Friday, April 28, 2023

Brendan O'Neill: Ron DeSantis is right to fight back against woke capitalism

Corporate meddling in politics is out of control. Pushback is needed.

Some top Republicans are getting cold feet over Ron DeSantis’s fight with Disney. The Florida governor has been locking horns with the Walt Disney Company for more than a year. His beef is with Disney’s arrogant decree that it would use its economic clout to wound and ideally kill off his House Bill 1557, branded the ‘Don’t Say Gay Bill’ by some commentators. Now passed into law, as the Florida Parental Rights in Education Act, HB1557 limits what schoolteachers can say about ‘sexual orientation [and] gender identity’ to kids under the age of 10. ‘Unacceptable’, said the bosses of Disney as they peered with aristocratic scorn at the democratic process from their ivory-tower-cum-Cinderella-Castle.

DeSantis might have votes, but we have money, Disney essentially said. He might have the backing of 4.6million Floridians, but we’ve got millions of bucks, and we’ll use all that sweet capital to try to thwart his wicked law. Disney promised to cut off donations to any politician who backed HB1557. Shorter version: bow down to our woke worldview or the cashflow ends. Not surprisingly, given he, not Disney CEO Bob Iger, is the democratically elected governor of Florida, DeSantis wasn’t best pleased with these threats of corporate meddling in law-making. So he revoked the special tax status the Disney district of Florida had enjoyed since 1967. He also hand-picked members of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board of Supervisors to exert more influence over Disney’s affairs. This week, Disney has initiated legal proceedings against DeSantis, accusing him of pursuing a ‘relentless campaign to weaponise government power against Disney’.

It is a fascinating stand-off. It represents one of the first serious efforts by a politician in the modern West to hold at bay the burgeoning power of woke capital; to tame the burning corporate urge to intrude on the realm of democracy. And yet some in the GOP are starting to bristle at DeSantis v Disney, wishing it would just go away. We’re supposed to be a pro-business party, they cry, and yet there’s Ron getting into a scrap with a business. ‘I don’t think Ron DeSantis is a conservative based on his actions toward Disney’, said the Republican governor of New Jersey Chris Christie last week. We shouldn’t be telling business ‘what to say, how to think’, he said.

The Hill reports that ‘deep divides’ are emerging in the GOP, with some ‘worried the party is straying from its roots by going after the internal politics of big business’. Some Republicans’ boycotting of Bud Light over its promo campaign with TikTok fake-girl Dylan Mulvaney has also got the GOP worried. Indeed, the National Republican Congressional Committee swiftly deleted a tweet slagging off Bud Light – ‘we can all finally admit that Bud Light tastes like water’, it said – presumably after someone reminded it that Bud Light’s parent company, Anheuser-Busch, is one of the Republican party’s biggest donors. GOP insiders are fretting that business-bashing by anti-woke Republicans has reached such a level that we’re now ‘biting the hand that feeds [us]’.

We definitely live in strange times when it comes to democracy and capitalism. Everything has been turned on its head. Democrats and even self-styled radicals cosy up to big business, imploring it to put its money where its mouth is and Do Something about social injustice. Meanwhile, ostensibly pro-market right-wingers behave like student agitators of yesteryear, condemning the capitalist elite for its political overreach and threatening to boycott its wares. This 21st-century weirdness is beautifully captured in Disney v DeSantis. On one side we have woke liberals, the kind of people who say they want to tear down the heteronormative patriarchal capitalist superstructure, begging Disney’s boss class to ‘actively oppose’ HB1557. And on the other we have a right-leaning possible future president of the United States effectively saying: ‘Back off, corporation.’

And yet the GOP bigwigs taking swipes at DeSantis are wrong. They clearly don’t understand what is at stake not only in DeSantis v Disney, but also in the broader irritation many people feel with woke capitalism and its insatiable appetite for re-engineering public life to make it accord with its own eccentric creeds. Corporate activism represents a grave threat to democratic life. When powerful actors in the business world play an outsized role in politics – whether they’re clubbing together to discuss how to tear down ‘restrictive voting laws’ in states like Georgia or banning elected politicians like Donald Trump from social media – equality itself is undermined. The view of the capitalist oligarch comes to carry more weight than the views of the citizenry, and that should be intolerable to everyone who believes in democracy – left or right.

