Opinions Archives - Florida Politics

Joe Henderson: Adam Putnam knows what his audience wants and serves it up well

The buffet restaurant owned by my friends Ralph and Nancy Lupton in Temple Terrace was as stuffed Monday morning as one of my plates when I go through the chow line there. Don’t tell my doctor about the times I piled it high with fried chicken, bacon, sausage gravy and all those other things that are supposed to be bad for a body.

Put it this way, if that’s bad then I don’t want good. Read more

Gil Ziffer: Protect home rule and let cities work

Sometimes Florida’s cities find themselves at odds with the state Legislature over the principle of home rule. That cherished concept, supported by an overwhelming majority of Florida’s citizens, reflects the view that the closer government is to the people, the more effective, fair and responsive it will be.

Over this past year, we have seen a very different approach taking hold in the Legislature. Lawmakers repeatedly considered the role of local authority, trying to shift many hometown responsibilities to the state. Florida’s outstanding quality of life is reflected in our public parks, our beaches, our museums and other cultural institutions, and our neighborhoods, and it is local government that create and maintain that within our communities.

As president of the Florida League of Cities for the next year, I say let Florida’s cities work. Let cities work to develop innovative responses to problems affecting our communities. Let them work to deliver the services their residents depend on, to create an environment for economic development and prosperity, to serve and protect every resident and valued visitor. Let them work to preserve the unique qualities that make each of our communities special.

We must follow the example of Florida’s Home Rule Heroes, elected officials who went above and beyond to advocate for cities this past legislative session. These officials were recognized by the League of Cities for their extraordinary efforts making phone calls and repeated trips to the state Capitol to be heard on matters of importance to their communities. Some municipal officials wrote guest commentaries for local newspapers speaking out in support of our cities.

In truth, it is the members of our local communities who hold the power — their opinions, ideas, and concerns are what elected officials work to address. So, all Floridians should be prepared to take action now, rather than waiting until the next legislative session convenes in January. Become familiar with your senators and representatives, and their staff members. Take part in town hall meetings, so your lawmakers will know what their constituents want and need. Participate in the League’s policymaking committees.

In order to make a difference, we need to be heard. That will only be possible if every one of us gets engaged in the process in some way.

One-size-fits-all solutions proposed by the Legislature will not fix or help our neighborhoods meet their challenges and opportunities. Let cities work together, through the Florida League of Cities, to stand up for the right of our communities to determine their own destinies.


Gil Ziffer is president of the Florida League of Cities and Mayor Pro Tem of Tallahassee.

History comes alive at St. Augustine Seminole Wars convocation

The drum beat a slow, mournful cadence as a procession of soldiers in 1842 uniforms led by two mounted cavalrymen proceeded down St. Augustine’s Marine Street to the National Cemetery where Maj. Francis Dade and all but two men of his command are buried.

 The event is an annual re-enactment of the burial of the more than 100 soldiers in St. Augustine, seven years after they were massacred en route to Fort King (Ocala).

 Although a separate and annual event, the parade and service coincided with the start of the first biennial Convocation of Seminole War Historians over the weekend. Historians, researchers, archeologists and re-enactors gathered for the two-day conference of the longest conflict between the U.S. and native Americans.

Among those in attendance and presenting research were John and Mary Lou Missall who have written five books on the three wars. Patsy West, who has followed the Seminole nation from its final defeat to its successes in the 21st-century, discussed her book “The Enduring Seminoles: From Hard Times to Hard Rock.

She followed the small remnants of Seminoles left in Florida after the third war ended in 1858. For decades, they largely avoided the white people moving into Florida, then slowly they opened roadside stands of handcrafted goods, progressing to Seminole “villages” and alligator wrestling, casinos and then the purchase of Hard Rock International from its British owners.

 “Now, the sun never sets on Seminole lands,” she quipped.

A special presentation went to Frank Laumer, who has spent 50 years researching the Dade Massacre and even obtaining permission to exhume and examine the body of Ransom Clark, one of the survivors of the Dade Massacre.

