I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what to write about recognizing a smear campaign in action. I am currently the target of a really nasty one. The woman is attacking me with libel on a variety of social media sites, is taking screen shots of my page and encouraging people to harass me, and is sending unsolicited emails to other people. It is classic smear campaign. As she was sending people to harass me privately, I shared a link to my blog about how to know if you are being used as a flying monkey I don’t name my abuser or the smear campaigner because I don’t sink to that level; however I try to give people the signs and red flags so they can think for themselves. I still haven’t really finished my thoughts on recognizing a smear campaign, but as I am putting together those ideas, I got to observe another situation in “real life” as it started. So for now, I’d like to share my observations on that situation.
There is a famous celebrity I follow online. I really admire this person’s actions and work, and believe they seem like a decent person. I met them once and while they weren’t fakey sweet, they were nice and polite as I asked for a picture with them. I know that doesn’t mean there is nothing behind closed doors, but I can’t see that anyone has ever had good reason to say anything bad about them. There aren’t rumors or anything. So I was really surprised when I was reading an update on their Facebook page about a nice topic and I saw a comment on the post about how the person was being investigated for something really nasty. The post insinuated that the celebrity was a pedophile. That is serious. Another person asked if this was true information and the person making the accusation said “yes, the news broke this morning.”
Well if that news broke, it would be huge, so I went to Google and did a search for news on this person’s name. Nothing. I tried searching for the terms mentioned in the Facebook accusation and found the “news.” A writer from a very sketchy gossip page had made a post on Twitter. Just one post with insinuations. The gossip page had run an article about it. This had been shared hundreds of times on Twitter. There was only one “source” and it was the untrustworthy gossip page. It wasn’t even a well-known gossip page. It was just some random site I’d never heard of it. I Googled their reputation, and it wasn’t good. I read the article and learned that there was no actual investigation. The gossip page was reporting that they thought someone was weird so they were going to investigate it. Well, I could claim my neighbor is a weirdo and say I’m going to investigate them, and that doesn’t mean much! To me, it was pretty obvious that there was no real news story there. One person had planted gossip and a bunch of other people ran with it. The nature of some people is to enjoy bad news and to love spreading it. And those types did indeed come out with their pitchforks.
The story hasn’t gone anywhere because there is no truth to it, but hundreds of people shared it as if it were true. And that is disturbing. Fortunately, it isn’t gaining any traction, and it hasn’t made a blip with the real news or anything close to it, but now the seed has been planted in people’s heads, and sometimes a seed sticks with people even if it was never true. Smear campaigns are malicious, cruel, disordered, and dangerous.