Enter Rumor, Painted All In Tongues

I was raised in a village, so like Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, I have one up on the rest of the world, since I know all kinds of evil and how evil works.

It’s not that there isn’t evil in cities, of course, but it’s more anonymous, less personal, and far more expected, so it doesn’t sucker punch you when you least expect it.

Which is why I prefer cities, preferably large cities, because it’s possible to be almost completely isolated there.  I suspect for extreme introverts there are only two choices of residence, out in the middle of nowhere, or the center of a large city.  In both cases, unless you’re ravishingly interesting to look at, or a celebrity, you’re like to meld with the landscape and matter to no one.

The most annoying evil of living in a village was the gossip.

I read enough regency and other fiction from historical eras to know it’s always been considered proper to take “a decent interest in your fellow man” by which they don’t mean that we should ogle good-looking guys (though by all means, good looking guys are a reason we know G-d loves women and wants them to be happy) but that it is important to be aware of those around you, their needs, their problems, or you know, if their younger son is listening to voices again and likely to try to kill you in the little alley that runs behind their garden, in which case you have no one to blame but yourself if you end up dead.  (You only think I’m joking.  It wasn’t death, but we did have a violent neighbor my age and it was totally my fault when I took the alley shortcut and got punched and bitten.  And I’m not even disagreeing on that.  I’d been told to be careful, but I was living in my own head as usual.)

But the thing I dreaded most about living in the village was rumor.  Not only rumor about me — I am reliably informed I married a baker from the next village, I just SAID he was American — but rumor about anyone.  Part of this was my living inside my head.  I didn’t know half the names grandma rained down on me when giving me her reports.  This was complicated all the more because grandma didn’t use the people’s names, or even their nicknames.  Nine times out of ten she used references for which you’d have to know the gossip from her mother’s time, “Remember the people in the fields by x? The ones whose grandfather was said to be a pirate, and whose great grandmother was said to be way too attached to a billy goat?  Well, SHE–”

However what truly appalled me was when someone — usually an old lady — made a reference to a village family of unexceptionable virtue and good behavior and said something like “Well, you know, their money comes from embezzling, so you know what they are.”

Often if you chased down that rumor, you’d find an ancestor in the late eighteenth century had made a fortune in the stock market and his fellows, either as a joke or because they really suspected him, SAID he’d embezzled the money. You might further find that not only hadn’t he embezzled, but he had, in his time, a reputation as a stickler for honesty.  But the rumor, coming down the generations, gave it as a sure thing, and his descendants were tainted, often without being aware of it.  (I did, without researching but by accident find this was the truth about a family whose ancestress was said to have got in the family way by a passing soldier — I think — and whose history was mentioned in a diary of the time which I read in another context, and the rumor was, of course, completely baseless, and known to people who had investigated it or were close to it at the time to be absurd.  BUT it had grown in the telling, and subsequent generations “knew”.

We are living in an age of rumors, and I’ll be honest, my field is a village, one in which the left has masterfully controlled the gossip for decades.

For instance, when I broke in, I was told not to be publicly friends with people who had been “frozen out” of publishing.  They might have been frozen out for reason (this could include things like threatening publishers, yes, but mostly it was “wrong and forbidden thoughts, or rumors of having such.”) Hanging out with them would tar me by association. Needless to say I’m too stupid to heed that advice, but most of the field does, with the odd result that if you were frozen out on suspicion of being persona non-grata, you then BECAME persona non-grata as your social circle made haste to be elsewhere.  I experienced this in 2003, after the Shakespeare series failed, and experienced a “come back and we didn’t mean anything by it” in 2005 when I was selling again.  By then I didn’t trust half of those people, because I’d seen their backsides as they ran away.

I was reminded of this as a fan — whom I’m not blaming — asked in a private group about one of the remaining legends of science fiction: was he racist?  She’d heard somewhere that he was racist.  Was that true?  She couldn’t remember the circumstances.

As people answered, the circumstances turned out to be the usual and only slightly less ludicrous than when a fellow writer accused me of using a “racist epithet” when I was actually using a state department abbreviation for citizens of a certain country who happened to embrace a communist philosophy.  This author, it seems, wrote an historical book in which racist characters use racist language.

The set that cannot think, but rather examines the entrails of language for signs of something other than what the text actually says, decided because he used the words, he was the racist.  (Yeah, this is why you end up with things such as “African-Americans” who have never left Africa, or who left Africa for Europe.  Because the left treats words as magical spells, not as significants for something real.  My favorite was found in an article, recently: “She wore an African-American coat.”  That better have been Kente cloth, or someone named Hannibal was involved.)

Yes, this is changing.  It is changing, because people not-in-the-bubble are paying less and less attention to the serial melt downs of the bien pensant.  OTOH I’m fairly sure there are people on the other side who think I’m fascist, racist, sexist and homophobic, as well as secretly Northern European (since that was one I actually caught.)  And also that there is the effect I observed in the village: People quite far away from the precipitating incident for the ridiculous rumor don’t know any better and will assume there was something there, at the back.  You know “No smoke without fire.”

So — when dealing in rumors, make sure you check.  Even if it’s about someone you dislike intensely.  Check what is actually happening, if you can with the person him/herself.  And then spread the truth as loudly as you can.

The times they are achanging, and by killing one of the tools of social disgrace and ostracism for conservatives in mostly left professions, you can give them a push in the right direction.

