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Jul 01 2012

How They Do It

I’ve mentioned around here before that I spent sixth grade in three elementary schools. I’ve also mentioned that in the last one, I managed not to make a single friend in the six months I was there. I’ve never really talked about why.

It wasn’t me, particularly. It was the atmosphere of the classroom.

There was this one kid. We’ll call him Jeff, because that was his name. He was a little bigger than the other kids, possibly older. He was unkempt in a way that suggested he was probably neglected. He might have had a learning disability. He was known to have some kind of behavioral condition.

I say he was known to, but I never actually observed it. What I observed was a bunch of other kids with definite behavioral disorders.

There was one of them–one of the shining kids, blond, athletic, rich–who divided his attention between Jeff and the teacher like a master. Teacher was looking? This little asshole was a perfect model of decorum. Teacher wasn’t looking? He was whispering insults at Jeff, throwing bits of paper, poking him, pushing him, and generally acting like that annoying sibling in the back seat on those long road trips.

Other kids would do some of this too, but not to the same degree. They wouldn’t do it all the time, just often enough to let Jeff know the shiny boy wasn’t his only enemy.

Then, when the teacher had been looking away long enough that Jeff had been pestered to the breaking point, he would lash out. He would yell at someone or take a swing at the arm that was poking him.

Then the teacher would notice.

Jeff spent a lot of time in trouble in that school. He spent almost no time learning because he was either being harassed or sitting in the principal’s office.

Not everyone tormented him, but there were plenty who knew what was going on and never spoke out. They weren’t my friends and they weren’t ever going to be. I never spoke out myself, for reasons I can’t rightly recreate at this point. I know I was targeted by some of the same kids, but that would be a good reason not to let these kids get away with what they did to Jeff. Or at least it would be now. I’m not the same person I was then.

The next year, we moved on to junior high. Most of us did, anyway. Jeff wasn’t at my school. I don’t know whether he repeated the year or was sent off somewhere to deal with “his” problems, which were us. Either way, he didn’t get to have the same school experience we did.

And that is how those kids win, then and now. You’d think someone would have recognized that pattern by now, but I guess not.

71 comments

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  1. 1
    Mattir

    I just googled the Jeff of my elementary school. He died 4 years ago, at age 45, leaving several children by different mothers, in several states. (Yes, I’m sure it was the same guy – I live in a very small town with an unusual name and many multi-generational families.)

    That’s how the Jeffs of the world often turn out. No adult in my experience ever stood up for the Jeff of my school, despite his (even to me, even at age 8) obvious problems, probably learning disabilities, and abuse at home. Instead, I remember my fourth grade teacher washing his mouth out with soap while shouting at him in front of the whole class.

    I still think of this kid every time I drive by his house, and I feel sick now.

  2. 2
    Erin (formerly--formally?-- known as EEB)

    God, sixth grade was hell. That was the year Mom and Dad decided I should go to a mainstream school (I’d been homeschooled up to this point) for some socialization before Jr. High…and they wanted me to go to Jr. High because Mom had reached the point where she didn’t think she could really teach me anymore, because she didn’t know any higher math, or how to teach composition and literary criticism, that sort of thing. So there I was, very fat and very strange, with no clue how to talk to kids my own age (outside of the fundamentalist group I went to church with), especially because I wasn’t allowed to watch or listen to anything that was popular at the time. A while ago, cleaning out some old boxes, I found a biography I’d had to write for class. The last chapter was about how I just wanted one friend at school, and how I didn’t understand why everyone hated me. Mom says that my teacher told her that she cried when she read it.

    And you know what? I really hope she did. Because it’s the teacher’s job to keep the terrible shit that happened to me that year under control. I have seen good teachers, who have a zero-tolerance policy, who teach (and model) respect, who can get a class to realize they’re part of a collective effort and encourage the students to work together instead of tear each other apart. It makes all the difference. And she didn’t do it. Oh, I’m sure she felt really bad, but she allowed a million little things to happen all around her, only stepping in when it was really over the line, or if I finally pushed back.

    It’s strange how I’m still bothered by this. I really shouldn’t be, anymore. It was a long time ago. But this brings up a lot of strong feelings. I feel for that kid. I hope that he got the help he needed.

    Sometimes–especially as kids, when we literally don’t have the cognitive ability for complex moral reasoning or longterm thinking–we have to make sacrafices to protect ourselves. And that is such a hard age, a really scary time for any kid, but especially for one on the outskirts. You saw what was happening, and you knew there wouldn’t be any protection if those kids turned on you. Please don’t feel guilty about that. It wasn’t your responsibility to help him: it was his teachers, the administration, and his parents. (Also, the responsibility of the students not to do it in the first place.) They let him down, not you.

  3. 3
    Skeeve

    Analogy seems a bit obscure to some.

  4. 4
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Not only do they not recognize it, Stephanie, but they constantly cite it as an example of how to correctly stop a “problem situation.” How many times have we seen, “I don’t care who started it. . .both sides are acting badly,” and “This reminds me of kindergarten and my teacher’s advice was good then and it’s good now.”

    No, it’s ethically horrific advice. It’s abdication of moral duty. It’s leaving predators to go after victims. It’s further demoralizing and terrorizing those victims.

