Letter: Before hitting send, verify viral content

From: Bryan Brown

Beverly Hills, California

Viral emails and internet content providers spewing questionable facts and unfounded opinions have featured prominently in public political discourse since well before the 2016 election. I receive viral content regularly from friends and family in and around my beloved hometown of Columbus. This content is overwhelmingly misguided. These emails are not credible sources of information. Alternative facts are not facts.

Veracity is important. Our first responders are willing to make sacrifices on our behalf because they respect the truth. Understanding how to use the internet is important. If an issue interests those of you who are attracted to viral internet content, reach out for direction. Those of us who value factual legitimacy will gladly engage in a rational mutual review of the matter. You will learn rapidly how to verify content that catches your eye.

We agree that voters were offered a deeply flawed slate of presidential candidates in 2016. You have a right to your opinion, but collectively we bear substantial responsibility for the negative impact of propaganda created to generate advertising revenue and distribute malware via the internet. Adopt a more critical attitude toward news. Seek out trustworthy media resources. Watch more than one news channel on TV. If something sounds fishy, find a moment to research it.

Specifically with respect to Hillary Clinton’s unfortunate “deplorables” comment: Be aware that it was meant for the alt-right people who inhale racism and exhale neo-fascist hyperbole. These people are dangerous and deserve marginalization. They include deeply disturbed organizations and individuals who salute our president the way brown-shirted radicals saluted Adolf Hitler during the 1930s. Consider such behavior carefully before donning the “deplorables” mantle yourself. It is not a joke, and you are not elevated by self-inclusion.

This country values diversity and guarantees religious freedom. It also protects free speech, even inaccurate or misleading free speech. Project your values and opinions in a constructive, truthful manner. When you receive questionable content, assume that the subject matter applies to your own children. If the content disrespects your children, it disrespects all children. Negative viral content lives forever in the cloud. Retractions have little value there. Once done, the damage lives forever.

I am deeply disturbed that conscience forces me to call people out here, and I am embarrassed that I even know Donald Trump voters. However, this letter is about truth, not politics. Understand that the act of forwarding is an endorsement. If you value truth, verify viral content and emails before forwarding them. If something is either unverifiable or demonstrably false, do not forward it. If it is of questionable taste, do not forward it. If it denigrates individuals because their opinions or practices differ from yours, do not forward it. Kindly let me know when you have had enough of Trump’s narcissistic nonsense. It will make reconciliation easier. Voters who enabled Trump are responsible for him.