The Asshole Right is Running the Dipshit Left's Playbook in Florida
Everyone and everything sucks
Fox News has spent the last several days lighting their Remax-agent-in-the-’90s hair on fire over Disney’s opposition to a new Florida law. Opponents call the law the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, while backers call it the “If You’re Against It, You’re a Pedo” measure. Disney — which is as integral to Florida culture as college football or getting hurt while doing a YouTube stunt — has spoken out against the bill. That prompted this response from Fox & Friends — I recommend starting the clip with Brian Kilmeade’s rant at the 2:30 mark, because you lose two IQ points for every minute that you watch this shit.
Despite Kilmeade’s rock-solid argument that the bill is “smart” because it comes from the Florida state legislature’s Republican caucus — that fabled haunt of philosopher kings! — I think this is an extremely bad law. Its backers are trying to invoke the specter of a hyper-woke kindergarten teacher illuminating the dark corners of alternative lifestyles — I picture an apple-cheeked Teach for America volunteer pointing to a poster that says “Bukkake Etiquette in a Gender-Fluid Octo-cule.” In reality, the law would prohibit all sorts of reasonable classroom interactions, or at least it might — embroil yourself in a soul-crushing lawsuit to find out! Kilmeade distills the bill’s warped thinking with this statement:
“If you’re talking about sex and sexuality to kindergartners, first graders, second graders, and third graders — think about that! — who’s got the other side of that issue? Please, define it well and say: You need your kindergartner talking about sex.”
This is simple: Sex and sexuality are two different things. Sex is out-of-bounds in early education. Sexuality — meaning sexual orientation or gender identity — is simply a thing that exists in the world. Forbidding any mention of it in the classroom would be like excluding talk of birds. The policy wonks at Fox & Friends and Rupert Murdoch’s Obvious Choice for President 2024 Ron DeSantis are conflating two things that happen to have the same root word. It’s like someone saying “I can’t believe you gave my kid either crystal meth or Crystal Pepsi!” Well, which was it? Those are two very different things: One is a toxic controlled substance, and the other…is crystal meth! (#ClassicJokeStructure)
There’s something very familiar about the tactics the right is using to sell this bill (and its doppelganger in Ohio). The combination of ill-defined rules and draconian punishments for those who violate those rules invokes similar fear-inducing strategies used by some on the left. The Twitter left may or may not have pioneered this suite of below-the-belt tactics — I’m not aware of any copyright claims in this area — but they’ve certainly used them. And now the revanchist right seems to be running the same play. Here’s how it works.
Step 1: Create extremely vague rules.
Secrets are fun! Except when the secret is a never-spoken set of rules that you’ll be flayed for violating. I was once in a relationship where my partner expected me to guess her needs like I was Carnac the Magnificent, and let me tell you: It was not fun!
It’s next-level annoying when Twitter’s self-appointed woke vanguard castigates people for violating rules that nobody knew existed. Nobody told comedians working in the 2000s/early 2010s that jokes about blackface were unacceptable even when the point of the joke is that blackface is bad. If people want to make that part of Hammurabi’s Code of Wokeness, then fair enough, but do us a favor and carve it in a pillar of basalt or something.
The Florida bill turns classrooms into a Dali-esque surreal-scape where rules are unknowable. If you're a teacher in Florida, and a student asks “can boys marry boys?”, then my professional legal advice is to dive head-first out a window. Instead of having administrators handle possible inappropriate behavior on a case-by-case basis, the fat cats in Tallahassee (what happened to local control?) are trying to micromanage classrooms using vague terms like “appropriate” and “instruction”. It’s similar to how some people want Twitter and Facebook to get rid of “hate speech” and “misinformation”. Okay, but what do those words mean? The vagueness of the rule gives it exceptional reach.
Step 2: Pair the vague rules with Draconian enforcement mechanisms.
Some on the left have developed a bad habit of waving away severe social and career penalties for minor infractions of perceived norms. The composer who got blackballed due to an innocuous Instagram post? No big deal. The utility worker who was fired for allegedly making a white power gesture (even though he’s not white)? He’ll get some other job. There’s a subset of Twitter that views the fact that JK Rowling and Al Franken aren’t pelted with rotten garbage everywhere they go as hard proof that punishments haven’t gotten out of hand. This group is currently furious that Louis CK won a Grammy, which, by the way, led to this clumsily-worded headline in The Hollywood Reporter:
I wonder who will win the Grammy for First Special Since Sexual Misconduct Allegations next year! Please don’t be Andrew Cuomo.
The Florida law is enforced via lawsuits brought by private citizens. Much like with the Texas abortion law, Republican legislators have decided that the best way to enforce statues is by turning every citizen — especially the flaming lunatics — into subpoena-wielding vigilantes. This tactic capitalizes on the fact that our legal system is a hell-spawned nightmare that any sane person will do anything to avoid. The bill’s sponsor dismissed the idea that a teacher could be convicted for mentioning the existence of a same-sex partner, but the mere threat of a lawsuit will be enough to cause some teachers to keep schtum. Involvement in our legal system is like strip poker with your grandma: No matter who wins, nobody wins.
