Friday, April 27, 2007

Options For Dealing With Online Bullies

Amber Rhea asks a very important question on her blog in regards to some recent incidents on the internet where certain people have been engaging in threatening behavior--not those who are just plain disagreeable or mean. She's talking about the totally unstable and violently threatening people. She asks, what do we do when we encounter these idiots, especially when they've decided to make us the focus of their insanity? What about when these people have the power to actually affect your life in tangible ways? Should they still be ignored? Read the post here:


I thought about it and, well, there are a few different schools of thought about this, I think.

1. You can go the Abraham & Isaac sacrificial lamb route.

In the Bible, Abraham is told to do something that most of us would put in the totally insane category. He was commanded to stab his son Isaac to death and then burn his body on top of a pyre. And you know what? Abraham said, "Okay". He took Isaac out to the neighboring area, gathered some wood, and built a pyre, then he tied up his sons arms and legs and put him on top. He stood over the pyre with his knife over Isaac and was just about to stab his son to death when he suddenly received another command from God. God decides that since Abraham has shown that he was willing to go along with what God commanded, Isaac would be spared and a ram would die in his place.

Now, I'm not saying that God is crazy. I'm saying that what Abraham was told to do definitely sounded crazy. I don't think I'm being blasphemous saying that. I mean, I think that's precisely the point of this story being told in the Bible. I think that anyone who was told to gut and char their only child would find it at least a bit objectionable. Abraham--and Isaac too because it was his body on the altar--showed he was willing to sacrifice what was most dear to him and it paid off in the end.

We can do the same thing when people demand that we do what they say. They may not be God but they may have some sort of power to harm us to some extent. We can capitulate, just give in to whatever it is they would have us do. We can hope and pray that unconditional obedience will cause them to show us some mercy. Hey, you never know! It just might work. They may decide that having conquered you, they will then move on and find someone else to bully.

However, there's the possibility that, instead of being satisfied with your act of obeisance, they now have a new list of demands for you to meet. At the point, you're back at square one. Well, actually, you're probably worse off than at first because the unstable idiot may react even more threateningly if you try to resist them then because they see that you can be motivated to give in if they foam at the mouth enough.

2. You can Osamma bin Ladin it.

When 9/11 happened, a lot of Americans just couldn't understand why someone would carry out an act like that, killing thousands of people. After all, the people in the World Trade Center towers weren't military folks. They were civilians just trying to go to work, feed their families, and live their lives. I know I was stunned and frightened and angry all at the same time but I wasn't surprised.

I was working for the navy not long after the Oklahoma City bombing. I was a really young woman and besides my boss, everyone else in the department was in the military and had been for many years. One officer in particular took me under his wing and really taught me a lot about what was going on in the world. At that time, the government had caught McVeigh and was well on its way towards prosecuting him. I was telling him how devastated I was when I saw the Alfred P. Murrah building on television that day because I was holding my young baby and all I could think about was that this was the world she had to look forward to.

I'll never forget how he leaned forward in his chair and told me that the people in this country were going to have to get used to dealing with stuff like that because we'd be seeing a lot more of that sort of thing in the near future because it was already a fact of life in the rest of the world, so it was only a matter of time before the same was true in the USA. It really made me shiver when he said it because I knew he was right.

The world is full of folks who know that they aren't nearly as powerful as the governments around them. As long as those governments engage in acts that some person or group perceives as having caused harm to them or their loved ones, a percentage of those disgruntled folks will figure that since they can't live in peace, the offending party should also have to live in fear too.

Now, this tactic is a fairly effective way of getting the attention of those who certainly don't want to get caught in the crossfire, people like those who lost loved ones on 9/11 and those who value peace and justice. It may even cause some folks to think more about the repercussions of their actions when it comes to supporting those who are viewed as the powerful offending party. Beyond that, though, there are no guarantees that it will change the powerful party's behavior.

Similarly, when you encounter an internet jerk (who does wield some power) acting like they're completely unhinged, you can call their bluff and give them a better idea of what it feels like to be on the receiving end of batshit crazy. In other words, give them a taste of their own medicine. Oftentimes you'll find out that a lot of people who seem to be off their rocker are actually just opportunistic poseurs who just act like they're crazy when they think they can get away with behavior that most of us would find unacceptable or unethical.

