Lies, damn lies…and Facebook

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A brief time existed when those who thought the Internet could be “the information superhighway.”

Wrong.  The Internet and the social media that it spawned is, if anything, the misinformation cow path.

Case in point:  The recently completed GOP Canvass (i.e. primary) in Floyd County where less than one-third of those eligible to vote actually cast ballots to choose Brian Craig as new County Sheriff and confirm interim prosecutor Eric Branscom as Commonwealth’s Attorney.

Floyd County, as last count, had 9,873 registered voters.  The county, as we know, is primarily Republican as proven by an all-GOP Board of Supervisors and 100 percent domination in elected county officers.

Yet just 2,600 showed up at the ballot box for the primary even though any and all registered voters can, and should, vote.

Such turnouts are normal in elections locally and around the nation.  It is ironic that a Democratic Republic form of government based on the notion of majority rule is, in fact, elected by an overwhelming minority of voters.

During my time in the dark side of political operations, I knew that — at most — I only needed to get only about 20 percent of the voters to actually cast ballots for my candidates.

Some say the political process is a morass where voters really don’t have any say in who wins and election or serves the general public.

In Floyd County this time around, several who emailed or called complained that the sheriff’s and commonwealth’s attorney races were nasty and not worthy of attention.

If so, much of the blame goes to social media in general and Facebook in particular.  Facebook, in too many ways, is a sewer of misinformation, bias and hate.

Comments like “I do know this town has some very major injustices inflicted on its citizens as well as favors given to the most undeserving” littered the news feeds of Facebook like weeds.

One poster claimed sheriff’s candidate Doug Weddle wanted a SWAT team called out because a resident appeared at the door with a gun and told him he was trespassing.  In reality, that wasn’t even close to what happened.

Posters passed on unsubstantiated gossip as “facts” about each and all of the candidates running in this election.

Said one poster: “What I’m saying is this town has a very visible clique. The self-proclaimed important people insist on setting the rules and having the only opinions that counts. They operate in a group/pack that supports other members of that pack and all others are the enemy or insignificant. Now this pack (extremely self centered and negative group) and when they bully or intimidate it is viewed as purposeful positive feedback by other pack members and supported by the pack . If a non pack members voices an opinion they are harshly dealt with…”

A lot of talk claimed “intimidation” runs rampant in Floyd County and some expressed fear of retaliation or punishment.

A dismissal of a part-time deputy sheriff was turned into a fountain of misinformation by those who wanted it to be a campaign issue but became more of a battle cry over the rampant dissemination of incorrect conclusions by those who did not know all of the facts of what is, and should have been, a private personnel matter.

Far too much of this kind of talk overshadowed what could have been intelligent and rational discussion of the real issues that face the county and the thoughts and plans of those who sought the elected jobs to deal with those issues.

One poster even claimed I viewed the county “though rose-colored glasses.”  That was a first. I’ve been accused of a lot of things over the years but taking a rose-colored view of anything was not one of them.

Facebook is, sadly, a place where racists, haters, homophobes and political extremists too often overshadow those who legitimately want to socially interact with others.

Facebook is at its best when people pass along information about relatives or friends fighting illness, succeeding in school or at work or winning awards.  Some groups help others find needed assistance or point them to those who can fix a roof, repair plumbing or get a car running.

But passing on useful information is too often buried in the sludge of bias, political agendas and outright lies.

Benjamin Franklin lived long before the World Wide Web or Facebook but he said: “Believe none of what you hear, and only half of what you see.

Great advice from one of our Founding Fathers.

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