Saturday, January 26, 2013

Bullying 102

I’m not sure why I have to do this. I think everyone understands bullying when they see it but some people – you know who you are – for some reason pretend that some bullying behaviour isn’t bullying after all because you super don’t want to be.

You’re the people I’m talking to. I want you to justify that attitude using the same sort of criteria by with you judge everything else. That’s all, I’m a skeptic and I’d like us all to be skeptical.

So let’s take bullying back to school days. How would you consider a child bullied by its peers?

Scenario 1: child says something, another child disagrees, first child calls second child a bad name. Second child is therefore a bully. The bad name is really all there is, it doesn’t hurt anyone all that badly and is unlikely to cause much in the way of future angst. The second child could apologise and perhaps no harm would have been done.

Scenario 2: child is unconventional in some way and is subjected systematically to abuse that has little or nothing to do with what the child says or how it behaves.  For years and years and years this child is subjected to name-calling and maybe physical bulling on the grounds that some other kids think it is OK and funny to do so..Apologies can’t fix that. Apologies from whom? Super-sorry for being a tiny part of making your life shit for years….. doesn’t really cut it.

But anyway, scenario 1 isn’t bullying, is it? Scenario 2 is, isn’t it?.Don’t you agree?

But let’s have a look at Scenario 2a: Child says things in public that other people dislike. Rather than attacking what was said, they attack the person, with the same enthusiasm as in scenario 2 because the child is already bullied.

Go ahead and tell me why that’s not bullying. Go ahead and tell me why scenario 1 is the same as 2 and 2a and therefore why 1 is also bullying.

I think we all recognise what sort of behaviour is bullying behaviour. I’m against people bullying each other. The people I’m talking to are for it. They don’t like to argue from a level playing field, they like to argue that things like status quo automatically get points.


  1. Anonymous12:13 pm

    The problem in your scenario is that it is presented as a false dichotomy. You are right, they are not the same. One situation involves more people. That's the main difference. That doesn't make either situation right. In fact, situation 2, in my experience, starts with situation 1, and people follow the lead to bully the other kid.

    But I'm not sure why a lone bully is somehow ok verses a group of bullies. A group of bullies is a bigger problem, but that doesn't change the fact that bullying people for no good reason is wrong. You make it seem that name calling and insults and bullying is ok, unless we cross some imaginary threshold that you define, and then it is wrong. Why not just avoid calling people names? Then you can complain about bullying without being hypocritical.

  2. OK, three things.

    1. I have not made a false dichotomy. I have made an analogy that describes two scenarios and I have not insisted that anyone pick a scenario. They are descriptions of two things. There are others. No false dichotomies here.

    2. Unless you can actually say something new, fuck off. I am very tired of you recycling the same old absolute wank.

    3. If you want to say something, please do. It won't be the gibbering wank about name calling and bullying, though. We can talk about the same subject if you like, but have a different or at least more refined argument.

  3. A slightly more considered reply:

    There is indeed no false dichotomy on my part. You are making a false equivalence by using a slippery slope argument. Even if 2 starts with 1, 1 doesn't always lead to 2.

    I am not trying to define an arbitrary threshold, nor am I suggesting there's a definite line between bullying and not bullying. The false dichotomy is therefore yours, not mine. I'm saying that one scenario is clearly bullying, the other is not and that there's plenty of fuzz in between. I thought I had made that clear.

    I think name-calling is sometimes OK, although also sometimes rude, especially when uncalled for. I'm sometimes guilty of being rude. I'm not sure it's always wrong to be rude.

    Let's try some more scenarios. This doesn't form a false dichotomy either. It describes two scenarios that illustrate different points without forcing anyone to pick one or preventing anyone from inventing new ones.

    A. Someone leaves comments on a blog post that the author considers stupid. The author calls the commenter stupid.

    B. Someone walks down the street and a random person hurls abuse or sexual comments at them.

    B is certainly bullying because it was unprovoked and there's nothing the victim can do except not go out or modify clothing or behaviour. The victim is likely to feel embarrassed, intimidated or otherwise compromised. It's bullying the victims into not doing what they want.

    So is A bullying? Is it the same sort of thing? Nobody is being shamed or intimidated into silence. Insulted people might not want to comment on my blog any more, but they are free to complain about me elsewhere. If I turned up at their blog and started attacking them there, then it would start to look more like bullying.

    They are different things. There doesn't have to be an arbitrary distinction between two things for them to be different.