Thursday, February 2, 2023

Where's The Outrage?


Have we become so numb to Republican norm- shattering happening on a daily basis that the un-American actions of an Orwellian demagogue pass with so little outrage?  To wit:

For those who are paying attention, it's been obvious for some time that Florida's mega-MAGA governor, Ron DeSantis, is aggressive with book bans because he would just prefer it if kids didn't read books at all. So while it was infuriating, it was not surprising to read that the investigative journalism team at Popular Info had discovered that teachers in Manatee County, Florida were told that every book on their shelves was banned until otherwise notified. Failure to lock up all their books until they could be "vetted" by censors, teachers were warned, put them at risk of being prosecuted as felons. 

The facts of this situation are straightforward: A Florida law signed by DeSantis requires that every book available to students "must be selected by a school district employee who holds a valid educational media specialist certificate," in most cases, the school librarian. This may sound reasonable on its surface, but as the situation in Manatee County shows, in reality, it's about creating a bottleneck preventing books from getting into the hands of students. Even more importantly, it's about establishing the idea that books are inherently dangerous objects, to the degree that no student can be allowed to handle one without heavy-handed surveillance. [snip]

... Authoritarians hate reading for the same reason they hate sex, or any private behavior that allows people to experience thoughts and feelings outside of the authoritarian's control. Learning to sit quietly and read by yourself is, for most people, the first step towards being able to sit with your own thoughts. It's crucial for learning to think for yourself. There's a reason most teachers like to have a wide array of books on hand, giving kids the freedom to read on their own. It's how kids develop other skills, like critical thinking and creativity. 

Of course, all that is exactly what DeSantis is afraid of. He may occasionally make noises about freedom, but his actions speak clearly of his goal, which is to turn Florida students into a bunch of unthinking right-wing robots. This is a man who released an ad where he bragged about teaching his young child to parrot "build the wall," after all. He's never hidden his loathing for education and his preference for indoctrination. Books are being banned en masse in Florida schools. That's not an accident or a side effect, but always very much by DeSantis's design.

And this:

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday rolled out a slate of higher-education proposals that included eliminating spending on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, a move the governor said would lead such programs to “wither on the vine.”

DeSantis also announced proposals involving the frequency of post-tenure reviews for faculty members and the state setting new “core course requirements” at colleges and universities.

DeSantis’ announcement came weeks after his administration directed leaders of the college and university systems to collect information from schools about diversity, equity and inclusion-related expenditures.

(See also, "Tweets" below)

This, of course, follows a pattern established by smug thug DeSantis of identifying a hot- button right- wing culture war issue (under the umbrella of "wokeness"), and then jumping to the head of the mob, demonstrated in part by:

-- his "Don't Say Gay" legislation and his efforts to muscle the Walt Disney Company to stay out of the fight;

-- his opposition to life- saving COVID mandates and restrictions and association with violent cranks;

-- his backing legislation to allow Florida gun owners to carry a firearm in public without a permit;

-- his cruel performative show of flying migrants to Martha's Vineyard under the false pretext that jobs and public support were awaiting them.

Instead of receiving the opprobrium he richly deserves, this demagogue's authoritarian, racist policies are being covered as part of the horse race narrative the media is most comfortable with.  "Oooh, look what Trump said about him,"  "Is he going to run?," "Can he beat Trump?," etc.  What he's been up to in Florida should be setting off loud alarms and fierce pushback, but it seems there are still many who find a growing, dangerous authoritarian movement in this country mesmerizing and are willing to see it play out right under their noses.

BONUS:  The political press is happy to assist in Republican narrative framing.

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