Ron DeSantis and the Charade of Free Speech in America

In his battle against Disney World, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has exposed the dark side of free speech in America. After Disney expressed opposition to a law in Florida popularly termed “Don’t Say Gay,” DeSantis went on the attack by securing the repeal of a special tax privilege that had been accorded Disney some 55 years ago. It’s still unclear what the cost of the repeal will be to Disney but my hunch is that when the dust settles, the cost will be in the millions of dollars.

Of course, when it comes to the defense of civil liberties, conservatives have never been paragons of virtue.Their unabashed support of the war on drugs and the war on illegal immigrants serve as good examples. In fact, I think it would be safe to say that most conservatives view civil liberties as nothing more than “constitutional technicalities.” Thus, it is not surprising that conservatives across the land are hailing DeSantis for what he and his Republican cohorts have done to Disney as part of their fight against “wokeism.” 

But what DeSantis has actually done is expose the charade of how America, as compared to countries like Russia and China, stands for “freedom of speech,” as reflected in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Keep in mind all the pontificating that U.S. officials and right-wingers in America engage in when lecturing Russia and China when the regimes in those countries punish people for criticizing the government. 

All that pontificating is, of course, a hypocritical crock! And the governmental retribution that DeSantis and his fellow Republican goons in the Florida legislature have exacted against Disney for exercising freedom of speech proves it. 

To be sure, they are not threatening to put Disney officials into jail, as Russian and Chinese officials do to critics in their countries. But the message is the same: Keep your mouth shut about what we are doing or else we will come down on you with tax retribution or regulatory retribution. 

That’s how they keep the CEO’s of every large American business and every single U.S. banker in line, especially at the federal level. Stay silent or else suffer tax retribution or regulatory retribution. 

Think about the Pentagon’s and the CIA’s forever wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. How many CEOs of major American corporations or U.S. bank presidents ever publicly criticized those wars at a fundamental level? Very few, if any. You’ll never convince me that the reason is because they all agreed with those forever wars. The reason for the overwhelming silence is because they know that the federal government is able and more than willing to do to their companies and banks what DeSantis and his Republic cohorts have done to Disney — that is, sic the IRS or regulatory bureaucrats on them. 

What’s fascinating about the retribution exacted against Disney is that DeSantis didn’t wait a respectable period of time before exacting revenge. By waiting a respectable period of time, officials can then make the popular claim of “conspiracy theory” when the victim claims that the tax or regulatory measures are revenge being taken against him for exercising freedom of speech. By exacting revenge immediately and publicly, DeSantis shows us exactly how the system works to suppress free speech in America. In principle, the system works the same way it does in countries like Russia and China — through fear of retribution by the state or federal governments. 

Ask yourself this: Why is it that no American mainstream newspaper will touch any questions about the Kennedy assassination or the still-secret CIA records relating to the assassination? The Internet, for example, is filled with revelations regarding the flood of evidence that came out of the Assassination Records Review Board establishing that the U.S. national-security establishment carried out a fraudulent autopsy on the body of President Kennedy on the very evening of the assassination. (See my books The Kennedy Autopsy and The Kennedy Autopsy 2.)

Consider the two brain examinations in the Kennedy autopsy. Yes, two! Keep in mind that the military pathologists claimed that there was only one brain exam. The ARRB established that they lied. More important, the second brain exam necessarily had to be of a brain that did not belong to President Kennedy. That’s because the brain at the first exam was “sectioned” — i.e., cut like a loaf of bread, while the brain at the second brain exam was intact — i.e., not “sectioned.” Moreover, the official autopsy photographer, when shown the official brain photographs from the second exam, told the ARRB that those were not the photographs that he took at the first brain exam.

Now, wouldn’t you think that every investigative reporter in the land would want to get to the bottom of this fraud? Nope. As far as I know, not one single one followed up. In fact, as far as I know, there was not one single editorial or op-ed in the mainstream press condemning or evenly mildly criticizing the autopsy fraud. By the 1990s — more than 30 years after the assassination —  everyone knew that the Pentagon and the CIA wanted any questions regarding the Kennedy assassination buried and never mentioned again. Anyone who dared to do so was to be smeared as a “conspiracy theorist.”

Moreover, everyone knew the massive power that the national-security establishment wielded within the federal bureaucracy. In fact, in a remarkable moment of candor, in 2017 Democratic Congressman Charles Schumer pointed out that it is “really dumb” to take on the intelligence community because “they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you.” Every editor, publisher, and owner of every mainstream newspaper in the land knows exactly what Schumer was talking about. 

As I observe in my new book An Encounter with Evil: The Abraham Zapruder Story,LIFE magazine was set to go with an expose of official corruption by Lyndon Johnson in its November 22, 1963, issue. If true, the corruption charges would almost certainly have landed LBJ in the penitentiary. The assassination caused LIFE to stop the printing presses and replace the corruption article with photographs of frames from Abraham Zapruder’s film of the assassination. 

Yet, LIFE never published the corruption article in a later issue. Why not? No one knows the answer, but if I had to bet, it was because as vice-president Lyndon Johnson had no power to retaliate. As president, he had fearsome power to retaliate, much more so than a Florida governor.

Soon after he was elevated to president, Johnson contacted two newspapers in Texas that had reporters investigating Johnson’s corruption. As Robert Caro detailed in his most recent biographical volume on Johnson, Johnson contacted principals at both papers and threatened regulatory and tax retribution if they didn’t put a stop to those investigations. Both papers willingly complied and shut down the investigations.

In my opinion, that’s why you don’t ever see any articles in the mainstream press that question or challenge the official Pentagon/CIA narrative on the Kennedy assassination. As powerful as Lyndon Johnson was after he became president in 1963, his power paled compared to the overwhelming power of the national-security establishment.

Ron DeSantis and his Republican goons deserve credit for inadvertently exposing the dark, hypocritical state of freedom of speech in America.