One of the worst things about the internet is that it lends itself to the dissemination and proliferation of unfounded rumors. Individuals write things — for whatever reasons — that simply aren’t true or are unsubstantiated by qualified sources, then post to blogs or online forums (sometimes even to reputable publications). The unchecked, unqualified, and/or baseless rumor then becomes part of the information highway that millions and millions travel, some of whom will pick up the rumor and pass it along. One of those rumors circulating at present concerns R&B artist Chris Brown’s arrest on Sunday, February 8.
There are several blogs and a couple of online publications that have become part of the “news” section of Google that are reporting that Chris Brown allegedly assaulted his girlfriend Rihanna because she gave him the sexually transmitted herpes virus. Another rumor has it that she was allegedly cheating on him with Kanye West. Thus far, this writer has not found a blog or report that conflates the two rumors but that unfortunate occurrence is bound to happen in a relatively short time.
The problem with these rumors are that they are just that – rumors. They have no basis in reality. Or if they do, their factual basis is extremely tenuous. They are usually the products of others’ imagination.
The unfortunate downside of this is that there is, so far, no substantive proof that the woman that accused Chris Brown of accosting her was Rihanna. The police will only refer to the individual that called 911 as an “unidentified female.” Just because Rihanna cancelled her performance at the Grammy Awards – as did Chris Brown – does not necessarily mean that she was involved in the incident that led to Chris Brown’s arrest. That is simply applying linear logic that may have begun as a faulty premise.
Secondly, Chris Brown has been arrested for making criminal threats and it has not been proven that he actually physically attacked anyone. The police are investigating the incident.
Third: There is absolutely no proof that Rihanna has or has contracted the herpes virus, therefore making this rumor not only reprehensible but possibly socially damaging to a person that, regardless of whether or not they have the virus, does not deserve such public humiliation. There is an unfortunate stigma attached to STDs and to purposefully spread the rumor, even if it were to be found to be based on the truth (some have alleged to have seen Rihanna with a cold sore, which, although technically caused by the herpes virus, certainly not the type of herpes the rumors insinuate), is not only mean-spirited but unconscionable.
Fourth: By extension, the same would have to apply to Chris Brown and his knowledge of said contraction, not to mention his own. One unfounded assumption leads to the other. Fifth and finally: There is an unspoken presumption that, if Rihanna (or whoever the individual might be) did pass along the virus, she deserved to be assaulted. There is barbarity in that presumption.
But it all derives from an unsubstantiated rumor. Just like the death rumors that get started, then spread like internet wildfire.
About once a month, it seems that some celebrity has died. Sadly, in some cases this is true. But in a growing number of cases, it is not. Dolly Parton died — but didn’t — back in August 2008. Liz Taylor has died on the internet several times, as has Tom Hanks and Tom Cruise (filming on location in New Zealand seems to do them in — interchangeably). Snopes.com has a list of the famous that have met untimely demises – only to be alive and well. Miley Cyrus was the latest to have succumbed (automobile accident).
Still, the Chris Brown and Rihanna rumors are particularly odious. They are also potentially career damaging. Before passing this kind of information along, think of the repercussions a rumor such as this could have on the careers of both these young stars. They have worked particularly hard to claim a degree of success and celebrity and respect.
What is truly known about Chris Brown and Rihanna concerning the incident (from the Los Angeles Times): Los Angeles police arrived on the scene of a 911 call and found a female, which they refuse to identify, who bore markings as if she had been assaulted. The female identified Chris Brown as her attacker. Chris Brown turned himself in to the police late on the evening of February 8. He was arrested and charged with making felony criminal threats, then released. An investigation by the LAPD is ongoing. Both Chris Brown and Rihanna cancelled their appearances at the Grammy Awards Sunday evening. Publicists of the two stars and the stars themselves have issued no statements concerning the incident.
That is the extent of it. Everything else is speculative.
There is no reason to cast aspersions.
There is plenty of truthful information and news to be had without spreading spurious details and reckless innuendo.
Writers should always seriously consider each line before it is written and, if it does not have a truthful base or cannot be corroborated/substantiated, don’t. Simply don’t.