When someone says a colleague is “well, you know” say you don’t know and ask.  Nine times out of ten the “well, you know” will turn out to be conservative.  (BTW heard twice in recent series which I don’t watch but listen to, as Dan is watching them and I’m doing stuff like cooking or cleaning or drawing “it’s not like he’s conservative/republican” as a “well, it could be worse.”  Um…. they really thought they’d won.  So much ink drunk they must pee blue.)  In the remaining instance sometimes the rumor is just insane, like, you know “he once had a gay character as a villain in a story, so we know he’s homophobe.”

Deny rumor its power.  Refuse to repeat it, investigate it, tell the truth.

The reputation and professional life you save may be your own.  For the times, they are achanging.


272 responses to “Enter Rumor, Painted All In Tongues

  1. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    Of course, there’s the problem that the “gossip” may start out accurate but in the retelling the “gossip” turns into falsehood.

    This can be interesting when the “gossip” in generations old.

    Oh, Norman Rockwell had a painted titled “The Gossips”.

    This “little old woman” tells another person something and we see the chain of gossip passing from person to person until the gossip reaches the man who the gossip was about.

    Then the man is seen confronting the person who started the chain. 👿


    • Hee. I enjoyed the ending bit with comments about sitting for him.

    • Thank you for posting the link.

    • A lot of rumors I catch are misunderstood jokes…often very funny, if you know the folks.

    • You have played that wonderful game known as telephone? Where one person whispers something to the next person, who whispers what they thought they heard to the next person, who whispers… until the last person repeats out loud what they think they heard? No repeats, no checking, just pass it along? Usually it results in quite amazing distortions. I think it is one of the best games to play to learn about the dangers of gossip and “passing along” what you heard. Highly recommended.

    • For a more humorous take, see the “grapevine” scene from the movie Johnny Dangerously.

  2. I was guilty of spreading rumor once, to my shame. I had heard that my second cousin’s husband had hit her, and I repeated it. I should have asked her (or him) or my sister, even.

    • Know of two people, brother and sister, who didn’t talk to one another for years because of a badly interpreted rumor.
      two kids, cousins, were building a tree house, night came and one had gone home, the other’s dad needed his hammer, and it wasn’t were kid had left it so a call was made to the nephew’s house (son of a sister) to ask him where it could be, he knew, thanks given as kid got dad his hammer. End of story.
      rumor was brother yelled at sister with bad heart and berated nephew. Other sister thought that was beyond the pale. wouldn’t talk to brother
      years later sitting in the same restaurant the sis chatted with sis-in-law, changed to sharing the booth and started talking to brother again. some time later the real story was sorted between the two and they are now rather close.
      brings to mind:

  3. There is, or at least was, a picture/meme floating about the web of some folks at the edge (in) a pool and fellow in jaguar costume facing/approaching them. The added text is ‘HEY GUYS’ (or maybe ‘HI GUYS’) as if he’s intruding. This is not the case. I was there when that photo was taken.

    The event was Rocket City FurMeet in Huntsville, Alabama some years ago. The folks in the pool were con staff. The fellow in the jaguar costume was also (or very soon was) as well. The usual way the image is used is pretty much the opposite of what was really going on. In other words, nothing unusual, alas.

    • On the other hoof, I have told coworkers that if they must spread anything about me, they really ought to at least make it interesting. Not necessarily true, but interesting. As far as I know, this has failed to happen. Or else they figure the real me is unbelievable enough. Hrmm.. just last night I was told I was a cartoon character. I do not have a problem with this.

    • I miss the old Rocket City setup on SL, just sayin.

      • It went *poof* just about the time I got to SL. Now, I’ve pretty much given up on SL, but do attend a (very) little gathering in/on sine.space once or twice a week.

  4. In both cases, unless you’re ravishingly interesting to look at, or a celebrity, you’re like to meld with the landscape and matter to no on

    In certain cities, if you are no longer a hot item you have some liberty. I gather that Garbo would walk on the streets of New York without anyone realizing that she was Garbo. Where there are many elegant aloof women that what is one more?

  5. In Hans Ballad’s novel ‘Every Man Dies Alone,’ which is set in Nazi Germany, a young couple moves from Berlin to a small village in the belief that there will be less political hysteria. They find that they were wrong:

    “Like many city dwellers, they’d had the mistaken belief that spying was only really bad in Berlin and that decency still prevailed in small towns. And like many city dwellers, they had made the painful discovery that recrimination, eavesdropping, and informing were ten times worse in small towns than in the big city. In a small town, everyone was fully exposed, you couldn’t ever disappear in the crowd. Personal circumstances were quickly ascertained, conversations with neighbors were practically unavoidable, and the way such conversations could be twisted was something they had already experienced in their own lives, to their chagrin.”

    I think social media over the last few years has demonstrated that Marshall McLuhan’s ‘electronic village’ shares some of these undesirable attributes of an actual village.


  6. This. So much. I was raised in a small town. I don’t think I’m ever going back to one, ever. Because there was one “genteel older church lady” with enough money to buy half the town, and everyone knew it, and if she took a dislike to you…. Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty.

    (And that’s leaving aside the bit that as one of the few Odds in the local population, grade school was almost literally lethal. Small town? Homeschool the kids. I swear.)

    • Funny, a small town saved me.

      I had been living in a great big city in the late 1960s. The Parents sent south to go to a Quaker boarding school in the eastern Tennessee mountains.

      The people there did find those of us from outside their world eccentric. They tended to take the attitude we could not help it, having the misfortune of being born elsewhere. The reactions ranged from a loving welcome to quite polite avoidance. Yes, we knew a few thought we were ‘infections,’ but most of the town proved to be decent people.

      For me the culture shock was great. But, because of the experience, I learned that big city north-easterners do not have the corner on how to think and live.

