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June 14, 2003

Malicious Lies: Slander and Gossip in the Deaf Community

From: Frank James - Jun 14, 2003

By Frank James John Lala, Jr., Ph.D.
The Deaf community is so closely-knit that it's relatively easy for it to become both an open public and tabloid platform for malicious slanderers and gossipers. Deaf persons with grudges who are envious and full of anger or resentment can perform vicious character assassination through slander or gossip. Such a hotbed of gossip and destructive rumor-mongering only hurts the Deaf community as a whole.

Many resentful, babbling busybodies don't even know the person at whom the gossip is directed. Slanderers and gossipers perform their vicious acts for their own ulterior motives; usually the motivation is resentment, anger or pure envy of another person. But others will recognize the slanderer or gossiper for what he or she is: an irresponsible person with attitude problems and severe character deficiencies, inhabiting a shallow world of back-stabbing and stating negative thoughts about others.

Unfortunately, it is human nature to repeat gossip. It is only enhanced by the storyteller through his or her biased imagination, and always contributes to our self-destruction. Gossip, or slander, is always a personal confession of the contributor's own malice and imbecility; it is a low, frivolous, and most often a highly dirty business. No one is safe from it. Each and every one of us comes with quirks, idiosyncrasies, flaws and personal peccadilloes which others can easily attack and use for ludicrous acts of character assassination.

To define terms: slander is any words spoken with malice that are not provably true and which prejudice the reputation or professional practice of another person. Gossip is the act of engaging in the spreading of slander, and is usually riddled with lies and insinuations.

Imagine the following scenario: a couple breaks up, due to incompatibility, as one doesn't want to marry the other. The one who feels rejected deeply resents the other, and attacks his or her character.

Slanderers often use rank generalizations, which are simply exaggerations of small truths. Ignorant friends become unwitting pawns in this game, and through gossip spread the slanderer's untrue or inaccurate version of reality. It takes your enemy (the slanderer) and your friends (the gossipers) working together to hurt or destroy your reputation; the one to concoct the stories, and the others to spread them. The slander in this scenario is merely plain old-fashioned anger at the breakup.

The National Enquirer could learn the arts of slander and gossip from talking to the Deaf community! Recently, a guy with an attitude problem was gossiping about Yours Truly in Arizona. He was so easily duped that he fell for a slanderer's story hook, line, and sinker. However, it only backfired on him, as he had unwittingly become a victim of vicious gossip himself. The Deaf community in Arizona had a field day gossiping about his pronouncedly dubious background. The moral: it doesn't pay to slander or gossip about someone else!

Another example: in 1999, I was attending a National Association of the Deaf convention in Norfolk, Virginia. I was interested in a mental health workshop. A Deaf lady, whom I will call "Vicki", was at the workshop. She repeatedly attacked me as a person, disliking my work and proposals, and insisted I was not doing enough for the Deaf community. She seemed to resent me because I was not able to attend a substance abuse workshop in New Jersey. She was very disrespectful and made several unflattering remarks about me. My female companion was furious at "Vicki". What boggles the mind is that "Vicki" works as a mental health counselor! Her behavior certainly left a lot to be desired. She needs to read Dale Carnegie's and Norman Vincent Peale's books. "Vicki" will never win friends or influence people with her shallow attitude.

Sadly, even deaf Christians know better but are guilty of being gossipers. And the Bible clearly frowns on slander and gossip.

"He who conceals his hatred has lying lips, and whoever spreads slander is a fool." Proverbs 10:18

"Do not go about spreading (gossip) slander among your people." --Leviticus 19:16

"Whom are you mocking? At whom do you smear and stick out your tongue? Are you not a brood of rebels, the offspring of liars?" Isaiah 57:4

Gossipers, BEWARE! Whoever you gossip with will eventually gossip about you. Read and respect the following short pieces, and see the light!


I have no respect for justice. I maim without killing, I break hearts, and ruin lives. I am cunning, malicious, and gather strength with age. The more I am quoted, the more I am believed. I flourish at every level of society, and my victims are helpless. They cannot protect themselves against me, because I have no name and no face. To track me down is impossible. The harder you try, the more elusive I become. I am nobody's friend. Once I tarnish a reputation, it is never the same. I topple governments and wreck marriages. I ruin careers and cause sleepless nights, create heartaches, and foster indigestion. I spawn suspicion, and generate grief. I make innocent people cry into their pillows at night. Even my name hisses with evil. I am called Gossip. I make headlines and headaches.

Remember, before you repeat a story, ask yourself: is it true? Is it fair? Is it necessary? If not, do not repeat it, KEEP QUIET. --Author Unknown

And remember this: Great minds discuss ideas? Average minds discuss events? Shallow minds discuss people. Which are you? --Ann Landers

When people gossip about successful Deaf people, our whole community suffers. "Crab Theory", by Deaf Life editor Matthew S. Moore, refers to the destructive practice of Deaf people pulling and putting down successful Deaf persons. This is done through vicious gossip (back-stabbing), spreading false rumors (slander), sending hateful e-mails, etc. It"s based on a real-life phenomenon: when crabs are captured and tossed into a bucket, if one crab tries to escape by crawling up the inside of the bucket, the other crabs pull it back down. It's probably instinctive, a panic response on their part. So no crabs ever escape. This behavior in crabs is widely held to be a myth, but has been observed.

The problem of "Crab Theory" is not unique to the Deaf community. And when successful Deaf leaders complain about the lack of support and downright hostility they encounter from members of their own Deaf communities, that's crab theory.

Here is just a partial list of known victims of slander and gossip in the Deaf community: actress Marlee Matlin, Miss America Heather Whitestone, Actor Bernard Bragg, Christy Smith, Dr. Ben Soukup of CSD, Dr. David McKee, Gallaudet University President Dr. I. King Jordan, and countless other prominent Deaf individuals, including Yours Truly.

Remember, before you repeat a story about someone, ask yourself: would I want this sort of thing said about me? If not, do not use the story as a tool to hurt someone else. You never know when something truly damaging can be said about you, too.

This story will be "passed, posted, or published" to others via e-mail, and submitted to Deaf community periodicals.
About the author: Dr. Frank Lala's a recipient of Gallaudet University's Laurent Clerc Award.