Backbiting: that’s the activity that provoked Alice Roosevelt Longworth to crack, “If you can’t say anything good about someone, sit right here by me.”
I gather she had a lot of takers. And, given the chance, most of us would have been among them wouldn’t we? But most of us have learned-pretty much the hard way-that Baba was right when he pointed out that backbiting can be deadly, both to the person who does it and to the person on the receiving end.
But there’s another activity very akin to backbiting and one perhaps we are not so conscious of. It’s spreading misinformation-about anything or anyone. I remember when I was first hearing about Baba in the mid-1950s being told that Baba said not to spread misinformation. I haven’t heard anyone mention that in many, many years. But it is something that I see as rampant right now. And it seems to be growing. Think about it. Someone you respect and trust starts spreading stories about others that have just enough reasonableness in them to be believed. So you have no reason to think you should question them. You just accept-and spread them further. And along the way person after person is hurt, disparaged, perhaps really damaged.
Sometimes, the misinformation is an innocent mistake, a story that simply got distorted as it was passed along. But too often, it is used by the manipulative to put down a perceived opponent while raising ones self to the level of the all-knowing, or simply to get one’s own way. All of a sudden, even Meher Baba’s words are distorted. Something that unquestionably was an order is dismissed by the statement, “Baba didn’t say it; that was someone else.” This in spite of the fact that the statement is attributed to Meher Baba in print or at the very least is communicated by his closest and oldest disciples. The manipulator is relentless: even when confronted, he will mumble something about “it was what I was told.” You never hear who told him and he never concedes the fact that he might have been mistaken, and certainly not that he was just plain lying.
The easiest way to combat this sort of thing is to do your own research before you pass on the so-called “information.” And it never hurts to have with you your own street smarts and more than a few grains of salt.