Editorial: Is Alex Jones’ case a reckoning, or will reckless speech increase?

Alex Jones speaks to the media outside the 459th Civil District Court on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022 in Austin, Texas. Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis are suing Alex Jones and InfoWars over his repeated claims that the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary was a “false flag operation” conducted by the government.

Alex Jones speaks to the media outside the 459th Civil District Court on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022 in Austin, Texas. Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis are suing Alex Jones and InfoWars over his repeated claims that the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary was a “false flag operation” conducted by the government.

Sergio Flores /For Hearst Connecticut Media

Who are we?

It’s worth asking from time to time. It’s not the same question as “Who am I?” It calls for consideration of community, how we demonstrate empathy, whether we are able to listen to one another.

This foundational life question has become more important than ever over the past 29 months. Social isolation, and social media, makes it easier than ever to blindly criticize one another.

Self-censorship took a hit during the pandemic. And while anyone can rant into the winds of Twitter and Facebook, the hard work is to maintain civility during broad disagreements.

We’d like to think of Alex Jones’ case in Texas as a reckoning, a declaration that there are consequences for cruel words. Are there any words less responsible than claiming the deaths of 20 children and six adults to a gunman were fabricated as part of a government conspiracy?

But even this does not seem to have caused some people to pump the brakes on reckless claims. Consider the Greenwich Republican Town Committee, a cautionary tale for their counterparts on both sides of the aisle in towns everywhere. They pulled off a coup of previous leadership last winter, which gave members the power to select which candidates appear on local ballots.

They also seized the party’s social media accounts to use as a megaphone. The Greenwich RTC’s public voice is guided by Carl Higbie. Higbie was member of President Donald Trump’s administration, only to resign after sexist and bigoted comments resurfaced that he attributed to wanting to be a “shock jock.”

The RTC tweets now strive for shock value. On Monday, a seemingly aspirational posting by Greenwich Country Day School’s Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion was disparaged by the RTC for listing “nearly every group but white people. Was that on purpose? Is that how you bring people together? Inclusion.”

RTC Chair Beth MacGillivray stood behind the comment: “Our statement is the tweet.”

Greenwich Country Day School has the distinction of including Republican President George H.W. Bush among its alumni. It also educated Jen Psaki, who was Democratic President Joe Biden’s press secretary.

Head of School Adam Rohdie offered a graceful response: “I think there are ways we could change the language a little bit in the letter.”

He was, perhaps, too diplomatic. The RTC retorted in a tweet: “Glad the RTC has helped our community become more inclusive.” Higbie revived his shock jock leanings, tweeting that school officials were “clowns.”

Simultaneously, Greenwich First Selectman Fred Camillo also used a poor choice of word on a separate issue. In response to public complaints about Greenwich Library offering the young adult graphic novel, “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe, he deemed it “disgusting.”

The book is a memoir on self-identity, about growing up as non-gender-conforming. The American Library Association, while listing it as the most challenged book of 2021, also awarded it the Alex Award in 2019 for its special appeal to readers in the 12-18 age group.

It’s a book designed to help some youth navigate, yes, who they are.

So, who are we? We are all people who should try to do better.