Wednesday, June 23, 2021

DeSantis Bringing Back the Thought Police to Florida

Jesus, the news this day from my crazy-ass state of Florida. As Betty Cracker mentions at Balloon Juice, Gov. DeSantis is cracking down on librul Thoughtcrime at our public universities

After whining non-stop about tech company “censorship” when private businesses enforced their terms of service on Agent Orange (AKA trump), Florida Governor Ron DeSantis showed us what honest-to-dog censorship looks like when he signed a bill banning the 1619 Project and discussions of critical race theory in Florida’s public schools. Now he’s out to identify thought-crimes at state universities...

Betty refers to the Miami Herald article from Ana Ceballos covering this:

In his continued push against the “indoctrination” of students, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday signed legislation that will require public universities and colleges to survey students, faculty and staff about their beliefs and viewpoints to support “intellectual diversity.”

The survey will discern “the extent to which competing ideas and perspectives are presented” in public universities and colleges, and seeks to find whether students, faculty and staff “feel free to express beliefs and viewpoints on campus and in the classroom,” according to the bill.

The measure, which goes into effect July 1, does not specify what will be done with the survey results. But DeSantis and Sen. Ray Rodrigues, the sponsor of the bill, suggested on Tuesday that budget cuts could be looming if universities and colleges are found to be “indoctrinating” students...

And as Betty notes, the goddamn governor can't even define what the hell it is he's looking for:

When asked, DeSantis didn’t name any instances of indoctrination — he says he hears “worries” from parents. But lack of evidence that legislation is needed to address a problem is no obstacle to DeSantis, who follows the Trump-GOP model of government by trolling. DeSantis couldn’t identify a single example of critical race theory being taught in K-12 public schools, or trans girls dominating girls’ sports teams, or widespread voter fraud. Yet he championed and signed legislation addressing all these fictional problems...

So under threat of slashed budgets to universities already under tightened restraints, this survey will be forced onto professors, faculty, and students all in the great name of purging "indoctrination" of unwanted thoughts. Arguably this is against the Republicans' hate for Critical Race Theory but in truth it's a potential purge of ANY liberal or progressive belief as punishment for refusing to toe the Far Right Wingnut line.

And if any of this sounds familiar to you, it's because we as a nation have been through this shit before: the Red Scare of the post-World War II era, commonly known as the McCarthyist Era named for the bullying Senator who oversaw a major purging of public and private citizens.

But that's not all. Florida went through its' own purge against "indoctrination" at the state level, officially called the Florida Legislative Investigation Committee but better remembered as the Johns Committee for the SOB who oversaw that shit-show. Openly formed as a response to the Supreme Court's Brown vs. Board of Education ruling desegregating public schools (a clear act of racism by the by, Gov. DeSantis), state senator Charley Eugene Johns led that committee against any civil rights activism and then expanded it to hunt down suspected homosexuals especially at the major state university of the time, U of Florida in Gainesville. Basically, giving themselves the power to ruin any lives they wanted to hurt. Students got expelled, faculty and librarians were fired, and everyone else failed to defend their due process rights because they feared retaliation if they even did that.

From the Independent Alligator newspaper covering things at UF, article by Meghan McGlone, here are some of the sins that the Johns Committee inflicted on people

The year was 1958, and while other students were worrying about class and their lives off campus, UF sophomore Art Copleston was in the University Police’s basement.

A single lightbulb hung by a string over a wooden, four-legged table with a tape recorder placed in the middle. Blinds covered the windows, and two UPD officers sat with Copleston.

A UPD officer said he knew Copleston was gay. Then, he ordered the student to tell him the names of everyone that he knew on campus who was gay.

Copleston said he sat there for hours that day, and was brought back to that room four or five more times. If the officers could prove that he was gay, they told him, they could kick him off campus...

In many cases, UPD forcibly removed students and faculty from class and interrogated them without a legal representative present. Interrogators threatened to expose their sexual orientation during a time when “exposure would mean social death,” (UF Lecturer Steven) Noll said.

At the time the committee was at UF, (college President) Reitz did not stop the committee’s acts. He needed money from the state to develop the university, Noll said, and the Johns Committee was a state committee. He also believed that being gay was a major problem in American society.

In a 1988 interview, Reitz called anyone who was gay “a complete aberration.” He also communicated with Johns through letters, thanking the committee for its work...

Organizations on campus have addressed the Johns Committee’s history at UF, including LGBTQ Affairs. Its history recognizes the committee leading to the dismissal or resignation of faculty and students. It also recognizes that Reitz cooperated with the committee.

Director of LGBTQ Affairs Tiffany Richards declined to comment on LGBTQ Affairs’ history, or the fact that its office is held in the Reitz Union, a building whose namesake supported the committee. Graduate assistant of LGBTQ Affairs Logan Neser did not respond to The Alligator’s emails or calls.

Florida State Senator Lauren Book wrote a resolution late last year asking state legislators to acknowledge the injustices the Johns Committee caused and apologize to the victims of the committee. The bill failed March 14 in the Senate’s Committee on Governmental Oversight and Accountability...

Instead, it seems the Florida Legislature along with DeSantis decided to go the other way and bring that intimidating bullshit back. And bringing back the same hammer - the threat of cutting funds - to ensure the colleges comply.

DeSantis and his lackeys are not railing against "Critical Race Theory," they're railing against any study of racism at all, and opposed to any effort to confront racism as the problem it is. In the process, they're setting up the weapons they and the Far Right can use to attack anyone they view as deviants, not just transgenders and gays/lesbians, but also feminists and women who stand for pro-choice, anyone they deem "socialist" or worse if you happen to speak against income inequality. Just how far you think this slippery slope is when this kind of "investigation" goes after anyone "anti-religious" or non-Christian (which you're bound to find at a large university with active Muslim AND Jewish groups).

We've seen this movie before, Florida. And goddammit, it wasn't that great the first time.

This remake of the Real Witch Hunts of the 1950s is going to be directed by an even worse artist in DeSantis who has no vision and is working from a lousy rehashed script, pandering to a viewing audience of raging angry White folk who view anyone educated as "elitist" and evil.

What the Florida Republicans are attempting here are direct violations of everyone's First Amendment rights to Peaceably Assemble and the Freedom of Speech. They're going after the academic ideals of open debate and honest discourse, seeking to intimidate enough people to go silent and avoid punishment at the hands of the State of Florida.

This shit shouldn't stand. Every student and every teacher need to fight back. Your rights, your very lives are at stake even if you roll over and let DeSantis and his bullies win.

They want to impose silence, and they will want your scalps. Don't let them do either to you.

1 comment:

dinthebeast said...

Nothing says "diversity of ideas" quite like investigations of thoughtcrime...

-Doug in Sugar Pine