Question: How could an Objectivist rationalize his gossiping if the gossiping is performed to discredit another person?

I know that the theory "judge and be judged" allows an objectivist to judge others and, presumably, to accept another's judgement of him. However, if an objectivist makes a public judgement that can discredit another person, and which judgment is based on a lack of fact or a subjective viewpoint, how does this contradict the very principles of Objectivism ?

Answer: “Judge and prepare to be judged” relates both to justice and pride in the Objectivist conception. One judges others because one needs to know whether they are trustworthy, productive, rational, and so on. Whether or not one can benefit from dealing with others depends on their character. Those who are irrational, undependable, dishonest, and unproductive will at best be a drain on those of good character. One prepares to be judged as a matter of pride, as part of one's conviction that one is morally worthy. Ayn Rand called this “moral ambitiousness.” It means holding oneself to moral standards and striving to be the best one can be.

Objectivism holds that one should never passively accept the beliefs of others. This is the virtue of independence. So one should not prepare oneself for the judgments of others per se, but for the judgments of others only insofar as they are objective and are in accord with one's own judgment (considered objectively) of one's own character and actions.
Besides evaluating others, justice consists in taking action to reward the good and to punish or discredit the evil. Objectivism holds that evil is in essence irrational and that the irrational is impotent on its own terms. So Objectivism holds that a key way to act on one's moral judgment is to simply let the moral status of an evil person or institution be known, and to refuse to have dealings with them. (In dealing with people who are violently evil, one may need to use force in self-defense or via a legal process.) In any case, it certainly is just to let others know the moral status of a person one has judged to be evil.
One prepares to be judged as a matter of pride, as part of one's conviction that one is morally worthy.
However, the guiding principle of Objectivism is rationality. Objectivism holds that one benefits from grasping and dealing with the facts of reality, and not by substituting subjective wishes or by misrepresenting the truth. Objectivity and honesty are essential virtues, in other words. As a matter of honesty, an Objectivist should strive to never broadcast a false report of another person (unless speaking to people who are irrational, but this is another matter). And as a matter of objectivity, an Objectivist should always make sure that his moral judgment takes account of all the facts. He or she should avoid jumping to conclusions or substituting emotion for reason.
To that extent, Objectivism does not recommend spreading subjective or malicious gossip or rumors. Indeed, there are aspects of gossiping in general that are not in keeping with Objectivism.
My American Heritage Dictionary defines “gossip” as “rumor or talk of a personal, sensational, or intimate nature,” and as “trivial, chatty talk or writing.” It seems to me that this associates a variety of unrelated matters. Let's take each in turn.
“Rumor,” is defined by the same dictionary as “unverified information of uncertain origin usually spread by word of mouth; hearsay.” As a matter of objectivity, an Objectivist should never accept a rumor as true. And as a matter of honesty, he or she should not lead others (of good character) to believe it as true.
People are often fascinated with sensational talk out of envy. They enjoy knowing that a movie star has a drug habit, for instance, because it brings the star down. Objectivism rejects envy and counsels that everyone develop an objective and independent self-esteem. Of course, a sensational truth may simply expose a lie: there's nothing wrong with that.
Talk of a personal or intimate nature is appropriate according to context. It should be avoided where it is inappropriate to the needs or context of the people involved.
Finally, Objectivism is not very much in favor of being “trivial” or “chatty.” Purpose is a cardinal value of Objectivism; it means taking your goals seriously. Now there are times to relax and discuss small matters, but doing so should always fit into one's broader purposes. In this sense, Objectivism counsels never being entirely trivial with one's time or one's talk.
So not only is spreading malicious, subjective gossip not right according to Objectivism, gossiping in general looks rather suspicious and is not to be pursued for its own sake, but only as appropriate to one's own needs and serious interests.
In sum, spreading subjective or malicious gossip violates the principle of justice (as it may cast blame on the innocent or pardon the unworthy), violates objectivity, and violates the principle of honesty. It is irrational. This is how it contradicts the fundamental principles of Objectivism.


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