This feature could very quickly become "This Week in Muskenfreude," as billionaire Elon Musk continues to run Twitter into the ground. In a couple of months, it could also become "This Week in Kevinfreude," as there will undoubtedly be many foibles on the Republican side of the House, at least some of them stemming from bad behavior that deserves to be looked askance upon. So, we will have to be judicious with both of those subjects.
So although we could train our gaze on Musk yet again, we're going to write instead about the newly-reelected Ron DeSantis. In service of that reelection bid, he did a number of things that were questionable in terms of ethics, legality, or both. He is clever enough to know that if any of these things blew up in his face, it would probably be after the election, when he is considerably more bulletproof.
This week, it would appear that we have our first blow-up. At the command of DeSantis, the Florida legislature passed the "Stop Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees Act." That title is bending over backwards to create the name/acronym "Stop W.O.K.E. Act." It is a patently ridiculous law that says that professors at state-funded universities must not do anything to make students "feel guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress" due to their race, color, sex or national origin. In other words, it is basically illegal to teach about slavery, or Jim Crow, or the deeds of Christopher Columbus, or the Trail of Tears because it might hurt students' feefees.
There are a great many subjects, like U.S. history, American literature, sociology, psychology and art that cannot possibly be taught while avoiding such subjects. Also, professors' labor tends to be covered by employment contracts, and often tenure rights, that cannot easily be swept aside by a pipsqueak on a modern-day crusade. Also, DeSantis undoubtedly thinks of himself as the smartest person in the room, regardless of what room it is. But there are lots of professors who are plenty smart, too. And it would be very easy to abide by the letter of the new law while utterly violating its spirit, and turning the Governor into an object of derision at the same time.
In any event, it looks like the professoriate in Florida won't have to concern themselves with this, at least for now, because yesterday Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker granted an injunction keeping the law from going into effect. And his ruling was absolutely scorching. Here's the opening paragraph:
"It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen," and the powers in charge of Florida's public university system have declared the State has unfettered authority to muzzle its professors in the name of "freedom." To confront certain viewpoints that offend the powers that be, the State of Florida passed the so-called "Stop W.O.K.E." Act in 2022—redubbed (in line with the State's doublespeak) the "Individual Freedom Act." The law officially bans professors from expressing disfavored viewpoints in university classrooms while permitting unfettered expression of the opposite viewpoints. Defendants argue that, under this Act, professors enjoy "academic freedom" so long as they express only those viewpoints of which the State approves. This is positively dystopian. It should go without saying that "[i]f liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear."
You might just be left with the impression that Judge Walker doesn't much care for the law.
We don't know what will happen with this legislation. It's pretty clearly a violation of the First Amendment, and it's also entirely impractical. So, the courts should eventually strike it down permanently, although when Clarence Thomas and Sam Alito potentially get a vote, you never know. We don't even know if DeSantis cares about the outcome; he's gotten what he wanted, which is the ability to claim that he owned the libs.
What we do know is that DeSantis went all-in on getting reelected bigly, and was successful. But now the piper will potentially have to be paid, and thanks to his growing national profile, he's also got a giant target on his back. So, he is set up to have a really rough year. As we pointed out yesterday, his inevitable nomination as the 2024 Republican presidential candidate may eventually seem not so inevitable, after all. (Z)