    • Being a knuckle dragging type of geek prevented most violent acts against me. The ones who tried found out the rumors from the football team that I liked hitting were true. They probably laughed at me behind my back for being into science fiction, model rockets, weightlifting, and breeding chickens, but being in a small town, less than 275 souls, word would get back to me sooner or later…..

      • Ayah – this, veritably, this. Being possessed of the awareness that “fitting in” wasn’t an option for me — either accept me as I am or reject me; adjustment wasn’t in my programming (although courtesy was innate) — I in High School never much cared what others said. It was beyond my control and thus beneath my consideration. It wasn’t as if I expected to be there forever.

        The fact that bezerkers would meet my irate gaze and back slowly away may have had some slight effect on my being allowed to maintain that sphere.

        • Yah. One guy who sucker punched me found out that I could take a hit too when I immediately grabbed his neck in my left hand and picked him up off the gym floor where he was laying when I retaliated.

      • Fortunately, the small town I grew up in was of the type that if parents found out that anything SERIOUS had happened because of one of their children (minor squabbles didn’t count), there would have been major consequences, to the point that the perpetrators would probably avoid the victim for the next several weeks. Almost all of my bad treatment was verbal.

      • Ah. I was tiny, 2 years younger than my classmates, and have a tricky nervous system that overloads very easily. (As in, one hit and I was pretty much paralyzed in place.) I think you can imagine things from there….

  7. Most of the towns I lived in when growing up were small. I was always the stranger moving in– so of course, I and my family were gossip fodder. There were only a few people who were brave or stupid enough to find out if we were like “they said we were.” We had problems… but I am finding out by talking to a few childhood friends that there were a lot of people there who had some serious problems.

    • Early last year, I think it was, a local judge was getting his hair cut in the town’s only barber shop. (Well, maybe the now retired other barber was still working a few days a week then.) The barber and I were the only other people there. That’s when the barber mentioned (and I think the two of us had talked about it earlier) that there had always been a tale in his family that his grandfather had murdered his first wife. My family (one side of it of course) had had this tale as well—that my great aunt had been poisoned by her husband prior to being found floating in a pond. The retrospective give away was that the man would not permit his son to get a swallow of his mother’s coke like he usually did. The judge looked sorta surprised. Yes, my great-aunt had been married to my barber’s grandfather.

      And talking to my barber and asking his grandmother’s name is how I found out the name of “that woman.”

  8. A long time ago when I was shorter, my family moved into a new house. A neighbor’ promptly put a pad lock on the gate to keep us kids out.
    I don’t think my family and theirs exchanged over then a dozen words while we lived there.. My siblings still live in that town and years later hear that my mother has been married twice. Needless to say she was only married once. This rumor was eventually traced back to those neighbors.

    Apparently because my hair color and complexion is different then my brother and sister they had determined that my mom must have had another husband before marrying my father.

    We were slightly amused.

    • When we had moved into Center City Philadelphia we lived in a neighborhood that was predominately Irish Catholic. An elderly man lived in the row house to the left of us. We never exchanged more than polite nods that I can remember.

      At some point Daddy was being checked for a security clearance someone came by to interview him. He had not let the interviewer into his home, so what there was of an interview took place on the front steps. The neighbor was overheard by Momma explaining that we must be communists; he knew it because I was an only child and Daddy had red hair.

      I never have figured out what having red hair had to do with it.

      • I never have figured out what having red hair had to do with it.

        They might have just been assuming that anyone without a soul had to be a commie. 😉

        • Hey, gingers have souls, and you can tell – they get a freckle for each soul they steal

        • I have a soul.

          Several of them, actually. I keep them in jars like The Governor did with walker heads in The Walking Dead. 😛

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        If redhead, probably Irish. If Irish, one child means parents are not good Catholics. If not good Catholics, probably communist.

      • Waaaay back when I was working for Pizza Slut Hut, while substituting at another store I actually had someone say to me that redheads were commies. My hair was more red than brown, then, but I found it kind of amusing more than anything else so I shrugged it off and carried on.

  9. In my experience the problem is less one of small villages than of small minds. Even if you live in Mexico City or Tokyo you are living in overlapping small communities — your neighborhood, your workplace, your profession, your social circle — of (usually) small minded people. It is simply that (as Sarah noted) the small mindedness is more overt, less hidden in the village.

    The world is full of small minded people with nothing more on their to do list than tearing down others, and the best thing one can do when one of them drops a rumour bomb is a disinterested look and a quiet “So what?”

    Then again, considering my social circle is down to nearly zero, I cannot recommend taking my advice on any matter social.

    Of course, you know what they said about her.

  10. Christopher M. Chupik

    It’s very frustrating living in an era where our news media political complex has conspired to make learning the truth almost impossible. Is that a legitimate issue, or fake news? Should I ignore it or be outraged? I feel like I’m lost in a maze of mirrors these days.

    • Any newscast is at best half true. Most with omit or lack crucial details and context (see all of the hysteria over past 2 weeks over firsts that were not.) If it comes from govt info add more salt.

    • Picture 4 1/2 years ago, the Senate Majority Leader standing on the Senate floor asserting that *someone* told him Mitt Romney hadn’t paid any taxes. Harry didn’t know if it was true, but *someone* who knew *someone else* said it, so you’ve got to wonder…
      What I wonder is how in the hell they got the law that they were immune from being sued for slander as long as they were speaking from the Senate floor.
      Does anyone wonder that the Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt created by this absolute abuse of power for political gain might have impacted the election results? Then, when someone merely leaks the honest emails of Hildy-beast, of course we must believe it is ‘Fake News’ and so badly influenced the election that Electors must vote for someone other than who they pledged to support.

