Is Bullying an Acceptable Response—Ever?

by Karoli on November 28, 2012 · 19 comments

This guest post is by twitter user @expatina.

As a journalist who doesn’t have a blog and is in no way other than opinions involved in politics, I rarely comment on any of the Twitter Wars. My remarks on the one by a cast of way too any against Matt Edelstein have been few and far between. But I thought it was time someone addressed what to me is the core issue here—not leftwing bloggers making deals with rightwing scarymen, not whether or not someone is an abused woman or just someone who blew her internet boyfriend’s yelling abuse at her way out of proportion six months after the fact, but if an organized campaign of non-stop bullying against one person can ever be justified.

Perhaps you’re new to Twitter and have no idea how organized things can be. Perhaps when you see common streams, similar comments, you think people just happen to be thinking the same way. Uh uh. There exists on Twitter a whole other world, a sub-universe of DM’d conversations and shared strategies, an entire “If Dropbox could speak” scenario which, if not lethal, is certainly unsavory and repellent.

It has led me, for one, to have unfollowed scores of people. I don’t unfollow people for who they follow, but I do unfollow them for their remarks to some of those people and the patterns I see. Some I’ve unfollowed because, in DMs, they tried to turn me against @Shoq without admitting their (self-serving) motives other than the “poor abused woman” one. You’ve probably seen their chirpstories already, those who kept saying “I’m not involved in this, but…”

Like perhaps some of you, I was naïve. When I first saw both @AngryBlackLady and @vdaze tweet about not liking *cats” and then about blocking *black cats* some months ago, I DM’d @vdaze to ask if she meant Shoq, as I knew them to be good friends. She DM’d back saying yes, she’d decided he wasn’t the person she’d thought he was. I said I understood he could be controlling and sometimes rude but I liked him so planned to keep following but would keep an eye on what he tweeted. She DM’d back to say he’d turned into Glenn Beck. Not knowing their story, I told her to forget about him, he was just some guy on Twitter. Yes, she said, just some on Twitter. She didn’t seem at all angry or upset, just peeved.

Within a week, she’d posted his screaming voice message on her blog and presented herself as an abuse victim who’d been grossly mistreated by the man she’d loved, Shoq. This was all news to me. I heard a voicemail that was angry and abusive, obviously the product of someone extremely angry and out of control. I found it creepy, not the voicemail—that was nasty but not especially creepy—but the fact that someone would put that voice message on her blog if it were true she’d been in love with him. It was clear, in my mind, that it had been for revenge. I hoped it wouldn’t become a big, ugly thing. When I learned—via public tweets—that the call had taken place six months or more before and that Jessica and Matt had never even met IRL, I was, frankly, embarrassed for them both and figured it would all blow over.

I had no idea an army of drones was waiting in the wings.

When @AngryBlackLady tweeted to call Shoq a major abuser of women and to refer to that as his “white guy bullshit,” I was amazed. I tweeted her to say I thought bringing race into a personal problem between two people not at all connected with race wasn’t going to help anyone. She tweeted one of her (not yet so very, very common) “Oh, please. Just stop.” Responses, Then she immediately sub-tweeted something about not a week going by without some fool accusing her of racism. Though I hadn’t done that, it was plain she meant me.

I was now ending Twitter *friendships* even faster than I’d originally made them. I kept screening for the really nasty mocking, cruel, incessant tweets and unfollowing those in my timeline who seemed to stoking the fire.

One person was someone I’d actually met face-to-face, a young man who’d obviously had some personal troubles and who’d responded very strongly to the idea that he could stand up for a damsel in distress. When I said I couldn’t chalk a single phone message up to being proof of abusive, he bluntly said that in that case, I obviously thought abuse was all right. Oh, yeah, I totally love some poor sap young enough to be my son, telling me, who joined NOW in the 1970s, that I think abuse is cool.

So what do you think? Is it acceptable to organized a campaign of hundreds of nasty public tweets per day aimed at just one person? (And all these sub-professional lefties have their own blogs an d needn’t rely on Twitter except it’s a better harassment vehicle.) Would you start or join a bullying campaign? Let’s rule out its being against someone because your dreams of a big-deal backer for your blog are falling apart or because someone was arrogant or rude towards you. Let’s narrow it down to someone who’s done something bad—where do you draw the line? Abuser, pedophile, embezzler, someone who stole a valium out of your bag when you were in the in the bar’s bathroom, someone you thought cheated on you, a rapist, a perjurer, a murderer, a shoplifter, someone who took your parking space?