Moses Osceola, chief judge of the Tribal Court of the Seminole Tribe of Florida also attended. The work on histories of the wars is important to continue education, he said.

“This is very important to our people. There had been information and traditions passed down by the elders, but many of the young people no longer know the stories and fewer know the languages,” he said .

“I actually found gaps in my history that I was not aware of,” Osceola told members of the convocation.

Preserving the historic sites of forts, battlefields and Seminole-Creek and Mikasuki villages against development or even placing just a historic marker can often be a struggle.

One success story discussed is the siting and planned reconstruction of Fort King near Ocala, it was the site of the scene of war leader Osceola’s fight with an Indian agent and the goal of the troops under Dade when they were massacred near present day Bushnell.

Many places, however have not been successfully saved sometimes because of the lack of understanding from developers, local officials and often, the general public.

“There is still much to learn about those critical years in the state and nation’s development from those wars,” said Steve Rick, president of the Seminole Wars Foundation.

Blake Dowling: The official column of hotel tech, Tally, Japan and the FBI

This past weekend, I attended the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce Conference. As usual, it was a very positive experience.

It was my 11th consecutive conference, and to be surrounded by so many clients, elected officials, and business partners all in one place is a rare opportunity. Putting differences aside, you can spend a weekend together pushing forward the agenda of making North Florida a better place.

Yours truly casting a cyber security spell at a breakout session using lots of unneeded hand gestures

People on different sides of the political aisle, business rivals, competitors – everyone taking a moment to step away from their divisions and focus on what can bring us together.

The only oddity there was that it was recently revealed an undercover FBI agent visited the conference last year posing as Mike Miller, a developer.

Hopefully, all those in question will be vindicated as Tally is taking a brand hit with its high crime rate and these investigations. Emcee Gary Yordon defused the events in question lightning fast.

Yordon put some lipstick on the situation with a hilarious introduction. He asked all elected officials to stand; next, he asked all Leadership Tallahassee graduates to stand; then (drum roll) he asked all “undercover FBI agents” to stand. ZING.

So the elephant in the room became more like a Pomeranian in the room; still there, but small and annoying, versus large and in-charge.

That’s not FBI agent Mike Miller that’s a Robot Dino Check in Bot … and he says the elevators are to your left.

Gary, the staff at the Omni and the team at the Tallahassee Chamber did a first-class job with the event. Well done.

As with any trip, I try to keep an eye on any new tech innovations in the hotel industry, and this weekend, I spotted a winner — a full miniature keyboard on the back of the remote control.

Why is this not the standard?

It takes forever (or at least 15 to 20 seconds) to type in a show name on a standard remote with its numbers pad for a Netflix or Xfinity search. So, the keyboard is a game changer.

Just like a TV in the mirror spotted at a Marriot earlier this year; the world needs this now.

OK, so these are “cool,” but I cannot talk about hotels any further without leaving the world of FBI, the Chamber, business and politics.

Now to go across the world to our friends in the Land of the Rising Sun, Japan.

New tech in hotels is pretty neat, but what about a whole hotel that bursts with tech. Meaning a hotel run by artificial intelligence.

It’s not in beta mode, it’s not some wacky idea, it is open right now and can be yours for $350 (U.S.) for a two-night stay, according to booking.com.

The Hotel is called “Henn-na Hotel” and it is in Sasebo, Japan. The neighborhood is a Disney-like area, complete with all sort of theme parks. Hotel owners claim it to be the most efficient hotel in the world. You are checked in by creepy, I mean, cutting-edge fem-bots or dino-staff. Most of your interactions are with AI. The hotel claims it is 90 percent automated.

For example, there is a wacky little robot in your home that helps with wake-up calls, air conditioning, etc. There is also a robot porter, automated cleaning service, and even a robot arm that passes for a coat check. (They do not mention a robot bartender, there is a missed opportunity for awesomeness. I think a Godzilla AI bartender would be cool.)

