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Kid Zangeif
March 15, 2011 3:21 AM   Subscribe

Long-time bullying victim finally snaps: a video of an incident at a Sydney High School has gone viral over the internet three days prior to Australia's National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence. Police and bullying experts are concerned about the level of online support that the fed-up victim's actions have received after the video, filmed by his miscalculating tormentors, was posted to Youtube (since removed and reposted multiple times). The 16 year-old has been suspended from school, but already has an online tribute to his actions and thousands of Facebook supporters.
posted by moorooka (728 comments total) 47 users marked this as a favorite

 
I wish I hadn't watched that.

For anyone not wanting to and missing the description of the video on the site... a boy is being picked on by 5 youths. A smaller kid is punching and taunting the larger boy. The larger boy 'snaps' and picks up the smaller boy and dumps him head-first onto the concrete.
posted by panaceanot at 3:31 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


While I share the general sentiment that what the bullied boy did was understandable and even admirable, I'm not sure the "online tribute" thing is a great idea. Is there really any need to publicise his full name and face? He's just a kid, and he deserves some anonymity - not having this to follow him around for the rest of his life.

And the whole "Start a college fund!" thing just seems like a hysterical overreaction.
posted by Ted Maul at 3:35 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I struggle with maintaining compassion even for the bullies in situations like this. I mean, he's 14, I'm sure he's been taught to bully, violence is never the answer, etc.

I try my best. Sometimes I do better, sometimes I do worse.

Tonight, I'm not doing that well, and I think the little shit got what was coming to him, and maybe from now on he'll respond with a uncontrollable, twitching fear when he contemplates what could come of teasing the next fat kid.
posted by Myca at 3:37 AM on March 15, 2011 [34 favorites]


That little kid is either incredibly stupid or was coerced into picking the fight.

My money's on the latter.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:39 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


In the end, there's only one thing bullies respect, and that's sticking up for yourself. You can't rely on teachers or anyone else, to stop bullying. Bullies like to pick on the easiest target they can find, and you can bet they'll find an easier target than this kid next time.
posted by salmacis at 3:42 AM on March 15, 2011 [67 favorites]


I was bullied for a short time in school, responded like this and was never bullied again. It works.
posted by Joe Chip at 3:42 AM on March 15, 2011 [44 favorites]


I was bullied for years when I was at school. Going to teachers, my parents, talking about my feelings, none of that helped. What stopped the bullying was when I punched the ringleader as hard as I was physically able right in the mouth while all his friends were watching him.

My kids are now six, four and two. If one were to come to me at 12, 13, 14 or so to complain about being bullied, I honestly don't know if I would tell him that violence is not the answer. In my experience violence was the only answer.

Furthermore, as an adult, if someone were to try to bully me at my workplace, I'd either hit them, call the police, or both. Why are the rules different for kids?
posted by MighstAllCruckingFighty at 3:48 AM on March 15, 2011 [26 favorites]


We don't believe that violence is ever the answer. We believe there are other ways that children can manage this.

Reality is what refuses to go away when you stop believing in it.
posted by effugas at 3:50 AM on March 15, 2011 [145 favorites]


I was bullied in Junior High School.

Eventually I snapped and fought back (didn't break any bones, though I did flatten a couple of noses). I wasn't picked on again after that.

But the viral thing? Way over the top.
posted by bwg at 3:50 AM on March 15, 2011


*Not sure why I sad 'him' in my second paragraph. What I said applies equally to my daughter as well of course.
posted by MighstAllCruckingFighty at 3:53 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have to say that I cheered inside when he picked the little shit up and dumped him on the ground. I'm sorry that he broke his ankle, but maybe the little kid will learn that he can't act like that and assume that his bigger friends will protect him.

At my school the aggressive little kids always picked on the bigger kids to show how hard they were, and I wish a few of them had been taught this lesson.

(Although you could also say that the little kid will now be even more aggressive, but only attack much smaller kids after this)

Oh - and the tribute thing is totally ott, and I wish that would stop.
posted by DanCall at 4:00 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Schools won't protect kids from bullies, but they'll prosecute victims to the fullest extent possible.

Nonetheless, that bully will likely think twice before he bullies again.

I hate bullies.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:00 AM on March 15, 2011 [22 favorites]


From the SMH article:
Their triumphant response to the older boy's retaliation surprised seasoned experts.

Are you fucking kidding me?
posted by dhens at 4:01 AM on March 15, 2011 [65 favorites]


You don't strictly have to fight bullies to make them leave you alone... you just have to make yourself too much effort to pick on. Aikido, for instance, works fine.

Yes, I tried it. It didn't really take much effort.
posted by LogicalDash at 4:01 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


That little kid is either incredibly stupid or was coerced into picking the fight.

My money's on the latter.


Or both, or incredibly stupid, egged on, and a borderline sociopath besides (OK all kids that age could be in all three categories at times). He got what was coming to him. That said, he probably doesn't quite deserve to be immortalized on the Internet as much as he deserved a pummeling.

BTW, that was not "dumped head first".

I had two fights that ended similarly after what seemed like endless provocation as a kid. In most ways, for me, the kids that provoked me by jabbing me physically weren't as scarring as the ones that ganged up on me socially.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:01 AM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


i used to get picked on during high school. luckily for me this was right around the time the columbine shootings happened, so once i started wearing KMFDM and manson t-shirts and joking about mass murder nobody picked on me anymore...
posted by Ziggy Zaga at 4:03 AM on March 15, 2011 [9 favorites]


Almost all school's reactions to anti-bullying actions are either really shameful or completely clueless. What's up with this? Are the administrators of schools and these non-profits bullies themselves, and that's why they can't understand peoples reactions and prosecute the victim too, or are they just complete fucking idiots who never had a clue about anything their entire life?
posted by fuq at 4:04 AM on March 15, 2011 [14 favorites]


That reminds me, one of my tormentors was a little guy in the same grade. He was a typical 'banty rooster' small guy, the type to shoot off his mouth to show how tough he was.

It was only after I threatened to haul him off the school bus and pound him into the dirt that he learned to shut up around me.
posted by bwg at 4:06 AM on March 15, 2011


As far as I can, the larger boy was acting in self-defense to an unprovoked assault. It seemed reasonable to me.
posted by b33j at 4:07 AM on March 15, 2011 [23 favorites]


I did have an unpleasant reaction to the smaller boy hitting the ground, but I doubt the larger intended it to go that way, quite so brutal - it seemed unplanned and uncoordinated.
posted by b33j at 4:09 AM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


I was bullied for a short time in school, responded like this and was never bullied again. It works.

Just joining the pro-violence chorus.

In middle school I did not respond like this and was bullied for three years. My parents encouraged me, sent me to karate school, begged me to fight back, but I was small and cowardly. Middle school was an extremely unpleasant experience.

By the time high school came around, I had already mentally snapped. I made up my mind over the summer that violence was the only answer. My first day of high school, some upperclassman starts messing with me I slugged him in the face as hard as my 14 year old arms could - and continued to do so - until two teachers pulled me off him. I can still see his bloody, surprised face.

I was never bullied in High School and I ended up being sort of friendly with that bully.
posted by three blind mice at 4:11 AM on March 15, 2011 [9 favorites]


Didn't that kid listen to Pearl Jam? "We unleashed a lion..."
posted by Burhanistan at 4:11 AM on March 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


Ha ha ha ha! Awesome!

OK, got that out of the way. Now, we don't know the circumstances before/after this video. We know what we see, and we think we know the set-up, but we don't. Maybe the older kid was an enormous bully himself, and this was the 12-year-olds ganging up on him, and it all went horribly wrong? I mean, I don't think that's it - neither do you - but we have no real idea. And over the next few weeks this is going to be all over the Internet, with people opining all over the place and dribs and drabs of factoids coming out and people drawing crazy conclusions from anecdotes and pictures and Facebook profiles, and the lawsuits will fly, and we'll never really know what the whole story was. We'll have bitter ex-geeks, concerned parents, expert educators, childless people, teenagers, old people, all using this episode to argue their particular viewpoint and arguing over exactly what happened.

So let's be straight up: while we don't know and never will exactly what happened there, it doesn't really matter. We know exactly what it looks like: somebody getting bullied strikes back.

And that's great.
posted by alasdair at 4:12 AM on March 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


That little kid is either incredibly stupid

Puny, cowardly bully in acting like jumped up overconfident asshole shocker.

I wish I hadn't watched that.

Best thing I've seen in years. It's hard to come up with a metaphor for the way the guy disdainfully throws the bully into the concrete and breaks his bones, I will have to settle for comparing it to one of those "guy falls into Polarbear enclosure" home videos. It was that uneven a contest in the end. If only every person who has been picked on had the strength of that boy.
posted by fire&wings at 4:12 AM on March 15, 2011 [9 favorites]


This illustrates a sad fact. Violence and harrassment against adults, we're told, is unacceptable, and regularly condemned. Yet when confronted with violence we popularly celebrate it - especially if it involves children and it confirms to our narrative.

Of course, the argument is that the law-makers and powerful in society still abhor it, but this [celebrated] violence is the direct result of probably hours of untold violence and harrassment that we may not celebrate, but that we ignore, perpetuate, or tacitly encourage.

Violence in all forms is to be deplored. No one - child or adult - should ever feel that it is the best, or only option. It's an indictment on the school, teachers, and Australian culture moreso than either kid.

I have been mercilessly bullied at school. I've spoken about my revenge on both admin and bullies here before. I have also been hit, and no one should be hit.
posted by smoke at 4:12 AM on March 15, 2011 [16 favorites]


...are they just complete fucking idiots who never had a clue about anything their entire life?

Education is the refuge of idiots.
posted by sonic meat machine at 4:13 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


In the end, there's only one thing bullies respect, and that's sticking up for yourself.

Haha, no. Especially when there are more of them than there are of you.

It doesn't feel good to have done it, the heavy kid is probably scared out of his wits, and for a moment, it looked like he was going to have to trade blows with another boy, even tho he wasn't happy having had to kick the first kid's ass. If the little kid was popular, the big kid's life is now completely in the shit, as they will gang up on him, and escalate the violence.

Most of the time it's easier for teachers to not have to deal with bullying, or they like the bullies, as they're popular and witty and charming, and the victims are plodding nerds or uncomfortable weirdos. Oh, I'm sorry, life is not like children's TV, and the worst bullies are not overgrown oafs... they're sweet talkers and impish rascals who are satan incarnate to easy targets. Since Columbine, it's gotten much worse for victims, as they're now seen as threats rather than, you know, scared and hurt kids.

There's only one thing bullies respect, and that's discipline and oversight by fucking adults. The zero-tolerance crap has got to go, and standards of behavior towards your fellow students taught and enforced.

Demanding your rights as a law-abiding citizen to be free of physical harm and psychological torment is pretty standard fare in adult society. Why do the schools allow these little monster-packs to get away with tormenting someone until he lashes out physically? Why do otherwise sane people insist that you have to be a victim until you physically hurt someone?
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:15 AM on March 15, 2011 [104 favorites]


I have to say, I'm genuinely surprised at the gleeful reaction to this. Two children have been injured here. You think the big kid is happy now? Will sleep well?

Two wrongs truly don't make a right, and assault is assault. Do you guys with Death Wish was true as well?
posted by smoke at 4:15 AM on March 15, 2011 [8 favorites]


This has been passed around my network all morning, but I'm not too sure about it. I was a nerdy, creepy kid growing up - fit all the negative stereotypes. But I can't remember being bullied. The match up in the video seemed really uneven, and the violence of the bigger kid just a bit too much.
I was going to pass it along, but then I thought about MetaFilter and how you would explain how much pain the younger kid would be in after that. Guess I was wrong.

I dunno. If the little kid had been picking on the big one for ages then its different. But just viewing it it looks like the little kid fought the bigger one on a dare or something. he was outmatched
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:17 AM on March 15, 2011


I remember a time when I had started at a new vacation kid-minding place and had been taking Tae Kwon Do for a few years. On the first day when the pecking order was being established I used stopping a roundhouse kick 1cm from the bully's face to great effect. At least martial arts can show you how to use violence without hurting anyone.
posted by Joe Chip at 4:17 AM on March 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


I have to say that I agree with Slap*Happy and smoke's take on the issue. I abhor violence. When I referred to his actions as "admirable" in my previous comment, I meant it only in the sense that it's preferable to being tormented. That doesn't mean it's something we should be gleeful about.

There's a definite vein of revenge-by-proxy or even shadenfreude in a lot of the cheering responses to this, which is sort of unsettling.
posted by Ted Maul at 4:19 AM on March 15, 2011


Two wrongs truly don't make a right, and assault is assault.
Except that's not how the world works, and sometimes violence is the answer, and sometimes someone has been a victim for so long that he must retaliate because the cowardly teachers and principals refuse to do their stated job.

Yeah, avoiding violence only works when there's an authority figure to rein in the sociopath. When everyone is invested in saying that sociopaths don't exist, that everyone is smart in their own way, etc., you get this: a kid who has had enough and breaks someone.

