Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The last thing I’ll say about bullying for now

I was bullied as a child and I’m not now. It stopped on the exact day I left school. Nobody has ever bullied – or even tried to bully – me since.  In that, I’m exceedingly fortunate, many people are not nearly so lucky.

I’m telling this story to illustrate the difference between isolated insults and bullying.  I want to show that it’s not just the number of participants that turns insults into bullying, but the sustained nature, intent and sheer effort.
Hopefully I’ll show why calling someone a slightly bad name in one context is not the same thing as bullying.

As I said, I was bullied as a child. Pretty much from primary school onwards.  I was unconventional in several ways. I was clearly different to others from age four and I was always the very youngest in the class and so – for a while – the smallest.  I was also brought up in surprising isolation. I had siblings, but all quite a bit older than me and had met very few other children my age before I went to school.  I had no concept at all of things like football, for example, or social conventions among people my age. I could also – possibly as a consequence of all that – read at a very high level. And I did. And I talked about what I read. And I was a bit of a prig.

This is probably a familiar story. A geeky kid feeling awkward. Of course, those kids are made to feel awkward. They are deliberately excluded. The only way they can feel included is to do things they cannot or will not do. Such as to play football on day one with the skill of everyone else or to ridicule people for an arbitrary reason.

And this is where opportunities for bullying lie.  Since I had never played football and everyone else had, what do you think people did?  They either acted like they wanted me to be on their team and didn’t pick me or they picked me and then wouldn’t include me during the game.  Sometimes both teams would get together to piggy-in-the-middle me specifically.  They emphasised my not-belonging. 

And we’re talking 4-6 year olds here.

At this point let me say again that I’m not complaining about my treatment or my lot: I’m making a point about what bullying is.  Calling someone a name might not be the start of bullying as someone in another thread claimed. 

When I started secondary school, things got significantly worse.  A group of four or five people decided almost immediately to make my life a misery for years. It started with these people calling me names whenever I walked past and the larger kids physically intimidating me. Of course, these people were more popular than I was so the trend spread (score one for anonymous, I wasn’t saying this can’t happen, just that it doesn’t necessarily happen or should happen).  Everywhere I went in school or when I encountered people from school, everyone would smirk and call me names and describe my supposed shortcomings and sometimes try to intimidate me physically.

I grew a lot and the physical bullying stopped, mostly due to my random acts of going completely mental on people with whom I’d had enough. But the other sorts of bullying got…well…. not…. worse, as such. They got more…. refined.

For several years, two people in particular engineered a campaign of bullying, bringing in others from time to time.  They made sure that one or the other (or an accomplice) sat behind me in every class, whispering insults to me or – when talking among themselves – describing my supposed deficiencies,

Every class. Every day. For four years.

And throughout the entire lesson. Almost everything they said was about me and about how shit I was. They found a way to sit near enough for me to hear them, regardless of how inventive I was about choosing my own seat. And every time I said something to someone, these people were on hand to ridicule me. They seemed to be obsessed with watching what I did or said so they tell their friends about how what I said or did was stupid.

Sound familiar?

And of course they spread lies and rumours about me, tried to trap me in embarrassing situations and intimidated the few friends I had left to turn against me.  This happened with the one really good friend I’d had since day one of primary school.  Halfway through the 3rd year of secondary school, he wasn’t my friend any more. He was one of the bullies. One of the worst of them, in fact. Because he himself would have been bullied if he hadn’t done that. Or, as I had started to believe at the time, because I deserved it. At the time and for a few years afterwards I was so used to this abuse that I didn’t even blame him. 

So let’s get back to now. This stopped the exact instant I left school and I’ve never been bullied since.  I don’t have anything to complain about.

For many people, the bullying didn’t stop there. For some, it started there. Or when they started work. Or blog. Or be outspoken while in possession of a vagina. Or when they wanted to walk down the fucking street without receiving abuse.

People did those horrible things to me because they could. Teachers and my parents told me to sort out the problem myself.
Sound familiar?

And after all this, do I really need to explain the difference between someone being offended at being called stupid for saying stupid shit in the comments of someone else’s blog and actual bullying? 

Can you idiots still manage to pretend that you don’t know the difference?

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.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Not bullying 101

If someone posts something on your blog and you call them an idiot, it might be rude, but it isn’t bullying.

That person will wake up to a comment or two in reply to something they said.

Other people wake up EVERY DAY to dozens of comments attacking them personally, not in reply to comments they’ve made on other people’s sites, but to things they said on their own blogs or places like that. Not to comments cunningly refuting their arguments but to ones calling them cunts and concerning their appearance, gender, sexual orientation.

Some people have been trying to tell me lately that calling someone an idiot on my own blog is exactly the same as many people systematically attacking others on their own blogs and in public for manufactured reasons that have nothing to do with what these people actually said.

Here’s my advice on not bullying. Address the argument, not the person. I don’t think it is any more complicated than that.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Bullies bully their arses clean off, Natalie Reed has had enough

It’s an outrage. It’s an outrage against human decency.

