'WE, TOMORROW'S pioneers, will restore the glory of this nation," says the squeaky-voiced cartoon rodent beloved by generations of children. "We will liberate Al Aqsa, inshallah; we will liberate Iraq, inshallah; and we will liberate the Muslim countries invaded by murderers."
Huh? Even in the days of "Song of the South" and "Alice's Egg Plant" (a Commie-baiting 1925 short about a poultry strike led by Little Red Henski), the Walt Disney Co. was never this explosively political.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday May 19, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 22 Editorial Pages Desk 0 inches; 26 words Type of Material: Correction
TV mouse: A May 10 editorial about a Mickey Mouse look-alike on Hamas' Al Aqsa TV station misspelled the first name of the late Alisa Flatow.
And, of course, it's not. The strident avatar is Farfur, a Mickey Mouse clone that until recently hosted "Tomorrow's Pioneers," a kids' television show on Hamas' Al Aqsa TV station. The creepy tale of Farfur, first discovered by Palestinian Media Watch, raises many hard issues: pathology in the Arab media, the quasi-abusive indoctrination of children and the bizarre geopolitical appropriation of pop-culture imagery. But it also raises an issue dear to the House of Mouse: copyright.
At the risk of encouraging lawyers, here's a lawsuit we'd love to see: Hamas getting dragged through some international court by Disney's implacable army of attorneys. If ever there were a real claim that the company suffered dilution to the value of its intellectual property, this is it. Farfur's brief stardom creates an opportunity to revisit the legal territory blazed by the family of Alyssa Flatow (who sued Iran's government for sponsoring terrorism) or even Morris Dees, who bankrupted the Ku Klux Klan via the civil courts.
Disney, which declined to comment on this issue, is understandably reluctant to give extra attention to a news-of-the-weird story. But there's an important lesson to be learned here -- that you don't get to participate in modernity halfway.
Sadly, the resolution of Farfurgate teaches precisely the opposite. Faced with a media brouhaha, Palestinian Information Minister Mustafa Barghouti suspended "Tomorrow's Pioneers," saying, "Any media outlet that breaks Palestinian broadcasting law will be penalized by the Information Ministry." So the take-away is that culture and ideas depend not on open exchange and legal protection but on the whims of a harried propaganda minister. Farfur's lessons for Palestinian kids may have been toxic, but his story's lessons for adults aren't much better.