Poking Sticks in Disney's Belly

Miller and Ferguson

Poking Sticks in Disney's Belly

Miller and Ferguson

Poking Sticks in Disney's Belly
New books dissected over email.
Oct. 15 1998 10:42 AM

Miller and Ferguson

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Oh, Mark,

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Looks like the thought of Regnery got you lathered up for your morning shave!

Inquiring minds will go anywhere for hard facts, and it looks like the authors of Disney: The Mouse Betrayed must have had enough to attract Brian Ross of ABC. According to Howie Kurtz in yesterday's Washington Post (see also today's New York Times follow), Ross and his 20/20 producer tried to use leads from the book for a segment on Disney and were shot down by higher-ups. Ross, too, may be a member of the vast right-wing conspiracy--I just remember him poking into Caribbean drug kingpins--but he seemed to be interested in how Disney covers up unpleasantries at its Florida properties. It does so by virtue of the extraordinary, quasi-official status the company enjoys there, which is a longstanding local political issue quite apart from the crimes Regnery has exposed.

On one level that controversy raises questions about private dominions that are challenging to a libertarian like me. But, germane to our little exchange, it cuts right to the issue of Disney's bent for image and information control. What you see in the Reedy Creek Improvement District of Orange County, Fla.--the state designation for the Disney domain--is exactly what you fear for all of mankind. Fortunately, in the larger civilization, there exist the Regnerys and their counterparts across the spectrum who poke sticks in the belly of contented kingdoms. And even within the cosmos of Big Media (and small), there are plenty of apolitical journalists and scandalmongers who love nothing better than punching competitor Disney (and ABC). I trust we will see proof in the coming days now that an unpopular outlier in a "rightist diatribe" has pierced the veil that lazy reporting had allowed to be drawn for all these years.

The difference between being on Disney's hallowed grounds and breathing the free if polluted air of the outside world is that here, notwithstanding all of Disney's efforts to capture us, we can with a little effort escape Fantasyland in a flash.

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Oh, I know we're supposed to be talking about Work in Progress, but as you say, there's so much left unsaid there and I just can't get over how you and the paranoids think along parallel lines. Yeah, Walt is saintly to them and sinister to you (you forgot to mention his cussing), but when it comes to your pot-stirs--the miscasting of history, Ellen, Kundun and the Chinese, Priest--many are to be found in the Mouse Betrayed. How about you and Al Regnery do lunch?

Well, I guess I've digressed. But thanks to you and all of the information sources paranoid or otherwise who came before you, we now have a fuller sense of what Michael Eisner wouldn't talk about in his book, or on his network, or in his theme parks, or on and on. And that's what makes me not so worried about life in the Disney Century--it just keeps one step ahead of the Mouse! Tomorrow, I promise, I'll get around to the big guy's insularity.

Until then,

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).