Pedophilia, Shmedophilia. What About Censorship?

Miller and Ferguson

Pedophilia, Shmedophilia. What About Censorship?

Miller and Ferguson

Pedophilia, Shmedophilia. What About Censorship?
New books dissected over email.
Oct. 15 1998 1:49 PM

Miller and Ferguson

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Dear Tim,

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Let me suggest that you reread my last entry, and then reread your own reply. Compare them. Then take another look at Regnery's book. I think you'll find that there are crucial differences between my argument and theirs (and yours). As you yourself suggest, the Schweizers' prime concerns are those "offenses" that concern me least, like Priest and Ellen --and Disney's putative "problems with pedophilia," as Mr. Schweizer puts it.

Their case, in other words, is pretty much the same one that we'd get from Jesse Helms. They do not deal with those concerns that I discussed at length: Disney's anti-labor practices, his antisemitism (he once spent a very happy day with Leni Riefenstahl), Philip Morris' attack on ABC. And you, the "libertarian," have also failed to deal with them, preferring to deride my argument instead of answering it. "You forgot to mention his cussing." Funny, but also disingenuous.

Now, let's talk about your take on this latest controversy. Basically, you argue that the Schweizers' book has swiftly "pierced the veil" set up so carefully by Disney, and that has been kept intact "for all these years" by "lazy reporting." First of all, this judgment is a little hasty. As one who works within the media, you have to know that one hot revelation finally cannot make a dent in any large and permanent campaign of "image and information control," as you put it--especially if that revelation comes up on the margins of the spectacle. The Frontline episode I mentioned in my last, for instance, hasn't stuck, nor could it stick, because its findings were not duly echoed by the mainstream media. And yet, without giving any reasons, you assert that "notwithstanding all of Disney's efforts to capture us, we can with a little effort escape Fantasyland in a flash"--as if this were Oz, where all we have to do is glimpse the man behind the curtain, and the whole show falls apart. No criticism can prevail, or even register, if no-one else looks deeper into it. You demonstrate this in your last, which so completely, and conveniently, ignores the substance of my prior salvo.

Rather than contend with my specific and detailed examples of some truths that are not generally known, you prefer to frame me as a wild-eyed Chicken Little, out on the fringes with the "paranoids"--all "lathered up" with no place to go. Then you merely reassert, repeatedly, that there's a world of difference--really!-- between "Disney's hallowed grounds" and "the outside world."

Well, if that's the case, why should we care--and why, indeed, should Regnery and the Schweizers care--if ABC won't run that segment? Isn't it enough to have the controversy mentioned in a few newspapers? In fact, it makes a major difference whether ABC broadcasts the piece or not, because if ABC did do it, the word might really get around--and that is just one further bit of evidence that Disney's sway is _not_ restricted to its premises in Anaheim, Orlando, Tokyo, and Marne-la-Vallée, but is far larger: large enough already to have helped suppress unpleasant facts about the company.

"Lazy reporting," you suggest, has enabled Disney's "veil" of secrecy, and that, "with a little effort," we can learn the truth. But Marc Eliot was hardly "lazy" in his research for Hollywood's Dark Prince--which was, as I've already mentioned, shunted to the margins out of corporate deference to the Disney magic. Another case: In 1990--i.e., prior to the merger--ABC's "PrimeTime" did a strong piece critical of Disney, a piece that took considerable "effort," that was not lazily reported--and the likes of which could not be broadcast now, as this latest controversy makes quite clear (and as some of ABC's own personnel initially conceded). And yet another case: In 1993, Robert Sam Anson's projected book on Disney, The Rules Of The Magic, was killed by Simon & Schuster--because Martin Davis, then the head of Paramount, which owned S&S, did not want certain revelations made about himself. (His story, as you know, is highly pertinent to Disney's recent history.)

With so much cultural and economic power so tightly concentrated, such giants as Disney and its peers exert an influence that must, and does, extend far, far beyond the boundaries of its respective parks and buildings. If you really are a libertarian, this ought to worry you--or ought, at least, to move you to do more than simply jeer.

MCM

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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).