Disney And The LGTBQ Activism Ethics Train Wreck: A Prelude [Corrected]

I have been intending to examine the Disney empire’s misbegotten entry into the battle over Florida’s recently passed “Parental Rights in Education” law for weeks, but postponed the project because it is too complicated to do correctly without involving other complex issues that are closely related to it. Unfortunately, these issues have proliferated during the delay.

For example, Florida is threatening to remove Disney’s special status that allowed it to operate Disney World as an autonomous municipal government because of the company’s political action. Is that kind of punishment for a political opposition ethical? Should Disney have such special status, regardless of why it is being threatened with its removal? If the special status should be removed anyway, does it matter if it is done in response to political speech?

Here’s another: Republicans in Congress are threatening to end Disney’s copyright on Mickey Mouse, also in response to its LBGTQ activism. But that copyright should have ended decades ago, and its artificial endurance has stifled creative works blocked by thousands of other drawn-out copyrights that aren’t Disney. Now I am dealing with copyright law policy, the importance of Disney to the culture, and what, if anything, the government should do to–what? Reward it? Strengthen it? Direct it? Control it?

The Disney LGTBQ advocacy issue also involves, as virtually every issue does now, media ethics, as almost all outlets other than Fox have a clear pro-LGTBQ bias. The New York Times reporter assigned to covering Disney and the Florida law controversy is Brooks Barnes, and he can’t be trusted. In an earlier story last month, the reporter wrote,

Earlier in the week, Mr. Chapek, the company’s chief executive, botched an internal email to Disney employees. He was seeking to explain Disney’s public silence on anti-L.G.B.T.Q. legislation in Florida that activists have labeled the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

That’s misinformation and incompetent reporting. The law is not objectively LGBTQ legislation; nothing in it is derogatory or discriminatory in any way. Calling it that is the reporter advancing an activist position and a deceptive partisan talking point. Nor is it relevant to repeat the false “Don’t Say Gay” label before explaining what the law really says. What activists have strategically labeled the bill should not take precedence over what the text of it says.

Barnes’ Times front page story today, however, lays out Disney’s dilemma fairly, and the background that makes the issue both ethically interesting and important.

Since its founding in 1923, Disney has stood alone in Hollywood in one fundamental way: Its family-friendly movies, television shows and theme park rides, at least in theory, have always been aimed at everybody, with potential political and cultural pitfalls zealously avoided.

The Disney brand is about wishing on stars and finding true love and living happily ever after. In case the fairy tale castles are too subtle, Disney theme parks outright promise an escape from reality with welcome signs that read, “Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy.”

Lately, however, real world ugliness has been creeping into the Magic Kingdom. In this hyperpartisan moment, both sides of the political divide have been pounding on Disney, endangering one of the world’s best-known brands — one that, for many, symbolizes America itself — as it tries to navigate a rapidly changing entertainment industry.

Here are just some of the issues that will have to be addressed in the course of examining Disney’s clash with multiple controversies with important societal implications:

  • Is it ethical for corporations to publicly take positions on matters that do not involve their business interests? Disney was first attacked in California and by its own employees for not getting involved on the side of LGBTQ activists regarding the Florida law, then slammed by Republicans and conservatives when it publicly opposed the bill. This is a larger issue that includes all the corporate BLM virtue-signaling after the George Floyd Freakout as well as various corporate boycotts in Georgia over a misrepresented voting reform law, including Major League Baseball craven removal of the All-Star Game from Atlanta.
  • Why does anyone think the public schools have duty, justification, or any business whatsoever teaching about sex, and especially alternative varieties of sexual orientation and sex practices, to third graders or younger? Why is that a partisan issue, rather than a common sense issue?
  • Is it responsible for the unique transgender rights issues to be involved in these matters at all?
  • How does society simultaneously respect and and avoid discriminating against gays, lesbians and bisexuals without adopting the position that their orientations and sexual practices should be regarded as normal and equally endorsed by society? I think this is a very tough issue. Heterosexual relations have to be treated as the desirable norm, because, applying Kant’s Universality Principle, if everyone were gay, the human race wouldn’t survive. However, labeling any practice or human condition as not “normal” or “abnormal” is necessarily pejorative. It is a linguistic problem as well as an ethical one, and when it comes to teaching children, words are especially important.