    You should care who started it. You should be able to recognize that defending one’s self is not “behaving badly.”

    This one makes me sick and angry.

  5. 5
    Hank Fox

    Do yourself a favor: Look up Shiny Boy too, and write him a letter.

  6. 6
    KT

    The saddest thing at my elementary school was that there were teachers who were bullies, which projected to the students who it was “okay” to bully.

    In 5th grade unfortunately it was me. I had been new to the school in 3rd grade and struggled to fit in with ups and downs. By 5th grade, I was finally feeling comfortable and then out student teacher for some unknown reason decided she didn’t like me. She made fun of me openly in front of the class whenever the actual teacher wasn’t there. When I was giving an oral report about Columbus she ridiculed the drawing I made of him as I tried to speak, because weirdly, at 10 years old, I wasn’t the world’s best artist. She would try to accuse me of cheating and having my mom do my homework with no evidence (and of course that was not true – my parents were VERY big on personal responsibility. They are huge bootstrappers.), which leads me to suspect that she had some sort of resentment of my academic performance. I was a gifted student and was advanced in a lot of subjects at that time.

    The next year, it was the actual teacher who was the bully. I was fortunate enough to be one of his “approved” students — a cute girl who got good grades, wasn’t “too good” but not bad enough to be in trouble all the time. Most importantly, I was tough enough from all my previous social experiences to pass his sensitivity test. Any kid that was sensitive, he would torture relentlessly in class. I guess in some attempt to “toughen them up.” It was painful to watch, but even worse, many of the meaner kids in class took his cues and continued the bullying outside of class.

    Bullying by peers is bad enough, but when an authority figure tacitly leads and encourages the behavior, t makes it even worse. People in authority need to realize that whatever their intentions behind their own behavior, they are setting an example for those under their authority and can be contributing to a situation that is far worse than what they intend (if one is inclined to be generous and give them the benefit of the doubt that they do not intend a pile-on.)

  7. 7
    Cataphract

    There was this one kid. We’ll call him Jeff, because that was his name.

    Horseshit. This is an allegory for your BFF Greg bin Laden:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/rockbeyondbelief/2012/07/01/the-pits/

    PS, don’t you dare ask, ever again, for an upvote or any other support from your colleagues. I’ll kick your fucking ass if you do. You will regret it. (Unless that apology is forthcoming.)

    After all the incessant histrionics about “harassment” here, there and everywhere, you run to the defense of someone making real threats of violence.

    You can pretend this isn’t about bin Laden but it is quite strange that someone so finely attuned to “harassment” doesn’t have a Goddamn thing to say against her BFF who is threatening to “kick [someone's] fucking ass”.

    This place is parody-proof.

  8. 8
    Cataphract

    Fortunately, though, as I’ve long suspected, the cluster B douchebag dynamic here on FfTB is starting to tear the place apart.

    That, and PZ’s dubious cardiovascular health, and it just may not last too much longer.

    If so, in pace requiescat.

  9. 9
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Charming, just charming, cataphract.

  10. 10
    Stacy

    Horseshit. This is an allegory for your BFF Greg bin Laden

    Um, no. It clearly isn’t. Laden’s indefensible outburst is not being referred to here; and I find it hard to believe you honestly think that it is. Though perhaps you have serious reading comprehension problems? Or perhaps you’re unaware that Josh, who commented on this very thread almost two hours before you did, has spoken out against Laden many times?

    Fortunately, though, as I’ve long suspected, the cluster B douchebag dynamic here on FfTB is starting to tear the place apart.

    That, and PZ’s dubious cardiovascular health, and it just may not last too much longer.

    If so, in pace requiescat.

    Now this–this sort of shit is analogous to Stephanie’s tale.

    (Justin Griffith: Please read Cataphract’s posts. Stephanie: I hope you leave Cataphract’s posts up for all to see.)

  11. 11
    Cataphract

    Laden’s indefensible outburst is not being referred to here

    It’s a thinly-veiled allegory.

    Though perhaps you have serious reading comprehension problems?

    No I just don’t have Assburgers, like you.

    Now this–this sort of shit is analogous to Stephanie’s tale.

    OH GOD HE’S PICKEN ON ME

    FfTB: where courageous, brilliant, elite masters of social interaction gather together and somehow achieve nothing in the wider world around them but crying like babies about how everyone is mean to them.

    Have you noticed that as climate change gets worse, the red states most affected by it just get loonier and loonier?

    Not that you sorry people are doing anything about it. (Or care, for that matter.)

  12. 12
    Cataphract

    ps

    Laden’s indefensible outburst

    Waiting for the Harassment Ombudsperson Stephanie to step up the plate here…

  13. 13
    klatu

    The thing with bullying is that if you call it out, your’re likely to become a target yourself (even if you’re “friends” with the bullies). Probably because they know they’re being cowardly assholes.

    @Josh #4
    Your shiny new internetz has arrived. Throw it in the bin with the rest.

  14. 14
    Cataphract

    The thing with bullying is that if you call it out, your’re likely to become a target yourself (even if you’re “friends” with the bullies)./blockquote>

    And this is why Stephanie will never call out Greg bin Laden.

