The Briefing

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Wall Street Journal

Revolt in Disney’s Florida Kingdom

by The Editorial Board

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The Briefing

Monday, April 25, 2022

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It's Monday, April 25th, 2022.

I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part

The Right Suffers Loss in France, Media Coverage Suffers Loss of Perspective: Emmanuel Macron Elected for Second Five-Year Term

Emmanuel Macron has been reelected to a second five-year term as president of France, and this came after many in the media. Both sides of the Atlantic were suggesting that it might be a very close race, this runoff that took place yesterday, between Emmanuel Macron who created his own centrist party five years ago when he won the election the first time and he ran against Marine Le Pen then, and he ran against her again.

Marine Le Pen thus lost her third effort to be elected president of France. Her father was the founder of what was known as the National Front. It was often described as a far-right party, and it took very significantly rightist positions on a number of issues, including immigration and race.

She attempted to rebrand the party as the National Rally and at least going into the election, the runoff election yesterday, it appeared that she had at least a striking chance of being elected France's next president. But it was not to be. At the end of the day, Emmanuel Macron has earned at least about 55% of the vote and Marine Le Pen only about 45% of the vote.

The final vote may be slightly different, but at this point, Marine Le Pen has conceded the race and incumbent president Emmanuel Macron has claimed victory. Why so much attention outside of France to France's presidential election? Well, we talked about it a bit on The Briefing before knowing that the first round of the election was likely to be big news. This is big news, and we need to think about this in Christian worldview terms that would also be relatable to our political context because after all France has been a very close ally of the United States going all the way back to the revolutionary era, but France is an extremely different culture.

One thing we need to note is that there are parallels in the vote that turned out in France yesterday and what we see in the United States. For one thing, regional differences. For another thing, the difference between the urban or metropolitan vote and the more rural, and thus agrarian vote, that is involved in farming. In the north of France and in other rural areas, Marine Le Pen was winning with about 75% of the vote in some regions.

That's absolutely massive. And it tells you that in France, there is now a very clear distinction between the metropolitan, very globally minded, sophisticated who live in a city like Paris, and in at least some of its suburbs, primarily the more wealthy or middle class suburbs and those who live in more rural France.

Now, as we often discuss in the United States, the closer you get to a college campus, the closer you get to a city, the closer you get to one of the two coast, either the Atlantic or the Pacific coast, the closer you get to secularism and the closer you generally get to moral liberalism. And something of the same pattern is now evident in France. There's something else here that's really interesting, not only in France, but in the United States. And that is that the agricultural vote is a more conservative vote.

You look at farmers and those involved in farming or in agricultural production in France, far more conservative than business people in investment bankers in Paris. The same thing is true in the United States. That's why as you look at a political map of the United States, you look at so much of America that would be agrarian farming America that is the reddest of red.

You look at so many of the cosmopolitan cities, especially on the coast, they are the bluest of blue. And you see that increasingly in places like France. Emmanuel Macron ran as a centrist but he had did somewhat to the right in a more conservative direction. And Emmanuel Macron, nonetheless is basically extremely disliked by those on the right, but also by many who are in a minority position in France and others who are simply experiencing economic difficulty.

Emmanuel Macron is a technocrat. Let's pause for a moment. What in the world is that? Well, the very term technocrat really emerged in the last part of the 20th century and became very popular within the 21st century as a way of describing a new class of workers who were not only knowledge workers, they generally wore suits back then. They went to offices. They didn't work in the farm. They didn't work in the field. They were knowledge workers, but these new technocrats were not only knowledge workers, they were high technology workers.

Their jobs probably didn't even exist. Just a matter of say a generation ago, but the technocrats are defined by one other big issue. They generally believe that the most difficult problems faced by humanity or faced by say a city government or a national government like France that the most intractable problems can be resolved by some kind of technological or at least technocratic answer.

These technocrats tend to be in moral terms, very liberal, especially when it comes to sexual morality, issues of personal morality writ large. They to agree with the left on issues of morality, but they also tend to be highly invested in something like the stock market. They run hedge funds. They run investment banks. They are deeply involved in the new knowledge economy and Silicon Valley, and the equivalent to Silicon valley and other parts of the world. Thus, they have a very big interest in private capital. That's the difference between the old left.

So in many cases, they don't really want socialism, what they want is social liberalism. But on the other hand, they do repeatedly show themselves to be very tempted by the technocratic temptation to try to, say, gin the economy in one direction or another. They actually do tend in a more liberal direction even in economics. When you think about state control and when you're looking at Emmanuel Macron, the youngest man elected president of France under the Fifth Republic. One thing that is very important to note is that he was an investment banker.

