"Bully" Means Just What I Choose It To Mean, Neither More Nor Less

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88 Responses

  1. Clark says:

    > That time was the early 1980s. Mr. T offered wisdom regarding fools

    LLLLLLLLLLOL

  2. Ken says:

    I was going to mention people stomping on my favorite D&D figures but I know my audience and didn't want to get too maudlin.

  3. Clark says:

    @Ken:

    > I was going to mention people stomping on my favorite D&D figures but I know my audience and didn't want to get too maudlin.

    What do you take us for? Surely not the kinds of nerds who … hang on, I'm getting an alert about my kickstarter pledge for a set of 28mm Gnomish Adventurers; back in a sec.

  4. Pablo says:

    Thank you, Ken. This has long been a pet peeve of mine, and that it's being widely codified into law is a disturbing abuse of the language.

    1984 was not an instruction manual, people!

  5. tsrblke says:

    He means that Morgan uses blunt, condescending, belittling, and frequently stupid language to disagree with people who have chosen to enter into the gun control debate. That's not bullying.

    Hmmmm….hmmmm….
    My only thought is this: That the analogy between child bullying and what we call adult bullying is not entirely adequate.
    Piers Morgan claims (in his roll as journalist) to be encouraging conversation, debate, discourse. However when actually on the field of battle he resorts to straw men, ad hominem attacks, and shouting over his guests in an attempt to silence their points. (Rather than disagreeing with them on a rational basis, he resorts to emotivism, at best, but usually worse).
    Other's utilize political correctness to shut down speech they disagree with (you see this a lot on college campuses.)
    So I would submit that the term "bully" in the adult context has more to do with stifling rational discourse than it does with childlike bullying. (Hence: Bully Pulpit.)

  6. Ken says:

    So I would submit that the term "bully" in the adult context has more to do with stifling rational discourse than it does with childlike bullying.

    The error here is that Piers Morgan can, at best, "stifle" rational discourse on his own show. He can't prevent you from going on another show, or from writing a blog, or a letter to the editor.

    You're not "stifled" in any way we should care about if a lout shouts you down in the lout's own living room. Just stop watching the lout.

    Other's utilize political correctness to shut down speech they disagree with (you see this a lot on college campuses.)

    If you are talking about speech codes, then those are unconstitutional and/or unprincipled violations of official power, not "bullying." If you are talking about private expression — like calling someone a racist – then you are indulging in the "speech is tyranny" trope that I criticize here.

  7. Jack B. says:

    Just a heads up: the last link in this article goes nowhere but 404ville.

  8. Ken says:

    Thanks Jack. Fixed.

  9. SarahW says:

    Could the subtleties of female bullying perhaps be a jock/algebra problem analog in your discussion here?

  10. tsrblke says:

    @Ken,

    To the extent that CNN has power (in that it's a large media organization) stifling speech on his show does have larger ranging consequences.
    As for my aside about college campuses, I was thinking more about the heckler's veto and related ideas (like how a motived, but still relatively small letter writing campaign can get speakers de-invited from campuses).

    Speech is not tyranny, but for institutions that claim to be centers for rational discourse, I think the response to various forms of speech can be…(thinking about the right word)..misguided.

    The best counter for speech you don't like is more speech, but I'm not necessarily sure that implies trying to render you're opponent's speech moot using anything other than the strength of your argument.

  11. Guns says:

    @tsrblke: So I would submit that the term "bully" in the adult context has more to do with stifling rational discourse than it does with childlike bullying. (Hence: Bully Pulpit.)

    Except that bullying in the "classic" child context is very much a reality for some adults as well, so its not really correct to distinguish between "adult" and "child" bullying to justify the use of the term bullying.

    Piers Morgan may be many things, but he's not a bully. Guests on his program may ask themselves many questions, like "why did I agree to this?" or "what terrible secrets does this man know, that he is allowed to keep his job?" But questions like "what did I do to deserve this" don't really apply, and "how do I avoid it", is a pretty easy one to answer as well: don't go on Piers Morgan's show.

    At the risk of instigating another "define torture" discussion, to me the core of bullying is the part where you can't escape it without drastic measures, such as changing your school/job. People who are annoyed by Piers Morgan have a clear out: don't talk to Piers Morgan. As an example of actual adult bullying not constrained to the workplace, consider a policeman stopping you and accusing you of doing something wrong, which you didn't do. There's no clear or clean way out of this situation. Trying to get away from an angry policeman is pretty much always a bad idea. Hence, most people will just suck it up and feel horrible about being the victim of power abuse.

  12. Ken says:

    You'd have to expand on that Sarah. Is it a reference to the hashtag inconsistency? Or a reference to the notion that "female bullying" takes different forms than "male bullying"?

    I'm well aware that "bullying experts" talk about female relational bullying taking different forms than male bullying. But I don't see how that makes it bullying to lobby for, or against, Scouts accepting gays. And I don't see why I should respect the notion that it's hilarious to troll one hashtag out of ideological hostility but not another hashtag a few days later.

  13. manybellsdown says:

    It also trivializes the experiences of those of us who went through school getting spat on just for existing.

  14. tsrblke says:

    @Guns,

    Fair point, I don't think the word "bullying" is quite apt to describe what's going on. But then I never really understood the term "bully pulpit" either.

    But we seem to have this thing in language where we adopt the term that seems (at the time) closest to what we're trying to explain. People likened Morgan to the kid at the top of the jungle gym pushing everyone else off out of ease I think rather than trying to describe what's actually going on.

  15. Jo says:

    @tsrblke: So I would submit that the term "bully" in the adult context has more to do with stifling rational discourse than it does with childlike bullying. (Hence: Bully Pulpit.)

    This phrase is probably related to the semi-archaic: Bully (adj) 2 a. U.S. and Colonial. Capital, first-rate, ‘crack’. (OED)

    so is unrelated to the subject.

  16. Dan Weber says:

    I would say that, for adult conversation, "bullying" is used when people with vastly wider resources pick on someone with vastly smaller resources.

    Say I write a letter to my local newspaper about our town's take on some political issue, and then some cable news network decides to bring down the power of its millions of viewers on my head, maybe that should count.

    Or maybe we should use an entirely different word than "bullying." I'm open to that. We could even make up a new word.

  17. Luke says:

    @Dan – Hmm, is there a boxing / wrestling term for going against someone in a much lower weight class? And how would this new term apply to situations like the Penny Arcade – Paul Cristoforo brouhaha?

  18. Ken says:

    Say I write a letter to my local newspaper about our town's take on some political issue, and then some cable news network decides to bring down the power of its millions of viewers on my head, maybe that should count.

    Maybe.

    Or maybe not.

