Friday, July 20, 2018

On the New Disney and the New McCarthyism

Most Disney fans will acknowledge that the old Disney was conservative and conformist and supportive of censorship, but they insist the new Disney is "progressive", a vague term that's used by the New Democrats and their heirs. There's some support for that notion in Disney to allow employees to grow beards: "They want to stay tradition-based, and they also want to be current," Koenig said. "They don't want it to become a museum of what entertainment used to be like."

Perhaps the strongest argument that the new Disney is "progressive" is its support for GLBTQ rights. However, its been decades since anyone could seriously argue that GLBTQ rights are a primarily leftish concern. That changed at least as early as 1977 with the founding of the Log Cabin Republicans. Since then, the right has done as much or more for gay rights than the left—Barry Goldwater supported having GLBTQ people serving openly in the military, and the Log Cabin Republicans ended Don't Ask, Don't Tell when Obama would not.

When people talk about the old McCarthyism, they focus on anti-communism and forget that was only one aspect of a broader agenda. McCarthyites were obsessed with middle-class values, niceness and conformity and patriotism. Censorship was their favorite tool. Though the Motion Picture Production Code already existed, it was deemed inadequate by people like Disney, who cofounded the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals in 1944. When the Red Scare bloomed, so did the moral panic: The Code of Practices for Television Broadcasters was created in 1951, followed by the Comics Code Authority in 1954.

Then the '60s and '70s shook everything up. We leftist boomers thought, as young people always do, that our changes would last. But the seeds of neoliberalism were planted in the late 1970s, and as it grew, so did a new McCarthyism, now spearheaded by Democrats like Tipper Gore who showed there was no contradiction in "progressive" values by supporting GLBTQ rights while working with the Parents Music Resource Center to censor popular entertainment.

Today, Disney is exactly what it has always been: a big business that seeks profit while promoting the contemporary form of conformity. When they became aware that James Gunn had indulged in black humor when he was younger, he had to go, no matter how strongly he repudiated his past. Black humor just isn't nice.