Opinion

Opinion: On Fake News and Nonsense

by Leah Lowe | A few of you have sent over screenshots or messages regarding ongoing harassment directed at us by a disgruntled individual in response to a post made on the Charlestown Courier Facebook page yesterday evening. It is a cartoonish display, to be frank – but I’ll address it here for the sake of our readers.

Mr. Rogers has a long history of publicly posting photos or live video from accidents, EMS calls or crime scenes on Facebook, particularly in local groups, outrageous and slanderous claims regarding others, and fancies himself a local “Breaking News” reporter. The overwhelming majority of the time the information he shares is irresponsibly false, or confusing at best and appears to be rooted in attention-seeking rather than information sharing. As a practice, posting amateur emergency incident photos is extremely exploitative of our fellow community members during their times of crisis, insensitive, and it also potentially places our first responders in danger. The people of Charlestown, simply put, have largely expressed their shared exhaustion and disgust with these antics.

On Saturday evening while riots and civil unrest raged throughout the country, Rogers posted publicly a live video of an accident scene without solidifying confirmation of any facts – an ethical requirement that binds a legitimate reporter to diligence and care ahead of sensationalism and a rush to post first. The title of this video was (sic): Breaking news. Riot has begun in Charlestown,” and it was shared multiple times, very quickly via Facebook before being later taken down, while also circulating via text and other mediums as a screenshot. The headline is particularly important as it matter-of-factually declares itself to be breaking news, and that riots had begun in Charlestown.

As this poor exercise in judgement hit Facebook, protests and riots continue to escalate for a second night in Louisville resulting in further widespread destruction of the city’s downtown sector, and protests begin to grow in size and intensity in our neighboring Jeffersonville…these remained peaceful and ultimately ended without incident in large part due to the community-oriented approach of the Jeffersonville Police Department.

As we’ve seen in the past and are learning to be the case in recent days, much of the violence amid these protests has been perpetrated by groups of radical basement-dwellers, and other domestic terrorist organizations who infiltrate to serve as agitators to opportunistically incite violence and chaos. Groups like this organize in the shadows online and rely on posts exactly like this one to identify new places to insert themselves into active or vulnerable situations. With the decimation now under their belt in Louisville, fake news of a riot in Charlestown is potentially more problematic than usual – for this and a number of many other reasons.

It’s also extremely insensitive not only to those involved in the accident he thoughtlessly whipped out his phone to mislabel and exploit, but to the heartbreaking tensions facing communities across the country this weekend. It’s certainly not a laughing matter, nor one to recklessly report on or seek to extract Facebook attention from.

Rogers Post

For these reasons, a decision was made to post on the Charlestown Courier Facebook page a circulating screenshot of this post – to make clear to locals that this information was absolutely, unequivocally false via a decisively faster way to extinguish this fake news.

The screenshot contained no visually identifying information of individuals or vehicles, other than blurry emergency lights from a distance and as a policy we do not post accident photos. Posting this one rubbed contrary to that conviction, but was guided by its indistinct nature weighed with the intent of diffusing panic and misinformation during an extremely volatile time. 

The problem with these posts, however, is that a screenshot like the one we shared to inform the public of its false nature, can also travel across the internet with only the fake news headline…even long after Mr. Rogers realized his error (or was shamed into removing his post). As soon as a post hits the web, its truly impossible to assuredly control or reign in.

Deleting of the original post was unfortunately not enough, with other screenshots already circulating. 

This publication has always worked very hard to remain positive and informative, generally avoid politics, controversy and criticism…and to just be a friendly and neutral local voice for our small community. Sometimes, that means using your reach to speak up and quickly reach the community.

Rogers predictably proceeded to lash out as he has at others in the past when called to account on these matters. A narcissistic injury is a narcissist’s reaction to a perceived or real criticism or judgment, boundaries placed on them, and/or attempts to hold them accountable for harmful behavior. I am not qualified to be certain that his pattern of grandiose and delusional thinking can be attributed to a personality disorder…but I do believe that a bit of externally compelled self-awareness could certainly become a teachable moment, maybe even give him a bit of future pause when the impulse strikes to act in such a way.

While his girlfriend charged into battle in the post’s comments area, lobbing insults and profanities at townspeople like an endless supply of primitively-formed verbal grenades in defense of his indignation, Rogers made threatening demands that we immediately remove the post criticizing his misinformation via a Facebook video, and then in a private message threatening to sue us all to hell over his hurt feelings.

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Today he posted a photo of a chicken-scratch bar complaint in which he distorts the fact that my only response to his Facebook message was to click the “Ha-Ha” on his poor attempt at intimidation. He attempts to insinuate that it was a laugh on my part at any loss of life or an auto accident – and not a dismissal of the pathetic nature of his blustering. This is a pretty transparent (desperate) attempt to twist and re-frame the narrative to discredit. He also proceeded to (via tag), needlessly draw a grieving family member of someone involved in a wreck yesterday into things, in an awkward attempt at triangulation.

Rogers assumes that Tom (my husband) made the post and attacked him accordingly. He got a brief chuckle out of it…this will not be the first, or perhaps even the last wildly unfounded bar complaint filed by an angry and delusional criminal shit-house lawyer. It may have been a therapeutic writing exercise for him, but it is rooted only in pacifying a bruised ego and having a “last word” to post after his public attempt at intimidation fell embarrassingly flat.

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In that regard, Mr. Rogers also has a patterned history of pro-se filing of frivolous and unfounded lawsuits and motions against local public officials – and in particular, against public defenders assigned to defend him in an assortment of various criminal charges over the years. He appears to fancy himself not only a journalist, but a jailhouse lawyer who likes to abuse the legal process at whim as a source of retribution and for the masturbation of his own ego.

One important clarification that I do want to make:

I am involved with this blog and it’s associated social media pages in a very limited capacity these days. Many find it to be a good resource and so we have invited several other trusted locals to share publishing ability on the page so that they may continue to post positive information that is useful to the community.

In his lashing out, Rogers inaccurately targets Mr. Brad Spencer – and further has bizarrely called for a boycott of Spencer’s tenant’s business.

This is as misinformed and delusional as one would come to expect from Rogers given his pattern of behavior, but please allow me to clarify that Brad had no knowledge of the post or involvement to any degree, and his tenant is certainly not remotely related in any sense. Brad exemplifies what it means to be a good community-minded citizen and is actively working hard to bring growth and opportunity, and delicious tacos to Charlestown.

If it seems like I’m being a bit harsh on Mr. Rogers, well – I’ve unfortunately witnessed a number of his attempts to bully and intimidate or harass other locals online. I see through it, and I am not the one…it’s time for it to stop.

I wish you the best John, truly – let’s turn this around, here. I have no personal ill will for you…but threats or harassment, bogus professional complaints, targeting local businesses, or BS lawsuits are tactics I simply won’t cower to. I’m sorry you didn’t like the post. I think its safe to say that a very large portion of our community would like to see you give more thought to what you post, to its relevance, and if its necessary or may hurt someone. It’s by no means the first time that this has been pointed out to you, by a number of others. You can do better, please channel that energy into something good.

 

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Categories: Opinion, Uncategorized

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