    If you wrote a letter to your local paper opposing, say, Kelo-style condemnation of private property for the benefit of private parties, my instinct is to agree with you.

    But what if you write a letter to your local paper saying that, for instance, that gays shouldn't be allowed at the prom and they have no "purpose"? Is it bullying to publicize you as an example of a mindset?

  19. Anglave says:

    I'd been missing this. This is the kind and quality of content that brings me back to Popehat.

  20. "Whoever controls the language controls the argument." – Unknown

    "Our objective is complete freedom, justice and equality by any means necessary ." – Malcom X

  21. Dan Weber says:

    Luke: hm, weight-class might be good analogy.

    For Penny Arcade, I'm thinking that Cristoforo invited it by telling other people he could control access to PAX. But I'm so not on his side so I wonder if I'm making excuses for Gabe's behavior that I otherwise wouldn't.

    Ken: Hm, is it a distinction between speech and action? Like that letter was trying to actually get the prom changed?

    Eh, that feels weak now that I type it. Lots of speech is intended to get action done. If I write about gays-in-Scouts, I'm surely hoping that action will follow.

    Maybe it's being interviewed on camera that should trigger the "watch what you say" vibe? No, I don't think that works either. Whatever rule I come up with, it shouldn't say that you can't participate in local issues. The local newspaper that happens to be on the web is a lot that like local tv studio that happens to be on the web.

    Like Anglave, I love these posts. Really makes me think about my own motivations in things.

  22. Ken says:

    Oh dear. I've annoyed Jayne. His days of taking me seriously have definitely come to a middle.

  23. Sam says:

    Great read. I'd add that an effective eye-test for bullying is the balance of power. I tend to think of bullying as requiring a power imbalance in favor of the bully, which is the necessary condition for bullying to occur. Generally, if you remove the power imbalance (such as a teacher intervening or befriending someone from the next grade up) the bullying stops. So perhaps Morgan does 'bully' people while they're on his show, but as someone pointed out above, it's easily avoidable by avoiding his show.

  24. Kat says:

    I saw a really good article on the topic of liberal bullying that I thought made some good points: http://offbeatempire.com/2012/10/liberal-bullying This is the kind of "more speech" response to a problem that I can get behind a LOT more than just shouting "BULLY!" any time one hears something one doesn't like.

    I'm also in the boat of thinking that it's important to hold people accountable for the language that they use; but I think there's a really fine line between doing this in a way that is constructive vs. showing off for the crowd. It's possible such behavior is bullying, but I also think that calling it such lessens the impact that the word should have.

    I can say that there is a world of difference between having your fee-fees hurt by a blogger vs. having a roving pack of children hunt you down and use you for a rug on the playground while the teachers watch. (I'm sorry, did that sound bitter?) Anybody who doesn't think so wasn't bullied as a child.

    Basically I agree with you. This is something that we should be talking about, but should we use the word 'bullying' to describe it? No, I think not.

  25. Grifter says:

    I've always felt there's an element of forced-interaction necessary for bullying. Traditional school bullying is what it is because you cannot avoid the bullies.

  26. naught_for_naught says:

    At "the end of the day," it’s about the "paradigm" we’re "leveraging." We’re unable to "think outside the box." We want to feel "empowered," and we find "synergy" through our "political alignments." We take on a "framework," adopting the "buzzwords" that "resonate" well and "cut through the noise" of the "global village." The problem is that we have no "exit strategy" that will allow us to…to…to…, anyway. What I’m saying is that the misuse of “bullying” is really the "thin edge of the wedge" when it comes to coining. The name of the game is market share, and that "trends" right in the middle of the bell curve.

    BTW, I not only flirted with weakness, I got to third base with him when I was in college.

  27. Dan Weber says:

    Another anecdote that leaves me even more muddled: Was Limbaugh bullying Sandra Fluke? I think he was tasteless and dumb, but I think Fluke invited herself into the debate by speaking before the House of Representatives. But by power imbalance, she was being bullied. However, surely people should be able to comment on people commented before Congress.

  28. Ken says:

    Dan: amusingly, some people would argue that liberals bullied Rush Limbaugh by attacking him for calling Fluke a slut.

    I wrote about it here.

  29. Goober says:

    There will be insufficient outrage caused by a letter to your local paper to bring the rage and vitriol of an entire cable news network and its listeners if your letter is well-written and rational, and they just simply disagree with it. If you get the whole rage and vitriol thing, it’s because what you wrote was shitty and you are an asshat.

    I’ve never seen internet vigilantism fall on undeserving shoulders. I’ve seen it go way overboard to where it went beyond the nature of the offense that created it, but I’ve never seen it happen without some offense occurring first.

    For instance, if you write a letter stating that you disagree with the concept of the federal welfare system and the way that it currently works, and that you think it should be abolished, you’ll get some responses from folks who disagree with you. You may even get a few hateful and vitriolic responses, but those will be from dickheads, and who cares about them?

    If you write a letter stating that you would rather see people starve on the streets than be on the dole, and that the welfare system disproportionately advantages samoan-americans and that proves that samoan Americans are racially inferior, and that it is just good policy to allow natural selection to just allow the lazy and useless to starve for the benefit of society, then you’re going to get some of that hate that you’ve mentioned.

    I’ll tie this whole thing up in a bow and finish by saying – AND RIGHTFULLY SO. And none of what I’ve just described is bullying.

  30. Goober says:

    I don’t know if Rush Limbaugh bullied Sandra Fluke because I don’t listen to him. Maybe he did. That being said, Sandra Fluke opened herself up to all sorts of criticism with the stupid crap that she said in front of Congress (ie, women can’t get birth control, $9 per month is too much money for women to afford, if someone else doesn’t pay for a woman’s birth control they are “denying her access to birth control.” You know, stupidity like that) and so I think she was fair game for lampooning, satire, and any other rebuttal to the stupid stuff she said. It doesn’t become bullying until it starts get threatening to her, and I seriously doubt that Limbaugh ever threatened her, overtly or otherwise.

  31. ShelbyC says:

    How dare you? That's the wrong kind of bullying!

  32. John says:

    I'm not sure the high school newspaper article about gay adoption belongs with the other examples. The anti-adoption article included the phrases "You shall not lie with a male as with a female; it is an abomination" and "If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads".

    Certainly in the context of a high school I'd be happy to call that bullying of the sort you describe in the first part of the article. People might choose whether or not to enter the gay adoption debate, but they don't choose whether or not to be gay and the article attacked all gay people pretty violently – not just those involved in the debate.

    It might be a fairly natural reaction to dismiss this by saying that I just don't like the speech, but… well… gay teenagers are over three times more likely to attempt suicide than straight teenagers. (Link.) There's a reason for that. Stuff like this is bullying and it does have an impact.

