Mickey Mouse isn’t scared of a battle-ax.
The mascot of the Florida State University football team refers to the Seminole Indians, and the team’s fans who waive their arms to simulate the chopping of a tomahawk. Now, it is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis who has wielded a battle-ax, and not just symbolically. The Republican politician practically declared war on The Walt Disney Company, which operates a massive theme park near Orlando, Florida.
This time, the war does not deal with the public interest but about personal objectives, as is the case with politicians in general. The governor is eyeing the 2024 presidential race, but Donald Trump looms in his path, the former president who moved to DeSantis’ state from liberal and cosmopolitan New York. DeSantis is no less conservative than the former president, but he is not well known on a national level yet, so DeSantis has postured to the extremist wing of the Republican Party so the moment Trump drops out or weakens, DeSantis will have a chance to enter the fight for the presidency as a strong candidate.
The story has taken a familiar turn when viewed through a Hungarian lens.
Florida passed a law against discussing LGBTQ+ topics in schools.
The bill, officially titled “Parental Rights in Education” but called “Don’t Say Gay” in the media, not only prohibits any mention of nonheterosexual relationships in the curriculum, but it also prohibits school psychologists and counselors from helping students with problems arising from gender orientations. This wasn’t enough for DeSantis; he initiated or supported a handful of other measures that are known to be favored by most Republicans, measures the press have chewed him out for. This is what has led to the push against transgender student athletes (not that there are many of them, but they are great for rallying the believers) and abortion, and the passing of stricter voting laws.
This apparent trend has also caught the attention of Disney employees. There are 190,000 such employees. Even during 2021, a year affected by the pandemic, the company’s annual revenue was north of $67 billion and its total assets more than $200 billion. More importantly, in addition to its theme parks, the company operates television networks, internet content and film studios based in Burbank, California, which is famous far and wide for its liberal outlook and has a big impact on Disney’s management philosophy. Therefore, CEO Bob Chapek tactfully issued a protest saying that the company can do the most for an inclusive world by creating attractive media content. A real uprising broke out among employees after this, prompting Chapek to quickly apologize to Disney’s LGBTQ+ workers and announce that the company would withdraw financial support for the election campaigns of Florida politicians.
The withdrawal of campaign support is no joke. Since the rich and influential enterprise arrived in Florida during the mid-1960s, it has contributed to nearly every Florida politician. In return, Disney enjoys unimaginable perks. For example, the “development zone” that is home to the Orlando theme park has county-like authority and even has its own police force. It also generates roughly an additional $75 billion a year in profits, making it central Florida’s economic engine and an unavoidable political player. So when DeSantis suggested that Disney is not even that important, and that perhaps the state should abolish the discounts it got half a century ago through public support, all sides of the political spectrum were concerned about his mental state. However, the governor drilled down and accused the company of forcing “woke” ideology onto Florida. The term “woke” is used to describe the nature of confronting racial discrimination and racism; liberals use it in a positive way, conservatives treat “woke” negatively. The Republicans have already discussed twice whether or not to submit a proposal that would rescind the discounts and tax benefits that the Disney parks enjoy, but they haven’t decided yet.
For now, this is where the “Battle of Orlando” stands. Mickey Mouse hasn’t shied away from the wielding a tomahawk and has his own weapons, such as Disneyland’s welcoming atmosphere, theme park events for the LGBTQ+ community and rainbow flags on Gay Pride Day. DeSantis should take note that conservatives have already lost this fight once. In the 1990s, the Southern Baptists launched a campaign boycotting Disney for what they saw as the propagation of liberal views. But the team of fairy tale heroes — or if you prefer, the team of love — proved stronger.