There is no depth to which insurrectionist Senator Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, will not sink in his ambitious pursuit of national office.
So, it comes as no surprise that Hawley has blatantly pandered to the Republican Party’s wingnut base by proposing that the federal government declare war on one American company: Disney.
In his latest bill, titled the Copyright Clause Restoration Act, Hawley proposes stripping Disney of its copyrights on characters such as Mickey Mouse for the specifically stated reason that, in Hawley’s view, Disney is “woke.”
The three-page bill would limit copyrights for created works to 56 years. Right now, Disney holds its copyrights for 95 years after publication or 120 years after creation. The shortened window would apply retroactively, and due to other restrictions, the bill only applies to Disney. If passed, it would strip the company of its most iconic characters immediately.
There are other terms to describe what Hawley would have the federal government do by retroactively revoking some of Disney’s copyrights. The first word that comes to mind is “confiscate.” Or, perhaps, “impound.” Or the still more colloquial “steal.”
In normal times, debate over placing limitations on copyright protections would represent a fair topic about which reasonable people might disagree. But there’s nothing normal about these times, nor anything fair or reasonable about the bill.
Professor Paul Goldstein, an intellectual property expert at Stanford Law School, was succinct:
“That is a blatantly unconstitutional taking of property without compensation.”
Hawley’s press release announcing his bill laid to doubt any question about his intent:
“The age of Republican handouts to Big Business is over. Thanks to special copyright protections from Congress, woke corporations like Disney have earned billions while increasingly pandering to woke activists. It’s time to take away Disney’s special privileges and open up a new era of creativity and innovation.”
Now, that’s special. Hawley was first inflicted upon Missouri at the age of 2 when his well-to-do banker father moved the family to Lexington, Missouri, so that he could join Boatmen’s Bancshares. If memory serves, Boatmen’s was pretty cool with Republicans and Big Business alike.
But far be it from me to suggest there’s hypocrisy in Hawley’s vicious attacks on the same powerful forces that made possible his posh private education from prep schools or his elite college education at Stanford and Yale universities. After all, as Hawley’s proud support for Trump’s historic tax cuts for the wealthy proved, all of his populist chatter is just an unadulterated lie.
I’ll give this much credit to Hawley: He does it all with a straight face. And so far, his haughty and supercilious delivery doesn’t seem to trouble the down-to-earth folks in the base — with whom the Hawleys only associate in real life for photo ops.
True to the MAGA playbook, Hawley has dispensed with any pretense of advancing some broader governmental interest of the people. Kind of like how Republican extremists in Missouri demanded a 7-1 congressional redistricting map in their partisan favor without a word of lip service about doing what’s right or fair for state voters. (Just like Hawley’s bill is bound to do, the map failed.)
This is about punishing Disney for its “woke” defense of the rights of Florida’s LGBTQ community in the wake of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ “Don’t Say Gay” laws and other homophobic attacks. Republicans have responded to this affront with unabashed and unapologetic political payback.
Disney, which is headquartered in Florida, exercised its once-respected free-speech rights to take a stand against DeSantis. The governor responded by attempting to revoke a special-taxing district set up by bipartisan agreement more than half a century ago in a unified effort to persuade Disney to construct its massive Disney World complex outside the then-small city of Orlando. (It turns out, DeSantis doesn’t have the power to dissolve the special-taxing district until the state pays off $1 billion in bond debt first.)
To be fair, Hawley’s vengeful attack against Disney was motivated almost entirely by his need not to be out-demagogued on the subject by DeSantis – his potential rival for the GOP/QAnon presidential nomination in 2024.
That’s ironic, although not nearly so much as Hawley’s attempt to punish free expression. This is, after all, the same moron who advanced the bizarre notion that Simon & Schuster was “violating my free speech rights” by refusing to publish his book after he attempted to overthrow American democracy at the beginning of 2021.
Irony doesn’t matter to Hawley. Headlines and news clips do. They are vital to his electoral ambitions because they can be multiplied a millionfold by Hawley on the very social media platforms that he purports to despise. It’s important to understand that Hawley’s political essence is just an eternal confluence of lies. Hawley isn’t just the classic politician who will say anything to get elected; he’s the one who will contradict anything to get elected.
Following that formula, Hawley need not burden himself with concerns about honesty in any form. Think about it: The guy is an insufferably smug, pompous, Ivy League-educated critic of elitism. Someone who fits that description is too cynical to worry about what anyone thinks.
Don’t take my liberal word for it. Here’s what the ultra-conservative editorial board of the New York Post had to say about his latest nonsense:
“Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo) is trying to set a trap for Mickey Mouse in a destructive and foolish pander to those outraged by Disney’s own foolish political pandering.
“Hawley this week offered a bill to strip Disney’s copyright protection over Mickey Mouse and other iconic characters …
“You can certainly argue that copyrights now run too long (creators of all kinds would vehemently disagree), but this is blatant partisan payback, exactly what Americans don’t need from Congress.”
Remember, those words come from the political right. On the other side of the fence, the Washington Post was heartlessly dismissive:
“DeSantis is crushing Josh Hawley in the culture-war primary,” proclaimed an opinion-piece headline.
“When DeSantis signed that bill against Disney, he didn’t merely threaten to use state power against an enemy, woke corporation, he actually did it. Going after his own state’s most iconic company, one that employs tens of thousands of Floridians and brings billions of tourist dollars to the state every year, only demonstrated his zeal.
“And because the action was real, it generated enormous press coverage and more blowback from the left than Hawley’s rinky-dink proposal will ever get. That boosted DeSantis’s Own the Libs credibility, helping reinforce the idea that DeSantis is the foremost culture warrior on the right.”
Now that hurts. That sort of talk from the East Coast makes a Midwesterner want to stick up for Hawley. After all, this war with Disney is at its core about hating on LGBTQ people for fun and political gain. Hawley takes a back seat to no one on that, and by God, he has his very own GLADD.org page documenting his extremism to prove it.
And as far as DeSantis crushing him in the Culture War, well that may be true for now. But for the long haul, this is a battle to see who lies and hates the best. So never count out Josh Hawley.
Update May 16, 2022 at 3:08 p.m. This post was updated to change glaad.com to glaad.org. We sincerely regret the error.
Ray Hartmann founded the Riverfront Times in 1977. Contact him at [email protected] or catch him on Donnybrook at 7 p.m. on Thursdays on the Nine Network and St. Louis In the Know With Ray Hartmann from 9 to 11 p.m. Monday thru Friday on KTRS (550 AM).