The Mahablog

Politics. Society. Group Therapy.

The Mahablog

Righties Don’t Know What they Want

Ron DeSantis continues his descent into pure fascism with a bill that would end the New York Times v. Sullivan protections of press freedom. He wants to make it easier for people to sue news outlets for libel. This is especially fascinating given that Fox News is currently arguing in court that news outlets ought to be able to lie with impunity under the banner of “free speech.”

More about the DeSantis bill:

Critics of the bill took issue with the section about attorneys fees, saying it could add a financial incentive to file defamation lawsuits and erode the laws preventing retaliatory lawsuits filed to silence criticism. Florida, like other states, has anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuits against public participation) laws designed to help stop frivolous lawsuits.

“One of my largest concerns with the bill is the rolling back of the anti-SLAPP protection for defamation defendants,” said Adam Schulman, a senior attorney with the Hamilton Lincoln Law Institute, which advocates for free markets, free speech and limited governments. ”That’s just moving in the wrong direction.”

He said beyond large media companies, some of which have legal teams, the changes could affect the “ordinary guy” who leaves an “unfavorable Yelp review.”

“At one time, it was not considered ‘conservative’ to advocate for turning on the spigot to all sorts of troll-like civil litigation that will line the pockets of bottom-feeding plaintiffs’ lawyers,” Schulman said.

Stern said the new bill would leave those protections “toothless.” Under most anti-SLAPP laws, individuals can recover attorneys’ fees if they can show they were sued in retaliation for criticizing the government.

“The new bill would change that so that plaintiffs whose lawsuits survive anti-SLAPP motions can recover their attorney’s fees,” he said. “That means the anti-SLAPP law would lose all of its value as a deterrent against powerful people filing abusive lawsuits to silence their critics.”

So, basically, DeSantis wants to be on the side of powerful people who want to keep news media off their backs.

DeSantis’s obvious animosity toward free speech is already on the record. As Bess Levin wrote in Vanity Fair,

One of Florida governor Ron DeSantis‘s favorite little mottos is “Florida is where woke goes to die.” In fact, a better, more accurate motto would be “Ron DeSantis’s Florida is where free speech goes to die, unless you’ve agreed to the governor’s list of preapproved talking points, like that LGBTQ+ people don’t exist, white people are and have always been awesome, and nonwhite people have nothing to complain about.” 

See also Ron DeSantis’s war on “wokeness” is a war against the First Amendment by Ian Millhiser at Vox.

As a constitutional matter, a governor is allowed to give speeches arguing that the United States is somehow miraculously immune from systemic injustice. He may sign legislation repealing programs intended to cure these injustices. He may appoint officials to public school boards that share his belief that the US is immune to these injustices. And he may even enact policies that help perpetuate these injustices, assuming that those policies violate neither the state nor federal constitution.

But DeSantis goes much further. He wields the government’s sovereign powers to sanction speech he does not like, and to punish institutions that criticize him. DeSantis, in other words, does not seem content to simply enact policies that hew to a right-wing economic or social vision. He wishes to use the sovereign powers of government to shape public discourse itself — punishing some ideas, rewarding others, and conscripting public schools and universities into his culture war.

Basically, what righties want is to be able to spew any ugliness they want to spew without proof, repercussions, or even being disagreed with, but at the same time they want to censor everybody else. They won’t be happy until that’s the America they get to live in. And apparently Ron DeSantis thinks he can become POTUS by promising to give them that America.

I argued yesterday that loosening the the Section 230 protections for social media companies, as righties want to do, will make it harder for them to upload anything they want to the Web, not less. Even some of the old establishment conservative media, like National Review, agree with this. But the MAGA right is convinced that if they could just do away with Section 230 they’ll be able to upload whatever they want to social media without the social media companies deleting it, which is kind of the opposite of the real consequences of ending Section 230.

Here’s something of a change of subject — behold this map —

The map, from WaPo, shows “FICO averages for individuals with credit cards by county as of 2019.” It’s a credit score map, in other words. The darker blue the county, the lower the credit scores. Counties with the highest credit scores are dark gold.

I admit this puzzled me a bit. Yes the South is poorer, but it’s also a lot cheaper to live there. Well, as long as you’re healthy. The people who put this data together found out that the biggest driver of really bad credit scores was medical debt. From the article:

Medical debt may not be the only force behind the South’s credit struggles, but it appears to be a key contributor. So where did it all come from? And why is it concentrated in the South? …

…But health alone does not solve the puzzle: Several Northeastern states struggle with chronic health conditions and have good credit.

A clue to the broader answer comes from a recent analysis in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which found that medical debt “became more concentrated in lower-income communities in states that did not expand Medicaid” after key provisions of the Affordable Care Act took effect in 2014.

One answer is that the South is simply less healthy than any other region. Data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services shows that among Medicare recipients, the population for which we have the best data, those in the South are substantially more likely to suffer from four or more chronic conditions. And poor health tends to go hand in hand with people having overdue medical debt and poor credit scores.

Obviously there are exceptions, like some dark blue spots in California. Nevada expanded Medicaid after this was compiled. You can read more about this without the paywall at Truthout.