Suppression, Prejudice, and Misinformation

Three political topics for today. How the Republicans seek to suppress history, concepts, books, even words; Two problems that could be solved simultaneously (were it not for Republicans); How anti-vaxxers and anti-abortionists are searching for new senses of meaning.

NY Times, Janai Nelson guest essay, 31 Jan 2023: Ron DeSantis Wants to Erase Black History. Why?

My comment: Beware those who would suppress history, concepts, books, even words; theirs are the first steps on the road to authoritarianism and totalitarianism. Throughout history, these trends have never gone well. I’ve lost track of how many things DeSantis in Florida is trying to control, despite his membership in a political party that supposedly promotes small-government and freedom, except for people and concepts it doesn’t like. Against indoctrination, except for the kind it likes (i.e. conservative and Christian).

This piece opens:

An unrelenting assault on truth and freedom of expression in the form of laws that censor and suppress the viewpoints, histories and experiences of historically marginalized groups, especially Black and L.G.B.T.Q. communities, is underway throughout the country, most clearly in Florida. The state’s Department of Education recently rejected a pilot Advanced Placement African American studies course from being offered in Florida’s public high schools.

Does the essay answer its question of “why”? First this.

Contrary to those advancing a false morality of ignorance and hollow patriotism as justification for barring students from discussing uncomfortable facts, we know that young people of all races benefit from an accurate and inclusive education. Students who are taught factual history don’t see themselves as victims or villains; in fact, research into the effects of ethnic studies K-12 curriculums found that discussing race and racism in school improves academic outcomes for students, reduces prejudice among white students and students of color and improves feelings of belonging in students of color and even their beliefs about their academic abilities. On the other hand, research shows that education that ignores students’ awareness of race, racism and stereotypes leads to increased prejudice.

But conservatives don’t do research. Their motivation:

This is bigotry and erasure aimed at robbing America’s children of their educational birthright and all of us of a better shared future. Recognize what is happening, call it out and resist erasure.


Again, I’ve lost track of how many things DeSantis in Florida, and governors in other states, are trying to prohibit or control. In Arkansas, one of new governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ first steps was to ban use of the word “Latinx”, “a gender-neutral alternative to Latina or Latino, from state documents” as the article at the link explains. DeSantis has now banned, apparently, any kind of public-health measures by government officials, such as vaccine and mask mandates. (I think I’ll not visit Florida again, any time soon.)

And just today, Florida Panel Recommends Forcing Student Athletes to Give Schools Their Menstrual History (New Republic). Republicans and other conservatives, it’s long been noted, have an odd obsession the details of other people’s sex lives.


NY Times, guest essay by Kristie De Peña, Robert Leonard and David Oman, 2 Feb 2023: Over 75,000 Job Openings in Iowa Alone. Millions of Refugees Seeking Work. Make the Connection.

My comment: A problem that could be solved, two problems that could be solved at once! But again, Republicans don’t care about solving problems; they care about appealing to conservative prejudice, that thinks immigrants are low-lifes and/or criminals. Or the latest charge, that they contribute to the fentanyl crisis.

NPR, Morning Edition, 1 Feb 2023: In first GOP-led hearing about the border, witnesses paint sharply different pictures

Democrats pointed out that the vast majority of fentanyl seizures happen at official ports of entry, often in vehicles driven by U.S. citizens. Experts say a relatively small fraction is seized by Border Patrol agents between the ports of entry, while virtually none is seized from migrants who are turning themselves in to seek asylum.

But conservatives *know* that immigrants are bad, and are inclined to blame them for everything.


Be Careful What You Wish For Dept.

Salon, Amanda Marcotte, 1 Feb 2023: What the end of COVID health emergencies means for anti-vaxxers: meltdown, subtitled “Anti-vaxxers built their identities around the pandemic — now they’re losing their minds (even more)”

Marcotte writes about how she’s been attacked on Twitter.

For the of couple days that I was being bombarded by tweets, I had a front row seat to the escalating meltdown of a group of people who built their entire identity around the pandemic. Without the culture war around COVID-19 to give their lives meaning, they are losing their already shaky grips on reality.

It does help to explain why Republican politicians still obsess about COVID-19.


And once something becomes central to your identity, it is hard to let go. Ask anyone who has left a church or a profession or even just a beloved hobby. Without “Christian” or “accountant” or “D&D enthusiast” as a rock to anchor a sense of self, a person can often feel adrift. For those who made being “anti-vaxxer” a linchpin in how they view themselves, the fact that few people care anymore must be unmooring.

Yet another example of how psychology can explain political and conspiratorial persuasions. These people are misinformed; there are psychological reasons to understand why they are misinformed, and why they insist on continuing to be misinformed. It’s their identify; it’s their tribe. As Marcotte concludes,

Ultimately, I’m fascinated by what it tells us about politics and identity, to see so many right-wingers clinging to the anti-vaccine hysteria long after most Americans have moved on from the pandemic. Escalating Republican fanaticism and social media-fueled culture wars mean that many dumb ideas that would have once been lightly held on the right are instead being incorporated into their very self of self. Once an idea stops being about what a person thinks and becomes part of who they are, it is exponentially harder for them to have a sense of rationality or proportion about it. In that sense, being anti-vaccine is no longer just a passing notion, but has morphed into something closer to a religion.


Amanda again. I’ll let the subtitle speak, without examining the piece in detail.

Salon, Amanda Marcotte, 2 Feb 2023: The overturn of Roe cost the GOP. So why are Republicans now doubling down on abortion bans?, subtitled “Misogyny is what turns out their base”

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