In previous episodes, stuntman DeSantis has used the power of the state to punish or threaten to punish the Special Olympics for demanding vaccinations, Disney Corp. for committing to free speech on “Don’t Say Gay” legislation and Tampa Bay. Rays to tweet against gun violence. In other acts of sabering, DeSantis threatened a Miami bar’s liquor license for allowing minors to attend ‘sexually explicit’ drag shows, undermining a state referendum that gave the right to vote for formerly incarcerated felons and helped prohibit the state pension fund from considering environmental, social and governance (aka “ESG”) standards in making investments.
None of DeSantis’ Jackie Chan-esque moves in front of news cameras have much to do with traditional government goals of keeping neighborhoods safe, paving streets, providing clean water and balancing the budget. Like fellow stuntman Donald Trump, he designs his stunts as political spectacles that stir up the culture war biases of his base and push them to the polls. Shipping migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, like many of DeSantis’ exploits, has less to do with turning Florida into a comfortable place and everything to do with making opponents whine at his audacity. DeSantis has become so enamored with his role as Governor Gutsy that he recently shot a re-election commercial that portrays him as a political Top Gun who fights with “corporate media.”
A governor genuinely interested in limiting corporate power would not care to revoke the privilege of running a special tax district, as DeSantis did with Disney. It would tax corporations, regulate them, or subject them to antitrust action. But that looks too much like real governance. (Note: In typical showman fashion, the removal of Disney’s special tax district doesn’t happen until June 2023, enough time for DeSantis – if re-elected – to declare victory over Disney and rescind the cancelation.)
DeSantis’ antics cannot be considered mere political entertainment. As Will Duffield of the Cato Institute recently wrote, using state power to intimidate individuals or corporations for exercising their right to free speech taints the First Amendment. DeSantis isn’t the only political stunt man to threaten retaliation against those who challenge him. In 2021, President Joe Biden accused Facebook of “killing people” for allowing posts questioning the safety of Covid vaccines. Again, regardless of your position on vaccines, the government does not have the power to stifle discussions it does not like. Even so, Biden administration officials acted on the president’s fury by working behind the scenes to “persuade” Facebook to post anti-vaccine posts, accomplishing state censorship without having to rely on the law.
DeSantis, like the many members of Congress who would dictate social media policies to big tech, performs his stunts with one goal in mind. He wants to instill a deep and pervasive fear of his anger. You are Disney, you speak? He knows how to hurt. Would you like to establish vaccination guidelines for your association, as Special Olympics did? He will threaten to defund you. Do you think undocumented migrants should be treated with dignity? By commandeering some of them from Texas and dumping them in your wealthy liberal enclave, he will turn his anger into your theoretical annoyance and increase the pain if you ignore him.
Some commentators predicted that the Martha’s Vineyard scheme would backfire on DeSantis for going too far. But that won’t be the case. His fellow stunt guild member – Trump – has already ushered in a new political era that demands greater acts of wickedness and wickedness to hold the attention of the Groundlings. Like other stuntmen, DeSantis is never satisfied with his latest stunt. He always tries to outdo himself.
Take a look at this waterfall Benhur, designed by Yakima Canutt and featuring his son, Joe, dubbing for Charlton Heston. Send your favorite stunts to [email protected]. No new email alert subscriptions are honored at this time. My Twitter food is the star, my RSS feed his stunt double.