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The Morning Dispatch: Judge Blocks Part of DeSantis' 'Stop WOKE Act'
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The Morning Dispatch: Judge Blocks Part of DeSantis’ ‘Stop WOKE Act’

Plus: An excerpt of the indefatigable Chris Stirewalt's new book.

Happy Monday! Always a great weekend when the Cubs take two out of three games from the Brewers at historic and beautiful Wrigley Field. [Editor: At The Dispatch, we believe strongly in providing context and understanding and rejecting attempts to score cheap points by taking information out of context. So, overall win-loss records for the season? Brewers, 64-56; Cubs, 52-68.] [Editor too: Seems worth mentioning in the same spirit that the Brewers are five games back on the Cardinals, who have won seven straight.] 

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • The Pentagon announced a $775 million military aid package for Ukraine on Friday that will include several types of equipment the U.S. hasn’t provided before, like surveillance drones, mine-clearing vehicles, and howitzer artillery. The package also includes 1,500 anti-tank missiles, 1,000 shoulder-mounted javelin missiles, and radar-targeting missiles. “These capabilities are carefully calibrated to make the most difference on the battlefield and strengthen Ukraine’s position at the negotiating table,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

  • Russian state-owned fuel company Gazprom said Friday it will shut down the Nord Stream 1 pipeline—which supplies gas to Europe—for three days of maintenance beginning August 31 before restarting operations at 20 percent flow. Gazprom has previously blamed maintenance hiccups for reduced flow, though European officials believe the reduction is an attempt to punish Germany and others for sanctions over the war in Ukraine. Officials worry Gazprom will not resume operations at all, pressuring Europe as it prepares for fuel shortages this winter.

  • Daria Dugina—the daughter of Alexander Dugin, a Russian nationalist whose philosophies have at times been cited as a basis for President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine—was killed over the weekend when a car she was driving exploded outside of Moscow. She was with her father earlier in the day, and the car reportedly belonged to the elder Dugin, leading many to speculate he may have been the intended target. Top Ukrainian officials have denied any involvement in the attack—and some suspect a potential false flag—but Russian commentators and officials have cited Dugina’s death in calling for retaliation against Kyiv.

  • At least 20 people were killed and dozens more injured as al-Shabaab terrorists laid siege to a hotel in the Somali capital of Mogadishu over the weekend. Local officials claim the terrorists—who have since claimed responsibility for the attack—detonated a car bomb before entering the hotel on foot and carrying out the deadliest attack in Mogadishu in months. U.S. Africa Command announced Wednesday U.S. forces had conducted an airstrike targeting al-Shabaab forces last weekend.

  • An American delegation led by Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb arrived in Taiwan Sunday to discuss trade between Indiana and the island nation. China reacted to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s recent visit by running military drills around Taiwan and imposing trade restrictions but has so far not retaliated over Holcomb’s lower-profile trip. The Biden administration last week announced it has begun negotiating a trade agreement with Taiwan, which China considers part of its territory. Holcomb will visit South Korea later this week.

  • The U.S. and South Korea are scheduled to begin 11 days of live-fire drills today that will simulate a conflict with North Korea, the first such full-scale exercises since former President Donald Trump reduced the drills—once held annually—to computer-based simulations in 2018. North Korea has markedly stepped up its weapons tests this year, firing two cruise missiles off its coast last week.

  • The Justice Department announced Friday that Islamic State terrorist El Shafee Elsheikh—one of the ISIS “Beatles,” named for their British accents—was sentenced to life in prison for his role in taking 26 people hostage in Syria, including at least four American journalists and aid workers who died in ISIS custody. Elsheikh is the highest-ranking Islamic State member to face a jury trial and be sentenced in a U.S. court.

  • Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced Sunday the country will formally repeal a currently unenforced law criminalizing sex between men—but Singapore will continue to only recognize marriages between one man and one woman. “Private sexual behavior between consenting adults does not raise any law and order issue,” Lee said. “This will bring the law into line with current social mores and I hope provide some relief to gay Singaporeans.”

