Opinion | Is Ron DeSantis Imperiling Free Speech in Florida?

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To the Editor:

Re “Florida Is Trying to Take Away the American Right to Speak Freely” (editorial, March 5):

Florida’s proposed defamation law poses a personal risk for many right-wing leaders and commentators. It does not seem too far-fetched to say that court dockets might fill with defamation cases against Donald Trump, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Jim Jordan, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and other wingnuts.

Bringing some sanity and honesty to public discourse is a worthwhile goal, but the courts have consistently ruled that restrictions risk compromising the First Amendment. If passed, the Florida law is unlikely to survive a constitutional challenge.

Mark Evers
Lake Oswego, Ore.

To the Editor:

Losing the ability to speak freely goes beyond what may be happening in a state with a Republican governor. This is a problem facing the entire country.

The so-called progressive movement and the related social media have made it very difficult for people who have different views to, for example, be hired by so-called elite colleges, be treated fairly in the media, express their views if working for a company intimidated by the “progressives,” etc.

Years ago “I disagree with what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it” was considered the appropriate American approach. Now the view too widely accepted by the “progressives” and their supporters seems to be: “I disagree with what you say and therefore you are a racist and a bigot, I want nothing to do with you, and I will try to limit your ability to make your obviously erroneous views known to the public.”

Ronald J. Murray
Stamford, Conn.

To the Editor:

The tyranny of attempting to tie tongues through legislation, such as the bill that is currently making its way through the Florida House, is emblematic of the demagogic demons that have been unleashed in our nation over the past several years. Freethinkers must be entitled to free speech. Democracy depends on it.

Ben Miles
Huntington Beach, Calif.

To the Editor:

Re “Allies in Florida Are Set to Enact DeSantis Agenda” (front page, March 6):

This is one of several articles and Opinion pieces in recent weeks expressing alarm about Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Questions about the pandemic

When will the pandemic end? We asked three experts — two immunologists and an epidemiologist — to weigh in on this and some of the hundreds of other questions we’ve gathered from readers recently, including how to make sense of booster and test timing, recommendations for children, whether getting covid is just inevitable and other pressing queries.

How concerning are things like long covid and reinfections? That’s a difficult question to answer definitely, writes the Opinion columnist Zeynep Tufekci, because of the lack of adequate research and support for sufferers, as well as confusion about what the condition even is. She has suggestions for how to approach the problem. Regarding another ongoing Covid danger, that of reinfections, a virologist sets the record straight: “There has yet to be a variant that negates the benefits of vaccines.”

How will the virus continue to change? As a group of scientists who study viruses explains, “There’s no reason, at least biologically, that the virus won’t continue to evolve.” From a different angle, the science writer David Quammen surveys some of the highly effective tools and techniques that are now available for studying Covid and other viruses, but notes that such knowledge alone won’t blunt the danger.

What could endemic Covid look like? David Wallace Wells writes that by one estimate, 100,000 Americans could die each year from the coronavirus. Stopping that will require a creative effort to increase and sustain high levels of vaccination. The immunobiologist Akiko Iwasaki writes that new vaccines, particular those delivered through the nose, may be part of the answer.

I find nothing objectionable, and quite a few aspects of his program are welcome and needed. I am wary of drag queen story hours in public libraries and other venues, and sexually explicit, or implicit, performances where children may be in attendance.

This state of affairs could have been avoided had it not been for the aggressive activism of the trans rights movement and its progressive allies. Governor DeSantis has seized this issue, and it seems that there is support for his initiatives among parents and others not only in Florida and, I might add, not only among Republicans.

Alexander Goldstein

To the Editor:

According to “1776 Is Not Just What DeSantis Wants It to Be,” by Jamelle Bouie (column, March 5), “Last week, Republicans in the state’s House of Representatives introduced legislation that would, with DeSantis’s approval, escalate and expand an already aggressive effort to politicize higher education.”

Among other things, the bill “would make illegal the use of any ‘diversity, equity, and inclusion statements’ as part of the hiring, promotion and tenure process.”

But making such statements part of the hiring, promotion and tenure process is also an aggressive effort to politicize higher education. Both sides, while accusing their opponents of subordinating education to partisan ideology, are doing precisely that themselves.

Felicia Nimue Ackerman
Providence, R.I.
The writer is a professor of philosophy at Brown University.

The Crisis in Israel

To the Editor:

“Israel Is Courting Disaster,” by Michael R. Bloomberg (Opinion guest essay, March 6), was timely. The Israeli government’s attempt to curtail the powers of the nation’s independent judiciary is totally misguided.

I am as old as Israel, and I remember the small charity coin boxes and programs to plant trees in Israel that were circulated in Hebrew school. We developed a strong emotional connection with Israel. I always believed that Israel became a nation because of the world’s indifference to the Holocaust.

The threat to Israel’s survival created by this upheaval of checks and balances must be stopped. The world is watching, and the acceptance of Israel’s existence is always tenuous. Golda Meir, the former prime minister, said Israel’s secret weapon enabling it to defend itself was that there was no choice.

I pray that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu listens to the wisdom imparted by committed leaders abroad as well as his own citizens. He has no choice.

Steven A. Ludsin
East Hampton, N.Y.
The writer was a member of the President’s Commission on the Holocaust.

The Origins of Covid

To the Editor:

Re “Amid Politically Fraught Debate, a Split Persists on a Virus Origin” (news article, Feb. 28):

Instead of continuing to bicker about the origin of the Covid pandemic — a debate that is neither advancing our current understanding nor encouraging cooperation from the Chinese government — we should focus our attention on measures to ensure that future pandemics do not occur.

We do not need a consensus on Covid’s origins to take appropriate measures to both reduce human-wildlife contact leading to spillover events and mitigate the risks of research with dangerous pathogens that could result in lab leaks. The origins debate is distracting us from these more important tasks.

Ferric C. Fang
The writer is a professor of laboratory medicine, pathology and microbiology at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

Maternity Care by Midwives

To the Editor:

“Maternity Closures Leave Rural Areas in Lurch” (front page, Feb. 17) correctly identified the lack of quality maternity care in much of the U.S.

In America, we have long believed that, in medicine, more is better — more interventions, more equipment, more medication. Birth, however, is a normal process, not a disease. Approximately 80 percent of pregnancies have no serious complications, and it is neither appropriate nor efficient for these patients to take up valuable hospital beds, attended by highly trained, highly paid OB-GYNs.

Free-standing midwifery centers — licensed, inspected, staffed by professional midwives and integrated into the regional health care system — represent an alternative, right-sized model. Midwifery centers provide comfortable, competent care, in a person’s community, for the vast majority of uncomplicated births.

They screen for high-risk patients and potential complications, with clear guidelines for prompt transfers to a hospital when necessary. Midwives also provide full-scope gynecological and maternity care, from annual exams and family planning, to conception, to postpartum care — yielding major cost savings, excellent birth outcomes and an extraordinary level of patient satisfaction.

Jennifer Stevens
North Adams, Mass.
The writer is co-founder of GoodBirth, a global network of midwifery centers.

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