There's an old proverb: "It is better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt." This statement isn't from Solomon's proverbs, though he had something similar to say: "Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise." (Prov 17:28) Again he says, "Where there are many words, transgression is unavoidable." (Prov 10:19)
With air travel, hyperfast trains, cell phones, satellites, instant global news coverage on TV and pushed right to your cellphone we are in the midst of a shrinking world. Globalization is connecting us all so that every news story affects everybody almost instantaneously.
Thomas Friedman, in his book The World is Flat, tells us that the world is not just getting smaller with modern technology, but it is also getting flatter. What he means by this is that everyone can now publish their thoughts creating a world where we can all stand on somewhat equal footing. Whereas it used to be that only a privileged few could be published, today with Youtube, facebook, blogs, twitter, myspace, print-on-demand and Amazon.com anyone can publish their ideas. If you have a good idea it can get published and be available to the world.Unfortunately, the opposite is also true, it is amazing how many stupid things are being published today.
Ignorant and naive people who have strong uninformed opinions are able to publish their views anytime they like with little or no repercussions. I'm amazed at how often reviews are posted of books that have obviously not been read. Accusations that have absolutely no basis in truth can be spread instantly and the one who starts the lie has no penalty, in fact, he or she may even gain encouragement for it. Recently I have been accused of plagiarism, being against relationally strong churches and of not believing in elders or deacons...all of which is false. Anyone who actually knows me or read any of my books would no otherwise.
So how does one respond to a fool who spouts off without any true foundation for their thoughts? That is not always an easy question to deal with.
I learned a long time ago not to argue with a poor review or a loudmouth fool. Solomon does write: "Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Or you will also be like him." (Prov. 26:4) I like what Ed Stetzer once tweeted: "Don't argue with angry bloggers. It's like wresting with a pig-- you both get dirty, but the pig likes it." Getting in the mud with a fool is not usually a worthwhile experience.
But just to demonstrate the tension of what to do with such things, Solomon says in the very next proverb: "Answer a fool as his folly deserves, That he not be wise in his own eyes." (Prov. 26:5) I guess there is a time and a place to say something, but I do not recommend arguing with them. If you can say something to expose how uninformed and foolish the comment is, without getting into a debate, than I suppose that is the way to do it.
Friends, may I simply suggest that we be a little slower to publish thoughts that are not thought through or substantive? We've all said things we wish we could get back, but in today's world, those regrettable words go farther and last longer. We should also stop giving any credence and audience to the fool. Those who hear the fools message and receive it become fools themselves. When they pass it on they multiply foolishness.
Paul also has some wise counsel for us: "Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses." (1 Tim 5:19)
Unfortunately, TMZ, People and US magazine and the many tabloids are showing us that bad news and false news are often more desirable than wisdom and truth. I do not want to shut down the right to free speech, but WE are the ones who need to create an environment of health and wisdom, and we can do so by simply being wiser in our own comments.