      On my good days, I hope Trump does well and turns the country around. On the bad ones, I don’t care if he burns the Capital (i.e. the whole city, including the Capitol) down.

      • I don’t care if he burns the Capital (i.e. the whole city, including the Capitol) down.

        If he does, he better damn well invite some of us to help him spread the gasoline and strike the match……..

      • Once again, I would be a bit more selective as there are things of worth in that city. I would miss the Smithsonian, particularly the Freer gallery. There are also those copies of the Declaration and Constitution, which are irreplaceable. I would positively mourn the Library of Congress.

      • And, when later asked if he regretted his unfounded attack on Romney, Reid responded, “I don’t regret that at all. He didn’t win, did he?”

      • What I wonder is how in the hell they got the law that they were immune from being sued for slander as long as they were speaking from the Senate floor.

        US Constitution, Article I, Section 6, first paragraph beginning at second sentence:

        They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.

        • And as one of my history teachers once told the class, it’s there for a good reason. The Founders knew that arguments would break out on the Senate floor, and that people would lose their cool. The Founders didn’t want Senators going to prison because some of them lost their cool and either said intemperate words about their opponents, or got into a fist fight.

          Of course, fist fights don’t break out in the US Senate (unlike in some countries where the legislature apparently has them happen every so often). So I don’t know whether the provision was actually needed. It’s mostly known about these days because it applied when Charles Sumner was physically beaten.

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            I think there was also an aspect of protecting a member of the “minority” faction if he said something that the “majority” faction didn’t like.

            For that matter, it would also protect members of Congress from a nasty President by preventing him from using the law to prevent them from attending a session of Congress or to prosecute the members of Congress when they said something he didn’t like.

            • I believe the King of England (James II*) had shown an unhelpful tendency to arrest members of Parliament for disrespect of the Crown.

              *I believe he was the recent reason, but he was by no means the first to do so.

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                Many things in the Constitution were because of “interesting” happenings in England. 😀

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            There’s been combat in our legislature, it is just that we moderns are degenerate, and not worth much.

          • Don’t happen *now*. Let’s just say that things were a bit more colorful during our first century. Fistfights, cane fights, and at least one attempted-murder-by-rifle.

            Things are much more staid today. Pity, that. I can think of quite a few congress critters whose attitude could only be helped if they were nervously looking over their shoulder as they spewed their vitriol.

            Then again, I thought the recall mechanism in Piper’s _Lone Star Planet_ was a *fine* idea.

        • I believe that was the claim by Patrick Kennedy in 2006 when driving DUI he crashed into the Capitol barricade.
          So like Progressives to take the good intentions of the Founding Fathers and twist it into evil slander.
          Unfortunately, it is the last sentence from ; on that does it. I would say Libel is a civil not criminal case, so arrest isn’t the issue, just paying for damages. Now, I suppose you could still try a civil case without questioning the speaker. It is not like we need Harry to admit he said it, it is public record.

          • With Reid, I’m pretty sure the “for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place” bit would preclude even civil damages.

        • it is quite late at night, no one is around, so I might advance an idea that others may have in their deepest dreams.
          so a senator may not be “arrested while on the senate floor”.
          that means that should we hire (I mean elect) as a senator someone like, I don’t know, Jesse Ventura, the Rock, any MMA fights, pro boxers, ect. to go to Washington, for the sole reason to PUNCH THE F**K OUT OF EVERY DEMOCRAT SENATOR. period, dot end of sentence. that’s it. that’s their job in Washington. since the left has introduce violence into “peaceful protesting”, let us use the same tactis … legally.
          yes it is late at night and I need to go to bed, but think about this …
          Senator Larry Corriea punching Chuck Shumer in the face on the senate floor, live on CSPAN.
          night all

          • On a more serious note, yesterday I heard someone say we should vote out all Democrats. The significant thing is that this person was a pretty staunch Democrat just a few years ago. The tipping point has been how they’ve acted from the day following the election through the present.

            • I think I told the story about my acquaintance the Democrat Party precinct officer? Gentleman was of the old school Tom Foley Democrat variety, and had been since the days of FDR. He’d finally achieved the pinnacle of his political ambitions, which was statewide Democrat party office, something above the precinct level. This happened early in the Clinton administration, and he eventually went off to some Democratic Party thing back east, I think run by the DNC. Up until that time, he’d been a “Democrats can do no wrong…” type of guy.

              I don’t know what the hell went on back there at that convention/meeting/whatever the hell it was, but he came back a totally changed man, politically speaking. He started a slow process of disassociating himself from what had been his life’s work in the party, and eventually quit doing anything at all for them. I got to talking to him during this process, and he wouldn’t really tell me why he’d started down that road, or why he was leaving the party he’d been such a vociferous advocate for, but he did leave me with a prediction… “Democrats? One day, we’ll be hunting them through the streets, with dogs… And, we’ll be right to do it, too…”.

              I really don’t know what the hell made this gentleman change so profoundly, in terms of politics, but the more I see of the reaction the Democrats are having to Donald Trump, the more I think of his prediction.

              Also, kinda-sorta wondering if I’m gonna see that “hunt through streets with dogs…” thing, in my lifetime. Didn’t happen in his, but I’ve still got a few years on me, yet…

              It is truly a thing of wonder to observe how far the Democrats have drifted, in my lifetime. Tom Foley wouldn’t even be in the party, today… And, his sort of Democrat once dominated.

      • “What I wonder is how in the hell they got the law that they were immune from being sued for slander as long as they were speaking from the Senate floor.”

