The age of social media, as should have been expected, has become the age of defamation. In times past, a gossip or low-life tale-bearer had to go house to house in order to harm an enemy. It might have been gratifying for the defamer of old to look into the face of a witless dupe as they succumbed to the lower angels of the human nature, reveling in the poison of personal destruction, but it was still a lot of work with relatively little or no reward. Now, instant communications and access to platforms accessed by millions in real time has given sociopaths, liars, and vengeance minded defects the ability to commit the ultimate crime with both impunity and a startling level of success. Add to this the willingness of most people in this morally darkened age, to not just revel in damaging gossip, but to weaponize it against political and social enemies, it becomes easy for honest people to see that we are in very perilous times.
Any intentional false communication, either written or spoken, that harms a person’s reputation; decreases the respect, regard, or confidence in which a person is held; or induces disparaging, hostile, or disagreeable opinions or feelings against a person.
Defamation may be a criminal or civil charge. It encompasses both written statements, known as libel, and spoken statements, called slander.West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
Defamation has always been a difficult law to access for those attacked by a defamer. It is one of the few areas of law where (often — not always, but often) the burden of proof lies with the victim (by “victim” here I mean the one being falsely accused, or accused without evidence or presumption of innocence.) In most cases, the victim has to try to establish a few things that are quite difficult to prove. Things like actual malice (that the accuser is making the accusation, or making a false statement, on purpose to harm the victim,) and that the harmful defamation is actually costing the victim something tangible (social contacts, respect, financial harm, etc.) It is also virtually impossible for a high public figure (for example: the President or someone in public office,) to ever take advantage of defamation laws.
So, two realities have come together to make this time period the Age of Defamation: 1. The ease with which mentally unbalanced people can spread lies in order to harm their perceived enemies. 2. The difficulty victims have in stopping it. This second point is a double-edged sword though. Precisely because defamation is historically difficult to prove and easy to commit, many modern defamers have gotten lazy. They’ve moved from the area of “defamation per quod,” to “defamation per se.” Which means they are making harmful statements without any regard to the truth, but also without any regard to an area where the law sides absolutely with the victims.
In some cases, called “defamation per se,” the victim does not have to jump through hoops in order to prove actual malice and so forth. When an attack is prima facie (on it’s face) defamatory, the victim does not have the burden of proof. For example, if you say Bob of Bob’s Magnificent Spectacular Burgers puts poison in his burgers, this is “defamation per se.” Bob doesn’t have to prove that he doesn’t. The accuser would have to prove that he does. If you say someone in their business is committing a crime or some immoral act, that is “defamation per se,” and it is much easier for a victim to get justice in such cases. Generally, “defamation per se” falls into the following categories:
Indications that a person was involved in criminal activity
Indications that a person had a “loathsome,” contagious or infectious disease
Indications that a person was unchaste or engaged in sexual misconduct
Indications that a person was involved in behavior incompatible with the proper conduct of his business, trade or profession
That is, of course, if you rely on the courts. For some people, most notably those few true Christians out there, the carnal courts are usually not a place where we’d like to see justice served (1 Cor. 6:1-8.)
Why call defamation “the ultimate crime?” Because that’s how the Bible represents it.
In the Bible, a specific instance of defamation is instanced as the only unforgivable sin. That should tell you what God thinks about the “parent category” of defamation.
And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come. (Mat 12:32)
I’ll note a few things in this passage. First, see that the crime against the Holy Spirit is to “speaketh against” Him, which, of course, is to speak lies or untruths against Him. As you will see in the definition of defamation I’ve given above, this is what defamation is: speaking lies or harmful untruths against a person in order to damage them or their cause. In this case, this defamation is also considered blasphemy. Second, you’ll notice that it is mentioned that (to those who are forgiven, and only to them,) speaking defamation against the Son of man (Christ,) will be forgiven. That Jesus says it will be forgiven, illustrates what a serious crime it is. This is to say, “EVEN the unspeakable, unconscionable crime of defaming Christ will be forgiven eventual converts,” but, defaming the Holy Ghost will not be forgiven them. Will murders be forgiven? Yes. Will thefts be forgiven? Yes. But this one category of defamation will not be forgiven. This illustrates plainly that defamation is the highest sin, and that every case of it is a very serious offense. Worse than murder. Some will say, “Well, yeah, but that is talking about defaming God, not defaming people,” but Jesus Himself said that what is done unto the least of these, His brethren, is done unto Him (Mat. 25:40.) Defamers in their self-deception will say “I’m not defaming, I’m telling the truth.” Well, you better be right, and the context of most deluded “truth tellers” condemns them as liars in that case too.
I’ve always said that you can always tell who is right in any disputation. The side going public in a personal way, slinging mud, anonymously spreading accusations, hysterically seeking to gain adherents, is almost always the guilty party. And in the area of Christian discourse, the attacker is self-evidently not a Christian person. Christians rely on Christ to defend them.
