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The Snoop

What if bad-mouthing or gossiping could land you in jail?

It is likely many folks would be in jeopardy if an anti-gossip law was actually enforced in Douglas County.  

And, believe it or not, such laws do exist. 

Being punished for gossiping is very likely if you live in the town of Binalonan in the Philippines.  

Or in Tulua, Colombia.   

Gossiping is outlawed in both  of these communities and for gossip-law breakers in the Philippines, punishment means jail time, or community service picking up trash.  

In Tulua, offenders may expect a fine of up to $1,100, or two months in jail.  

Gossip rarely serves a positive purpose, and even in the United States, bad-mouthing may be considered slander, an act that can be prosecuted.  But slander is hard to prove. 

There are also several expressions that often go hand-in-hand with gossip.  

In the south, after someone passes along a gossipy tidbit of ‘dirt’ about another, a gossiper will often say ‘bless her heart.’  

Here in the Ozarks, gossip is more likely spread under the guise of ‘needing to know.’  And, many times, the tidbit is presented with a qualifying warning such as “this is just between you and me.” 

It seems such expressions make it more acceptable to tell, and quite possibly, easier to tell more than once.

It also seems that busy body intruders seem less prevalent in larger cities.  

In a city environment  it’s easier for individuals to maintain anonymity. Neighbors and co-workers tend to stay distant and don’t care to get involved in other’s affairs.  Or, maybe it’s lack of knowledge about another’s personal business that keeps acquaintances or neighbors at bay. 

Here, gossip seems to be a standard fare of local conversationalists, and it is impressive how some individuals do it better than others.  They have an ability to slyly sneak unwarranted remarks and details into a conversation with ease, without being overtly obvious. Their actions are finely-tuned.  

Maybe from lots of practice. 

It is definitely an interesting idea to pass an anti-gossip law in the county.  (We may have to make the county jail even larger.) 

Or, maybe instead of jail time, the penalty could mirror the Scarlet Letter, wherein each offending individual is marked with a label and shunned for life.  Labels might include tattle-tale, gossip, rumor monger, blabbermouth, talebearer, tattler, telltale, busy body or wagging tongue……. None very appealing.  

And, there is always the option to model punishment after the Puritans who reprimanded gossips by putting a brank, a woven iron cage, over their head.  An apparatus called a gossip’s bridle. 

Today, there is no doubt such a law would be deemed an attack on free speech and expression.  

Others might protest under the mindset gossip is harmless or possibly admit to overstating, but not gossiping.    

Being called a gossip is a character trait most folks don’t want attached to their name. Yet, whether today or centuries ago, the temptation is ever present, and it doesn’t appear to matter if folks are Filippino, South American or American, the urge to gossip is innate.

In a follow-up about the  Philippine community of Binalonan and it’s anti-gossip law, it is reported Jovelyn Manaois, Filippino council advisor, made the following observation now that the rule has been in place for a while  ––  “We haven’t had to punish anyone for a second offense.  No one wants to be seen as a gossip monger.” 

It seems the fear of being labeled a criminal gossiper is actually effective.  

Here in the Ozarks, without threat of penalties or fines, wouldn’t it be great if we all strove to change and forego gossip.  To make the change because we desire to be better.  

However, on the national level, wouldn’t it be interesting and a little ironic to have an enforceable anti-gossip law in place especially as we approach upcoming elections, and political candidates are gearing up to campaign for office.  

What would campaign strategy be without ugly political rhetoric?

Eliminating political mud slinging and gossipy untruths could very well make an anti-gossip law a big plus for all of us.  But would it make a difference?

Perhaps not. 

It’s likely you’ve heard the old saying, “It’s easier to dam a river than to stop gossip.”  

I suspect there is a lot of truth in that.