Me, I wouldn’t organize a bullying campaign against OJ Simpson but maybe I’m a big ole softy at heart.

It this were all the work of rightwing trolls, I’d understand it. But this is the work of vindictive, hate-fuelled liberals who tweet each other in baby talk and feign righteous indignation, who, it would seem, won’t be happy unless they can sabotage someone’s career and ruin his life, who think verbal abuse is a sin but making jokes about cancer is a hoot. And all in the name of righteousness. Yeah, you betcha.

Bored with the flame wars? Fine, so am I. I’ve seen the truly ugly gargoyle face of Twitter and I haven’t liked it. I really do wish I could say “Please. Just. Stop.” And it could work. But as long as the instigators continue to tweet non-stop from their multitudinous anonymous sock puppet accounts, you will have to live with it. Unless that is, you hit that “unfollow” button. Again and again and again and again.

  • BlueEye

    As you well know, I was also the target of a sustained, coordinated and especially vicious twitter campaign. Enough that I finally deleted my account and left twitter. It went from simple harassment and smears to actual death threats, hundreds of sock-puppet accounts, etc. From both the left and the right. I wrote a blog post at one point about what bullies *really* are: cowards. Those that need groups in order to bolster their bullying? Just bigger cowards. The bigger the group, the bigger the coward. And I genuinely LIKE some of the people on BOTH sides of that war. Consider some of them actual friends. But seriously … Just. Stop. I’m not even going to say please. And the “It’s just twitter!” canard? I call bullshit. When you’ve gotten death threats and had your life torn apart, it ain’t just twitter anymore.

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  • PhattElvis

    If I knew, based on reliable evidence, that someone was actively involved in criminal activity — like defrauding people online by getting suckers to send him money or private info (like SS#’s, real names, home addresses, phone numbers, passwords, etc.) — but continuing to post, pretending that everything was normal, *then* I would join the torches & pitchforks crowd, just to prevent a predator from continuing to harm others.

    It’s a lot like that “Randy”/Jason Hahn-Taylor, who turned out to be a fraud, as opposed to Shoq, who was nothing worse than a jerk in real life and who had the bad personal judgment to engage in an online relationship that went nowhere for a year and a half.  That his online “love” was married should have been his first red flag.  That she refused to actually meet him after, say, 6 months, should have been all he needed to know to get out. If it ain’t happenin’, it ain’t happenin’.  It’s that corallary to the “What you see is what you get” rule of relationships: “If you ain’t seein’ it, you ain’t gettin’ it.”

    When the relationship reached a breaking point, he exploded in verbal anger and frustration, and she turned vindictive.  People in breakups act like assholes.  None of that crap should have gone public.  The fact that that his angry voice mail didn’t get published for what — 6 months? 8 months? — strongly mitigates its weight as evidence of “abuse.”

    Come on. Virtual relationship.  Virtual abuse.  Sticks & stones.  During that 6-8 month lapse, he did nothing to physically harm her, to hack her personal accounts or cause any harm to come to her, beyond the harrowing memory of his calling her an awful word.  That casts further doubt on her credibility and motive when she finally posted the angry voice mail.

    There seem to be two credible motives for how a blow up between two people in a somewhat dysfunctional virtual intimate relationship turned into a mass pile-on by a bunch of (self-) righteous women.
    1) It was a case of “Kill the Messenger” because Shoq turned out to be right in his suspicions that “Randy”/JHT was a RWNJ plant, aka a “rat-fucker.”  The exposure of JHT turned out to be publicly embarrassing to Imani ABL and Heather Chase, whose release of private correspondence to JHT ended up exposing several people in StopRush to concerted harassment campaigns and other harms by JHT and other malicious RWNJ affiliates.  It further endangered those who had already provided personal information to JHT. 

    It wouldn’t be the first time a whistle-blower got badly abused by those adversely affected, embarrassed or inconvenienced by the disclosure of information by the whistle-blower. Sad to see this happening on the left or by feminist women.  We’re supposed to care about justice, fairness and facts.

