The bloggers at FTB are quick to attack and dismiss anyone who may hold a different opinion or view from theirs. They are reminiscent of a high-school clique where the cheerleaders and jocks gang up on anyone different from them. If you are not part of the clique you are fair game for bullying.
What is bullying?
Bullying is persistent unwelcome behavior, mostly using unwarranted or invalid criticism, nit-picking, fault-finding, also exclusion, shunning, being singled out and treated differently, being shouted at, humiliated, excessive monitoring, having verbal and written warnings imposed, and much more.
Why do people bully?
The main purpose of bullying was once thought to be a method of hiding one's own inadequacy. Recent research shows that some bullies may fit this description, but many bullies have high self-esteem. The bully leads via intimidation. People follow to avoid being victimized. Bully leaders are often admired because of a superior trait. Some bullies are very attractive, some are very athletic, and some are very social. Bullies gain power by the amount of followers they have. The more that follow the more power they have to wield.
When given the chance to assert power over someone else, many people become sadistic. There are a few who have a strong sense of empathy, and an internal compass to guide them towards altruistic and normal behavior. However, the Stanford Prison Experiment examines how quickly groups can deteriorate into bullying behavior.
The Stanford Prison Experiment blindly divided a matched group into prisoners and guards. Students became bullies within a few hours; once they were given power and authority. Others became victims as they were stripped of their rights and dignity. This demonstrates one aspect of bullying. That anyone may become a bully or a victim.
One common road to bullying is being a victim. It is part of human nature to mimic behavior. People who have themselves been victims are likely, given the chance, to become bullies. Given the opportunity to bully another, people often repeat what was done to them. Victims who eventually bully may feel powerful and whole.
Bullying is present behind all forms of harassment, discrimination, prejudice, abuse, persecution, conflict and violence. When the bullying has a focus (e.g. race or gender) it is expressed as racial prejudice or harassment, or sexual discrimination and harassment, and so on.
When the bullying lacks a particular focus, it comes out as pure bullying; this is an opportunity to understand the behaviors which underlie almost all reprehensible behavior. It is obsessive and compulsive; the serial bully has to have someone to bully and appears to be unable to survive without a current target.
Types of bullying
There are many types/categories of bullying behavior. There are however a few distinct types of bullying that I want to discuss in regards to the bloggers at FTB, as well as Rebecca Watson of Skepchick because it was her experience in 2011 that was the main catalyst for the issue of harassment which has since snowballed.
Serial bullying is where the source of all dysfunction can be traced down to one individual.In this case we can trace it to Elevatorgate 2011 which was brought into the public eye by Rebecca Watson claiming that she was sexualized by a man, asking her for coffee late at night, in an elevator.
The serial bully displays behaviour congruent with many of the diagnostic criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Characterised by a pervasive pattern of grandiosity and self-importance, need for admiration, and lack of empathy, people with narcissistic personality disorder overestimate their abilities and inflate their accomplishments, often appearing boastful and pretentious, while correspondingly underestimating and devaluing the achievements and accomplishments of others.
Often the narcissist will fraudulently claim to have qualifications or experience or affiliations or associations which they don't have or aren't entitled to. Belief in their own superiority, inflating their self-esteem to match that of senior or important people with whom they associate or identify, insisting on having the "top" professionals or being affiliated with the "best" institutions, but criticising the same people who disappoint them are also common features of narcissistic personality disorder.
Narcissists react angrily to criticism, and when rejected, the narcissist will often denounce the profession which has rejected them (usually for lack of competence or misdeed) but simultaneously and paradoxically represent themselves as belonging to the profession they are vilifying.
Fragile self-esteem, a need for constant attention and admiration, fishing for compliments (often with great charm), an expectation of entitlement, expecting others to defer to them, and a lack of sensitivity especially when others do not react in the expected manner, are also hallmarks of the disorder. Greed, expecting to receive before and above the needs of others, overworking those around them, and forming romantic (sic) or sexual relationships for the purpose of advancing their purpose or career, abusing special privileges and squandering extra resources also feature.
People with narcissistic personality disorder also have difficulty recognizing the needs and feelings of others, and are dismissive, contemptuous and impatient when others share or discuss their concerns or problems. They are also oblivious to the hurtfulness of their behaviour or remarks, show an emotional coldness and a lack of reciprocal interest, exhibit envy (especially when others are accorded recognition), have an arrogant, disdainful and patronizing attitude, and are quick to blame and criticise others when their needs and expectations are not met.
It seems pretty clear, no matter what you may think of psychology or psychoanalysis, given Watson’s public persona, any objective lay-person or arm-chair psychologist (such as myself) would probably use many of the same words to describe the on-line world’s “Skepchick”.
As the name implies, pair bullying is serial bullying, but with a partner. Often one of the two does most of the talking while the other watches and listens. Usually they are of opposite gender and frequently they are sexually involved if they are male and female.
One such example would be the duo comprised by PZ Myers and Rebecca Watson. Watson, the more powerful of the two, might be considered a serial bully, while PZ would be the talkative partner. He is the more vocal end of the duo who blogs and vlogs quite regularly (almost daily at this point) about harassment and misogyny.
Gang bullying is a serial bully with multiple partners. Gangs can occur anywhere, but flourish mostly in corporate, educational, and on-line arenas. If the bully is an extrovert, they are likely to be leading from the front; they may also be a shouter and screamer, and thus easily identifiable. If the bully is an introvert, that person will be in the background initiating the mayhem but probably not taking an active part, and may thus be harder to identify.