        Actually it is not a law. It is in the Constitution. Article I; Section 6. It applies to the House as well.

    • The difference is, now we *know* the mass media are lying to us.

      • Now we know???

        I figured they called them news “stories” because folks knew they weren’t true. I believe everything I “read” in the news: I believe that is what somebody wants me to think is the case, and through long-term observation I attempt to suss out what the pack of stories is hiding at the core.

        While I am sure that some of what is reported as “news” may be true, I am confident it was so only through a failure in the editing process.

        N.B. – before any of y’all accuse me of being “cynical” be assured I know not the meaning of the word. I once looked it up in the dictionary and all I found was my picture.

        • Professor Badness

          I think cynical is a good appellation for most of the Huns.
          Well, those that comment anyway.

        • Annoyingly, all too often the line between “cynic” and “realist” is too fine to see without the help of an electron telescope.

        • If you have trouble explaining to someone why you don’t consider the news trustworthy, invite them to think about how much it costs to do news, and how they pay for it. How do they pay for it? They get “eyeballs”—that is, views. And what gets the views? The first past the post, true or not.

          There is absolutely no incentive for the news to stop long enough to make sure that what they are reporting is accurate, and a whole lot of incentive to report something sensational, because that’s what makes the money to pay the people to report the news.

          Before the internet, when newspapers had once-a-day printing as a monetary source, they could at least take a few hours to fact check. Now if they stop long enough to do that, everybody has already shared around their competitors’ stories and they get no love.

          I know people think that journalists have a commitment to the truth. Some do. But even they often have to bow to pressure to get stories out now, and “truth” will fall by the wayside when your job depends on speed.

  11. I’ve done the small town thing. Gossip is a full-contact sport. Somewhat fortunate that this was Downeast Maine and a certain gentle pragmatism prevails–if you know someone is, shall we say, “emotionally invested” the testimony is marked down in value. I was only there a year, so the only gossip about me that I was aware of was I was a “good girl”. Mom, on the other hand, supposedly chased people off her property by yelling and waving a gun while wearing a white jumpsuit. (This was reported to us by a *highly* amused local after meeting my extremely easygoing and courteous mother). Mom’s comment “I don’t even OWN a white jumpsuit!”. We never did figure out where that bit came from… (yes, she had a gun, but it was for porcupines that ate her baby trees. Do not piss off the sweet little grey-haired Druid. And she never waved it at anybody.)

    • I couldn’t have resisted saying, “A white jumpsuit? No.”

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      But of course, she wouldn’t “wave her gun” at people.

      If she had it out, she’d shoot people. [Kidding Grin]

    • Mom, on the other hand, supposedly chased people off her property by yelling and waving a gun while wearing a white jumpsuit.

      Well, before I would pass judgment based on that, I would need one additional piece of information…

      Did this happen before or after Labor Day?

    • I think I figured it out. That was probably the ghost of Annie Oakley helping out your mother. After all, everyone knows ghosts are white, right? And waving a rifle around? That’s Annie Oakley, isn’t it? So you see, people just misunderstood. They saw the ghost of Annie Oakley out there protecting your mother, and confused the ghost and your mother. Right?

  12. My usual response to gossip about me is ”You say that as if it were a bad thing.”

  13. John Podhoritz mentioned on a recent Commentary podcast (in relation to the Trump Wee wee Gate) that intelligence folks were incredibly credulous and susceptible to rumor.

    • prolly cause too often that’s all they have to go on.

      • The dark science of Kremlinology?

        I wouldn’t doubt the Kremlin was aware of that and playing mind games with them:

        “Okay, Mikhail, you need to stand a quarter inch closer to Ivan there, and slightly forward of Boris. That’ll give the CIA fits wondering whether you’re moving up in the leadership or plotting a coup.”

    • Related- really good salespeople tend to be easy marks for scams.

  14. Problem is any time you interact with people you get the gossips. Online worst I find.

  15. On the trouble with villages and gossip: I think that depends on the culture / region. I’ve lived in lots of villages (1000 to 4000 or so people) in the past 30 years, in New Hampshire. All left us alone and none had any significant gossip troubles. Not even after I ran for state representative once. There’s a New England tradition of leaving people alone and unmolested unless they ask for help, then you’ll get all the help that’s needed.

    • Or, the jungle telegraph does it for them. Joe got hurt and can’t work for a month? A load of firewood to heat the house mysteriously appears in his driveway when he’s at the doctor’s, an unusual number of neighbors “just were passing by” with extra hot casseroles that they suddenly don’t have room for, people suddenly clean out their attics and find “perfectly good” kids clothes in his kids sizes…but it’s not *charity*, heavens no! That would be rude.

    • > villages (1000 to 4000 or so people

      That’d be a medium-sized town in Arkansas. That includes many of the county seats.

  16. “he once had a gay character as a villain in a story, so we know he’s homophobe.”

    I once picked up a book by Bruce Vilanch (remaindered bookstore) entirely because, which browsing it, I ran into a pice he had done taking to task the Usual Gay Suspects who had thrown conniptions because BRAVEHEART depicted Edward I (who was, minimally, bisexual and in the opinion of some serious historians a primarily Gay man who knew he needed heirs) as a massively unpleasant and untrustworthy man. Vilanch took the position that the historical record indicated that Edward I was a snake, and probably gay, so the depiction of him as a Gay Snake was only fair. As he put it “If we want to claim Michelangelo we are going to have to accept Edward.”

    Pity the Left didn’t take that to heart. Of course , to do so they would have to be capable of critical thought.

