I’m running really late today, so Richard L. Evans offered to step in …
Richard L. Evans
Music and the Spoken Word
November 17, 1946
Devotees of Defamation
It would seem that there are always among us some who find pleasure or profit in defaming the character of others. And those who are so inclined don’t always confine their activities to people they know. They are often disposed to undermine people they have never known, and to presume knowledge they have never had. From such malicious attacks it is often difficult to protect a man’s good name while yet he lives, and often more difficult after he is dead.
There are those who would represent every deed of nobility and of heroism, every personal sacrifice, every appearance of righteousness, and every act of altruism as fraud and hypocrisy. It is true that the motives that make history are often complex. It is true that there are no perfect men. And it is true that those who focus attention upon imperfections will always find them.
Notwithstanding this, honest and sincere men, living and dead, would seem to be entitled to some protection, as to their lives and their memories, from the devotees of defamation, who peddle opinions about things of which they know little and care less, so long as it is popular or profitable, or serves their purpose.
Of course, groundless gossip, irresponsible misrepresentation, and cynical assumption cannot change the record of a man’s life nor alter the facts of history. Such things do not hurt the past, but they may hurt the present and the future, by destroying faith and discrediting ideals.
Often, perhaps, those who find malicious pleasure or malicious purpose in defaming character or in destroying confidence, are, in fact, expressing something that lies within their own souls. Knowing their own lives and motives, it may be that they find it difficult to impute higher motives to others. Knowing the purposes they serve, it may be that they find it difficult to concede an honest idealism to anyone.
But whatever the causes and whatever the result, the commandment “Thou shalt not bear false witness” is still on the statutes, both as to men and events, and as to the present and the past.