Friday, January 1, 2010

2010.01.01 - On the Maliciousness of Gossip and the Media

A Letter on the Natures of Gossip and the Media:
Benevolent or Malicious?

In 1998 Canadian TV-Journalist Pamela Wallin hosted a discussion on the nature of gossip. The discussion included the media 'problems' President Bill Clinton was having because his Lewinsky peccadillo had been disclosed.

I found the nature of the discussion thought provoking, and I arrived at an interesting conclusion on the nature of the media. That prompted me to write a letter to Ms. Wallin. I was disappointed that neither she nor her staff responded, because I think it would have lead to an interesting discussion on the nature of the media.

Here is that letter, slightly edited post-post.
e.gajd 2010.01.01

September 26, 1998

Pamela Wallin
CBC Newsworld

Re.: Having heard some Gossip on Gossip I Wanted to Gossip too ... Sept 25, 98

Dear Ms. Wallin:

I enjoyed the chin wag on gossip! In part because your guests confirmed what I felt could be "learned" from Clinton's thing, which is that all media is stained off-white.

Well, with a bit more thought that is a bit an exaggeration.

But the idea that gossip stops being gossip when it is malicious is interesting in that maliciousness implies an intent to achieve an end, be that end destructive or benevolent. This suggests, in line with your discussion, that 'true' gossip is a kind of social glue and/or sharing of community, that 'true' gossip is ultimately a sharing and/or display of personal power/knowledge without ulterior gain. Once the gossiper 'shares' the gossip, whatever point of power it had, even if hurtful to someone, is lost and a monopoly of knowledge has been reduced or eliminated.

But that leads to another key distinction between 'true' gossip and the malicious kind, which is that the true gossiper's information/power is freely given away ultimately, even if not immediately, to the benefit of the community in some way. Such as the removal of a monopoly of knowledge. On the other hand, the malicious "gossip" tries to leverage that power to greater power, such as Ken Starr using Clinton's pecker to perk up his own career. It is bemusing that Starr's success or impotence in doing this will depend on how the media leverages his virility in order to complete their agenda fiscal and social!

This then implies a startling assessment of the "good" media: because it purveys "gossip" with the ulterior motives of earning revenues and/or of setting socio-political agenda, it is malicious!


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