    2) Ugly jealousy turned into hysterical feeding-frenzy.  Turned out Shoq the dumb jerk got tangled up with ImaniABL’s boss, and VDaze didn’t appreciate that. The boss, who Shoq “just wasn’t into,” was a spurned lover.  She starts talking to VDaze.  The two start comparing intimate notes, and the thrill of uncovering an ex-”lover’s” intimate habits and quirks leads to serial “Ah ha!” moments, cascades of giggles, and a magical sense of synchronicity, as if the revelation of the details of a man’s “pet names,” erotic dirty talk and the hairy mole on his shoulder was on par with the discovery of a new planet beyond Pluto.

    So they set upon him, like those cute, little cannibalistic aliens in Galaxy Quest.  Ugly shit. 

    They should knock it off.  I don’t think they realize how horrible they look to people who are new to Twitter and have no horses in this race, other than the desire for progressives and feminists to maintain their credibility and allow RWNJ rat-fuckers to hoist themselves on their own pitards, without the unwelcome distraction of lefties turning cartwheels in their own version of Cirque D’Asshole, with a human sacrifice in Center Ring.

  • Liz Pullen

    It has really made me sick and sad. That adults can act like cruel children. I think it is partially because people post Tweets from mobile devices and so have no filters between their thoughts and what they post. I’m sure that 90% of these comments would never be said face-to-face.

    I heard someone once say that the harder people fought, the lower the stakes were. I’m not sure I believe it but this bitter aggressiveness only hurts people and, wake up!, no one outside a small circle of people even cares. No matter how many followers you have, no one outside of your friends knows who you are and cares about your opinions. Sorry, but sometimes the truth hurts.

  • Expatina

    I’m sure those who are commenting won’t be too shocked to hear I am now being bullied on Twitter. Just for writing this blog post. This is their alternate reality. 

  • Liz Pullen

    I’m sorry to hear this, Expatina. I received my share of hate Tweets after the election. Discovered how handy the Block feature is.

  • BlueEye

    I wish I could say I were surprised by this. Deeply saddened, but not surprised. Twitter is the Jr. High of the Internet. On its good days. :-) You will always have my support.

  • Sweet

    I am really sorry to hear this as well.  There is a lot of Group Think going on, and it’s disgusting.  Progressives and feminists are  not immune, but we should endeavor to know better.  It’s one of the reasons why I have not posted on Twitter and have made an effort to make sure that none of the parties involved are following me.

    I recommend that you use the “block function” to minimize your exposure to the mean-spirited bullshit and hold to your own path.  Keep doing and expressing what you know is right, but do so from a stance of pro-activity, not reactivity.  Focus on the feedback you get from people outside the circle of bullshit, those who have no horse in this race, other than to champion fairness and who have a stake in the ongoing credibility and integrity of the progressive and feminist movement.

    The cause managed to progress while these fools re-enacted “The Crucible.”  Shame on them, but they’re really not worth your time or worry.  Good, fair-minded people accord them no credibility.  They’re out there, and they support you.

    I’ve worked in cases of extreme, organized, institutionalized sexual abuse of women, so these vindictive accusations and the Stalinistic attacks on all who dissent truly disgust me.  These are people who are reacting out of embarrassment and personal animosities.  They undermine the credibility of all true victims of sexual abuse, and that is what outrages me about this entire clusterfuck.

    The truly ironic thing is that Vdaze, ImaniABL and their merry band of lack the self-awareness to recognize that they’ve been engaging in gang-slut-shaming of Shoq.  Another self-administered blow to their credibility, via hypocrisy.

    Shame on them, and hang in there.  Remember this treatment, to be sure you never do the same to another.

  • usedtobgop

    It is SO wrong  that @expatina is now being bullied. The character of those involved becomes clearer by the day.

  • BlueEye

    @NadiaArtist has a long history of mental instability on Twitter and of jumping into almost any twitter-mob she could find. @tllanes and the others attacking based on age and looks? Pathetic, but par for the course. As I said, the Jr. High of the internet, at best. That crowd is the 3rd grade of the internet.

  • Sweet

     With what they’ve posted, if they think they’re feminist, they are delusional. Attacking women based on age, looks, and implying a sexual relationship with a guy they don’t like. Wow.

