A hallmark of a bully is managing to make themselves the victims without acknowledging their own participation in the process. Somehow, magically, they manage to silence dissent without suffering direct consequences. They hide behind anonymity while criticizing others’ anonymous identities. When in the flesh, they’ll hide behind pretense and bluster (see Newt Gingrich as an example) while playing their own victimhood for the world to see. Above all, they are driven by a negative, hateful set of impulses to establish their own superiority over another human being. Think on that. Often they’ll do it while telling everyone they love peace and tranquility, but they’re drama queens. Antagonists.
Worse, they’re great at recruiting mobs and tribes to rush to their defense. Sometimes the mobs and tribes are real people; other times they’re just impostors and sock puppets intended to exist long enough to pile on before they die. For some recent examples, I point you to the following Twitter accounts and their recent behavior:
- HankChinaskiBuk, who seems to have a near-compulsive need to not only harass and smear, but also publish some kind of bizarre website (linked from the Chirpstory) with really petty and nasty accusations.
- NadiaArts, who goes by several handles, and pretends to be a sensitive, empathetic artist while slinging shit across the net.
- A collection of others who have decided they have some kind of right to gang up on another person and go farther than simple disagreement or even simple dislike into territory that includes efforts to silence another, to drive them away, to expose “true identity” (whatever that means on the Internet), to ruin another’s reputation.
Apparently if you’re Shoq and you get into a heated argument with someone on Twitter, or you call out the Shoq Deranged on their behavior, you are automatically labeled a bully. But if you’re Shoq Deranged, and spend a substantial amount of time talking negatively about Shoq, harassing his followers and people he engages with, spreading rumors of unsubstantiated claims of bullying and harassment, trying to misrepresent his criticisms of dishonest and hyperbolic media coverage as “proof” that he’s a Super Secret Republican Operative, or madly retweeting creepy websites that have been set up to “expose” him, well…that’s just a public service!
You know what this tells me? So long as you don’t like the target, most are willing to turn a blind eye to the people engaging in this behavior.
Ah, yes. Tribes. Everyone belongs to them, apparently, and never shall they touch or have points of common agreement. I experienced it shortly after I met Shoq on Twitter in 2009 and there was some gathering around common hashtags for progressives. It took me about a week to discover this:
This nearly happened twice this weekend with a group of people I respect, because one person was able to have enough influence over others to: a) argue trivia instead of principles; b) use personal attacks as a way to dilute the conversation; c) pollute the dialogue with outlandish claims of power grabs and fiefdoms.
So this too-long post ends with this lesson: Ignore the antagonists, or boot ‘em out. But whatever you do, don’t let them become the defacto voice of your effort; at least, not if you actually want to succeed.
By the way, the antagonists were behaving the same way then as now. Some things just don’t change. I can point to similar posts in 2009, 2010, 2011 with similar behavior aimed at different targets, all somewhat high-profile, strong-voiced people. Here’s the problem. When everything is viewed around tribal paradigms, you don’t dare break out of them. If you do, the tribes will use shame, lies, smears, threats, and just about any weapon they can get their hands on to smack you down and shove you back in the pack.
From 2010, this:
If you’ve made it this far, you must be wondering where I’m going with this. In my view, the ramped-up hyperbole, rhetoric, and tribalism in our political debate on all sides makes it impossible to reach consensus on almost anything. When one starts with an assumption that extra-tribal voices are worthless, we’ve moved from democracy to something else, something darkly dictatorial and authoritarian. Everyone feels righteous to such an extreme that “rightness” becomes the goal, rather than resolution.
That’s where we are now. It’s a zero-sum game for all tribes. The only remaining question is who will emerge triumphant. Whatever the outcome, there will be blood and I fear for not only 2012, but our future in general, because we’re heading toward a road where fractures run so deep, so wide, and reputations have been so damaged that there will be no road to rehabilitation.
We’re there now. Part of it is Twitter’s fault, by the way. By only authenticating brands and celebrities, but not ordinary people with somewhat high profiles in different topical areas, they open the door for all sorts of nonsense, including impersonation, sock puppetry, reputation ruination, and in some cases, physical threats. Both Twitter and Google could do us all a favor and offer a pathway for identity verification that goes to a REAL PERSON, whether or not they use their real name in their handle. It’s ridiculous that they don’t, and if they’re not going to do it, they should allow their API to open that market to someone who will, and I don’t mean Klout, which is nothing more than an ego-stroking service with perks. I mean an actual identity tool which certifies that the person behind the avatar is a person with an identity, established to the satisfaction of the certifier.
Shoq isn’t your ordinary cat. He is as likely to be abrasive, argumentative, sweet, supportive, with someone he mostly agrees with as someone he doesn’t. We’ve had our share of spirited back-and-forths on the phone, in public, and in email over different things. But there’s one thing I know about him: He’s not a bully. Sorry, but he’s just not. I challenge anyone who thinks otherwise to have as many hours of online, telephone, and video conversations with him before they conclude that. He’s not a bully. He is strong-willed, opinionated, and not afraid to share that with everyone. Still, those who oppose him are using bully tactics for some weird and deranged purpose that I can’t fully discern beyond just being haters.
It’s not just Shoq. He just happens to be the target this time. That’s the problem. It’s random, ugly, and in this case, seems to be a group of women who first targeted another friend and did ultimately run him off, fearing his job might be in jeopardy if they continued with their smears. There was my own run-in with the incredibly deranged group of women this summer.
Here’s another example of a more subtle form of bullying. Every couple of days, a new account pops up with an obscene handle and even more obscene avatar. I get one tweet, usually asking an obscene question. But it’s not just me. It’s other women on Twitter who are liberal. The strategy is, of course, to suggest that we invite this sort of lurker into our lives by daring to speak in public of things the creator of the account doesn’t agree with. If you speak of these accounts, then attention is paid to someone who doesn’t deserve attention, so I block and report on a near-daily basis for spam. But honestly, it irritates the hell out of me that these idiots get to keep regenerating like zombies on steroids.
Finally, there are those who seem to need to be right, and their crusade for rightness knows no normal human boundaries. Here’s a taste:
Ah yes, there’s [deleted], sticking up for his cum slut @karoli, and pretending like single payer is hopeless. What a LINO fucktard.
@karoli should kill herself with a dull butterknife.
I don’t like @karoli. I consider her a cancer to real change.
@Karoli On Twitter you have been an uncle Tom, as I define it.
I’m not going to mention the source of the first three except to say that the writer is a man who thinks harassing and bullying women is a sport. He deserves no more attention or mention than that.
Bullying has consequences. Some of them are unintended; others fully intended. I don’t care whether the bullies are male or female. I don’t care whether they claim to have an excuse. They shouldn’t be tolerated and frankly, they shouldn’t have a platform upon which to bully. But since they do, I suggest that it’s time for the observers to really think about what they’re doing and what consequences may result. The person on the receiving end of their hate is human. They breathe. Sometimes they have dental problems, even, which should not ever be a source of ridicule. (Look at the links, you’ll see what I’m talking about.) They aren’t robots. They aren’t evil. And they don’t deserve the dogpile mob mentality evil they’re receiving, in public, without discretion, without honor, and above all, without one single thought to what the consequences of their actions might be.
Or to put it more bluntly to them: Grow the hell up, get a life, and look in your own mirror before whining about other people. Also? If I hear the term “sycophant” used one more time about someone you disagree with, I will probably never take anything you write seriously. Ever. And we all know how desperately bullies want to be taken seriously.
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