Where were all the non-violent folks to help when he was getting bullied before this? Oh, that's right, ignoring him because they thought he was a "whiner" and a "tattle-tale." Been there.
posted by sonic meat machine at 4:20 AM on March 15, 2011 [35 favorites]


it looks like the big kid did take it for awhile, though

i think the 'protective camofluage' effect after Columbine may have helped make things easier for me, as horrible as it sounds. but i'm not sure
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:21 AM on March 15, 2011


This stand up for yourself only works in limited circumstances such as this one where the bully was punching well above his weight. Even then it does nothing about the underlying problem because now the bullies escalate their violence to others. They find a new target and are more savage to him. The glorification of the respondents actions in this also serves to make the problem worse as it heightens the myth that kids should solve this problem themselves by violence. IIRC There are some very effective anti-bullying programs working around the states right now. These focus more on the broader bullying culture and how to tackle the problem as a phenomena not a single incident.

comments such as:
In the end, there's only one thing bullies respect, and that's sticking up for yourself. You can't rely on teachers or anyone else, to stop bullying. Bullies like to pick on the easiest target they can find, and you can bet they'll find an easier target than this kid next time.

Are the exact wrong solution to this problem. It perpetuates the bully myth. With right training you can rely on teachers and parents to help. You can build social dynamics in the classroom so that peers collectively reduce peer to peer bullying incidents. These are just a matter of education.
posted by humanfont at 4:23 AM on March 15, 2011 [9 favorites]


The older child was very controlled, he walked away when anger could easily have taken over. His manner commands respect and I'm not surprised about the online reaction.

I'm always conscious that bullies normally have extremely poor self-images, I hope the hospitalisation leads to some time for reflection, however I'm also aware that he probably doesn't have the support he needs. Not to take the side of the perpetrator, but I see suffering on both sides here.
posted by misterG at 4:23 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


One of my bitterest elementary school memories is of being bullied at the bus stop and on the bus, despite choosing to sit a few rows behind the driver, for safety. My bully taunted me and my younger sister *every day.* One day, he hopped into the seat behind me and started his usual "Hey, brain, hey book kid" and reached his hand over to poke me. I grabbed his fingers, bent them back as far as I could and damn near broke them.

A few minutes after we had each walked home, his mother called my mother. My mom screamed at me for hurting this kid, who she knew to be a bully, and put the blame squarely on me.

Moral for a fifth-grader: Stand up for yourself. The adults aren't close enough to the ground to see what's going on, and aren't going to protect you, and will blame the closest kid. Also, finger-breaking is an effective deterrent.

Years later, as a parent, I know I should be drawing different lessons. And yet some part of me still hopes that he has lived as small an existence as his early years promised. If my children are ever bullied--and the bully won't respond to good faith efforts to get him to stop--I'm not sure that I won't say "Whomp him, but don't get caught." Because *getting my bully to STOP* made me understand that I was worth standing up for, even if my own mother failed to know it.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:24 AM on March 15, 2011 [23 favorites]


Haha, no. Especially when there are more of them than there are of you.

That's what I discovered - I stood up for myself against a bully, bloodied his nose ... and was met after school by he and his four friends. For the next few years they would throw rocks at my head, or punch me in front of teachers until I found another school to go to. Sometimes retaliation just makes bullies step their bullying up.
posted by cmonkey at 4:25 AM on March 15, 2011 [9 favorites]


No one has won here.



This will not stop violence and bullying in general, and it will not stop it at that particular school, and may even increase it.


All we have done is show a Rorschach test, and gained some insight into what happened in junior high to make mefites today.
posted by jenlovesponies at 4:26 AM on March 15, 2011 [16 favorites]


sometimes violence is the answer

So I take it you support capital punishment in places like Singapore and other forms of state-sanctioned violence? Do you support caning in schools, and the kind of violence we saw in those Korean videos not so long ago?

That shit is fucked up. We can't tell people that violence and harrassment is wrong, except when somebody deserves it, you know. Who gets to the decide that? Freedom from shit like that is a basic human right, and nobody should be able to take it away, however justified they feel.

The real guilty parties are off the frame in this video; the adults reinforcing the mores that tacitly condone violence with the right qualification. I have to say, I'm seeing a lot of it in this thread.
posted by smoke at 4:28 AM on March 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


It's a very interesting question what YouTube is going to do to bullying. On the one hand, you have social media amplifying fights (people love watching fights. LOVE watching. It's hard-wired, I think because it's a status evaluation game).

On the other hand, it's objective evidence which is (potentially) hard to ignore. We're going to see the first case of kids using social media to bust their attackers sometime this year.
posted by effugas at 4:29 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


IIRC There are some very effective anti-bullying programs working around the states right now. These focus more on the broader bullying culture and how to tackle the problem as a phenomena not a single incident.

Yeah, about those programs. They are "statistically" effective, which in education means "ineffective." My school had an anti-bullying program and actually crowed one month about "no bullying incidents" – the same month that I broke a bully's nose after he attacked me on the playground. My teacher actually knew that I was in the right, and during my after-school detention allowed me to bring in books to read... but it wasn't a "bullying incident," no sir! not to the principal and counselors.
posted by sonic meat machine at 4:30 AM on March 15, 2011 [10 favorites]


We can't tell people that violence and harrassment is wrong, except when somebody deserves it, you know.

Hasn't self defense long been considered a justified?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:30 AM on March 15, 2011 [23 favorites]


s/a//
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:31 AM on March 15, 2011


So I take it you support capital punishment in places like Singapore and other forms of state-sanctioned violence? Do you support caning in schools, and the kind of violence we saw in those Korean videos not so long ago?

False equivalence. When you have power, you can refrain from violence and are morally obligated to do so. When attacked by someone of equal power with no recourse to effective higher authority, what do you do? Allow them to injure you? No. You respond.
posted by sonic meat machine at 4:33 AM on March 15, 2011 [26 favorites]


I was bullied by a group of kids. Not physically, I was bigger than any of them individually, but emotionally, for two and a half years during middle school. They made fun of my looks, my weight, my religion (I was one of the few Jews in school), and whatever else they could (I was an easy target, and reacted). Apparently, they would sometimes call each other up outside of school to plan things), and I spent a good portion of seventh grade in the nurses office' once I learned the proper way to fake sick (and raise my temperature enough). There would be whole days I would spend in the nurses' office, just to hide out from these people.

At some point in eighth grade, I decided I had enough. One of the people, who sat next to me and cracked fat jokes all class, got rabbit punched in his left side whenever he made a fat joke and the teacher's back was turned. True to my word, I only responded when he made a fat joke, and a couple weeks into this, he showed me his left side, which was a mass of bruises, just swollen and painful. I told him that he could stop it at any time by stopping the fat jokes. And he got the point.

Another kid was one day make jew jokes in tech ed (shop class), calling me jew bagel, making oven comments, things like that. I ignored him the entire class, left, and walked to my next class, which was probably also his class (GT kids can bully and can be bullied by the same). In my middle school, lockers were not against walls, but in freestanding rows in the center of school. As I walked away from him, not responding verbally, and trying to physically ignore him (though I am certain my shoulders visibly tensed), he followed me into a row of lockers and got too close. I whipped around, and in one movement grabbed him by the neck, lifted him, and held him to the lockers by his neck. I'm not sure where the strength was, but I held him against the lockers off the ground by his neck, and said very clearly, that it would be a good idea if he left me alone and stopped making the jew jokes. I dropped him, he crumbled to the ground, and I calmly walked away to class, leaving him gasping.

One of the guys had the misfortune to be paired with me in wrestling, and I demolished him. Beat him soundly, in the confines of wrestling, but made it clear that despite being fat and unathletic (all of them were more athletic than me), I was more than capable of handling him, and possibly misuse my ju jitsu training of pressure points to cause him pain. I told him that he should leave me alone.

The last guy, a skinny little jerk who was generally the instigator, and in my mind these years later has the high pitched voice of Judge Doom from Roger Rabbit. It was the last week of school, and I was so happy to be going to a magnet high school, away from all these people. My infantile notions of justice made me feel that this last guy needed something. We shared homeroom, so leaving one day, I called his name out in the hall, and as he was looking at me, I palmed his head, and gave it a quick push once or twice into the concrete wall. Not enough for serious injury, but enough.

These days, I am torn on these memories. I'd imagine that none of these guys remember me, I was probably nothing. But even now, well past college, I remember them. Learning to deal with the bullying made me angry, prone to not handling things well, and generally more than a bit bitter. I had friends in middle school, and despite the bullying (and spending a good portion of seventh grade in the nurses' office), I excelled academically. I went to middle school a couple years before Columbine, and I never approached teachers or faculty (much), so I don't know how they would have reacted, or how they would have fixed things. What could my parents have done, beyond being as loving and supporting as they were? Of getting me ju jitsu lessons, teaching me self-control? But, there seemed to be something very satisfying about playground justice.

I can't say I am proud of how I dealt with my bullies, or of handling it with violence. But there is a part of me even now that cannot help but look back with fondness at having got them back in some way. I went to a white, middle class middle school, and I wasn't physically bullied, but I feel like it left its mark on me. I could have done with the solid months of nightmares that left me gasping awake (perpetual dark circles is a good way to convince the nurse that you need to spend the day in a dark room however). I could have dealt with the learned response to stress by getting angry and ridiculous. I had a good time in high school, I had friends, and extra-curriculars, I wasn't bullied, but I was known as a person more angry and bitter than I should have been, than I wanted to be (there was the time that I let certain people on the football team know that I did not appreciate them using the word "jew" as an all-around pejorative, it was only later that I learned that a good portion of the football team, who were all quite larger of me, were also scared of me). I spent the latter years of college and since, relearning how to be a good person, teaching myself better ways of handling things. I'm still learning, and it's a process.

In the summer between middle school and high school, I was playing a game with neighbors. One of the neighbors, a guy who had been bossing and bullying me since early childhood (he once threw an iceball at my face, opening a bloody gash up all around my eye), came to play, and we ignored him (even the guy's brother). He came back, fwapping a baseball bat in his hand, and saying in his best threatening voice "Anyone up for baseball?" His intention was clear. The game stopped, and by this point I had learned the value of good intimidation (thank you Batman). Walking slowly towards him with a look of pure crazy, I started to challenge him, what was he going to do, hit me with the bat? Fine, hit me! I'm in his face now, leering over him, screaming "Hit me you fuck!" And as he was backing away, I snatched the baseball bat from his hands, threw it away, and without breaking eye contact, told him to get the hell away from me. I went to my magnet high school partly so I wouldn't have to deal with neighbors like him, and I never had to deal with his kind again.

So I can't fell all that sorry for the bullies. I'm sure they had circumstances too, I'm sure that they had reasons and histories. But years later, I can still remember being bullied, and it still colors my life in ways that I sometimes wish it didn't. I can't imagine what bullying is like now, on Facebook and through mediums of technology that we didn't have when I was in middle school. Or to be physically bullied, to feel like there is little recourse, and that your life is going to always be like that.

It gets better, it does. Hopefully most of you will grow out of the ugly duckling stage (I'm still overweight, but I'm told I carry it better). Hopefully most of you will be able to construct your own lives and social situations, surround yourself with people you actually like and enjoy, rather than those forced around you by fate and the vagaries of school district lines. Try not to let the bad times color and ruin your life forever, but I do know how hard it was.
posted by X-Himy at 4:35 AM on March 15, 2011 [52 favorites]


There's only one thing bullies respect, and that's discipline and oversight by fucking adults.

This has not been my experience at all. In my experience, bullies respect their peers (other bullies) and tend to mock and disregard adults and authority, at least behind their backs. Getting caught and punished may be a deterrent, but unless the abuse becomes physical (and often even after that), getting the bully caught is difficult. Seeing that they're punished is harder. Having a vice principle or teacher give a kid a stern talking-to for making fun of other kids (and when I was in middle school, most of the bullying I experienced was vocal) will probably only result in some eye-rolling and an escalation in the bullying.

I'm not sure there will ever be an end to bullying. Bullying is a symptom with many causes that often reach back into the home. If anyone can speak to the effectiveness of some of the Anti-Bullying programs going on at various schools, I'd love to hear about those.

Because violence might "work" in instances such as this, but it's never a solution.
posted by Maaik at 4:37 AM on March 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


I fail to see the problem. Self defense is okay in my book. Little fucker certainly had it coming.
posted by JLovebomb at 4:39 AM on March 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


Smoke, you are decrying violence on one hand and proud of poisoning bullies on the other. The message is more than a little mixed here.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:40 AM on March 15, 2011 [8 favorites]


But just viewing it it looks like the little kid fought the bigger one on a dare or something. he was outmatched

You can clearly see the bravura and relish in his bouncing around humiliating the bigger child. There is no way he was forced into doing that. People wondering why a small child would pick on a bigger one have little experience of bullies.

