Commentary

We’re Florida — we couldn’t get through the day without a helping of mendacity

‘A rocky relationship with the real is a hallmark of the Sunshine State’

December 3, 2021 7:00 am

“Don’t make the vaccine divisive? You are trying to take people’s jobs away over this issue! You are trying to plunge people into destitution! You are taking away their livelihoods. Nobody else is doing that,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said of President Biden on Oct. 15, 2021. Source: Screenshot/DeSantis Rumble

What is it with Florida and reality?

We don’t believe in facts, don’t believe in science, don’t believe the evidence parked right in front of us by people who actually know what they’re talking about.

This goes double for the people who run the state.

Instead of trying to protect Floridians against COVID-19 by insisting on vaccinations and masks, Gov. Ron DeSantis thinks it’s OK to infect other people because you don’t feel like wearing a mask or getting vaccinated because, you know, freedom.

If you’ve had COVID and (presumably) recovered, the governor says you’re fine, you’ve got natural immunity, no jab necessary.

DeSantis insists he “follows the science.” Well, he may follow it, but he doesn’t understand it. The natural immunity thing is based on an Israeli study that he thinks backs up his claims.

Problem is, that study has methodological flaws and has not yet been peer-reviewed. The CDC’s data say natural immunity wanes, and unvaccinated people who’ve recovered from COVID are five times more likely to get re-infected than vaccinated people.

But what do those world-renowned epidemiologists and immunologists know? Joseph Ladapo, DeSantis’ pick for surgeon general, agrees with the governor. According to him, vaccines are overrated, maybe even dangerous.

Remember, Ladapo appeared at a press conference on the U.S. Supreme Court steps as part of an outfit calling itself “America’s Frontline Doctors,” some members of which recommend taking hydroxychloroquine or horse de-wormer for COVID, while others assert that endometriosis, infertility, and erectile dysfunction are caused by sex with demons and witches.

DeSantis and his pet Republicans aren’t only estranged from medical truth. There’s a lot more in the world to deny.

Take the climate crisis.

You know those wild temperature swings, warming seas, stronger hurricanes, constant flooding?

According to the governor, that’s merely “extreme weather.”

And Florida’s own imperiled places? When it comes to the Everglades, DeSantis talks a big green game, proposing to spend $660 million on Everglades restoration next budget year.

Yet he and the Cabinet have also decided to allow a completely unnecessary, highly destructive, $1 billion road through the Everglades.

Administrative Law Judge Suzanne Van Wyk heard expert testimony from environmentalists, who pointed out that this new freeway will imperil a lot of Everglades wildlife, add to pollution in Biscayne Bay, threaten the aquifer, and encourage sprawl.

Plus, given the epic flooding in South Florida, less natural land in the ’Glades means more water forced into populated areas.

On the drain-and-pave side, the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority argued that South Florida desperately needs the Kendall Expressway to provide relief to the poor bastards driving on State Road 836.

The authority announced triumphantly the new road could save commuters six minutes.

The judge ruled against the road.

While Ag Commissioner Nikki Fried agreed with the judge, DeSantis and his two compliant MAGA-brained stooges (you know them as Attorney General Ashley Moody and CFO Jimmy Patronis) overrode her vote.

Six whole minutes, and to hell with science. This is about getting more people to move to Florida just as the seas rise and the fresh water diminishes.

And speaking of wetlands — you know, those areas in Florida that clean up our drinking water, mitigate flooding, incubate myriad species of birds, fish, and crab, and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by storing carbon?

Florida  Republicans have come up with a cunning way to pretend they’re saving wetlands while actually encouraging their destruction, as the Phoenix’s own Craig Pittman explains here.

This is environmental madness.

But if you don’t understand — or just don’t give a damn about — the implications of a warming planet for a state that’s half-land, half-water, I guess it’s a good short-term business plan.

DeSantis and his tame Legislature are like some quack doctor (see Ladapo, above) who’s been told by the specialists that his patient has Stage 3 lung cancer, but chooses to ignore the diagnosis and prescribes Advil to help with the headaches.

As if all this weren’t scary enough, Florida’s waters are choking in toxic algae, largely caused by agricultural runoff, fertilizer, and human waste. The stuff stinks to high heaven and can make you sick.

What does DeSantis do? Establishes a genuinely excellent scientific task force, then ignores its findings and signs a toothless bill called the Clean Waterways Act which does nothing to clean up Florida’s waterways or address the causes of algal bloom.

Covid goes wild in Florida, where mask mandates are verboten and state government acts like vaccine requirements are some kind of communist plot to befoul our precious bodily fluids, and guess whose fault it is?

Joe Biden.

According to Ron DeSantis, the delta variant surge happened because the president let a lot of nasty, germy brown folks cross America’s southern border then come to Florida, where they spewed poison on our innocent, if unmasked, populace.

This is a lie.

But a rocky relationship with the real is a hallmark of the Sunshine State, where the annual rainfall is 54 inches (it’s about 35 inches in “rainy” England) and the most famous resident is a castrato cartoon mouse.

Florida built itself on fantasy, unreality, and ignoring inconvenient truths. We say it’s paradise (ignore those killer storms and the algal stench); the taxes are low (don’t look too closely at education, health care, or social services funding); jobs are plentiful (never mind that many of them are low-wage), and we’re beating COVID (only 61,630 deaths as of Dec. 1)!

Ron DeSantis is the embodiment of Florida’s inborn mendacity. Dishonesty is his super power, just as denialism (climate change is no big deal, Donald Trump isn’t a lying sack of ca-ca, what happened on Jan. 6 was just a spirited show of patriotism) is the beating heart of the 21st century Republican Party.

But, hey, we still have the beach, right?

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Diane Roberts
Diane Roberts

Diane Roberts is an 8th-generation Floridian, born and bred in Tallahassee, which probably explains her unhealthy fascination with Florida politics. Educated at Florida State University and Oxford University in England, she has been writing for newspapers since 1983, when she began producing columns on the legislature for the Florida Flambeau. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Times of London, the Guardian, the Washington Post, the Oxford American, and Flamingo. She has been a member of the Editorial Board of the St. Petersburg Times–back when that was the Tampa Bay Times’s name–and a long-time columnist for the paper in both its iterations. She was a commentator on NPR for 22 years and continues to contribute radio essays and opinion pieces to the BBC. Roberts is also the author of four books, most recently Dream State, an historical memoir of her Florida family, and Tribal: College Football and the Secret Heart of America. She lives in Tallahassee, except for the times she runs off to Great Britain, desperate for a different government to satirize.

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