Lashon hara

I won’t read certain things that may appear in my news feed.

Someone chooses what appears in a news feed.

A few months ago, whoever chooses the content of my MSN news feed, changed.  Before this change, at least once a week it featured an article from, I believe, Spun, reporting on some new opinion expressed by female pro golfer Paige Spiranac.  I came to believe that these particular articles served only as pretext for publishing images of her from the waist up.  She is, or was, pretty good-looking from the waist up.

After the change, almost every day there has been a feature from RawStory (Raw Story – Celebrating 18 Years of Independent Journalism) and as yet I don’t think I’ve even read a single one of those.  The headlines all turn me off, for a reason one might not suspect.  They almost all express some negativity about Donald Trump.

Judaism has a concept called, in Hebrew, “Lashon hara.”  It translates as “an evil tongue.”  The word lashon means “tongue,” referring first to the physical body part, but also means “language” or “speech.”  Thus the Hebrew language is referred to as “halashon hakodesh,” “the holy language.”

“Lashon hara” can be taken to mean gossip, slander or libel.  One of the best-known Bible verses discouraging it is Leviticus 19:16, “You will not be a gossip or tale-bearer among your people.”  It is distinct from “bearing false witness,” which refers specifically to perjury.  Lashon hara refers generally to derogatory speech about others, from idle chatter to rumors to worse.  It doesn’t have to be false; it can be perfectly factual, but it’s lashon hara if the effect of the speech is to harm the other person.

In the rabbinical literature on the topic, there is special concern that hurting someone’s reputation may cause the person to lose business.

I do not know if the concept applies only to speech by Jews about other Jews, or if one can commit lashon hara against gentiles also.

But as it is, the concern that all speech be well-meaning and decent surely improves the quality of life among Jews.  And is a good model and lesson for gentiles.

So one avoids, for example, needlessly telling about disasters or misfortunes that have befallen another person.

One avoids needlessly telling that the person did something wrong.

One avoids saying that actions that may have been naïve on the person’s part, were bad or malicious or foolish.

One certainly avoids predicting bad outcomes in that person’s future.

All those features are common in the stories about Donald Trump that appear from RawStory, and they don’t seem to tell such tales about anyone else.  So, I choose not to read them.  I have no particular admiration for this individual, but I don’t need to have my mind poisoned against him, either.

In the same vein:

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