Among the many inane things we say when we don’t have something witty of our own to offer (hey, don’t knock it … someone else’s bon mot beats out “duh” every time), there are a few genuinely despicable ones.
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
It’s a justification for accusing someone based on rumor, hearsay or malice. I won’t bother to address the physics except to point our there can be smoke without fire, and fire without smoke. No multiple interpretation for these words. This means only one thing.
“I haven’t a shred of evidence, but I’ve heard stuff about you-know-who. He/she/they must be guilty of something, right? Because where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”
No one with good intentions uses this line. Never. It’s mean-spirited and downright un-American in a nation founded on the principle of never convicting anyone without due process. Being unpopular is not proof of wrong-doing. Neither is attending a different church, or no church all. Or dressing funny, having a bad attitude, failing to mow the lawn, keeping to yourself, being anti-social or even rude. It’s legal to be different.
And hey, how about gossip, eh? People say all kinds of shit. It can ruin reputations and careers, destroy families. All because a guy said something to another guy about someone else. Then a couple of other guys in a bar repeated what they thought they’d heard, plus a few embellishments. Their girlfriends passed it to their BFFs who published it on Facebook. Voila.
That’s the smoke. Fire is inferred, after which you’ve got all you need to get a quick conviction without benefit of judge, jury or trial. The next thing you know, a lynch mob is forming.
If ever you hear yourself saying “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” or words to that effect, stop. Ask yourself what gives you the right to judge. Because you too can be judged and I bet you won’t much like it.