    Alliances among people with at least one of the following personality disorders tend not to be stable:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personality_disorder#Cluster_B_.28dramatic.2C_emotional_or_erratic_disorders.29

    That’s the rub in having a “Horde” like PZ does. He failed to agree that a cartoon bunny is sexist and for that his unruly legion almost threw him out like a used tampon.

    Perhaps they will someday, who knows?

  15. 15
    Cataphract

    The thing with bullying is that if you call it out, your’re likely to become a target yourself (even if you’re “friends” with the bullies).

    And this is why Stephanie will never call out Greg bin Laden.

    Alliances among people with at least one of the following personality disorders tend not to be stable:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personality_disorder#Cluster_B_.28dramatic.2C_emotional_or_erratic_disorders.29

    That’s the rub in having a “Horde” like PZ does. He failed to agree that a cartoon bunny is sexist and for that his unruly legion almost threw him out like a used tampon.

    Perhaps they will someday, who knows?

  16. 16
    Max

    Stacy,
    Why exactly are you trying to direct Justin Griffith to the comments of Cataphract? How is Justin responsible for anything said by Cataphract?

    Also nothing in Cataphract’s post is at all analogous to Stephanie’s post. Cataphract may be completely off base, wrong in every way but he clearly isn’t like the villain (the super-buff golden haired, rich kid) in Stephanie’s story. Stephanie can clear up this question of allegory if she wants, or not, but it seems unfair to try to compare Cataphract’s words or tactics to those of Jeff’s tormentors. Just as it is unfair to hold Justin G responsible of Cataphract.

  17. 17
    Cataphract

    No Max, you’re wrong, and you just don’t see it because you’re PRIVILEGED.

    What Cataphract did is basically a DEATH THREAT against PZ and I’m gonna go to the police. NO. I’m gonna go to the FBI. NO. I’m gonna go to … INTERPOL. So that he gets locked up FOR LIFE.

    Because MY DRAMA is that important to the world.

  18. 18
    Cataphract

    Wrong about what Max?

    That Stephanie is OK with threats of violence when her buddy-buddy is making them?

    No I don’t think I’m even a tiny bit wrong about that.

  19. 19
    Max

    Cataphract,
    I am not saying you are wrong. I was simply making a point that you could be completely wrong, but that would be the only thing of which you could be “guilty.” The charge that your words/actions were like the bully in Stephanie’s story was, it seemed to me, completely off base. Your “sorta shit” simply isn’t analogous at all.

    You may be wrong, though you may not be. Its not relevant to my point. Stacy might want to address your argument and not brusquely brush it aside as if you didn’t have a point worth taking seriously, or at least not dismissively. She might want to demonstrate why you are wrong. Nothing she said in her post addresses a single thing Stephanie wrote.

  20. 20
    Cataphract

    I am not saying you are wrong. I was simply making a point that you could be completely wrong, but that would be the only thing of which you could be “guilty.”

    Got it.

    Stacy might want to address your argument and not brusquely brush it aside as if you didn’t have a point worth taking seriously, or at least not dismissively.

    Well I’m Privileged™ so of course nothing I say can be taken seriously.

    Are you new to this?

  21. 21
    Stacy

    Laden’s indefensible outburst is not being referred to here

    It’s a thinly-veiled allegory

    Um, yes; but I don’t think Laden is the focus of it. I think that’s in your head.

    How is Justin responsible for anything said by Cataphract?

    Huh?

    He’s not.

    How could what I said possibly translate in your mind to my holding Justin responsible for what Cataphract said?

  22. 22
    Cataphract

    Um, yes; but I don’t think Laden is the focus of it.

    It’s pure coincidence that she made an otherwise out-of-context post called “How THEY do it” so shortly after her BFF Greg bin Laden got expelled from FfTB that makes it look just like she wants to assert he made that threat of violence because the poor guy was BEIN PICKED ON and he JUST COULDN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE.

    And, in any case, Little Ms. Drama, who sees grave danger in every other situation, hasn’t got a damn thing to say against her buddy who just threatened to kick someone’s ass.

  23. 23
    Max

    Stacy

    I inferred that you were upset with Justin and held him somewhat responsible from this:

    “(Justin Griffith: Please read Cataphract’s posts. Stephanie: I hope you leave Cataphract’s posts up for all to see.)”

    Why else would you suggest he look at Cataphract’s posts?

  24. 24
    Cataphract

    Why else would you suggest he look at Cataphract’s posts?

    Because we’re all part of the Patriarchy™.

  25. 25
    Max

    Stacy,

    Cataphract is probably making the not dubious leap that Stephanie’s story was a thinly veiled allegory for current events from the following bit:

    “And that is how those kids win, then and now. You’d think someone would have recognized that pattern by now, but I guess not.”

    Stephanie’s conclusion makes Cataphract’s interpretation entirely reasonable.

  26. 26
    Cataphract

    Elevatorgate was obviously a solicitation for no-strings attached sex but WHOA WHOA WHOA HOLD UP HERE, you can’t just infer that Stephanie’s post is exactly what it looks like it is, that’s just TOO HASTY.

  27. 27
    Stacy

    I see it as being about months and months of obsessive slimepit trolling of FtB and Rebecca Watson, and Justin’s attempt to see “both sides” as equal.