I abhor violence.

It wasn't really violence, he just picked him up and moved him away from the vicinity of his person using adequate force.

I've never been bullied, but I imagine some of these well meaning keyboard sermons might be tough to call to mind when you're being pummeled in the face and laughed at by a crowd of your contemporaries. Like thinking what you might or might not be tacitly condoning, weighing up Australian society at large, considering the bullying problem from all angles. Pausing for a second as you are jabbed repeatedly in the stomach and wondering, is a violent response really the answer here? He wasn't sadistic, he wasn't excessive, and he walked away at the end. If there exists a swifter way to end a potentially dangerous confrontation than that I'd like to hear it. It is a blessing that he was big and strong enough to even have a choice, because for many the only choice is to sit helplessly and take whatever is coming. For all the debate on the wider issues of bullying and mealy mouthed discussion on the exact circumstances of why the small guy is hitting the big guy, or how they might both be bullies etc, who knows where this confrontation might have ended if it wasn't brought to a swift conclusion?

So I take it you support capital punishment in places like Singapore and other forms of state-sanctioned violence? Do you support caning in schools, and the kind of violence we saw in those Korean videos not so long ago?

Lol.

We can't tell people that violence and harrassment is wrong, except when somebody deserves it, you know.

The guy did the minimum required to end the confrontation, looks like basic self defense to me.

I find the level of whataboutery in here highly disturbing. A child is set upon and all sorts of lines are being trotted out to try and level the playing field because he was equipped to retaliate.
posted by fire&wings at 4:41 AM on March 15, 2011 [31 favorites]


"Don't fuck this up, Mitchell!"
posted by bwg at 4:41 AM on March 15, 2011


I'm willing to bet that the bigger kid had taken a whole lot of grief before this. I'm also willing to bet that the bully is a smart-arsed spoilt brat whose parents have mollycoddled him and allowed him to do whatever he pleases. I call those kids Tarquins: "Tarquin, darling, don't punch that fat child, he can't help being fat" before the parent turns back to their lattes or shopping while Tarquin just goes ahead and does whatever the hell he wants.

There's a lot of this in Australian schools, and I could tell you a long story about how my son was punched and kicked at his first football training session, and how the coach was horrified that I was, gasp, not letting my son play league this year because of it. In my opinion, the four older kids should have been disciplined at least, or kicked out at best. In their opinion... they're just boys being boys, let your son come along, we'll protect him.

I hope, if I gave birth to one of those two kids in the video, that my son was the one who took seven punches and then turned the smart-arsed smart-mouthed hero on his head. (Only broke his ankle? Damn. Better luck next time.)
posted by malibustacey9999 at 4:41 AM on March 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


I might be seeing I Spit On Your Grave tomorrow or another one of those movies where someone systematically gets revenge on a group of perpetrators. X-Himy's comment reminded me more of that than of anything approaching reality.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:42 AM on March 15, 2011


Violence isn't an acceptable societal solution. It is however often a perfectly adequate solution for an individual defending themselves.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:42 AM on March 15, 2011 [52 favorites]


You can build social dynamics in the classroom so that peers collectively reduce peer to peer bullying incidents. These are just a matter of education.

This made me laugh out loud. Sorry. It is a nice theory.
posted by three blind mice at 4:44 AM on March 15, 2011 [15 favorites]


So I take it you support capital punishment in places like Singapore and other forms of state-sanctioned violence?

There's a continuum between killing someone, having them caned and punching them in the moment they're hurting you. But yes, if you include the state sanctioned violence that allows the police to physically restrain and stun people, it's a necessary evil. As a general rule you trade your right to commit acts of violence for a stable society, but in the immediate moment of being assaulted intervention on the part of the victim or passers by is an acceptable substitute.

It's not like the kid took a gun and camped out in front of his bully's house or had a large quantity of armed people hold the other kid down while he administered a flogging.
posted by Phalene at 4:44 AM on March 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


Australian culture also seems pretty physical, for lack of a better word. Sports heroes with obvious muscle and little padding getting into violent, fight-like games. There's a premium placed on physical confrontation that seems to reduce deaths but still leads to violence, i guess.

I hope members of my family don't get bullied by Aussies....
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:45 AM on March 15, 2011


Self defense is okay in my book.

And that's exactly what this is, he didn't kick the kid once he was down, he walked away.
posted by misterG at 4:45 AM on March 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


Sonic, the world is not so easily divided between powerful and powerless. Today's bully can be yesterday's and tomorrow's victim and vice versa. The bully that broke my nose was being abused at home by his father, for example.

Focussing on the individuals, or the individual acts is understandable - especially when they evoke powerful memories for so many of us - but wrong because it ignores the cause of violence: The larger ecosystem of assault and disempowerment that that promotes and supports these actions - an ecosystem we engage with when we promote and support assault and harrassment.
posted by smoke at 4:46 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't understand the mechanism by which adults forget what it is like being a child. How do adults grow up being, being the victims of, or witnessing the acts of vicious little monsters and somehow re-conceptualize this as "kids being kids," and harmless hazing?

I will never forget. Seriously, the fear that a child of mine would be bullied at school and I would have no solutions, even though I was a children's therapist for years and supposedly should have some specialized insight, is one really big reason why I have decided not to have children of my own. Bullying seems to be a problem without any really effective solutions that I have seen. But for the adults in a bullied child's life to deny their day-to-day reality and tell the kids essentially to "walk it off" is to victimize a bullied child all over again.
posted by thebrokedown at 4:47 AM on March 15, 2011 [35 favorites]


I wish I hadn't watched that.

I think I'll watch it every morning with my coffee.

No--this isn't a considered political or moral position. Merely an emotional response from someone who was bullied for years many decades ago.
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:48 AM on March 15, 2011 [17 favorites]


Lovecraft in Brooklyn, I have to agree. I didn't systematically search my bullies out, and except for the last guy, I didn't plan any of my "revenge." I was only able to get it due to circumstance, luck, and the fact that I was simply bigger than any of the people who spent a few years emotionally bullying me (and physically bullying others). I didn't want to get suspended or expelled for fighting, so I never "snapped" and went all out on someone.

And while I can take a small bit of personal satisfaction in getting my bullies back, but the larger satisfaction just isn't there. I spent high school and even college embittered and touched by middle school. Hell, I'm talking about it now, when I am ostensibly an adult, it's something that left a mark on me, and I've been trying to shrug that off for years. Getting revenge isn't something that makes me happy, or made me happy, I was still a bit hollowed by it, and not quite able to be a better friend to people who deserved better from me. Since then, I've tried to make up to them for being a sometimes-jerk of a friend, and there's a difference between the friends that knew me in high school (and are generally amazed in the ways that I've changed, and the friends I've gotten since then, who never knew me as I was (and still sometimes feel inside). It's hard to get rid of your inner loser.
posted by X-Himy at 4:51 AM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Smoke, you are decrying violence on one hand and proud of poisoning bullies on the other. The message is more than a little mixed here.

You're right, I vacillate about those actions regularly, it's something I feel quite conflicted about. I suppose it's easier for me to have the gut reaction against violence - having been a victim of sustained violence in a bad way that's taken me many years to get over (and is still taking time, if I'm frank) - than a similar reaction against poisoning with ipecac syrup, something I've thus far avoided. It's not right, but there it is.
posted by smoke at 4:51 AM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Well, now I feel like a jerk for making that too personal. Sorry.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:55 AM on March 15, 2011


Australian culture is not only physical, it is pro-bully. The reason "experts" are "surprised" at the online reaction to this video is because usually they are surrounded by typical Australians, who take a "kids will be kids" approach, where it's okay to taunt and punch someone every day but a victim who snaps and retaliates more severely "can't take a joke." For them, this incident is an oafish monster seriously injuring a lovable larrikin for no good reason -- can't he take a joke?

Online, though, there are enough nerds even in Australia to create a critical mass supporting victims rather than bullies. Hence, the surprise. It's like how Scott Pilgrim turned out to be much less popular in the real world than it was online, only time-reversed.

I agree with the posters who say that this is not a good outcome. The big kid probably does feel very bad, and he might be facing some retaliation in future (they're already going up against him in groups). But the people who should be held responsible are the bullies and, to a greater extent, the teachers and administrative staff at the school who, I would bet $100, knew about the bullying and did nothing because they wanted to stay in the bullies' good graces.
posted by No-sword at 4:56 AM on March 15, 2011 [16 favorites]


No problem at all, I deserved it, and you meant nothing by it. I illustrated my own point with my behaviour; it's very easy to forget the big picture with this stuff and slip into a narrative mode about good characters and bad. Much as I hated the bullies, I should really have been poisoning the principal and deputy who ignored my requests for help. They were the ones who made the harrassment possible.

Likewise, my more personal issues arguably have the wrong target, the aggressor not the authority - though I grant you a someone 17-21 is harder to excuse over a period of years.
posted by smoke at 5:00 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


My nephew, bless him, was very large and quick-tempered, so bullies didn't bother him, but he made it a personal crusade to challenge the tormentors of other kids, since school and parents wouldn't make them stop. I wish somebody like him had been around when I was in school.
posted by JanetLand at 5:00 AM on March 15, 2011 [17 favorites]


I'm willing to bet that the bigger kid had taken a whole lot of grief before this. I'm also willing to bet that the bully is a smart-arsed spoilt brat whose parents have mollycoddled him and allowed him to do whatever he pleases. I call those kids Tarquins

He looked like an archetypal bogan to me.

He's also learnt a valuable life lesson that one day may prevent him getting even more hurt when he's older: your "mates" won't necessarily come to your rescue when you're being a dick, being beaten up, or both.
posted by MuffinMan at 5:05 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


The answer isn't always violence... sometimes it's quid pro quo.

I was verbally abused by this kid in one class in highschool.. Just one class and I didn't see him the rest of the day... but it was exasperating none the less.

Meanwhile, I was doing computer science homework for one of the bully's peers. It was easy enough for me to modify my own BASIC homework programs, switch up some variable names add some typos and save it with his name on it.

So I just told the the guy, I'm doin' him a favor and how about he does me a favor to tell his buddy to stop harassing me.

The bully never said another word to me and damn it felt good to be a gangster.
posted by j03 at 5:06 AM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think they should collect a showreel of videos of bullies getting their asses kicked and show it in assembly. I wish to god I had had self-defence classes in school.
posted by unSane at 5:07 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Lovecraft in Brooklyn, I have to agree.

i was, er, doubting the veracity of your account, or at least the way you told it

Australian culture is not only physical, it is pro-bully. The reason "experts" are "surprised" at the online reaction to this video is because usually they are surrounded by typical Australians, who take a "kids will be kids" approach, where it's okay to taunt and punch someone every day but a victim who snaps and retaliates more severely "can't take a joke." For them, this incident is an oafish monster seriously injuring a lovable larrikin for no good reason -- can't he take a joke?

YES. 'Taking the piss' - mocking people - is so popular it's considered a point of national pride. Taking anything seriously, even insults or racism, is the worst thing you can do in Aus. I wonder if that old 'an armed society is a polite society' bullshit is true in some respects....
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:09 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


maybe the little kid will learn that he can't act like that and assume that his bigger friends will protect him.

I don't quite buy the vigilante line. Hitting back sounds cool and all, but bullies aren't usually smaller and weaker than their victims, bullies often do have friends, and the school year is long and full of opportunities for getting your ass kicked. You might give one asshole a surprise fat lip today but get that same humiliated sociopath and a gaggle more like him coming after you even harder for the rest of your years at school. Yay for victory against bullies!

Schools need to identify bullies, talk to them, warn them and their parents what will happen if they don't stop -- make it clear that they're in for serious shit -- and then just completely remove repeat bullies from school. Put them all in one school where they can be treated if there's a treatment for whatever the fuck makes them get a thrill out of hurting other kids, but if you can't cure the bullies, at least cure the school.

I'd also like to see better camera surveillance at schools. You shouldn't have to depend on whether some kid caught the action on his phone and put it up on YouTube. Cameras are cheap. The school should make recordings that any student (especially an anonymous bystander who doesn't have to fear the bully's revenge) can use as evidence to turn in a bully, and two or three such recordings should be sufficient to have a bully removed from school. The best cure for bullying might be bullies knowing that they will be punished.
posted by pracowity at 5:10 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


No-sword: Australian culture is not only physical, it is pro-bully.

Slightly bemused by this notion and other comments in this thread that bullying is somehow endemic in Australia to an extent not seen in other countries. Australian schoolyards are not utopian wonderlands (indeed I was bullied during my school years in Australia), but this is a universal problem. People suck, everywhere. Australia does not have a monopoly on assholes.
posted by bright cold day at 5:10 AM on March 15, 2011 [12 favorites]


what advice should i give my little bro about potentially dealing with bullies? so far it's just been weird self defense techniques i remembered from Batman comics
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:11 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Focussing on the individuals, or the individual acts is understandable - especially when they evoke powerful memories for so many of us - but wrong because it ignores the cause of violence: The larger ecosystem of assault and disempowerment that that promotes and supports these actions - an ecosystem we engage with when we promote and support assault and harrassment.

