Socrates silenced a gossiping student with the Test of Three. Before speaking, the student was invited to test his comments by asking, “Is it true? Is it good? Is it necessary?”
Anyone with a smartphone, a social media account, and a betrayal-fuelled dose of blind rage can publicly humiliate an ex.
Revenge porn is no longer the worst of it.
It takes a special kind of recklessness to put yourself in the firing line by dishing up the full revenge truth extravaganza in the tabloid media.
The revenge truth circus has been in town the last couple of weeks, with none of it completely true, good or necessary. There’s no point naming names and adding to the sideshow, but the ethics of exploiting deeply private issues – like unplanned pregnancies – for public revenge warrants discussion.
Background, for those lucky enough to have missed the stories – two seriously dodgy and not very smart rugby league players left themselves wide open to well-deserved public scrutiny when they broke their contracts in multiple ways, multiple times.
Misbehaviour that affected their ability to do their jobs deserved public dissection. What didn’t was their ex-partners hopping on the media platform to air private matters that were not relevant to the players’ professional, contractual conduct.
Both relationships ended with the termination of pregnancies and the women involved were justifiably devastated. Taking their stories to the media was never going to ease their hurt and likely made it worse.
Revenge truth invariably masquerades as an act of conscience, an altruistic act done only to save others from being deceived by the target. It can do serious damage if the target has presented as ethically sound. If he is already ethically bankrupt, the result will be somewhere between nobody really cares and toxic blowback.
Recounting details of the men’s private, ethical sloth raised more questions than it answered, and not just about the players.
In one case, the revenge truth as ethical redress collapsed when cash negotiations were revealed. To say it takes $180,000 to get a new baby set up in life is nonsense. To then accept $50,000 for terminating the pregnancy, and then give it to an unnamed charity defies logic.
In a separate ‘too much information’ story a few months ago, another NRL player’s partner revealed details of a termination that happened in a different context. Her revelation unleashed a storm of particularly vicious trolling with which she is still struggling.
Revenge truth, too much information, and private-details stories have no place in sports media. Which begs the question – why do they keep running it?
There are so many things happening in sport that are true, good or necessary to report. Yet they are ignored in favour of stories that tell one person’s version of the truth, won’t do anyone any good and aren’t necessary.
The real truth? Some sports journalists, and their readers, are no more than small-town gossips.