  33. Ken says:

    John: I find — as I've said before – the viewpoints in that opinion piece to be repugnant, and look forward to the merciless judgment of history falling on such people.

    But I think it cheapens and distorts the word, and encourages censorship, to say that it is "bullying" to express such hateful views in a forum specifically reserved for debate of controversial issues, in a context specifically labeled as a debate over a controversial issue.

    That's a step towards saying that some viewpoints are inherently bullying and their expression should not be permitted.

  34. Grandy says:

    Ken, I fixed the problems in the hyperlink to the AB tweet.

    I think we should double check the dictionary definition of Bullying for purposes of the comments here. I used Dictionary.com.

    noun
    1.
    a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people.

    verb (used without object)
    7.
    to be loudly arrogant and overbearing.

    adjective
    8.
    Informal. fine; excellent; very good.
    9.
    dashing; jovial; high-spirited.

    interjection
    10.
    Informal. good! well done!

    2-6 were obsolete. So it's possible some here may not have heard the phrase "Bully for him/her!", but it's a real phrase and it means just what the definition suggests.

    Bully Pulpit is also in reference to #7. It most certainly is not the same as using the term as Ken is when he refers to being bullied as a child. That's #1 straight up, of course.

    Dan Weber made an excellent point with regards to "adult bullying", except I think that calling it "adult" is a mistake. We might say the New York Yankees "bullied" the smaller market teams, overpaying for all of the good free agents, relying on their far greater financial resources (a payroll which will be 4-5x bigger in some cases). At a poker table, we can refer to "bullying a player", which is using your superior chip stack size to force the player into, and out of, moves they would normally not make. E.g. if the chip leader has 10x the chips of the weakest player at the table, he can make a bet that for him isn't a big deal but forces the weak player to consider going all-in. That's bullying.

    But it's not bullying the way Ken is talking about (it's #7, though it's a different flavor than "bully pulpit"). I suggest removing "adult" from what Dan is suggesting because the kind of behavior Ken is discussing is not limited to kids or teenagers. I think it's rarer once we climb up the age-ladder, though I cannot prove this.

    On to bullying. . .

    Bullying is not simply being mean to someone. I'm mean to people all the time (I am not a good person); I am not a bully however. I was once accused of bullying by one Arbitrary Authority Figure to a Higher-Ranking Arbitrary Authority Figure. HRAAF and I did not get along, however I probably didn't give him enough credit (I reacted rather emotionally at the time and was not processing information rationally) for apparently disregarding the situation out of hand (it will be the only thing I ever give him credit for). The alleged behavior, incidentally, was the following:

    1. Verbal harassment of younger students in PE, especially girls.
    2. Making fun of and criticizing younger students for making mistakes (e.g. failing to catch a popup in sacket ball, or screwing up in volleyball). Especially girls.

    I was, ironically (as we will soon see), not accused of any direct physical behavior. Being that I was a mid-highschooler and the alleged victims were middleschoolish (as best as I can reckon), one can understand how physical intimidation could play an indirect role from the perspective of the tormented.

    Except for the part where I never engaged in any such behavior. Nor did I, in any action, inadvertantly engage in any such behavior. I say that because the behavior I was accused of 100% took place. The irony is that there was a physical component to the behavior in question; "pegging" people with tennis balls (and AAF, as well as AAF 2, allowed this without so much as a batted eyelash).

    I wasn't the one doing it. There was one, and only one, person who engaged in each of those things. I don't know if younger students actually told AAF #1 it was me. I was a shyish type who tended not to handle public criticism well in those days (this was in the process of changing, but it would be a few more years before I would gain some measure of control over it), and never in a million years would have actively engaged in the same to someone else. I remember being the kid in 8 year old basketball who had never played before, who was arbitrarily being forced to play right handed (despite trying over and over to do it lefty), and who could only get the ball to the rim on a free throw by catapulting it as hard as possible (ensuring there was no chance it would go in). I remember parents openly laughing at me. I never considered that bullying, but it was assholish behavior and I remember the shame vividly.

    The second possibility is that younger students complained but named no tormented, and AAF #1 just assumed it was me. He and I clashed a good deal; I being many things including, occasionally, an insufferable little shit I openly regarded him as "AAF" and nothing more. He being dim of wit, and I somewhat openly regarding him as such, also didn't help. I tend to believe this was the scenario; I was blamed because someone wanted that ignorant jackass of a student to be the guy.

    I never threw a tennis ball at anyone so hard that even though I missed by a mile, it caused them to tear up because I frequently threw it close enough to them that they couldn't tell if they would be hit or not, even getting out of the way.

    I will note that this behavior had one major difference from the bullying Ken talked about. It was, more or less, not targeted on a few people. With a couple of exceptions that probably revolved around "this is so and so's younger sibling", the person who did these things tended to do them to everyone who was young. It does not make it better, or worse, that this was so.

    I saw (and experienced, to a far lesser degree) the behavior that Ken talks about. My own little example is similar, but a little bit different.

  35. Kai Starr (@kaistarr) says:

    Thank you for this post! I recently had an experience where I stood up to some guy who was using my intellectual property without license or my consent, and for that, I was called a bully, and put on a bunch of "unrepentant bully authors" lists. Couldn't make these people understand that standing up for your rights is not bullying. I've never argued with a bad review, or otherwise harassed anyone, and it bugs me to be called a bully for no good reason.

  36. Patrick says:

    Am I a bully for pointing out that the term seems to be misused with spectacular frequency over in England?

    This is the face of bullying in England.

    Irish bullying.

  37. Rob says:

    Ken,

    would you consider the crap that's been directed at Ophelia Benson for the past ~year to be bullying?

    I'll provide specific examples if you want.

  38. Steven Keirstead says:

    In the case of the Canadian education ministry telling Catholic Schools they cannot teach anti-abortion lessons, you should be aware that many Catholic Schools in Canada are not independent of the government. They are service providers to the Canadian state, receive most of their funding from taxes collected the provinces, and the provinces can set the curriculum for what are essentially public schools that are run by the Church on behalf of the government. Many children who attend these schools are not Catholic. Thus the Canadian government is well within its rights and powers to forbid the teaching of Catholic dogma in taxpayer-funded Catholic schools.

  39. Ken says:

    @Rob: what is happening to Ophelia and others is, at a minimum, crazy stalking. Moreover, whether it is bullying or not, it is vile and contemptible. I've discussed the general trend in Ophelia's realm before.

    I'd have to think about whether it's useful or meaningful to apply the label "bullying" to it, though I am inclined to. It's certainly far closer than any of the examples linked in this post, in that it's pervasive and often not in response to anything she says or does and incorporates many classic tropes of bullying. But it's always tempting to apply the label inconsistently, which I am trying to avoid.