Individuals are the ones bullying and being bullied. It's not the target's responsibility to deal with his bully's mental health needs.
posted by sonic meat machine at 5:12 AM on March 15, 2011 [13 favorites]


what advice should i give my little bro about potentially dealing with bullies? so far it's just been weird self defense techniques i remembered from Batman comics

Find friends. If your brother is a nerd, he should hang out with the nerds – even if they're "uncool." Friends are your best defense; they make you less likely to be a target and they reduce the impact of the bully's actions even if he gets to you.
posted by sonic meat machine at 5:16 AM on March 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


Got to say, the last day I was ever bullied in school was the day I snapped and punched a kid in the face three times. The teacher was cool about it though - asked me "Did you get him good?" as he waltzed me to the principal's office. And the guy I punched kinda actually became friendly after that...before he got expelled for stealing some Amigas from the music suite.
posted by Jimbob at 5:17 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Humanfront, with all due respect, what education? If the adults will not own up to their responsibilities, the children may try to solve the problem, with all of the notoriously poor judgment children have. The adults do not get to be sad that matters have come to this, except for the part where they realize they have abdicated their responsibilities. In loco parentis seems to function much more as a matter of convenience, not responsibility, to the schools.

I could not depend on the teachers or the administration to respond and it was endemic. The adults would literally not help. (Okay, the nurse who taped up my ribs in grade school qualified as some level of help, though not in the sense of solving the problem.) In my school, that ended in a shooting, as one of the bullied finally snapped.

Wherever I was moved, right on through college, it was always more convenient for the adults to do nothing, to tell me I should deal with it, and so forth. I had some dipshit, useless counselor who asked if I were doing anything to provoke it. What, you mean like having a funny name? Looking weird? Having good grades? Being short? Because that's what bullies are usually focused upon. That was the biggest adult intervention I got. I only took away from it that I simply wasn't acting fast enough, that I was taking too long to put paid to any provocation. In each case, the bullying did not stop until I took matters into my own hands. So I spent the next five years of school isolating the bullies, one by one, either socially or physically, and then leveraging what I had to make them just as miserable as they made me. By the middle of high school, I had that lot sorted out and I didn't feel quite so hunted.

It reappeared in college, in the form of taunting me about my shiny new disability, leaving veiled threats at my door, and having rocks whipped at me from passing trucks did not cease until I paused my date to make a bloody mess of yet another goon, right in the middle of what passed for Main Street in that crap town. The college administration thought the town police should deal with it, the town police thought the college administration should deal with it. That left me. Yeah, I was afraid that would happen again.

This has left me an adult who has absolutely zero respect for authority. So far, I haven't seen authority do anything to earn it back yet, either. In the workplace, HR behaves more or less like I expected — even if the instigating party is in the wrong, if it is more convenient and less of a fuss just to ignore the situation, they will do so.

You really do have only yourself to rely upon. Bullies are like zombies, just smash them the second you recognize them for what they are. They don't go away, they just keep staggering around, looking for an opportunity to hurt you. They do not get tired. They have nothing better to do. You can outrun them, but only for a little while. They're terribly effective in groups. And nobody, but nobody, is coming to your rescue.
posted by adipocere at 5:18 AM on March 15, 2011 [38 favorites]


chimpanzee politics.
posted by ennui.bz at 5:21 AM on March 15, 2011


Slightly bemused by this notion and other comments in this thread that bullying is somehow endemic in Australia to an extent not seen in other countries. Australian schoolyards are not utopian wonderlands (indeed I was bullied during my school years in Australia), but this is a universal problem. People suck, everywhere. Australia does not have a monopoly on assholes.

Yeah, I agree with this. As far as I can tell bullying is an issue everywhere. I'm always reading articles on bullying and bullying-related suicides in the UK and America. Australia certainly glorifies "taking the piss" but to be honest I think that is a very typical human characteristic and not one unique to Australians in the least. And the minimalisation of bullying, particularly in the past is common to different cultures, too.
posted by Lina Lamont at 5:23 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I agree that adults who allow this kind of thing to go on are a disgrace, and that in an ideal world the solution to bullying would be something more productive than pushing the bully's fucking face in.

But there's a big difference between sitting in a school board meeting discussing the "culture of bullying" and standing in a school hallway being humiliated in front of your classmates. Kudos to the fat kid, sez I.
posted by steambadger at 5:24 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is not "violence begets violence, leaving everybody blind."

This is simply self-defense. Everybody has a right to defend themselves from aggression. The right to swing your fist ends at my face, and I can use force when you go too far with that. It's enshrined in law, and it many cases, is entirely the most appropriate response.

When I was in 6th grade, there was a bully who'd get on the school bus every morning, and pick a random kid to approach and announce "give me your seat or I'll kick your ass," and for weeks everyone just got up and moved, and the bully triumphantly took the seat of his choice. The first time he approached me, I acquiesced, but the second time I simply stood up and said "I guess you're going to have to kick my ass," and stared him down. Violence wasn't necessary, but I was prepared for it, and I would have swung back if he'd made a move, but he stared, blinked, hesitated, then quietly went and sat in an empty seat, and that was that for the rest of however long I rode that bus.

One can abhor violence, yet properly defend oneself when it's clearly the best option.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:25 AM on March 15, 2011 [10 favorites]


"Take your shot, take it!"
posted by bwg at 5:26 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Two wrongs truly don't make a right,

Who says there were two wrongs here? I only see one, and it was committed by the little kid, who got what was coming to him.

and assault is assault.

Only one victim of assault here, and that's the big kid. Self-defense is a complete defense to a charge of assault, and this is about as classic an example of self-defense as it is possible to describe.
posted by valkyryn at 5:27 AM on March 15, 2011 [11 favorites]


organized violence is never the answer. Revenge plans aren't the answer. An emotional response, on the part of the kid being bullied, defending himself? I'm going to guess that this is pretty much the answer in this situation.

What are the implications of telling your children not to defend themselves? Why is the authority response almost always, to the kid being bullied, "ignore it" or "walk away (within the confines of a classroom where you're not actually allowed to take yourself outside the reach of your bullying classmates)"

Parents need to villify, at every opportunity, the notion that picking on people is okay.

The only reason that defending oneself is not the answer to bullying is that we can't have adults defending themselves from bullies in the workplace.
posted by vitabellosi at 5:27 AM on March 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


Lovecraft in Brookyln, who knows, perhaps my memories are embellished through the years, perhaps I've changed them in some way, subconsciously. But they are how I remember them, in the last semester of my eighth grade, in realizing that I had spent two and a half years in misery, and even fear, from these guys. And that I was really done with it, that I couldn't let myself get pushed around anymore, high school was coming. This wasn't all at once, this wasn't planned, and it wasn't some great moment. It was a series of events that happened. There were other bullies from that time to which I did nothing, there was no comeuppance (in my mind).

I remember my friends, eating together at lunch, player endless games of Egyptian Rat Screw. I remember people who were neither friends nor bullies, classmates who were more or less nice to me. I remember bullies, I remember things they said, provocations, and days where the fear of going to school left a physical pain.

Remembering things over and over has a way of changing memories. Do I become more the hero the hundredth time I remember the events, do their taunts become worse? Maybe, and maybe. There isn't recorded evidence, there isn't physical evidence, and to a large extent, I'd imagine that in a situation between me and a bully, I'm the one who remembers it, they went on to have a perfectly fine high school and life experience past that.

Are my memories suspect? Is my telling untrue? I do not think so, and in my personal life I strive to remember things as they happened (to me), to remember my own faults much more than those around me. You might doubt the veracity of my story, but it isn't one told because I wish to impress, or even to impart of a moral on how to deal with bullies. It's one I told, because I understand being bullied (at least in the way I was bullied), and I can understand personally the joy and the shame of dealing with those bullies. In some ways, I am prouder of the way I dealt with my neighbor bully, with no physical violence at all. Emotional violence perhaps, certainly intimidation. I was happy to handle them, and I was ashamed that I let myself become violent, it's not the person I am, it's not the person I want to be. But at one point, it was the person I was, and that's just more shame I have had to carry around, to learn to deal with, and to get past.
posted by X-Himy at 5:29 AM on March 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


Yeah, I've never lived anywhere but Australia, so I don't have any other experiences, but I think it's a bit rich to say Australia has a unique bullying culture. I get the impression there's a much stronger jocks vs. nerds culture in the US, that even extends into college.
posted by Jimbob at 5:30 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


All we have done is show a Rorschach test, and gained some insight into what happened in junior high to make mefites today.

So, you're engaging in snide mockery of the emotionally vulnerable in a thread about bullying? Rats, now I have to buy a new irony meter--this one just broke.

I fought back against a bully in high school. It was one of the best things I ever did, and if I could go back in time, I'd tell myself to do it much, much earlier.

It was such a textbook case, too. The guy even seemed to want to be my friend afterward. I was thinking, "Dude, I fucking hate you. Nothing about what just happened has changed that."
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:37 AM on March 15, 2011 [9 favorites]


In the end, there's only one thing bullies respect, and that's sticking up for yourself.

Sadly, this seems to be the case. I remember at the pool one year there was some bigger kid that kept bothering my sister. I finally "snapped" and splashed him and splashed him and splashed him into a corner while shouting and screaming at him. Five minutes later he wanted to be my friend. Made me sick.
posted by DU at 5:39 AM on March 15, 2011


Only one victim of assault here, and that's the big kid. Self-defense is a complete defense to a charge of assault, and this is about as classic an example of self-defense as it is possible to describe.

Isn't there a bit in the self-defense defense about not being excessive? Like, if someone's poking you in the ribs, you don't necessarily get to shoot them in the face?

A very big sixteen-year-old body-slamming a very little 14-year-old onto concrete does not seem like a remotely appropriate response to the threat being posed.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:40 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


I was the New Kid in 6th grade and got picked on fairly mercilessly, although it was more verbal than physical (except for during recess and gym class, during which I learned how to dodge dodgeballs "accidentally" thrown at my head, and the threats of what they'd do if they caught me after school). Then we moved, and I was again the New Kid for 7th grade. I was not picked on or bullied at my new school, unless you count one girl who challenged me to a fight. I said no, and that was it.

Not everyone in the 6th grade class was an asshole, and not everyone in my 7th grade class was an angel, and I don't think I went from good target to bad target in less than a year. The only conclusion I can come to is that the differing cultures of both schools made the difference; violence was acceptable - or at least ignored - at one school, and was unacceptable at the other.

(The one time I did physically get into it with a kid, I "won." She lived in my neighborhood when I was in the 5th grade, and we didn't go to the same school, and boy, she didn't like me. She challenged me to a fight, and I was tired of her endless harassment so I said okay. She wound up for a haymaker that I could see coming a week away, and when she had her momentum up, I stepped back. She swung so hard she knocked herself down and scraped her forearm and elbow bloody. And she left me alone after that.)
posted by rtha at 5:41 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


A very big sixteen-year-old body-slamming a very little 14-year-old onto concrete does not seem like a remotely appropriate response to the threat being posed.

What if the 14-year old had abused and punched the 16-year old most days for the last 2 years? We don't know that, of course, but I wouldn't be fucking surprised.
posted by Jimbob at 5:42 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


You don't strictly have to fight bullies to make them leave you alone... you just have to make yourself too much effort to pick on.

Yeah you don't have to fight back per se. In elementary for some reason a kid I had known for years (as I knew almost all of the kids in my class, it was a small school) decided to start picking on me. I never got into a fight with him; it didn't get that far. I just refused to back down. If he tried to push me to the back of the line I'd start pushing him back. If he took a pencil I'd continuously try to take it back. Pretty soon he must have realized that it just wasn't worth the effort to mess with me anymore.

We never became great friends, but throughout junior high and highschool we were still friendly.
posted by oddman at 5:46 AM on March 15, 2011


"A very big sixteen-year-old body-slamming a very little 14-year-old onto concrete does not seem like a remotely appropriate response to the threat being posed."
posted by oddman at 5:47 AM on March 15, 2011


I was bullied a bit as a kid but I generally gave more than I got. I gave everyone shit and I got beat up a few times for it. I wasn't one of the 'cool kids' and I definitely wasn't the 'school bully'. I was a loudmouthed little smartarse who had to have the last word.

I didn't think I ever crossed any lines but I bumped into someone I went to high school with a couple of years ago and they told me (after a few beers) that they used to dread walking past the picnic table I sat at every morning. I was just an obnoxious teenager in my mind but apparently he still held on to it 10 years later. None of us really know how anyone else is internalising what we say.

I think the problem with trying to stop bullying is that it is being approached as trying to stop people from feeling bullied, which is simply not possible. We should be trying to stop abusive behaviour, something that is clear and tangible.
posted by gronkpan at 5:49 AM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


The smaller kid is Year 7 in school. The bigger kid is Year 10.

