The term “disinformation” is used frequently in modern political parlance. Often, it simply refers to rhetoric that politicians and media figures find contemptible, even if it isn’t entirely untrue. But House Bill (HB) 999, which was recently introduced by Republican Rep. Alex Andrade in Florida’s state legislature and is supported by Governor DeSantis, has been the subject of a sweeping disinformation campaign from its detractors.
Many politically involved students at Florida State viewed a graphic circulating on social media, which argues that HB 999 would prohibit the existence of traditionally minority fraternities and sororities on campus, as well as eliminate majors like Jewish studies.
A Snopes fact check, though charitable to the post’s author while evaluating the veracity of its claims, admitted that the bill does not bar these student organizations from operating. In fact, in response to questions from Democrats on the issue, Rep. Andrade specifically noted that nothing in the legislation would impact these organizations.
As far as the Jewish studies major is concerned, this is unaddressed by HB 999, though it would indeed eliminate various courses centered around Marxist-inspired critical theory. These include “Critical Race Theory, Critical Race Studies, Critical Ethnic Studies, Radical Feminist Theory, Radical Gender Theory, Queer Theory, Critical Social Justice, or Intersectionality,” according to the bill.
The remaining content of the post is generally accurate – though misleading in its implications. For example, the graphic correctly points out that tenured university faculty will be eligible for review by their institution’s board of trustees, which is appointed by the governor.
However, post-tenure reviews already take place every five years under Florida law. Though the bill would allow these evaluations to take place “any time, anywhere,” the widely circulated graphic spins the provision as an entirely new development.
Floridians should evaluate the content of HB 999 and decide for themselves whether they want this legislation to go into effect. But unfortunately, many influencers are using unsuspecting college students to amplify falsehoods in an attempt to defeat the bill. For the orchestrators of these social media campaigns, the ends justify the means.
Relying on untruths to portray DeSantis-backed legislation as “fascistic” is a pattern for many of the governor’s prominent opponents. For example, the Parental Rights in Education Act – colloquially referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill – was widely misrepresented by leading Democrats and media figures.
When the actual provisions of the legislation were read to parents of school-age children, 67 percent of them expressed support for the law, according to a Public Opinion Strategies poll. Even the majority of Florida’s Democratic voters said they backed the bill after they were read it, according to the same survey.
Are the governor’s detractors once again distorting a bill’s content in order to exacerbate political division? Clearly, this is the case. Though polls haven’t yet gauged public support for HB 999, the legislation may prove to be quite popular if it’s honestly represented.
Sadly, this may be too much to ask of those more concerned about political posturing than the truth.