  • U.S. Cyber Command announced last week it recently deployed a team of “elite defensive cyber operators” to Croatia to conduct a “hunt forward operation” aimed at helping the Balkan nation strengthen its cyber defenses. “We face the same adversaries and threat actors in cyberspace, and we both gain and share valuable insights into cyber resilience as it has become the key objective for national security,” Daniel Markić—director of the Croatian Security and Intelligence Agency—said.

Portion of DeSantis’ ‘Stop WOKE Act’ Deemed Unconstitutional

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images.)

Rallying with Pennsylvania’s Republican gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano over the weekend, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had a simple message for the adoring crowd. “We must fight the woke in our schools,” he said, using the word that’s become a catch-all to describe different manifestations of progressive social ideology. “We must fight the woke in our businesses. We must fight the woke in government agencies. We can never ever surrender to woke ideology. And I’ll tell you this: The state of Florida is where woke goes to die.”

DeSantis didn’t mention that, just one day earlier, a federal judge had deemed one of his key victories on that front—the Stop the Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees (W.O.K.E.) Act—partially unconstitutional, saying it violated the First Amendment.

Introduced by DeSantis last December as the “strongest legislation of its kind,” Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature passed the bill (HB 7) in March, teeing up DeSantis to sign it into law in late April. “In Florida, we will not let the far-left woke agenda take over our schools and workplaces,” the governor said at the time. “There is no place for indoctrination or discrimination in Florida.”

The law attempts to prohibit schools and employers from adopting and advocating for critical race theory (CRT), which is, loosely defined, a framework—increasingly mainstream in progressive circles—that examines how race and racism are baked into societal structures and traditions, both implicitly and explicitly. It’s the genesis of many terms you may have heard in recent years: white privilege, systemic racism, microaggressions, unconscious bias, inequity, etc. DeSantis labeled it “state-sanctioned racism” that teaches kids to “hate our country” and “each other.” Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez claimed the aforementioned legislation would “end” it.

But Florida’s legislature couldn’t simply decree CRT illegal in schools and businesses; the ideology has no formal definition, and the label means different things to different people. Instead, GOP lawmakers worked backwards, identifying what they saw as the core tenets of CRT and classifying their promotion as a violation of state academic standards and an unlawful employment practice—if a formal requirement of employment or credentialing. Among the prohibited dogmas:

  • Members of one race, color, sex, or national origin are morally superior to members of another race, color, sex, or  national origin.

  • An individual, by virtue of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.

  • An individual’s moral character or status as either privileged or oppressed is necessarily determined by his or her race, color, sex, or national origin.

  • Members of one race, color, sex, or national origin cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race, color, sex, or national origin.

  • An individual, by virtue of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin, bears personal responsibility for and must feel guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress because of actions, in which the individual played no part, committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, sex, or national origin.

The legislation stresses that schools can, in an “age-appropriate manner,” facilitate discussions about sexism, slavery, racial oppression, racial segregation, and racial discrimination throughout U.S. history. But that instruction cannot “indoctrinate or persuade students” to a “particular point of view” in line with the aforementioned CRT principles. HB 7 similarly allows businesses conducting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) trainings to discuss CRT-adjacent concepts—as long as the trainings are “given in an objective manner without endorsement of the concepts.”

Several Florida businesses—Honeyfund.com, a local Ben & Jerry’s franchise, and Collective Concepts, a workplace diversity consultancy—took issue with the bill’s provisions and sued in federal court, alleging the restrictions violate their First Amendment rights as private entities to freedom of speech and expression. Mark Walker—the chief judge on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida—agreed.

“The First Amendment does not give the state license to censor speech because it finds it ‘repugnant,’ no matter how captive the audience,” Walker—an appointee of former President Barack Obama—held in his opinion last Thursday. ““If Florida truly believes we live in a post-racial society, then let it make its case. But it cannot win the argument by muzzling its opponents.”

Despite its sweeping rhetoric, Walker’s ruling was relatively narrow, granting only a partial preliminary injunction that temporarily blocks Florida’s Attorney General Ashley Moody and commissioners of the Florida Commission on Human Relations (FCHR) from enforcing the portion of the law pertaining to private businesses while the legal battle plays out. HB 7’s new restrictions on public schools, therefore, remain in effect—though the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit targeting those provisions late last week. 

