Mouse Droppings

Miller and Ferguson

Mouse Droppings

Miller and Ferguson

Mouse Droppings
New books dissected over email.
Oct. 14 1998 10:43 AM

Miller and Ferguson

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Mark,

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I see so much multifariousness, not to mention nefariousness, on the world business stage, I'd be hard-pressed to put Disney and its megamedia rivals in some special category. You do, I guess. Microsoft too?

Actually, what's notable about Eisner's autobiography is how insular it shows him to be. Like a lot of Forbes 500 CEOs, he's consumed with his industry and his own company. The Sun Valley serenades seem to be a rare chance to get out, and even then it's within the communications universe.

But let me pick up on your worry over his corporation's influence. It's one you share with the social right. You ought to grab this new Regnery special, Disney: The Mouse Betrayed, at Barnes & Noble (10% off). It gets down and dirty as only Regnery can. Lots of old police reports about peeping toms and other perverts at the Magic Kingdom. Some of the mud does stick, though.

The subtitle is Greed, Corruption and Children at Risk (you might buy that). Eisner set himself up for the hanging with a speech last April to the American Society of Newspaper Editors. Maybe Tony Schwartz had Work in Progress in galleys by then and missed it. The Regnery authors didn't. Michael was up on his high horse, talking about how Hollywood is "dealing with the human core" and had a calling to "eliminate debasement." Sounded every bit the moral streetsweeper that old Walt was.

Trouble is, when you're running (and expanding) a media conglomerate, it's harder to police the place. So there are plenty of lyrics from the Hollywood Records unit and films from Miramax unit and so on to betray that mission of Social Uplift you were talking about. Who knows what will be accessible on the web site!

The catalog of hypocrisies in this wee volume includes labor practices. Apparently a trial lawyer provided the authors with an employee survey from Walt Disney World that gives some weight to the idea that safety is being sacrificed to profits down Orlando way. Didn't read about that in Eisner's book, although we do get the idea he's a bottom-line guy.

That's my contribution to the "untold story" today. Show me yours.

Eagerly, Tim

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Mark Crispin Miller is professor of media studies at New York University and author of Seeing Through Movies. Tim Ferguson is an assistant managing editor of Forbes magazine. He is based in Los Angeles. This week they discuss Work in Progress, by Michael Eisner with Tony Schwartz (Random House; 464 pages; $27.95).