"Believe nothing of what you hear, and only half of what you see." old proverb
Malicious gossips wouldn't manage much harm if many others weren't complicit by being:
1) So Gullible (accepting accusations without evidence.)
In many places and times, a lot of innocent people have been killed because bad gossip swayed neighbors into believing someone was a witch/wizard with an 'evil eye' that's causing all the problems or 'must be the one who did it' when the only 'evidence' was a preponderance of wagging tongues . This is actually why trials were instituted in every civilized society (and mob 'justice' outlawed.) If there is no evidence that can bring the accused to trial, then the most common reason will be because the accused is actually innocent, no matter what 'everybody' has been persuaded to believe
The 'logic' doesn't have to be any better than this...
It says sad things about the state of our society that people have gone back to believing rumors as a primary source of news. Given the propaganda issues with some mainstream sources, and the way local news sometimes just seems to get ignored by the official newscasters, I understand why word of mouth is proliferating. Just make sure your local 'news' actually has credible eyewitnesses and evidence. For those who believe in God, I STRONGLY recommend praying for discernment as to what is the real truth - especially before you act on a rumor in any way! It could be a FrameUp
2) So Judgmental - so ready to internalize a bad word and turn on others, especially friends, family, neighbors...
Any accusation making the rounds effectively acts as a social demotion in most groups. It doesn't need to be all that credible for former friends to shun you. The real message (if your enemy has spread Malicious Slander far enough and didn't get enough flack back for it) is that the herd/flock is turning on you, which means your enemy has more social support and it's safest to dump you.* Since this is a kind of treachery, people feel best about themselves if they 'officially' believe the Demonising Lies. (Cognitive Dissonance) This is why even when you can prove it's a lie, you may have a hard time getting a fair hearing to Clear Your Name. If they accept the truth, then they have to choose between openly turning on you because it's socially expedient or championing your now unpopular position, becoming controversial, and risk being tarred with the same BS brush used on you. The most common compromise position is for a 'weak friend' to continue friendly communications, but only if you agree to keep their support a secret. Eventually most of these either make up their mind to truly remain a friend or stop talking to you, lest the others find out...
In this situation, the best you can be is a Hero With Bad Publicity
* [If you are ever fully ostracized, this enemy's next goal will likely work toward using the group's Moral Myopia to create a Torches and Pitchforks scenario (the virtual version often uses hackers.)]
3) So Ready to Become Repeaters for the Devil's Radio -
Those who are willing to 'back up' a lying jerk are the worst. In some cases they initially back such stories as just juicy gossip, figuring others are solely responsible for discerning whether there is anything to it. They usually tell themselves that since they didn't start it, they are just passing on what's going to go around anyway, but every repetition makes it seem more real to other listeners. This is what pushes incredible assertions past 'the tipping point' into a contagious social agreement - this is what makes even ridiculous hoaxes seem so believable. Not surprising that socially adept bad-mouthing persons/cliques push rumors enough times, in enough places (or just often enough from the same person), their rubbish tend to be accepted as truth. There's no Snopes to prove or disprove their accusations about private people.
The repeaters may even reason that you must deserve it, since Ole Crocodile Tears is a 'nice person.' Well, NO, O.C.T. is NOT a nice person if he/she is trying to get you to say ugly things you don't personally know are true. I don't care if Ole Crocodile Tears says they are 'warning' you about them. That's just a clever ruse to make their little drama sound less selfish/evil and make you feel like they care about you while messing with your head. SEE: Wounded Gazelle Gambit. All you Really Know is that O.C.T is upset with them/thinks they are bad/dislikes them. The result is always that they want you to do their dirty work. *rolls eyes*
God regards the repeaters as slanderers too
Being an easy tool of a slanderer doesn't say good things about you.
Be careful about who you let bend your ear.
Remember: "A clean conscience makes a soft pillow."