Step 3: Use viral content — especially things taken out of context — to energize your supporters.
Elizabeth Warren believes that “price gouging” by companies is a major driver of inflation (FWIW, I disagree, because I think that corporate greed existed before 2022). Some of the evidence she gives in support of this argument is selectively-parsed statements from corporate earnings calls. Respectfully: If you take everything you hear on a corporate earning call as gospel truth, then you’re exactly the type of sucker investor that companies are looking for. You’re probably the sort of person who — had you been on a Theranos call and heard Elizabeth Holmes say “The science is performed by science-ing the blood until the science comes out” — would have thought: “How quickly can I give this person all my money?”
Conservative ire against Disney was turbocharged by a video from an internal Disney meeting that was leaked to conservative activist Christopher Rufo. So, that’s a good starting point for virality: It’s a SECRET video that was LEAKED to an activist, which makes it a SCOOP. People go for the “IT WAS LEAKED” gambit every time; if you said “we’ve obtained SECRET video from the Democratic National Convention!” and it was just Chuck Schumer in his hotel room watching Property Brothers, it would go viral.
The “villain” in the leaked Disney video is director Latoya Raveneau, who works on several shows including The Proud Family. Conservative knickers are in a Gordian twist over a part of the leaked video where Raveneau describes her “not so secret gay agenda” and talks about “adding queerness” to her shows. If you set out to make a video that would blow up conservative Twitter, it’s hard to imagine doing much better than Raveneau did.
I’ve written before about what a weird bubble the entertainment industry is. If someone asks: “What are you doing to promote LGBTQ+ content?”, the answer that they’re looking for is “the maximum amount possible.” That’s clearly the context Raveneau thought she was in. But I don’t think she’s guilty of much more than unartful wording; she’s obviously being tongue-in-cheek when she describes her “gay agenda”. The real test of whether Raveneau is indoctrinating kids is to see what’s being aired on The Proud Family. Is there an episode where the dad waxes poetic about his desire for a vulva? Or one where the mom throws out her back scissoring a nonbinary aegosexual at a swingers party? I don’t watch the show — maybe there is. But if not, then one casual statement by one person in a company with hundreds of thousands of employees is hardly a smoking gun.
Step 4: Lob extremely serious charges at anyone who disagrees with you.
If you disagree with the activist left, you’re going to get called a bigot. It’s a fait accompli at this point; the left throws around charges of bigotry like a vendor slinging bags of peanuts at a ballgame. It’s an effective tactic because being called a racist, sexist, or homophobe is a very serious charge. Most people will bend over backwards to avoid it, even if it’s bullshit.
In the circles I run in, pedophilia is also a very serious charge. Which might be why some conservatives are firing it at their opponents; DeSantis’ press secretary Christina Pushaw recently accused the Florida bill’s opponents of either being pedophiles or pedophile-friendly (which I guess would make them pedophile-philes). She even (unintentionally?) borrowed the language of the social justice left by saying “silence is complicity”. So, to clarify our present-day linguistic markers: “silence is complicity” = Fox News conservative. “Silence is violence” = social justice left. “Silence is golden” = 8th grade class trip chaperones. “Silence is a sound” = Simon & Garfunkel.
Pushaw’s charge is another data point in what seems to be a trend of conservatives calling their opponents soft on pedophilia. Josh Hawley recently made the completely unfounded case that Ketanji Brown Jackson gives light sentences to pedophiles. In the Fox & Friends clip at the beginning of this article, Kilmeade asks “who’s got the other side of that issue?”, with the obvious intimation that only child molesters are on the other side. This seems to be the state of our political debate: Both sides sling the most serious charges they can think of at their opponents and hope that some of it will stick. I would normally write a hyperbole joke here, i.e. “What’s next? People accusing politicians of running a cannibalistic child sex ring?” except that literally already happened, so I don’t know where we go from here.
Just two weeks ago, I wrote about how liberal principles exist for a good reason: They’re the guidelines that allow a healthy society to flourish. When they erode, that’s bad, and people on the left are playing a dangerous game when they chip away at those principles. Well, here we are, 14 days later, and the right is making an aggressive play to restrict free speech and using social media to bully their opposition into silence. Which seems about right; in my experience, the distance between betraying your principles and regretting having betrayed your principles is usually short enough that you can walk it.
The good news is that — in the long run — I don’t think these tactics really work. They fail to build the broad consensus that lasting change requires. You can scare people into silence by calling them a racist or a pedophile, but that’s forcing their acquiesce, not earning their support. Ron DeSantis may achieve his personal goal of earning Culture War Hero status, but in the long run, in the country writ large, his broader goal of chilling speech in elementary school classrooms probably won’t get very far.