  40. Ken says:

    @Steven: it may well be that the Canadian government is within its rights to dictate curriculum and prevent religiously biased education. But the use of the label "bullying" is what I was talking about.

  41. Jamie says:

    "Another anecdote that leaves me even more muddled: Was Limbaugh bullying Sandra Fluke? I think he was tasteless and dumb, but I think Fluke invited herself into the debate by speaking before the House of Representatives. But by power imbalance, she was being bullied. However, surely people should be able to comment on people commented before Congress."

    Well, he lied about what she said and why, causing harm to her reputation in the process, so if she wanted she could sue for slander. So, as Ken pointed out, there are already laws that apply.

    Also noticed this, from Goober: Your comment makes me cringe for the lack of information you clearly have on the incident, or the reason for it! :(

    This is why I was so horrified at what a certain radio host said, and why he was "lying" when he said it: he claimed she was asking the government itself to pay for her own birth control purely for "birth control" reasons and that therefore she was a "slut". He also showed a disturbing lack of understanding on how "birth control" medication works or its legitimate (NON-birth control!) medical uses, let alone how conception or hormones work, when he claimed "she's having so much sex she can't afford" birth control.

    In actuality – this being a large part of the defamation here – she wasn't talking about her own situation, and she was NOT talking about "birth control" medication being necessary for what most people think of as its primary usage. Plus, "birth control" medication is NOT taken "as needed" as Mr. Limbaugh seemed to think; it is a DAILY medication, that cannot be sporadically taken or else it is ineffective.

    Here's the actual facts that keep getting obscured, and it makes me sad because the facts are incredibly useful to know for the debate and for anyone in general!:

    First: she was referring, not to her self, but to the medical issues a friend had; and said friend has a medical condition called polycystic ovary syndrome (reference: NIH page on the condition ).

    Second: Allow me to clarify the medical bit here that makes this very, VERY important. The female body ordinarily produces an occasional cyst in the ovary; in a normal, healthy female this is supposed to occur about once a month, in one ovary or the other, as a natural part of menstruation. It's supposed to just shove the appropriate, ready-to-fertilize egg out of the ovary, where it floats gently into the fallopian tube, where it is intended to get fertilized by a happy little sperm before floating down to the uterus. Right? And this is all triggered by hormones.

    Well, unfortunately, there are some women for whom their natural hormones – the ones that trigger things like cysts production in the ovaries – are completely off, causing medical issues.

    As the NIH page I linked mentions, there are number of possible issues that result from PCOS, but among one of the common ones, giving the condition its name: instead of the ovaries producing just one or two cysts to shove out the appropriate, mature egg cell, it will produe a whole BUNCH of cysts at once, shoving out immature eggs. This causes frequent, heavy bleeding (basically, unnecessary menstruation) often accompanied by painful abdominal cramps. If left unchecked, a polycystic ovary can swell up, becoming damaged and potentially damaged other organs as it becomes inflamed. You can, if you're willing to go "ugh" or "ew", Google "polycystic ovary" for some rather horrible images of what this looks like in the body. When an ovary gets to this stage, it may have to be surgically removed – otherwise known as a hysterectomy. This is a costly procedure, and like all other major surgeries, it carries with it risks, ranging from infection and inflammation to (again, like any surgery) anesthesia awareness (when anesthetic is not completely effective and you become aware during surgery but unable to communicate such to your doctors). PCOS also can result in infertility, even without the possibility of a hysterectomy.

    Do you want to guess what the treatment is for PCOS? You might be surprised, but at this point you may have guessed: it's so-called "birth control" medications.

    This is because the medications are designed to regulate the hormones that work together to create or manage menstruation and pregnancy, so it regulates the natural imbalance they have.

    Off this medication, they are at significant risk of illness, infection, inflammation, organ failure, infertility and yes, even death, as well as being in frequent and completely unnecessary pain and, because of the frequent bleeding, at risk of anemia and vitamin or mineral deficiencies.

    The so-called "birth control" medications, however, manage their hormones for them and can prevent ALL of that from happening. Thus, they DO need – not "need", but need – so-called "birth control" medications, not for birth control itself, but to manage their condition so that it basically stops causing medical problems for them.

    Leaving aside the fact that birth control is a DAILY requirement in many cases (and therefore a constant cost), different formulations have differing efficacy and safety levels for different patients. Some patients react badly to the "cheap" birth control pills and cannot take them.

    Finally, now that I have clarified the basic medical element here: the person Sandra Fluke testified about was a person with PCOS who whose cost of medication was in the several thousands of dollars, and because of the cost of continual "birth control" medication that her university refused to cover (because this was the issue, you know: whether a company or organization that was already providing medical coverage should also be required to cover so-called "birth control" medications as well), she simply stopped taking the medication for 3 months. This caused her condition to activate again, and required an emergency hysterectomy, a surgery that IIRC, she may also have had complications from. She didn't die, I remember that much, but she did end up pretty much completely infertile. Of course, even before the surgery, she would have been in increasing levels of pain, and had significant, unpredictable bleeding issues.

    All because her college, though covering many other things, refused to cover something whose colloquial name happens to be "birth control", even though she didn't need it for birth control use.

    THIS is what Ms. Fluke was actually testifying about and whether you agree with the position that they should be forced to "also" cover so-called "birth control" medications or not, please, please stop assuming everything she said was a lie or stupid, and please, please stop believing that it was all about her and her "need" to not get pregnant. None of that is the case.

    Disagree with her all you like. Just please have the facts straight about why she was testifying, and about PCOS and related medications. :)

  42. Ken says:

    Aside: content scrapers suck.

  43. Steven Keirstead says:

    To play devil’s advocate, people have the right to free speech and may use the word “bully" in any way they see fit. You of course have the right to deplore usages you dislike. Society will survive: and language will continue to mutate and evolve, and people will select the usage of words that makes best sense to them.

  44. Grandy says:

    @Steven Keirstead

    To play devil’s advocate, people have the right to free speech and may use the word “bully" in any way they see fit. You of course have the right to deplore usages you dislike. Society will survive: and language will continue to mutate and evolve, and people will select the usage of words that makes best sense to them.

    And if we're lucky, we won't get a bunch of harmful new legislation in the mean time. We won't get to Candide until the next semester, in any case.

    In the mean time, the avatar of "Takin Her Easy", I'm talkin bout "The Dude", aka "El Duderino" if you aren't into the whole brevity thing, would not stand for this. Neither shall we.

  45. Howard says:

    Sticks and stones will break my bones but words are free speech protected by the first amendment.

    Sounds like I grew up at the same time as Ken. I experienced severe bullying for the second half of my school days.