    I would not accept it as a defense of Laden’s email to Justin. I have compassion for Laden, but he’s not a little kid. He behaved badly. Full stop.

    But the story is also what it is: not an allegory, but a reminiscence that should be meaningful to all of us.

  28. 28
    dysomniak "They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred!"

    Comment by Cataphract blocked. [unkill]​[show comment]

    And nothing of substance will be missed…

  29. 29
    Cataphract II

    Stacy, yes, you’re right, how DARE anyone mount a backlash to FfTB and RW’s self-absorbed, self-righteous little drama party?

  30. 30
    dysomniak "They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred!"

    Comment by Cataphract II blocked. [unkill]​[show comment]

    Clearly it’s only interested in hoggling as much as possible before Stephanie gets online and swings the banhammer.

  31. 31
    Stephanie Zvan

    Clearly. Done. Will assess whether there is any substance to address in the morning, when I’m sober.

  32. 32
    Max

    Stacy,

    Stephanie’s story may simply be a stand alone, useful vignette about the nature of bullying, or it may be an allegory wherein she is surreptitiously defending Greg Laden, or it could be both.

    I’m glad you have some compassion for Greg. Its nice that you can say he behaved badly. I hope you have some compassion for the guy he tried to bully and intimidate. Justin has been thoughtful and honest in his discussion. You may disagree with every thing he said, but that doesn’t justify the waves of vitriol he has received for not agreeing with the majority of FTBers. Furthermore Laden’s letter demonstrated some grotesque hypocritical tendencies in himself.

    As an aside, PZ peevish , passive aggressive letter to Justin, while not threatening certainly manages to be entirely dismissive of the threat Justin received from Greg. So the idea that Stephanie might be talking about wider issues doesn’t seem implausible.

  33. 33
    dysomniak "They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred!"

    I have to assume that was a deliberate troll. That “interpretation” of the (excellent and moving) OP had to take some conscious effort to come up with.

  34. 34
    Stacy

    Max,

    For what it’s worth, I like Justin a lot, and I agree he’s thoughtful and honest. Greg was out of line and I do feel for Justin.

    I also like PZ a lot; ditto. I don’t agree with everything either says, but I don’t have to in order to appreciate them.

  35. 35
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    Hmm. My idea to counteract bullies is to assign them a short research paper, fully cited, about harassment — it can be from either side.

    Anyone who tries to defend themselves will have their inevitable failure read to the class, so that everyone knows what is going on inside this person’s head.

  36. 36
    Brad

    Greg crossed a line and PZ’s post doesn’t acknowledge that at all. If all he has to say on the matter is that attack, I’ll be disappointed. Stephanie should denounce Greg’s email at least, but we’ll have to wait a few more hours to find out. I’m withholding shame or praise as appropriate.

  37. 37
    GMM

    I don’t think that story was meant to say anything about Greg or Justin.

    Greg WAS way out of line for his email to Justin,
    but he did apologize to Justin. I think Justin was trying for some civility between fellow atheists and skeptics from free thought blogs and ERV. It was well-intentioned but just didn’t quite work.

    “That, and PZ’s dubious cardiovascular health, and it just may not last too much longer.

    If so, in pace requiescat.”

    Lovely, Cataphract. Wishing death on someone isn’t a vicious and hateful thing to do? Maybe you should look up sociopathic personality disorder while you’re at it.

  38. 38
    Arkady

    Similar at my school, there was a kid with never-identified-at-school special needs who was mercilessly tormented by many at the school, including kids who were much younger than him trying to provoke an outburst. Heard through the grapevine that he finally got diagnosed with autism recently in his 20s, hope he’s doing ok.

    My school had a major problem with a lot of low scale stuff, you’d never get that much from any one person, but it adds up, e.g. when another group pass by during a PE lesson and about half of them heckle. I was one of the ‘lucky’ ones that got picked on (for being quiet and geeky), mostly taking the form of sexual obscenities screamed in my ear from close distance.

  39. 39
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    That’s the rub in having a “Horde” like PZ does. He failed to agree that a cartoon bunny is sexist and for that his unruly legion almost threw him out like a used tampon.

    Perhaps they will someday, who knows?

    Damn, I wished you people could make up your mind…
    Are we an echo-chamber that worships PZ or are we just barely tolerating him as long as he amuses us until we will sacrifice him on the altair of the allmighty vagina?

    Back to the discussion:
    As a parent, one thing I learned quickly was to watch my children closely. To spot the dynamics between them. To notice how they tried to play me.
    Who started it? is a good question.
    What did you do? is another good question.
    I actually don’t see a contradiction between dealing with the behaviour that started the fight and the behaviour that ended it.
    Kid A is wrong for knocking over the toys of kid B.
    Kid B is wrong for biting in retaliation.

  40. 40
    Max

    Stacy,
    Your last comment seems entirlerly resaonable to me. So no argument from me about that.

    If we could continue though I would like to follow up on one of my original points. Specifically I would appreciate it if you could explain why you think Cataphract’s intial comment was like that of the bully in Stephanie’s story. I am curious about why you think this is the case. At present I think you are wrong about this, but I am honestly curious about why you think what you do on this.

