As we look forward and move beyond the midterm elections in a country that has become increasingly dark and conspiratorial, where truth is as malleable as Silly Putty and where some people gloat over others’ tragedies, we should discuss our Opinion pages.
With political anger rampant in our country, not to mention the daily torrent of misinformation, we’d like to reinforce that our pages are not meant to showcase any of that. We of course welcome letters and guest columns on larger issues, but our focus has always been on our towns and villages and the issues that impact residents.
Some recent letters and guest columns produced a counterresponse and that counterresponse produced another set of responses. And on and on it went. Many letters we simply didn’t use because the rhetoric was too harsh. It’s safe to say most of us are weary of the ugly rhetoric; it certainly doesn’t belong on our pages.
Some of the questionable letters and columns have stated opinions based on demonstrably false statements. A simple rule going forward will be: You can have an opinion, but you must have one based on the truth.
Saying the 2020 presidential election was rigged or Capitol police were happily taking selfies with the Trump-inspired rioters on Jan. 6, 2021 as the building was ravaged, are false. The election was fair in all 50 states. As for the officers, they were beaten and sprayed with pepper and bear spray. You can have that opinion, but because it is not true it doesn’t belong in a newspaper. You are not helping our democracy spewing such lies.
To cite another example, saying, as some letter writers have, that climate change is a fantasy made up by the left-wing media is just nuts. We know many Americans no longer believe in science, but that one does not bode well for what the East End will be facing in the coming years.
For much of the last seven years, pundits and commentators have described America as being in a “post-truth” condition. That is not a compliment to a representative democracy. Democracies run best when leaders tell the truth and fully accept the results of free and fair elections.
Add to this the acute malice of some of our politicians, TV talkers and social media influencers. A wing of the MAGA party spread lies and false gossip about the brutal attack on the 82-year-old husband of the Speaker of the House. They literally made it up just to inflict emotional pain. They got a real thrill out of it. On Monday night at a rally in Ohio, the former president called Nancy Pelosi an “animal.” This is America in 2022.
Going forward, we are going to be particularly careful about what we print on the Opinion pages. We should always have been, of course. But in the interest of printing opinions representing both sides, when one side writes more often, we perhaps let down our guard in a few instances.
Going forward, meanness, name-calling, espousing absurd conspiracy theories and opinions not based on knowable fact, will be rejected.
One clear proof that conspiracy theorists are having an impact in the country is the sharp rise in antisemitism, often coming from high-profile figures. History tell us antisemitic conspiracy theories are like the canary in the coal mine — a clear warning that something truly awful is happening and can become far, far worse. The cat has been let out of the bag.
Feel free to write letters and well-written guest columns. But stick to the truth.