    I've asked a rape survivor how she feels about the dilution of the term by using it in the same context that you are using about bullying. She is infuriated at the trivialization of her pain and suffering.

    I feel the same way. I went through hell, and some slightly offended loudmouth wants to compare their case of outrage that someone has a different opinion from them and dares express it gets under my skin.

    BUT…Their expression of outrage is….

    free speech protected by the first amendment.

    I guess if I want to not be hypocritical I'd better moderate my own butthurt resulting from someone else's expression of butthurt.

  46. adam says:

    I think you could say the same about the phrase "judicial activism." A phrase that certain conservatives have tended to carelessly and recklessly bandy about whenever a court issues a ruling with which they disagree. (see: roe v. wade, obamacare, et. al.)

    I don't mind the complaining so much but then they get all up in arms about infringements to the 2nd amendment which (gasp) doesn't actually grant a carte blanche right to own a gun. (we could argue precedence but then, where does that begin?)

  47. princessartemis says:

    @Jamie, for what it is worth, I have PCOS and do not take birth control for it because other medications work better (for me), with fewer side effects. Birth control is not the only treatment; it certainly is a treatment, though, and effective. One which insurances could be convinced to pay for twenty years ago. It is certainly well within the realm of possibility that insurances are less willing to do now what they did in the 90's, of course.

    It's not something I've followed a great deal, though from what I have seen from people who agree with Fluke, it's just as much about getting "free" birth control as it is about getting insurance to pay for medically necessary medication.

  48. MattS says:

    Ken,

    How would you classify going beyond speach to trying to get someone you disagree with fired from their job just because you disagree with their politics?

  49. Luke says:

    @MattS –

    At that point I would say the speaker has moved into actions instead of just discourse, but it also depends on the job. Take Orson Scott Card for example. Plenty of people are currently trying to get him fired for his political viewpoints but his job is also to write the story for Superman comics where his viewpoints could impact the product. In that case I don't think that would be considered bullying. If Orson Scott Card were doing data entry OTOH I think a case for bullying could be made.

  50. Xenocles says:

    I sort of think this objection cannot apply to politicians, especially the president. So often their rhetoric conforms to the formula "Do what I want or I will find a way to force you to." It is often a veiled threat (though I see more and more overt examples lately), but it is always present.

  51. Ken says:

    Ken,

    How would you classify going beyond speach to trying to get someone you disagree with fired from their job just because you disagree with their politics?

    Trying to get someone fired is very likely protected by the First Amendment.

    Trying to get someone fired because you "disagree with their politics" is douchebaggery in the extreme and censorious.

    If course, sometimes the phrase "disagree with their politics" means more than just disagreeing with their politics.

  52. Tim says:

    My 2 cents: It seems that "bully" is the word that was misappropriated for a description of "harassment". It probably stems from the idea that when a person in a bully position abuses that power to continually harass a person who is inferior, unequipped, unable to defend, or has resigned they are somehow more abhorrent. The definition of bully thus came to include this grotesque action and is now again being watered down to its regular status as simply a position of power.

    More than not, the idea that Ken is striving to get at, I would have to say depends not as much on the strength of the assailant, but the condition of the target and their ability to defend. Some little guys love being the David to someone else's Goliath and we shouldn't attempt to intervene on David's behalf when he wants and invites the whole Goliath.

  53. Tim says:

    Also, might I say that even though I can't quite agree with the linguistics or terminology used, I loved the post and I think it does convey great information, thoughts, and expressions. Additionally, the comments and responses have been a great addition to the original post.

  54. John says:

    Ken,

    Some viewpoints are inherently bullying, though. In high school, expressing the viewpoint that being fat and wearing glasses makes you worthless in the presence of a fat person who wears glasses is bullying, plain and simple. The same goes for expressing the viewpoint that gay people deserve to be executed in the presence of gay people. (Expressing the viewpoint that gay people shouldn't be allowed to adopt not so much – if the article had stuck to the more polite arguments we wouldn't be having this conversation.) The question is how we should deal with it.

    In the adult world, I lean very strongly towards more speech remedies – boycotts, ostracism, that sort of thing. They're dramatically more effective at changing people's attitudes and they don't set an ugly legal precedent.

    In high school, victims have far fewer options and bullies have far more. On top of that, young people have less self-confidence so bullying does dramatically more damage. On top of *that*, restricting young people's speech during school hours on school property is far less dangerous than restricting speech in general. Put that together with the amount of damage done by anti-gay bullying in particular and I have no problem whatsoever with coming down on it hard.

  55. C. S. P. Schofield says:

    Bullying: Publicly disagreeing with a hypersensitive pillock. See also; Racism.

  56. Rich Rostrom says:

    ISTM that there are two kinds of "bullying" that are conflated.

    One is inflicting gratuitous cruelty on a weaker person. This is the classic schoolyard form, and often has no motive other than sadistic amusement.

    Another is the improper use of power (or the use of improper power, which can be different) to compel submission and compliance.

    There can be an overlap – the schoolyard bully may demand tribute; the extortionist may enjoy humiliating his target.

    In the latter case, what makes it "bullying" can be that the "bully" enjoys the humiliation of the target – the ostentatious display of power.

    But these are separate modes.

  57. Careless says:

    "Nowadays some people recommend that kids offer clever comebacks"

    Do these people hate children? Are they insane? Do they like seeing little kids get punched in the face?

  58. Matthew Cline says:

    I think that if we want to talk about what valid meaning (if any) "bullying" has when applied to adults, we have distinguish it from harassment. My intuitive understanding of "bullying" is that it's merely a word for children harassing other children, or at least the typical ways in which children harass other children. So, personally, I don't see how one would distinguish adults bullying other adults from adults harassing other adults.

  59. James Pollock says:

    There's "bullying" and there's "using the tactics of a bully".
    A bully has the benefit of a power imbalance: They're bigger, stronger, richer, more popular, more self-confident, or some combination than is the victim. In the most severe incidents, they locate the weak point of the victim and return over and over to that weakness (this is why, I think, the "make a witty repartee" advice is given… if the weakness is trivialized, perhaps the bully will move on to another target rather than keep returning.)

    Then there are the tactics of the bully. Obviously, bullies are adept at these, but people who don't have the same kind of power imbalance can't engage in "real bullying". Now, when (talk show host) is on their own show, there is a power imbalance… they can (and do) have their engineers cut the feed from guests (either in the studio or on the phone). This isn't the same as offering up the killer wedgie, swirlie, or noogius maximus that the playground bully can, but it IS a power imbalance and therefore is susceptible to bullying (of a more minor character).

