dreamer_easy: (*feminism)
[personal profile] dreamer_easy
Ah! A small insight. I was reading some definitions of bullying online, for example at stopbullying.gov, Beyond Bullying, and Bullying. No Way!. Each refers to the power imbalance that is sometimes present between bullies and their targets. A bully may be physically larger and stronger than the target, for example, or be the target's boss.

Where is the power imbalance in "social justice" bullying?* The accused person** has, or is assumed to have, privilege that the group they have offended lacks. When they receive a flood of abusive messages, aren't the people sending them "punching up"?

No, for two reasons. One, perhaps this only reflects my own experience, but "social justice" bullying is mostly carried out by people with similar status to their target: to put it bluntly, it's mostly white girls picking on other white girls. Two, and more importantly: if there are dozens or hundreds or even thousands of them to just one of you, it isn't punching up. That's the power imbalance: numbers. The bullying target may be told, and may believe, that their entire community rejects them***. A situation in which one or a few genuinely upset people confronted the accused person would not be bullying.

Now, the enemies of social justice accuse us of mere "virtue signalling" - of merely saying the fashionably correct thing. A dogpile is exactly that, with the abuse heaped on the accused acting as "social glue": each individual indicates their membership in the group by marking an outsider. "I'm not a racist - she is!" The outbreak of bullying may be triggered by legitimate hurt and anger, but once the dogpile gets rolling, the ratio of sincerity to self-righteousness drops like a stone.

Some of the people attacking the accused may be genuinely upset. But bullies keep an eye out for the opportunity to abuse an "appropriate" victim - someone who "deserves it"****. They know that others will join in, because they, too, are bullies, or because they fear being bullied themselves. Or - and this is what I know I've done myself sometimes - they just let their own outrage fly without thinking. It's the decades-old danger of Internet communication, quick and shallow. Any of us can fall into bullying behaviour just as easily as we can make a thoughtless, hurtful remark about race. We - I - can only take better care online.

* I put social justice into quotes here, not to mock (for example) anti-racism, but because "social justice" bullies misuse anti-racism etc as an excuse for their self-gratification. And also as "social glue": a dogpile is a series of individuals indicating their membership in the group by directing aggression against an outsider. (I once described this, accurately if unclearly, as "hooting and gibbering", in imitation of the angry group display of the siamangs at Western Plains Zoo "threatened" by outsiders - the tourists.)

** Here I say "the accused person", because the bullying target may have deliberately and knowingly said or done something hurtful, may be a clueless or even conscientious person who has said or done something hurtful unintentionally through clumsiness, thoughtlessness, or ignorance, or may not have done anything wrong at all. In the first two cases they are responsible for their actions. In all cases the bullies are responsible for theirs, including (mis)interpreting their target's words and actions in the worst possible light to justify their abuse.

*** Here's a just-so story: the human species has survived by being social. Alone, we're not particularly fast, strong, or tough; we're easy prey. Take away the group and we're dead. No wonder being made an outcast is so psychologically devastating.

**** I'd be offended if someone equated cyberbullying with sexual assault. But victim-blaming always involves the same bullshit, whoever the victim is and whoever's doing the blaming.


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