Democrats bid to use censorship law against DeSantis and ban his book | Books

Democrats in Florida are attempting to use a state law that censors books in public schools against the governor who signed it, Ron DeSantis, by asking schools to review or ban the Republican governor’s own book, The Courage to be Free.

“The very trap he set for others is the one that he set for himself,” Fentrice Driskell, the Democratic minority leader in the Florida state house, told the Daily Beast.

DeSantis published The Courage to be Free in February, in what was widely seen as an opening shot in his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. He has said he wrote the book himself.

Seeking to compete with Donald Trump – who enjoys convincing leads in polling – DeSantis has established himself as a ruthless culture warrior, willing to use government power against opposing interests and viewpoints.

He signed the law regarding books in schools last year. It includes guidelines for content deemed inappropriate on grounds of race, sexuality, gender and depictions of violence.

But the law has run into problems over interpretations of its language, not least when a children’s book about Roberto Clemente, a baseball legend who faced racial discrimination, landed at the centre of national controversy.

Seeking to take advantage of such uncertainties, Florida Democrats are highlighting instances of language in DeSantis’s book which they contend could violate his own guidelines.

As reported by the Beast, in The Courage to be Free, DeSantis “use[s] the terms ‘woke’ and ‘gender ideology’ 46 times and 10 times respectively, both of which could constitute ‘divisive concepts’ the governor has argued should stay out of curricula up to the college level”.

DeSantis also claims students have been forced to “chant to the Aztec god of human sacrifice” and, as well as describing violence at Black Lives Matter protests, cites a video showing “dead black children, dramatically warning … about ‘racist police and state-sanctioned violence’”.

DeSantis also describes the 2017 mass shooting at congressional baseball practice in which Steve Scalise, a senior Republican, was seriously wounded.

Such passages, Democrats contend (in what the Florida publisher Peter Schorsch called a “clever bit of trolling”), could fall foul of the governor’s own rules.

According to the Beast, only one school district initially responded to Democrats’ complaints. Marion county, near Orlando, said no public school there possessed the governor’s book.

Driskell told the Beast: “We’re leaning into one of [DeSantis’s] weaknesses.

“… If America doesn’t want Florida’s present reality to become America’s future reality, people need to know what it’s like here. This is our way of fighting back, but also highlighting how ridiculous some of this becomes, right?”

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