UPDATE: On June 25, National Die-In canceled its Disney protest. The official reason: “To avoid trauma to kids.” I think it’s really all the practical reasons below. I mean, they had no problem traumatizing kids in grocery stores…
How much would you pay to protest?
If you want to do it in the Magic Kingdom, a one-day pass costs $116.09. Parking is $20. (Tangent: Why doesn’t parking cost $20.09?)
I’m sure anti-gun activists have considered the price tag of staging a “die-in” at Disney World, which they vaguely confirmed last week…
…although the National Die-In website says, “No upcoming events at the moment.”
National Die-In made headlines last month after convincing a Florida grocery chain to withdraw its support for a gun-loving gubernatorial candidate. Led by Parkland high school activist David Hogg, dozens of anti-gun activists laid down in the aisles of several Publix stores in Florida and Georgia…
They were protesting Publix’s campaign donations – more than $400,000 – to Adam Putnam, a Republican candidate who has declared himself “a proud NRA sellout”…
Putnmam maintains an A rating from the NRA. As Florida’s agriculture commissioner – who, for some reason, oversees the state’s concealed weapons permits – he opposed all gun-control legislation after the mass shooting in Parkland.
That includes two new laws that passed the Republican legislature and were signed by a Republican governor: Raising the gun-buying age from 18 to 21 and requiring a three-day waiting period before anyone can buy a gun.
National Die-In is now targeting Disney World near Orlando, since like Publix, it has donated to Putnam’s campaign. But Disney donated even more: almost $790,000, of which $300,000 came after the Parkland shooting on Valentine’s Day.
But intimidating Disney World isn’t as easy as pressuring Publix.
5 reasons this won’t work
1. Protesters need reporters like bread needs yeast.
Without that key ingredient, everything falls flat. But it’s much easier (and cheaper) for a reporter to stroll into a grocery store in a big city than a theme park in the middle of nowhere.
(Disneyland in California is right off a main road in Anaheim, with restaurants and hotels nearby. Disney World covers 40 square miles, much of it still swampy grassland. That’s the size of San Francisco. Disney World is actually 18 miles away from the city of Orlando.)
Sure, protesters will shoot shaky, blurry video on their iPhones. But the news media won’t zealously cover the story when the only facts and footage are from the protesters themselves.
2. Counter-protesters won’t be there, either.
Sworn enemies can be unwitting allies. Publix backed down not just because of the Die-In protesters, but also because NRA supporters showed up to yell at them. Those two groups have only one thing in common: They’re both Publix customers.
3. Publix has competition, Disney not so much.
You can buy groceries from many places, but there’s only one Cinderella’s Castle. (Geek fact: Disneyland has Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.) If reporters and counter-protesters aren’t around to hype the Die-In, Disney can easily survive one news cycle.
4. Don’t mess with pissed-off parents.
It’s easy to step around some kids sprawled in the dairy aisle. But block Mom and Dad from dragging their whiny kids from Space Mountain to Splash Mountain, and you won’t need to fake your own death.
These parents paid hundreds of dollars for a pain-in-the-ass vacation. They won’t sympathize with your cause. And if the customers don’t care, why should the company?
5. You can’t menace the Mouse.
Any reporter who’s ever dealt with Disney knows it’s the most media-savvy operation on the planet. Seriously, the White House and foreign governments should hire Disney’s PR department to consult on spin control.
I don’t know if this story is true, but reporters repeat it amongst themselves because it just feels accurate:
When Disney decided to build the Magic Kingdom in Central Florida, the company wisely bought miles of land around the site. One late night in 1970, when construction was almost complete, an Orlando reporter listening to the police scanner heard about a fire on Disney property. He drove out there, but Disney security stopped him at the border.
He could see a glow on the horizon and smoke billowing against the moonlight. Yet the city’s fire trucks were turning around and heading back to their stations. Perplexed, the reporter approached a Disney official who seemed to be in charge.
“Where are the fire trucks going?” he asked. “What about the fire?”
The Disney official just stared at him and replied, “What fire?”
With no confirmation from Disney and no one from Orlando’s fire or police departments willing to cross the Mouse, nothing was ever reported.
Like I said, it’s probably apocryphal. But it keeps getting told because Disney is a master media manipulator. You just know Disney’s PR machine is scrutinizing ways to make the Die-In difficult and keep it quarantined from both journalists and visitors. Or maybe they’ll block their borders once again, putting out this fire before it even starts.