Friday, May 02, 2014

Donald Sterling and the Power of Gossip

For all those following the news over the past few days, you may have heard about the comments which Donald Sterling made to his girlfriend. The repercussions of  the comments have been swift and harsh and will likely lead to a protracted legal battle. However, it brought to mind a podcast by Freakonomics which i listened to a few weeks ago. (Transcript can be found here)

The podcast looks at the role of gossip in society and who does and for what reasons. Although there is some segmentation as to what people gossip about, what was the most interesting to me about this topic was the comments of Nick Denton, the head of Gawker Media:
I’m always astonished by…when I come across someone who actually doesn’t use gossip as a tool in their corporate infighting.[..]The lower class people who are more associated with gossip is simply a matter of class prejudice. It’s simply a matter of saying the things that they talk about, the people that they talk about aren’t important. It doesn’t meet the standard or news so let’s call it gossip. It’s just fishwives, it’s fishwives chattering about their husbands or some infidelity. There’s no difference between that and power gossip, or money gossip, except that the people who decide what is news and what is gossip are the privileged people who look down on lower class. 
I am not insinuating that this was a concerted attempt by someone to take Mr Sterling down. However, whether one gossips intentionally to "take someone out" as Mr Denton describes, to teach a lesson, because they were hurt, or whether they do so unintentionally I do however think that one should look at this story as a way that can teach us a real lesson in the power of gossip/lashon hara.

Just my thoughts