I’ve been searching for an analogy. I have a long and varied set of experiences with every letter in LGBTQ. My many friends, associates and family members who fall into those categories are no different in any respect from the heterosexuals in my life, except for their sexual imperatives. I think of it a bit like having friends and relatives who are compelled from an early age to crawl on their hands and feet rather than walk upright. They do just fine, and otherwise are productive, happy and law abiding. They might even agree with me that there are definite drawbacks, socially and practically, to moving arund this way, but that’s the way they are. Fine: I don’t care. I’ll accommodate them. I’d hire the Crawlers, if their method of locomotion doesn’t interfere with their ability to do their job. I won’t think less of them.

However, should schools teach that crawling is normal, or encourage children to consider whether that is something they want to do? Not only isn’t it normal, it has safety implications. What if a popular student in the class is a Crawler? Should crawling students be required to use only their feet in school, and not to promote crawling?

By all means, a qualified Crawler teacher shouldn’t be penalized or discriminated against, but would it be fair, wise, and prudent to require her or him to walk “normally,” by society’s standards, while teaching? What should a teacher answer if a student says, “My mother says you’re a Crawler. What’s that like?”

Now, carrying that thought experiment over to Disney, how should an important cultural force treat the crawling minority in its parks and entertainment? It is a group that doesn’t want to be marginalized. How does Disney include them without being accused of promoting crawling?

I’ll be dealing with these and other related issues in subsequent posts. Ongoing input from you will be much appreciated.

32 thoughts on “Disney And The LGTBQ Activism Ethics Train Wreck: A Prelude [Corrected]

  1. More importantly, many of the parental rights bills are coming because schools are going behind the back of parents in both course content and even the transition process for those who they decide may be “transgender.”

    This sort of stuff cannot be tolerated. If the schools can lie to the people whose taxes fund them, who else can do so?

    • “If the schools can lie to the people whose taxes fund them, who else can do so?”

      Let’s see… Law enforcement, the military, Congress, the president, intelligence agencies, city councils, the list goes on and on. Frankly, it seems like schools are arriving pretty late to the lying-to-the-taxpayers party.

      I agree they shouldn’t be doing it, but it’s hardly a surprise that they are. Our governments, at all levels, have become hopelessly corrupted, and it’s difficult to imagine that some rowdy protests at school board meetings are going to result in meaningful change. Get your kids out of the public schools any way you can. As the saying goes, don’t send your children to be educated by Caesar and act surprised when they come back as Romans.

  2. Until I ran across the observation in an article recently, I had not known Disney had been pursuing a project to include non-heterosexual characters in its oeuvre since the 1980s.

    https://screenrant.com/disney-lgbt-characters-movies-tv-shows/#:~:text=%2015%20Times%20Disney%20Featured%20LGBTQ%2B%20Characters%20In,2020%29.%20Orka%20and%20Flix%20in%20Star…%20More%20

    Evidently various Disney creative staff and other interest groups consider Disney obligated to attack the Florida legislation given their apparent “deal” with the LGBTQ+ “community,” and Disney’s failure to do so a betrayal of a sacred trust. Earth to Disney: Don’t cross the LGBTQ+ “community.”

    The fact presumably LBGTQ+ teachers and administrators evidently appear to be intent on providing sex education to kindergarten through third grade children without telling parents, and not just “where do babies come from,” sure plays into the old “Let gay people be teachers or scout leaders and they’ll be recruiting kids and abusing them” mantra.

  3. Perhaps one positive did come out of locking everyone at home during the pandemic. Parents were forced by proximity into seeing what their child is taught and exposed to by the school system.

    I’m aging myself here, but when I went to school, Sex Ed was taught beginning in 8th grade. It was basic birds and bees, with a side of what to expect as a male or female in a changing body. Alternate orientation wasn’t taught, nor was there any mention of alternate genders, choosing a gender, etc. I wonder when the lines blurred between Sex Ed and Gender Studies?

