“Ad calamitatem quilibet rumor valet.” (Every rumor is believed against the unfortunate.) — Syrus, Maxims.
“Extemplo Libyæ magnas it Fama per urbes:
Fama malum quo non velocius ullum;
Mobilitate viget, viresque acquirit eundo;
Parva metu primo; mox sese attollit in auras,
Ingrediturque solo, et caput inter nubilia condit.
* * *
Monstrum, horrendum ingens; cui quot sunt corpore plumæ
Tot vigiles oculi subter, mirabile dictu,
Tot linguæ, totidem ora sonant, tot subrigit aures.”
“Straightway throughout the Libyan cities flies rumor;—the report of evil things than which nothing is swifter; it flourishes by its very activity and gains new strength by its movements; small at first through fear, it soon raises itself aloft and sweeps onward along the earth. Yet its head reaches the clouds. * * * A huge and horrid monster covered with many feathers: and for every plume a sharp eye, for every pinion a biting tongue. Everywhere its voices sound, to everything its ears are open.” — Virgil, Æneid (29-19 BC), IV. 17
The power and potency of a rumor were well-known to the ancients. (I invite the classically trained to correct these translations if it is necessary.) In an era before any real form of mass communication, we witness the destructive power of rumor and its spread like a virulent plague. Note that Virgil was highlighting this in his national epic, a story all Romans would know. I distinctly remember the destruction unleashed by rumors running rampant in the classical literature I read. Perhaps these sources from two millennia ago have something to teach our modern pundits and journalists. Then again, rumor is the majority of their business.
Especially relevant to the Covington Catholic situation is the quote of Publilius Syrus, a former Roman slave who earned his freedom through cleverness and wisdom. I read this as a reference to how people mobilize against the scapegoat, the outgroup, the person on hard times. Someone goes from possibly socially awkward to a member of the Nazi KKK that dines exclusively on kittens and puppies. The false story spreads faster than the truth because people want to believe it.
I think everyone here is on the record denouncing the leftist outrage mob and conservatives who assumed every person in a MAGA hat was like the Nazi trolls they saw on Twitter or otherwise deplorable. It was an act of stunning evil and should prompt some serious introspection.
Just keep in mind how dangerous rumor and social contagion can be so that you yourself do not help the monster take flight…