Freedom News

Notes from the US: Bigotry reigning


You may want to sit down before reading this: last month, fascist governor of Florida and contender for the Republican party for president, Ron DeSantis, together with his Florida Republicans, passed a law which forbids Asians from buying property in Florida based on their race. Obviously this has been challenged and stands a good chance of being ruled unconstitutional. But it’s indicative of how low supremacist politics have sunk in many quarters of the United States by 2023.

As Republicans line up to express solidarity with Vladimir Putin by snubbing approaches and invitations from Ukraine, the twentieth anniversary of the war by the United States on Iraq has been marked with little notice. A new report from the Costs of War project suggests that the wars in that country and Syria have cost a total in excess of half a million lives; that there are 3,000 times as many people internally and externally displaced; that the fighting has caused the release of well over 100 million metric tones of carbon dioxide; and has occasioned the expenditure of US$2.89 trillion – or over £225,000 a minute day in day out.

Paul Gossar is one of the least stable and most loathsome representatives (Arizona) in the US House of Representatives. He was involved in the organisation of the insurrection on January 6 2021; and censured for producing and publishing an animated video in which he murders Congress member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and attacks President Biden. When the Republicans took back control of the House of Representatives in 2022, Gossar was given back his committee memberships and re-instated in positions of considerable authority. This can be seen as effectively indicating Republican approval for the killing of other house members. That ‘aggressive’ stance is confirmed by behaviour like this and this threat by a prominent far right gubernatorial candidate to ‘protect’ Trump by arms.

A member of Gossar’s staff, it was revealed last month – his digital director – is a committed follower of the equally racist supremacist agitator, Nick Fuentes. In other words, a prominent congressperson has an avowed fascist working for him.

Shortly after this happened, a man with Nazi flags and other fascist paraphernalia was arrested for a rather ‘optimistic’ plan to attack the White House. Although it was clear from police reports that his motives were political, at least one member of the Trump family tried to question those findings about the attack, and tried to suggest that fascists are not lawless; he threw in a racial slur for good measure.

You may remember Amanda Gorman reading her poem, ‘The Hill We Climb’, at President Joe Biden’s inauguration in 2021. She became the first ever National Youth Poet Laureate. Because her work celebrates diversity, tolerance and equity – or at best aspirations thereto – it is now banned from at least one school district in Miami-Dade county in – of course – Florida.


The book-banning and censorship of materials of which Fascist governor of Florida disapproves continues. Amongst the latest titles to be censored are ‘Sleeping Beauty‘, the children’s book, ‘House and Homes‘ by Ann Morris, because it includes a photo of an African child’s buttocks and ‘Little Rock Nine‘ by Marshall Poe because it deals with integration of black children in schools.

Nor are films safe. Mention the environmental crises which Florida is facing like everyone else, and expect to be investigated. This happened to an unnamed teacher in Florida when she showed the film, ‘Strange World‘, an animation about a group of explorers who try to save a ‘mysterious land’ from losing its source of energy.

After former president Trump was found guilty of sexual assault and defamation in the first (against E. Jean Carroll) of several such cases pending, Republicans mostly stayed silent or applauded his act of rape – like Senator Tommy Tuberville (Alabama), who said that the verdict made him want to vote for Trump twice – which of course is illegal. Daniel Cameron is the top law enforcement officer (Attorney General) in Kentucky. Of that same verdict he said “I’m honoured… He is a fighter and I am a fighter”. Florida senator Marco Rubio said it was a ‘joke’.

Even more raucous and laudatory – and, frankly rather frightening – were the comments from his party like this one in support of Trump when he was charged last week with 37 crimes ranging from conspiracy and obstruction of justice after national security documents – which he stole when he left office – were found stored in one of his bathrooms.

They clearly have not thought their argument through. The right points to rumours and unproven allegations about the Biden family as reasons for not pursuing Donald Trump… “It’s political persecution, a witch hunt”. This is the ‘fallacy of relevance‘: if the enemies of the right – like Clinton and Biden – did happen to be liable for prosecution, as they suggest, then it follow that Trump is too!