Moving on … there are a handful of humans on staff in case something goes south, which is reassuring. There are not even keys in the hotel, the doors are AI doors with facial recognition functionality built-in. This hotel has horror movie written all over it. Keenen Ivory Wayans (who wrote Scary Movie) Are you listening, man? This script writes itself. Once you check-in, THEY will not let you check out …

The world might not be ready for AI hotels, but the world does not ask permission; it just keeps rolling along, disruption, conferences, scandals, robot hotels, elections, North Korean threats, FBI investigations and everything else.

Keep your nose clean and buckle up.


Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies and he gave six back-to-back presentations on cybersecurity at the previously mentioned conference, so his voice is shot. Email, please; don’t call with questions.

Darryl Paulson: Googledygook

We are all familiar with gobbledygook: Words that have no real meaning. We are now seeing Googledygook:  speech which says one thing, but really means something different.

On June 29, 2017, Google employee James Damore posted a ten-page memo on a Google message board which was designed to solicit ideas and encourage debate. Damore’s post, titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber,” argued that neuroscience and psychologists have found numerous differences between men and women in brain structure that affect their behavior and preferences.

For over a month, the memo generated modest internal debate at Google. On Aug. 5, Gizmodo, a left-leaning website, released Damore’s memo with the following title: “Here’s the full 10-page anti-diversity screed circulating at Google.”

By labeling Damore’s memo an “anti-diversity screed,” Gizmodo poisoned the well. Damore went to great lengths to note that “I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don’t endorse using stereotypes.” Damore later notes that “I strongly believe in gender and racial diversity, and I think we should strive for more.” This hardly seems like an “anti-diversity screed” to me.

Damore was doing what Google encouraged employees to do:  share their views and encourage a dialogue. That becomes exceedingly difficult when your views are automatically labeled as an “anti-diversity screed.” In other words, there is no need to read Damore’s memo. Why?  Because Damore is clearly a bigot.

It was not until Gizmodo posted Damore’s memo five weeks after its initial posting on a Google message board that Damore’s views went viral. Damore’s “anti-diversity screed” was immediately attacked by The Washington Post, CNN, Time, ABC News, NBC News, Fox News, the Huffington Post, Slate and numerous other sites. Many of these new attacks simply picked-up on Gizmodo’s attack, rather than actually reading Damore’s post.

Conor Friedersdorf of the Atlantic commented that “I cannot remember the last time so many outlets and observations mischaracterized so many aspects of a text that everyone possessed.” For many, ready Damore’s views was unnecessary. Why read an “anti-diversity screed” from a bigot and misogynist.

Deborah Soh, writing in the Toronto Globe and Mail, said the memo “was fair and accurate. Scientific studies have confirmed sex differences in the brain that lead to differences in interests and preferences.”

The left attacked Damore as a bigot whose memo created a hostile work environment. The right viewed Damore as a truth-teller and martyr. National Review compared Damore to Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the church door.

Damore noted gender differences between women and men, but did not see this as an evil, but a reflection of the different choices and perspectives of the two sexes. Women have long argued that they are different from men, so the lack of equal numbers of men and women in different job categories merely reflects the different preferences between the sexes.

Wendy Williams, Professor of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University, notes that woman make up 80 percent of the students in the veterinary program. Is this bias, or merely a reflection of different preferences between men and women.?

In med schools, there is now essentially a 50/50 split in male and female students. Yet, 75 percent of pediatric residents are women; 72 percent of radiology residents are men. Do we want to impose a policy where the ratio of men to women in different residency programs reflects the numbers in society?

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, responded to Damore’s memo over five weeks after its original posting. Pichai wrote that Google workers should be able to “safely express their views in the workplace, especially those with a minority viewpoint.” Then, he fired Damore.

Almost 75 years ago, George Orwell introduce “doublespeak” into our language. As Orwell noted in his book 1984, we support free speech except when we disagree with it. We support tolerance, but tolerance requires suppression.

Google’s doublespeak may introduce a new word in our political lexicon. Googledygook: Saying one thing for public consumption, but meaning something else in reality.


Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at USF St. Petersburg specializing in Florida politics and elections.


Christian Cámara: No, white supremacists at Charlottesville were not ‘good people’

Christian Cámara

There is much emotion on both sides of the current debate over race relations, even among people of goodwill. There are contentious questions to address, such as: Should we remove Confederate statues? Should we allow racists to protest in public spaces? Are our elected leaders to blame for escalating tensions? Is one side more at fault for recent violence?

I think these are all fair questions that good people might disagree on without necessarily making them “Fake News-Loving Commies” or “Nazi-Sympathizing Racists.” Thankfully, those two groups represent a tiny fraction of the population, but they, unfortunately, generate most of the coverage.

Although I agree with much of the president’s response to Charlottesville, I fundamentally disagree with him on at least one statement: That there were good people on both sides.

I believe there are many decent, non-racists who oppose the removal of Confederate monuments, and some might have very well attended to protest the removal of the Lee statue. However, it is hard to believe that any good person would have stuck around more than five minutes after noticing that an innocent event to protest the removal of a statue was actually a grotesque gathering of Nazi sympathizers, white supremacists and other malcontents. Therefore, I would take issue with the president’s assertion that there were “good people on both sides” that day. Good people on both sides of the issue? Yes. Present that day? No.

I do, however, agree with him that elements inside the counter protest indeed included bad people looking to cause trouble: Antifa and other communist groups that likely instigated violence. Of course, the diabolical terrorist act of plowing a car into a crowd falls squarely on the driver, and whoever else might have helped him.

So as we look to address this escalating racial tension, decent Americans on all sides of this issue should agree to uphold certain principles.

First, we must reject any assault on free speech. As detestable as these racist groups are, they have a constitutionally protected right to express their views — and yes, even their hate — so long as their actions don’t trample on other people’s rights through violence or other means. If they choose to live life hating others and expressing their hate, their right to do so trumps our sensibilities and our justified reaction to be offended by them. Indeed, I may not agree with one iota of what they’re saying, but I’ll defend their right to say and think it.

However, with rights come responsibilities, and with responsibilities come consequences. They must also understand that, although we support their right to think and speak what they think, we regular Americans can and will exercise our right to condemn them for their vile views. That may include exposing and ostracizing them, though I do caution that we should be careful not to misidentify the innocent. But those who are accurately identified may be subject to public ridicule and contempt, and the repercussions thereof.

Secondly, our elected officials, including President Donald Trump, need to exercise some moral clarity. There is no moral equivalence between a bunch of racist, Nazi-sympathizing white nationalists and those who protest them. Indeed, there were violent troublemakers within the counter protesters’ ranks. But to equate the entire diverse group of counter protesters to the overwhelmingly racist other side is just plain wrong.

Likewise, Democrats and others on the left need to come down as hard on the violent communists as they do on the violent racists. In short, all sides need to come down hard on violence. No more sugarcoating or excusing why one side can be violent and the other side shouldn’t be.

Finally, we all must adhere to the rule of law. Emotions cannot compel us to break the law. As much as some detest the existence of Confederate monuments and what they represent, we law-abiding Americans cannot and should not endorse or tolerate an angry mob destroying or vandalizing any property, much less physically assaulting people. Neither a constitutional republic nor its civil society can survive if the rule of law is replaced with mob rule.

Debates can be had about what to do with Confederate memorials, and legislative bodies may elect to keep, remove or relocate them through normal deliberative processes. But to support or encourage angry mobs to enter and destroy property undermines the most basic tenets of a representative democracy governed by laws — not to mention that it would likely instigate the opposing side to retaliate unlawfully, thus escalating violence on all sides.

As much as I utterly loathe racism, racists have a right to be racist, albeit peacefully and in such a way as it does not trample on other people’s rights. If we use the power of government — or worse, mob rule — to silence or crush undesirable thoughts, then we ourselves risk becoming just a different brand of fascists, but fascists nonetheless.


