BOB GARFIELD: And in other tyrant news, when Walt Disney Company didn't like an LA Times investigative series about its undue influence on local government around Disneyland, it decided to fight back. It blacklisted the Times from press screenings of its films, including the hit Thor: Ragnarok. As KCRW Public Radio
KCRW REPORTER: This is a bald attempt to try to influence future coverage, news coverage by the LA Times, by punishing their access to movies.
BOB GARFIELD: If you aren’t aware, in Ragnarok the mighty Thor finds himself in a deadly gladiatorial contest that pits him against the Incredible Hulk, his former ally and fellow Avenger. So yeah, one media titan battling another, no irony there or anything, but plenty of stupidity for three reasons. First, the stunt simply called massive attention to the very reporting Disney didn’t like. It overlooked the reason for press screeners, in the first place, to generate free publicity for Disney's own movies. And, for good measure, it antagonized other media organizations who resented the bullying of their colleagues.
Culture journalists from the Washington Post, AV Club, The New York Times and Flavorwire, as well as the LA Film Critics Association, the New York Film Critics Circle, the Boston Society of Film Critics and the National Society of Film Critics jointly agreed to boycott new Disney releases and/or exclude them from annual awards consideration, a pretty dramatic show of solidarity, one might even be tempted to say “cinematic.”
[CLIP/MUSIC UP & UNDER]:
THOR: We need to stop her here and now, to prevent Ragnarok, the end of everything! So I'm putting together a team.
VALKYRIE: Here we go!
BOB GARFIELD: The battle was fierce, but brief. Within two days, Disney caved and it was all high fives among the avengers. Who doesn’t like to see a bully get his comeuppance? But at what cost? In order to back Disney down, competing media organizations had to band together and act as one, with a shared agenda in more or less precisely the fashion the anti-press political right always claims the media do. When the President is calling you an enemy of the people, consortiums of retaliation are what you call “bad optics.” Furthermore, the boycotters used editorial coverage, or the withholding of it, as their mighty sword, which is usually a clear-cut ethical violation. Sometimes it's called extortion.
Now, I won’t pretend not to be thrilled at Disney's humiliation, in this case, and I won't spoil the Ragnarok outcome between Thor and the Hulk. But let me just say in life and in movies with sequel possibilities, there is room for ambiguity.
THOR: And you and I had a fight recently.
BRUCE BANNER: Did I win?
BOB GARFIELD: More to the point, did anybody win?
Coming up, in Sweden, Syrian refugees pour into the West, the Wild West. This is On the Media.