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Slippery Slopes

I was disappointed to learn that Disney+ has blocked for users under seven years old, the films “Dumbo,” “Peter Pan,” “The Aristocats,” and “The Swiss Family Robinson.” Disney adds a disclaimer which accompanies the films, and can be read by anyone over seven who is not blocked from seeing them. “This program includes negative depictions of people or cultures. These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now. Rather than remove this content, we want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it, and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together.”

I am not going to write at length about how wrong I think this is, but I will say that more than one generation of children were traumatized by the mother elephant’s death in “Dumbo,” the mother deer’s death and the forest fire in “Bambi,” the “bad boys” turning into animals in “Pinnochio”; and any of the other Disney films which subjected young children who wanted to see a nice movie, to scenes of death and tragedy, before the “happy ending.” Disney seems to have no present concern about that, but they want to keep children under seven from seeing “Dumbo” or “Peter Pan,” because they want to keep them from viewing “negative depictions of people and cultures.”

Disney is a trillion dollar corporation, has been a money machine for eighty years, and is very bottom line oriented. They also may have some social concerns apart from the profits, and think that they are doing good by keeping little children from seeing these movies. I am sure that more blocking of content will follow. They will do what they will do, they are a private entity.

My larger concern is that while this kind of thing is going on, which some people and groups will see as important victories, there are a series of bills being passed and signed in state legislatures, which would so greatly suppress the vote of minorities, as well as anyone who is not a Republican, that the Republicans would never lose an election in those states, and probably nationally, since we have the Electoral College, not a President elected by earning more popular votes. It depends on which states you win. We learned that even with a seven million (!) popular vote victory, Democrats came within about 42,000 votes of losing the last election, considered to be the most free and fair in some time. With this legislation, they would never win another. A five million popular margin in the presidential election probably means an Electoral College loss. And the Republican-run states would gerrymander the Democrats into irrelevance.

We are hoping that HR1 and a voting rights bill will pass, but then we have the filibuster to deal with, we have discussed that. The Supreme Court is not going to save us, they will defer to the states.

So to me, it looks like we are being given some “cultural victories,” while we are potentially losing the war. Is this distraction, or just unrelated? Probably the latter; but getting some movies and books banned or blocked, is not going to mean much if the Republicans control the government. My personal view is that it is imperative that the Democrats find a way to restore voting rights and free elections, so that the policies of the country will represent the views of the majority of the country. And as far as books and movies are concerned, I think that there should be no banning or blocking or burning, except in the most virulent of cases.

In law school, and even in legal decisions, there are certain phrases which people like to repeat: one of them is “slippery slope.” The connotation is of course that once you start something, once you head on a path, you cannot easily stop it. The courts used to be concerned about that; the idea that if you ban or censor some things, how do you prevent more of that? The courts have long struggled with any concrete definitions. Remember the arguments about “pornography,” culminating in Justice Stewart saying that he couldn’t define it, but he would know it when he sees it? Finally, they got to “socially redeeming value,” which of course the filmmakers just covered by tossing in a line or two, or having some foreign psychologist say a a few words in between the sex scenes.

So even though the term gets tiresome, beware of slippery slopes, because you can’t scrabble back up. And what kind of vague opinion will the \Supreme Court eventually hide behind, when it decides that they will not touch the repressive voting laws being enacted? Pete Williams will get on to talk about the bogus phrases, “A reasonable accommodation,” “the rights of all people,” etc., and then say, “‘Make no mistake, it is a big victory for Republicans.'”

There is no way to write an opinion which will somehow fairly protect voting rights, and differentiate between legitimate voting rules and voting suppression. A the best, it would just provide more litigation, and the Court will either not hear those cases, or perhaps occasionally issue another test case opinion which allows the restrictions. The Right-wing Court has done this ever since “Bush v. Gore,’ writing a bunch of words which deliberately obscure the only thing that matters, the actual decision. If they wanted to protect voting rights, they would strike down these repressive laws, but they have no intention of doing that. The only reason we got the electoral win last time, is that the Court did not hear the lawsuits, they held them until after the election, while the lower courts struck down most of the restrictions.

The only hope is for Executive and Legislative action here. It is our biggest political crisis in this nation. Those who are thrilled that various movies and cartoons are being retroactively banned, or prospectively blocked or blacklisted, because of social pressure from some groups, might well consider that if the Far Right takes over the country via vote suppression, not only will many of the rights of all be taken away, but the blocking and the banning will go in the opposite direction. A slippery slope, in other words.

Bring Me Vaccine

Randy has done it again. This is the best one since “Poor Unfortunate Troll”.

Everybody sing along!