I’ll be stopping writing here on March 15th. The blog will stay up for three or so weeks afterwards, so people can enjoy the archives for a bit before they disappear.

The reasons for this are complex and numerous, but most of them relate to feeling a lot of alienation from the Atheist Community, a lot of fear about the increasingly hostile attacks on women within that community, and the fact that my efforts to distance myself from all that while keeping my blog here haven’t really worked out. I’m still a target, and some of the stuff that Jen, Ophelia and Greta have had to deal with lately have been outright scary. Skepticism and Atheist just aren’t important enough to me to feel comfortable putting myself in the way of that for their sake.

This was written by Natalie Reed, who has been bullied out of the atheist/skeptical community.  The bullies have consistently attacked her person rather than her message. It doesn’t take much random googling to see the sort of thing she’s had to put up with.  For instance:

Jack Rayner@JackTheRayner

@ElevatorGATE Natalie Reed is a psychotic#cunt. I have no idea why he's even bothering with her. #feminism

JREF Saviour@ElevatorGATE

I think someone is running short on delicious heroine! LOLZ http://storify.com/ElevatorGATE/conversation-with-stefanelli-and-nataliereed84 …

JREF Saviour@ElevatorGATE

@thunderf00t Remember the smack head’s flounce? (Natalie Reed). Did you not ALREADY have her IRL name?#FTBullies

And more @elevatorgate:

1:58 PM – 3 Dec 12

You earned it from… your radfem friends. Great achievement. you must be so proud. buy yourself some smack. lolz

Natalie was trying to help people. This was the thanks she got: her message was silenced because she was relentlessly bullied in deeply personal ways.

Natalie made herself vulnerable by talking in public about some of her problems, in the hope that it might help people.

This is how we should treat people who are vulnerable: we should support them. Basic human decency.

Among the things not to do to vulnerable people are: Ridicule them. Insult them. Make their lives miserable. Gloat at their vulnerabilities. BULLY THEM OUT OF A COMMUNITY THEY SHOULD FEEL SAFE IN.

And fuck it, we’re all vulnerable. The crime here wasn’t that Natalie was vulnerable but that idiots deliberately, systematically and persistently picked on her vulnerabilities because they wanted to silence an intelligent, outspoken woman. Because she is intelligent and outspoken and a woman.

I know that all you bullies know this behaviour is wrong.  You cannot possibly believe that bullying someone into silence is a worthwhile tactic or an end that justifies the means. I know that you realise that Natilie’s message has been consistently positive, that she’s guilty of nothing other than giving a lot of herself in order to help others. You know this. And yet you make her give more and more and more until she can’t take it any more and her voice is silenced.

Well fucking done.

I’ve no doubt at all that Natalie will continue to help people  It’s inconceivable that she could do anything else. But she’s not going to benefit the atheist/skeptical community any more and it is very much OUR LOSS.

You idiots – you FUCKTANGLES – who have done this:

TELL ME why you are happy that you’ve bullied Natalie into silence. I cannot wait to hear your brilliant justifications. Bring them the fuck on.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

When the only tool you have is a hammer…

I have two things on my mind today. They’re both about work but watch while I presto-changeo cleverly make them sort of about free-thinky stuff too. You can’t get that kind of extra value just anywhere, you know.

The first thing is about criticism. Criticism is usually very personal, whether the critic meant it that way or not. Most criticisees can’t help but take it personally and it’s hard for critics to be dispassionate, especially if they know what they are talking about.  I don’t mean to do it, but when I’m peer-reviewing papers, the more I know about a subject, the higher the standard (I suspect) to which I hold the authors. And don’t forget that these are my fellow experts: people who agree with me on most things and disagree on detail.  The most passionate battles are quibbles about little things. About things that are marginally in dispute.

Most importantly, the things we argue about, the things we criticise each other about and the things we sometimes get personal about are THE THINGS THAT REQUIRE THE MOST SCRUTINY.

Compare that to…..oh, let’s say religion. The things that require the most scrutiny are almost by definition the things ‘experts’ don’t argue about. That’s exactly why the trope of the unsophisticated atheist was invented.

And the other thing is this. UK police forces are apparently demanding DNA samples from people who were convicted under a previous law (since repealed) which held that homosexual sex was ‘gross indecency’ and therefore somehow a crime. People who were convicted of this ‘crime’ and have any other conviction are apparently being forced to give DNA samples. So people who were convicted for a now repealed law and who…oh, I don’t know, stole some bubble gum…are required to give DNA samples to the police.

There are at least two ways we can interpret this:

1. Homophobia plain and clear. The police are trying to root out homosexuals and trump up charges against them.

2. Police are trying to get everyone’s DNA samples so they can abuse them in the future

I’m inclined to go for interpretation 2, although I’m not ruling out 1. It hardly matters because homosexuals are being discriminated against either way. Sinister practice is being carried out either to abuse homosexuals in particular or to potentially abuse everyone from now on.