Christian Cámara is Southeast Regional Director of the R Street Institute.

Richard Corcoran: Why community redevelopment agencies have to go

A mayor who received $84,529 from a side job paid for by taxpayers. A grand jury report stating that government officials were “spending large amounts of taxpayer dollars on what appeared to be pet projects of elected officials.” An inspector general’s report finding over $2 million in questionable expenditures and political cronyism involving a city commissioner. And finally, millions of taxpayer dollars spent and a new FBI investigation under way.

If all of this sounds like a John Grisham novel waiting to happen, you’d be right. But unfortunately all of the above is not fiction. It’s all true and sadly, I believe, just the tip of the iceberg.

Have you ever heard of Community Redevelopment Agencies, or CRAs?

Wait! Before you stop reading, hear me out.

I’ll bet you didn’t know — and why would you — that there are more than 1,600 local agencies, boards and special districts that have the power to incur debt and operate under very little scrutiny whatsoever. Of the 1,682 such groups, 224 of those are CRAs.

So first — and quickly — what exactly is a CRA?

The Community Redevelopment Act authorized counties and municipalities to create community redevelopment agencies as a means of redeveloping “slums” and “blighted areas.” By definition, these areas must have at least two factors to qualify. Some of these factors include unsanitary conditions; defective street layout, roadways or bridges; higher fire and emergency calls; and a host of other problems.

Attempting to remove blight and rescue slums are admirable goals, for sure. Unfortunately, as the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. And if that road to hell is within the boundaries of the CRA, chances are it wouldn’t get paved unless you happen to be friends with a board member.

Seem far-fetched? Unfortunately, it isn’t.

A Miami-Dade grand jury report in 2016 said that the CRA appears to be a fund for pet projects for elected officials and is flirting with “slush fund” status.

Head north to Brevard County where Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, and former Rep. John Tobia, R-Melbourne Beach, exposed a scandal so brazen it put to rest any lingering doubts about the wisdom of eliminating CRAs. Records indicate the mayor of Palm Shores hired herself to administer a local CRA for over 5 years — collecting $84,529. Of course, paid for by the taxpayer.

And what political scandal would be complete without a capital city connection. In Tallahassee, the CRA and local developers have come under investigation by the FBI.

What makes it all the more ridiculous is that the CRAs are usually miniature versions of county or city commissions.

As a matter of fact, 76 percent of CRAs are governed by a board that mirrors or is very similar to the local government that oversees the CRA. Shockingly, in a recent survey, 72 percent of CRAs indicated they are exclusively staffed by local elected officials and only 27 percent of CRA’s have private citizens on their board.

Like “Mini Me” from the Austin Powers movies, the offspring magnifies any tendencies of the creator. But the composition of the boards represent just one of the problems.

Statewide, in 2015 CRAs reported almost $600 million in revenue, $605 million in expenditures and $715 million in debt. Also, between 2005 and 2016, CRAs issued $1.35 billion in bonds. We literally cannot afford CRAs.

Fortunately, the Florida House attacked the problem last session with HB 13 and will take it on again this session. We sincerely hope the Florida Senate will join us this time.

The legislation is pure common sense. It requires board members to undergo ethics training, CRAs to use the same procurement and purchasing processes as the county or municipality, expansion of the annual reporting requirement to include audit information and performance data, introduction of oversight into the budget process, and finally that CRA data be included in the county and municipality annual financial report — just to name a few.

It also would have prohibited the creation of any new CRAs after October and phased out nearly all CRAs by 2037.

Many will undoubtedly say that this is just part and parcel of an attack on local government.

That’s just government blame shifting. What it is instead is part and parcel of an attack on corruption and on those who would pass the buck with one hand and pass the plate with the other.


Richard Corcoran is Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.

Joe Henderson: Jack Latvala will bring a sensible GOP voice to a shrill campaign for governor

The official entry of Republican state Sen. Jack Latvala into the race for governor is welcome news to those hoping someone would come along to give them a reason not to cover their ears during the upcoming campaign. I think they just got their guy.