    • I’ll date myself even more: when I was in school, there was no sex education whatsoever.
      However, when I was absent from 9th grade science class the day we had to pick our term project, a study of a single human gland or organ, its structure, function and diseases, I returned to find everything picked except the testicles.

      That helped.

      • My mother sat my sister and I in front of “The Miracle of Life” when we were kids. It was no help at all. Fortunately, a friend from across the street used her fingers to give us a two-second demonstration to clear everything up.

        I knew nothing about my teachers’ personal lives unless one of them was Mrs. as opposed to Miss. Then I knew she was married. About my few male teachers I was blissfully ignorant.

        • Sex ed. with O.B. Senior in the car one evening on the way to a nearby station to fill the gas tank:

          Pop, uncomfortably: “Bill. You know all about sex, don’t you?”
          Me, equally uncomfortably: “Yeah.”
          Pop (relieved): “Good.”
          End

          Sex ed at St. Michael the Archangel grade school from IHM nuns? Not on your life. A Marist Brother’s all boys high school? Other than a bizarre comment by Br. Rudolf (sworn to celibacy, of course, at least in theory) to the effect that it was important for us to know that while guys lose interest immediately after climax, women do not,” (WHAAT did Rudolf just say???), nada.

          As a result, I just don’t think schools have much of a role to play in sex ed.

  4. 1. No Corporation should be allowed an autonomous government. That Disney was allowed this was a reflection of its status and value to America and the hearts of its citizens. No one thought that it would ever become a general in the social issues war. We allowed emotion (our feelings about Disney and its products) to guide our judgment. That was a mistake.
    2. Going after Disney now solely because of this issue is unethical and suppresses political speech. If Republicans believe that corporations should have the same right to express themselves politically as individual persons, said corporations shouldn’t be punished for those expressions. By the same token, Democrats, not that long ago, opposed the influence corporations have on federal legislation. They appear to have no problem with corporations throwing their weight around to oppose laws in individual states of which they disapprove.
    3. Special status and copyright holdings can’t be removed now without looking like it’s speech suppression. The company never should have been given special treatment in the first place.
    4. Misrepresenting state legislation is a tactic in the “It isn’t what it is” category of the Democrats’ arsenal. It will continue to be while it continues to work. It is unethical. American citizens are unethical when they allow a party to tell them what a piece of legislation (or SCOTUS ruling) says without checking it out themselves.
    5. There’s been a movement to address sex education in schools in lower and lower grades for years. In part, it’s due to parents failing to do their jobs at home. When schools must provide food, clean clothing, medical care and after school supervision because the parents abdicate their responsibility, we should not be surprised when the schools start exercising more and more influence over the lives of students. He who abdicates responsibility abdicates control.
    6. It’s a partisan issue because there are teachers and administrators out there who think that students should be privy to the sex lives of their educators and that its a great way to influence them to abandon their parents’ traditional morals and values, especially if you just tell the kids not to tell their parents what happened in school.
    7. Transgenderism is the catalyst for this situation. When your child is forced to use the same restroom or locker room as a member of the opposite sex or is encouraged to believe that his or her gender was misidentified at birth, encouraged to change it and hide it from you, there’s going to be a big reaction. Where ethics fail, the law steps in. Schools behave unethically when they get involved in social experimentation so the reaction is to write laws to address it.
    8. The LGBTQ+ community radical activists don’t know who Kant is and have rejected utilitarianism for years. Long before Transgenderism was public social issue, I was told that the need to procreate was not the reason sex existed. Besides more human beings are more carbon footprints, right?
    9. I honestly don’t have all the answers here. One entry you did a long time ago about a man who led his wife to believe that having children wouldn’t be a problem until she found out he couldn’t have children concluded by saying that the courts can’t get involved in every domestic issue. By the same token, there
    are things that schools and corporations need to stay out of in order to keep doing their primary jobs.

