The saying goes that when the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser. And this fits us now, that rather than debate a fact or hear an opinion about a person, place or thing; people dive into ad hominem attacks in which we attack character or motives instead of debating the fact itself. I see this now. I see the character assassinations. I see this in politics. I have seen this happen with divorce. I have seen this with the cancel-cultures around us. I see the slanderous attacks on people which tend to linger and burrow far deeper than people imagine.
I have seen what stigma does. I have listened to the wrongs of people’s past and l although they’ve changed or improved and although what they did was wrong or even incomprehensible; the stain of their past can somehow dictate the hope for their future.
I have seen people who have done terrible things and I include myself on this list. Yet, there are stains or marks in our life which makes it hard to overcome or work beyond. And why is this so?
This is because people talk. People judge.
I see how slander and stigma creates bias and how a word on someone’s character can impact our subconscious opinion of them. I see how these social distortions impact us. If we are being honest about this, we often support the contagious notions of what we’ve heard and what people say about each other can become true – even if it’s not true.
For example, I heard about a person who I was supposed to support. I was told stories about this person and none of them were good. I heard about how this person yelled and how this person was deceptive and a liar.
Now, in fairness, I had never heard this person’s voice before. I’ve never worked with them either. I had never seen them in the flesh. Instead, my knowledge of this person was from the reports I’d heard about them. Therefore, my mind built a model of what I assumed this person would sound like. My perception created a monster of a person, big in frame, intimidating, ruthless and absolutely cruel.
I had a phone call scheduled with this person. Naturally, I laughed to myself when I heard this person speak. The person’s voice was not monster-like or intimidating at all. They were not cruel to me, which is not to say this person was kind to anyone and everyone else. This does not mean that the person is or was an angel by any means at all. This means nothing else, except I took someone’s experience and opinion and allowed this to sway my own.
However, this was proof to me that words and slander can sway opinion. Whether interpretation is key or if the problem here was simply a case of two people who positionally disagreed – my experience was based on a bias and yet, my approach to this person was based on someone else’s perception.
This is what happens when you bad mouth someone: a seed is planted and whether this sprouts immediately or over an elapsed time – the seed is planted in such a way that this leaves a preconceived notion of a person and their ability. These are the weeds in the mind that refuse to allow anything healthy to grow here in the future.
For example, a person near the coffee maker at work says, “Jacob is lazy,” or, “They don’t know how to do their job.” and meanwhile, there are others within hearing range or slightly involved with this conversation.
The coffee break ends and without mention, Jacob’s character received several blows. And then what? A week passes. Or maybe a month goes by and a new project comes up. This comes up to a manager who was there to hear about Jacob’s work ethic.
The manager doesn’t know about Jacob in any other way, except for what was said about Jacob during a coffee clutch. What if none of this is true? What if Jacob is good at his position?
Either way, Jacob could be the best in the building but because someone dropped an opinion and planted a seed about Jacob – the manager had a bias and because of this bias, Jacob lost an opportunity to receive a better earning potential.
So, I take this back to the playground days. I take this to the ways of the hunter gatherer. I take this to the ways of opportunists and social climbers and social survivalists who take to slander and character assassinations to keep their place on the playground and to remain uncontested.
I have seen bosses who rule this way, who rule through intimidation, who use slander tactics and berate others simply to keep a leash around their neck – to keep them down or tame or better yet – to keep them submissive.
When the debate is lost, slander is the tool of the loser.
I am sure this is true.
However, I have something I would like to add to this.
In a world of insecurity and for those who lack true confidence in themselves (and their positions) slander and character assassinations are the weapons of the fearful and weak.