Defamation is worse than murder. You may say, “I’d rather be defamed, than murdered,” and perhaps that is true of you, but our personal preferences don’t effect the severity and effects of a crime. Christian’s do not see this life as an end in itself. It is a means. Their testimony here is more important than their carnal lives. Murder just kills the body. The reputation, love, care, affection, and respect for the victims of murder remains in the minds and hearts of honest people. Even people that did not know the victim well can harbor positive thoughts and memories of someone who is murdered. Positive affection and opinions means that the murdered person’s testimony remains intact. The good they did or believed in their lives remains untarnished. It stands against the darkened testimony of a darkened age as a rebuke against evil and a bulwark to good. “Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after. Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid.” (1Ti 5:24-25)
But what if that person isn’t physically murdered, but is defamed (socially, or reputationally murdered?) As I mentioned earlier, defamation is now easier and more rewarding than ever before. Well, their life testimony is attacked as well. Anonymous parasites can ruin lives, relationships, careers, etc. with merely an accusation. #MeToo, which started as real victims, in their own real names, making real accusations with real evidence, has morphed into a means by very low people to harm anyone they wish without any repercussions. Defamation has just become another tool in the toolbox of evil people who seek more than anything else in the world to harm others. Even those few sociopaths who are willing to defame under their own name see little to stop them in the age of attack blogs and twitter rage. Books freely available on Amazon teach people how to defame others in order to ruin lives. Liars can surround themselves with gossip whores and bottom dwelling garbage, and not lose any sleep over what they are doing. They can even build a platform of dupes and gossip lovers who are looking to see lives and reputations destroyed. Dogs don’t have conscience problems, so the ball keeps rolling downhill. Worse, low-life scumbags can now set up camp on the Internet, digitally harass, stalk, and verbally and socially murder whomever they want to harm, with little fear of any repercussions. Want to make sure everyone imbibes your poison? Easy. Create a fake Facebook account, farm your victim’s friend’s list, then private message links and lies at will. And what is the result of this crime? It is not just social and reputational murder. It is self-murder. They just don’t kill the person, they kill any good their victim ever did. They kill that person’s testimony, which is the work of their lives. But they also kill themselves. They evidence themselves as bereft of any humanity, but also as without any spiritually regenerated life.
Interestingly enough, the Bible doesn’t allow for gossip in any form, even if the accuser thinks himself to be in the right. The true believer knows that there is a system in place to redress grievances, and that even if he feels like he has been denied justice in the official forum for such things, he has an Advocate in the heavens who will surely make things right. Since gossips and liars are self-evidently unbelievers, even if they claim to be believers, they will next convince themselves that they are spreading their hate in order to protect others. This is almost never true, and can certainly be deemed false if the defamer is using unauthorized methods, anonymity, lies, and such to harm their victims. These folks can be dismissed out of hand.
A froward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends.
(Pro 16:28) (John Gill Commentary: “one that goes from place to place, from house to house, carrying tales, whispering into the ears of persons things prejudicial to the characters of others, mere lies and falsehoods”)
Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour: I am the LORD. (Lev 19:16) (You’ll note that the gossip is pictured as one actively moving against another – going up and down. This is the same terminology used for Cain, and for Satan himself, the accuser of the brethren, who is said to go up and down in the earth, seeking whom he may devour.)
He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips. (Pro 20:19) (John Gill notes that telling such secrets (even more so false secrets) is a violation of Christianity and the Law of Moses: “a man that has really got the secrets of others out of them respecting themselves and families, and the affairs of them, or however pretends he master of them; goes about telling his tales from house to house, to the great prejudice of those whose secrets he is entrusted with, or pretends to be; and to the great prejudice of those to whom he tells them, as well as to his own; this is contrary to the law of Moses, and the rules of Christianity”)
The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly. (Pro 18:8) (John Gill: “they are wounds; they wound the credit and reputation of the person of whom the tale is told; they wound the person to whom it is told, and destroy his love and affection to his friend; and in the issue they wound, hurt, and ruin the talebearer himself.”)
We live in the age of defamation. It will only get worse. People ask me all the time why I have not publicly defended myself against public defamation, even though it is both lawful and biblical in some cases to defend oneself against the false claims of evident unbelievers. I have not done so because I believe my testimony of faithful reliance on Christ as my ultimate defense has been a stronger message than to do otherwise. Even in the face of “defamation per se” I have chosen, rather, to remain silent and to let my God defend me. “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” (Mat 5:11-12)
I’ve chosen to be blessed by God, even if it means I am cursed by wolves.
As defamation takes over the headlines, destroys entire venues of discourse, and becomes the de facto tool of the reprobate in this age, perhaps we are better served, as the Bible says, to practice intently blocking our ears and hearts from the preferred poison of the day.
These things I command you, that ye love one another. If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.