The Internet provides many blessing, but it also comes with destructive curses. One of its banes is the ease by which it allows damning accusations to proliferate. Most common today are charges of “isms” and their equivalents, e.g. racism, sexism, and nativism. I’d like to propose some understandings when it comes to accusations in general, but especially on social media. They are an attempt to combine logical and biblical principles.
The burden of proof is on the accuser
Whether you are the first one making an accusation or just passing it along (with or without commentary), the burden of proof is on you. “Innocent until proven guilty” is important because, otherwise, our government could arrest anyone they wanted, charge them with a crime, and then say, “Prove you didn’t do it.”
We would consider that tyrannical and backward if our government did it. It is equally tyrannical and backward for you to do it.
Damning evidence must be incontrovertible
If you are going to accuse someone of something heinous, your proof needs to be overwhelming. Statements or acts that can be interpreted one way or another, can be explained in a way that creates reasonable doubt, are hearsay (especially from people with an agenda)…and so on…aren’t incontrovertible.
If someone is so despicable you should name them with an “ism,” then there should be plenty of documented evidence you can locate and share.
Oh, and try to find your proof on sites your opponents would accept. Don’t send a liberal to Fox News and don’t send a conservative to MSNBC.
Don’t tell people to go “Google it” or to search for it on YouTube
This goes with the prior two. If you tell me person X is Satan, then you must provide the ample evidence. You made the accusation, you provide the proof.
Telling me to go look for it myself is a cop-out and/or lazy.
Or just admitting you don’t have the evidence.
Or all three.
Accusations aren’t proof
Sadly, sometimes the “evil” of an act is it being a hoax (lie), done to look like an opponent did it, etcetera. Additionally, you cannot use another’s accusation that someone is an X to prove the same (or different) accusation. Yes, there are times where, if enough people have the same story about someone, the evidence starts building up…but please remember the “hoax (lie)” part of this and read the next principle…
Anecdotal evidence proves nothing
There are over 300 million people in the U.S. If 1/10th of 1/10th of 1% do something, there are >30,000 of those somethings.
More than 30,000.
Consider that also with false accusations. How many people without integrity does it take to have the same basic false story said about an unpopular figure?
Proof of patterns of anything (e.g. hate crimes) requires a reasonably large set empirical evidence, not a small group of stories that may or may not be true to begin with.
Nowadays, often proof is based on a quantity of anecdotal incidents I can count on one hand.
Avoid confirmation bias
As of my writing this, if you type “confirmation bias” into the Google search it defines it as:
the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories.
Something you hear may fit what you believe about someone. That does not make it true, nor does it let you off the hook in researching it before you believe it true.
Actually, the more something fits your worldview the more you should verify it.
Repeating something does not make it true
Just because you hear a lot of people making the same accusation (even if it is across political and/or religious spectrums), it does not make it true.
And repeating it might just be making you part of an unrighteous mob.
You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit (Exodus 23:2-3, emphasis mine).
Do not share an accusation unless you have personally seen the ample evidence
It does not matter how dependable your source is, you still are responsible for confirming the evidence behind their (your) conclusions.
The ends do not justify the means, and two wrongs do not make a right
It is amazing that these wise childhood sayings appear lost on our modern world. It may help your side to pass along accusations indiscriminately, but it is wrong to do so.
Sin is not negated or excused based on its target.
You can sin against the devil
Just because you are sure someone is evil doesn’t mean you can say anything about them or do anything to them. If your acts are wrong against a good person they are wrong against a bad person.
But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you” (Jude 9, English Standard Version.)
Assume the best of your enemy
I wonder if the greatest measure of our character is how we treat our enemies instead of our friends.
And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? (Matthew 5:47)
Judge your enemies the same way you would judge your friends
You should not be partial to your friends.
You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor (Leviticus 19:15).
Judge people on what they know, not what you know
Perhaps you do have ample evidence for your view, but if someone else does not have your proof, does not understand it, or cannot make the connections you do, you cannot judge them based on your knowledge or awareness.
Additionally, they may not trust the same evidence as you, may not weigh it equally, or may not come to the same conclusion as you.
Be intellectually charitable, not intellectually judgmental or intellectually smug.
People cannot be judged by those who support them
Could you imagine what would happen if others established their opinion of you based on the individual characters of everyone who likes you?
Do not do that to famous people either, unless you have proof that they do not reject the bad things those bad people do.
Judgment should be reserved until all the evidence is in (both for people and groups of people)
There is a saying that a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its shoes on. Don’t judge a person before all the evidence is in…and don’t judge a group of people (e.g. a politician’s supporters) until it is. Remember hoaxes/etc. above.
Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment (John 7:24).
As you judge you will be judged
For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you (Matthew 7:2).
That should make you shudder.
The devil is the father of lies (John 8:44) and the accuser (Revelation 12:10); God is love (1 John 4:8)
Who is your father?