The downside of character assassination

BY NICHOLAS OPOLOT (LLB 1)

Character assassination has been a phenomenal vice since time immemorial. Often, tabloids are swept awash with societal scandals that sarcastically seem to be public fodder for amusement.

Basically, character assassination is the slandering of a person usually with the intention of destroying public confidence in them.

J.B. Sheridan’s “School Of Scandal” illustrates how defamation consumed seventeenth century England. The streets were widespread with rumour about petty issues.

What prompts my concern is how gruesome character assassination is executed. Many people can get hurt through the mistaken belief that they’re morally stained in the eyes of these societal stereotypes.

Character assassination can manifest in many forms. It can involve dishonest criticism, spreading of rumours, and manipulation of facts to present an untrue picture of the targeted person, deliberate misinformation on topics relating to the subject’s morals, integrity and reputation. Consequently this permanently stains a person’s character.

In most scenarios, the damage is irreparable to the aftertaste of the rumour mill. In grave instances, victims can go as far as committing or contemplating suicide because they can’t stomach the ridicule and condemnation.

Today, many people indulge in this evil for reasons known to only themselves. It could be a jilted lover or a narcissist trying to make a victim’s life hard. Sadly, the resurgence of social media has catapulted the transmission of these negative messages.

It’s a social injustice to condemn a person without according them a fair hearing. Anybody accused of a crime deserves a presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.

Recently, one of my lecturers reiterated the aspect of fairness. He mentioned a scenario where he was on a law entry interview panel. One of the interviewees, a girl had walked in with piercings on her body. To make it worse, she had tattoos on her body.

Without a word said, she had already been condemned by the other panelists for being grossly immoral. To her aid, he applied a holistic approach and instead commended her intellectual virtue.

She graduated with good grades and moral uprightness as well. Had she been turned away, only God knows what would have become of her?

We should love others unconditionally and not see them as mere adversaries to be fought as a means to an end. Putting out another person’s candle doesn’t make yours any brighter.

The writer is first year law student.

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