    • A.M. A minor point. My cousin’s husband is a civil engineer (now long-since retired from his second career as an S&L real estate loan banker) who was working for the City of Orlando’s planning department back in the early ‘sixties. He was hired away by Disney to help them acquire and assemble, I don’t know, a hundred thousand acres (?) of fairly remote, undeveloped, scrub forest land in central Florida of minimal value. It was all done on the sly to keep hold outs from running up their sales price. And it was done very successfully. Anything Disney wanted, and I mean anything, was given to them by the city fathers of Orlando in return for a massive economic engine being dropped in their midst. I bet the Disney holdings were larger in area than the then City of Orlando. Letting them run their own private government was probably a no brainer and doubtless viewed as a net plus as long as the employment, sales and property taxes inured to the benefit of Orlando, one way or the other.

      • Disney is not actually even in Orlando. It’s in Kissimmee. What people call Orlando is actually a bunch of different cities all squashed together. Winter Park, Kissimmee, Orlando, Winter Garden, Apopka, etc. People call it all Orlando for some bizarre reason, but it’s not actually a single city. The airport is in Orlando. Disney World is about 45 minutes away.

        • Is Disneyworld having it’s own government that much different from college campuses being laws unto themselves, with their own police and investigations? I’ve already been thinking we should walk that concept back as well.

          • Although each jurisdiction has its unique considerations, in many instances university police agencies are better trained, better equipped, better staffed and better run than the municipalities or counties in which the schools are located. In the late ’60s – early ’70s, the substandard nature of many local police departments in college towns was a major impetus for “campus security” organizations being upgraded to full-fledged policing agencies. In most states, campus police agencies today must meet the same standards as other police agencies. Many university police agencies are accredited by the Commission for the Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA), an independent body that has created a body of operational standards developed by law enforcement professionals and administers an accreditation process through which a law enforcement agency can demonstrate that it meets those standards. If a college / university has only a “security” organization, they certainly should hand off investigation of crimes to the relevant police jurisdiction such as a city or county agency.

              • I am only knowledgeable about campus policing at public universities and colleges, rather than private schools, although I know some private universities have police departments. These days, (for good or ill) many organizations other than cities and counties (like airport authorities, hospital authorities and even local school districts) have their own police departments. Due to the immense liability attached to operating a police agency, this is not an endeavor to be entered into lightly. Public university policies are, in my experience, only enforced by notice or citation rather than arrest. All university police departments of which I am aware only utilize arrest to enforce criminal violations. When I was an officer at a large southern state university in the 1970s, a university entity separate from the police department actually enforced parking regulations and issued citations. The police department only enforced state criminal laws and traffic laws. I can’t imagine a state giving any private entity like CNN or Ford carte blanche to enforce that entity’s policies using the state-sanctioned power of arrest.
                Regarding FOIA, only federal agencies are subject to FOIA, all others are governed by their states’ own “open records” laws. My own state has one of the widest-scope open records acts in the country. In my last position before retirement, I had one staff member whose time was almost completely consumed responding to Open Records Act requests.

        • Okay. Orange County. Good point. It’s like basketball or football announcers calling Miami “South Beach.” South Beach is a neighborhood in Miami Beach. A different city across Biscayne Bay from Miami.

          • Yeah, it’s a pet peeve of mine. I don’t know why, but it drives me nuts when people mislabel one city as another. It’s a really strange brand of misinformation.

            • Metropolitan Orlando certainly works. Orange County works. Metropolitan Miami is okay. Of course, they have Metro/Dade County where somehow the city and county have kind of merged. Happened years after I left town as an eighteen-year-old.

    • AM
      You said:
      “There’s been a movement to address sex education in schools in lower and lower grades for years. In part, it’s due to parents failing to do their jobs at home. When schools must provide food, clean clothing, medical care and after school supervision because the parents abdicate their responsibility, we should not be surprised when the schools start exercising more and more influence over the lives of students. He who abdicates responsibility abdicates control.”