I bet the bigger kid is developmentally disabled in some way. Explains why a kid thought it was kosher to fuck around with someone three years older than him.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:50 AM on March 15, 2011


Crud, hit post accidentally.


In any case as for the quoted line above, I don't think that the larger child's action were entirely intentional. Which is to say he certainly intended to defend himself, but I doubt that he intended to seriously harm the other child. In the heat of the moment of such a situation it's very difficult to think clearly and dispassionately about your action. You simply react in what seems to be at least partially on a subconscious or instinctively level.

The boy certainly does not exhibit mens rea or anything like that.
posted by oddman at 5:50 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


As a kid who went through that sort of shit at school I cheered when the little bastard got what he deserved. That is exactly what has to be done to bullies; nothing else works. They have to be forcibly introduced to consequences of their actions they may not like. I ended up doing something very similar to one of my bullies, although being the weedy kid rather than the fat kid it was just losing my temper, fear and sense of physical pain that enabled me to pound him to the ground.

It ended the bullying for good, and it was one of the best moments of my life. That poor bullied kid just changed his life for the better.
posted by Decani at 5:52 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm glad that got posted, the kid had it coming. I think there are some lessons that only the bullies and victims can learn on their own. Insulated from having to make tough decisions or endure difficult situations, some people never learn to deal with reality.

My parents seemed to make a big deal of me being "bullied" at a rather rough school I went to. It was back then I think that I was slowly infused with the cold emotion that pretty much knew that power was the only thing that mattered: the strong dominated the weak. It was merely part of the natural order of things, like how kids had to study for tests and the sky was blue.

Among other incidents, there was a guy who would make trouble for me, and one day I had enough and headbutted him low, right in the lips, a sneak blow even before the fight had started, and ending it there and then. That's like taking a bowling ball to the face. Brutal.

There was a lot of blood and no one spoke of it afterward.

I don't have any particular regrets about how those years turned out. The key lesson I learned was that bullies can smell fear and weakness a mile away. However, if you have no fear, you have no weakness. You have to be someone that does not fear pain, shame, embarassment, not fear the teachers, your parents. Not fear the loss of your possessions, pride, or friends. You have to be someone that lets them know in no uncertain terms that if they mess with you, you are going to make them hurt, regardless of what it's going to cost you.

I think it is important at this point that you are still balanced on the knife's edge - just as now you do not fear the consequences of fighting back, you also do not fear being bullied by them. You have transcended the situation, and now you have the freedom to choose at your leisure. Casual, random violence is incredibly frightening - just as I struck at the boy before the fight began, just because I felt like he deserved it today, of all the days of the year.

And it will crystalize in their mind that they have much more to lose than you do, and they WILL stay the fuck away.

I think it's made me a much better person: the ability to deal with your fears and weaknesses: the casual power and freedom that comes with it - the understanding and knowledge of power, the application of it, how bullies use it - lessons that I don't think I would have learned otherwise, and seem particularly pertinent now in the corporate world.

Then again, different people learn different lessons from the same event. YMMV.
posted by xdvesper at 5:53 AM on March 15, 2011 [11 favorites]


The "surprised" reaction of the police and "anti-bullying experts" also doesn't surprise me in the slightest. They want to view school-year fights as a contest of equals, as events where rationality should rule. I can tell you one thing, no school-yard fight I ever witnessed was a chivalrous one-on-one "get your dukes up" fair fight. There was a victim, and there was the victimiser, and the authorities have to grow some balls and identify and work on the victimiser before they start telling the victim that if they ignore it, it will go away.
posted by Jimbob at 5:58 AM on March 15, 2011 [17 favorites]


A very big sixteen-year-old body-slamming a very little 14-year-old onto concrete does not seem like a remotely appropriate response to the threat being posed.

Sure it does. Proportionality is pretty broad. "Excessive force" would have been drawing a knife or gun. It might have even been continuing to hit him when he was down, though that's debatable. But the big kid responded to an attack with bare hands with an attack with bare hands and basically stopped after the first blow.

Look, you take a swing at someone, you've basically declared open season on yourself in the ass whuppin' department. The little kid took a swing at someone and got his ass whupped. Case closed.
posted by valkyryn at 6:01 AM on March 15, 2011 [26 favorites]


A very big sixteen-year-old body-slamming a very little 14-year-old onto concrete does not seem like a remotely appropriate response to the threat being posed.

Thing is, as has been said above, the older kid isn't just dealing with the kid who is punching him in the face (punching him in the face), he's got that kid's friends standing around encouraging and taunting, and one of them is videotaping the whole thing. He's also up against perhaps an unknown-to-us history of this happening previously.

You're not going to get a proportioned, well-reasoned response, and one shouldn't be expected. When you're getting punched in the face, there's really no room to be diplomatic. He did though, as has been noted, show remarkable restraint in not kicking the kid once he's on the ground. He gave one strong showing of force that kept the other kids from jumping in and starting a fight. If you watch the unedited video, you see one of the other bullies immediately confront the older kid, presumably trying to provoke him into a fight. The kid walks away and some girl intervenes: "I think you'd better leave him alone."
posted by Maaik at 6:02 AM on March 15, 2011 [9 favorites]


You're not going to get a proportioned, well-reasoned response, and one shouldn't be expected.

That may or may not be true, but that's exactly what we got here.
posted by valkyryn at 6:03 AM on March 15, 2011


Bullying is a power dynamic, the same as many power dynamics I think. Basically, it seems to me that bullying is actually an expression of dis-empowerment in some area of life and then the compensatory violence toward other youth.

I have been confused by the reactions of parents toward bullying for the last twenty years and assume I will remain thus. Parents of bullies either seem to encourage the behaviour (dog eat dog world son, beat or get beat) or deny the behaviour (not my little angle! no!).

But regardless, they wonder what's wrong with the kids! Chances are if you see a bullying kid, you will find a problem both with the kid and the parent. But it's hard to look in the mirror and accept that you have raised a little monster. So either encourage it, thereby justifying your effectiveness as a parent, or live in the land of illusion. la la la la la la I'm not listening la la la la la la.

I think the solution to bullying is to perhaps mirror the real world a bit more anyway. That's what school is designed to preparing youth for, yes? Perhaps schools need a self-defense policy where the big kid is not lauded but also not disciplined. Someone f*cked with him and he provided that person with a measured, equivalent response. He did not go to far. He walked away. Why is he suspended?

The kid in the video is lucky he only broke an ankle. If he tries that sh*t a few years down the line, he may end up hurt much worse or dead. The big kid did him a favour by teaching him an early lesson of actions and consequences.
posted by nickrussell at 6:05 AM on March 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


For anyone who thinks this was the wrong response, I'm curious what the right response might have been.

This kid is not just being teased, but hit by another child. I don't care if they'd never met before that moment; when someone is hitting you, you have the right to hit back. When you are bigger and the instigating party is seriously injured, that simply means the instigating party is an idiot for having picked on you in the first place.

Additionally, the assailant's friends are filming this event, which to me indicates a conspiracy of bullying. Every one of those little shits should be punished, both at home and at school.

They instigated violence and met violence; the issue here is NOT Casey.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:05 AM on March 15, 2011 [21 favorites]


Smoke said: Sonic, the world is not so easily divided between powerful and powerless. Today's bully can be yesterday's and tomorrow's victim and vice versa. The bully that broke my nose was being abused at home by his father, for example.

That is sad, and also not your problem when you're a kid. As a child, you do not have a choice if you take on other people's issues. As an adult, you do. As a child, someone should protect YOU from the people who have these issues. Someone failed to do so for this boy, so he took matters into his own hands. I am not saying anything that hasn't already been said. Suffice to say, the greatest crisis in schools aside from underfunding is how utterly free kids feel to taunt other kids into violence.

Still glad the bully got his ass kicked. But even if he was abused at home, that's not the bullied victim's fucking problem.
posted by JLovebomb at 6:07 AM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Also, yes, dude should keep to picking on kids his own size, or none at all. Dork probably kicks pit bulls on his way home, too.
posted by JLovebomb at 6:08 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Holy hell. I cheered. I really hope the little asshole bully got suspended too, as well as the other people that were standing around doing nothing while he was punching the kid in the face.

As far as "A very big sixteen-year-old body-slamming a very little 14-year-old onto concrete does not seem like a remotely appropriate response to the threat being posed." - are you kidding? What exactly are you expecting him to do? He doesn't have any self defense training, as far as I can tell by his clumsy slamming of the kid into the ground. I'm guessing he's not quick enough to run away. His ONLY option was to defend himself with physical violence. This is why I'm going to make damn sure that my kids DO get self defense training of some kind, so they can defend themselves while (hopefully) limiting the damage they do to their tormentor. And I will hope every day that they never need to use it.

Also? If I find out that my kid is BEING a bully? Oh SHIT you know that is going to end right quick.
posted by antifuse at 6:10 AM on March 15, 2011


I've had a really visceral reaction to this thread, and I'm not sure how to articulate my feelings, exactly. I was bullied too, in elementary school (grades 1 - 8, where I was). Not physically, but there were many days I'd come home sobbing from school. I lived in a small town of about 20 000 people, so my classmates, including the bully in question, and I shared classrooms from just about kindergarten onward. I remember what a relief it was to go to high school and be able to get some distance from her. It didn't help that my family moved to a different part of town when I was about ten or eleven, and in order to keep me at the same school for the last few years, we had to carpool. With the bully, because she lived around the corner and her parents drove her everyday. So, all day at school she'd be taunting me, calling me names to the point where I just wanted to go away, whatever that meant. Then I'd have to ride home with her and one of her parents and act like everything was fine. Combined with a similar situation at home, this messed me up pretty good and I definitely still feel the effects of it today.

I learned pretty quickly that telling teachers just makes it worse. I guess my strongest reaction, reading all of the comments here, was "Why don't the teachers ever see it?" I guess the idea that they see it and don't do anything is... unfathomable, but how can they not know how those bullied kids are suffering? How do they not see how lonely they are in their pain and fear and shame? How can they be surprised when one snaps, as the poor kid in this video did?

When I watched the video, I saw a dozen kids from my childhood who suffered as badly, or worse than I did. Small towns are particularly hellish for bullied kids: once you're labelled a "freak", or commit whatever minor social transgression leads to the bullying, no on ever forgets, and no one lets you forget. The stiff, if-I-ignore-him-he'll-stop posture of the bigger kid, and then the moment when he broke and reacted physically... yeah, that was familiar. I can't say I didn't cheer him on for a moment, but when it comes down to it, this shouldn't have happened. It should not have gotten to that point. And I have no idea what the solution is.
posted by torisaur at 6:10 AM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


The bully that broke my nose was being abused at home by his father, for example.

Tragic, but not really your problem. Your problem is that some kid is hitting you.
posted by valkyryn at 6:12 AM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Hey, meathead...
posted by tomswift at 6:12 AM on March 15, 2011


oops...

Meathead (now that I've got your attention)

That post is offensive and useless....
posted by tomswift at 6:13 AM on March 15, 2011


One of the most shameful memories of my life is watching someone get bullied on the bus in 7th grade and not doing anything to stop it.

Peer pressure, not making bullying a 'cool' thing is the answer.
posted by Burritos Inc. at 6:17 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Isn't there a bit in the self-defense defense about not being excessive? Like, if someone's poking you in the ribs, you don't necessarily get to shoot them in the face?

A very big sixteen-year-old body-slamming a very little 14-year-old onto concrete does not seem like a remotely appropriate response to the threat being posed."

What's excessive here? It might be a very small kid, but a punch in the eye from that runt can still leave you blind, and a punch in the teeth from him can also leave you permanently disfigured. The bigger kid clearly has no physical coordination, and this no responsibilty except to stop as soon as the threat was addressed. Which he did.

There's a lesson to be drawn here: it's stupid to pick on a big guy who knows how to fight. It's even stupider to pick on a big guy who doesn't know how to fight, and might flail like a frightened farm animal.
posted by ocschwar at 6:22 AM on March 15, 2011


A very big sixteen-year-old body-slamming a very little 14-year-old onto concrete does not seem like a remotely appropriate response to the threat being posed.

Then the "very little 14-year-old" shouldn't have been so stupid as to pick on someone "very big."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:23 AM on March 15, 2011 [8 favorites]


I hope they only suspended Casey for a day and expelled the other kid.

His actions were completely called for and I hope any Principal/HM worth their position sees through protocol and policy.

There's a lesson to be drawn here: it's stupid to pick on a big guy who knows how to fight. It's even stupider to pick on a big guy who doesn't know how to fight, and might flail like a frightened farm animal.

Yep. He does not know how to appropriately control a person without potentially damaging their body for life. A very good point.
posted by zombieApoc at 6:25 AM on March 15, 2011


For a bit of context, the school is in a quite "challenged" suburb way out in the west of Sydney.