  41. 41
    Max

    dysomniak,

    “I have to assume that was a deliberate troll. That “interpretation” of the (excellent and moving) OP had to take some conscious effort to come up with.”

    I’m not sure that it does take a lot of effort to come up with Cataphract’s interpretation. It actually feels like a pretty natural interpretation of Stephanie’s story, especially with the inclusion of her closing sentences which indicates that she is talking both about the past and the present. There is nothing tortured about the allegory interpretation, given the heat that has been generated by recent events. It may be the wrong interpretation, only the writer knows for sure.

  42. 42
    julian

    @ Max

    Why do you people always do this?

    Laden is an asshole and (like me) prone to overly aggressive and (sometimes) bullying behavior.

    We get it. He was way out of line with what he said to Sgt. Griffith. (For the record, I also think he was trying to do good and that PZ Myers warning was way off base.)

    Now piss off back to your friends. I’m sure they’re waiting on their high fives for the blanket dismissal of any wrong doing on their part. Mission accomplished on your end.

  43. 43
    M. A. Melby

    “No I just don’t have Assburgers, like you.”

    Holy fucking shit.

    As someone coming late to the party, I have no idea why the posters using “fFtB” are dogging so many threads.

    I’m seriously perplexed.

    The average person does NOT act this way unless they are extremely emotionally invested.

  44. 44
    Stephanie Zvan

    Best I can tell, actually, cataphract, Brad, and Ophelia’s recent set of nasties who make insinuations they can’t define are all Chris Hever, recently posting in the slime pit as real horrorshow. He morphs an awful lot to avoid being banned.

  45. 45
    Max

    Julian,

    What is it exactly that I am supposed to be doing that I should “piss off back to my friends” for “high fives?”

    Have I been dismissive of anyone? Have I been disrespectful of anyone? Have I defended reprehensible actions? Have I engaged in any obnoxious trolling comments to get a rise out of anyone in this discussion. Try addressing me and not my putative associations. I don’t engage in, or approve of Anon/4chan styling, I’ve no interest in getting a rise out of anyone. I am interested in a real discussion. If you are incapable of that, cool, but don’t pretend that it is a fault of mine.

    “We get it. He was way out of line with what he said to Sgt. Griffith.”
    Glad you agree that this was the case.

    “(For the record, I also think he was trying to do good”

    What does that matter? Nothing in his letter to Justin is justified by his “good” intentions/attempts to do good. What is good about what he was trying to do? Justin has been honest and critical of Abbie’s “pit.” Laden has not been. Even his apology was weak because it is loaded with excuses of the “I was really upset, and my buttons were pushed” variety. Would he accept such evasions? I highly doubt it. May be he should do what he told Justin to do on the “Slime-pit thread” and grow the fuck up.

    Lets review what his efforts to do good entailed:
    “Don’t ever, ever find yourself in my presence or think you deserve to breath the air that I, and Jen, and Stephanie, and Gret and Ophelia and PZ and the rest of us breath, because you do not.”
    -that seems mildly threatening

    “If you do make that apology it better be from laying face down in the mud.”
    -lets call this intimidation and a demand for humiliation and fear

    “Think about that. You fucking shit.”
    -insulting and needlessly so

    “PS, don’t you dare ask, ever again, for an upvote or any other support from your colleagues. I’ll kick your fucking ass if you do. You will regret it. (Unless that apology is forthcoming.)”
    -threat of physical violence, plus intimidation

    “Have a nice day and kiss my ass.”
    -petulant, childish, and rude

    “and that PZ Myers warning was way off base.)”

    I agree.

  46. 46
    M. A. Melby

    The post is meaningful – absolutely.

    However, it is limited as an analogy for adult interactions.

    In school, especially when you are a child, you don’t have as many options to deal with situations as you do when you are an adult.

    Therefore, however understandable some reactions are, they are unacceptable for no other reason than the fact that other options are available.

    The severity of the response is also important – if not proportional to the offense – it is on the face unacceptable due to the nature of escalation. Many times we call on adults to “take the high road” and avoid responding in kind in order to keep the peace.

    I am saying this in a GENERAL SENSE; with no particular situation in mind. I absolutely understand that I am unaware all the complexities of the current conflicts here on FtB.

    Conflicts are messy – and the issue is not always as simple as figuring out “who started it” and occasionally the search for justice (however noble) simply prolongs the conflict past it’s expiration date.

    In the end, we’re all just responsible for our own actions – you know – because we’re adults. Pointing at the behavior of someone else rarely absolves us of this responsibility.

  47. 47
    julian

    I meant Justin Griffith, you lackwit. That’s who I think was trying to do good and who I think PZ Myers was outline for reprimanding.

    Also, fuck you.

  48. 48
    B-Lar

    The average person does NOT act this way unless they are extremely emotionally invested.

    I know right! I went and asked one what the deal was with that, and he just insisted that he really didnt care. The evidence seems to suggest otherwise but he refuses to acknowledge it and it might as well not exist…

    Maybe there is a desire to be part of a perceived in crowd, but without the neccesary social or logical faculties an effective way to be “in” is to be vocally or aggressively “anti”. Of course, there are lots of ways to spin this. Maybe they really are all heroes, selflessly throwing themselves under the weight of relentless bullying to save the freethought movement from people who will actually do something with it?

