Too often, misinformation and anger take center stage in discussions about local issues. Don’t get me wrong. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, and sometimes anger is justified. But when negative and uncivil voices dominate a debate, they can present a distorted view of our community and make it harder for all of us to achieve shared goals.
Some of the public comments at our March City Council meeting offer a case in point. Prompted by falsehoods posted on various websites, several residents offered the bizarre claim that New Rochelle’s sustainability plan was part of an international conspiracy to curtail our liberties and subvert the U.S. Constitution. One speaker even suggested that adoption of the plan would lead to the creation of death camps!
Normally this kind of wild talk could be shrugged off, but in the age of the Internet, even the most outlandish statements can achieve widespread distribution and the veneer of credibility. And when such notions fill an informational vacuum and go unchallenged, they shape public opinion and eventually impact the decision-making of government.
So what can we do?
Last week I established a “Share the News” team and have started asking New Rochelle residents to sign up.
Here’s how it works. If you join, you will receive periodic emails from me (probably about two a month) asking you to publicize specific news items from this website. Each request will include easy-to-use buttons allowing you to distribute the news via email or through whatever social networks you belong to, such as Facebook and Twitter. Of course, you’ll always be able to choose which news items to forward — it will never be automatic, and I won’t have access to your contact list.
To join, click here and then follow the simple prompts.
The idea is not to correct every false claim, but rather to make sure that relevant and constructive information finds its way to a broader audience. By sharing news with your friends and contacts, you can help provide balance to our civic debates, while better engaging neighbors in the challenges and opportunities confronting New Rochelle.
Together, instead of bemoaning the negativity of modern politics or standing silently at the sidelines, let’s take action and elevate the conversation.