Half the rental properties belong to the Housing Commission (ie heavily subsidised public housing), the second most commonly spoken language after English is Arabic, and the school itself says that 22% of students identify as Aboriginal, and 18% identify as Pacific Islander.

30% of families are single parent (approx double the national average), unemployment is also double the national average.

Suffice to say, it's a rough kind of place.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:25 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


(whoops, census data here)
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:26 AM on March 15, 2011


A very big sixteen-year-old body-slamming a very little 14-year-old onto concrete does not seem like a remotely appropriate response to the threat being posed.

If you have ever been bullied, it's hard to fault the victim for his response.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:28 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Man, am I glad that ended that way and not worse. Let's hope Casey feels good about himself today knowing that he is a valuable member of the human race. Bullying is incredibly shameful. That this was being filmed almost definitely magnified that shames potential. And I have a theory that these social media dynamics affects the costs and benefits of bullying in ways it never did when we were kids. So much of bullying is relational: "everyone, watch me as I do this thing to this person". It's a kind of cost discriminating signaling thing. For a little 12 year old kid, to go after this older kid the way he does - there is a big upside if he is successful. notice the girls watching and filming. He just doesn't consider the downside whatsoever, which is typical of kids.

The second person I feel bad for is this bully though. He now because of being a stupid 12 year old may very well be permanently labeled "bully", or worse "a pussy", which is the scarlet letter for a kid. Every person in the world hates on this kid and will for the duration of the videos life. At his school, that may be forever. I hate the many possibilities for something horrible to come. I hope deeply he has a mom and dad who are crazy in love with him and for sisters and brothers who only see him as a valuable member of their family. When I think about the stupid stupid stupid stupid things I did basically from 8th grade to, well, this morning but especially high school, and that I am basically intact living and happy life, I get very sad when I watch the random forces in life coordinate onto something like this and broadcastit forever. It's not that in my opinion "violence is not the answer". I have no idea if the older kid did something "wrong" or not. I can absolutely understand it though. I get the sense he wanted no part of this fight. He seemed to just snap. And that he held on for a while is impressive. But man that littler kid may now know a lot more about this kid (who obviously could crush him like a grape if you just bothered to look) but his social life took a major hit, and in that schoo age environment , social capital is a scarce resource people will do almost anything to get.
posted by scunning at 6:28 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah, another vote in favor of violence. Adults do nothing to stop the aggressors; there are indeed plenty of adults who tacitly encourage them. Oh, sure, everyone claims they want to stop bullying, but they don't. Not really. All they want to do is push the problem around a corner somewhere so they don't have to deal with it -- or, more accurately, so they don't have to deal with "you and your problems."

My bullies only ever stopped once it became clear to them that I was prepared to be wildly, exceedingly, violent and that I also knew better than them how to get away with it. That I could inflict blinding pain in the middle of class and nobody was going to raise an eyebrow except, possibly, to blame my victim.

Nice how that works. Good lesson to learn, as a kid.

We might like to pretend otherwise, and certainly there are good people trying to set things right, but for the most part the most effectively reply to bullying is disproportionate violence.

You know you've done it right when bystanders flee in fear.
posted by aramaic at 6:29 AM on March 15, 2011


oops...

Meathead (now that I've got your attention)

That post is offensive and useless....


Let me rephrase. At my university, the Education majors had the lowest average SAT scores at entry of any department.

At my university, the Education school constantly campaigned to eliminate the possibility of, say, an English major getting a certificate in education in one year and then teaching English, or a Math doing the same, because their "domain knowledge" was less important than "understanding the underlying theories" of Education.

At my high school, I frequently knew more about the subject than the teachers who were "teaching" me. I read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, and cited it in a paper – upon which point my teacher with an Ed.D. told me that I was "racist" and referred me to the guidance counselor. (Apparently she had it confused with Mein Kampf.)

I was also ignored when I complained of bullying, or (in one case) was actually told that I need to "grow up" and "stop whining."

My working life has involved a lot of interaction with educational administration and entities. They are not impressive from this side, either.

I'm sorry that you are offended. You probably have a personal relationship with an educator or are yourself one. Maybe that person (or you) is/are intelligent and compassionate and sensible.

On the other hand, you called me "meathead," and seemingly expected it to be taken as an insult.
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:29 AM on March 15, 2011 [28 favorites]


From the start it had this "are you f'in kidding me" feel as this scrawny kid is all "put 'em up, put 'em up" and starts punching and the bigger kid takes it.

Bullied from 4-8th grade. I'm now 40 and hate that kid with everything I have. I can't feel bad for a broken ankle.
posted by stormpooper at 6:30 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


We're going to need that kid when the Buggers invade.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:34 AM on March 15, 2011 [17 favorites]


The big kid was provoked but he easily could have broken the bully's neck. I suspect people's reactions to this video would be a bit different had that been the case. Perhaps a more realistic and helpful defense for bullied kids would be teaching them to defend themselves with limited violence or other non-violent reactions that don't risk permanently incapacitating their tormentors and landing the bullied victims in jail or court.
posted by longdaysjourney at 6:35 AM on March 15, 2011


He looked like an archetypal bogan to me.

Yep. He's even got the telltale bogan misspelling of a common name: Ritchard.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:36 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


So, you're engaging in snide mockery of the emotionally vulnerable in a thread about bullying? Rats, now I have to buy a new irony meter--this one just broke.

I was being entirely sincere. It is fascinating to see how fully grown adult people are reacting to bullying of and by children. For instance, this makes me sick, and seeing adults cheer on physical violence is painful to read. At the same time, I can see how many of these people are being transported back to being that big kid, and transposing their tormentor's face on to the broken ankle child.

And it is interesting to see the stories they are imposing when the linked video shares no major details about the kids. "Oh, BK must be disabled" or "LK must be being told to do this" or "LK may have been standing up to BK after years of torture". Isn't that the very definition of a Rorschach test?

I was bullied too, though being female my bullying was not physical. For what that is worth.
posted by jenlovesponies at 6:37 AM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Fuck bullies.
posted by Sternmeyer at 6:37 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Anyone who sees this as something more (or less) than simple criminal assault on the part of the bully, and self-defense by his victim, has probably never been bullied. I'd venture so far to say they might have even been bullies themselves once, or part of the snickering peanut gallery who enjoy looking on these sorts of things.

If this video were of a criminal threatening a man or woman with a similar outcome, we'd be cheering the roof off. Frankly, I don't see the difference.

You can tell by the bigger kid's body language -- back against the wall, flinching, trying half-heartedly to block the blows with his hands -- that he wasn't instigating anything. He's simply not the type. And I doubt he'll use this incident as an excuse to go on a Hulk-like rage now or in the future.

As far as suspending both these kids from school goes, it's a typical ZOMG! over-reaction of adults who've more than likely been aware of the situation for far too long, allowed it to continue, and now must adopt a "zero tolerance" posture because the spotlight's shining.

I was bullied for years in junior high and finally snapped, not once but twice. In both cases, the bullies not only stopped picking on me, but some of the other kids they'd targeted as well. (My revenge was particularly public and, um, well, decisive.)

I liked the kid's Facebook page and sent him a few words of encouragement. Consider doing the same. Those Me'fiers who said he probably feels terrible may be right, and he could use the support.
posted by Work to Live at 6:39 AM on March 15, 2011 [8 favorites]


I was tiny growing up. I mean..TINY. 44lbs in about the 4th grade. I started 7th grade at 78lbs, wrestled 90lb weight class. I wasn't so much bullied as pushed around, a lot. I guess you could say I fought a lot...but really they were one-punch fights kind of like this. A few of the more memorable ones: I broke a kids nose on the bus one day (2 grades older), I physically knocked out a 12 year old when I was 9 (thought I killed him at first...THAT was scary. It was him and two buddies, he got the first hit, they ran away.), I threw a kid down the bleachers in 8th grade when he tried to choke me, and then later in the day when he sucker punched me I fireman's-carried him right in the middle of home ec; just stood there holding him above my head while he pounded on my back screaming to be put down, it was really pretty funny.

I never ever started any of those fights, ever---but those same aggressors never came at me again. I saw this video the other day on Reddit and was interested to see what the comments would be when it popped up here. IDK if anyone noticed, but the tall kid who goes up to Casey after he tosses the little guy apparently wants a piece, but then an even taller girl pushes him back and Casey goes on his way.

I agree that there's almost always someone abusing the bully, but that's not your issue when you're being bullied. A lot of the bullies I knew weren't bullied by parents, but rather encouraged to believe that the biggest and the strongest get the best piece of cake...and I find a special kind of joy when those people get put down in front of their peers.
posted by TomMelee at 6:41 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bullying can also take the form of, or lead to, other less public and more violent actions that stick with people for life, and might just get the bully killed
[via TAL]
posted by zombieApoc at 6:42 AM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


I was bullied at school and I was a lot bigger than my bullies. At 11 I was over six foot tall and whilst skinny I played rugby, cricket, football, tennis, basketball and a ton of other sports. I got picked on constantly by a group and when the bully one day slammed a door on my head, scarring my forehead to this day I finally lost it and punched him full on in the stomach. He bent over wheezing and that was it, the last day I was ever bullied.

Now 25 odd years later, my son recently changed schools and was a victim of bullying. He's probably one of the few kids at his current school that can read and this made him a constant target. I said to him a hundred times all the stupid parental platitudes that "bullies are just weak and scared" and "ignore them and they will go away" but they kept on. About six months in one of the bullies went to punch him and missed and to summarise after much faffing about my boy ended up getting the better of him and basically made him say uncle.

I felt terrible that I didn't just tell him to do that the first time around. There are enough techniques that will put someone on the floor without risking major injury to either party that I could teach him but I felt I had to be good and not encourage violence. I learned the hard way myself what to do to stop bullying - my parents had told the school, I'd spoken to the teachers and every other step had been taken, same as with my son recently.

Nothing stopped it until that bully was put in his place. I am open to alternative suggestions as to what might work but frankly, unless that bully is going to come back with a knife or a gun I'd recommend you smack him hard in front of his mates and watch his attitude change quick smart.
posted by longbaugh at 6:44 AM on March 15, 2011


UbuRoivas: For a bit of context, the school is in a quite "challenged" suburb way out in the west of Sydney.

Half the rental properties belong to the Housing Commission (ie heavily subsidised public housing), the second most commonly spoken language after English is Arabic, and the school itself says that 22% of students identify as Aboriginal, and 18% identify as Pacific Islander.


No time like the present for those circumstances to cease being relevant to bullying behavior. Not certain why they are relevant to begin with.
posted by JLovebomb at 6:45 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Kids fight. Always been true, now the internet shows us some of the fights. Some of the fights, like fights always have, go badly. Sometimes people die. But it's never really been any different. So I am not surprised that it happened, went viral, was celebrated, or has people cheering it on.

I've had a few experiences with bullies, mostly when I was really young. My scant memories include punching one in the nose, (and getting punched back) and smacking some asshole with a metal lunchbox. And if someone started some bullshit over nonsense I might be apt to do the same today, though I am a mostly peaceful, walk the other way type (but there is a line). Where I grew up, fighting in the bar was a $100 ordinance violation, no arrest necessary.

It isn't exactly like we really discourage this kind of behavior as a whole. MMA and other violent sports, militarism as far as the eye can see, and towns that are pub-scrapin' free-for-alls. As much as I wouldn't like violence to be such a huge part of our world (especially in the U.S.), it is. It's all around. And even though violent crime is down from its heights in the early 90s, it hasn't gone away. Kids are just following the cues. Perhaps they'll grow up to be Congressional colleagues.
posted by IvoShandor at 6:46 AM on March 15, 2011


I've got my own set of experiences, both from being bullied (physically) and realizing years after the fact that I was actually a bully myself (emotionally) in school.

Mainly, though, I'm dropping by to see if maybe we could drop "fat kid" and "bogan" as descriptors in the conversation. "Fat kid" for obvious reasons, and "bogan" because it's about as helpful as "chav" or "pikey" or "white trash" or "redneck" -- a poor-people-are-scum word. Which may well not be the intent, but it's got the same sort of nasty reductive ring to it.
posted by Shepherd at 6:48 AM on March 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


Look, you take a swing at someone, you've basically declared open season on yourself in the ass whuppin' department. The little kid took a swing at someone and got his ass whupped. Case closed.

Isn't this how we would up in Iraq?
posted by shakespeherian at 6:50 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Isn't this how we would up in Iraq?

Nope. Note the big kid walked away.
posted by ocschwar at 6:52 AM on March 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


Kids can be mean, and establishing the pecking order is very important. Kids are also much more blatant about it, and violence on the schoolyard is an incredibly long-standing tradition, even though authorities should obviously try their best to crack down on bullying. But the truth is that the same folks who begin as schoolyard bullies tend to go on to be real-life bullies as adults; just slightly less violent.

But school officials and parents need to recognize that this is how children and adolescents function socially. Teachers need to be vigilant to stop this behavior whenever possible, but if they disrupt the social dynamic, the community of kids gets hostile.

