My turn, Sarah Richardson: On social media, Ford ignores facts, spreads false information
By Sarah Richardson
In life, the two things we should expect from one another are honesty and integrity. For public figures, especially, we must go beyond expecting honesty and integrity and demand it.
Social media has made it easier than ever for politicians and constituents to connect, but what expectation do we have for politicians to post the truth? And, when they post something that turns out to be a lie, do we expect them to apologize and correct the error or silence those with the facts? In that moment, we learn everything we need to know about the honesty and integrity of our elected officials.
Last Thursday, NC Sen. Carl Ford, a Republican who represents the 33rd District, posted a chart on his official Facebook page claiming that there are 1.6 million abortions performed nationally each year. Considering abortions are at an all-time low since the passage of Roe v. Wade, this number seemed too high.
Quickly, I opened the Centers for Disease Control website — which reported 638,169 abortions in 2015, the most recent year with compiled data. I wrote a comment outlining the correct statistics, linked the CDC report, and had a brief exchange with others who were relieved someone posted accurate numbers.
What happened next told me everything I needed to know about Ford. My comments were deleted and I was blocked from posting anything else.
Ford had two options — he could apologize and correct the error or silence those with the facts. He chose the latter.
At last count, Ford had blocked at least four people who posted statistics from the CDC that contradicted his post.
In January, the U.S. 4th Circuit of Appeals upheld a lower court decision in Davison v. Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. The court determined the official Facebook pages of elected representatives were the equivalent of a public forum and open to everyone. When Ford blocks those he disagrees with, according to the law, he is violating their First Amendment right to free speech.
In this case, whether one identifies as pro-life or pro-choice doesn’t matter. What matters is Ford violated the constitutional rights of at least four people and broke the law so he could spread a lie. What matters is he was unwilling to admit he was wrong. What matters is he was willing to break the law to cover it up.
Since last Thursday evening, over 10,500 people have shared Ford’s post. For the tens of thousands of people who see that post and don’t take the time to check other sources, their knowledge stops with that lie.
In our current political climate, have we become so accustomed to politicians lying that we no longer expect them to tell the truth? Have we become so numb to politicians breaking the law that we automatically look the other way? Are we so divided that we cannot have civil conversations on controversial topics?
In his novel, 1984, George Orwell describes a world where “[e]very record has been destroyed or falsified.” Whether we call them falsified records or fake news, they’re all lies. Our nation’s system of checks and balances must start with regular people being unwilling to accept the lies and holding politicians like Ford accountable for breaking the law while trying to spread them.
Sarah Richardson spent the past six years teaching high school English in Stanly County and is currently a librarian in Charlotte.
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