When Governor Ron DeSantis signed the Orwellian-sounding “Individual Freedom Act” — aka the “Stop Woke Act” — into law back in April, it was a foregone conclusion his anti-free speech agenda would end up in court. It was also a foregone conclusion that it would be found to be an unconstitutional violation of free speech.
A federal judge invoked “Stranger Things,” Immanuel Kant, and Friedrich Nietzsche in dismantling the state’s defense of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “Stop Woke Act,” declaring the effort to constrain workplace sensitivity training violates the First and Fourteenth Amendment.
In a 44-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker in Tallahassee ruled that the law — formally, the Individual Freedom Act, or IFA — amounts to an attempt by the state of Florida to impose its preferred positions about the existence of systemic racism and sexism on the workplace and public schools.
“Florida’s legislators may well find plaintiffs’ speech ‘repugnant.’ But under our constitutional scheme, the ‘remedy’ for repugnant speech is more speech, not enforced silence. Indeed, it is the purpose of the First Amendment to preserve an uninhibited marketplace of ideas in which truth will ultimately prevail,” Walker wrote.
Walker rejected the state’s argument that the law restricts conduct, not speech — that is, forcing employees to attend training sessions. He reasoned that the law forbids only mandatory attendance at trainings endorsing the viewpoints that the law deems unacceptable — employers could require workers to read a book complaining about “woke” culture, for example, but not endorsing critical race theory.
“Worse still, a nonprofit corporation devoted to promoting the idea that white privilege exists could not hold a required meeting at which it endorses the concept of white privilege. But a nonprofit holding the opposite view could freely hold meetings criticizing the concept of white privilege,” Walker wrote.
“The bottom line is that the only way to determine whether the IFA bars a mandatory activity is to look to the viewpoint expressed at that activity — to look at speech. Plainly, the IFA regulates speech,” he continued. (Emphasis mine)
This isn’t the first time the Donald Trump wannabe has attacked free speech; it’s been a part of Ron DeSantis’ agenda ever since certain so-called conservatives at BlazeTV started whispering his name as a possible 2024 presidential candidate.
In February 2021, DeSantis essentially pledged to save free speech by destroying it when he proposed new state legislation designed to crack down on Big Tech for their alleged bias against conservatives.
“What began as a group of upstart technology companies from the west coast, has since transformed into an industry of monopoly communications platforms that monitor, influence, and control the flow of information in our country and among our citizens,” DeSantis said from the Cabinet Meeting Room. He also ranted about how ‘Big Tech’ is becoming more like ‘Big Brother’ with “each passing day.”
Somehow, I don’t think DeSantis is familiar with George Orwell’s 1984 since “Big Brother” was the name given to describe tyrannical big government, not a free market business.
In May 2021, DeSantis made good on his pledge when he signed the Transparency in Technology Act into law in order to “[protect] the speech of Floridians who face being removed from social-media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook” while conveniently leaving out the part about the massive fines he would levy against social media companies if they removed political candidates from their platforms.
The unconstitutional law went down in defeat in July 2021 when a federal judge blocked it because it violated free speech rights.
Earlier this year, Ron DeSantis launched a fascist attack on Disney’s constitutionally protected right to free speech when he signed a bill revoking the company’s tax status after Disney expressed displeasure with Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law, legislation commonly referred to by LGBT radicals as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
Instead of standing as a defender of conservative values like free market capitalism and free speech, Governor Ron DeSantis decided that liberty would be secondary to his 2024 presidential ambitions.
Going after Disney was a clear violation of the company’s free speech rights because DeSantis was motivated by Disney’s support for the LGBT agenda along with their opposition to his parental rights legislation. As Florida Rep. Anthony Sabatini said in a tweet at the time, “It’s time to drop the hammer on woke @WaltDisneyWorld.”
I’m no fan of Big Tech’s arbitrary treatment of users they don’t agree with even though I’ve experienced it myself. I’m no fan of Disney’s pro-LGBT assault on traditional family values. I’m no fan of corporate “wokeness.” But Big Tech, Disney, and “woke” corporations aren’t assaulting free speech rights; Governor Ron DeSantis is.
The First Amendment protects private individuals and entities from people like Ron DeSantis, a man literally engaged in an anti-free speech assault on liberty with laws like the Stop Woke Act.
Governor Ron DeSantis’ anti-free speech assault couldn’t be more obvious, as Judge Andrew Napolitano pointed out last year when the governor launched his assault on Big Tech:
The speech we love needs no protection. The speech we hate does. The government has no authority to evaluate speech. As the framers understood, all people have a natural right to think as we wish and to say and publish whatever we think. Even hateful, hurtful and harmful speech is protected speech.
Yet, in perilous times, such as the present, we have seen efforts to use the courts to block the publication of unflattering books. We have seen state governors use the police to protect gatherings of protestors with whose message they agreed and to disburse critical protestors. We have seen mobs silence speakers while the police did nothing.
And in perilous times, such as the present, we have seen Big Tech companies silencing their opponents. I hate when they do that, but they have every right to do so. They own the bulletin board. Twitter and Facebook can ban any speech they want because they are not the government. And the First Amendment only restrains the government. In the constitutional sense, free speech means only one thing — free from government interference.
Punishing speech is the most dangerous business because there will be no end. The remedy for hateful or threatening speech is not silence or punishments; it is more speech — speech that challenges the speaker.
Why do government officials want to silence their opponents? They fear an undermining of their power. The dissenters might make more appealing arguments than they do. St. Augustine taught that nearly all in government want to tell others how to live.
How about we all say whatever we want, and the government leaves us alone? (Emphasis mine)
There’s a heart of fascism beating within the chest of Republicans like Ron DeSantis, and we get a pretty clear picture of what that means when he wields the hammer and sickle of big government against people and businesses who reject anti-free speech laws like the Stop Woke Act.
One more reminder for liberty-loving conservatives to never put their confidence in spineless cowards like DeSantis or any other Republican.
David Leach is the owner of the Strident Conservative. He holds people of every political stripe accountable for their failure to uphold conservative values, and he promotes those values instead of political parties.
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