    Whereas saying "Adam Baldwin, you effeminate wuss, if you're being oppressed by liberals, try growing a pair!" on a blog comment isn't bullying because there's no power imbalance. (Besides, it's his own fault for living in a place and working in a field dominated by liberals. A liberal who decides to take up cattle ranching as a career option will also find himself (or herself, of course) a bit of a fish-out-of-water, and getting the same amount of sympathy. Yeah, it's tough, but not Jackie-Robinson-tough, and Jackie Robinson could have pointed to people who had it way tougher than he did.)

    So, yeah, a lot of "political discourse" uses bullying tactics, and most of that isn't important… until it's being done in a situation of a real power imbalance, at which point it becomes worthy of notice. I find that Mr. Limbaugh does sound a LOT like a ten-year-old playground bully in his antics (such as, say, intentionally mispronouncing someone's name–classic schoolyard bully. Also, if you have to tell people how great you are, it's because you aren't.), and I'm reasonably certain that there are left-wing media personalities who are just the same, but with a smaller audience (Bill Maher, say). I find that my personal satisfaction goes way up if I pretend that none of them exists, and ignore them as completely as possible.

  60. James Pollock says:

    "Some viewpoints are inherently bullying, though. In high school, expressing the viewpoint that being fat and wearing glasses makes you worthless in the presence of a fat person who wears glasses is bullying, plain and simple. The same goes for expressing the viewpoint that gay people deserve to be executed in the presence of gay people."
    Not so fast. How about if there's one thin person amongst a large crowd of fat people with glasses saying that being fat and wearing glasses makes you worthless? Not bullying, inherent or otherwise.

    Expressing the idea that gay people should be executed is also only bullying if you happen to be standing in a crowd of straight people. If you're standing in a crowd of gay people, it just isn't bullying, no matter how hard you try.

    Why? In either case, it's because a support structure exists. In a crowd of mostly thin people, fat people are the minority and easily isolated. In a crowd of mostly straight people, gay people are the minority and easily isolated. This is why one of the danger signs for domestic violence is when one partner isolates the other from friends and family… a victim with a support structure is far less likely to act like a victim.
    Words alone do not make victims… it takes power (either real or imagined) to back it up to make a victim. Compare: Person A says "do what I say or I'll shoot you" and points a camera at person B. Not at all the same as if person A says "do what I say or I'll shoot you" and points a shotgun at person B. But wait! Suppose person B is doing something that would be embarrassing? Suddenly, the threat is stronger, not because having your picture taken has a bad effect on you… but having a picture of you doing something embarrassing enough, widely distributed through your community, can have severe effects, indeed.

  61. Ancel De Lambert says:

    The thing about Piers Morgan, he does engage in "bully tactics." Here's the ironic part: bullies don't use bully tactics. They just kick you out of society and piss on you. People who use bully tactics are usually those without the intelligence to back up their argument, and who don't want to technically look stupid as a result (stupid to them being defined as "losing" the argument.) But that's the main point, they argue. Bullies don't engage in discourse, they use their strength in whatever form they have it to chill discourse. When Bill O"Reily uses bully tactics, you can walk off his set any time you want and Bill will just sit there. A bully chases you down. Piers Morgan isn't a bully, he's just a dick.

  62. JackMann says:

    "And I don't see why I should respect the notion that it's hilarious to troll one hashtag out of ideological hostility but not another hashtag a few days later."

    Okay, for the most part, I agree with you. I even agree with the point you initially make about hashtags in the article. But I don't think it's intellectually dishonest to approve of a tactic when used against one group and not when used against another.

    I mean, if someone makes a mock twitter account making fun of, say, Derek Black, I'd think that was hilarious. If they made one making fun of Trig Palin, I'd be furious. This does not mean I would support censoring them, or taking any action against them so long as they remain in the realm of parody and not defamation. I don't think it's harassment. But I'm still going to call them scum.

    As you've said in the past, freedom of speech does not mean freedom from criticism. The hashtags bit was a form of speech, and depending on who you targeted, it said different things. One can approve of one message, but not the other.

    I suspect you didn't mean it that way. I suspect you were still thinking that you shouldn't call one harassment, but the other one fine, and that's absolutely true. But what you said in that comment suggests people can't criticize one message without criticizing another message.

    Short version, I agree that if one wasn't harassment, the other wasn't either, but there's no reason anyone has to approve of both. They were the same medium, but different messages.

  63. 205guy says:

    I'm really late to this whole debate, but I noticed early on that we're using words without defining them. True, it's hard to do, but bullying was never defined (though it was attempted–"where you can't escape it"). And I think the problem is that bullying is used in 2 different ways, literally and metaphorically. And of course, people appreciate the shock value and then hide behind the more lenient use.

    2 other great points were raised about the defintion.

    John@4:32pm implies that bullying doesn't have to be physical, or even threatening. Part of bullying (and sometimes the only part) is clearly meant to produce social and psychological harm. Then Matthew Cline@5:57pm raised the very good point that bullying as a word, only really applies literally (which I mean literally literally) to minors and usually in a school environment. When an adult is described as a bully, it is almost always meant metaphorically.

    Ken@9:58am wrote: "some people would argue that liberals bullied Rush Limbaugh by attacking him for calling Fluke a slut."

    Ken@10:37am wrote: "I think it cheapens and distorts the word…"

    If someone is attacked, shouldn't they file an assault report with the police? Isn't Ken's usage of "attacking" cheapening the very real act of being attacked?

    On the one had, language changes and meanings drift. On the other hand, the law is written with language (though after about 200 years, it shifts to "intent" but just when that change happens isn't clear–or even codefied :-). On the one hand, people use language and imagery to influence, especially on written web, and strong language is more persuasive. On the other hand, I believe that our society is becoming more violent and the leading culture/media is desensitizing us to violence by using violent language metaphorically (ie, "this change is killing me").

    In the end, Ken can't really define bullying, but he knows it when he sees it. Which always was a weak argument, though I admit, sometimes it's the only argument that is possible.

  64. 205guy says:

    Oh, and I forgot to add that "bully" is now short for "pitbull" and other breeds selected for power, aggressive behavior, and fierce looks (rotweiler, etc.). See for example "bully show."

  65. The next generation of lawyers will be crying that the courts are bullies anytime a decision adverse to them is entered. We have truly created a generation of weenies.

  66. JWH says:

    I think authors of the "bullying" laws fail to distinguish between commentary and harassment. Let's say I disapprove of opposite-sex relationships. If a friend introduces me to his wife and I say, "You know how I feel about that sort of thing," frown at him, refuse to shake the wife's hand, and walk away, I'm commenting. I'm being rude as hell, but I'm still just commenting.

    Now, if I follow him and his wife around for several hours and make loud comments about the deficiencies of people in opposite-sex relationships, I'm harassing (dear I say, "bullying") him.

