Monday, December 8, 2008

al-fitnatu asyaddu min al-qatla

"I'm sick of being followed
I'm tired of people lying
Saying what they want about me
Why can't they back up off me
Why can't they let me live
I'm gonna do it my way
Take this for just what it is"
-Lindsay Lohan, Rumors-

Ever got your inbox full of forwarded messages that also request you to forward the message if not something bad will happen to you? Or have you been wondering why you have always been the victim of gossips, like Lindsay Lohan? Here's the answer why.

There's this article on why rumors persist written by Taylor Clark. He calls it 'The 8 1/2 Laws Of Rumor-Mongering'. An interesting read really, since it is applicable to any hman being of any race, of any religion of any walk of life.

A summary of the laws are:
1. Successful rumours needle our anxieties and emotions
Example: once at my school, people were spreading the rumor of a 'devil phone call'. Here's how it goes, a strange telephone number (more than 12 digits long) turns up on your phone display, when the person picks up the receiver, the person hears a mantra being read and the person drops dead on the spot, frothing at the mouth-going mad?
As a result, the whole girls dormitories went hysterical, crying over the phone, warning their family members of this epidemic.
Conclusion: rumors that involve our own and our loved ones' safety usually spread fast, because people tend to want to take precautions of such too-close-for-comfort dangers.

2. Rumors stick if they're somewhat surprising but still fit with our existing biases.
Example: a rumor about a usually 'conterversial' person saying something that is kind of absurd, but somehow plausible for us to believe because all this while we have 'suspicions' of the person's nature. These rumors stick because they 'click' with what we already believe or want to believe, especially about a person.

3. Easily swayed people are more important than influential people in passing on a rumor.
Why? It's because gullible people buy into the rumor more easily and are more likely and willing to spread the rumor because they believe in it. Example, kids, that's why they easily buy into Grandma's ghost stories of 'momok' and bogeymen. Although, the status and respect that a person earns, might help convince the people they tell.

4. The more you hear a rumor, the more likely you are to believe it.
Practice Makes Perfect. Repetition is the key to memory. Those who study the human brain must very well know of how memory works. The repetition of certain information might actually 'reinforce' the memory and make the details more vivid and famliar. Hence, we remember it better. When the person encounters a new information, the brain recalls the old memory and links it to the new one, and voi'la, the rumor seems to grow more plausible. You may not believe the rumor, but if the rumor has been going around for quite awhile, you tend to think twice. What if it's true? Many people have been saying it that way. It's like you went to three different doctors for a second opinion on your diagnosis, and they all say the same thing. How can you not believe in it?

5. Rumors reflect the Zeitgeist.
The word zeitgeist describes the intellectual, cultural, ethical and political climate, ambiance and moral of an era or also a trend- definition by Wikipedia.
When an issue has long been pondered in the society, and bingo, one day, there came a rumor that confirms the suspicion, what is there not to believe?

6. Sticky rumours are simple and concrete.
Basically, rumors consist of simple information, idiot-proof and easily understood by the general community.

7. Rumors that last are difficult to prove.
Some of the rumors can be so subjective and behind the scenes, that you simply give up trying to disprove of the fact and accept it in defeat. Ever caught yourself saying, "wallahualam"? If you're a muslim, that is.

8. We are eager to believe bad things about people we envy.
This is the sort of rumor that usually plagues Hollywood stars, and builds the foundation for most scoop in the gossip column. (Then again, the 'perangai' of that person always makes us readily accept the rumor about that person whether it is the truth or not because we already know beforehand of how the person will react and are able to make our own 'predictions' of what's to come. The moral here is to be on your good behavior at all times.)
The German term for such psychological condition is 'schadenfreude' that means, taking joy in other people's sufferings. Human beings can be compassionate and cruel. Sometimes, it is considered as entertainment to see other people suffer, especially of those that we have already disliked in the first place.

9. The Ninth Law.
Other reasons that people spread rumors is to prove that they are knowledgable. They already have 'the big scoop' even before any people does. Perhaps, it could be the reason to prove one's prowess in spinning stories. Well, people love a good story sometimes.

The conclusion from this post:
>Avoid rumors at all cost, even if it is in our nature to enjoy them.
>When we have company, well, there is a tendency to spread rumors, so it's better off being alone, but then, human beings do need friends.
>Be careful in what you believe. It is never wrong to question a fact, just to be sure.

For muslims, al-fitnatu asyaddu min al-qatla. Gossiping, rumors= fitnah. The sin of fitnah is worse than murder. A fellow muslim must not be ill towards his fellow muslim brothers and sisters.

So, take good care of yourselves and avoid even listening to rumors and especially spreading them.

This is merely a reminder to all, and to myself as well, as no human being is exempted from any fault.

Today, at my place is a very Rainy Raya Haji. It has been raining the whole day. So, SELAMAT HARI RAYA EIDUL ADHA to all muslims.

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