This most recent presidential election in France demonstrated that there's a lot of pent-up hostility in France toward the technocrats, towards the kind of social liberalism of Emmanuel Macron, but there's something else going on here in this election. It was fascinating to see just how petrified so many people were outside of France in the more cosmopolitan globalist community.

You had major newspapers like The Guardian in London, like the Washington Post in the United States, the New York Times to a similar degree that expressed in credulity, outrage, and frankly, fear and anxiety that someone like Marine Le Pen just might be a elected president of France.

By 4:30 on Sunday evening, the Washington Post editorial board had rushed an editorial statement, celebrating Macron's victory over Marine Le Pen. The headline of The Post editorial, "Macron's win is cause for great relief and modest celebration." What's modest about it? The fact that challenger, Marine Le Pen has, at least by The Post estimate won about 41% of the vote. That is much more than she won in the last round. That is to say five years ago, when she also faced off against Emmanuel Macron.

The editorial board of The Post wrote yesterday, "The United States, Europe, and France itself can breathe easier despite early polls showing that our right challenger Marine Le Pen was in striking distance of beating him. Emmanuel Macron won Sunday's French presidential election runoff by a projected 59 to 41% margin. Mr. Macron becomes France's first incumbent president to win reelection since Jacques Chirac in the year 2002."

The Post is undoubtedly right to the fact that Marine Le Pen's long-standing alliance with Vladimir Putin was extremely ill-timed for this particular presidential election. And the fact that she basically doubled down on that relationship probably scared a good many French voters. But not enough that there was much of a turnout because this was actually a very low turnout election as the runoff election was held yesterday in France.

But there's something else to note here. I referenced the fact that this editorial statement for the Washington Post described Marine Le Pen as a far-right challenger. The American media over and over again, use the term far-right, far-right, far-right as if that's supposed to be a self-explanatory term. Well, we often discuss the left, that is the more liberal direction and the right, the more conservative direction, but what exactly is far-right?

Well, let's just say with intellectual honesty, there is an extreme right, there's also an extreme left. There is a far-right. There's also a far-left. But if you're going to put any word in front of left or right, you would better at least be willing to define what you're talking about.

In the first round of the French presidential election, there was a candidate significantly to the right of Marine Le Pen. So in this context, that would be far-right. Marine Le Pen's current party known as the National Rally is not nearly so far-right as was the previous party that had been led by her own father.

Another interesting reference to this situation was published in the New York Times in Sunday's edition. The reporter, Roger Cohen wrote "France has changed. It has eviscerated the center-left and center-right parties that were the chief vehicles of its post-war politics. It is split into three blocks. The hard-left, an amorphous center gathered around President Emmanuel Macron and the extreme right in Marine Le Pen."

Well, wait just a minute. Time out. How do you have a hard left and an extreme right? I'm just going to suggest there is no journalistic justification for that kind of distinction. It just shows you that a leftist media sees almost anyone to the right as very conservative and someone like Marine Le Pen as representing the extreme right. But she's very different than her father that the same newspapers called the extreme right.

Indeed she ran against a more conservative candidate who himself declared that he represented the extreme right. So it's just one thing to watch and I'm just old enough to remember that when you had conservative candidates running for the presidency such as Ronald Reagan back, say, in 1980, he was often described as representing the extreme right. Until later on, they decided he was overwhelmingly elected twice to the presidency that maybe he wasn't. And they said this only basically long after he was out of office and perhaps even long after he was dead, they said, "Well, maybe he wasn't so extreme as conservatives are today."

It just goes to show you that vantage point has a great deal to do with what kind of language you're going to use and the international press, especially newspapers that have great influence in the United States and the journalistic class in general tend to see just about anyone on the right as representing the extreme right. One other thing we just need to think about for a moment before we leave the headlines coming from France is the fact that constitutions really matter. Not only do elections matter, constitutions matter. The United States constitution, which is basically built upon the same kind of separation of powers, that is a part of the English speaking constitutional tradition going back even to England.

But the reality is that the English speaking world and our understanding of the separation of powers is not the same understanding that you would see in the Fifth Republic. That is to say under the current constitution of France going back only about 60 years, the French presidency is extraordinarily powerful. So much so that in many arenas, a French life.

The elected president is almost an elected dictator for five years. When it comes particularly to something like foreign policy, the French president has almost no checks. There are virtually no balances. So you really are looking at a major issue as Europe considers its future. And of course, this comes with the background of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. It also comes as the background of France's very awkward relationship with NATO and other Western allies going all the way back to the high watermark of the Cold War with the East facing off against the West.

