On Tuesday Republican Senator Josh Hawley introduced a bill that aims to revoke Disney’s copyrights. In a tweet he announced, “No more handouts for woke corporations. Today I’m introducing legislation to strip @Disney of its special copyright protections.”
California Congressman Adam Schiff quickly responded with a tweet of his own: “First, this is unconstitutional. But you know that. Second, this is just a cheap political shot. You know that, too. So as the member who represents Disney Studios, allow me to say: @HawleyMO, California doesn’t support your ‘Don’t Say Gay, Do Say Pandering’ policy.”
But today’s cheap political shot could be tomorrow’s law, given the current composition of the Supreme Court. The only ingredients that are missing is a Republican majority in Congress and a Republican president to sign it into law. This is yet another of the many reasons why Republicans must be defeated in November and again in 2024.
In any case, this is Hawley attempting to take legislative vengeance on the Disney Corporation for taking a stand against Florida governor Ron DeSantis’ “don’t say gay” bill, which DeSantis signed into law in March. “The Party of Free Speech” is only happy when it’s free speech they happen to agree with, apparently. No dissent allowed.
And yes, Harley’s new bill is “blatantly unconstitutional — taking of property without compensation,” as Professor Paul Goldstein, an intellectual property expert at Stanford Law School, says. But that’s just the problem. What is and is not constitutional these days is a fluid thing. The Supreme Court has already made clear that the vitally constitutional principle of settled law through precedent is meaningless, according to their recent draft of a decision to strike down Roe v. Wade.
Hawley’s bill would impose a 56-year term on all of Disney’s copyrights — retroactively, causing most of its most important and iconic copyrights to immediately expire. (Think Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.) Professor Tyler Ochoa, an intellectual property expert at the Santa Clara University School of Law, agreed with Goldstein that that is likely unconstitutional. But the insidious part of the bill is the retroactive part. Retroactive legislation intended to punish Americans for holding political opinions may by itself be unconstitutional. But with today’s Supreme Court with its current composition, who’s going to complain?
What Hawley’s new bill reveals is just how far Republicans are prepared to go in punishing anyone who has an opinion they don’t like. Governor DeSantis himself showed he is already at war with Disney when he recently revoked their special autonomous tax status as an act of similarly motivated vengeance. Republicans are nothing if they are not petty and vengeful. And who in the world behaves that way? Dictators like Putin, Bolsonaro and Kim.
Apart from stealing a woman’s right to choose, creating tax havens and tax breaks for the rich, this is all that Republicans have to offer, taking legislative vengeance on other Americans for exercising their First Amendment rights. For many Americans who have been taught nothing but hate for the last six years by hateful Republicans, that’s more than enough.
Punishing, harming, humiliating other citizens is the sine qua non of fascism. It’s what some Americans, especially the ones who love to parade about with guns strapped to their hips or around their shoulders, love more than anything else. It’s just another way to “own the libs.” And what happens after that? They will turn their hatred inward and start destroying each other. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.