controls the ability to enact tax breaks and other financial incentives for individuals and businesses. And while there are good arguments against governments providing economic inducements and incentives to private corporations, those inducements and incentives cannot then depend on an implied requirement that the corporations agree with the government on matters of public policy…

A Disney defeat would represent a dangerous reversal in First Amendment jurisprudence and cast a pall of fear over private expression. In its complaint, Disney wrote, ‘In America the government cannot punish you for speaking your mind.’ That is true now and will remain so if Disney wins its case. If Disney loses, on the other hand, America’s first liberty will be at risk, and the culture wars will escalate out of control.”
David French, New York Times

This conflict is going to make for some strange bedfellows politically. On the one hand you have conservatives, who are always suspicious of government overreach and over-regulation rooting for a governor to seize regulatory control of a major company’s property. On the other hand you have progressives, who are always worried about the power and greed of big corporations, rooting for one of the biggest corporations in the US to effectively govern itself, with its own corporate lawyers literally writing the agreement to hand power to the company in perpetuity.”
John Sexton, Hot Air

Such are the dismal vicissitudes of a world where principle yields readily to the desire for partisan advantage. Progressives are rooting for one of the wealthiest and most powerful corporations in the world, whose special development district the left until recently considered a nefarious government giveaway. Conservatives are rooting for the authority of angry public officials to regulate a private business into submission because they dislike what it has to say… I only hope that we’re able to pass back through the looking glass to the land of principle before we’re stuck forever on the wrong side of the mirror.”
Stephen L. Carter, Bloomberg

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