Monday, May 11, 2009

Rumors, Gossip and Social Control.

Not long ago I saw a quarrel start in the community around me. The specifics aren't important, except to say that a well-established member of the community got accused of casting malignant magick against a very new person, who had previously been making claims of elderhood. In turn, the well-established member made the claim that, in fact, the new person had been slinging a lot of crap his way, and he simply opted to enact a mirror-spell, sending back what was sent out.

Rumors began flying left and right, gossip about the Elder's previous magickal faux pas, and about how this Llewiccan upstart might have more raw skill than said Elder.

We realized, after a flurry of yik-yakking (which some of us stayed out of) that one person was doing the majority of the rumor-milling. It was someone who had spotted an opportunity to "dethrone" someone he disliked (the elder), and control the social politics.

So, let's put it to The Test of Three.

One day, Socrates, the ancient Philosopher, was approached by a man on the street. The man was very excited and said "Socrates, do you know what I just heard about one of your students?" (1)

"Wait a moment," Socrates replied. "Before you tell me, I'd like you to pass a little test. It's called the Test of Three. Before you tell me about my student let's test what you're going to say. The first test is Truth. Have you made certain that what you are about to tell me is true?"

"No," the man said, "actually I just heard about it." (2)

"All right," said Socrates. "So you don't know if it's true or just a lie, or idle speculation. Let's try the second test, the test of goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my student something good, positive and pleasant?"

"No, on the contrary..." said the excited man. (3)

"So," Socrates continued, "you want to tell me something that may be slanderous about him even though you're not certain it's true? You may still pass though, because there is a third test, usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my student going to be useful to me?"

The man merely shook his head, indicating that it was not useful in the slightest.(4)

"Well," Said the Philosopher, "if what you want to tell me is neither True nor Good nor even Useful, why tell it to me at all?" (5)

What This Means in Witch Wars and Gossip Mongering.

(1)"Do you know"? How could he know what had been said about his student, only just a little time before the encounter? This is a trick of words. It is a trick to get you to accept the gossip, and participate, so that you are not "ignorant" of such juicy information. The smart person will walk a gossip through this test first.

(2)Gossip is never validated, rumors are never fact-checked. If you consider yourself a wise person always do so before spreading information. The problem here is that gossip and rumors are social control, and those that do not pass them the fastest are not in "control" of the course of it, therefore taking out the "reward".

(3) Rumors are rarely, and quite rarely at that, ever positive. That's because good information, things which are positive, nice, and glorifying are not to the benefit of those who want to exert social control. For example, you're much more likely to hear that someone lost their job, than to hear that someone got a promotion.

(4) Gossip is almost never useful, in real terms. It's not something that can help you make important decisions in your life, or about others. It's use is only to the one spreading it.

(5) If it's not verified, not positive and not useful why on earth should any of us care about it? Well, we should care only because the gossip wants us on his or her side of things, for whatever end they're trying for. View what gossip is spread, and how for an idea of the why. If someone's saying "Did you hear that This Well-Respected Person did some social faux pas"... ask them why they care. If they respond that it's funny, question -why- it's funny. So on and so forth until the gossip is untangled to it's core. "I don't like Person, and I don't want you to like them either."

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