I’m usually pretty good at predicting which “06880” stories will draw the most attention.
Those honoring Westporters who die get forwarded often.
Pieces about zoning and land use — proposed teardowns of beloved landmarks, changes at the beach, etc. — get posted on social media (earning plenty of eyeballs).
And stories on dogs are catnip for readers.
But some reactions amaze me.
Last Saturday morning, I posted a quick news flash. Trevor Noah — the headliner at the next day’s Anti-Defamation League of Connecticut “Voices: A Show of Unity” fundraiser — had just canceled, due to bruised vocal chords. His replacement was another huge name: Whoopi Goldberg.
It was the kind of story I do when can: getting the word out for a worthy cause, and hopefully selling a few tickets.
Page views were normal for a Saturday. But on Sunday morning, they spiked 10-fold. Well before noon, that ADL story had the most hits of anything I’ve published since I started “06880,” nearly a decade ago.
By Sunday evening, views were orders of magnitude higher still.
But people were not just reading the story. They were commenting too.
They were not from Westport. There were new, unfamiliar names.
And the comments were not typical “06880” ones. This was not a back-and-forth about the greed and short-sightedness of downtown landlords vs. the gauzy sentimentality of oldtimers.
It was not a debate about Connecticut’s fiscal health, or where to put a beach bathroom.
The comments about Whoopi Goldberg (and Trevor Noah) were nasty. They were vile. They were racist.
I don’t know how these people found the story. I assume it was posted on a website somewhere that draws readers who are unfamiliar with “06880” and Westport.
But they’re very familiar with spewing vitriol online. This is not, I’m sure, the first time these readers reacted to a news story about black entertainers.
I disabled commenting on the story. I took down some of the most odious ones.
I left others up. I wanted “06880” readers to see what’s out there, beyond the Westport bubble.
And to realize that the work of the ADL — and all the rest of us — combating hate, bigotry and ignorance must continue.
Here’s the good news. Avid “06880” reader/1987 Staples High School graduate Janette Kinnally writes:
I went to the ADL event. I thought Whoopi was intelligent, insightful and knew her history in this country (which, she noted, is really lacking in education today).
She recounted many events throughout the years. She said “let’s not make the same mistakes in the past” — especially when it comes to creating a dictator and encouraging white nationalism.
Whoopi was thoughtful in her responses, and funny when she responded to Westport’s own Alisyn Camerota. She and CNN (where Alisyn works) were targeted by the bomber 2 weeks ago.
Whoopi offered some great advice. We live in scary times, she said, but there is hope for the future.
We can make change, by taking action. We can’t just stand on the sideline and watch.
Whoopi said: We need more people to stand up, and have their voices heard. We the people should be in control of our country — not white nationalist men!