I first posted a piece by Ariel Dorfman at TomDispatch in October 2004 and began my introduction this way: “I met him in the spring of 1980 soon after he arrived in the United States. He had already been in exile from Pinochet’s Chile for seven years. I was an editor at Pantheon Books when one day he swept into my office, tall and exuberant, with his youngest son in a stroller. At the time, I knew his name only because it sat next to that of a man named Armand Mattelart on the cover of How to Read Donald Duck, an account — both Marxist and amusing — the two had written for the Allende government on the impact of Disney comics in the Third World. Soon after we began to talk, he launched into a critique of Babar, the French elephant whose adventures were chronicled for children by Jean de Brunhoff. I was particularly interested because de Brunhoff’s books had been icons of my childhood.”
And we’ve never stopped talking. But when he first walked into my office more than 40 years ago, despite his grim experiences in Chile, I doubt either of us could have imagined the world we now find ourselves in. Yes, he already had plenty to say about Donald Duck (and Walt Disney). But honestly, could we have dreamed of an America in which the other Donald — and you know just who I mean! — had already been this country’s president for four years and now stands a reasonable chance of returning to the White House in 2025 and turning the U.S. into a distinctly authoritarian-style state (with all too much help from various right-wing think tanks)? Only the other day, he stated quite clearly that, if president again, he wouldn’t hesitate to target anyone he considered an opponent with the full power of a transformed state. And given his attitude toward climate change and fossil fuels, he would undoubtedly play a grim role in the further transformation of this planet into a living hell.
In the context of Dorfman’s piece today about Donald Duck and our Disneyesque planet, think of that Donald of “ours” as the ultimate American quackpot.
And in the increasingly flaming world of fire and war we now live in, after you’ve read Dorfman’s article (while you’re at it, don’t miss his remarkable new novel The Suicide Museum), my one piece of advice is, as its title suggests: Duck! Tom
Walt Disney and Salvador Allende Are Still Fighting for Our Souls
This year marks the anniversaries of two drastically different events that loomed all too large in my life. The first occurred a century ago in Hollywood: on October 16, 1923, Walt Disney signed into being the corporation that bears his name. The second took place in Santiago, Chile, on September 11, 1973, when socialist President Salvador Allende died in a military coup that overthrew his democratically elected government.
Those two disparate occurrences got me thinking about how the anniversaries of a long-dead American who revolutionized popular culture globally and a slain Chilean leader whose inspiring political revolution failed might illuminate -- and I hope you won't find this too startling -- the dilemma that apocalyptic climate change poses to humanity.Read More