Gossip, the Perverter

Over the years I’ve read this 20 or 30 times while preparing classes. Its truth and prescience hits me afresh each time.

Gossip is no longer the resource of the idle and of the vicious, but has become a trade, which is pursued with industry as well as effrontery. To satisfy a prurient taste the details of sexual relations are spread broadcast in the columns of the daily papers. To occupy the indolent, column upon column is filled with idle gossip, which can only be procured by intrusion upon the domestic circle . . . In this, as in other branches of commerce, the supply creates the demand. Each crop of unseemly gossip, thus harvested, becomes the seed of more, and, in direct proportion to its circulation, results in the lowering of social standards and of morality. Even gossip apparently harmless, when widely and persistently circulated, is potent for evil. It both belittles and perverts. It belittles by inverting the relative importance of things, thus dwarfing the thoughts and aspirations of a people. When personal gossip attains the dignity of print, and crowds the space available for matters of real interest to the community, what wonder that the ignorant and thoughtless mistake its relative importance. Easy of comprehension, appealing to that weak side of human nature which is never wholly cast down by the misfortunes and frailties of our neighbors, no one can be surprised that it usurps the place of interest in brains capable of other things.  Samuel D. Warren and Louis Brandeis, The Right to Privacy, 4 Harvard Law Review (1890)

Prescient, because it Warren and Brandeis wrote it in 1890. True, because ever time I see the gossip rags in the supermarket checkout line, ever time I spot a picture of Kim Kardashian, I feel brain cells wither.

One thought on “Gossip, the Perverter”

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