How They Operate & How to Defeat Them 1,065 Words
|This article is about bullies, ultimately. Bullies do not deserve any more attention, but this is to warn the unsuspecting victims of some of their modus operandi.|
Here is the dynamic I have seen many times:
Two individuals disagree about something and express their opinions in a polite and rational way.
One individual (the bully) feels an overwhelming need to have their way prevail at any cost. So, that individual starts to recruit supporters by crying to others, not involved in the original disagreement. There is a very put-upon atmosphere to this. "Poor me, so and so is so mean and I don't know why." Bullies know exactly why they do what they do. Words are used to incite emotional responses from vulnerable participants to the drama at issue. Once drawn in, it is hard for a lone individual to turn away.
I do not know whether this is a learned behavior or something that involves a pattern of behavior over time. It could be that newfound popularity that the Internet provides has a tendency to corrupt the thinking of those who are inclined toward manipulating others. This is not something that is accidental or unconscious. It is deliberate and calculated. Sympathy is deliberately sought. Where others might feel shame, the bully thrives and draws a certain peculiar strength. Preying on the affectionate feelings of acolytes is the name of the bully's game.
When drawn into the bully's web, one ends up alienating a whole slew of observers, more than one might ever suspect. I cannot begin to count how many times I have seen an interaction amongst others and thought, oh no. We have another bully. That has ended in surprise more times than I care to count. I can tell, usually, from the character of and the number of posts who exactly is directing the proceedings. I would say that avoiding the bully is a subsequent goal and objective that I have developed over time.
Sometimes the bully acts through others, doing things like deleting people from groups without saying a word, in order to send a nasty message abroad. This is something that is bound to stir up resentment and hurt and it is very deliberate. Or they use whatever deluded power they have to change the rules of engagement, or rules of contests or competitions, to favor their homies, otherwise known as cult-like followers. If you think for yourself in an independent way, bullies will more than likely steer clear of you or they might target you if they are prone to jealousy. Needing to belong is a trait that bullies feed upon in their hunger for supporters and followers.
Quiet strength is the only way to effectively combat the bullying wave.
Sometimes bullies do highly critical things that don't make any sense other than standing as reasons to upset other people. The urge to provoke is strong in the bullying psyche.
The recruited others, sympathetic and supportive, want to help their "friend". So they "swarm" in like bees to defend someone who was never attacked in the first place. It has been blown all out of proportion somehow. Step by step the bully, joined by loyal supporters galore, mounts the attack and the victim usually will never quite know what hit them.
The real "victim" (not the bully who cries wolf) feels attacked and goes away (usually) or rarely fights back on their own, only to be personally insulted. Sometimes the victim squares their haunches, puts their head down, works hard, hangs in there and triumphs in the end. In this sense, the victim becomes the hero of the piece. Careless things written in anger can quickly spiral out of control.
I've seen this with political arguments, personal disagreements, and policy disputes within, and about, group-think. I've seen it in discussions that started out innocently and turned into ugly confrontations. This sort of behavior has been directed at people I cared about and at me. I have been on the Internet almost twenty years so I've seen a lot of nonsense and manipulative sorts of humans come and go. Losing my temper never helped anything in these situations. I learned the hard way to log out and take a long break and then block/ignore whoever was part of this sort of nonsense.
This sort of posturing and orchestration hardly ever happens in real life. Know why? Because you can actually see who it is and assess an individual's demeanor when they cry for "assistance".
People who allow themselves to be drawn in to defend the "honor" of another are nothing more than tools, used by the bully to assert their power over others. When someone communicates to you that they have been "attacked" it is okay to privately sympathize. Going beyond that is probably a mistake. If any request is made for public assistance (particularly in a forum) that is a red flag for me. I would, at that juncture, log out and take some time away. Hopefully, whatever it is will have blown over after a day or two. Taking even more time is a good thing, with discipline and focused activity taking the place of malingering in forum tantrums.
True victims do not have the inclination or the motivation to lure others into their disputes. You can write an opinion about actions and things all day long. It is all about freedom of speech, opinion and expression. But when you recruit others to assist you, that is an indicator of a motive that is not what it seems.
There is a unique aspect to the Internet dynamic of not seeing who you are so devotedly supporting. The reckoning for joining in could have ramifications far beyond the petty disputes that cause blow-ups to begin with.
The ultimate answer is to quietly do what you believe is right. Never join in to take a side in a dispute when you don't know the whole story from both points of view. You hardly ever have the entire picture. Be sure of your facts before you respond to something that is directed at you or, better yet, do not respond for a long time. Take a two week break. Look at the dispute with fresh eyes and decide whether it is still worth it. That is the best advice I can give and the best way I know to oppose bullying.
This is an entry in
"The 4 Controversies Contest"
Postscript October 2019
Recently, I had a revelation in one of these situations. I did not take sides in a pile-on. That's what I encountered. I felt that a bunch of posts were piling on someone who could not defend themselves (reason not important).
So, I decided to change the subject.
I have an endless supply of things I could write about all sorts of fascinating (to me) topics. I can bore even the most alert reader. So, I rambled on and recruited others to join in. We weren't taking sides in the dispute, rather, what amounted to a pile-on trashing by a group of poser bullies. That's what I call it and them, when they gather in a swarm like that.
We (me and a few like minded, long winded individuals with kind hearts) posted about the weather and many other topics to the point that my writing bored even me. It was long enough and boring enough that hopefully the target of the abuse (and that's what it amounted to) will never see it. Page after page after page after page. One would have to be directed to the mean stuff in order to find it.
I hope that the the target never does find it and maybe it will magically disappear one of these days. Ever the dreamer, here.