For literally half a century, the Orlando Sentinel has raised questions about the propriety of a company having its own government.
Those exact words were posted on Twitter by Orlando Sentinel columnist Scott Maxwell this week in a flurry of reactions by media pundits across the state who are suddenly shocked, shocked(!) that Republicans would now be taking a look at the propriety of a company (in this case, Disney) having the privilege of running its own government in the heart of Florida.
Never mind that Republicans see Disney using its vast media empire, built on profits gleaned from the special district carve out, to advance political rhetoric they view as false and being weaponized against them for supporting the recently passed parental rights bill.
The rest of the tweet may have satisfied Maxwell’s own conscience, but did little to address the logical inconsistency between the Orlando Sentinel’s long held disdain for Disney’s special privileges vested in the Reedy Creek Improvement District and their long held disdain for any and all action taken by Republicans. Now that Republicans are taking a look at the matter, folks like Scott Maxwell are beside themselves, seemingly unsure of who to root for or against. Hint: he won’t be siding with Republicans.
And he is not alone. Literary legend Carl Hiaasen, the former Miami Herald reporter, columnist and well-known author, couldn’t help but expose his own biases against Republicans this week after the announcement made by Governor Ron DeSantis, flanked by Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls.
Yet Hiaasen, known for his novels about Florida’s sleazy underbelly, hasn’t only written fiction books. He also wrote a short (96 page) screed entitled “Team Rodent: How Disney Devours the World.” Hiaasen took Disney to task for daring to earn a profit, for doing everything in its power to protect its family-friendly brand, and lamented the fact that Disney World in Orlando miraculously ushers through its turnstyles the entire population of both California and Pennsylvania every single year, wondering just how much that kind of tourism hurts the environment, and therefore threatens his own luxury lifestyle in the Florida Keys.
“Maybe you can appreciate my concern,” he wrote in the book.
So scornful was Hiaasen of Disney’s business success that he even fantasized about unleashing “a truckload of hungry bull gators” in Disney World’s Bay Lake (the book was written more than a decade before a gator tragically killed a young boy on Disney grounds). He also openly fantasized that a real-life escaped lion named “Nala” might head straight for Main Street at Disney’s Magic Kingdom:
Sweet Jesus, just imagine: the hot-blooded, 450-pound namesake of a Disney cartoon lion, bounding down Main Street U.S.A. (perhaps during the nightly SpectroMagic Parade!) and with one lightning swipe of a paw, taking down Goofy or Pluto, or maybe one of those frigging chipmunks. A harrowing, primal eruption – and Disney could blame no one but itself!
Because Nala wouldn’t be loose in Orlando if there was no JungleLand, and there wouldn’t be a JungleLand if there was no Walt Disney World.
So the escaped lionness has a secret fan club that believes a split-second of raw predation might be good for Team Rodent’s soul. And while it is being widely reported that the big cat is declawed, I choose not to believe it.
Forgive us our fantasies.
Indeed, Carl, such fantasies wouldn’t exist if there was no Walt Disney World, and there wouldn’t be a Walt Disney World if there was no Reedy Creek Improvement District.
And yet, now that Republicans have begun to take an active look at the “propriety” of special districts in Florida, the Scott Maxwells and Carl Hiaasens, and even the Orlando Sentinel itself can’t help but resort back to their own partisan biases. Because deep down, when forced to choose between giving ever more power to an already insanely powerful international conglomerate media company and a handful of local Republican elected officials who question the wisdom of doing so, they’ll always choose the former over the latter.
But don’t take my word for it. Take Carl’s:
“The problem with this political pissing match is you don’t know who to root against: DeSantis or Disney,” Hiaasen told NBC News reporter Marc Caputo yesterday.
Indeed, from an economic standpoint, its tough to argue that the existence of Reedy Creek has been anything but a financial windfall for Florida over the last half-century. At the same time, real Democrats have cringed at the concept of conceding traditional government authority to any private corporation.
So by daring to take a look at special privileges granted to Disney World, Republican leaders have turned the existing world order on its head: they themselves are tinkering with the long-standing existence of an economic engine that has served Florida well. Democrats though, now find themselves defending the right of a multinational mega-corporation to govern itself over a vast area brimming with significant human, economic and environmental impacts – a policy position that they have historically loathed.
And as for those legacy media pundits like Scott Maxwell and Carl Hiaasen? Well, they clearly don’t know what to think. As usual.