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Two red states stifle dissent: China and Dan Sullivan’s Arkansas

SEN. DAN SULLIVAN: In demanding “red state” obedience of state contractors he sounds a lot like leaders of another “red state” — China.

A striking pairing of articles on 1B in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette today:


Deserving of Page 1A was Rachel Herzog’s account of an effort led by Sen. Dan Sullivan to prevent the award of two contracts proposed by Arkansas PBS to develop education programs for elementary children. Another reactionary Republican, Sen.Alan Clark, joined in the assault.

Problem: The personal political views of one of the producers, a veteran of educational programming. Jesse McMahon apparently has spoken favorably about President Biden’s infrastructure legislation and talked of climate change. “Radical” stuff to Sullivan, a leader of the emerging single-branch-of-government theory in which the reactionary Republican legislature should guide not only lawmaking but executive and judicial actions.


This is scary stuff, except to people like Sullivan and Clark, who want to squelch even utterance of opinions divergent from their own.

In an interview on Dec. 20, Sullivan said he believes the views of people to whom the state awards contracts should be “reflective of the views of the state of Arkansas,” which is a red state.

We are, of course, not ALL red. Could we get some counter-programming in Pulaski County, for example? Or could we get some gun control and abortion programming and support for non-partisan legislative redistricting since polls consistently show popular support for gun safety, abortion rights and non-partisan redistricting in Arkansas?


Sullivan says Big Bird has gone liberal so he’s just suspicious about having PBS vets work on such.

He was assured by the Arkansas PBS flak, Marty Ryall (a former director of the Arkansas Republican Party), that the network would closely monitor the work product. Count on it. The network has accommodated conservatives in ways large and small in the Republican era.

Not good enough for Sullivan apparently.

“What restrictions are there on making sure, when she produces this curriculum, that it is in the best interest of Arkansas students, and what prevents her from presenting things that may be divisive, diverse, equitable, inclusive?” Sullivan asked.

God forbid that education presents controversial topics or diversity of people and opinions in Arkansas. Inclusivity is allowed to protect Sullivan’s ethos. Equal treatment means stamping out any opposing viewpoints, because, of course, they are all wrong.


This is only a reflection of the last legislative session and we will be seeing lots more of the same.

But I mentioned a pairing of articles.

The other was the paper’s follow-up to reporting on Chinese sanctions against four Americans, including James Carr of Searcy, a vice president of Harding University. The members of a U.S. Commission on Religious Freedom are barred from visiting China as retaliation for penalties against Chinese officials for human rights abuses, particularly against Muslim minorities.

The U.S. sanctions against China were proper, of course. Carr, who’s visited China twice in 15 years, told the Democrat-Gazette he considered the Chinese action “kind of a badge of honor.” He said it underscored the commission’s work reporting on abuses.

In China, people are sent to detention camps for wearing beards, refusing alcohol and other behaviors deemed “religious extremism.”

Dan Sullivan undoubtedly would deplore the sanctioning of James Carr and the totalitarian bent of the Chinese in punishing extremist behavior.

He at least hasn’t yet called for putting Big Bird believers in a detention camp for viewing Biden’s infrastructure bill favorably. But really. Shouldn’t the red state of China be allowed to govern in a way reflective of the views of the state? Isn’t that what Dan Sullivan believes?

The Arkansas Times has already gone down this road, being sanctioned by the state of Arkansas for refusing to adopt the philosophy of the controlling faction of the Arkansas legislature. (You must swear an oath to behave properly toward Israel or suffer business consequences.)

PS: Here’s Jesse McMahon’s Twitter account.

She mostly retweets others. Climate change and efforts to address it do seem to be a passion. Example:

Interested in saving the planet? You dare not apply for work at Arkansas PBS as long as Dan Sulivan and Alan Clark review the contracts. And whatever you do, cleanse your social media of endorsements of face coverings and COVID vaccinations.