Is it OK to say bad things about bad people?

The Baal Shem Tov explained: Evil gossip kills all three - the inventor of the slander, the one who relates it and the listener. This is all in spiritual terms..."

The Baal Shem Tov explained: Evil gossip kills all three – the inventor of the slander, the one who relates it and the listener. This is all in spiritual terms…”

Question: Can I say the truth about the deeds of people who have no fear of Heaven, without fearing about committing “lashon hara” (evil gossip)?

Answer: In regard to people in general, the answer is no. But there are few exceptions which I will mention below.

But first of all, it is almost impossible to find a human being who has absolutely no fear of G-d. I question if that is even possible. Even the most avowed atheists and Marxists inwardly have a trace of fear of G-d, which will be revealed when the person finds himself in extremely dire circumstances. Also, we see that there are avowed atheists and Marxists who have at some point changed their beliefs and repented, and they became G-d fearing in a revealed way. That can only be because it was there originally in a very covered-up way. The reason this most likely true for all human beings is because (at least) their soul that is keeping them alive knows that there is G-d.

Second of all, here is a translation from a talk by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, which we published in our book
“To Perfect the World: The Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Call to Teach the Noahide Code to All Mankind,” p. 52-53:


Original transcript of the following talk was published in Hisvaaduyos 5742, Vol. 4, pp. 2170-2172

Civilizing the world, including the Gentile nations, and preventing a situation where “kingdoms quarrel with one another,”[1] impacts the Jewish people as well, for when there is international conflict, they release their anger partly on the Jewish people.
Experience has taught that war brings in its wake death for Gentiles (a terrible phenomenon, and one that the Jewish people must strive to prevent as much as they can, for it is even said that “poor Gentiles ought to be supported alongside poor Jews”;[2] surely their very lives should be protected). War also carries undesirable ramifications for Jews, and not just financially, but even bodily, may G-d save us.
In addition to speaking only positively of Jews, we must also strive not to say anything negative of Gentiles, for by saying something negative, we elicit the opposite of blessing into the world, G-d forbid. Rather, current circumstances necessitate that we drown the entire world with blessings for revealed good. This will then also bring all undesirable phenomena in Jewish life to automatically disappear.
Certain people challenge this. […] However, not only is this consistent with Torah, but this is the instruction of Torah. It was, as it were, befitting for G-d Himself to tell Moshe to command the Jewish people for all time to influence the Gentile nations to accept the Noahide Code.[3] […] The underlying theme of the Noahide Code is civilizing the world, which includes civilizing areas where Jewish people live. In other words, Jews ought to strive to promote the welfare of the Gentile nations, so that the entire world will be civilized. It thus follows that they should draw blessings down into the entire world (and not speak in a negative manner, which promotes the opposite of blessing).
Furthermore, there is an explicit verse in the Torah: “Seek the peace of the city … and pray for it, for through its peace, you will have peace.”[4] Obviously, it is contradictory to pray for the welfare of the city and simultaneously say accusatory things. […] Even when speaking of “foe and avenger,”[5] we must accomplish the directive [in that verse], “to silence foe and avenger” – to silence and nullify their behavior as “foe and avenger.” As our sages say, “Sins should cease, but not the sinners.”[6] Ultimately, we should bring them to become friends and supporters of the Jewish people.

[1] Midrash Genesis Rabbah 42:4.
[2] Tractate Gittin 61a.
[3] Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings 8:10-11.
[4] Jeremiah 29:7.
[5] Psalms 8:3.
[6] Tractate Berachos 10a on Pslams 104:35.

What the Rebbe was speaking about is setting a higher moral standard for one’s speech, with the knowledge that one’s speech has a real impact on other people and a real impact on the world, for good or (G-d forbid) for the opposite of good.

It is not clear exactly to what extent Gentiles are obligated in the Jewish precepts of the prohibition of lashon hara. From the basic level of the Torah law, however, there are a few cases when lashon hara is not forbidden even for Jews. One case in which it needs to be done is when information (the minimum amount necessary) needs to be shared (only with the necessary person or people) in order to protect someone from harm – for example, from being scammed, or physically or financially harmed.

The situations in which lashon hara is necessary or permitted only apply if it is done in a particular and careful manner. See the chapter on this subject in our book “The Divine Code,” Part V (The Prohibition of Murder and Injury). Many more details are explained in another book which we recommend:

Now, the answer that relates to your particular question is given in “The Divine Code,” Part V, topic 8:14 –

14. Many forms of public media (newspapers, magazines, television, radio, Internet, etc.) publicize evil gossip and tale-bearing [especially about politicians, government officials, and other public figures]. It is permissible to read or watch them, even though one is hearing evil gossip and tale-bearing, because these things are already publicized and have became common knowledge (as explained in topic 4). Nevertheless, it is not fitting for this to be a person’s main interest and attention. It is only if the person saw or heard this by chance, and he did not go delving into the matter, that there is no transgression involved.
It is not even forbidden to tell others about gossip that was publicized through the media, but it is a bad trait to feel good about, or benefited from, the failures and shortcomings of other people. Such a trait is unfitting for an upright person…

Nevertheless, the goals of an upright person should be to spend the precious limited time of his life in this world – to the extent that his personal obligations permit – being involved with permissible Torah learning, self-refinement, doing acts of goodness and kindness, and acting on the time-sensitive opportunities that come his way to do things (even little things) that will improve his society and other places in the the world at large. Speaking negatively, even the truth about people who don’t accept the yoke of Heaven, usually doesn’t accomplish anything constructive, and it takes away precious time from those good things that a person needs to involved with.

Also, if one gets involved in speaking negatively about one person about whom that’s permitted, the conversation can easily degenerate into speaking negatively about another person for whom it’s not permitted. And once one gets involved in that type of conversation, it’s very hard to reverse course and stop from saying things that are crossing over the line of what’s permitted.