So a writer who hangs out in a blog that I follow had a very cogent point in a recent post – about calumny – and the moral crime of falsely accusing an innocent person of a crime, ranging from the mild social offense to the deeply hideous crime against God and humanity at large. He felt, if I read the post aright, that calumny is one of those deeply awful things – as it damages an innocent person ….
Calumny has kind of fallen out of fashion as a dastardly deed, and you may well understand why by the time I’ve finished. To my mind it can be a worse deed than any of the above sins … I think it worse than the crime or sin. Calumny is false witness – where the person committing calumny knowingly and maliciously lies in testifying that an innocent person did something that they did not do. … And when you think about this, you can see why this is somewhat worse than the evil deed itself. Firstly, the person who will be punished is innocent. Secondly, the victim has to live with that. Their reputation, even if innocence is eventually established, is tarnished forever …
The thrust of that particular post was to do with the creation of credible villains – but it did set me to thinking about calumny, which is either the eighth or ninth of the Biblical ten commandments, depending on your religious tradition: Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. Ancient Biblical law took this prohibition so seriously that anyone found to have brought false witness would receive the punishment for that crime which they had accused an innocent party of. Which brought to mind the unfortunate frequency of political calumnies; the most recent of which being Hillary and her so-called Basket of Deplorables – je suis Deplorable, anyone? At this point, I would venture a guess that those people that she meant to insult are having a good laugh and making a joke of it all through t-shirts and other novelty items, while she has hurriedly backed away and apologized. She is but a single person, and a sick and feeble one at that, even if she is a long-time political operative borne up on the shoulders of a groveling media establishment, attending on her like courtiers of an unpopular monarch.
She is but one person and that was one single instance of shooting from the lip in the manner that we have all come to expect of her. What has been of more damage, over which I took much more offense was the near universal calumniation of Tea Party supporters over the years since the first big protests began in 2009. Here were earnest, educated and contentious Americans, demonstrating their concern over a lack of fiscal responsibility on the part of our national leadership – as is our right and duty to do so. And the wide-spread response from a substantial portion of the so-called media, entertainment and intellectual elite was to be painted as ignorant, racist and reactionary morons. That is calumny on a grand scale, in solo and chorus, and has never walked back from or apologized for by the perpetuaters. That narrative still stands, in the minds of those who never had actual personal experience of participating in a Tea Party event or organization. It is the calumny that will not die, but I can at least take comfort from knowing that it has done at least as much damage to the credibility (and possibly the pocketbooks and long-term careers) of those who flung it, as was done to those at whom it was flung. Discuss.