There are some potential drawbacks to exercising this option. If they actually are insane, then they'll probably continue to behave, well, insane and you might wind up feeling guilty about taking action against them. So, if you're going to go this route, it helps if you are bona fide crazy too. That way, if worse comes to worst, you can use the same excuse as they gave for engaging in the original threatening behavior towards you.


belledame222 said...

well, and to continue that analogy, -another- thing that can go wrong is that the offended Power, instead of specifically targeting the specific crazy people who caused the harm, escalate and escalate and escalate and attack the wrong people altogether and end up creating way more enemies and causing way more deaths than they had to start with...

it seems to me that the best thing is to garner and -keep- as much support and solidarity as you can, isolate the attempted bully as much as possible; set firm boundaries without escalating to gratuitous abuse. and no, you don't negotiate. or if you do, you do it with the understanding that this person is completely unstable and hence unreliable, and that the negotiation is more addressed to witnessing third parties than the unstable person herself.

also there is this:

back to the situation at hand, and putting geopolitics with war and mass killings and oil and everything aside,

these people are cowards. i think stormthingie and the rest of them live in more or less permanent abject terror. it is important to know that, not because reaching out with melting luv and compassion is likely to make a dime's worth of difference to certain specific people at least, but because frightened people are -dangerous- people.

in this case, the frightened person is also a -stupid- person, and has just committed the equivalent of, well, in a chess game, it'd be like triumphantly taking out someone's bishop, not realizing that in the process she's either now going to have to sacrifice the queen and a rook or else be checkmated. some people really don't think more than one step ahead. if that.

unfortunately, we're dealing with people here, not pawns (much as some people would like to see the world this way), and no, we'd really rather not sacrifice anyone for the sake of "winning" what in fact is an incredibly tedious and pointless game.

bint alshamsa said...


what makes me most angry is that I know you're right. I know that it probably would be best to ignore the little ass-wipes. It's just so hard for me to do that. When someone does something to me directly, I can let it go fairly easy. However, when I see those I care about being attacked, I just want to take it to them in the worst way.

I didn't have anyone to stand up for me and stay by my side when I was being victimized by people like them in my old religion. Either you followed their rules, no matter how unreasonable those rules may have been, or else they would literally get up on the pulpit and out you as an unrepentant sinner that others had better not associate with unless they wanted to share your fate. Once you've been forced to sit before hundreds of people (who make up the entire social circle you are allowed to have) and have your private information revealed to all, I think it becomes a lot more difficult to see blackmail as the nearly harmless activity that the rad-fascists would have us believe it is.

Having been the subject of these privacy-violating public announcements at the hands of religious wannabe dictators, not just once but repeatedly, I don't know how to ignore it now that I'm witnessing these assholes doing the same thing.

I feel like letting them get away with this tactic this time will only encourage them to do it to more people in the future. And what then? The next time it might be someone who does care a lot more than Ren does with regards to what gets outed about them. I've seen many people attempt to end their lives because of being outed. I've known several of them who actually did die as a result.

I wish I could just be bored with it all. I honestly do. Instead, I can't stop thinking about the ones who just couldn't go on living knowing that there was a good chance they'd be outed again. For me, it's not about winning. It's about finding and using the strategies that work with people like the ones in this particular incidence of blackmail.

belledame222 said...

I hear you. A lot. Believe me. I'm prone to that myself. Which is why I'm trying to make the effort to step back this time.

I have been planning to say something tomorrow, in honor of Take Back the Blog Day. i had mentally written a post as scathing and withering as i know i'm capable of. I could already see the reactions to it, the "right ons" and so on.

at the moment I'm not feeling that.

also, I'm mainly not even wanting to go back and -read- enough to get a representative quote of the creepy stalking behavior in context.

but, I think some sort of statement is needed. i'll sleep on it.

also consider: there are perhaps other ways to show support without taking up the pitchfork and torch.

belledame222 said...

btw, off topic, but in case it helps lift the mood: Chris Clarke just sent you some love from Pandagon

bint alshamsa said...

That definitely is a pick me up! Belle, I want to tell you how much I appreciate you really letting me vent about this without thinking that I'm just some horrible person for being totally willing to go "scorched earth" with these idiots who started this bullshit. Your friendship is valued a lot.

belledame222 said...


btw, my option is up at my spot, for better or for worse.

Renegade Evolution said...

did someone say scorched earth? That's my tactic!

I um, don't advise it ;)