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Gossip or how to ruin your life

Did you hear the latest about John in accounting well let me tell you. I have it from a secret source that Harriet and Phil are having an affair...and so forth.

Why does gossip attract us? Why do we even listen and what are the terrible consequences?

Gossip can come in two forms. The first is when we tell others something that is the truth. We are sharing the truth about John in accounting, we are not lying and somehow others need to know the truth about John. We justify it by saying since it is true there is no harm and surely people need to know. It will soon be public knowledge and we are eager to share the information as somehow it elevates our status and makes us feel that we are 'in the know' we are privy to information that others don't have and we are flattered when listeners ask us more questions about John. Thus, our fame spreads in the company and people come to us for the 'insiders' story.

The second form is when we share information such as in the case of the affair which is hidden simply because we wish to tarnish or destroy the reputation of others.

Thomas Aquinas comments that gossip is an offence against the cardinal virtue of justice, therefore we must all avoid gossip as it harms not only our growth but also harms civil society. How does it do this?

Gossip allows others univited to have access to their secrets. We are all aware of the gossip surrounding politicians and their love lives or scandals. Aquinas noted that gossip does not allow a society to function and indeed this is true. We live in a cancel culture where we are watched and our stories, our tweets and twitters and posts are under scrutiny. One only need to be reminded of Jordan Peterson. It can be said that the wildfire spreading of information over social media about public or private figures has even a more damaging effect that the aforementioned workplace gossip as social media means that the 'story' even if true can spread and cause untold damage essentially in this case hampering and crippling any attempts at free speech.

Thomas Aquinas also speaks of detractio or backbiting. Detractio or detraction is calculated to dishonour someone. If we return to the workplace gossip here our gossip is revealing something more sinister and hidden about a person such as an affair. This information was never meant to be shared and causes the parties involved to be dishonoured. The intention here is more sinister than merely sharing what could be public the intention in this case is to dishonour in short to destroy. Unfortunately we are all too familiar with this tactic within the political realm where each party tries its best to dishonour and destroy the reputation of their opponents. This once more destroys the fabric of civil society and free speech.

In both forms of gossip the gossiper is considered to be a source of information and the 'go to person' In the meantime the cancer that is spread by the gossip erodes free speech, civil and moral order. The gossiper gains pleasure in giving out information and falsely assumes that this makes them superior. If needed they will even lie to obtain promotions or favours by sabotaging those around them. They sew their poison and wait for the results. Like Iago they are consumed with envy towards others and believe they have a right to behave contrary to justice.

So if we hear gossip let it die with you. Do not fan the flames of disorder and dissention. Do not give it a chance to harm others.

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