      All the things you describe as parent’s failings were promulgated by school systems and their regulating agencies such as the US dept. of Education to expand their sphere of control. The teaching of sex ed in high schools was being fought by parents back in the early 70’s because the parents felt it was promoting the “sexual revolution” that was gaining steam from the 60’s. The parents lost that fight. As a result, teen pregnancy has skyrocketed, childhood poverty rates have increased, and literacy has fallen. As schools started providing free or reduced cost lunches some parents took full advantage of the free stuff but not most. Then came the studies that said kids needed a breakfast in order to learn so the schools got more money to feed them breakfast. That took the parents off the hook for doing so. To suggest that even a simple plurality of parents failed to address the basic needs of the children is without evidence. Every last social welfare program initiated by the government was initiated for the needs of the few which then expanded to allow more children to fall into the trap of government control.

      Schools are not filling unmet needs, they are creating dependencies. Fifty years ago most kids of all types graduated with the ability to read and perform math at grade level; not so anymore. Schools have abdicated their responsibility for focusing on what gives the young the skills to be able to learn, understand and be productive. Instead they have decided to usurp control over the lives of the young by indenturing so many families to lives of indifference and ignorance by prioritizing “feel good” programs that make staff feel like they are doing good while enslaving others into lives of dependency.

      That said, the majority want no part of this. They do not want their children to grow up to be servants of the government. They may have been asleep at the switch for a while, maybe even being resigned to the fact that they had little power to effect curriculum change. The push to promote non biological gender affirmations among children within the public education system was just a bridge too far and the sleeping giant was awakened.

  5. For me the root of the problem is the sacralization of politics, but most especially the Woke sacralization of ethnic and sexual minorities.
    It seems to me that what’s happened to liberals/the left these past 5 or so years is that their noble concern for the rights of ethnic and sexual minorities has gradually, like the proverbial boiling frog, moved from the realm of the political into the realm of the sacred, or more simply, that the rights and identities of ethnic and sexual minorities have now become sacralized.
    This is why it’s no longer enough to simply be tolerant, but all “marginalized identities” must be constantly praised and applauded, they must be acknowledged and celebrated in every book, play, movie, and in every class at school, no matter how irrelevant or age-inappropriate.
    This is also why school tests must be abolished, language must be renovated, every institution must be repurposed to center the Victim and atone for his sufferings, and why even our common conceptions of man and woman must be torn down: the Left has embarked on a fundamentalist crusade to remake our entire society so that the Last really do become First, where every program, goal or achievement must first and foremost center the protected Victim class, and where the only proper response from the rest of us is atonement and/or worshipful adoration.
    The Woke religion is new and strong and basically the official creed of every Blue state and every liberal institution (most esp in culture, media and academia): they will not be backing off or coming down to Earth anytime soon.

    • Eloquent and on point. Well said. Minorities must not only be given equal rights, they must be recognized as superior to majorities. Lia Thomas must be recognized as superior to women swimmers who are not trans gendered. They are just straight women. Who needs ’em? They’re a dime a dozen. Gay men must be revered as superior to straight men. Gay men are not just equal, they’re better! Tiresome.

  6. Two things that caught my eye, with what I believe you intended to say in square brackets:

    “What activists have strategically labeled the bill should [Not] take precedence over what the text of it says.”

    “…almost all outlets other than Fox have a clear [progressive] bias.” As worded it implied that Fox is unbiased, which really seemed like an odd stance. I almost suggested left wing, but there are a fair number of nominally left wing people that don’t buy into the activist left bias. The media isn’t just left wing, it seems to be full on lunatic fringe on this issue.

    • And right after I posted, I realized I should have left it “left wing”, since it’s what I was think YOU meant, and I shouldn’t project too much of my own thinking.

  7. Jack said:
    “Heterosexual relations have to be treated as the desirable norm, because, applying Kant’s Universality Principle, if everyone were gay, the human race wouldn’t survive. However, labeling any practice or human condition as not “normal” or “abnormal” is necessarily pejorative. It is a linguistic problem as well as an ethical one, and when it comes to teaching children, words are especially important.”