But of course you talk about France. You're talking about a Royal autocracy unlike the checks and balances that were evident even in the 18th century in the British monarchy. And you're also talking about the replication of that same kind of model in something like an elected autocrat for a period of five years. Culture matters, politics matters, constitution matters. Just another reminder.

Part

Disney World Loses its Self-Governing Authority in Florida — Florida’s Legislature and Governor Take A Big Step and Send a Huge Signal to Corporate America

But next coming back to the United States, legislatures matter, governors matter, state laws matter. And it really does matter that the Disney corporation has lost its special government district that had been awarded by the Florida legislature in 1967 as Disney was pondering a move to Florida in what would become Disney World.

This week, the Florida legislature voted to end Disney's special government powers. Basically, it was a government unto itself. Disney convinced the Florida legislature back in the 1960s to create what was known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District. Now, that covers about 40 square miles right in the center of Florida and Disney arranged everything from water rights to air rights even determining which aircraft could and could not fly over Disney World at what altitude. You really are talking about an enormous amount of power vested in a major American corporation.

Why would Florida have done that? Well, the reason is pretty simple. Florida wanted Disney world. The Florida governor back in the 1960s desperately wanted to make the announcement of something even bigger and grander. Indeed vastly bigger than Disneyland then, an iconic part of American life back in the 1960s. And Disney did come. A Disney World was built. It was built at least in part because Disney didn't have to get government permission for its use of land for its zoning and its building of buildings. It controlled its own destiny.

Most Florida residents, most American citizens probably had no idea of the existence of the Reedy Creek Improvement District. I did because I grew up in central Florida. I was a boy at this time and there was plenty of evidence that Disney basically could do whatever Disney wanted to do. That turns out to be a rather unfortunate lesson for a corporation to learn.

Now, you recall that Disney first took no position or at least it made no public statement on a law recently passed by the Florida legislature and signed into law by Florida governor, Ron DeSantis that limits the teaching of gender and sexuality theory to very young children. Disney's employees are, at least some very activist, liberal employees of Disney demanded that the company take a stand. And Bob Chapek who is the CEO of Disney did take a stand perhaps too late for Disney's own employees or activist employees, and Disney did make a lot of fuss putting its corporate reputation on the line demanding that the legislature not pass the bill that the governor not sign the bill.

Disney overwhelmingly sided with the LGBTQ revolution in every way imaginable, holding a public meeting, a town hall for Disney employees, which was basically just a free for all of the most radical LGBTQ ideologies. Disney did put itself on the line. It put itself on the line against this bill. And it basically put itself on the line against the Republican majority in Florida's legislature and very much against Florida's governor.

Now, did the governor see a political opportunity here? Yes. Why? Because he's not an idiot. Disney basically gave him this particular issue as if it were handed to him on a silver platter. Almost immediately people all over the country said, "This is insane. Disney employs 80,000 people in Florida. How could the Florida legislature take this kind of action against Disney?" You might think that the Florida legislature here is an outlier, but then again, there were an incredible number of Florida citizens who didn't know about the Reedy Creek Improvement District. And when they heard about it just us didn't sound quite right.

If you're thinking about an example of something like crony capitalism, it's hard to come up with any more classic example than this. But watching this situation very closely, I think perhaps the most interesting development was an editorial published by the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal. Now wait just a minute. There is no media source anywhere in the world that is even close to the Wall Street Journal in terms of influence in the direction of corporate America and the investment class, and banking, and all the rest that has to do with the financial sector.

So what did the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal had to say? The headline line is Revolt In Disney's Florida Kingdom. The subhead, its alienating push into Florida politics is a warning for other CEOs.

So here's the big surprising development. The extremely, pro-corporate, pro-business editorial board of the Wall Street Journal said that it was not Florida's governor and legislature who overreacted here, it was Disney that overreached. As an example of what the Wall Street Journal now routinely criticizes as corporations deciding that they are in business to take leftist moral positions rather than to produce a product or to provide a service to American or international consumers.

Speaking of the Reedy Creek District, the legislature's action and Disney's privileges now for over 50 years in Florida, the editorial board wrote, "Live by the corporate carve out, die by the corporate carve out. As a matter of political realism," wrote the editors, "the Reedy Creek District is a perk the state gave Disney. The mystery is why Disney thought it could push around state lawmakers without any pushback."

Now, again, this was occasioned by the law that the left word media called the Don't Say Gay bill. But to its credit, the editorial board, the New York Times went right to the bill and it wrote this, "Early versions of the state's controversial bill were broader, but here's the key line in the law that passed, 'Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade three or in a manner that is not age appropriate.'"

