IN TODAY’S RAPID-pace world, a desperate, overzealous reporter or a rogue news organization looking to make a name for themselves can disseminate a scandalous story on social media and millions of viewers will rush to judgment.

We have a flash-mob mentality. It is relatively easy for someone with an ax to grind to wreak havoc on another person or organization. There’s always a mob willing to pile on as though it is a sport.

Even if the story proves to be false, misleading or full of half-truths, a person’s character and reputation will be forever tarnished. The damage will have been done. A retraction will never get the exposure that the original story got and the public will move on to the next big thing.

Hardly a day goes by that we don’t see a mob tear into a celebrity or highly decorated member of society based on unsubstantiated claims that offers an opinion or conclusion built on questionable facts.

As is said, it may take a lifetime to build a reputation, but just one unintended mistake or a lapse to ruin it. The court of public opinion can be unforgiving.

Society today, with the 24-hour news cycle and the prevalence of unfiltered social media, encourages us to rush to judgment and assume the targets are guilty instead of innocent. This is a growing problem. It has consequences.

We should never judge someone without knowing the whole story. Don’t get trapped in an echo chamber. You may think you understand, but you probably don’t. Don’t rush to judgment until you have the facts in order.

People preach about justice, but only if it supports their rhetoric.

Don’t be intimidated by people who seem to be experts or have a bias or an agenda. Hear their points of view. But at the end of the day, you’ve got to make a judgment on your own. It’s not their reputation that is at risk. Step back and hear all sides of the issue before making your judgment.

A rush to judgment can have lifetime consequences for a person and while we would like to assume someone is guilty instead of innocent, that often is not the case. Allow time to delve deeper into the responsibility that being a judge and jury holds, not only in a legal sense, but in a personal and moral sense.

Often, in the heat of the moment, we want to pass judgment before getting all the facts. Remember to see both sides of the coin or both sides of the scale of justice.

In recent years, we’ve seen many examples of famous people emotionally and professionally destroyed by things they did and things they didn’t do. People have become cold and mean. We seem to take pleasure in toppling our idols and legends.

Understand that no one is perfect. Many jobs are simply impossible. People in high-authority positions can’t be right every time, yet critics who have never been in a similar position will demand a pound of flesh for any misstep.

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HOW DO civil wars happen? Here’s an excerpt from an explanation from Daniel Greenfield, a conservative author, who is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center in New York. You might find it interesting.

When the population is divided, who decides who runs the country?

When the two sides can’t agree on issues, but accept the election results, you have a country, said Greenfield. When you stop accepting election results, you have a countdown to a civil war.

When two or more sides disagree on who runs the country and they can’t settle the question through fair elections because they don’t even agree that legitimate elections are how you decide who’s in charge, that creates a dilemma and an impasse.

Greenfield believed the Mueller investigation is about removing President Donald Trump from office and overturning the results of the 2016 election. It’s not the first time this has happened.

The first time a Republican president was elected this century, the Democrats said George W. Bush didn’t really win. The Supreme Court gave him the election. Does this mean Democrats won’t accept the results of any election that they don’t win?

If this is becoming a pattern, Greenfield suggested that Democrats have rejected our system of government. It means they don’t believe that transfers of power in this country are determined by elections. That’s a civil war and a challenge of our democracy.

Our system of government is based on the constitution. Former President Barack Obama had it right when he said “Elections have consequences.” The party that wins has the power to govern until the voters decide otherwise.

Yes, there are checks and balances. The party in the minority has rights; after all, the minority still represents its constituents. But the party in the minority shouldn’t have the sole purpose of disrupting the day-to-day activities of the government.

Some will say the current state of affairs is just politics as usual. If that’s all we have to look forward to in the future, we may be doomed to a nasty, contentious civil war of ideologies.