My summer reading has been Count Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace and Anna Karenina.
Russia in the 19th century was seemingly peaceful and yet the Russian aristocracy engaged in social warfare using court manners. A slanderous remark could be circulated in the morning among the right circles and destroy a reputation by dinnertime.
In other words, there were bullies. And they were just as good at it as anyone in a hostile comment thread today.
Gizmodo recently carried a story about Monika Glennon, a realtor who saw her reputation permanently destroyed by a falsehood. Worse, she could do nothing about it.
Glennon made a comment on Facebook, which some people objected to.
Mollie Rosenblum hated her for the comment. So she went a step further.
Rosenblum researched Glennon’s online connections and put together enough details to fabricate a story about Glennon on She’s A Homewrecker, a site that exists for the sole purpose of shaming the alleged “other woman” in infidelity.
In an anonymous post, Rosenblum claimed that she had walked in on Glennon having sex with Rosenblum’s husband on the floor of a home the couple had been scheduled to see. She went into graphic detail about the sex act and claimed she’d taken photos that she used to get everything from her husband in a divorce.
Exciting supermarket tabloid stuff!!! But total fiction.
After spending $100,000 in attorney bills, Monika Glennon managed to unmask Mollie Rosenblum. But still, Rosenblum was angry about the original Facebook comment.
Rosenblum finally changed her tune after they met in person. “Mrs. Glennon is in fact a kind and compassionate person with whom I share many common values,” wrote Rosenblum. “Please accept my deepest regret for the harm I have brought to the lives of her and those who love her.”
Rosenblum did the right thing.
She’s A Homewrecker complied with a court order and took down the original post, but the damage was done and it is impossible to retract these stories on many sites.
BadBizReport, for example, has refused outright to take the story off their site. As Gizmodo reported, “BadBizReport’s website states that it doesn’t respond to court orders and that ‘there’s no way in hell to get off of BadBizReport once you’re listed on it,’ adding ‘American lawyers make us laugh.’”
For me, all this sounds eerily like the Big Lies that non-traditional religions experience—like the Church of Latter-day Saints, or Seventh-Day Adventists, or my own, the Church of Scientology. It has been amazing to see the bare-faced lies, retailed as “reality,” that are impossible to correct.
We must all be vigilant for the fabricated, evil and false accusations that can hurt both individuals and communities.
There is good news: Airbnb’s “bilateral trust mechanism between travelers and property owners” points to how we could achieve world peace—by starting with everyday transactions.
But the fabrication of malicious lies is the dark side of the same community. And we don’t need to argue quite so much in public forums. Because sooner or later, someone is going to go overboard.
Waaaay overboard, as Mollie Rosenblum did… and as they once did in the court of the Tsar Alexander that Tolstoy documented so well.