It Can Always Get Dumber: Ron DeSantis Moves To Eliminate The Ridiculous Disney Exemption To His Unconstitutional Social Media Bill Because He’s Mad At Disney
from the the-most-ridiculous-place-on-earth dept
It can always get dumber. As you’ll recall, last year Florida
man governor Ron DeSantis, as part of his big push to become the new populist leader of ignorant people, pushed for a law to force social media websites to host political content they didn’t want to host. He convinced the subservient Florida Legislature to pass that bill, but not before his staff personally teamed up with lawyers from Disney to insert a buffoonish theme park exemption, that said the law didn’t apply to you if you owned a theme park in Florida. The bill’s author admitted flat out on the floor of the Florida Legislature that this was done to protect Disney from having to worry about the law.
Of course, that was back in the before times, when the GOP wanted to cater to Disney, the largest employer in Florida, and a company that is often deeply connected to that state’s politics. It was little surprise that the company was able to get that obviously, blatantly corrupt and silly carveout, because that’s how it works.
But, over the past month or so, the idiotic narrative has shifted, and now Disney is part of the latest dumb culture war, based on it coming out against a differently stupid culture war bill from DeSantis to enable parents to sue teachers for teaching anything the parents feel is inappropriate for the age of their children — a law that has no purpose other than to create a massive chilling effect in classrooms.
Leaving aside the constitutional issues with that bill, the social media bill was quickly tossed out as unconstitutional on multiple levels by a federal district court judge. Florida has appealed, and that case will be heard soon. While the judge mentioned the Disney exemption, it mattered very little to the overall analysis of why the bill was unconstitutional. It was just, shall we say, additional color. Without it, the ruling was clear, the bill would still be equally unconstitutional. However, the judge noted that the exclusion itself was problematic:
The State asserted in its brief that the [Disney exemption] provision could survive intermediate scrutiny, but the proper level of scrutiny is strict, and in any event, when asked at oral argument, the State could suggest no theory under which the exclusion could survive even intermediate scrutiny. The State says this means only that the exclusion fails, but that is at least questionable. Despite the obvious constitutional issue posed by the exclusion, the Legislature adopted it, apparently unwilling to subject favored Florida businesses to the statutes’ onerous regulatory burdens.
But, of course, now that Disney is no longer a “favored Florida business,” DeSantis (again, his own Legislative Affairs Director, Stephanie Kopelousos, worked with Disney and the legislature to insert — in her words — the “New Disney Language” into the bill) wants to take this benefit away.
Just so we put this all in perspective: Ron DeSantis pushed for and passed an unconstitutional social media content moderation bill, which included an equally unconstitutional carveout for Disney, to protect the largest employer in his state. The following year, because of Disney’s timid opposition to another unconstitutional bill, DeSantis now wants to remove the unconstitutional exemption to the unconstitutional bill to punish Disney for its political speech.
Can they all lose?
DeSantis has put out a proclamation seeking to have the Florida Legislature (who, remember, his office gave the Disney language to) remove the Disney language to punish them. Florida’s legislative session already wrapped up last month, but DeSantis has called them to a new special session for what appears to be a “bash Disney” special session. There are apparently some other anti-Disney proposals that he wants them to consider as well, but the key one is now to remove this exemption.
So, to be clear: Disney is a terrible company for many, many reasons (often detailed here). The social media bill is clearly unconstitutional. The Disney theme park exemption was both unconstitutional and a shameful public display not just of the corrupt level of coordination between Disney and the government, but the shamelessness with which they knew they could do that kind of meddling. The exemption shouldn’t exist. The law shouldn’t exist. The education law is equally problematic, and a full frontal attack on teachers’ autonomy in creating the best lesson plans for students.
But, deliberately attacking a company, and making legislative moves to punish that company in direct response to that company’s speech (especially political speech) is also unconstitutional retaliation. Even if the underlying move — getting rid of the exemption — is the right thing to do. What’s even more ridiculous is that by doing something like this, DeSantis hands Disney all the ammo it needs to go point out that this is retaliation for its political speech (though, in this case, they’re unlikely to bother, since the entire bill is going to be tossed out as unconstitutional anyway).
Of course, it’s quite clear that DeSantis honestly doesn’t care about what’s constitutional, or what’s right, or what’s in any of these laws. He wants to run for President in 2024, and the only way to do that is to fuel the moral outrage machine better than the last President.
And so here we are. In the most ridiculous place on earth.
And I’d rather be anywhere else.