Hostility and Coercion are Not the Same Thing
Ira Stoll, writing at Reason’s web site, states:
It’s ironic to hear the complaints from Republicans about politically active corporations, because for most of the past decade-plus, those complaining the loudest about corporate participation in politics have been Democrats, or Democrat-leaning independent socialists, complaining about gun manufacturers, oil companies, and health insurance companies.
See Ira Stoll, “Republicans Taking Aim at Disney Is a Reminder That Both Parties Are Hostile to Free Speech,” Reason, April 4, 2022. In the article he discusses Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s hostility to Disney Corporation’s speaking out against a Florida law that makes it illegal for schools to conduct classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through grade 3. Specifically, Lines 97-101 of House Bill 1557 state:
Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.
I couldn’t find on line whether this law applies only to government schools or to all schools, including private ones. It matters, although not for the point I’m making here.
Stoll goes on to tell about how various Democratic government officials have opposed Supreme Court decisions that allow corporate contributions to political campaigns and have actually proposed legislation to weaken the First Amendment. If these officials had their way, governments could threaten violators with fines or, possibly, prison sentences.
So I thought, given his setup, that he would outline how DeSantis has proposed fines, prison sentences, or, at least, tax increases for Disney. It’s possible that DeSantis will propose getting rid of special tax treatment for Disney and other large corporations in retaliation for Disney’s outspokenness. But so far he hasn’t.
It’s important to distinguish between politicians speaking against corporations’ messages and politicians advocating coercion of those corporations. Sometimes it’s, admittedly, difficult. Politicians have so much power over our lives that DeSantis might be threatening them with legal or regulatory sanctions in some of the areas where the state government regulates. But the case that that is what is happening needs to be made, not just assumed.
DeSantis can be faulted for dictating how businesses deal with customers and employees who don’t get vaccinated. A year ago, I criticized him on this.
And maybe Ira Stoll or others can find evidence that DeSantis has threatened to use coercion abasing Disney. But then they should report that and not implicitly equate hostile criticism and coercion.