    • nitpick mode: Surely you mean Edward II? I’ve read a lot about the Plantagenets and never ran across accusations of Edward I being inclined that way. Indeed he seems to have had a strong marriage given the number of children and the Eleanor Crosses that still mark his wife’s funeral journey.

  17. thephantom182

    “I suspect for extreme introverts there are only two choices of residence, out in the middle of nowhere, or the center of a large city. In both cases, unless you’re ravishingly interesting to look at, or a celebrity, you’re like to meld with the landscape and matter to no one.”

    Middle of nowhere is working well for me right now. Seven years on, it is interesting that the town gossips seem to know all about me, considering the only people I ever talk to around here are the cashiers in the various stores.

    Good part of course, I don’t care a damn. Nearest neighbor is more than a bowshot away, and very cool.

    • I think it was Daniel Boone who was ready to move when he could see the smoke from his neighbor’s cabin.

      (If you don’t know the details of the early US frontier, Mr. Boone moved from Pennsylvania to North Carolina (setting a precedent, it would seem) then to, I think, Tennessee to Kentucky to Alabama, if I recall that National Geographic article correctly. He’s the one Fess Parker played before he played Davy Crockett or he lived before Davy Crockett. Crockett’s the one that died at the Alamo.)

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        His last move was to Missouri, where he died.

        As for him, “continuing to move because neighbors were too close” that may be one of many stories told about him that aren’t true. 😀

      • Claim about my ancestors: if a Finn would see wood chips floating down the river he’d take his ax and go upriver to find who was building a cabin there, and persuade the person to move (or bury them there) because the area was already occupied so there was no room for newcomers.

        Fortunately this country had lots and lots of small rivers (still does, but there used to be more brooks, the natural kind that is).

  18. One thing I’ve noticed, since the advent of the Internet, is that the small-town rumor mill seems to have morphed into something quite different from my youth here.

    Forty years ago, once winter shut down the tourist trade, it was all internecine rumor about the neighbors, and God help the new folks in town–I think I heard about my parents divorcing three or four times, while I was in high school, and the whole thing was just annoying as hell. New car in the driveway…? Mom was having an affair. New guy at the till, in the family gas station? My stepdad was gay, and that guy was his lover…

    Nowadays, with Face-schmace, the same level of rumor and innuendo goes on, but it’s focused on the people they “friend”, not the random neighbor. Those pass unnoticed, while the attention is centered on the scandalous Aunt Lucy, who is rumored to be spending time with a Satanist…

    Whole thing is a friggin’ joke, and why I’ve steadily refused to take part in anything even vaguely FaceBook- or MySpace-ish. Life is too short for this bullshit, and I note that the participation rates in it amongst the immature are far higher than those who have actual constructive things to do in their lives. Which, I propose, may explain a lot of why the idiots in Silicon Valley and elsewhere have focused their efforts on this back-fence bullshit tool, rather than actual constructive pursuits.

  19. I grew up in a small town in Ohio. Gossip traveled at the speed of sound. What ever it was the whole town knew in less than 24 hours.

  20. It wasn’t death, but we did have a violent neighbor my age and it was totally my fault when I took the alley shortcut and got punched and bitten.

    Am I the only one who thought this?
    You’re victim-blaming! (Runs for the hills)

    • I got spanked for forgetting not to go into the alley.

      • There was a time when the children in our neighborhood were not under any circumstance to go to the local park without accompaniment of an adult. We definitely got punished if we disobeyed this.

        Years later I overheard a bit of a conversation about the time. I don’t know the details or if anyone was convicted in regard to the matters.

  21. OT: One of my neighbors has a “no home for hate” sign in its window. What is the deal with this?

    • Based on a quick search, it appears it may be aimed at the supposed “rash of anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic attacks” since the election.

      • So did those ever actually happen, or did they all vanish into the woodwork or get debunked?

        • While I think it’s likely that there has been at least SOME harsh words here and there, I haven’t seen one that really stood up to scrutiny yet.

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            All criticism of President Trump is motivated by anti-Semitism. It has come out of the woodwork, especially since the election, and is very troubling.

            • Which is one reason this is so very puzzling:

              Rashid Khalidi Worries that Jews Will ‘Infest’ the Trump Administration
              The famous Columbia professor repeatedly used a Nazi-era metaphor to depict Jews as vermin.
              Rashid Khalidi is unapologetic. The longtime Columbia University professor last month said repeatedly that supporters of Israel would “infest” the Trump administration — language that evokes the imagery and metaphors of the Nazis. But for all the on-campus sensitivity seminars and trigger warnings that dominate our age, don’t expect an apology in this case. Apparently, no language, even if it is dehumanizing and deeply rooted in historic anti-Semitism, is out of line in condemning Israel.

              Professor Khalidi is well known as Columbia University’s professor of modern Arab studies. January 17, in a lengthy radio interview on WBEZ Chicago’s “Worldview,” Khalidi warned that this infestation would begin under the new president. Describing Israel supporters in terms that evoke vermin was not a momentary lapse or slip of the tongue. He used “infest” three times, saying “these people infest” the Trump transition team and will soon “infest” the government.

              Who are “these people?” In his view, they’re a bit crazy but also scheming. Khalidi explains:

              There are a group of people, a lot of them in Israel and some of them in the United States, who live in a world of their own. That is to say, they think that whatever they want, and whatever cockamamie schemes they can cook up, can be substituted for reality.

              [END EXCERPT]

              Being anti-Semitic and “infested” with Jews should surely generate confused emotions.

