Florida Man isn’t any crazier than the rest of us. Florida just has really good open records laws

September 12, 2023
1 min read
alligator, cartoon, crocodile

In the social media age, “Florida Man” has become something of a cultural punchline. You’ve likely seen the headlines: “Florida Man Arrested for Throwing Alligator Through Drive-Thru Window,” “Florida Man Steals Neighbor’s Peacock,” and so forth. But before we label an entire state as the “crazy capital” of the country, it’s worth considering that Florida Man’s notoriety may actually stem from something quite sane: Florida’s transparent public records laws.

The Genesis of Florida Man

The phenomenon known as Florida Man really took off about 10 years ago in 2013, when the Twitter account @_FloridaMan started tweeting real-life headlines about odd and often amusing incidents in the Sunshine State. The account quickly gained a following, adding fuel to the notion that Florida was a haven for bizarre behavior.

Public Records Laws on the Spotlight

The secret sauce behind these head-turning stories? Florida’s Sunshine Law. Instituted in 1967, the law makes all government records, including arrest records, accessible to the public. Unlike in other states, journalists in Florida have an easier time obtaining information about arrests, incidents, and local happenings. This wealth of readily available material naturally leads to more eye-catching stories, painting the Florida Man in a certain colorful light.

The Drawback of Transparency

While the law aims for a transparent government, it has the side effect of making ordinary Floridians look somewhat peculiar when their misadventures make headlines. The ease of obtaining records turns everyday mistakes and oddities into news stories, perpetuating the myth of the “crazy” Florida Man.

Nationwide Phenomena, Local Flavor

It’s important to remember that bizarre stories happen everywhere; it’s just that Florida’s public records laws make it easier to uncover them. If other states had similar laws, who knows? We might be reading about “Georgia Man” or “New York Man” instead.

Reality Check

In a world where news fatigue is real, the Florida Man stories offer comic relief. But it’s crucial to remember that they’re not necessarily indicative of a state gone wild; rather, they’re a testament to a government system that values transparency. So, the next time you share a laugh about a wacky Florida Man headline, consider giving credit where it’s due: to Florida’s remarkably open public records laws.

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