LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Disinformation, fear-mongering, lies at Yates Legislature meeting

Letter to the Editor

On Sept. 7, the county legislature passed a resolution requiring masks in the county building in an effort to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.  Though their decision was not necessarily a principled one based solely on protecting health, as many would have wished, I nevertheless applaud them for taking this important action.

I attended the session via Zoom and I was astounded by the level of disinformation, fear-mongering, and outright lies that certain members of the public espoused.  I found myself wondering whether these people have been fooled, or if they are trying to fool us, their neighbors and fellow community members.

These were not small claims. The word “Marxist” was employed to trigger a thoughtless fear-reaction. A speaker suggested that the pandemic is some kind of hoax put on to assert government control. He implied that illegal immigrants have been brought to Yates County to spread the virus. And he stated outright that minor public health measures like mask mandates lead directly to the kinds of evils perpetrated by Nazis. These, and other claims made by some of the anti-mandate commenters, are demonstrably false and deeply harmful to public discourse.

Of course, these people enjoy the freedom of speech to make these kinds of statements. But as I noted in my comment in favor of the mandate, no right is absolute, and all must be tempered with responsibility. Bad actors can claim that they are merely “asking the question” or “raising the issue.” But doing so is not a neutral, harmless act, especially when such claims are repeated — as many of these were between this meeting and the previous one a week earlier.

Not only are these types of claims dangerous, but at a certain point, they become an embarrassment.  As I have many times over the past five years, I have to wonder when conservatives of good will in this community will finally say “Enough is enough” and reject this kind of baseless, harmful, Trumpian rhetoric, and the individuals repeating it.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Letter writers are responsible for making sure the information they submit is accurate and factual.