The Smear Campaign

"Following a brief encounter with a man wanted by the police, the hitherto unremarkable Katherina Blum becomes the object of a smear campaign conducted by an unscrupulous newspaper. Labelled a whore, a communist sympathizer and atheist, her life is ruined; her privacy and reputation systematically destroyed. In the formal, but not unsympathetic, manner of a police report, Heinrich Böll traces events as they lead to their violent conclusion."

This is the backcover description of the novel "The Lost Honour of Katherina Blum" by the Nobel Laureate writer Heinrich Böll, and which i just finished reading. It makes me realize, with a certain degree of alarm, the intense power the media holds in its hands, and which can potentially be misused for propaganda and misguidance, or as the description terms it, for conducting a'smear campaign'; and i have no doubt about the naivety of a layman, who takes in the information from the media passively, with little doubt and scrutiny.
My sentiments regarding this situation match with those of Russell, who writes in The Conquest of Happiness:

"When the newspaper chooses to make a scapegoat of some perhaps quite harmless person, the results may be very terrible. Fortunately, as yet this is a fate which most people escape through their obscurity, but as publicity gets more and more perfect in its methods, there will be an increasing danger in this novel form of social persecution. This is too grave a matter to be treated with disdain by the individual who is its victim, and whatever maybe thought of the great principle of the freedom of the Press, I think the line will have to drawn more sharply than it is by existing libel laws, and anything will have to be forbidden which makes life intolerable for innocent individuals, even if they should happen to have done or said things which, published maliciously, can cause them to become unpopular. The only ultimate cure for this evil is, however, an increase of toleration on the part of the public. The best way to increase toleration is to multiply the number of individuals who enjoy real happiness and do not therefore find their chief pleasure in infliction of pain upon their fellow-men."

The newspaper acts on a larger scale, but the same principle of a smear campaign is often carried out by single individuals on the smaller scale, people with the immense power of gossip at their disposal, and who take a sadistic delight in ruining others people's reputations by spreading false rumours and deceitful lies about them, making mountains out of mole-hills, and often inventing those mole-hills if necessary. If i ever make a hate list, such people would be certainly near the top.

Comments

Abdullah Shahid said…
I liked the deduction in the last paragraph. Such evil people deserve to be punished badly. Very badly.