Another representative comment of the way that Republicans and the MAGA mob think came a few days after the first indictment (there are several more pending, of course) when US senator John Neely Kennedy (Louisiana) commented on the influx (much smaller than expected) of guest workers from Mexico after the ending of ‘Title 42 funding‘ (Trump’s move to ‘keep them out’ because they probably had Covid – which he didn’t see as a threat anyway) just before last month’s ‘Notes from the US’ went live… “Mexicans would be eating cat food out of a can and living in a tent behind an Outback Steakhouse restaurant if it were not for their nation’s proximity to the US, and their country should be invaded because of the presence of drug cartels there.”

Back to DeSantis. Last month he also signed into law a bill actively to discriminate against those he does not like by allowing healthcare providers and insurers to deny care for patients based on their “religious or moral beliefs”.

He is not alone in his hatred, of course. Threats from fascist gangs prompted one of the largest retail chains in the United States, Target, to remove merchandise which was part of their celebration of inclusivity from its shelves.

Then – as DeSantis was signing into law the next of his discriminatory, hate-based, racist, supremacist moves, a group of lorry drivers threatened to boycott the state by refusing to deliver to the state as long as laws discriminating against segments of the population which DeSantis is afraid of remain in place. Lorry driver Roberto Sandoval, for example, posted a video asking his fellow drivers to stay out of Florida because of the “stupid, silly (law) in defense of our Latin American brothers”.

DeSantis made his farcical presidential campaign launch via the now semi-crippled Twitter last month. At the time he was praised by supporters and some Twitter staff for his ‘achievements’ as governor. Republicans in the early-voting state of Iowa, for instance, also voiced their enthusiasm for what DeSantis “…is doing in Florida against ‘wokism’…”

Amongst these were the fact that DeSantis ignored epidemiological science and ‘kept the state open’ during the Covid pandemic from which up to an estimated million and a half people died throughout the United States. As a result, Florida experienced one of the highest per capita death rates in the whole country. If elected, DeSantis has effectively said, his priorities would be to make the whole country a haven for hatred, racism, sexism, intolerance and oppression… “defeat ‘Leftism'”. At the moment, admittedly, a successful candidacy does look unlikely. It’s also clear that he and his advisors have very different values from thoughtful members of the wider community, ones who fancy surviving in the face of major public health threats and the climate catastrophe.

DeSantis has begun to go all out this month. To flout his anti-science credentials, for example, DeSantis knocked up a fatuous and alarming campaign advertisement on social media which used deceptive imagery to try and suggest that Trump when president paid too much attention (!) to the former head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anthony Fauci. Fauci actually did so much to help the United States avoid worse outcomes from the downplaying of Covid than it actually suffered; the US was the country ranked second only to Peru in terms of deaths per 100,000 population.

So far two organisations in the US have actually issued ‘travel advisories’ for Florida. They are warning that many members of the wider community would do well to avoid the state because of DeSantis’s latest moves. The NAACP, for instance said “Florida is openly hostile toward African Americans, people of colour and LGBTQ+ individuals… please understand that the state of Florida devalues and marginalizes the contributions of, and the challenges faced by African Americans and other communities of colour”. And LULAC, the League of United Latin American Citizens, seconded that warning: “Florida is a dangerous, hostile environment for law abiding Americans and immigrants… you can be arrested for literally taking somebody to the hospital, for literally taking somebody to Disney World”.

As more and more commentators seriously see current developments as a slide into authoritarianism and Fascism, some influential people on the right are actually calling for it, for a dictator.

Intolerance, hatred and – increasingly – physical violence against communities and their members not conforming to the stereotypes of the presumably fearful minorities of the MAGA and Fascist right (including lawmakers, governors, gangs, parents, organised religion, parts of the legal system, the media, law enforcement, educationalists) is most definitely on the rise; or – at best – is receiving more public attention. If so, it is to be hoped that those are the same thing.

DeSantis and his mob have explicitly warned us what to expect if he gets anywhere near the White House. Believe them. Believe them.

It may seem as though the United States made small – often token – moves in the right direction in the previous half century from the ‘liberal’ 1960s to the advent of Bush junior… gender-neutral language, unclosed job advertisements, and ‘policies’ against discrimination by employers etc. Now much of this is now clearly under threat by a vocal and – although it’s hard to judge – apparently growing number of deluded adherents to, supporters of and conformists to the wide and vocal right.

At the start of this month, for example, a school in Los Angeles, Saticoy Elementary (close to where the American version of ‘The Office’ was filmed), was hosting a Pride Month event to celebrate diversity; at best to brush away prejudice and ignorance and emphasise love and respect. Police were called to fights which were started by a small group of protesters who accused the organisers of ‘indoctrination’.

