Webster’s dictionary 1828 defines rumor as “Flying or popular report; a current story passing from one person to another without any known authority for the truth of it.”
In Webster’s 4th College Dictionary it is defined as “gossip, or a story that is not confirmed but is being discussed.”
The Web has so much outstanding potential but it carries with it the potential for rumors, exactly as defined above, being carried far and wide.
In 1972, L. Ron Hubbard wrote:
“… a rumor can go through a society that has no basis of truth. When numbers of such rumors exist and are persistent, one suspects a ‘whispering campaign.’ This is not because people whisper these things but because like an evil wind it seems to have no source.”
Celebrity gossip rags and even some “reputable” newspapers and magazines are rumor mills, corroborating rumors with such statements as “a source close to the actor,” or “according to sources.” Sometimes they don’t even try to source it, simply saying “it is said that….” Or how about the famous “An insider revealed…”
Google your favorite celebrity and the word “source” and count how many stories show up. Here are some examples: Halle Berry 18 million pages; Bono, 24 million pages; Kirsten Stewart 38 million pages; and how about politicians—Romney 214 million and Obama 1.2 billion!
I think we as a culture have taken anonymity too far when un-sourced gossip spreads unchecked like an epidemic through the Internet.