The DeSantis administration plans to appeal the ruling, but several lawyers with First Amendment expertise agree with Walker that Florida’s lawmakers are on shaky footing. “Not only does the law target speech. It singles out speech that advocates particular viewpoints on disputed issues, while giving more favorable treatment to speech that supports the opposite positions,” George Mason University law professor Ilya Somin noted, pointing out that companies under the law can still mandate anti-CRT teachings. “I would be surprised if the state ultimately prevailed. The targeting of speech here is too blatant for courts to overlook.” Greg Lukianoff—CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression—described the bill’s provisions about higher education as “probably the most clearly unconstitutional legislative threat to academic freedom I’ve seen in my 21 year career.”

This isn’t new territory for DeSantis. Back in May, a trio of Republican-appointed judges blocked most of a DeSantis-backed bill that sought to force social media platforms to host any politicians’ speech, regardless of whether it violated the companies’ terms of service. Though consistently popular in public polling, Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act (the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill) is also facing legal challenges for potentially violating students’, parents’, and teachers’ First Amendment rights.

“Recently, Florida has seemed like a First Amendment upside down,” Walker wrote, referencing the popular Netflix show Stranger Things. “Normally, the First Amendment bars the state from burdening speech, while private actors may burden speech freely. But in Florida, the First Amendment apparently bars private actors from burdening speech, while the state may burden speech freely.”

Bryan Griffin—a spokesman for DeSantis—criticized Walker’s ruling on Twitter, but did not address his First Amendment concerns. “If Florida is the ‘upside down’ from the last two years of heavy-handed lockdowns, willful economic destruction, passivity on crime, the abandonment of the family unit, the politicization of the classroom and the corruption of the innocence of children, we’ll take it,” he wrote. “Similarly un-fathomable to these same leftists is a world where their Marxist worldview is not taught as fact to students or forced upon employees as a condition of employment. Here again, even if we have to stand alone, FL will stand thanks to @GovRonDeSantis.”

The News Is Broken

The wait is finally over! Chris Stirewalt’s new book—Broken News: Why the Media Rage Machine Divides America and How to Fight Back—hits bookstore shelves tomorrow, and you can order it online today. Across 256 pages, the former Fox News political editor and Dispatch contributing editor argues news organizations have succumbed to the temptation of “rage revenue,” pumping out shoddy reporting, sensationalism, groupthink, and partisan tribalism that results in political division and rewards outrageous conduct.

We’ll never reveal our sources, but The Dispatch was able to obtain an excerpt from the book, and it’s up on the site today.

We live in an age of anxiety, Chris posits. Many of our worries are intensely personal, but others are dislocated societal or political concerns being experienced as personal anxiety.

There’s so much anger in our culture today, and you can’t hate something you aren’t afraid of. We are an angry people because we are a frightened people. Politicians, popular culture, the news media, and leaders of major institutions speak in a language of anxiety, and did so long before our now-receding pandemic began. It wouldn’t be so odd if it weren’t for the fact that things are so much better here and now than they’ve been for most of human existence: freer, richer, safer, cleaner, and easier. Yet somehow endlessly problematic and anxiety-inducing.

There are a lot of reasons for this mismatch. But part is surely a result of media overconsumption—panicky pulp produced to shovel at you in order to hold an audience in a fragmented marketplace. All day, every day, you are offered an unlimited array of serious worries about which you can do next to nothing.

Obsessive concern about problems mostly beyond our control can prevent us from taking action on the ordinary, important work institutions are supposed to do. If the spending bill is really the last hope of a dying planet, then we can’t have the right conversation about how much to spend and for how long. Overhyped anxiety also distracts us. If you’re running a “forensic audit” looking for ballot boogeymen, you can’t do your job as a state official.

In an era where everything is a crisis, then nothing really is one.

How many overhyped panics do we expect Americans to endure before reaching the rational conclusion that the news media, their politically addicted peers, and institutional leaders have lost all perspective? The boy who cried wolf is clogging your Facebook feed with global warming or vaccine memes and hollering about murder hornets on TV. The next step is to pop a Xanax and tune out.