    And, if I start saying behind his back that his wife looks like a barnyard animal … I suppose I'd be bullying in the classic sense. But isn't the law kind of a blunt instrument for addressing such things?

  67. goober says:

    Jaime none of what you said explained at all why everyone else should have to pay for it or why she's being "denied access to it" if they choose not to. Nice try, though. I maintain that what both Sandra and now you are claiming is monumentally dense and absolutely open for satire.

    And just in case you missed it when I said it the first time around – I don't listen to Limbaugh. I have no idea what he said and am not defending him in the slighte

    st. But I don't have to listen to him to know that what he did was almost certainly not bullying because I can't image him threatening her in any way.

    Oh, yeah… rush can definitely be an asshat.

  68. goober says:

    Put another way: lets say I sign up for a health insurance plan. The rider for this plan specifically states that it won't cover the enbrel that I take every month for my RA. After I sign up, I go before Congress and complain that it won't cover my enbrel and that as a result my plan is denying me access to my treatment medications and so is everyone else because they won't pay for it for me. . This ignores the following :

    1.) Other plans from other carriers exist that will cover the enbrel. I simply chose not to sign up for those plans and knowingly signed up for the one that would not.

    2) now I'm complaining that the plan that I knowingly signed up for that I knew wouldn't cover my needs won't cover my needs.

    3) I'm demanding that government step In and force them to do what I want even though our original agreement was made without duress or malice.

    Even if I didn't have RA when I signed up it changes nothing. I was informed that they wouldn't pay for it when I signed up and I took that risk in exchange for a benefit at the time in the form of a likely reduced premium.

    Fluke and you, Jainism, deserve the lampooning that you are receiving because what you're saying is stupid. And in my view it has nothing to do with birth control and never did.

  69. SIV says:

    Thanks to the modern miracle of F3 I don't have to read the comments to see that 205guy has already made the point about metaphor. I am a bit surprised it took so long.

  70. John says:

    James,

    Your examples are still bullying – the intent to harm is clearly present – they're just failed bullying. In any case, though, unless you're arguing that the majority of students in that high school are gay, I don't see how your post ties into my main argument.

  71. AC says:

    I feel bullied by the anti-bully laws. Who do I sue?

  72. James Pollock says:

    "Your examples are still bullying – the intent to harm is clearly present – they're just failed bullying."
    I disagree. A big part of what I consider "bullying" is the presence of a power imbalance that makes it seem that there's nothing the bullyee can do to stop the bullyer. Part of what makes bullying so nasty is that other people do nothing to stop it.
    Also, part of what makes a bully a bully is the pattern of repeated abuse.
    I don't see any reference high schools in what I wrote, nor does that have anything to do with what I claimed… that words alone, absent context, are not inherently bullying. "Bully talk", without a corresponding power imbalance, is just rudeness.

  73. Orv says:

    @Careless: I'm guessing it works exactly as well as "ignore it and it'll go away." Which is to say, not at all. But in my experience adults don't actually see bullying as a problem, unless it creates problems for them personally. At my school it seemed to be used mainly as a way to keep the "weird" kids in line.

    My guess is the current push by schools to pay more attention to bullying is mostly just intended to get it off school property where they can't be sued for it.

    @goober: I think the problem with that argument is most people don't get to choose their plan. It's chosen for them by their employer. Changing employers doesn't necessarily help either; some conditions are widely exempted in employer-provided plans, and of course once you switch it becomes a pre-existing condition and is subject to (at best) a waiting period for coverage.

  74. Kevin says:

    @Kai Starr

    Without knowing more about the specifics of your case, it's impossible to judge, but you seem to be implying that "standing up for your [IP] rights" is automatically NOT bullying, and that is very definitely not true.

    Just because the word "bully" is often overused doesn't mean that there's no such thing as legitimate bullying. There absolutely is, and authors who are "just standing up for their rights" quite often engage in it.

  75. AlphaCentauri says:

    I was the target of bullying as a child too. I wonder how many of my tormentors would consider what they did as bullying? I suspect that they were merely reflecting treatment they themselves received at home from their parents or older siblings. Or maybe their parents berated them for not being as smart as kids like me. Who knows.

    It certainly doesn't have to be physical to be bullying. I suspect that I could have held my own in a fight against any of the boys that constantly heckled me. But my school was one where losing your cool and taking a swing at someone who was in your face would lead to even more taunting. (But fighting with your own brothers at home was considered socially acceptable; go figure.)

    I think the fact that one cannot escape and that it goes on for a long period is a big factor. Kids have fewer choices of who to associate with, and they don't have the ability to really understand that the rest of their lives won't be a continuation of their current social situation.

  76. Anony Mouse says:

    @Careless

    They're the same people who say, "They're just teasing you because they're jealous."

  77. whatever says:

    Let me defend and differentiate the term "internet bullying" as "phony criticism relying on ad hominem absent of 'argument', advanced as a gang pile-on by 'more popular, more socially' connected writers, and intended to label, denigrate, dog whistle, dismiss, ignore, disrespect, and cast out" "non-believers".

    Criticism in the form of argument (a connected series of statements intended to support a proposition) is criticism.

    Ganging up on people, name calling, and telling others to ignore their speech, dismiss their arguments, etc., threatening to label people with some pretty terrible social labels, "misogynist", "denier", "racist", "teabagger", etc., when it comes down to political disagreements is basically internet bullying.

    It's not censorship. It's not logical argument, it is speech policing, it is dog whistles, it is ganging up and piling on.

    And it fundamentally relies on the social power of the people who do it.

    PZ Myers, Amanda Marcotte, Rebecca Watson, Jezebel, many feminist and liberal bloggers are certainly internet bullies in this sense.

  78. spqr2008 says:

    Concerning Liberal condemnation of conservatives (i.e. Jayne), the purpose of such speech is to enact discrimination against said individual, in the case of Jayne and Rush Limbaugh, to deny them money from acting jobs and endorsements/advertising. I think a better definition of those kinds of speech is to call it discriminatory, or prejudicial, because it helps to create a prejudice against conservatives, while not being truly bullying.

  79. Ken says:

    @spqr2008

    Concerning Liberal condemnation of conservatives (i.e. Jayne), the purpose of such speech is to enact discrimination against said individual, in the case of Jayne and Rush Limbaugh, to deny them money from acting jobs and endorsements/advertising. I think a better definition of those kinds of speech is to call it discriminatory, or prejudicial, because it helps to create a prejudice against conservatives, while not being truly bullying.

