Why Disney Barring the LA Times from Thor Ragnarok is a Sign of a Scary Political Future

Published November 4th, 2017 - 12:45 GMT
Disney CEO Bob Iger. (JStone / Shutterstock.com)
Disney CEO Bob Iger. (JStone / Shutterstock.com)

The LA Times has announced that it hasn't been able to review Thor: Ragnarok because Disney, which owns Marvel Cinematic Studios, has put the newspaper "on hold" following an exposé of the company's business relationship to Anaheim, the city that hosts the Disneyland Resort.

The two-part article, penned by journalist Daniel Miller, questioned the economic impact Disneyland and Disney California Adventure had for Anaheim, and detailed how a new election has shifted the power dynamic in the City Council, which might benefit the city while slightly slimming down Disney's wallet.

Following the article, Disney has refused the LA Times entry into its films for review, which include Thor: Ragnarok.

This is especially troubling because Disney CEO Bob Iger, one of the company's most successful, is rumoured to have political ambitions following his retirement from Disney in 2019—going so far as to criticize US gun policy following last month's massacre in Las Vegas, an unusual step for the head of a company as large as Disney to take.

His comments later included his opinion on African-American players kneeling during the national anthem at NFL games—an ongoing controversy initiated by player Colin Kaepernick, who refused to stand in protest of police brutality against African-Americans in the US. Iger's stance adhered to what as widely seen as the safest possible political stance in a contentious issue: he said he would personally stand for the national anthem, but cited the First Amendment, the guarantee to freedom of speech, to say that players had the right to protest.

This isn't the first time that Disney has used its power to manipulate smaller companies into securing its own interests; infamously, director Quentin Tarantino clashed with Disney after the mega-corporation pressured and threatened Hollywood's Cinerama Dome to not honour the period scheduled for his latest film, The Hateful Eight, and schedule Star Wars, Episode VII: The Force Awakens instead. Tarantino discussed the issue with Howard Stern.

The questionable conduct with which Iger's company has treated The LA Times continues a recent pattern of delegitimisation in the US regarding the press. On the one hand, US President Donald Trump has continually and deliberately attacked newspapers and independent journalism, often dismissing non-positive stories regarding his administration or person as "fake news"; on the other, concerns have been raised about the sorts of interests most "mainstream media" outlets serve, including a preference given to neo-conservative and neo-liberal voices that candidates like Hillary Clinton have sought to cultivate, thereby allowing a vacuum in which questionable, populist outlets like Breitbart have emerged.

If this is a sign of how Iger—who, in the event of a move towards political office, would come, like Trump, from a business background, eschewing the military or governorship experience political officers have utilised in previous administrations—views the role of a free and independent press or of smaller forces, then the political future of the United States, the level of truth allowed the Fourth Estate, and the effects of those truths on US domestic policy and foreign policy—including for the Middle East—are given an early warning sign.

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