Disney Controversy Puts Right-Wing Children's Entertainment Industry in SpotlightRoundup
tags: conservatism, Florida, Disney, transgender, LGBTQ history
Nicole Hemmer is an associate research scholar at Columbia University with the Obama Presidency Oral History Project and the author of Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics. She co-hosts the history podcasts “Past Present” and “This Day in Esoteric Political History” and is co-producer of the podcast “Welcome To Your Fantasy.” The views expressed in this commentary are those of the author.
“Are your children being brainwashed?”
That’s the question that greets visitors to the Tuttle Twins website, which sells libertarian children’s books. The books, written by Connor Boyack, are meant to protect children from the “socialism and woke-ism” that the website says American educational and cultural institutions are “pushing into the minds of our kids.” A cartoon on the site shows a mother wielding a Tuttle Twins shield while protecting her frightened children, absorbing the arrows of socialism, Marxism, collectivism, and “media lies.”
The Tuttle Twins books, regularly hawked by right-wing radio host Glenn Beck, range from board books to graphic novels to economics curriculum guides. They join a growing array of conservative children’s literature and programming which coincide with the current right-wing attacks on schools and children’s entertainment that conservatives claim are sites of political and sexual indoctrination.
In addition to the Tuttle Twins, there are the “Heroes of Liberty” series (biographies of conservative icons like Rush Limbaugh and Margaret Thatcher aimed at middle school readers), the Brave Books series authored by prominent conservatives (like Dana Loesch’s pro-gun book “Paws Off My Cannon” and Rep. Dan Crenshaw’s cancel-culture book “Fame, Blame, and the Raft of Shame”), and an array of anti-trans books like “Johnny the Walrus” and “Elephants Are Not Birds.”
Throw in the Daily Wire’s vow to spend $100 million on conservative children’s programs to oppose Disney in its conflict with Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis – and Glenn Beck’s secretive new Florida Project, launched to counter Disney’s so-called “gay agenda” – and you have the emergence of a full-on right-wing children’s entertainment complex. Its sole mission: to fight what the right sees as liberal indoctrination with some indoctrination of its own.
That idea of indoctrination has been a core part of the conservative project for decades, justified by the argument that mainstream media and educational institutions were already indoctrinating consumers – whether students or readers or audiences – with liberal values. When William F. Buckley Jr., who would later go on to found the conservative magazine National Review, was arguing against liberal orthodoxy at Yale University in his 1951 book “God and Man at Yale,” he did not argue for a politics-free education, but rather insisted that Yale enforce a conservative economic and political orthodoxy.