Political Communication Studies – The Role of Rumors in Public Policy
Many people make the mistake of thinking that rumors are only harmless statements and stories that are normally spread without any real proof or validity. At times it’s difficult to tell who really started the rumor, which often times they are only false of 90% of the time, and sometimes they spread these rumors for malicious reasons. However, there are some situations when a rumor can have a real effect on a person or business.
First and foremost, rumours are a form of advertising. If you build a reputation of being an expert in a given field, you can start spreading stories about how great you are, what new ideas you are incorporating, and how you will be different from all your competition. People will listen to you and take you seriously, because you can back up your words with actual facts. Rumours work like this exactly because the listener wants there to be concrete proof that what you say is true. Just the right sort of proof will do the trick when spreading rumors.
Rumours also serve as a form of communication. The nature of gossip in the age of communication means that the “rumour” is not entirely false. Even if there isn’t any truth to the rumour, the listener wants there to be something that will support their opinion. This is where the danger comes in, and this is where many people can get into big trouble.
For example, you might start off a rumour in your head about a certain product and then start talking to a few friends about it. Then you might find out some other friends who also have a similar opinion about the same product and start chatting to them about the same. Now this all sounds fine; the problem arises when we start applying this method to different types of gossip. We can see this easily in real life, for example if you go out to eat with a few friends. It is perfectly acceptable for you all to talk about the dishes you’ve had and the food you’ve eaten, but what about the person who didn’t eat much, or the one who only ordered water.
All these individuals are placed in a situation where they have to apply the same social cognition process to each other, where they have to determine whose veracity is the most correct. They might have very different opinions about which dish was better, even though all agreed that the dish was good. This scenario is perfectly natural given the fact that all individuals have different perceptions. However, if we apply the harsin test, then all these differing social cognition methods will mean that the opinions will be judged incorrect, and this can lead to many situations where individuals are wrong, because they have applied different social cognition methods to arrive at different conclusions.
Rumours have been used for political communication studies for quite some time. The reason for this is that rumor is a powerful tool that has a number of important functions. Firstly, it encourages cooperation and group action. Propaganda by definition thrives on group action. Propaganda also encourages truth telling among citizens, which is important because it gives them a sense of belonging and a commitment to a set goal. If you have read my book, you will understand how crucial this aspect is when studying politics.