By now certainly you’ve heard of the unfortunate episode in Herington. It’s been all over the news, nationally and even internationally. That’s because it’s very much a story of our time — fakery, social media, and amped-up conflict as a result.

To review, a rookie cop came to the office last Saturday with a cup of coffee from the McDonald’s in Junction City. On it was written, “f---ing pig,” but with the “f” word fully spelled out. The cop evidently showed it to his boss, Chief Brian Hornaday, who then put a photo of the profane cup on Facebook along with commentary about how wrong it was, and that McDonald’s owed his officer far more than a free lunch. He called it bad for McDonald’s and a black eye for Junction City. “Please share!” he wrote.

Of course that went viral, picked up by newspapers and broadcast stations. Those professional journalism outfits attempted to get comment from McDonald’s, which of course prompted the company to investigate.

And so then the kicker: It turns out that the cop made up the whole thing. McDonald’s had video.

Chief Hornaday, at a press conference Monday, said the rookie cop had resigned. He did not give out the man’s name, but said he was 23, lived in Junction City, and had been on the force a couple of months after getting out of the Army. He said it was a “personnel matter,” which was his phony rationale for keeping the name secret. He fails to realize that the man in question was employed by taxpayers, who have a right to know. The name will come out because it is a matter of public record, and he and his bosses are just making themselves look worse by trying to hide it.

The chief bought the cop’s story because, as he said, “a police officer who is sworn to protect, their integrity is of the highest order, and it would be foolish of any law enforcement agency or professional to not take the word of their police officer until they can be proven otherwise.”

Well, excuse us, but we’re not buying that. The blame here obviously lies with the cop who fabricated the story — presumably as just some weird joke — and then failed to come clean about it when his boss took a photo for Facebook. He’s lost his job, as he should.

But Chief Hornaday also has to shoulder some blame. He not only swallowed a hard-to-believe story, but he shouted it out for the world to see, badmouthing a company and a community in the process.

What he should have done is pretty obvious: Ask the cop if he was really serious, and then ask McDonald’s to explain. Had McDonald’s confirmed the incident — or totally stiff-armed him — he could have made a stink, and justifiably so. But instead, he hit the “post” button, and the 2019-20 machinery kicked into high gear.

Fakery and deception. Immediate jumping to conclusion. Raising hell. Conflict and bad feelings. And then... eventual reeling back in and trying to patch up the works.

There are dozens of examples of this phenomenon, most recently after the Junction City-Manhattan football game. It goes on all the time across the country.

What’s the solution? A little skepticism, a little patience, a little discretion. Maybe try the decaf.

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