    Why are we using the terms normal and abnormal instead of “the norm” and either not the norm or different? Why not say heterosexuality is the most common form of sexuality because it allows the human race to reproduce without requiring significant artificial medical interventions. Other forms of sexuality are merely different due to _______ fill in the blanks but be prepared to back it up with real scientific information – such as that offered by Zoebrain.

    We don’t say that dark skinned people are normal if we are discussing racial characteristics in the tropical regions of the world and light skinned one are abnormal. Nor do we say that persons with different eye lid structures and skin tone are normal in China and other Asian nations while others are abnormal.

    There is a huge difference in saying something is the norm and saying something is what is normal. Terms like “norm” simply mean what is the significantly predominant thing, be it race, sex or behavior. There is no term called the abnorm.

    Disney to protect its brand should simply have stated that “inside our gates all are welcome”. Disney has no business weighing in on one side or the other because it endangers shareholder value. Pissing off any market segment for political posturing is antithetical to the fiduciary duty Disney management has to its shareholders. In short, they should adopt the Swiss approach – stay neutral and let others take the bruising. Nothing stops Disney from treating all guests the same and no guest should expect that should be able to amplify their political agendas through Disney.

    While I do not believe that any business should be exempt from the laws that would otherwise be enforced against less powerful persons or enterprises, it may have made sense at one time to give Disney special treatment as part of Florida’s recruitment effort but Disney still has no right to demand that treatment indefinitely. Repeal of that status should be based on real economic reasons however and not as retribution. With that said, Disney management made itself a target by antagonizing the majority and as a result potentially harmed its shareholders. It was a dumb move.

    • They can’t be neutral, Chris. They’re trying to placate their LGBTQ+ employees, who may very well constitute the majority of their creative staff.

      • Bill, placating the LGBTQ community and employees does not require them to take sides unless the aforementioned believe that everything must be their way or the highway. In Disney’s case, the target market is traditional nuclear families – Mother Father and children where XY chromosomal units are boys, and XX units are girls. That is the norm across the globe. Those who do not fit the norm do not need to be marginalized and should be welcomed, but they must realize that organizations that design products for the norm is not necessarily a snub to them. People who demand special treatment are simply bullies who must be faced head on or their behaviors will be reinforced.

        We should remind people that that the axiom “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” is a social norm. It exists to promote harmony among different groups. If you don’t like what the “Romans are doing – don’t be a part of it. Imagine the outrage if I go tickets to go to an inaugural ball and showed up wearing sandals, torn jeans and a t-shirt that read I’m with stupid. It matters not whether I had other more appropriate attire or not, most attendees would find my outfit objectionable. One does not demand the host accommodate every proclivity the guest has when it must cater to a wide array of preferences. When it chooses to alienate the majority of its patrons to placate a vocal minority its longevity and profitability will be threatened.

        • “They must realize that organizations that design products for the norm is not necessarily a snub to them. People who demand special treatment are simply bullies who must be faced head on or their behaviors will be reinforced.”

          Chris, Chris, Chris. You’re making sense. But you’re rational. You’re not an activist. These people want massive amounts of power. They are not reasonable. They would love to burn Disney and the heteronormative capitalist regime in which it functions to the ground. I’m beginning to wonder whether the LGBTQ+ “community” isn’t convinced every single human is not heterosexual and all that needs to happen for everyone to be non cis gendered and FULFILLED is the heterosexual delusions and shackles need to be demolished and all will be well. For these people, the only thing standing between them and Nirvana are heterosexuals. It’s the same with Democrats: the only thing standing between them and heaven on earth is Republicans. We’re dealing with zealots here.

  8. The message from the “woke” crowd of anti-liberty totalitarian activists that are intentionally undermining everything in our culture, is…

    You will be assimilated, resistance is futile!

    The message from the rest of us should be something like…

    Fuck you and fuck your cancellations!

  9. I think that what the State of Florida is doing to Disney World is pure political retribution and therefore unethical.

    I think over the last 10+ years the political left has set a new precedent for political retribution “acceptability” and it’s infected politics across the board in a very bad way. We’re in for some turbulent times.

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