Freedom News

Notes from the US

Freedom’s long-running US correspondent Louis Further does his monthly roundup of some of the lesser-known stories that have emerged over the last few weeks.

Ukraine

It was predictable that many Republicans would approve of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. Leading the charge was Trump himself, who – as Putin ordered his terrorists into eastern Ukraine – said, “This is genius. Putin declares a big portion of Ukraine; Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful. So, Putin is now saying it’s independent – a large section of Ukraine. I said, ‘How smart is that?'”

Instead of attempting to broadcast adult informative and condemnatory responses, the likes of Fox and OAN are blaming the entire war on Biden. Primetime programming is using the war as an opportunity to call for fossil fuels to replace ‘clean’ energy because the US is obviously inconvenienced by rising petrol prices due to the uncertainty; car users’ ‘freedoms’ are being removed (by the Democrats and their stance on the war).

Pandemic

Would-be president and death-cult addict Ron DeSantis is no stranger to readers of ‘Notes from the US’. In addition to appearing at the far right CPAC meeting last month, DeSantis made news a fortnight or so ago by admonishing high school pupils for wearing masks. Despite nearly a million (possibly more… figures are rarely exact) US residents killed by Covid-19, DeSantis’s disregard for science (as well as his supremacist nonsense), have made him popular with the right – particularly in Florida, the state of which he is governor. Masks, of course, are proven to help stop the spread of the virus. DeSantis nevertheless wagged his finger at a group of vulnerable young people who were presumably anxious to protect themselves, and said: “You do not have to wear those masks. Please take them off. Honestly, it’s not doing anything. We’ve got to stop with this Covid theater.”

Officials who understand infectious diseases were reported to be amazed and alarmed last week when lying, unqualified, far right Trump addict Dr Joseph Ladapo, the state’s surgeon general on whom Notes From the US has reported before, actually recommend that Covid-19 vaccinations not be given to children. Although infection rates have stabilised in the United States, the pandemic is far from over. All that may be needed for them to rise again is either a new variant unleashed upon a largely unprotected nation and/or lack of vaccinations. Following doctrinaire death-cult dogma, Ladapo’s recommendation – likely to result in disease and deaths for Florida youngsters – was immediately described as ‘irresponsible’, ‘reckless’ and ‘dangerous’ by those who understand the science of infectious diseases which Ladapo is supposed to and is paid by taxpayers to follow.

Oppression

Tennessee is the state with the 14th highest rate of gun violence in the United States. But there is a new law passing through the legislature in Tennessee. It considers any civilian who has taken a short (eight hour) gun safety course and paid a US$100 (£75) fee to be a ‘law enforcement officer’. They will be able to do what the regular police do, including – presumably – kill other people.

Surveys conducted last year by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) suggest that belief in and adherence to the QAnon conspiracy theories has actually grown since Trump left office. Nearly a quarter of those asked say they believe that a “storm is coming”; almost as many that violence might be needed to “save the country”; and one in six thinks that the country’s government, media and financial structures are “controlled by Satan-worshipping pedophiles”.

Yes, far right (self-)publicist Marjorie Taylor Greene (she of the ‘Nazi gaspacho‘ police) has a poor grip on reality and enjoys notoriety. But the sitting Republican Congressperson is still influential. Last month in an interview with fellow conspiracist and fascist activist, Alex Jones, she expressed her ideal that “…beating trans people into the ground” was “exactly how we need to stand up against this stuff”. What ‘stuff’? An imaginary case of her daughter sleeping in the same cabin as a transgender woman. Trans people are four times more likely than cisgender people to experience assault. This potential exhortation from Taylor Greene came on the same day as the governor of Texas,  Greg Abbott, ordered authorities in his state to investigate instances of parents supportive of transgender transitioning for their children as child abuse.

‘Notes from the US’ has reported before on the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ anti LGBTQ bill in Florida. A week ago it passed both chambers of the legislature and is now law. As a direct result it will now be technically illegal in Florida for children of trans parents, for instance, to mention them in (state) schools. It also seems possible that – in compliance with the measure – teachers who either include such children in discussions about (or perhaps even mention) their parents could be sacked.

It is certain that pupils who – unwittingly or deliberately – refer to aspects of gay or trans parents’ lives, their priorities and the ways in which they love and relate to others will be at best ostracised; certainly taunted and bullied; at worst harmed or killed – all as a direct consequence of intolerant, homophobic, repressive legislation designed to appease the narrow-minded right. At the beginning of March, students across the state walked out of their classes in protest… “We say gay! We say gay! We say gay!”

In Iowa at the same time, Republican Governor Kim Reynolds signed a new law which bans transgender girls and women from school sports; this makes Iowa the 11th state to exclude or ban such athletes. And in Idaho the lower legislative house passed a bill last week to criminalise gender-affirming healthcare for transgender children and teens. If approved by the state’s senate, it will be a felony punishable with life in prison for a doctor to provide any medically necessary care including surgery or hormone treatment to members of that community. Even worse, it would also become a crime for young trans people to travel outside Idaho so that they may receive such lifesaving care elsewhere.

Racism

A fortnight ago the first primary election (to choose parties’ candidates for future general elections) took place in Texas. As has been predicted since Republicans in multiple states began to pass voter suppression laws disproportionately restricting the rights and ability for of black and working class voters to participate, up to 40% of mail-in ballots there have been rejected.

In many cases African Americans and likely Democrat voters wanting to minimise the dangers from a still rampant Covid-19 virus – (the severity of) which Republicans continue to deny – prefer to post their ballots. Those choosing to do so have been further disadvantaged under the new rules because, as Isabel Longoria, elections administrator in Harris County, Texas, points out, “…the new requirement… says you must include either your Social Security number or driver’s license number on the application and mail ballot itself for it to be counted. Not only that, but whatever number you put on the ballot has to match up with what we have in our system… What we are finding is people don’t put their number. They say, ‘I’m either worried because of identity theft, or I don’t like including my personal information,’ or ‘I didn’t see the very small box in fine print under the envelope as I was filling out all other portions’.”

A week into Putin’s war on Ukraine Paul Gosar, the Republican congressperson from Arizona with a long and filthy history of anti-Semitic and fascist sympathies and Marjorie Taylor-Greene from Georgia spoke at the far right America First Political Action Conference. Its organiser, Nick Fuentes, whipped up fascist sentiment with white nationalist and antisemitic statements. Then encouraged and joined in chants of “Putin! Putin! Putin…”

Newly elected governor of Virginia, Glenn Youngkin recently texted Louise Lucas, a black legislator, after a speech he thought she had given. In fact it was another black woman, Mamie Locke, who spoke. Lucas responded appropriately to Youngkin’s racist gaffe by tweeting, “Study the photos and you will get this soon!”

There may be something to be glad about: for all the headlines that the new fascists make in the US propaganda outlets (pro and contra), they do still make headlines because they are… ‘news’. Indeed a recent report suggests that there is a relatively small number of groups making most of the running. The danger is that they seem to be highly influential – both in the media (leading far right ‘commentator’, Tucker Carlson seems unable to admit that a black woman can be a suitable Supreme Court judge) and among likely followers.

Louis Further