Fascist tactics: Rick Scott tells socialists and communists they’re not welcome in Florida
Sen. Rick Scott welcomes you to Florida...unless you're a socialist or communist.

GOP Sen. Rick Scott wants the world to know that socialists, communists, and anyone who loves “big government” are not welcome in the state of Florida. In a short 30-second video posted on the Twitter social media platform this week, the Sunshine State senator issued a somewhat awkward travel advisory to those belonging to any of the aforementioned groups. He told them to “think twice” before vacationing or moving to Florida.

Interestingly enough, Scott’s speech said nothing regarding Nazis or members of the Ku Klux Klan, both of whom have been making increasingly vocal public appearances in the state. And therein lies the larger issue of Scott’s social media stunt. He is among those on the far-right with political power who are growing braver by the day in expressing fascist-colored rhetoric that aims to vilify anyone or any group not in agreement with their politics.

Scott states in his video, “We’re the free state of Florida.” Yet, who exactly is the “we” he is referring to?

The senator’s message follows a series of recent travel advisories issued by a variety of organizations, including the NAACP and the Human Rights Campaign—the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group—that declared a state of emergency for Black Americans, immigrants, and LGBTQ individuals in Florida.

These warnings came on the heels of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ increasingly extremist legislative campaigns against those belonging to marginalized communities. Such actions by the governor have included the blocking of an AP African-American studies course, support of anti-trans laws, his so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill aimed at keeping the very mention of LGBTQ existence out of classrooms, aggressive rhetoric concerning undocumented immigrants, and the expansion of book bans targeted at so-called “woke” literature.

Florida has also become a hostile state for women seeking the right to proper health care. Since 2022, the state banned all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy without exceptions for incest and victims of rape. This past April, DeSantis went behind closed doors and signed an even more restrictive six-week abortion ban into law, continuing to dwindle the rights of women to control their own bodies and to access comprehensive reproductive health services.

Then there is the situation of Black voters—or anyone who does not identify as Republican in the state—having their right to cast a ballot threatened. DeSantis and his GOP legislators have fought hard to gerrymander Florida, diluting the Black voting bloc in an effort to gain more seats, and thus more power, for the Republican Party.

Scott asserted that “We like freedom, liberty, capitalism, things like that,” but it appears that he and his Florida GOP cohorts only like freedom and liberty when they don’t extend to Black people, women, non-Republicans, immigrants, members of the LGBTQ community, or anyone else that doesn’t adhere to conservative right ideology.

This is the second anti-communist “travel advisory” the former governor has issued in a number of months. Back in May of this year, Scott released a written statement asserting that Florida “is openly hostile toward Socialists, Communists, and those that enable them.” He warned: “Before traveling to Florida, please understand that the state of Florida devalues and marginalizes the contributions of and the challenges faced by Socialists and others who work in the Biden Administration.”

This particular red-baiting line in Scott’s statement openly and arrogantly mocks the NAACP’s advisory that replaced their words of “African Americans, people of color, and LGBTQ+ individuals” with “socialists” and “communists.”

One could argue that this is Scott’s way of trying to say that socialists and communists are the “real” enemy and that the NAACP’s assertion that it’s anyone else is a ridiculous claim. Yet, history has shown that those on the far right make no real distinction between any of these groups, believing they all pose a threat to their conservative way of life and rule.

It is strategic fearmongering and scapegoating. Just the day before Scott’s video was posted, former President Donald Trump—in an attempt to deflect attention from his criminal indictment—gave a hostile speech employing anti-communist and anti-Semitic red-baiting rhetoric against his opponents and those investigating his alleged crimes.

Anti-communism and rhetoric against socialism is not new to American politics. The Red Scare that was engineered after the Russian Revolution of 1917 saw a number of organizations and individuals targeted for their political beliefs. Allegations of disloyalty and subversion were made; it mattered not whether they were true. The political witch-hunt resulted in individuals being blacklisted, pushed out of their communities and professions, intimidated, and placed under surveillance, in order to create an atmosphere of terror. Immigrants deemed to be “radical” were rounded up and deported.

The whole affair was a means of vilifying those in progressive movements as somehow being “un-American” when they spoke up against systemic injustices or advocated for issues like workers’ rights. It’s no coincidence that the first Red Scare was launched just as industries like steel were seeing major union organizing drives and at a time when workers were going out on strike in numbers never seen before.

Scott, Trump, DeSantis, and others like them would be in good company with former U.S. Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy, the opportunist who gave his name to the second Red Scare in the 1950s. His investigations saw hundreds of individuals both in and out of government accused of disloyalty to America. His badgering tactics and fact-less accusations took on the name “McCarthyism.”

The rhetoric of the far right makes it clear that they would be all for bringing back the now-defunct House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), formed in 1938, that tasked itself with the job of getting rid of so-called subversion in the United States.

They may even support a revitalization of the Subversive Activities Control Act of 1950, an unconstitutional law that required all “subversives” in the country to submit to government supervision.

All in the name of freedom, of course.

Sen. Rick Scott’s previous ‘travel advisory.’ | via Twitter

Just as in the past, in today’s political arena, right-wing politicians throw the words socialist and communist at any policy or demand they deem as clashing with their world view. This is often used as a way to pit working people against policies that are in their best interests. Things like government assistance, affordable housing, taxing the rich, and unionization are deemed communist plots to destroy capitalism.

One could get bogged down with what is actually communism and socialism, but that would only empower the distraction tactics that those like Scott wish to employ. When it comes to real things that working people need and have a right to—such as proper health coverage; protected voting rights; freedom from discrimination based on race, gender, and sexual orientation; and workplace protection—Florida has clearly not stood on the side of the American people, who are, in their majority, working class.

Scott’s video should not be seen as only a bad attempt to go viral on social media. When those in power use words to fuel hostility and possibly violence against those who disagree with them, it is a fascist tactic.

One commonly-used definition of fascism is behavior that is “extremely authoritarian, intolerant, and has oppressive ideas” at its core. A well-known analyst in the 1930s, Georgi Dimitrov, went further, saying that when fascists gain power, they oversee the “organization of terrorist vengeance against the working class.” Creeping fascism may be easy to ignore when you’re not among the currently-targeted groups, but history has shown us that far-right extremists never stop at just one set of people.

As the famous 1946 poem by Pastor Martin Niemöller expressed when speaking of the rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party in Germany:

First, they came for the Communists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the Socialists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me

And there was no one left

To speak out for me.

An updated version of this poem for today’s United States might include LGBTQ, Black people, immigrants, and all those who have found themselves on the receiving end of the far-right’s recent hate mongering.

Speaking out is essential, not just for those groups, but for all of us.

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Chauncey K. Robinson
Chauncey K. Robinson

Chauncey K. Robinson is an award winning journalist and film critic. Born and raised in Newark, New Jersey, she has a strong love for storytelling and history. She believes narrative greatly influences the way we see the world, which is why she's all about dissecting and analyzing stories and culture to help inform and empower the people.