In the aftermath of the Pittsburgh synagogue attack that killed 11 people, media watchdog nonprofit Media Matters for America has contacted news outlets to take Disney to task for being one of the leading advertisers on Fox News. What’s the connection between the hate crime and the press release? Hosts and pundits on the partisan “news” channel have long blown anti-semitic dog whistles, notable playing up the conspiracy theory that Jewish “globalist” George Soros funds protests and the migrant caravan headed to the United States from Honduras. These are lies that have been echoed by a president who has treated Nazis as part of his political base. And lies have consequences. The coward that slaughtered 11 defenseless temple-goers last Saturday cited Soros, who received a pipe bomb from another Trumpist last week, as motivation for his rampage. That Disney advertises against content that has inspired acts of terrorism is worrisome no matter what you make of MSNBC or the cable landscape more broadly.
That Disney, the ultimate family-friendly entertainment company, would advertise on a network where putting children in cages has been accepted as a sound policy solution might sound odd. It isn’t. Moral repugnancy aside, Fox News is probably America’s most functional network, boasting nearly three million prime-time viewers. Disney can reach a specific part of its intended audience by doing business with a network that pays noted racist Laura Ingraham, who probably didn’t much enjoy Moana or Coco.
That said, Disney doesn’t need Fox News in the way some of the networks other advertisers do. Disney is a massively successful media company with its own channels and ever-growing reach. Disney owns IP — Winnie-the-Pooh, Mickey Mouse, Marvel — so woven into the fabric of society that a decision to not do business with a network that airs anti-semitic agitprop would not significantly jeopardize profits.
So, why won’t Disney publicly pull their ads? There are probably two reasons. One is that it’s easy to advertise on Fox News. The other is that explicitly taking this action will trigger a reaction. Parents would burn Disney toys just as they torched their Nikes in response to Nike’s Colin Kaepernick campaign. Here’s the thing: Nike’s sales went up after that campaign. Would Disney see a profit? Probably not. Disney isn’t in the statement business. Disney is in the parks business and the making people feel good business. It’s different.
That said, Disney would be fine. And Disney could quietly retreat without losing too much face publicly. That might happen. It should.
The executives at Disney cannot continue to support the propaganda routinely dished out by Fox News. It’s a horrific look for the company and it’s also unnecessary. Want to keep people happy? Pull ads from liberal stations as well. It’s a false equivalency — MSNBC is annoying, not racist — but whatever gets it done. Disney needs to recognize that the hate on Fox News is a feature, not a bug, and get the hell out of there before a boycott campaign starts in earnest. Three million is a big TV number these days, but it’s a tiny number compared to the general population.
By advertising on Fox News, Disney provides the network with its imprimatur. Disney doesn’t just buy an audience. They create an agency. Lies about the Jewish funded invasion of immigrants are more credible when followed by a blockbuster movie trailer. The trailer makes Fox News look like the real network it isn’t.
The vicious hate spouted on Fox news only continues because powerful corporations allow it to continue. It’s not a question of whether or not the sponsorship of Fox’s rhetoric will lead to more death. It already has. It will again. If Disney doesn’t lose consumers to a protest action, they will assuredly lose consumers to another AR-15.