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April 24, 2024

Shelby County – Misinformation Feeds False Narrative and Creates Unnecessary Concern and Division

By Kirk Allen & John Kraft

On April 25, 2023

Shelby Co. (ECWd) –

Over the past 13 years of our operations, we have seen time and time again the negative impact and distrust of elected officials in communities due to social media postings.  While many such posts grow from a valid concern, the lack of knowledge on some matters commonly leads to misinformation spreading like wildfire with that famous “share” button.  Shelby County is experiencing this on multiple fronts. Below is just one example.

Last fall an elected department head posted the following to her personal social media page on August 11, 2022.

“FYI:
As of September 1, 2022 Shelby County will NOT have an Ambulance Service.”

An hour later, during working hours, she posted this:

“The County Board meeting is tonight at 7, show up and voice you opinion. This affects all residents of Shelby County! It’s a health & safety issue.”

On the surface, this sounds like a great thing to suggest, come to the meeting and voice your opinion.  We call for that all the time, however in this case, the opinions that may get voiced are based on misinformation.

Before any meeting even took place, in less than 4 hours from the original post, there are people posting comments based on the belief the county will not have an ambulance service as of September 1, 2022.  The one-word posts are telling. “OMG”, “crazy”, “sad”, “why”, and then “bastards”.

We can only assume the “bastards” are the county board.  How special is it that people resort to this type of name-calling before actually getting the truth?

How many people in Shelby County knew that the county has never provided ambulance service in the county? That fact makes the original post a clear case of an elected official posting concerns based on misinformation or a total lack of understanding of what was actually happening in the county, which was the private Ambulance service provider in Shelbyville was closing their doors.

Twenty-four hours later the official posts the following, which conflicts with the original claim and adds more fuel to the false narrative.

“My concerns about losing ambulance service, is this. Yes, some communities have ambulance service, and yes, they can transport, but, there are others that don’t. Shelby County has a lot of rural residents without access to an ambulance service. Come Sept 1 2022 those communities will not have service.I ask, would an ambulance come from Windsor, stewardson, Bethany? Say to Cowden, Lakewood. How would that all be dispatched? Still a lot of unanswered questions. When you have a loved one in need of emergency services, what will you do? I’m very concerned. Hope Shelby County can get a new ambulance service.”

Claiming Shelby County has a lot of rural residents without access to an ambulance service is simply false. Claiming that on September 1, 2022, those communities will not have service is also false.   Those false statements are followed up with some great questions, had they taken an effort to get the answer prior to posting false information they would quickly find out the actual emergency system set up in Illinois is done so as to prevent the very issues alleged from happening.

Anyone who calls 911 and requests an ambulance is going to get one, even if they are in a community that does not have a designated ambulance operation.  That is how the 911 system is set up.  In fact, the law even requires “once an emergency unit is dispatched in response to a request through the system, such unit shall render its services to the requesting party without regard to whether the unit is operating outside its normal jurisdictional boundaries.” (See ETSB  50 ILCS 750/14)

The official continued with the false narrative, which stirred up all kinds of concerns.

People in Shelby County, make plans now! You will not have an ambulance service as of September 1 2022. Not sure 911 will be able to dispatch an ambulance if you have a medical emergency. Plan now to have a number to call for that service. Or some plan in place. Be pro active. This is very scary, and a health and safety issue.”

“I pray no one has a heart attack, stroke, in a car accident, a farm accident, any kind of medical emergency when time is of the essence! Because you are on your own!! So,so sad.”

Shelby County NEVER had an ambulance service. While she is not sure if 911 will be able to dispatch an ambulance, she doubles down and makes another totally false comment and claims “…. you are on your own”.

August 21, she fans the flames some more: This is real people!” 

Less than four hours after the false claim of “This is real people”, a person posts this: To everyone wondering this statement is not true”.  That post was followed with some actual factual information: “100% not true … DAS Shelby division will be in operation until a replacement is in place. Sept 1st was a tentative date set by HSHS St. Mary’s. In the same meeting they stated they will continue operating until coverage is met by another provider.”

A few hours later, a person who clearly understood the danger of the original posts suggests: perhaps you can edit your original post so misinformation isn’t spread.

Then another: “Perhaps if anyone on here that is unsure of what is happening would reach out to those of us that are living this situation and give correct information there would be less panic in the county”

August 22nd, almost two weeks after the original misinformation post, the official who stirred up significant panic, and concern, and created distrust in the County Board, posted this.

“Have been researching my info. What I have found out is this: there will be ambulance service after Sept 1, just don’t know for how long. I do hope this issue can be resolved.

While acknowledging her original post is wrong, rather than removing the clearly false narrative posting, she now hopes this issue can be resolved.  We must ask, what issue? The completely fabricated issue she created with the false information?  She confirms there is going to be an ambulance after September 1 and within the comments on her page, she is informed that the provider would be continuing service until a new provider is selected, which clearly indicates there is no break in service.  So again, what issue is it that needs to be resolved?

May we suggest she remove the post?  While many will take issue with our posting of this considering it happened last fall, this is a perfect case study as to how destructive social media is when false information is allowed to stay up and spread.

April 15, 2023, a new comment is posted. I see this was from last year. Is there now no more ambulance service in Shelby County? I ask for my 92 year old mother.”

The official has not responded to the person’s clear concern about her 92-year-old mother being able to get an ambulance if needed.

This is just one of dozens of false narratives floating around Shelby County.  While many have an element of truth, many lack any actual research to get to the questions being raised, by design.

While many are familiar with the phrase, “Trust but Verify”, we urge two questions get asked more often, Says Who, and With What Proof.

 

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2 Comments
  • Justice Seeker
    Posted at 16:08h, 25 April

    If the elected official will misrepresent the truth about this issue, what else will she misrepresent? Taxpayers deserve the truth and elected officials who work to restore trust in government not question it!

  • Craig Barnes
    Posted at 00:13h, 26 April

    Said the pot to the kettle…

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