In 1971, Richard L. Evans said:
Among the many human faults and failings there is one that seems peculiarly persistent, and that is, gossiping—whispering; spreading rumors that travel like a windswept fire from ear to ear and sometimes destroy, without conscience, the good name of a man, the reputation of an institution, or even the pride and confidence of a country. To speak abusive words in public, to put libelous statements in print, and to bear false witness in court are offenses that can be traced to their source. But to let words loose on a whisper that sweeps from ear to ear and from lip to lip, and that suggests more than it says, is in some ways among the worst forms of bearing false witness. And because of our receptiveness to gossip and our eagerness to be the first to tell something, we perhaps involve ourselves in the spread of what is false and unfounded oftener than we would wish to admit. (emphasis added, "The Spoken Word," Ensign, Sept. 1971, 43)Now, forty years later, technology has presented us with the means to spread falsehood to a thousand itching "eyes" via emails, forwards, blogs, and tweets, and from thence to a thousand itching ears.
How ready we seem to pass on information that has been passed to us, without the least effort at seeking to verify its truth or real application. And whether the news is "good" or bad does it make any difference, if it is false?
Perhaps we do not offend in the weightier matter of deliberately lying, but when we pass on a falsehood that has its origin in deliberate untruth, do we not become an accomplice to the act?
In this world of competitive markets and politics, why do we so often act as though we can implicitly trust what we see and hear from one side without fact-checking? Without running the claims of profit-seekers (of every stripe) through the prisms of skepticism and thoughtful questioning until the truth can be established?
We are all susceptible to varying degrees of false witness because of preconceptions, allegiances and biases, but with 21st Century ready access to verifiable data, why do we remain so vulnerable to propaganda? So ready to believe it? To pass it on? So ready to discount or ignore the disconnect between words and evidence? How relevant the words of Elder Evans for our technological age!