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Monday, June 10, 2024

Is Flip going to go clubbing?

With Republicans, cruelty is the point

By Will Collette

Composite by Will Collette.
I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Charlestown’s former state Representative Blake “Flip” Filippi (R) shows up at Blue Shutters Beach for one of the Mystic Aquarium’s frequent releases of rehabilitated seals. 

Except unlike most onlookers, instead of a camera, he'll have a big club to beat the newly healed critters to death before they hit the water.

I’m not joking.

If you follow Flip on Twitter/X, you’ll notice that he’s been campaigning against the growing population of seals in Block Island Sound on the grounds that they will attract great white sharks. 

And before you can say “Jaws,” there goes tourism on Block Island where, not coincidentally, the Filippi family has large business holdings catering to said tourists.

In his own words, here is what Flip has been saying: 

From Flip's Twitter/X feed
Accompanying a photo (👉) of seals gathered on a beach, he wrote: “Lots of Block Island shark bait!”

He wrote another post using the same photo and said: Whoa – this is the most chum I’ve seen on Block Island!”


Accompanying a ProJo article on the growing seal population and Mystic Aquarium’s marine animal rescue program, he really got into his hatred of seals, writing: 

Rhode Island will rue the ongoing explosion of our seal population when Great White Sharks take up residence alongside them. Cull the year-round seal population before it is too late.”

He wrote another post on the same ProJo article:

Gee – let’s see if great whites take up residence off Block Island to follow the growing seal population. How about instead we get rid of the damn seals and not have to find out.”

He also posted a phone photo of what may be a shark fin in the water, saying the photo was taken south of Block Island.

There is a smidgen of truth in Blake’s anti-seal rants. There are now roughly 200-300 seals in the waters between Block Island and Charlestown, and seals are Great Whites’ favorite food, according to scientists.

Experts say that Cape Cod is a more popular venue for Great Whites because there are even more seals there. However, just the mere presence of sharks doesn’t lead, ipso facto, to attacks on humans.

While shark attacks on humans DO occur – and get big headlines – they occur far less often than you might think.

Last year, there were 36 shark attacks in all US waters. Worldwide, 69 unprovoked bites were reported plus another 22 listed as “provoked.”

Patch cited the Atlantic Shark Institute in Wakefield saying there have been two confirmed shark fatalities in Rhode Island waters in the last 200 years. That's once a century.

In an article listing all documented shark attacks, fatal or not, in New England waters between 1751 and 2019, six are listed for Rhode Island and of those, two were fatal.

The first recorded fatality was a young boy killed in Bristol Harbor in 1816. The second occurred at Watch Hill in 1895.

The last incident listed was a possible attack on a surfer while returning to Moonstone Beach in 2019. He reported his leg was bloody from punctures but could not identify what caused those lacerations.

It was NOT a Great White Shark. The Institute has tagged 30 Great Whites in Rhode Island waters but no shark fatalities by ANY species of shark in 129 years.

And that’s it. When I said Flip had a smidgen of truth in his rants, maybe I was being too generous since there is no scientific or historical evidence to support his fears of a Sharknado outbreak in Rhode Island. And no reason to start killing seals en masse unless Flip thinks that would be a tourist draw.

But perhaps Blake has another reason for ranting about killing seals: maybe Filippi, like his former MAGA-nut colleague Justin Price, is planning a political comeback.

One necessary step for any 2024 Republican politician is to show how in-sync their thinking is with the GOP’s Supreme Leader, convicted felon Donald Trump.

It turns out Trump is also obsessed with sharks. Yesterday, June 19, at a campaign event in Nevada, Trump went on a tear where he linked his hatred of sharks with his equally fierce hatred of electric vehicles.

He conjured the image of being in a sinking, electric-powered boat. In his own words describing his "dialogue" with a guy he was watching on TV:

"I say, what would happen if the boat sank from its weight, and you're in the boat, and you have this tremendously powerful battery, and the battery is now underwater. And there's a shark that's approximately 10 yards over there…

"By the way, lot of shark attacks lately, I watched some guys justifying it today. 'Well, they weren't really that angry. They bit off the young lady's leg because of the fact that they were, they were not hungry, but they misunderstood who she was. He said 'there's no problem with sharks, they just didn't really understand a young woman's swimming. She really got decimated and other people too, a lot of shark attacks.

So I said [To the guy he was watching on television], there's a shark 10 yards away from the boat, do I get electrocuted? If the boat is sinking, water goes over the battery, the boat is sinking, do I stay on top of the boat and get electrocuted? Or do I jump over by the shark and not get electrocuted?

"Because I will tell you he didn't know the answer. He said, 'you know, nobody's ever asked me that question.' I said I think it's a good question. I think there's a lot of electric current coming to that water. But you know what I'd do? If there was a shark or you get electrocuted, I'll take electrocution every single time. I'm not getting near the shark."

Got all that?

In today’s Republican Party, cruelty seems to be the point. After all, Trump has great plans for even crueler policies toward immigrants than we saw in his first term when thousands of children were taken from their parents. Trump had no plan to reunite those children with those parents, and at the end of his term, almost a thousand were unaccounted for.

That just one of many Trump acts of cruelty with many more to come when he becomes “Dictator for a Day” and goes after his many enemies.

The apple doesn’t fall from the tree: lest we forget, his boys Donald Jr. and Eric posed [👈] gleefully with endangered animals they killed on safari

That’s par for the course, given Donald Sr.’s well-documented dislike of animals, dogs in particular.

To build their MAGA cred, ambitious MAGAnuts burnish their hard right credentials through acts of cruelty.

South Dakota Governor and Trump VP wannabe Kristin Noem thought that writing about shooting her puppy Cricket in the head, killing a goat that annoyed her and calling it “life on the farm” would be good for her career. She claimed she hated both animals.

On policy matters, GOP governors work hard to show how cruel they can be to those groups that their Orange Master dislikes. 

For example, there’s Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ new law banning mandatory water and heat breaks for outdoor workers. Maybe Florida agri-business sees dead farmworkers as good fertilizer for their crops.

Then there’s Texas Governor Greg Abbott who installs hundreds of miles of razor wire on the border ignoring court orders to stop. He has ordered the kidnap of other migrants who are put on buses and sent to northern cities.

Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee took credit for revoking laws prohibiting child labor in her state.

Of course, this is only a tiny part of the list of cruelties that includes attacks on reproductive rights, women, workers, veterans, Medicare and Social Security, domestic aid programs, help for Ukraine’s fight against Russian aggression, vaccinations, books, the environment, civil rights, education, the Constitution and democracy itself.

Let’s not forget the 1.1 million-plus Americans who died due to COVID and how Republicans are trying to provoke some lone wolf assassin to kill the pandemic’s most prominent hero, Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Yes, cruelty is the point and that’s why I have a strong hunch we’re going to see Flip Filippi on the ballot this November.