“Defamation is becoming a necessary of life; insomuch, that a dish of tea in the morning or evening cannot be digested without this stimulant. Even those who do not believe these abominations, still read them with complaisance to their auditors, and instead of the abhorrence and indignation which should fill a virtuous mind, betray a secret pleasure in the possibility that some may believe them, though they do not themselves.” – Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Norvell, Jun. 11, 1807
If you’ve ever been the subject of a surreptitious or openly public defamatory attack, you’ve likely taken note of the effect that this particularly nasty venom had on the world around you. The poison of defamation tends to catalyze or paralyze, depending on how it is handled, and I think it’s safe to say that most people do not spend enough time reasoning their response to this particular brand of injustice; they simply react instinctively or habitually.
You’ve probably noticed that such responses come in many forms, including, but not limited to:
- The Counterattackers – Some will seek to redress the libel or slander on their own by giving voice to their opinions on the matter in an effort to right the wrong
- The Comforters – Others will succor you overtly or anonymously by providing an empathetic “shoulder” for you to lean on, with or without actively addressing the source of the injustice
- The Legalists – A few will likely encourage you to “fight the good fight” by appealing to the courts
- The Vigilantes – While yet others make a plea for extralegal mores to clarify the matter
- The Rubberneckers – Many will simply refuse to bring the issue to point in themselves and stand noncommittally on the sidelines in the spirit of “it’s not my fight”, while extracting a certain vicarious pleasure in the fact that they weren’t in the spotlight, this time
- The Clement – While perhaps the least common approach, you may have those in your world who remain above the matter entirely by virtue of a sufficient purity of heart and who, as a result, exhort forgiveness and magnanimity regardless of the nature of the offense
I have a few questions upon which much useful meditation might occur:
- How have you responded to defamatory injustices in the world around you? And why?
- Did your approach help or complicate the matter?
- What, if anything, should you do differently moving forward to align your responses to such injustices with what Jefferson described as “a virtuous mind”?
The way in which you carry yourself when others are the subject of defamation will condition the way that those around you respond when the cruel spotlight of defamation is turned on you.