Thursday, November 22, 2012

Rumor quashing

Fayette County residents can take comfort in knowing that the Pennsylvania state police, the county’s Drug Task Force and district attorney Jack Heneks Jr. are bringing their considerable crime-fighting resources to bear on what everyone agrees is a top problem.

Tracking down rumors on the Internet.

Yep, you heard right. According to the lead story in the Nov. 20 Herald-Standard (“Vernon complaint leads to investigation”), Fayette County Common Pleas Judge Nancy D. Vernon has filed a harassment complaint regarding allegations being made over social media.

State police Trooper James Garlick is out to “find the genesis” of this online chatter, according to the story.

DA Heneks had this to say: “We’re trying to get to the bottom of these rumors because they are certainly untrue and malicious in nature … We’re concerned that this (the rumors) could affect the integrity of the court system.”

Missing from this story is any mention of exactly what crimes someone might be charged with. That’s a pretty basic – and easy – question to ask, but we are talking Herald-Standard Version 2012 here. We’ve never heard of anyone being arraigned for spreading rumors – or even for starting one.

And we are baffled at why the county’s Drug Task Force is even remotely involved in something like this – unless someone suspects that the culprits are spreading rumors after getting high. That’s another good – and obvious – question to ask.

Also missing from this story is any indication of what these rumors involve. Surely, if Vernon is upset enough to file a police complaint, and if the state police and district attorney swing into action when that happens, it couldn’t be too hard for a reporter to dig up what’s getting under everyone’s skin.

Especially when Heneks says: “I’m alarmed at the multiplicity of those unfounded reports.” If there is such multiplicity, and it’s easily available on the Internet, a good reporter would have no qualms about making it part of the story. The question everyone should be asking is why didn’t that happen?

We don’t blame Vernon one bit for wanting to strike back against her critics, especially those who are allegedly making untrue statements that impune her reputation. But many, many people (and politicians) have suffered the same fate, particularly on a certain community bulletin board known for name-calling, rumor and innuendo.

The resources of the state police and the district attorney – and even the Drug Task Force – should not be deployed only if a judge lodges a complaint. So if you think you have also been the victim of malicious rumors on social media, please call Trooper Garlick at 724-439-7111, or DA Heneks at 724-430-1245. They should gladly give you the same investigatory help as they are giving Vernon.