A Whisper : The Seeding of Untruth

Op-ed

“Signs don’t shout; they whisper.”

― A.D. Posey

As human lives evolve into a hyper-connected existence and we seek solace in being informed and knowledgeable, our deep-rooted desire to be entertained finds new grounds – both in the digital & non-digital world, in form of evolving formats of literature, cinema, messages and so on. In this quest for entertainment and drama, we unwittingly get sucked into a stimulating grey world where multiple layers of truth and untruth seamlessly interact, to deliver to our carnal need for voyeuristic pleasure shrouded with master story-telling. To think about it, all this often starts with just a whisper, a rumour powerful enough to build, destroy and rebuild various facets of our human existence.

Rumours are pieces of information or a story that has yet not been verified, meaning that the person telling the story is not necessarily certain if it is true or not. Most of the time, people who spread, take part and share such rumours do not even bother determining if there is any iota of truth in what they are taking part in, with each person in the chain are adding his / her bit of garnishing to the tale. A lie can run around the world even before the truth gets its boots on, and it all starts with a whisper – a whisper often oscillating effortlessly between the truth and the untruth. If we were to analyse the anatomy of a rumour, there would be three broad components–the creator, the media and the victim. The creator, being the initiator who begins the process by planting a malicious weed rooted in the seed of untruth; the media, being those who stimulate its growth, nurture it with nutrients; and water it to amplify its growth and spread, and then finally the victim, being those who are affected in the course of action, like the soil whose nutrient content depletes with the growth of the malicious weed, whether as direct casualties or as collateral damage.

Let us begin the journey of the whisper with the creator, the initiator, whose action begs the question–Why would anyone want to plant a malicious weed in the first place? Why would anyone give birth to a rumour knowing fully well it is a lie and far from the truth? The answer may be seated in the psychology of twisted negativity that engulfs the creator’s life–providing him with the motivation emerging out of sadistic pleasure or an insane need to derive entertainment by eclipsing other’s daylight and pulling them to their own dark, starless nights.

The next critical and dynamic component of the rumour machine is the media–people who have a very crucial position in the chain of events. Such people do not fabricate the rumour but they add more false details to it and actively or passively pass it on, without a second thought. They are often either ignorant of or indifferent to the validity or the implications of rumour-mongering. The amusing part is that these people do not even consider verifying or validating the facts in their greed for the spotlight to be seen as knowledgeable or self-proclaimed thought leaders for their groups & communities.

To be honest, we all love hearing and telling stories, ever since our childhood, but as we mature, it is our responsibility to understand that these rumours are not Grandma’s warm stories to feel comfortable in but are like virulent germs with the ability to inflict massive damage to both the individual and the society. They spread and multiply swiftly with every breath and before one realises it – the contamination is beyond control.

Finally, let us observe the effect of negative rumours on the victims–who are in most cases not only an individual but also a larger array of human life. At an individual level, the effects can be catastrophic, throwing a simple life out of gear. Consider the life of Juan, a suburban boy living a very normal life, until one fine day; he notices behavioural changes in people around him–initially from people he could ignore but in course of time even from people who matter in his life.

He notices a change in attitude amongst people around him until he starts questioning and treating himself differently–and all this just always starts with a whisper. He desperately tries to correct the situation, jumping in to take a strong grip on life’s steering wheel but something very strong keeps throwing him off his tracks – the wheels kicking up dirt, a glimmer of hope and then again a powerful whirlwind throwing him off the trajectory – until a point comes when the struggle becomes too hard and too painful and he feels like letting go of the wheels, allowing the hurricane of untruth and poisonous rumours blur his vision of himself.

A piece of ill-intended untrue news or gossip can not only destroy an individual but also have a serious adverse effect on his immediate societal ecosystem–family, friends and relatives to start with. With time, the society at large gets affected as it takes in, absorbs and re-engineers itself both due to the intended and unintended effects of a rumour that ravages like wildfire and leaves its eternal marks behind.

Now having looked at three different modules of the journey of untruth, the question that looms large is what is the way out – the solution, and is it actionable and within reach? I am delighted to say that the solution is simple, actionable and well within reach for all of us. The answer is in the simplicity and overarching power of truth. If the creator of the rumour had stayed true to herself, the rumour would never be fabricated.

If the media or the carrier had chosen to investigate & validate whether what she heard, discussed or forwarded for consumption was true or not, the rumour would never have spread or taken a toll for the worse. If the victim had remained true to her beliefs and not let the world vitiate her self-reflection, she would have been able to jeer herself back on track. No matter how harshly one’s dignity is mocked, abused or compromised, nothing can decimate the power in human beings to reset boundaries, restore self-image and start afresh with renewed values–the values of truth.

In truth, the answer lies deep-rooted in the Indian ethos of Satyameva Jayate–Truth Alone Triumphs. In a world, life and society already overloaded with information, let us strongly rest our faith in the strength and need for truth–and nothing but the truth. Let the eternal truth deep in us shine through & lead, as we create, deliver and finally get affected by information– constantly mindful that it almost always starts with just a whisper.

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