  49. 49
    Max

    M.A. Melby

    Thanks for that post.

  50. 50
    Max

    Julian,
    Its not really clear that you meant Justin in your last post.
    Here is what you wrote:
    “We get it. He was way out of line with what he said to Sgt. Griffith. (For the record, I also think he was trying to do good and that PZ Myers warning was way off base.)”
    Sorry about the mis-understanding on my part.

    But why be so insulting so early, I haven’t insulted you, or been rude to you or anyone on this thread or given you any reason to lose your mind in this way. Internet tough guys are kind of hilarious though so feel free to continue to make yourself absurd if you want.

  51. 51
    julian

    Because you’re arguing for the blond rich-kid in the story. Because you’re the teachers in the story. Because your mock concern irritates me. Because I’m in a particularly foul mood.

    Pick one.

  52. 52
    Magicthighs

    This pretty much describes my primary and secondary education experience. Getting beat up and then hearing the teacher say it’s probably my own fault anyway (the parents of the kids who attacked me went to the same church, after all), some teachers joining in on the bullying, me lashing out violently when things got too much, suffering from chronic depression later on in life as a result.

    Later on in life I spoke to one of the people who bullied me in high school. His reply? I was kinda asking for it because I was annoying.

    I told him the same thing I’d like to tell Cataphract, go fuck yourself.

  53. 53
    CT

    Because I’m in a particularly foul mood.

    ah good, at least I’m not the only one.

    Later on in life I spoke to one of the people who bullied me in high school. His reply? I was kinda asking for it because I was annoying.

    did you kick them in the crotch? then patiently explain why that’s a stupid as fuck explanation?

    Pointing at the behavior of someone else rarely absolves us of this responsibility.

    That’s true but some people have their heads so far up their asses, the only way for them to see is if you pull it out with a crowbar and point to the problem. Not peaceful, but necessary.

  54. 54
    roland72

    I think the fact that it’s seen as the teacher’s job to protect Jeff and the kids like him is actually a very big part of the problem. Teachers don’t know anything about children’s lives; schoolkids in regular schools have practically no power to protect themselves from bullies and trolls. They have to rely on ignorant adult authority – and of course we all know that manipulating adult authority is one of the things bullies and trolls do best. What happens if adult authority is removed? One answer is found at Summerhill School (where I once taught) which is one of the very few places I have ever seen where bullying is dealt with properly. If kids are really empowered (not in the fake “school council” way where you know that adults are really still in charge) then the people who are really in the know about the kids’ lives (i.e. the kids) get to make the decisions, and those decisions are pretty much always better than any ones adults could make by themselves – and are backed up by the authority of the community as a whole, which is an authority it is much harder to subvert.

    The years which most of us spend in this weird authoritarian relationship with adults at school are very damaging in my view. I know it took me a very long time to recover from this and see lecturers and bosses in later life as just ordinary people, and I’m sure it’s the same for many others. The same relationship – creating a kind of “underground” dog-eat-dog kids’ culture – means that bullies and trolls are rewarded while at school, and I think that’s a big reason why they continue this sort of behaviour as adults.

    A lot of battles have been fought over the rights of disadvantaged parts of society – and are still being fought. Sooner or later we will get to a proper appreciation of the fact that children deserve to be recognised as people too, and that if we treat them properly a lot of other problems will get a lot easier to solve.

  55. 55
    M. A. Melby

    “Maybe they really are all heroes, selflessly throwing themselves under the weight of relentless bullying to save the freethought movement from people who will actually do something with it?”

    If so, they aren’t following the most basic of tenants:

    “Don’t feed the trolls.”

    I mean, no one blogger on here is “the freethought movement”. No one person matters that much…not PZ, not Greta, not even Harris or Dawkins. Freethought Blogs is also just not that important.

    I don’t mean that as an insult at all – it’s just so weird that it’s being fetishized like this.

    They are just people who write stuff and speak at conferences. I mean, maybe it’s because I’m not involved in the conference scene yet, that I don’t understand.

    I’ve met Greta Christina briefly and I’ll probably meet PZ sometime soon. If either of them snubbed me (which Greta did NOT by the way), I would feel kinda bad – I might even be a bit put-out. But I’d get over it.

    I think “The Amazing Atheist” is awful, yet he is VERY popular. I don’t like that fact. However, I don’t go dogging his channel constantly or some other sort of asinine behavior.

    So yeah, I don’t get it. Perhaps the emotional investment is completely personal – that they have been meat-space real-life friends? There is a reason that conflict between lovers and spouses trends to be more intense than with perfect strangers.

    I had someone I barely know, who I interact with online, joke about doing something horrible to my son. It was incredibly inappropriate and there was a social shit-storm about it. Believe it or not, I still interact with the guy.

    I had someone who used to babysit my children, who I know does not have many friends, who has deep emotional problems, and has a very difficult life. When she pushed our relationship too far, and I resisted that, she lashed out at me. I moved recently, and I don’t want her to know where I live.

    The devil is in the details.

    In this case though, I think there is a simplicity here. People have an obligation to respect the space of someone else. Spaces on the internet are no different. Respect for boundaries and space is the conversation that’s been happening for over a year, right?

    It shouldn’t be so difficult.