    I appreciate you not calling it bullying, but it's still pusillanimous nonsense. "Liberals" criticizing and disagreeing with speech is not "discrimination" any more than conservatives criticizing and disagreeing with speech. Nobody has a right to be free of the social consequences of their speech. If Rush Limbaugh calls Sandra Fluke a slut, then he gets to face the social consequences. That's the marketplace of ideas. The notion "I should be able to be a choad without anyone calling me a choad" is contemptible and the signifier of people unworthy of respect.

  80. coregis says:

    I had a recent exchange with a person over Facebook regarding a posting they shared calling both Sens. McCain and Graham "chickenhawks" for their opposition to the appointment of Sen. Hagel as SecDef. A chickenhawk is a political leader or journalist who advocates military force but was unwilling to serve in the military. So I sez, "How could either be considered chickenhawks? They both served." The response was because they may have, at one time or another, slighted the military. That's not a chickenhawk, that's a dick….

    The point is that words like chickenhawk, bully, racist and hater are used to delineate you from being outside of responsible company, marginize your opinions or otherwise keep you from participating in public discourse. It is mostly used by my "progressive" friends who like to call any criticism of Obama as being racist. If you don't comment, you can't be a hater and then we will readmit you to polite society.

    Orwell was so right.

  81. Ken says:

    @whatever:

    Let me defend and differentiate the term "internet bullying" as "phony criticism relying on ad hominem absent of 'argument', advanced as a gang pile-on by 'more popular, more socially' connected writers, and intended to label, denigrate, dog whistle, dismiss, ignore, disrespect, and cast out" "non-believers".

    Criticism in the form of argument (a connected series of statements intended to support a proposition) is criticism.

    Ganging up on people, name calling, and telling others to ignore their speech, dismiss their arguments, etc., threatening to label people with some pretty terrible social labels, "misogynist", "denier", "racist", "teabagger", etc., when it comes down to political disagreements is basically internet bullying.

    I am, for the most part, unsympathetic to the notion that people should be able to call women cunts without being called misogynist assholes. I am, for the most part, unsympathetic to people who want to be assholes without being called assholes. I am, for the most part, unsympathetic to people who are enraged when a woman suggests that it's fucking creepy to proposition her in an elevator at four in the morning. Though I might not agree with all "feminist" viewpoints, I am for the most part unsympathetic to people incensed to the point of nutjob stalking by the expression of such viewpoints. I am unsympathetic to the notion that people ought to shut up about being stalked by defective freaks and their cheerleaders.

    But I'm sure you views will get much approval among the vermin of the Slymepit.

  82. SPQR says:

    Just a note, "spqr2008" was not me – the true, classic tasting SPQR.

  83. Texan99 says:

    I associate bullying with either terrorizing or sadism. The bully is inflicting pain or fear on his victim. Because I also think we sometimes have to inflict pain or fear on people to get them to quit doing something wrong (I'd happily hurt or frighten someone to get him to quit torturing an animal, for instance), I guess I have to add that it becomes bullying only if I'm sure there's not a sufficient motive. So: frightening or hurting someone just because I don't like them, not because I'm engaged in a citizens-arrest kind of action.

  84. Kat says:

    Came over from the WBC post, this response is @Reader:

    I want to make sure we're talking about the same context here. (Article is: http://radio.foxnews.com/toddstarnes/top-stories/anti-bullying-speaker-curses-mocks-christian-teens.html)

    These are the words Mr. Savage reportedly said: "He said there are people using the Bible as an excuse for gay bullying, because it says in Leviticus and Romans that being gay is wrong. Right after that, he said we can ignore all the (expletive deleted) in the Bible.”

    A bunch of teens walked out after he said this. Mr. Savage then said:

    “'You can tell the Bible guys in the hall they can come back now because I’m done beating up the Bible,' Savage said as other students hollered and cheered. 'It’s funny as someone who is on the receiving end of beatings that are justified by the Bible how pansy-assed people react when you push back.'"

    Another quote for more context:

    “'It became hostile,' [the student] said. 'It felt hostile as we were sitting in the audience – especially towards Christians who espouse beliefs that he was literally taking on.'”

    The thesis of that article seems to be: People who use the Bible to denigrate others got their feelings hurt when a speaker said that this was wrong. They walked out of a conference and were called weak. Therefore they were bullied.

    Calling that bullying seems crazy to me. It's only bullying in the sense that pointing out that a view or practice is harmful bullies the large group of people who follow that view or practice. These people felt so strongly that they walked out to show how much they wanted him to know that the Bible ought to be used this way. Mr. Savage had a right to comment on that, too. I think his comment was spot-on: it IS weak for people to say that it's okay to use their beliefs as a tool to destroy others' self-esteem but then turn around and cry foul when someone points out that this is the wrong thing to do.

    A society in which no one stands up and says "this is wrong" in response to abuse is a society full of people who don't even dare inconvenience abusers.

    I'm not saying you're wrong; it's good that you want to point out that this might have been a little harsh for the same reason above: we don't want to be a society that can't tolerate hearing 'you're wrong." I'm just saying I don't agree at all, and am actually MORE likely to give to the It Gets Better project in response to that article, because I agree with what he's saying and I don't see how it's bullying.

  85. Ken says:

    I don't think criticizing Christianity in America is bullying. I don't think criticizing the use of the Bible to denigrate gays is bullying. I don't think vigorous criticism of how some Christians treat gays is bullying.

    However, if you are a speaker, and a minority of your audience gets up and leaves your speech (assuming they do so in a way that's not unnecessarily disruptive), and you call them out and call them pussies and encourage the crowd to laugh at them, especially if they are not adults, I think that is at least further along the continuum of conduct towards bullying.

    At the least I find it douchy, however much I might agree with Savage on the merits of how human beings ought to be treated based on their sexuality.

  86. Grifter says:

    Were any of the audience members really surprised at Savage's initial comments that caused them to walk out? Were they somehow unaware of who he was?

    Can you really go see a famous gay speaker, founder of a project about gay-bullying-prevention, and be surprised when he points out the ridiculousness and hypocrisy of the #1 reason for gay bullying in America? It would be like going to see Glenn Beck and acting surprised when he starts the crazy-talk.

    And reading the quotes together: ""He said there are people using the Bible as an excuse for gay bullying, because it says in Leviticus and Romans that being gay is wrong. Right after that, he said we can ignore all the (expletive deleted) in the Bible.”… 'It felt hostile as we were sitting in the audience – especially towards Christians who espouse beliefs that he was literally taking on.'”"

    That seems to say that they're in FAVOR of gay bullying.

  1. February 17, 2013

    [...] Ken on why the relentless overuse of the epithet "bullying" gets on his (and my) nerves [Popehat] [...]

  2. February 19, 2013

    [...] "Bully" Means Just What I Choose It To Mean, Neither More Nor Less [...]