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Free speech
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The censorship that alarms Elon Musk does not include the repression practiced by Ron DeSantis

The Twitter and Tesla chief declares himself a ‘fundamentalist’ for free speech and fights ‘woke’ activism. But it’s Florida’s ultra-conservative governor who cancels like no other

Elon Musk y Bill Maher, en un episodio reciente de 'Real Time'.
Elon Musk and Bill Maher, in a recent episode of 'Real Time'.HBO
Ricardo de Querol

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, Twitter, SpaceX and so many other projects, is very concerned about censorship. He said as much in a conversation with Bill Maher, kinder than usual to his guest, on Real Time (on HBO Max). Musk claims to be a centrist, but leans Republican, and Maher is openly a Democrat, yet both agree in warning of left-wing activism known as “woke”, a derogatory term against those who hand out sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic or neo-colonial labels to those they consider to be the enemies of their causes.

Musk claims to be a fundamentalist of free speech. That’s why he dismantled Twitter’s moderation teams, which contained (without great success) hate messages, lies or incitements to violence. Trolls of all kinds - conspiracyists, supremacists, lynchers, misogynists - returned to the jungle of the little blue bird. However, Musk failed to mention that the woke protest, however annoying it may be to him, is also protected by freedom of speech.

One can share the fear that in the name of just causes there is an attempt to constrain the public debate, especially in universities, the supposed temples of free thought. This is what they call “cancel culture.” But nothing really represses the extreme rhetoric, which can be heard everywhere. While the most conservative right wing, in the U.S. states it controls, with Florida at the head, does impose gags. Especially in education: they prohibit any content on sexuality or gender; they prevent explaining the racist past of the country; they have banned books in libraries.

A high school principal in Florida was forced to resign for showing 11 and 12 year-old students Michelangelo’s David. Some parents found it too obscene: perhaps there were more open minds in the Renaissance. The Republicans’ anti-woke laws, with that explicit name they present them with, go much further in their censorious rage than the demonized woke crowd ever went.

The person who cancels like nobody else, even Disney, is the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, one of the few Republican alternatives to Donald Trump for the nomination in 2024. The new reactionaries claim to fight woke censorship but wherever they rule, they impose their old repression. As would their emulators on this side of the Atlantic.

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