There is a wonderful movie out there, a 1956 Western with Gregory Peck, Burl Ives, and Charleton Heston called The Big Country. I think it more or less captures the best perspective on this sort of thing. The biggest person will avoid violence at all costs, but will use it as a last resort if the bullying simply will not stop... but no more than necessary, and only with regret.
posted by phenylphenol at 6:53 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Isn't this how we would up in Iraq?

That's a bit beneath you, don't you think?
posted by valkyryn at 6:58 AM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Condensed talk soup.
posted by perspicio at 7:01 AM on March 15, 2011


Isn't this how we would up in Iraq?

Iraq was the alleged bully. The allegations later proved to be unfounded. In the end, the United States was shown to be the bully. One with a long-standing grudge, and milk money to plunder.
posted by IvoShandor at 7:05 AM on March 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


I want to be one of those super rational people who watches that and says "Oh, everyone's a loser in this case. Violence never solves anything. Where are the teachers?"

I want to be this, but I won't, and can't.

I was the big doofy kid for my entire youth. I wasn't a lunky thick kid, actually, just sort of rangy and weird, but those little bullies weren't "put up to it" or coerced--they were just horseflies of the hallways, built to buzz around me, feeding off the bloody feast of fear, tears, and the inevitable total spaz-out breakdown that they knew exactly how to trigger in me. Years later, I know why they worked the way they did, and I can look at them with understanding and compassion.

"What, are you gonna cry? Are you gonna cry like a big baby?"

"No, I am not going to cry," I'd say. I radiated difference. You looked at me and saw otherness. I was always told to use my words, and I had them, books and books full of them. "And your puerile, aggressive behavior speaks more to your own fears than my failings."

"Yeah. you're gonna cry, brainiac. Look, the baby's gonna cry!"

And I did cry. When I could keep my composure, I kept it to myself. I knew all the little places in my schools where I could slip away and let the hacking, gasping sobs overtake me. I could slip sideways, out of the mainstream, and into the little dark places where I could surrender to it, tucked into the narrow space by the janitor's slop sink, or in the alcove in the gym where they kept the red rubber kickballs.

When I couldn't defer, it was like a spray of dark blood, fresh from the deepest arteries, and the horseflies would swarm. They'd get it all started with that jittery, bouncy dance, the little jabs, both physical and verbal, the little gestures they'd honed from years of their own pain.

You can hurt me all you want. I'll just pass it down the line to the weaker guy.

I'm tough. Watch me. Feed me.

In this, we should have been friends. In fact, I was paired in the mind of so many with my most frequent antagonists, who knew they could go back to that well, again and again. I was even paired in a sort of antagonistic duality with the other most bullied kid, John G., and we ended up in fistfights at least every other week, fighting for that sacred slot of the second most bullied kid in Hammond Elementary, then Middle, School.

The guidance counselors were out of their depth.

"Joe, you need to understand that when people act like bullies, it's often because they, themselves, feel like outsiders, and this is their way of feeling better about who they are."

Great advice, had I been a Buddhist monk instead of eleven. I know it now, and it's true. Outsiders look for ways to rise above their status. For me, it was a sort of adopted persona, a toffee-nosed intellectualization of all things, and the vaunted deployment of words, the glorious tools of meaning.

"Haw, haw," Wayne A. sneered, pointing out that I'd somehow managed to leave the house with a black sock and a navy blue one that had looked black to me. "Can't you even pick out your socks, you dickhead?" A knot of Romans roared with laughter, seeing the lion at work in the stadium. There were always Romans, little roaming bands of the unattached who loved nothing more than the sudden burst of drama in the soulless carpeted environment of a public school in the seventies.

"I did that on purpose," I lied. "I like to challenge the tyranny of symmetry."

One would hope I'm exaggerating, all these years later, but no. I tried, though.

I tried through elementary school. I tried through middle school. I even tried to use the information that the guidance counselors, my parents, and even the pastor at our church gave me.

"Nice Toughskins, dork," said George W. with a sneer. He was a foot shorter than me, and a hound at my heels, day after day. I ended up at the doctor's office, complaining of stomach pains, and my doctor told my mother, in a voice he thought I didn't hear, that I was on the verge of developing an ulcer. Every day was built on a seething bed of fear, a firmament as uncomfortable as August blacktop to a kid with no shoes on, and I'd wake up with a sort of unvoiced oh no in my head, because another day had come. "Nice dork pants, dork. Where'd you get those? Maypop city?"

"My mother bought these at Sears Surplus," I said, furrowing my brow. Why are my fucking pants important? They're perfectly good pants.

The crowd roared. More lions poured into the stadium.

You look at this video, at this big kid who should be the one in control, who should just stay above it, but you don't know the horseflies. They're ever-present, delivering the death of a thousand cuts, just swarming. You try to swat, but they just get stirred up.

George W. is bullying me because he feels small and helpless himself.

"You know, you are teasing me because you feel like you're not powerful, but I am not the reason you don't feel powerful. We should be friends," I said.

Why do I even open my fucking mouth? I hate my counselors.

The jabbing starts, the jeering builds, and before long, it's a fight, over fucking Sears Surplus jeans with a thick rubber label that makes me out as someone who's not good enough, or not cool enough. I don't fight back. I am the master of my own mind. I curl into a ball, concentrate myself into a hard, small core, tight enough to be impermeable. I can't be hurt, even as the blows rain down on me.

Naturally, we're both in trouble. This is always the way. He's in trouble for fighting, and I'm in trouble for fighting. I'm told that, when I feel like fighting, I'm supposed to talk to someone in authority. When I talk to someone in authority, the eyes roll. They know me well in the front office.

"Well, Joe, I'm not sure what we can do about this. I only have your word that he's threatening you."

Later, I'm in the office again, in trouble. I'm in trouble when I don't fight. I'm in trouble when I do fight, even though fighting, for me, means disappearing into a turtle's shell on the floor.

George W. was abused by his father, in the trailer park down by the race track. On shirts-vs-skins days in gym, he always makes sure to be on the shirts side. His back is criss-crossed with marks and bruises that he says are from wrecking on his bike. Joey D. was abused by mother and father. Wayne A. was beaten by almost everyone at his house. The undercurrents are roiling, so deep and yet so obvious.

I got through the first six grades with a lot of defensive postures, the last of which being the ability to belt out a booming "LEAVE ME ALONE" in a voice so thunderously loud that you'd hear it echo back from the steel doors on the gym, all the way at the other end of the school. It would put in my the vice principal's office without fail, but it avoided the fights.

When high school came, I'd had time to think, and a growth spurt, and I was not going to be bullied anymore. I was not going to be Zen, or understanding, or an awkward camp counselor, trying to defuse the bullies with a well-turned phrase, because that well-turned phrase just always turned the fight into a worse fight. Adults forget how it is to be kids.

"Nice backpack, pussy," Matt D. snickered, mocking the green canvas military bag that my mother had found at a great discount at Sunny's Surplus.

"What's wrong with my backpack?" I asked, starting to turn back in the open space of the freshman gym at the high school. A sharp thump landed on my back, a fist flying out of nowhere, and I stopped, unshouldered my bag, and reached into the top pocket to find my really, really cool one-piece smoked plastic shades like the ones in Rollerball had snapped into two pieces.

A million horsefly bites opened up, all over me, shedding blood and tears and rage in a cloud of vile smoke, and I took one of the halves of my sunglasses and slashed Matt D. across the mouth. He froze, slackjawed, and the air left the gym. The Romans lurched back, the ring of their de facto stadium expanding like a shell of gas around an exploding star, and I pulled back, punched Matt D. in the temple hard enough to drop him right there.

He went limp, but not limp enough. The swirl of bitter blood was thick in the air around me, and as Matt D. tried to get up, I spun him around got him by the throat in a hold that I'd been told was the most illegal move in wrestling, and held him that way until he went blank.

"Oh my god, Joe, you're KILLING him!" said the bully's number two, a burly guy named Andy who hung back behind his lesser associate as a sort of unspoken enforcer, and his eyes pooled in tears on a red face. Something in that cleared the air and I let the kid drop. He wasn't out for long, and without delay, I was in the principal's office while Matt D. sat in the health room.

Oddly, I got out with just detention. I've never known why. Maybe the Romans spoke up. You never know when the world's going to change.

No one laid another finger on me, though. Not in that school or the next, not then or since.

Was I right? Was it the way to go? I don't know.

When I sit here, right now, writing about this, the feeling comes back, the moment, right then, and the blood in the water, the way it felt to have finally had enough, and I'm grinding my teeth a little, because it was so sweet, almost orgasmic in the sense of transcendence through explosive release, but like then, I'm a guy whose well-padded frame is built on muscle like a of piece Russian farm equipment, and I can't ever let that moment get the best of me again. They say, when training German Shepherds, that you never, ever let them learn the power of their jaws, and it's probably hyperbole, but knowing what was contained within me is what lets me finally take the advice of the counselors, the teachers, the parents, and the preachers.

I can hurt you, and it would feel like heaven, but then I'd be you.

With time, things change. They say they get better, but that's not true. We get better, if we're lucky, if people love us enough to share the bigger truths with us and if life gives us a reason not to revel in the tool of last resort, of passing that pain down the line. If people see this, and do something other than shrug and say "well, that's just youth. What can you do?" things change. If we do better than the nanny state solution of punishing every vestige of bullying behavior with knee jerk, automatic penalties, and if we ask serious questions about how to solve these problems, things change.

I can't advocate violence, but I understand it. Violence saved me from more violence, even if the price I paid in exchange was being though of as a berserker, best left alone because of the consequences that might come. Fortunately, I don't have kids and never will, so I'll never have to face the hard question of what to do, but for those that care to hear it, I can tell my story, and how I got from there to here.

That kid, the big kid in the video, is me, or he could be. If people care, they'll look around them, at the other kids who could be me, and they'll come to them with more than platitudes and easy answers. Maybe one of those people is you. Maybe you're one of the nameless Romans, one of the kids who just stood and watched and took it all in, blind to your own strength to change things, and maybe you'll speak up, stop the fight, and take a stand. Maybe you'll teach your children not to be silent, or your nieces and nephews, or neighbors, or someone.

Maybe.

Here's hoping.
posted by sonascope at 7:05 AM on March 15, 2011 [151 favorites]


No time like the present for those circumstances to cease being relevant to bullying behavior. Not certain why they are relevant to begin with.

It's relevant because there have been a number of comments in this thread about how this is supposedly related to some kind of pro-bully trait in Australian culture.

By pointing out that this is what you would call a significantly socioeconomically disadvantaged area, it provides some context beyond the few individuals involved.

I could've said it's a redneck bogan ghetto slum where every second person is on meth, but that would be unnecessarily stereotyping.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:06 AM on March 15, 2011


Kids fight. Always been true, now the internet shows us some of the fights.

Some kids fight. A lot of us just get our aggression and competitiveness out in other ways. Video games? Sports? RPGs and board games? There are plenty of ways to compete without picking on others.
posted by explosion at 7:10 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nope. Note the big kid walked away.

I was referring to the bit I quoted, not the video.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:11 AM on March 15, 2011


i was tall and fat in school and I'm tall and fat as an adult, and I can tell you for a fact that every time i've had unprovoked aggression it's been from a little bastard with an attitude. It doesn't matter if it's at school or the pub, a slow moving big target is a perfect way to try and prove that you're tougher than your size implies.

As an adult, I can't say that I approve or condone that kid's actions, but the internal teenager is bellowing congratulations and wondering if he's strong enough to do the exact same thing to the bullies he encountered.

All I'll say is that with that much frustration, with that much concrete and glass and sharp edges, the little bully got away lightly with a broken ankle.
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 7:12 AM on March 15, 2011


Some kids fight.

There are those that don't. But many, many people have stories of run-ins with roughians, bullies and the like. I and many Mefites have certainly had several.

And.

Great writing sonascope. Very important points made there. Flagged as fantastic comment.
posted by IvoShandor at 7:15 AM on March 15, 2011


Something I haven't seen a lot of in the other comments is this:

The video as posted seems to be intended to not be a document of the big kid stopping the bully, but of the big kid getting slapped around to further humiliate him. This makes the entire thing doubly important.

The child filming the video posted it after the small kid got beaten up because they were in on the bullying. When the small kid was basically maimed (something he arguably may have deserved), he became the 'weaker' target.

Like a predatory animal, the student doing the filming turned on its injured packmate. I don't feel badly for the small kid, but I do feel sickened by the fact that this video is being held up as a victory when in fact it is just part of the same vicious cycle.
posted by Fuka at 7:15 AM on March 15, 2011 [14 favorites]


There are a lot of people here implying that its impossible for adult authority to act effectively to stop bullying. That's simply not true.

In my personal experience of being bullied in primary and early secondary school, the most effective way of dealing with the problem was unilateral action by the school. The pupils involved were threatened with everything from removal from the football team through to explusion. These were, in cases, followed through on. I wasn't worth picking on anymore - the possible punishment wasn't worth it. (15 minute detentions aren't the same and do not work.)

