Michael Eisner, the Chief Executive
Officer of Disney, has decided to pull the plug on Michael Moore.
This summer, the controversial filmmaker was set to release a new
movie, “Fahrenheit 9/11” though Miramax Pictures, which
is a subsidiary of Disney. The film explores the underground
financial and political connections between both Bush
administrations, the Saudi royal family and the Bin Ladins.
Excited about the film, Miramax had signed the deal with Michael
Moore and was receiving $6 million from Disney for its production.
But late in the project’s development, only months before the
summer release of “Fahrenheit 9/11,” Eisner and other
Disney executives buckled under growing apprehension about fiscal
backlash. At a recent board meeting, Disney voted not to distribute
Concerned about public image, Disney executives have claimed
that their company should not produce films with politically
partisan views that do not correlate with the usual family friendly
orientation or carry the potential to offend viewers.
Unfortunately, this reasoning seems hypocritical at best. Disney
affiliates bring us political pundits such as Sean Hannity and Rush
Limbaugh, who are both vociferously conservative, as well as the
violent content of previous Miramax blockbuster hits such as Kill
Bill and Pulp Fiction. These offerings both fail to meet either the
“family oriented” or “politically neutral”
criteria used to quash Moore’s documentary.
While it is dangerous to speculate, it is highly likely that
politics played a role in Disney’s decision. Even though no
solid proof exists, an examination of the circumstantial evidence
strongly hints towards this conclusion. The Disney Corporation
receives millions of dollars in tax cuts from the State of Florida
for its theme parks, hotels and movie studios. If these tax breaks
were revoked, Disney would suffer serious financial pain. Since the
governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, is the President’s younger
brother, the release of Moore’s movie would do little to
curry favor with the state government. Thus, releasing a film which
aims to raise awareness about potential scandals of the previous
and current Bush Administrations could jeopardize such tax cuts,
hurting Disney’s bottom line. Coupled with the Disney
executives’ sloppy explanation for the sudden cancellation of
Moore’s movie, these financial links bolster claims of
corporate censorship for political purposes.
Corporate censorship is a phenomenon which has pervaded our
current media milieu, and Disney’s attempted repression of
Moore’s film is merely one example. Five months ago, CBS
refused to air an advertisement sponsored by Moveon.org, a liberal
political group. More recently, the Sinclair Broadcasting
Corporation, which controls eight ABC stations, preempted an
edition of “Nightline” which they deemed to be
“anti-war.” This particularly egregious example of
censorship demonstrates the power that corporations have to limit
and control the views presented on television and radio.
Television, radio and film are intended to be mediums for the
free dissemination of information and opinion. Luckily, in this
nation, this right to speech is protected from government intrusion
through the First Amendment to the federal Constitution. However,
the recent plague of corporate censorship and the close interplay
of politics and corporate decision-making, threatens to destroy
this fundamental freedom.