Gov. Ron DeSantis joined the ranks of many American leaders Tuesday, voicing support for Chinese citizens who have taken to the streets challenging their repressive, communist government.
Moments later, he recommended an exercise of U.S. government power against an American company, saying the U.S. government should consider punishing technology giant Apple if it removes the social media platform Twitter from its App Store.
DeSantis began an infrastructure event by focusing on China.
Major demonstrations have taken place across China in response to the government’s “zero-COVID” strategy that attempted to stomp out spread of the virus through extreme measures including detentions and forcing people to remain in their homes in response to even small outbreaks.
“This zero-COVID policy is Draconian. It violates people’s liberties and it is completely unscientific and the people of China are right to be able to speak out and protest against what the Chinese Communist Party is doing. This CCP has a maniacal desire to exert total control over its population,” DeSantis said in Jacksonville, Florida. “Zero-COVID is really just the pretext for them to do what they want to do anyways, and that is not a model that can work over the long term.
“The people in China are finally speaking out against it, and I just think we need these Draconian COVID policies to go to the ash heap of history where they belong.”
He then turned his focus to Apple.
DeSantis said the company is “obviously providing aid and comfort” to the communist Chinese government by reportedly preventing demonstrators from using the Airdrop feature of iPhones that allows people to transfer information to nearby iPhone users.
DeSantis, like many conservatives, has become a big fan of Twitter since it was bought by Elon Musk, the mercurial multibillionaire who has been reshaping his acquisition.
The governor praised one of Musk’s plans, to reinstate many accounts that had been suspended under Twitter’s previous leadership. Accounts had been suspended for many reasons, including for spreading hate speech, targeting individuals and spreading COVID misinformation.
DeSantis said Musk’s plans for reinstating suspended accounts are a move toward free speech. Musk’s critics have cited an increase in hate speech on the platform since he’s taken over, and fear the reinstatement of suspended accounts could make the problem worse and increase the spread of disinformation. In addition, many corporate advertisers have left Twitter, not wanting to be associated with a problematic messaging environment.
In the midst of the turmoil, Musk said Monday that Apple is considering removing Twitter from its App Store, which would prevent new downloads of the app that easily allows phone users to read and post to the platform.
“You also hear reports that Apple is threatening to remove Twitter from the App store because Elon Musk is actually opening it up for free speech and is restoring a lot of accounts that were unfairly and illegitimately suspended for putting out accurate information about COVID. That’s like one of the main things that’s being reinstated,” DeSantis said at a news conference in Jacksonville.
“He’s providing free speech and so if Apple responds to that by nuking them from the App Store, you know, I think that that would be a huge, huge mistake and it would be a really raw exercise of monopolistic power that I think would merit a response from the United States Congress,” DeSantis said. “And so don’t be a vassal of the CCP on one hand and then use your corporate power in the United States on the other to suffocate Americans and try to suppress their right to express themselves. And so I’m glad things are changing at Twitter.”
Musk has also said he’d support DeSantis for president in 2024 if the governor seeks the Republican presidential nomination.
Unlike previous generations of conservatives and Republicans, who generally supported the interests of business and didn’t want government interfering in private businesses’ decisions, DeSantis and other current-day conservatives have railed against excessive corporate power and are more willing than their predecessors to use government authority to influence companies’ behavior.
Apple’s media relations department didn’t immediately respond to an emailed request for comment about DeSantis’ statements.
DeSantis made his comments Tuesday in Jacksonville, where he announced state government infrastructure spending — and where a plane flew a Confederate flag over the stadium before Sunday’s Jacksonville Jaguars game.
A group calling itself Save Southern Heritage took credit.
DeSantis was asked about whether he is concerned about the repercussions of hate speech and the Confederate flag.
“You know, what I’m concerned about? I’m concerned about people in the media trying to manufacture division all the time,” he said. “I’m concerned when people in the media take some jabroni that nobody cares about and will try to elevate them and make them some type of celebrity. … I think it’s totally wrong to try to tar an entire city or an entire region as somehow they’re engaged in hate.”
A jabroni, according to Dictionary.com, is “a stupid, foolish, or contemptible person.” Among the many UrbanDictionary.com definitions of jabroni is “someone with no redeeming qualities.”
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