Especially because reporters and the outlets where they work tend to overstate the severity of the problems they cover, issue-oriented news tends to be pretty depressing. It goes against the business model of most news outlets as well as human nature to tell audiences, “Don’t worry too much about it, but here’s a story you might be interested in.” If you want people to click your link or not change the channel, you have to make the story compelling. Alas, the easiest way to make a boring story compelling is to exaggerate the potential consequences. The cumulative effect is for news consumers to despair and ultimately tune out completely.

Worth Your Time

  • The tectonic plates of our politics have shifted dramatically since 2013, when Mitch Daniels began serving as president of Purdue University. As Indiana’s former governor prepares to step aside a decade later, he’s weighing whether to re-enter a version of public life that’s foreign to him. “The first time I ran, I wrote a little message, and we used it in the Republican primary,” Daniels told Politico’s Adam Wren recently. “I said—almost verbatim—‘I’ve never run for public office before, and before you vote you should know there’s a couple things I won’t do to win it. I won’t disparage an opponent’s background or character or motives. We’re going to ask for your support based on things we’ll do, not attack another person.’ And for the next eight years, the easiest applause line if I’m giving a speech somewhere is, ‘We’ve run elections and never made a negative commercial.’ Now that’s not that long ago. … The advice from consultants now is, ‘You can play Mr. Nice Guy, but that will get you beat.’”

  • Russian paratrooper Pavel Filatyev fled Russia this week and published a 141-page journal of the war in Ukraine detailing the attacks on Kherson and Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine. His account in the Washington Post paints a picture of an ill-equipped, demoralized force. “Due to artillery shelling, some villages nearby practically ceased to exist,” he writes. “Everyone was getting angrier and angrier. Some grandmother poisoned our pies. Almost everyone got a fungus, someone’s teeth fell out, the skin was peeling off. Many discussed how, when they return, they will hold the command accountable for lack of provision and incompetent leadership. Some began to sleep on duty because of fatigue. Sometimes we managed to catch a wave of the Ukrainian radio, where they poured dirt on us and called us orcs, which only embittered us even more. … I survived, unlike many others. My conscience tells me that I must try to stop this madness. … We did not have the moral right to attack another country, especially the people closest to us.”

Presented Without Comment

Also Presented Without Comment

Also Also Presented Without Comment

Toeing the Company Line

  • In Friday’s Uphill (🔒), Haley checks in on how lawmakers are using (and abusing) proxy voting—a measure implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19—to weigh in on bills remotely without rearranging their travel schedules or to make time for campaigning. Plus: a look at the climate measures in the Inflation Reduction Act.

  • We’re not on the verge of civil war, Jonah argues in Friday’s G-File, but that doesn’t mean foolish rhetoric won’t trigger violence. “Just as it seems obvious to me that most Americans don’t buy all of this crazy talk, it seems equally obvious that the more such talk proliferates, the minority of people who believe it in one form or another will grow larger,” he writes. “Where crazy talk goes, crazy deeds follow.”

  • The Republican and Democratic parties both rely on a Christian base to retain power, yet our national politics are a toxic, hyperpartisan, corrupt mess. These things ought not to be so, David writes in Sunday’s French Press, and stem from neglecting God’s call to kindness and humility alongside justice.

  • On the site over the weekend, Harvest reviewed B.J. Novak’s new movie, Vengeance, about a New York City reporter with big ideas about American culture who finds himself on a plane to Texas for the funeral of a woman he barely knew. “But the murder soon becomes the least interesting thing about the story, which is full of twists, turns, and quirky characters that make the hour and forty-five minutes pass by quickly,” she writes.

Let Us Know

Which of these options best describes your position? Why?

  • Oppose critical race theory, oppose Florida’s HB 7;

  • Oppose critical race theory, support Florida’s HB 7;

  • Support critical race theory, oppose Florida’s HB 7;

  • Support critical race theory, support Florida’s HB 7;

  • Ambivalent on critical race theory, oppose Florida’s HB 7; or

  • Ambivalent on critical race theory, support Florida’s HB 7.

Declan Garvey is the executive editor at the Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2019, he worked in public affairs at Hamilton Place Strategies and market research at Echelon Insights. When Declan is not assigning and editing pieces, he is probably watching a Cubs game, listening to podcasts on 3x speed, or trying a new recipe with his wife.

Esther Eaton is a former deputy editor of The Morning Dispatch.