    Get off my side!

  • Expatina

    I remmeber being warned about these people when I first joined Twitter. I followed some of the, had unfollowed most when the hysteria started. It is like high school, David (or Jr. Hi), but, as there, it’s not fun or funny and is intended to harm people.

  • Expatina

    I agree, Sweet. These are not people who really care about any cause–they’re too narcissistic and too busy showing off their meanness to one another. Fake feminists attacking a genuine feminist based on age or looks isn’t just dreadful, it’s a big stupidity tell. Dumb as frogs.

  • Expatina

    I remember when you felt you couldn’t stick with Twitter, David, and I can totally understand. The underbelly is filled with sociopaths and subtweeting and hatred, and those of us who wish to believe it’s just a RW thing need to take a look around.

  • Shoq

    I liked  your comment, Elvis, but I kinda take objection to being called a “jerk in real life” merely because I made a mistake in leaving a private voicemessage for my cyber girlfriend who often used contact-avoidance as a negotiating tactic. It was wrong and I’ve apologized for it too often.  We all have our little crosses to bear. I don’t feel that makes us “jerks.” I’m just a human who occasionally make mistakes. I’ve heard there are more of us around. I just haven’t met any :)

  • Sweet

    Wow, I just saw the reaction tweets to CatsAreImportant’s ChirpStory in support of you, Expatina, and Oh. My. God.

    Such cruel and malicious remarks based on age and appearance are appalling. I’m embarrassed for these “women.”  I use quotation marks because they’re acting like children.  In fact, I know many children who would be upset by the likes of such cruelty to others.

    The main point is that they’ve reached the point where the only people they are condemning with their cruel, malicious, ageist and misogynistic barbs are themselves.  No one who matters will ever take them seriously, and I would personally flee from any “cause” or organization they were a part of.  They are toxic, black holes of negative energy.  Shame on them.

  • Norma Duffy

    The Un-follow button works both ways. As for Black Cats I like them just fine, as for women…. being one, I know how rude , crude and socially unacceptable we can be at times. 
    This argument of @vdaze:disqus  and others is a complete fantasy. What others like her, want you to believe is the scum they write against another person is not as Horrible as what they say that person wrote. Rubbish! They have written some outlandish shit! I am asking them to grow up and get past it. If they are adult enough they will!

  • lloyd

    Wow. I had no idea this nonsense was occurring on my Twitter feed. I was away from Twitter for several months and just recently returned. It seemed there was a personality clash but I wasn’t aware of any history. As a person deeply involved with bullying on  a daily basis I find this situation disgusting.

  • PhattElvis

    Hey Shoq…I’m sorry that what I wrote hurt your feelings or caused you any further distress beyond what you have so unjustly endured up until now.

    Please note my actual words in the post: “nothing worse than a jerk,” which is not the same as outright calling you a jerk. That it’s a distinction with an important difference, the salient point being that for all the demonization that’s been done to you, the fact is that, *at worst*, you could only have been fairly accused of being something we all are, from time-to-time: a jerk.

    I understand your frustration in your relationship. I’ve been there. But I also know that the most effective way to cope with such feelings of powerlessness with someone who refuses to engage (a classic passive aggressive tactic) is to accept the fact that so long as I continue to expose myself to such disrespectful mistreatment, I bear a significant share of responsibility for my own suffering.

    It’s taken a long time to reach the place where, for me, when someone treats me that way, it’s a turnoff. It’s a lack of courage, of maturity, of character. Most of all, it’s a lack of presence. It’s simply impossible to have a relationship with someone who is not there. When it happens that way, it is simply a fact to be observed. What you don’t see is what you don’t get and what you won’t get. After a point, it’s on you to stop banging your head against the wall.

    None of that makes you a jerk. Not being frustrated. Not hanging in for too long. Not getting good and angry and expressing it. You have a right to your own feelings and to express them.

    On the other hand, using the C-word against any woman, no matter what your reason, is a jerky thing to do. It just is. The breach of trust that led to my learning of your jerkish utterance, however, was far worse and clearly premeditated in its vindictiveness, as opposed to your saying a cruel word in the heat of the moment, in a communication not meant for the public

    Calling someone

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