I just saw Rossini’s comedy opera, "The Barber of Seville" (not for the first time), which was first performed in 1816. This time around I was struck by the words of an aria which describes the correct use of “slander”.
It goes as follows: “We must begin to invent a story which will put him in a bad light with the public, making him seem a man of infamy, a doomed soul.” It goes on to explain:
Slander is a little breeze, a gentle zephyr, which insensibly, subtly, lightly and sweetly, commences to whisper. Softly, softly, here and there, whispers, hissing, it goes gliding, it goes rambling. In the ears of the people it penetrates slyly and the head and the brains it stuns and swells. From the mouth re-emerging the noise grows to a crescendo, gathers force little by little, runs its course from place to place, seems like the thunder of the tempest which from the depths of the forest comes whistling, muttering, freezing everyone in horror.
Finally with crack and crash, it spreads afield, its force redoubled and produces an explosion like the outburst of a cannon, an earthquake, a whirlwind, which makes the air resound. And the poor slandered wretch, vilified trampled down,, sunk beneath the public lash, by good fortune, falls to death.
Slander is nothing new. But now it has repercussions that affect at the speed of light, globally, due largely to the internet and the media. The result is chaos. There is so much slanderous propaganda and disinformation now, that the public has no idea what is really going on. Even leaders are unable to separate fact from fiction as the slander goes on from all sides.
If only those in charge would keep in mind that their responsibilities are to the security of their sovereign states and their citizens. It’s almost hopeless. What will become of us?