SEPTEMBER 25, 1944
HYDE PARK, Sunday—In Oswego, N.Y., the other day, a local newspaper publisher told us with some pride about the rumor clinic which his paper had established there.
As he described it, the clinic works out very well. For example, when cigarettes are hard to buy in town, and someone begins to ask whether the shortage is due to the fact that they are all being bought by the refugees at Fort Ontario, this item is published in the paper and the real answer is given. The real answer, of course, is that the cigarette shortage exists almost everywhere, and is not due to any local condition!
The Oswego advisory committee feels that the newspaper clinic has stopped many rumors which might have caused friction between the people of the city and the people living in the refugee shelter.
I can't help thinking that something of this kind in every community in the United States might be wonderfully useful. For instance, a friend of mine who is traveling around the country tells me that people come up to him constantly and say: "We know that you are a Democrat. You must be so concerned about the President's health. We hear that he is desperately ill."
When the President went on his recent trip, which took in Hawaii and the Aleutians, I accompanied him as far as San Diego. I had just returned, when I received a letter telling me that the writer heard the President had been very ill in San Diego, and had been taken on board a ship to be operated on!
For security reasons, at the time, I could say only that I knew this tale was untrue. Now that he has been to Quebec and back, I hope everyone realizes that the people who spread these rumors are not really concerned about the President's health. They are working to create an impression which they think will serve their interests.
Of course, I realize that it is easier to spread rumors now, when a certain amount of secrecy has to be maintained because of wartime conditions. But I think rumor clinics in every town and village would help to break us of the habit of repeating things which we are not really sure are true.
It is said that gossip is the vice of women. Yet I have lived nearly sixty years, during which I have spent a good part of my time with men, and I have not found that they are any less quick to repeat things about which they know little and which they have not verified. When it comes to gossip about people, I have often wondered if the curiosity of the male members of the family was not one of the real reasons why the ladies gather their little items of scandal to retail at home!