Whether his candidacy will attract enough support to grab his party’s nomination is an iffy proposition, but his chances might be better than you first think. If the electorate is looking for an alternative to the status quo, he could just be the “Hey, wait a minute …” candidate.

Start with the eyebrow-raising strategy employed so far by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, the accepted front-runner. Putnam has the most money, name recognition, and he is just flat out folksy and likable when he isn’t trying to be a Donald Trump Mini-Me.

Sadly, Putnam has spent these early weeks of the campaign trying to show that, darn it, he can be just as obnoxious and shrill as the next Republican. He has proudly declared himself to be a National Rifle Association “shill” and stuff like that makes you want to put an arm around his shoulder and go, “Adam, dude … you are better than this.”

Latvala’s task will be to convince enough GOP primary voters that, no, Putnam isn’t better than that. Putnam’s hard-right rear-end smooch up to the almighty Republican base has left a wide stretch of highway open for Latvala’s moderate views to receive a thorough airing. At some point, if enough mud gets slung (and it will), that might sound refreshing.

That’s equally true if House Speaker Richard Corcoran gets into the race. While Corcoran and Putnam would be trying to outdo each other to convince voters that the other guy is horrible, Latvala – a plain-spoken ol’ cuss – could connect with the public by labeling his opponents as just more of the same Tallahassee nonsense.

Latvala certainly wouldn’t be more of the same. In 2014, for instance, he was out front in support of legislation to allow undocumented immigrants to receive cheaper in-state tuition at Florida universities. Nothing could be further from the ideals of the Republican base than that.

He also gets along well with labor unions. He was an outspoken opponent of Corcoran’s successful push to divert millions of public dollars to for-profit charter schools. Latvala also has been a political fixture for years and that’s not always a good thing these days. He does, however, have a reputation for working across the aisle to get things done, and people always like that – or at least say they do.

That could contrast nicely to Corcoran’s performance this year when he ruled the Florida House with a “my way or no way” type of approach.

Fundraising is one of Latvala’s strengths, so if his message resonates and he begins to rise in the polls, cash could start rolling in.

Latvala’s real challenge will be to get enough people to pay attention. Primary turnouts tend to be low and voters often go with the familiar names. But a guy named Rick Scott proved in 2010 when he beat GOP fixture Bill McCollum in the primary that conventional wisdom isn’t always wise.

Scott had the right message at the right time. We’ll know soon enough if that holds true for Latvala. If voters decide they’re ready for more solutions and less dogma, he might just be their guy.

Joe Henderson: We’re heading for a defining showdown in the battle against hatred

Sometimes you just have to get away, and for the last month or so I tried to do just that. I really did. I went to the U.S. Virgin Islands to watch my oldest son get married, and I highly recommend the island of St. John to anyone considering a Caribbean trip.

It’s the place to go if you want to unplug for a while.

To be honest, though, the events of last weekend prove that suspicion, hatred and mistrust doesn’t take a vacation.

Neither does racism, so here we are — still fighting the Civil War, with some Republicans still making excuses for Donald Trump, and with Democrats still unable to turn all of this into a coherent vision of how things would better if they were in charge.

This time it was Charlottesville’s turn to be in the bullseye of the insanity that seems to be boiling toward an eruption that can only deepen the divide that exists in this country. The same level of hatred and violence that was on display there could easily have happened in any major Florida city though.

For instance, the debate is still raging in Tampa over what to do about the Confederate war statue that is being moved from its current location in front of the county courthouse. As Mitch Perry reported for SaintPetersBlog, a new survey by St. Pete Polls showed a majority of Hillsborough County residents support the county commissioners who voted to keep the monument on public property.

Yes, that will be an issue when Ken Hagan, Victor Crist and Sandra Murman run for new commission seats in 2018.

There’s a guy out by the junction of Interstates 4 and 75 in Tampa who for years has flown a humongous Confederate flag, visible to thousands of motorists driving past it every day. I wonder how many people quietly give that display a thumbs-up when while motoring down the road. I’m thinking that number would be a lot higher than many of us want to believe.

