So, it looks like Roswell is going to tackle the problem of “fake news.”
After one resident objected to a flyer in his driveway that espoused widely discredited information about COVID-19, Mayor Lori Henry jumped on the bandwagon to rid Roswell of disinformation.
At the June 1 open forum session at City Hall, Henry said fake news is everywhere. She, herself, has been a target.
“Frankly, I’m getting tired of it in our local newspapers,” she said.
Warned by the acting city attorney that legislating free-speech parameters is a shaky business, the mayor backed off a bit later, saying she wouldn’t think of infringing on the First Amendment.
The gentleman lodging the complaint about the flyer had reason to be upset. Much of the “information” in that faux news pamphlet bordered on dangerous. There was nothing to show who wrote the articles, where it was published, and who paid for its printing and distribution.
But, even if the tabloid had attributed the information to, say, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Bermuda, would that have made it any less a lie? No.
The dreary truth is fake news is here to stay. Shake the trees a little, and you can find a politician, a doctor, a professor to say about anything. Disinformation is serious because it can and has damaged lives. Best bet is to educate yourself on which sources to trust — not necessarily those that sync with your political leanings. Those can sometimes be the worst.
Sorry, but that’s about it.
Oh, and let’s choose our champions for truth-telling carefully.
Speaking at the forum, Roswell resident Mitchell Head said it frightens him to see a discussion over what a person can say, write or believe brought up before the City Council.
“My concern is that people in this environment would even entertain having some group of people who would be making decisions for all of us over what is deemed appropriate to print,” Head warned the council.
On the other hand, if you want Mayor Henry leading your fight for truth, go ahead. Never mind that she has presided over a transportation department that now has residents screaming for community oversight. Ignore that she remained silent about an open records lawsuit that cost taxpayers more than 22 grand in damages and legal expenses when the city settled.
Though she insists the city will never infringe on the First Amendment, the mayor told residents she is on the case.
No telling what she has in mind, but I do know this.
Sixteen weeks after Mayor Henry announced she was “deeply troubled” by a $2.5 million settlement the city had to pay because of delays in the Oxbo Road realignment project, she has yet to formally report on the investigation she launched. The city says it has not received the report.
Right in front of God and everybody at the open forum, Councilman Marcelo Zapata asked the mayor for an update on the investigation and for a running total of expenses the city has incurred stemming from the probe.
“I’m hoping I’ll have that update soon,” Henry responded.
Limiting disinformation is easy. Say nothing.
Providing truth requires something more.