    When someone refuses to respect your space, it absolutely points to a level of emotional investment that is inappropriate, and frickin’ creepy.

    I don’t know if I’m being naive or what.

  56. 56
    Max

    Julian,
    I am decidedly not arguing for the blond rich kid in the story. I had to deal with my own blond rich kid in grade school and his cohorts. It wasn’t fun.

    I am not the teachers in the story, but thank you for demonstrating that this story can be so easily used as an allegory for current events. I am against bullying in all its forms and I am demonstrating no mock concern.

    Your foul mood is no justification for you immediate incivility, or you foolish assumptions about me.

    I won’t hold my breath for your apology.

  57. 57
    Forbidden Snowflake

    If so, they aren’t following the most basic of tenantstenets:

    “Don’t feed the trolls.”

    No, they aren’t.

  58. 58
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    However, it is limited as an analogy for adult interactions.

    In school, especially when you are a child, you don’t have as many options to deal with situations as you do when you are an adult.

    That’s why the analogy was about the behaviour of the adults, you know.
    The problem in that story wasn’t that the kids were nasty assholes. The problem was that the “reasonable adult” didn’t pay attention to everything that was going on but decided to weigh in heavily on the perceived wrongdoing of one side.

  59. 59
    iknklast

    This hit home. In my sixth grade, I was “Jeff”. Not because I had a learning disorder, not because I had a behavior disorder, but because I was shy, because I was from the wrong side of the tracks, and because I dressed funny…and I was taller than all the boys in the class (I’m female) and wore glasses. None of the other kids wore glasses. Oh, yes, and I went to the wrong church – serious mistake. All the cool kids went to the same church – I went to the church with almost no kids. It was all people my grandparents age, including my own grandparents. Strange how religion doesn’t divide us, huh?

  60. 60
    Stacy

    Max, I went to bed shortly after posting my last comment last night, so missed your request for followup.

    Specifically I would appreciate it if you could explain why you think Cataphract’s intial comment was like that of the bully in Stephanie’s story. I am curious about why you think this is the case. At present I think you are wrong about this, but I am honestly curious about why you think what you do on this

    It was his second comment, the part I quoted, where he alluded to PZ’s heart problems, that I directed to Justin’s attention.

    I think that comment is out of bounds and a demonstration of serious bad faith. There are a handful of players in this that I have come to despise, but if one of them had heart problems I would not post a sneering comment about how death or extreme ill health might put an end to the conflict.

  61. 61
    Stacy

    @M A Melby:

    I don’t mean that as an insult at all – it’s just so weird that it’s being fetishized like this.

    RAmen and QFT. It is weird, and the people who are inclined to excuse or dismiss it don’t seem to perceive the weirdness of it. And the people doing the fetishizing don’t seem to realize that maybe there’s something…problematic about their obsession. I mean, if I don’t like a blog, I, like you, just don’t…read that blog. I don’t troll it.

  62. 62
    Ben Zvan

    I think Justin was trying for some civility between fellow atheists and skeptics from free thought blogs and ERV. It was well-intentioned but just didn’t quite work.

    Nothing involving ERV seems to quite work.

  63. 63
    Jamie

    GMM @ 38:

    But Greg DIDN’T apologise to Justin – read his reply, and not ONCE does he say sorry. It’s a notpology of even greater magnitude than DJ Grothe’s… full of weasel words and phrases, and cop outs like “You were right, BUT…” and “I should have, BUT…”, and “I misjudged my tactics… But having said that…”

    Does any of that sound like a legitimate apology to you? Can you see anything close to “I’m sorry, my behaviour was inexcusable etc?”

    And why isn’t Stephanie being as critical of Greg’s notpology as she was of DJ’s?

  64. 64
    Max

    Stacy

    I have to amend one of my earlier comments, the one where I said the only thing Cataphract would have been guilty of was coming up with an incorrect interpretation for Stephanie’s story. He was also out of line to make light of PZ’s heart condition in a way that implied that he’d be more or less okay with PZ’s death.

  65. 65
    GMM

    Hi Jamie

    I went and re-read it. Although he still seems to think Justin was in the wrong for his blog posts on ERV, he did say he absolutely should not have said he was going to kick his ass. He says he just used it metaphorically, but that it was out of line and over the top.

    I can’t speak for Stephanie, I don’t know her and don’t know what her opinion is on this.

  66. 66
    ischemgeek

    This post reminded me too much of my schooling. My third grade teacher initiated and instigated the bullying I experienced throughout the rest of school until I went to university.

    I was bullied to the point that when I got to uni, people making sudden motions would make me flinch reflexively, and I was amazed by how nice people were simply because they were talking to me respectfully.

    Reading this post sent me to an upset funk for about an hour because that was my life for about ten years. I had a huge rant about my experiences written up and then realized it wasn’t really relevent.

    The biggest difference is that online, the people trying to use false equivalence and so on like that don’t have the power to punish you for standing up for yourself anymore. They can’t tell you that you need to go to your room until you calm down because you dare to be upset that someone called you names deliberately in the most hurtful way possible. They don’t have the weight of authority when they tell you that you only feel bad because you’re “letting” them get to you. They don’t have the power of parentage when they tell you not to be so sensitive. And they don’t have the ability to send your peers after you in droves and align your superiors against you, the way my third grade teacher did to me. And I think that having the ability and the power to decide for yourself how you’ll react to it – without having to fear the reaction of someone who has authority over you but who you know from experience does not have the inclination to give a dispassionate and thorough evaluation of the situation before jumping to conclusions and rendering their judgement – makes a huge difference.