Half the people in the gang are happy for the opportunity to behave badly; they gain gratification from the feeling of power and control, and enjoy the patronage, protection and reward from the serial bully. The other half of the gang is coerced into joining in, usually through fear of being the next target if they don't. If anything backfires, one of them will be the scapegoat on whom enraged targets will be encouraged to vent their anger. (Sound familiar, FTB?)
The serial bully watches from a safe distance. Serial bullies gain a great deal of gratification from encouraging and watching others engage in conflict, especially those who might otherwise pool negative information about them. Gang bullying or group bullying is often called mobbing and usually involves scapegoating and victimization.
The Freethought Blogs is the perfect place to see examples of gang bullying. Most of it happens on PZ Myers blog, Pharyngula, as well as on Ophelia Benson’s blog Butterflies and Wheels, Greta Christina’s blog, and on Jason Thibeault’s blog, Lousy Canuck.
These blogs/bloggers all have these notable things in common:
- They all love to keep posting blog articles about harassment in the skeptic/atheist community, misogyny, and about anyone who disagrees with their opinions on these subjects.
- They all have the ‘you are either with us, or against us’ mentality
- They are all loud and consider themselves leaders for this ‘social injustice’
- They all use their followers as sources of power and encourage bad behavior from them
- They enjoy stirring the pot, whether it is on their blogs, or on Twitter
- They enjoy ridiculing others that do not share the same views they do
Regulation bullying is where a serial bully forces their target(s) to comply with rules, regulations, procedures or laws regardless of their appropriateness, applicability or necessity. (Someone please tell DJ Grothe to read this part):
This type of bullying can be seen clearly by the ongoing demands these bloggers, and their followers have issued to any, and all, atheist/skeptic organizations that they must have a specific harassment policy put in place to ensure the safety of all attendees at convention venues.
However, they are not satisfied with just any policy. They demand that the policies be written in ways that please them, regardless of what others may have to say on the subject. They insist these policies are necessary for the safety of women in particular, but offer little to no proof that there is even a need for this, or that any women have ever been so harassed as to justify all the time and money spent on these harassment policies.
The demands from these bloggers and their followers do not take into consideration what the majority of participants of these events, or the co-ordinators, may think is necessary. And should an organization refuse to amend any policies they already have in place, they are attacked publicly on blogs, via Twitter, and even YouTube. Never mind if someone (like Thunderf00t) has the temerity to openly challenge them, which necessitates they be silenced even if, as in Thunderf00t’s case, only a flimsy excuse can be offered.
Cyber bullying is the misuse of email systems or Internet forums, Social media, blogs, etc for sending/writing aggressive, abusive, or belittling messages, statements, e-mails, or articles.
There is quite a good example of this happening recently on Greta Christina’s Blog, and on the Lousy Canuck where they thought it would be funny to take over the Twitter hashtag #FTBullies and use it to mock Paula Kirby who had written an open letter titled Sisterhood of the Oppressed, as well as any, and all those on Twitter who are speaking out against FTB and exposing their bullying for what it is.
*Edited to add: There is also a blog entry by Ophelia Benson that really highlights this type of bullying more than the other blogs mentioned above.
In environments where bullying is the norm, most people will eventually either become bullies or become targets. There are few bystanders, as most people will eventually be sucked in. It's about survival: you either adopt bullying tactics yourself and thus survive by not becoming a target, or you stand up against bullying and refuse to join in, in which case you are bullied, harassed, victimized and scapegoated.
Now, before any of the bullies at FTB begin to equate harassment with bullying, let me define the difference between the two so that no confusion occurs…
What's the difference between bullying and harassment?
Acts of harassment usually center on unwanted, offensive and intrusive behavior with a sexual, racial or physical component.
Of course there is overlap between bullying and harassment, however harassment is covered and protected against by various laws and human rights charters. Bullying is not covered by such laws, acts, or charters at the present time (though there are a few exceptions in certain areas of the world who have recently adopted such legal recourses to combat the rising epidemic of bullying, mostly on-line).
Harassment has a strong physical component, eg contact and touch in all its forms, intrusion into personal space and possessions, damage to possessions including a person's work, etc... Most people recognize harassment.
Bullying, when done by adults, is almost exclusively psychological. It may become physical later, especially with male bullies, but not usually with female bullies. The goal of an adult bully is to gain power over another person, and make himself or herself the dominant adult. They try to humiliate victims, and show them who is boss.
Few people recognize bullying… but I do.
EDIT: This is for all the idiots over on FTB and Atheism+.
1- If you can show me where I claim to be an EXPERT on bullying in this post, please let me know.
2- Just because I wrote about bullying does not make me a fucking saint. I am an admitted bitch!
3- If you want to call me a bully for being honest and snarky, go ahead. I welcome it.
4- If you want to keep regurgitating this article as some sort of proof of something then I feel sorry for you that this is the best 'insult' towards me that you can come up with.
5- Special thanks to Anonymous Feminist Troll for assistance in citing to sources.
About the author: Kristina Mendez co-authored a bullying workshop for Marymount High School in 2005-2006 in the English Montreal School Board District. Sources for this article were obtained from 2004-2005 College Handouts from http://www.bullyonline.org
Editor: Joel Mendez