The MAGA and parents’ ‘rights’ groups failed to see that, if knowledge is power, then diversity is a good thing. Worse, to claim ‘indoctrination’ is to claim that what is being offered to young people is inherently bad. In this case that is lifestyles whose only salient attribute in is that protesters disapprove of it. An Instagram account posted such sentiments as “No sexual indoctrination!” and “The only people who want to teach kids sex: Pedophiles”. But that was not an isolated incident. A similar protest took place a week later in Glandale, Los Angeles.

Along similar lines in Florida the same weekend Lyman High School in Seminole County, Florida, was obliged to refund money to families because two of the 256 pages in its yearbook contained explanatory material offering guidance on the use of respectful language for (the school’s students’) gender identities. The intolerance this time was promoted by a group – obviously inspired by the hatreds of DeSantis and his gang – ‘Moms for Liberty‘, one of whose platforms appears to be to return to segregated schools.

Under federal law that was established in the nineteenth century, schools in the United States which receive public funding are not permitted to offer sectarian religious education, worship or observance. The ‘separation of church and state’. Of course they should teach about religion; but they must neither teach using it, nor teach in any way that advocates any one religion (over any other).

Earlier this month in Oklahoma, though, the Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board approved an application – against the law and against the advice of the State’s highest legal authority, Gentner Drummond, the Oklahoma Attorney General – from St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual Charter School that it become the first publicly funded religious charter school in the United States. (Charter schools in the US are the equivalent of Academy and ‘free schools’ in the UK.)

Although this move is likely to be challenged in the courts, if and when it reaches the Supreme Court, that body’s right wing majority could well endorse the illegality and unconstitutionality of the move, as it did when it overthrew Roe v Wade and women’s right to abortion this time last year. The move should be seen as part of the steady march of the right towards suppression of true freedoms for families in schools and education. There is one notable exception to this, though: all school children (and their families) do enjoy the freedom to be shot and killed so that the right to carry weapons is not infringed or curtailed. That sort of ‘safety’ does not apply.

This is the time of year when (income) taxes became due in the US. (Although shortage of staff, Covid and adverse weather conditions have extended the deadline again this year.) Almost needless to say, the poor and those on lower incomes will continue to pay disproportionately more than will the rich. The wealth of the richest, the billionaires in the United States actually grew by a third in the past three years. According to a report by Oxfam America, they added over three trillion dollars (or £30,000 each and every second during that period) to their total wealth in that time.


The earth-wrecking agenda of the right – this time thanks to US Supreme Court, which is packed with ‘conservatives’, who actually want to destroy, rather than conserve the environment – continues. Towards the end of May, the Court found in favour of a couple from Idaho who wanted to assert their ‘rights’ and ‘freedoms’ to build a house on wetlands near one of Idaho’s largest lakes. The Court ruled that the federal government was wrong to use the half-century-old Clean Water Act to prevent pollution of rivers, streams and lakes to safeguard them from the couple’s move to destroy. Such wetlands are no longer to be considered ‘navigable waters’ (under the act) and will no longer be federally protected. The responses from more knowledgable and caring agencies such as the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) itself and Earthjustice were right on target – the latter describing the decision as “catastrophic” – not least because half of all wetlands in the contiguous US are vital ecosystems, habitats for fish, waterfowl and other wildlife being critical natural purifiers of water.

Of course, it’s not just the right playing their part in the suffocation, flooding and roasting: Biden gave in to pressure from the Republican ‘negotiators’ involved in avoiding a default on the United States’ public debt as a result of their failure to raise the debt ceiling. Several destructive measures promoting the use of fossil fuels look likely to go ahead now.

This is on top of a decision last month approve a permit for the proposed US$6.6 (£5.25) billion Mountain Valley Pipeline which will run through part of the Jefferson National Forest in Virginia and West Virginia. Conservation and climate groups have been trying to block the fracked gas pipeline for years. The Wilderness Society, for instance, said, “The Forest Service has bent to the will of the oil and gas industry, and is placing fossil fuel profits above our environment and public safety.” One key backer of the pipeline has been West Virginia corporate-friendly Democratic Senator Joe Manchin.

~ Louis Further

Image: Rod Webber

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