It has been encouraging to see many prominent members of President Trump’s party condemn is tepid response to the hate on national display in Charlottesville. On Twitter, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said it was important for the president to describe the events there for what they are — a terror attack by white supremacists.

Gov. Rick Scott noted, “We must be very clear — FL stands against all forms of racism & bigotry. The hatred displayed in VA is despicable & has no place in America.” And House Speaker Richard Corcoran wrote, “We must fight against evil whatever form it takes….”

Good words, all.

It’s going to take more than a few well-expressed tweets to really change attitudes though. Bigotry is a learned behavior, reinforced by decades of ignorance and suspicion, and now it has a toehold with a president who seems oblivious to the damage he is causing. Alt-right supporters have already vowed that Charlottesville was just the first act in the chaos they have planned.

This is heading for a showdown, folks, in the streets and at the ballot box. The outcome will define who we are as a people.

Darryl Paulson: National Public Radio urges revolution

The 2016 presidential election divided America more than ever. Not only was the election relatively close in terms of the popular vote, but the popular vote winner actually ended up losing the electoral college vote and the presidency.

Instead of attempting to unite a badly divided America, as most presidents have attempted to do upon assuming office, Donald Trump continued to denigrate “crooked Hillary” and chastise Democrats for being sore losers. Many Trump critics immediately called for his impeachment on the grounds of Russian interference in the election and their belief that Trump was emotionally and mentally incompetent to be president.

Elections often unsettled the American public, but few have done so like the 2016 election. There was growing concern that the fabric of America was being destroyed and America was literally being pulled apart.

As we approached the 4th of July this year, when we celebrate America’s independence from Great Britain with the approval of the Declaration of Independence, thoughts of rebellion were in the air.

On July 4, National Public Radio (NPR) issued its call for an American revolution. At least, that is what many NPR listeners believed they were doing.

As they had done for many years on July 4, NPR featured the Declaration of Independence. In prior years, the Declaration was read in its entirety. In 2017, for the first time, NPR decided to convey the Declaration through modern social messaging. They posted the entire Declaration in 112 tweets.

The tweets unleashed a storm of protest from disgusted listeners who were shocked to hear taxpayer-funded NPR calling for a revolution. Many listeners thought NPR was trying to mobilize the anti-Trump forces to start a new revolution in order to change the government.

One listener tweeted that it was an “interesting way to condone the violence while trying to sound patriotic.” Another thought that NPR had been hacked and the tweets were part of a leftist assault on the Trump Administration.

Some listeners called for NPR to lose its government funding. One wrote, “this is why you’re going to get defended.” Many called the tweets “trash,” and others attacked the tweets as another example of “fake news.”

Over the next few days, news began to circulate about NPR’s “revolutionary tweets,” and many of those protesting the tweets realized that this was not part of an attempt to overthrow the government.

Just as Orson Welles’ 1938 CBS Radio broadcast of “War of the Worlds” stunned and terrified his radio audience, the NPR 112 tweets of the Declaration of Independence stunned, terrified and angered many of NPR’s listeners July 4, 2017.

Three-quarters of a century had passed since “War of the Worlds” and the subject matter was different, but the results from both broadcasts were similar. People were so close-minded in their own views that they reacted to conflicting news emotionally and not rationally.

When one listener suggested that one of the individuals who had been duped by the tweets should take down her criticism of NPR, she refused. “If my stupidity spurs us to READ our Declaration of Independence then I don’t mind the comments. Worth the embarrassment.”

At least one person learned an important lesson.

I wonder how most Americans would respond tomorrow if they read in The New York Times or heard on FOX News that “a little rebellion now and then is a good thing,” or “the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”

Would the Times and FOX News be flooded with hate mail like NPR, or would people simply say Thomas Jefferson, who drafted the Declaration of Independence, was a wise man?


Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg specializing in Florida politics and elections.

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