Don't be offended when I don't spread gossip with you.

If it didn’t make me laugh, it’d have to make me cry.

The amount of facebook messages I get out of the blue from people who never message me for any other reason is increasing. Suddenly, they’ve got very important but negative information about someone they’ve never met that I just have to know now. And I have to share it with everyone I know, now – for the common good of course.

It’s not gossip, just because they’re repeating something they heard. They trust the person who told them, so they have no personal responsibility to verify any part of the story.

Well this morning I got another one, and I responded the way I usually do. I refuse.

I always politely ask the person sending me the gossip (let’s be honest, that’s exactly what it is) if they’ve verified the information they’re sending me before they sent it and asked me to in turn broadcast it.

The different individuals always say no, because they trust the person who sent it to them – invariably. Then I ask them to inquire if the person they trust verified it, and most do. Lo and behold, the person they got it from has the same response, that they merely forwarded it because the person they got it from is trustworthy too. One of them finds this marvelous little thing called Google and within mere minutes I hear back that the rumour is well known and false, or at least years old and no longer even close to relevant. I finally ask them to forward this verified truth back up the grapevine the way the gossip came, along with the idea of not ignorantly forwarding rubbish next time.

How hard is that?

Take for example this message I received this morning from a lady of a certain vintage and experience who should know gossip when she sees it, no matter how trustworthy the source.

GOSSIP: Please tell all the contacts in your messenger list not to accept anything from Fabrizio Brambilla. He has a photo with a dog. He is a hacker and has the system connected to your messanger account. If one of your contacts accepts it, you will also be hacked, so make sure that all your friends know it. Thanks. Forwarded as received.
Hold your finger down on the message. At the bottom in the middle it will say forward. Hit that then click on the names of those in your list and it will send to them

ME: I never repeat anything I or the person I got the information from haven’t personally verified. Have you or the person you got this from personally verified this before broadcasting?

GOSSIP: She’s a Christian and a friend, I trust her.

ME: So, no? She probably felt the same way about the person who sent it to her, & so on, perhaps a hundred times over. Scams and frauds exploit trusting people, & there is 99% likelihood that dozens, if not thousands of people before you are as trusting & trustworthy as you are. Sadly, a pinch of personal responsibility is needed before broadcasting things based on nothing more than hearing it from someone we consider trustworthy.

GOSSIP: Very well David, I will use that responsibility now and ask that you remove me from your messenger listing. I’ll do the same at my end.

ME: I’ve never abused it, so I can only deduce you’ve chosen to be offended. But you asked me to abuse my whole list of contacts without putting much thought into it, & I chose to discuss it with you instead of choosing offence. What you do with that is up to you. I apologise for offending you.

A quick check of google with the very simple search term “Fabrizio Brambilla” has the following entries on the first page without even following any of the links:

  • Fact check by Snopes.com: FALSE
  • ‘Fabrizio Brambilla’ Hacker Warning is Just Another Hoax
  • …weren’t connected to a legitimate threat

Don’t be lazy, people! Why is that so hard? Just imagine how this gossip might have started. It’s possible that an angry keyboard warrior got embarrased by Fabrizio honestly pointing out that gender is binary. They could have imagined this wonderful retaliation for the hate crime of truth, and initiated this rumour to punish his “violence”.

After the first degree of separation via his or her social justice warrior friends, it spread like wildfire through their extended circles of influence until lovely old Christian ladies are clucking their tongues and warning the world about the nasty piece of work that is poor old Fabrizio Brambilla. That imaginary scenario is more plausible than the fiction actually being spread.

The moral of the story is stop sending messages to all your contacts just because you got a message telling you to, no matter who told you. Check it for yourself.

Why Does This Annoy Me So Much?

Sometimes I get the reply, “Better to be safe than sorry,” or “What harm can it do?” And that’s a valid question with an easy answer, even if the rumour is as harmless as another mouldy oldie: “Pray for Qaraqosh“.

It harms your credibility. It harms our credibility.

Do you want to be known as a defender of Truth? Than don’t flippantly broadcast what you don’t know to be true as if it unequivocally is. It harms the reputation you will need to leverage when there’s something important to share Truth on, like threats to freedom, abusive curriculum, abortion or euthanasia.

Do you want to be known as someone who can be trusted with confidential and sensitive information? Then don’t signal to your entire list of friends and even acquaintances that you have little regard for the reputation of people you’ve never met, like poor old Fabrizio Brambilla.

Do you want what you do say to be highly regarded, or lightly regarded? Don’t abuse the fact that hundreds, maybe thousands of people have given you the privilege of contacting them easily. Make it count when you speak, or people will slowly stop listening when you do.

Do you want me to think you don’t value our friendship or acquaintance? Then don’t ask me to abuse the list of friends, acquaintances or followers & viewers I have, because I will in turn lightly value, or even end, the opportunity for you to ever influence me again.

Friends, and I call you friends if you’re still reading this far down, if we have any ambition of being salt and light, of influencing our world for Truth, justice and peace, we must each value the platforms we’re given more highly than this low, low standard. We must honestly critique ideas, and be open to improving our own.

Don’t be like this person who chose to cut off and reduce her influence, first by spreading gossip, second by urging gossip, and third by refusing to consider the possibility that she was, and indeed is, very, very wrong.

Trusting Christian attacks Fabrizio Brambilla and refuses to consider she might be responsible for gossip

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