Whatsoever things are of good report

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 We echo the sentiments of Police Commissioner Atlee Rodney that social media users need to be more thoughtful and responsible in their postings. Rodney was specifically referring to the uncaring manner in which alleged sexual offences are reported on social media, with victim or perpetrator being identified. This is usually followed by an avalanche of idle commentary that can not only hurt the case, but can further traumatise the victim. Reputations can be adversely affected. May we remind those who inhabit the whimsical and treacherous world of social media that “Good name in man and woman, dear my lord, is the immediate jewel of their souls. Who steals my purse steals trash; ‘tis something, nothing; ‘twas mine, ‘tis his, and has been slaves to thousands. But he who filches from me my good name, robs me of that which enriches him not, and makes me poor indeed.” [Iago in OTHELLO byWilliam Shakespeare]. Let us be more circumspect in how we disseminate and comment on postings. (see story by our Carlena Knight in today’s DAILY OBSERVER: TOP COP CAUTIONS PUBLIC TO BE MORE RESPONSIBLE ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Commissioner Rodney was also concerned about the rather sick way in which some of us happen upon an accident and proceed to video-tape or photograph, and immediately post the footage on social media in real time. Of course, the social media poster gives nary a thought to the fact that the victim’s family members could be learning of the accident in that rather indelicate manner. In some cases, the gory video footage is accompanied by expletive-laden commentary, that sometimes exaggerate the extent of the injuries. These expletive exclamations are sometimes followed by “he dead” or “she dead!”

Come on folks, we can do better than that. Let us put ourselves in the shoes of the family member learning of the accident by way of social media. It can be quite devastating. Let us listen to our better angels and empathise, rather than cravenly looking for social media “likes.” Is good taste and decency a thing of the past?

Then there is the question of posting defamatory and unflattering stories about a person. It is mean-spirited and downright cruel to seek to destroy someone by descending to the gutter in search of filth, then proceeding to disseminate it. And yes, making stuff up! We ought not to be trafficking in character assassination. Again, we draw your attention to Iago’s aforementioned observation that “A good reputation is the most valuable thing that we have.” Let us a kinder, gentler people be. Never mind that one can be held to account in a court of law for posting defamatory images andnarratives.

Meanwhile, in this time of Covid-19 when our nerves are on edge, it is disgraceful to fabricate or sensationalise stories about numbers of confirmed cases and numbers of persons in quarantine, and that sort of thing. It is akin to yelling “fire!” in a crowded theatre; it could cause mass hysteria and panic. Again, let us be responsible citizens. It might be a good thing to ascertain the veracity of stories before sharing them with others.

In that regard, we commend the Minister of Information for the effort to set up a “user-friendly Covid-19 website” – https://covid19.gov.ag). It is a step in the right direction, and we certainly trust that it will provide timely and accurate information. It promises so to do, with local, regional and global statistics. Plus, according to the Ministry press release, the website will, “Feature links on the wearing of masks, physical distancing, and the washing of hands.  Key insights from the World Health Organisation (WHO), Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA)… There’s also a Contact Us tab for persons to contact the Quarantine Authority, the Mount St John’s Medical Centre, the Ministry of Health, Wellness & Environment, the Central Board of Health and the Ministry of Tourism & Investment.” All well and good. Hopefully, we won’t be getting conflicting information from the Ministry press conferences, the Cabinet notes, the Minister of Information and the Covid-19 website. After all, nothing can create more confusion and panic like misinformation.

Of course, one of our most sacred rights is that of free speech. But it comes with responsibilities. According to one definition, The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law.” [Wikipedia.org]Exhibit A: Speech that is defamatory, or speech that incites lawless behaviour, or speech that is fraudulent, and so on and so forth.

Social media is an excellent means of disseminating information, but it ought not to be misused. Indeed, we look to the scriptures for some guidance in that regard. See Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things,”. . . . before putting stuff in the public domain. Remember, “the spoken word comes not back.” Especially on social media.

We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.

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