              • BobtheRegisterredFool

                Thanks, I’m trying to collect a list of citations of anti-Semitic Trump critiques.

              • The Los Angeles Times has a tape of Barack Obama and Bill Ayers, among others, speaking at a 2003 function celebrating Khalidi that they’ve refused to release. Apparently, the celebration was in honor of his becoming a professor at Columbia, after going from PLO adviser to professor at the University of Chicago.

          • Well, there was that mosque shooting in Quebec — CLEARLY inspired by Trump’s election, since it happened in the fifty-first state.

            (Ouch! I think my tongue’s STUCK. Any tips on getting one’s tongue unstuck from one’s cheek?)

      • All the attacks that are, like the man upon the stair, not there.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      No Home For Hate; Support Trump in Everything

    • He probably wears a safety pin, too. (rolls eyes.)

    • I am not sure. It might mean they are grammar impaired, or possibly they want no homosexuals coming around their home.

  22. There was a Japanese RPG – well, technically *two* RPGs – that ran with the idea of “What if spreading gossip made it true?” Persona 2: Innocent Sin and Persona 2: Eternal Punishment (the second is an alternate universe created by what happens in the first) made that an important game mechanic. You learn a bit of gossip, and then have the option to spread it around the city in order to make it true.

    Oh, and the bad guys are fully aware of how this works.

    In Innocent Sin, this results in probably the best known part of the game – a rumor is spread that Hitler has appeared in modern-day (well, 1999, when the game was released) Japan. That, of course, leads to exactly that – the appearance of Hitler in modern-day Japan. And he’s a boss that the player has to defeat.

  23. Doesn’t do me any good to hear gossip because I can never remember what was said about who or whatever and who told me. I usually just look bored and change the subject. Works well for me. (Plus, for the past 20 years have lived in very small town which we love. Everyone is somehow related to everyone so not a good idea to bad mouth anyone.)

  24. Reblogged over at The Starship Cat Blog.

    I grew up on a farm just outside a small town of 300 people in central Illinois. Even out in the countryside, we lived just down the world from a world-class gossip. As in, you couldn’t do much of anything without her letting the whole west side of the township know about it. Another of our neighbors was always trying to figure out how to get into town without this neighbor knowing about it.

  25. “No smoke without fire.”

    I usually heard it, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” and my reply is if you believe that, you just admitted you fall for anybody who blows smoke. Still it’s hard not to fall for it. I remember more than once falling for the left’s latest “Hitler”, and discovering that, “Hey that Rush Limbaugh is pretty smart and funny,” and, “Hey who is this evil Newt Gingrich they keep talking about? I just see someone very knowledgeable and articulate. Well he does have a funny name (not really if you’re from the South).

  26. I have a professional associate who is quite brilliant in his field. He is also a ranting raving anti-Trump. He just made a post “I really think he’s just rubbing his hands with glee at how many dominionist SCOTUS judges he will get to appoint.” For those who are not aware of “dominionism” it is a term for the followers of Rushdoony and North who believe they have a God given mandate to establish strict theocratic rule over first the USA and then the world. Needless to say these folk are a tiny minority, but it seems it has become popular to claim that the vast majority of Christians are “dominionist” and thereby disqualify them from holding any political office. In the comments someone noted that “Home schooled dominionists are far too widespread.” thereby tainting yet another group of people.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      The idiots think because somebody runs as a Republican he must be a Religious Fanatic wanting to create a theocracy. 😦

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      I think we all know someone like that.

    • I am always astonished at the degree of acceptance the idea that Atheists are not also religious gets. The evangelical among them try hard to make,everybody pretend to be Atheists on the grounds that everything ELSE is a religion, and must be kept private and out of sight.

      Me? I’m an agnostic. I see some value in many religions. I also see a good deal of dangerous bushwa. But Atheism is not superior, and has its own massacres to account for.

      I can’t help but feel that a lot of the venom aimed at Protestant Christianity comes from people who are uneasily aware, on some level, that no basically Protestant society has ever racked up anything approaching the number or rotting corpses that Atheistical societies did in the 20th Century. They have to tear Christianity down, because if they don’t they might have to admit that the Christians have a point or five.

      • Agnosticism is rational, it merely asserts “I don’t know.”. Atheism assumes that which has not been proven: that there is no Creator. It asserts knowledge it cannot possess.

        There is no evidence to support their belief. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

        • Absence of evidence is indeed evidence of absence. It’s not proof of absence, and how strong evidence it is varies.

          And of course, ruling out evidence because it conflicts with atheism means the atheism can’t be based on the evidence you do rule in. (I still remember the man who said that every mysterious thing had proven, on adequate investigation, to be natural in origin, and so he operated on the premise that it would prove true of all others. I asked him what was “adequate” investigation that did not turn up such natural origins. He was awfully long-winded about saying, “Never.”)

        • Yes… I used to have long arguments with atheists online about that until I got bored because the arguments they gave were always the same.

          Of course they will never ever admit that it’s only a belief. Or even a sort of religion.

        • The thing about Smug Atheists (there are other sorts, but they don’t bother people much) is that if you point out that their belief is a religious one, and therefore the State has no more business enforcing its lack of Observations any more than it does enforcing the Observation of, say, Christian taboo, they get really shrill. The don’t like the idea that they shouldn’t be able to make their religious neighbors hide believe and observation away.

          • I refer to atheists under the categories of “hostile” and “not hostile.” I have several friends in the latter category but none in the former. And the former group is the reason that though I don’t see a “war on Christianity”, I can understand why some people think so. (On a thread of “tax the churches,” I saw one person assert that a church building is “an unnecessary luxury.”)