From my perspective as a privacy researcher, I’m outraged by the casual slippery-sloping of using a dubious pretence to obtain data that will certainly be used in the future for reasons we don’t currently expect. But I’m on the case. From my perspective as a freethinker, I will continue to complain about this sort of thing.

Help me.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Heartfelt apology

Avicenna was told he has lots to apologise for, so he did.
You see, when we spoke out against rape and when I covered the ways that Indian culture failed with regards to rape I made a horrible mistake.
I forgot to delineate between the men who rape and the men who do not. I also forgot to delineate between men in different parts of the world who rape because the American Football (Handegg) Rape and the subsequent support for the rapists is clearly due to different American Issues than the horrific Indian Rape. I forgot to delineate between these horrible monsters and the nice guys and a few people have decided to tell me so in often very irate ways. I have seen the error of my ways and I am sure Taslima will too. I also know that principles don’t feed children so I am willing to trade on mine and make an apology.
I am Sorry.
Yeah, rookie mistake. Clearly he and Taslima should specifically name all the non-rapists so there’ll be no further confusion.

But perhaps the irony in Avicenna’s post is too thick for some to penetrate. Perhaps these people need to be told explicitly that failing to believe that friends could be rapists contributes to rape and to rape culture. It promotes the idea that bitches be lying to some devious and dubious end that I’ve never been able to fathom. Perhaps they need to realise that the fact that they themselves wouldn’t rape does not make rape rare or make it any less likely that people they perceive as being like them are rapists or potential rapists.

Maybe they should understand that while @everydaysexism isn’t rape, it contributes to the pressure on women not to voice their complaints about sexist behaviour, including rape. Could they possibly learn that if they confront @everydaysexism rather than ignoring it or explaining it away, they can discourage sexual assault, make it easier for victims to report attacks and more likely that the perpetrators will be prevented from doing it again?

Sunday, January 06, 2013

@elevatorgate is a gentleman. He says so.

In this post, @elevatorgate sort of apologises for calling Matt Dilahunty a “fat twat”. But he also talks bewildering wank about he – @elevatorgate – being a gentleman and a patient adherent of logic, rather than a loathsome piece of shit.
I answered him, but since he doesn’t usually allow comments from me out of moderation and has been known to edit comments, I’m posting my reply here.
I say “he” although there are supposedly two of them now. Two liars. Two desperate teenagers crying in their mothers; basements because some grown-ups sometimes say things they don’t want to be true.
Who I am does not change the validity of my arguments
No, but it helps you feel brave enough to make personal attacks on people with relative impunity. It seems very likely that you wouldn't act like such a dick if you had to face any real consequences. I'm not just talking about your comments on Dilahunty, but your sneering, distorting and often plain outright untrue posts on those people you seem so much to obsessively dislike.
This is dishonest, cowardly and extremely pathetic. You harass people and run away to hide with your tail between your legs while somehow considering yourself a hero. It's very obvious to everyone why you don't have the courage of your convictions: you don't have anything substantive to say and all this bluster is a frantic attempt to justify irrational hatred.
Besides, what arguments? I've never seen a single argument from you. I've seen childish distortions and videos other people have made, but as far as I'm aware you've never even had the courage to say exactly what it is about people like Rebecca that you find so objectionable, let alone to provide any arguments about why they're wrong and you're right.
I have been a gentleman and have had the patience of a saint. Truly! At this stage, I can only conclude some of you are either indoctrinated, stupid, trolling or mentally ill. I don’t have time to keep doing this. I will have to bow out, soon
A gentleman, eh? Gentlemen sneer at people they dislike while failing to offer any substantial arguments against their ideas, do they? Gentlemen call people fat (It wasn't just Dilahunty, you've done it at least twice before) rather than address their arguments in a civilised and coherent fashion, do they? Do they constantly refer to people by silly and supposedly demeaning (but actually pathetic and wearisome) names? Do they deliberately and repeatedly cherry-pick and distort what people are saying? Do they bully people? Do they kick people when they're down? Do they revel in ad hominem attacks? You do all these things daily.
I'd expect a gentleman - or a lady - to exhibit patience, reserve and - above all - respect. You have never displayed the slightest hint of any one of these traits, which rather undermines your claim to be a gentleman. But perhaps you're working on a different definition of "gentleman" to the rest of us. You know, a wrong definition.
And patience? Patience with *what*, exactly? You don't like what some people say and feel entitled to do whatever you want - regardless of how loathsome and dishonest your tactics - to stop them saying it. I don't see any patience being deployed here. I see the exact opposite: a frenzied attempt to discredit people you don't like without ever bothering to develop actual arguments refuting their ideas.
we have tried reason, logic.
No. You really haven't. You have tried to bully and harass. You've never come close to attempting reason. You don't know what reason is. HINT: the clue is right there in the word: "reason".