That in other words is a bill that had the vast support of Floridians. It actually had rather amazing support among Democrats in the state legislature. It is not a radical bill. But Disney nonetheless took what in essence was a radical position against the bill. And it is now paying the political price. But in this case, it's not just a political price. Long-term they're huge questions about how the removal of this special district and its powers for Disney will actually work out. Will this leave Florida taxpayers with enormous bills to pay? Who's going to fix the roads? Who's going to pay for the ambulance? Who's going to provide fire and police protection?

All that remains to be worked out. But even the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal said, "It's likely that Florida will find a way to work this out." Back in the end of March, indeed it was March the 28th when the governor signed the bill that Disney did not like. Disney released a statement and I find these words very significant. Disney said, "Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts. And we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that."

So what's Disney all about? What kind of sentence would summarize what Disney wants to say the company is about, was going to have to own the fact that in an official statement it said, "Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the law legislature or struck down in the courts."

Now, certainly Disney would want to say our goal was bigger than that, but here's the fact, they released a statement saying that is the company's goal. And evidently, the legislators and governor in Florida were listening.

Part

Truth is Stranger than Fiction: CNN Pulls the Plug on CNN+ After Days of Operation and Vast Millions Invested. And, for First Time, Netflix Loses More Subscribers than it Gained. Is Anyone Getting the Message?

But finally, today for The Briefing, we think about the forces that shape our society culture. We think about the artistic, the cultural community, the cultural creatives as they are known. Certainly Disney is at the forefront of that particular business. And also the social change that is now driven by that kind of cultural creative community.

But there was big news telling us that maybe there are limitations, not only to the politics of that particular class, but the commercial model as well. An absolutely astounding announcement, indeed two announcements came last week. The first was that CNN was just after a matter basically of days shutting down an investment in which it has spent hundreds of millions of dollars a new streaming platform known as CNN+.

The big fan fair, CNN plus had announced that it was hiring some very expensive talent. And I do mean very expensive. The company was bragging that it had lured Chris Wallace away from Fox News and he was going to be a major presence on CNN+. The company said, "This is our future." But guess what? The future didn't last very long in an astounding turnaround. The new corporate owners of CNN pulled the plug almost immediately.

After this astounding announcement, CNN+ announced that it's going to be refunding subscription fees to its original subscribers, who by the way, turned out not to be that many people. Also, local arrangements with cable systems on which CNN, the actual television channel, CNN is very dependent, actually required that CNN not replicate its news programming in the main on CNN+, which meant that evidently there was very little reason to have it.

The New York Times reported the quandary this way, "Instead of offering access to CNN shows like The Lead with Jake Tapper and Anderson Cooper 360, CNN+ featured less news affair such as Jake Tapper's Book Club and Parental Guidance with Anderson Cooper. That's right, a parental guidance program with Anderson Cooper, openly gay. Folks, you actually cannot make this stuff up. Truth really is stranger than fiction. But it turns out this is not the corporate future of CNN and the new owners of CNN made that abundantly clear to the great embarrassment of all who were involved, including the fact that the corporate leadership for CNN+ had basically not moved into their offices. They're never actually going to move into their offices.

But the other big announcement that came in the streaming world was that Netflix for the last quarter of reporting lost more subscribers than it gained for the first time since Netflix began its corporate surge. And that's big news too. Of course it affected the stock market where price of shares and Netflix went down and it also just points to a huge issue. And that is the fact that there is a limited amount of streaming content that any living human being can actually even consume.

And it also turns out that customers online when it comes to streaming media also have their own worldviews and their own priorities and their own interests, and evidently it didn't match CNN+ and it is decreasingly matching Netflix. There's a lesson there. If corporate America will only see it.

Bill Goodykoontz of the Arizona Republic reporting for the USA Today network about the CNN+ announcement simply said this, "There was no must-see show or feature that would make people drop what they were doing and watch live or otherwise. There just wasn't much buzz." When it comes to Netflix, the buzz these days is that for the first time the streaming service has indeed lost more customers during the period than it gained.

And in response, it's also interesting to note that Netflix says that it is going to be basically making it more difficult for people to share the platform. Let's just state the obvious. That's not going to go over well. Christians understand that we're responsible for the entertainment that comes into our lives, the entertainment we consume, and that is entertainment that is consumed by any source on any platform, by any technology. Streaming media, it has just opened the door for an absolute Niagara of all kinds of competing consumer and entertainment, cultural issues to present themselves for anyone to watch, but increasingly with a fee.

The big problem for Christians, by the way is not so much that there's a fee, it's what you're actually paying for on so many of these streaming platforms. That's the bigger issue. But in any event, these announcements are certainly worth our attention.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

For more information, go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can find me on Twitter and go into twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com.

I'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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