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              One atheist on Baen’s Bar uses the term “anti-theist” for the hostile atheists.

      • “Religion?”
        “Well, atheist, actually.”
        “But if you had proof..”
        “Then I’d change my mind.”
        “So you’re really an agnostic.”
        “No, just not an idiot.”
        “Do you believe in unicorns?”
        What’s that got to-”
        “But if you encountered one, and were satisfying it not a horse with a prosthesis or a goat with moved horn buds..then what?”
        “I’d change my mind, of course.”
        “You are unicorn agnostic. You don’t really not believe in them, do you?”

    • “it seems it has become popular to claim that the vast majority of Christians are “dominionist” and thereby disqualify them from holding any political office.”

      And they wonder how Trump got elected.

    • The thing that totally soured me on the left whas their haranguing for decades that fundamentalist Christians in this country wanted to establish a theocracy so they could murder gays, oppress minorities and keep women barefoot and pregnant.

      Well in the 90s (I think) when horror stories about fundamentalist Islam started being known about in this country I fully expected the left to be all over them like white on rice. This was a group of people doing the very same things that the left was ‘horrified’ that might occur in this country if not for their due diligence.

      Of course nothing like that happened. In fact the preferred mode of the left was to ignore Islamic atrocities and when they did comment about it it was ‘well we can’t judge another culture’ or ‘well it’s the America’s fault because of _______’. That’s when the utter duplicity of the left finally hit me.

      • I see that you have read Suzette Haden Elgin’ s Native Tongue trilogy as well as Atwood’ s The Handmaid’ s Tale.

        • I actually like The Handmaid’s Tale. Of course, I also like a whole lot of post-apocalyptic fiction, probably because I was a kid in the 80s and there was a strong undercurrent of “we’re all going to die in a nuclear holocaust.” And I can like it as fiction.

      • The thing is that they’re not consciously duplicitous. They’re just too busy rebelling against an America that never was to notice that there are threats to what they want that aren’t from said America.

        • Most kids go through a phase when they realize that their parents aren’t perfect. They then act like they’ve been betrayed somehow and assume that their parents are morons and elevate other parents who contradict their parents as ‘cool’. Most eventually grow out of that phase.

          To me it seems that most leftists are stuck in a political ‘juvenile’ stage. Since America is flawed then to them everything it stands for is a lie and those other countries who oppose America are the ‘cool’ countries.

    • For those of your who don’t even know who R.J. Rushdoony even was, here’s a take that demonstrates how much people want to claim he was influential: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rousas_Rushdoony.
      I’m steeped pretty deep in the conservative evangelical subculture, and this guy is seriously not a big deal.

      • Audioconsultant

        “I’m steeped pretty deep in the conservative evangelical subculture, and this guy is seriously not a big deal.”

        Yes. I would probably have never heard of him despite years in conservative evangelical circles, except for subscribing to Gary North’s economics newsletter for a while. I eventually decided North was a fraud, but not before collecting a fair number of his books.

        Those who try to claim a massive following for dominionism are just making things up.

  27. Pa (and Ma) were friends with a retired preacher. His wife was rather.. interested.. in the goings on of her neighbors. We heard things.. eventually working out that to see most of such without being seen she had to use a step-stool to look out a particular small high window. I have a suspicion that had we been neighbors Pa and I (and perhaps $SISTAUR) would’ve had a grand time coming up with bizarre yet harmless things for her to witness.

    • I am fond of capes. The sort of medieval looking ones, with a large hood. I used to use one as street wear once too. That can get funny reactions, especially if it is black. Have to admit part of the reason for using it were the reactions.

    • You could have so much fun with party lines and disinformation.

      OTOH, once I had something sharp to say, in church, to a busybody who took exception to us spending Sunday morning to repair a fence torn down by a tornado, Gave me a “You’re not supposed to work on Sunday.”

      I gave her “You’re not supposed to gossip, either.”

  28. The thing is, if you aren’t prepared to do any critical thinking (and many otherwise intelligent people have holes in their heads where they don’t) there is no difference between rumor, news (as presented by Media of any type or bias), and propaganda. None.

    You have to ask yourself, always; What is the source? How likely is this? Does this run counter to something I think I know, and if so how likely is it that I’m wrong?

    Most people, me included, don’t have the stamina. I try, but I also catch myself believing outrageous tripe because it fits the worn spots in my head.

    This is why I describe mself as a Crank.

  29. The thing that repulses me about people and gossip is how most are eager to believe the worst without making any effort to confirm. Even if it’s something they know is totally out of character about that person. I’m not sure why that is but it seems to be hardwired in most people.

  30. “The most annoying evil of living in a village was the gossip.”

    Beware Facebook.

  31. I am very late to this thread but….”secretly Northern European”?

    I may be advertising my own ignorance, but….what does that even mean?

  32. .Well that’s….bizarre.

    • NOT as bizarre as the weird conspiracy theory two years ago that maintained I was Mormon, White and Male, but… yeah. Weird.

      • It makes perfect sense once you accept that biology means squat and that culture and politics determine of gender, race and all else. You don’t support abortion or dependence on the state, nor do you claim victim status, so you are not “female” and you are not a person of color; ergo you are a white male. The radical insistence on being prepared for setbacks or even disaster — “build around, over, etc.” — and your ethos of reliance on self, family and church, coupled with your strong work ethic and willingness to help those who similarly believe in “helping themselves” most closely correlates to the Mormon (sans Harry Reid) culture.

        Of course, the technical term for those who think biology matters less than their social constructs is either “idiot” or “effing idiot” depending on how noisy the insistence.