The first reason DeSantis was right to stand up to Disney is because HB1557 was not a horrible, homophobic law, as some claimed. No, it’s a popular piece of legislation designed to deal with something many parents are concerned about: the transformation of the classroom into a site of social re-engineering, in which teacher-cum-activists have become obsessed with inculcating kids with correct-think on everything from gender to race. Many parents agree that under-10s should not be told there are 72 genders. DeSantis won a landslide victory in the midterms in November, securing the votes of many Latinos and working-class whites: the kind of people who are deeply opposed to the ideological capture of education by the purple-haired ideologues of the new elite. Call me old-fashioned, but I believe the views of these voters should hold more weight than the views of Disney’s clique of aloof bosses.

The second reason we should support DeSantis against Disney is because this clash might just be the start of a much-needed fightback against the woke corporate assault on democracy. We live in a world in which companies brazenly refuse to pass donations to ‘controversial’ activists like the Canadian truckers. Where corporations like PayPal openly dream of fining users thousands of pounds if they spread ‘misinformation’. Where American Express, Mastercard, Amazon and others block donations to members of the US Congress who say things they disapprove of. Where hip billionaires in Silicon Valley will expel you from the modern public square if you say men are not women. Where Ben & Jerry’s thinks nothing of dictating to elected governments what policies they should adopt. And where the likes of Disney, Coca-Cola, Starbucks and others look to punish states that pass laws they don’t like. ‘Corporate America is, once again, weighing in on politics, and Republicans aren’t happy’, crows the left, with spectacular foolishness.

This is an oligarchical onslaught against the workings of democracy. It is an attack on citizens’ fundamental rights to raise money for political campaigns, to freely associate with one another, to express their political views, and to expect that their voice will count for as much as the voice of richer people who run big businesses like Disney. GOP members who cry ‘But what about the rights of private companies?’ have failed to clock the existential nature of the battle at hand, which is between an unaccountable elite on one side and reason, democracy and the common sense of the electorate on the other. I know which side I’m on. Cry more, Disney.

Brendan O’Neill is spiked’s chief political writer. This article was first published HERE


TJS said...

Absolutely 100 % agree. Firstly to the idea of the "don't say gay". It's nothing more than sending your child to school to be groomed for whatever. The age of 10 is reasonable however there seems to be an overemphasis on gender awareness which is leading to horrendous outcomes.

Secondly the idea of corporate power together with government equates to fascism. Which is exactly where the US is leading the world to with its abhorrent world views and ideology.

Thank you Brendan O'Nell.

Madame Blavatsky said...

"Secondly the idea of corporate power together with government equates to fascism."

This is completely false, but a very commonly stated error, committed because most people have no idea what fascism actually entails.

"Corporatism" under fascism isn't something like Apple, Google, Disney, Wall Street finance et al effectively running the government (which is, ironically, actually a characteristic of our own system of neoliberalism and liberal democracy as opposed to fascism). Who do you think actually wields the power in liberal democracies? Multinationals and financial institutions, and media companies (who make you think that you have sovereignty).

Corporatism, in the fascist sense, is more closely related to Syndicalism, which is something like Guilds having a role in the governmental structure. In fascism, companies like Apple, Google, Disney and Wall Street banks would never hold sway, and would be subservient to the State, and thus would not be in any position to do anything that conflicted with the collective interest.

In other words, we already have what people ominously condemn as being "fascist" yet it is not fascist at all, it is actually liberal democracy.

Anonymous said...

"Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power"
Benito Mussolini

This is often quoted.
Also communism and fascism are two sides of the same Penny.

Left wing and right wing is like a horse shoe, both ends meeting and wish to control.

The Nationalist Socialist Party were they not the NAZI's were the Nazis not the Ashkenazim?

I see you like to be contrary Madame. Contrary is used to confuse and obscure.

Barend Vlaardingerbroek said...

The term 'fascism' appears to be undergoing some reappraisal if a quick look around Google is anything to go by. The associations of the term with a central all-powerful leader and with ethnic supremacy are, I submit, instances of historical baggage that ought to be left there. The key feature of fascism is its absolutism - the ruling clique are right and that's all there is to it, for no argument is brooked. Hence I refer to the Woke scum elite as 'marxofascists'.

TJS said...

Thank you Barend and that is my point. Disney included.

Richard C said...

Interesting discussion in Comments so far, particularly since Brendan's on line vehicle Spiked was formerly published under the banner "Marxism Today". Apparently they lost a defamation suit brought by a Corporate occupying the then msm space which sent them to the wall.