Gossip is controversial because everyone condemns it and everyone does it. Gossip ruins lives and compromises peoples integrity. Gossip is made up of different motivations and forces. Gossip is vicious because it is, by definition, based on misunderstanding, misinterpretation and/or malice disguised as a confidence, humor and/or friendly jest.
People listen to and repeat gossip for different reasons. Some people use gossip as a social tool because they are too insecure to rely on their own personality. Some use it as a diversion to hide their own schemes and mistakes. Others use it for revenge and other malicious reasons. Some listen to assure themselves that there are other people in worse situations than they feel that they are in.
Gossip can be a weapon, a weapon that is often justified under the lies of just talk, the truth, I think, all in good fun, and many other phrases designed to mask the impact that it can have on a persons life. Gossip has never helped a victim. Gossip has never solved a problem. Gossip is an invasion of privacy, an assault on character, an unforgiving label. Gossip is a judgment, a sentence carried out on a person without the benefit of trial by jury. Gossip is a burden put on the victim by people who are too weak to face themselves, too weak to accomplish anything on their own merit, people who choose to bring others down rather than build themselves up.
Gossip becomes an independent entity after several repetitions. Anyone who has ever played the game of telephone knows that misunderstanding and embellishment in the retelling of gossip cause it to change in both form and content through repetition over time. This is what makes gossip patently untrue, no matter what facts may have been used to start it.
Distortion is the lie in gossip. Even a good rumor causes problems by creating unrealistic expectations. Malicious rumors can unjustly label the subject of the rumor which can prevent them from having the chance to live a good life or correct a mistake.
Anyone who repeats gossip is participating in an act of evil. Anyone who believes a rumor, without investigating and without talking to the subject of the rumor, is lying to themself and lying to whoever they repeat it to. Anyone who participates in gossip is contributing to a crime which can easily turn on them.
Gossip is an unfortunate fact of life. There have always been people too weak in character to resist it. It is up to people of good conscience to refrain from repeating it to investigate the truth of it, to offer and provide assistance to the victims of it.