Upon receiving the Humanitarian Award at the organization’s National Tribute Dinner from Jeffrey Katzenberg, the Walt Disney Co. chairman and CEO delivered a scathing critique of social media and the current state of political discourse.
“Hate and anger are dragging us toward the abyss once again,” Iger said. “Apathy is actually growing. In the last few years, we have been harshly reminded that hate takes many forms, sometimes disguising itself as more socially acceptable expression like fear or resentment or contempt. It is consuming our public discourse and shaping our country and culture into something that is wholly unrecognizable to those of us who still believe in civility, human rights and basic decency.”
He decried social media for users’ abilities to spread hate.
“Hitler would have loved social media,” Iger said. “It’s the most powerful marketing tool an extremist could ever hope for because by design social media reflects a narrow world view filtering out anything that challenges our beliefs while constantly validating our convictions and amplifying our deepest fears.
He continued, “It creates a false sense that everyone shares the same opinion. Social media allows evil to prey on troubled minds and lost souls and we all know that social news feeds can contain more fiction than fact, propagating vile ideology that has no place in a civil society that values human life.”
He implored the audience to “once again renounce and reject hate in all forms.”
Iger also called on voters to “demand more” from elected officials. “We have the responsibility to fix what is broken,” he said. “We also have the power to do it now. We can do better. The world needs us to be better.”
While acknowledging that many people in the ballroom have probably been approached by 2020 presidential candidates asking for support and financial donations, Iger also warned, “I want to hear a pitch that isn’t grounded in the contempt of others.”
As Variety reported earlier today, Iger and Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn are set to host a fundraiser for 2020 senate candidates.
“Leaders must offer a plan for progress that works for all of us and does not include leaving millions behind,” Iger said. “And leaders also have to be committed to a society and government that respects the rights and the human dignity of everyone within is.”
While much of Iger’s remarks could have been mistaken as his own political stump speech, Katzenberg said in his introduction, “No matter how much I begged Bob, he wasn’t willing to run for president.”
Iger responded by saying, “As for the presidency, he promised me that he would never bring that up again, particularly with my wife [Willow Bay] present.”
Also honored during the evening were Rabbi Jeffrey Myers of of Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue, Holocaust resistance hero Kurt Kleinman and immigrant rights activist Florence Phillips. Jimmy Kimmel hosted the program.