Mickey McCarthy?

Dec 14, 2006
*Special to asia!

Walt Disney was a life-long anti-Communist. What would he say, now that Disney's cozying up to China?

613 Have the "Mouses" turned "red" in China?

Had he been buried (instead of cremated), Walt Disney would be rolling in his grave. On September 12, 2005, The Walt Disney Company unveiled its first theme park in China. The opening ceremony of the Hong Kong Disneyland drew a special guest from Beijing: China's Vice President Zeng Qinghong.

Onstage, with the pink Snow White castle in the background, Zeng stood next to Bob Iger, then Disney's CEO designate; and Donald Tsang, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong; to officiate the opening. All three wore a Mickey Mouse hat on their heads and a wide grin on their faces. Zeng praised the theme park, calling it "Hong Kongers' eternal carnival". Iger replied gracefully, saying it was "exciting" to be "part of China's future".

What would Walt Disney, an ardent anti-Communist, say to his successor cozying up to a top man of the biggest Communist country in the world, and a propaganda chief to boot? One can only guess, but it is a safe bet it would not be words suitable for the typical Disney audience.

In his life, Walt Disney brought joy to numerous people. But he also harmed many by lending his name and support to the anti-Communist war waged by the infamous Senator Joseph McCarthy.

McCarthy, a judge and captain of the Marines, rose to a position to challenge the president in the 1950s by fanning the fear of the American public over the rise of the Communist regimes of Soviet Russia and China. Communists, he claimed, had infiltrated every aspect of American life, and had to be rooted out. McCarthy made himself the head of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), which quickly became synonymous with fear.

The committee would interrogate people who had been associated with "Un-American activities", from possessing censored books to attending Communist meetings. Whether or not the allegations were true, many of those hauled up were fined, imprisoned and forced to finger their associates. Refusal to name names carried a heavier sentence. It was as if America had woken up one day and decided to borrow the dehumanising tactics used by its enemy, Russia, while vowing to fight its influence. The only good thing that could be said of it was that it did not resort to physical torture, unlike the Bush administration today.

(One of the most famous McCarthy victims was the playwright Arthur Miller, who was fined and blacklisted, an event he later allegorised in "The Crucible".)

Walt Disney readily supported McCarthy. He named names. He blamed his labour problems on Communist agents. He spoke firmly in Congressional hearings that the Communists "really ought to be smoked out, shown up for what they are, so that all the good free causes in this country, all the liberalisms that really are American, can go out without this taint of Communism". To his last day, he believed Communists were his enemy, and that of the US. And now Mickey Mouse is all ready to make himself at home in China.


lee han shihLee Han Shih is the founder, publisher and editor of asia! Magazine.


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