    But, yeah. When they don’t have the support of one in power (the way they did when I was in third grade), that’s exactly how they do it.

  67. 67
    Ben Zvan

    I should also mention that when I was in high school, I was in Jeff’s position. I didn’t have any disabilities except for a lack of social skills and the fact that I was clever. I was the target of a lot of bullying and I learned pretty quickly that my retribution had to come when the teacher was not looking. Once a bully “fell down” when trying to shoulder-check me into the lockers. That was pretty much the end of it.

  68. 68
    Robert

    I can remember eating lunch in the foyer of the principal’s office for QUITE some time in elementary school. One of the books on the table (for kids waiting to see the principal) was on Sonics and Supersonics. Recess was an interesting time, until I discovered something. As soon as any kid started teasing, bullying or harassing me, I would go to the playground attendant and report them. Over and over and over. Soon, every kid knew I would not respect the Kid’s Code, and WOULD rat them out. Also, I was the sixth child of seven, and my parents had been in the PTA for that school district for a decade and a half. Strangely, the school staff got the message that I was to be believed, unless they wanted my sharp-tongued mother to come visit.

    I have promised myself that I will be as vigorous a defender of my own children. They will not be bullied, nor will they bully.

    Of course, all this was made possible by my complete disinterest in ‘being friends’ with any of those juvenile pithecanthropoids. If I had wanted to ‘fit in’, things would have been much harder.

  69. 69
    smhll

    Damn, I wished you people could make up your mind…
    Are we an echo-chamber that worships PZ or are we just barely tolerating him as long as he amuses us until we will sacrifice him on the altair of the allmighty vagina?

    BOTH! It’s a Machiavellian thing. And here, I refer to Mrs. Machiavelli.

  70. 70
    baal

    Public shaming of children in school is not a solution to bullying. All it does is present a giant target with the blessing of the authority on who can be the next target. As much as I have hate towards bullies (and I do, so much so that I have to watch my responses when I see it), this is not the way forward. It’s a version of retribution and just creates more harm.

    Anyone who tries to defend themselves will have their inevitable failure read to the class, so that everyone knows what is going on inside this person’s head.

    I moved a lot as a child and was bullied for several totally irrelevant reasons (including being a yankee in the south at a time when I had no idea what a yankee is (not that i really do now either)). Almost every authority I’ve seen (including at least one blog host here at FTB, vagueness is intentional) are not interested in the complaint that someone is a bully. Who counts and who doesn’t seems to depend on highly personal views on the specific parties involved and what exact act is getting called out.

    Often times I was the Jeff in the story above. More often, I did intervene but not necessarily in the best way or for the best reasons. I would ping the radar the shiny guy, it was not always avoidable so I didn’t try. Invariably, I was able or couldn’t avoid having the shiny physically attack me first in front of teachers (careful timing on my part). I fight really well and won the physical part. Being clearly not the instigator, I won the punishment phase as well. I can’t say I did this to protect the Jeff (though that was the usual outcome) rather that I had a method for dealing with bullies that was effective.

    For the record, I never had a fight with anyone who wasn’t damn shiny and I’d first hand multiple experiences being bullied or watched bullying.

    Also, thanks Max for your comments on this thread.

  71. 71
    DJMankiwitz

    I moved nearly every year I was in school. This was more or less just a series of accidents of circumstance and not some overarching plan. I didn’t move to other states, I simply ended up in different school districts in the same city. Too many teachers annoyed me with constantly asking how that “made me feel”, not understanding that to me it was normal. I wasn’t hurt or scared or terrified of moving, just of being in school.

    Anyway, my school experience is similar to Jeff’s above. I only ever made a handful of friends across all those years. Most of the time, I was basically just incapable of figuring out exactly how I was screwing up “basic social interaction”. Of course, it was a SCHOOL, learning social interaction from other kids is the worst possible way to do it. I had to unlearn all my “locked in” and defensive ways the moment I got out of high school, finding out the adult world is much different. (On a personal note, anyone that argues that public school is “an important tool to teach kids social skills” doesn’t know a damn thing. I never learned anything but the worst lessons about how society worked from within school, and instead as an adult have only really used the social skills I learned from interacting with my siblings and, chiefly, my parents and other adults I could trust.

    Anyway, school was a nightmare, but fortunately I had a GREAT life at home, and was raised by very caring parents (who felt incredibly powerless every day they sent me back to that school). I think those connections were what saved me from a fate like Jeff’s. I didn’t exactly have a life of luxury, in that I never was able to go to college (incidentally, showing college as just the “obvious next step” in sitcoms shows the writer’s inability to comprehend what it’s like to have less). However, I was able to eventually get into a good position thanks to some self taught computer skills.

    Bullying in school is one of the biggest obstacles to a solid education. Currently, schools are like a prison with “away time”. Kids would be better served by being kept away from each other while there, but logistically I have no idea how to achieve this.

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