Joe Henderson: Hate for hate’s sake was on display in Orlando

nazi flag
Leaders' condemnation of the Nazi demonstration won't stop the garbage, but silence would make it worse.

It’s easy to condemn the pro-Nazi demonstrations over the weekend in Orlando when a dozen or so demented souls chanted antisemitic slurs and hung a Nazi flag from an overpass. Many of Florida’s political leaders were quick to do so on both sides of the aisle. That’s exactly what should happen.

Here’s the bad news though.

Condemnation won’t make the hatred go away, which should terrify us all because hate lives among us.

I’ve seen some comments that suggest we shouldn’t get worked up over a dozen morons yelling and screaming, but that misses the point. I used to believe these occasional extremist public shows were the work of a few demented residents of wingnut city, but that is wrong. More people than we want to believe hate anyone who doesn’t look or think like them.

Some are just better at hiding their prejudice than others.

I’m not talking about political differences. Those are the least of our problems these days.

No, this is about people who hate Jews because they are Jews. Some hate Black people, just because. Maybe they hate immigrants, Muslims, or the police. Sheesh, the list of potential targets could fill a library.

Many have become more open about their hatred, which should concern each of us. That brings us back to Orlando.

Stop and think for a minute. What would inspire someone to become a neo-Nazi? The Nazis led a genocidal war that ended with 6 million murdered Jews and a destroyed nation.

It didn’t happen overnight.

After World War I, Adolf Hitler — a German soldier — could not believe his side lost the war. Antisemitism was already part of Germany’s fabric, but Hitler nurtured that hatred because he needed a scapegoat.

As the website reports, “The German army command spread the myth that the army had not lost the war on the battlefield, but because they had been betrayed. By a stab in the back, as it was called at the time. Hitler bought into the myth: Jews and communists had betrayed the country and brought a left-wing government to power that had wanted to throw in the towel.”

So, he tried to exterminate the Jewish people. That’s someone these demonstrators want to follow? What the hell is wrong with some people?

“Antisemitism and hatred are not welcome in this community,” Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer tweeted. “Despite displays of hate in Central Florida this weekend, our collective commitment to building an inclusive, compassionate community for all is stronger than ever.”

State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, an Orlando Democrat, tweeted, “I’m appalled to see Nazis rallying in the East Orlando district I represent. They are NEVER welcome here. All Floridians should be alarmed by the rise of extremism and white supremacy in our state. We have to stop it!”

U.S. Sen. Rick Scott and Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls had similar statements of outrage.

Gov. Ron DeSantis weighed in, sort of, on Monday after taking heat for staying quiet.

Some jackasses doing this on the street, first of all, state law enforcement is going to hold them accountable because they were doing stuff on the overpass. So they’re absolutely going to do that and they should do that,” DeSantis said.

But then, of course, he played the misdirection game.

“They tried to play games, they tried to politicize. Why would they do that? Why would they want to elevate a half-dozen malcontents and try to make this an issue for political gain?” DeSantis asked. “Because they want to distract from the failure that we’ve seen with Joe Biden.”

All DeSantis had to say after the malcontents made their stand is that they’re horrible and he condemns them in the strongest terms. Had he done that right away, there would have been nothing to politicize.

Earlier, DeSantis Press Secretary Christina Pushaw said, “Gov. DeSantis has always condemned hate. He has taken an unequivocal and consistent stand against antisemitism throughout his entire political career. Anyone who breaks the law in Florida, including by hanging antisemitic signs on overpasses, will be accountable in accordance with the law.”

That’s a vast improvement over her initial reaction, where she asked in a since-deleted tweet: “Do we even know they’re Nazis?” She suggested it could be a Democratic stunt.

Yeah, and the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol was just a normal tourist day. Pushaw’s first tweet put the focus on the Governor and his silence for more than 24 hours and increased the questions lobbed his way. DeSantis could have doused that fire immediately.

This is a big deal. DeSantis heavily courted and needed the Jewish vote to narrowly defeat Andrew Gillum in the last Governor’s election. He also held a Florida Cabinet meeting in Israel.

Anyway, condemning demonstrations by extremists is the right thing for anyone to do. Say it loud and often. It won’t make hate for hate’s sake go away any time soon, but silence would make a bad situation worse.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


  • ScienceBLVR

    January 31, 2022 at 8:56 pm

    Hate for hate’s sake is correct. And the most disturbing aspect of this, to me as an educator, is the desire of some of our Republican led legislators to attempt to erase the the factual history behind the hatred that generates a Nazi demonstration in Disney World. But let’s not discuss this in class, right? Can’t let the kids know what really happened….

    • John Doe

      February 1, 2022 at 11:20 am

      You bumbling idiot. List one single example of “Republican led legislators to attempt to erase the the factual history behind the hatred that generates a Nazi demonstration in Disney World.” That’s right, you CAN’T. Because it is a lie that you made up out of whole cloth.

  • Ocean Joe

    February 1, 2022 at 5:38 am

    The concept they may have been Democratic agitators mirrors the effort to paint the Jan 6 folks as antifa, pure gaslighting, a Trumpian specialty.
    Likewise, the foot dragging on condemning such folks is reminiscent of Trump on his endorsement by David Duke, or his “very fine people” comment on Charlottesburg. The war on political correctness ripped the lid off these cockroaches and they are coming out into the open again encouraged by a more welcoming atmosphere. Especially when leaders are so desperate for votes they lack the courage to condemn their own followers. And I say followers, because the Lets Go Brandon flag also displayed removes any question about their voting preference.

    • John Doe

      February 1, 2022 at 11:22 am

      Yeah, we KNOW leftists don’t lie and make things up. It happened up in Virginia during the last gubernatorial election. They dressed up as Republican supporters. You probably still think Jussie Smollett was attacked by Trump supporters. Be honest, for once in your life…

  • Tom

    February 1, 2022 at 8:26 am

    Ok, once again the far left extremists with media attempts to somehow lay this on the Governors foot steps.

    My goodness. Have people no shame. You know what Joe, how about looking at the actual policies? Policies that include all races, that protects all freedoms, that supports all people to go to work, worship freely, attend all schools with public scholarships expansion, that allows all families to live freely, not under blue state tyrannical rule of mandates. My goodness, this Govs support for Israel, Jewish people and all races with respect and freedoms across the board. His refusal not to support mandates upon all people’s is second to none. Some perspective and objectivity is warranted. As for Pushaw, she is not helpful period. Gov. is correct with the attempt to smear. Hate is wrong towards any group or persons. Acts by a dozen people do not speak for society at large, period!

  • John Wheeles

    February 1, 2022 at 9:12 am

    What about the BLM so called peaceful rallies(riots) That’s not hate inspired, huh. They destroyed property and attacked people. Do they get a free ride because of their difference?

  • Ron Ogden

    February 1, 2022 at 8:10 pm

    These events are far too convenient touch points for the desperate left and its stepchild media for them to be anything but examples of politically-motivated subterfuge. It was a stunt; it was hardly a serious political effort. The only question is: who thought it up. “Follow the money” they used to say. These days it is “follow the headlines.” And who do you find? A cadre of second rate Dems and their FLAPOL spokesperson. Don’t like “hate”? Then quit publicizing it.

Comments are closed.


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