The important thing is to quickly and sharply break the cycle. Confidence is the common theme in the violence, learning a martial art, or my example of strong teacher action. Bullies aren't interested in confident people.
posted by ElliotH at 7:16 AM on March 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


I'm clearly late to this conversation and not sure that anyone is going to scroll this far down and read this, but:

A lot of us on here are conflating justice with survival.
posted by LMGM at 7:16 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm remembering all the times I was bullied, the times when I had my head slammed against a locker or got sucker punched by someone twice my size, and I am having a hard time wishing I had done the same to someone else, even if they were the aggressor. Why would I want someone else to be hurt? Hurting sucks.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:22 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Okay, so there's a huge pile of anecdata that says first, that you often can stop being bullied by punching the bully or in some other way hitting back; and second, that the bullied are still marked, years later, by what happened to them. Then it seems like there's a lot of statements that violence is not the answer and that today's victim is tomorrow's bully, we don't know the whole story, etc.

Is there a comparable amount of anecdata about people who hit back and it made things worse? I've certainly seen people say this, but not in nearly the numbers who say that hitting back made things stop.

Is today's victim tomorrow's bully? I've never heard of this happening, but obviously my experience is limited.

Where are the stories from bullies? Do they remember bullying? I often wonder, but I never go back home and I avoid social networking, because I don't want them contacting me to "apologize" or try to befriend me, so I don't know.

I am thirty-six. I've done a lot of emotional work. I grew up and got friends, made a life for myself far from home, made myself part of the community life of my city. I still sit in the far back corner in any room so that I can watch the door. I still panic in elevators with strangers. I still walk get nervous when I hear cars, I still expect insults and violence. I'm better than I was, but I've pretty much accepted that part of me will always be the bullied kid, part of me will never recover. My health is a bit wonky in terms of sleep and cortisols and so on, and I've always put that down to being on high physical alert pretty much all day every day from seven to eighteen. I remember once a teacher let me move my seat so that I didn't sit right in front of my tormentors, and the abrogation of that physical fear was so strong that I almost started crying in the classroom.

Do I forgive the people who bullied me? I don't know. I don't really care any more. I'm sure that they have no memory of what they did, and it gives me vertigo to think that their casual entertainment altered the course of my entire life.
posted by Frowner at 7:23 AM on March 15, 2011 [13 favorites]


Ugh. Count me as another tall, chubby, dorky kid who got picked on by little scrawny guys. Yeah, I have my own breaking-the-cycle-by-fighting-back story, but mostly this video brings back dark, dark memories. I'm not happy for any of the kids.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:24 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


After reading this thread, I have the tightness in my chest from secondary school that hasn't been there for 20 years. I was small for my age all the way through school, and that was all the excuse they needed to bully me. I was beaten up, had my stuff stolen or broken, the names, the insults, you name it. I wasn't even anywhere near the most victimized kid in school, I was just convenient for casual victimization when more promising targets weren't available. They only learnt to leave me be (the insults continued though) when I snapped one day and lashed out. I had to lash out a few more times, get stomped, but inflict enough damage in return that they left me alone for the most part.

That weight only left my chest when I left and went to Uni and got free. 20 years later, I have a great life, and have left these small people behind in their small lives (I checked).

But fuck them, fuck all bullies, because 20 years later, I still feel the fear they can instill in a small frightened kid. And fuck the adults who stood idly by while they turned my childhood sour.
posted by arcticseal at 7:28 AM on March 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


As a slightly over-grown and gawky 7th & 8th grader, I was occasionally taunted and punched, kicked/slapped around & ridiculed by a couple of 9th grade assholes who played tough when they had the backing of their thug buddies. One day, after getting smacked by one guy on the bus, I'd had enough. All I needed was an opportunity with one or both when they were not in the company of their buddies. It happened in a remote hallway near the gym one afternoon, when the main instigator turned a corner and we were suddenly alone and face-to-face. He looked somewhat alarmed, and I knew it was time to make a statement. After pointing out that he didn't seem so bad-ass without his buddies, I popped him a couple solid rights to the face -- bloodying his nose nicely and landing one that resulted in a glorious black eye that hung on for a week. He never bothered me again, and neither did the others.

I'm not condoning it, but saying it worked for me that day. I only told one friend, who was also a target of their crap. The little shit got what was coming.

As Hunter S said, "But the ticket, take the ride."
posted by VicNebulous at 7:29 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Buy the ticket..."
posted by VicNebulous at 7:30 AM on March 15, 2011


There are a lot of people here implying that its impossible for adult authority to act effectively to stop bullying. That's simply not true.

It's true in our experience.

In my personal experience of being bullied in primary and early secondary school, the most effective way of dealing with the problem was unilateral action by the school. The pupils involved were threatened with everything from removal from the football team through to explusion. These were, in cases, followed through on. I wasn't worth picking on anymore - the possible punishment wasn't worth it. (15 minute detentions aren't the same and do not work.)

In most schools, "15 minute detentions" are all the school bothers to do. You're very fortunate to have gone to a school that took bullying that seriously, but many of us didn't (lots of people have reported being told to "just try to understand the bullies and where they're coming from" or some such bullshit, but -- like someone else said upthread -- a bully's mental health is not another kid's responsibility).

The one time anyone stood up for me when I was being bullied, the principal "handled it" by calling me in to a series of one-on-one meetings with each of my bullies so we could "talk about it." Each and every one of the girls denied that their teasing had any malicious intent, and we were released with a warning to "work it out and try to get along better." And while they did stop kicking and punching me in the locker room, and stopped tormenting me in gym class proper, I didn't feel like the school had done anything for me at all, and I was hiding from them the rest of the school year in case they decided to strike again.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:31 AM on March 15, 2011


It's pretty clear that people who were bullied carry those internal scars for a long long time.

Those events are without a doubt part of who we are, but we choose how to live as adults.

They do not have to define us.
posted by bwg at 7:31 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


We don't believe that violence is ever the answer. We believe there are other ways that children can manage this.

Two wrongs truly don't make a right, and assault is assault.

Violence in all forms is to be deplored.

This is what I grew up learning from my mother, and from teachers, and all the people who were supposedly looking out for me. So I never hit back, no matter what -- and the few times I came close, I was filled with shame and dread, terrified of becoming just like those other kids.

As an adult I was the same, and I avoided confrontation at all costs. Which is hard, because there are other people who have no such compunction. The times I was threatened or attacked, whether verbally or physically, I found myself meekly backing away -- or worse, apologizing -- and then later hating myself for letting others run roughshod all over me. My general confidence and independence was a lie, because if challenged, I was unable to defend myself.

The bullied mentality carries over into adulthood. I think it's unfortunate that sometimes it takes violence (or the threat of violence) to get someone to leave you alone, but it's better for a person to understand violence, and know their own limitations, and be able to fairly judge the true danger of a situation that to just curl up and assume victim stance. True pacifism is an instinct that an adult can only adopt as a conscious choice; pacifism based on fear is completely worthless.

One day a few years ago I started taking kung fu classes, mostly out of idle curiosity. I began to really love it, but even in the workout drills it took a long time for me to outgrow my discomfort with hitting someone -- even consensually, even in a way that intended no harm. But I got over it! And I stopped having those nightmares -- you know, the ones where you try to fend off an attacker, but your blows don't seem to connect, like you have big heavy pillows for fists.

After many months of training, what I discovered under my veneer of pacifism was a whole lot of anger. Anger that I'd been carrying around my entire life. One day some guy on the subway called me a faggot, and at first I started to just bury my nose deeper in my book, all the better to pretend I hadn't heard a thing, just like I had done my entire life. But then I looked at the guy -- just like in this video, he was much smaller than me, all swagger. What on earth was I afraid of? So instead I stood, drawing myself up to my full six feet and three inches, and made eye contact with him, and mentally prepared myself to not back down. Even if it meant fighting. And if he did try to fight me, I swore to myself, I would break his fucking arm. It wouldn't be very difficult.

Well, naturally he didn't say a word, he completely backed down and refused to look at me for the rest of the trip. And since then I have stood up for myself more often, though occasionally I fall prey to old instincts and just scuttle off.

Last year after Tyler Clementi's suicide I made a promise to myself that I wouldn't scuttle anymore, ever. Even if it meant getting seriously hurt, even if it seemed avoidable, even if it meant going to jail. Because the only way to send the message to certain ignorant jerks that certain shit will not be tolerated is... to not tolerate it. So far, I've kept that promise without hurting anyone.

I remember reading Nina Simone's memoir, the part where she heard about the 1963 Alabama church bombing on the radio. She flew into a sort of unprecedented rage that sent her running up and down the streets of her neighborhood combing through scraps and junk metal. Hours later when her husband got home, he found her in the garage, she was sweaty and crazed, toiling over some sort of contraption. In her grief and despair, she had decided to try and build a weapon. She wanted to build a gun, she writes, so that she could go out and shoot a white person.

I laugh at this story, but it's a grim laughter because I completely understand. While I'm glad she didn't go out and murder some innocent white person, and similarly glad that I haven't broken someone's arm because of a careless insult (or because of the suicide of someone I didn't know), there is a deep recognition there that you can only push people -- whether individuals or groups -- so hard before the elastic snaps back on you.

Kid's a hero. He'll probably learn all the wrong lessons from the attention he's getting, but he'll never be afraid of kids like that ever again, not in the same way.
posted by hermitosis at 7:32 AM on March 15, 2011 [26 favorites]


I was the fat kid in high school. I got reminded of that every day. One day, in Biology class, the one kid that liked giving me the most grief just wouldn't let up. I couldn't take it anymore and pinned him to the wall with a chair. No real impact or injury, just a sign that I'd had enough.

He put his hands up and went through the "Whoa! OK OK! I'm sorry" rigmarole and I put the chair down and walked away. As I was walking back to my seat he hit me from behind. I was still on edge from the chair thing, so I hit him.

I am not a fan of violence, in general. I am a very very big fan of standing up for what's mine and defending myself. If someone wants to talk shit about me, fine, I couldn't care less. If they feel the need to make it physical, I feel confident that me walking away after they throw the first punch isn't going to end the fight.

A lot of people will say (and have) "oh, you guys should have talked it out with the teacher or guidance counselor or someone" and they refuse to believe me that kids like this don't respond to that. Sometimes people just need a fist to the face to really get the message.

The kid that hit me? I never heard a word from him again. I'm not going to say that I was right or wrong in what I did, but it worked in this situation.
posted by fore at 7:32 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's pretty clear that people who were bullied carry those internal scars for a long long time. Those events are without a doubt part of who we are, but we choose how to live as adults. They do not have to define us.

It'd be easier for some of us to "define ourselves" if we'd ever heard one shred of evidence that we were worth another definition. If anyone had ever just once stood up and said to the bullies, "hey, EC doesn't deserve that crap, cut it out."

In the absence of anyone else offering another definition for who and what you are, it's hard to come to a place where you can make one for yourself. Because -- fuck, if I really am worth being treated better than they were treating me, then why the fuck didn't anyone stop those bitches from treating me like that?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:35 AM on March 15, 2011 [19 favorites]


I had a few girls give me a pretty hard time as a kid but only one of them ever got physical. After a few weeks of doing the right thing (IE, ignoring and avoiding her as best I could), I told my mom (and laid out the reasons why school administration wasn't doing anything about it). Mom said "Next time, you hit her back". My mom is a nice lady and a teacher herself but she's realistic and she's no dummy. She had a bunch of sisters, she knew the score. And I knew that maybe I'd get in trouble with the school, but mom'd have my back.

And funny enough, once I was empowered that way, my bully drifted away. Still occasionally attacked me verbally but never got into my personal space again. I wonder if she could sense somehow that I wasn't just going to sit there and let her smash my head into the lockers anymore.

I hope I never have to pass the same advice on to my kids, but I won't hesitate to do so.
posted by padraigin at 7:37 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Prescriptive admonitions saying that violence is never the answer are just as un-nuanced an opinion as insisting that violence is always an appropriate response.

I'm tired of kubayahyahs. Sometimes people stick up for themselves against bullies. And sometimes that happens in the school yard. And sometimes that happens against totalitarian governments. The impulse is the same, and insisting that people not react to the daily violence visited upon their lives is making a value judgment that the way things are is either acceptable or survivable. Even if it is the latter, why should you just survive? Why is that considered more admirable than taking action?
posted by whimsicalnymph at 7:37 AM on March 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


No one helped me. That was the thing that I look back on in astonishment. No one helped me, and several of my teachers actually joined the bullies in making fun of me. My parents told me that they too had been bullied; it was just our lot as working-class intellectuals, I'd grow up and move away and everything would be better. Of course, college is a long way away when you're twelve.

I wish I had hit back, actually. That's what I regret, years later.

I mean, most of the time I don't think about this stuff any more--I've worked pretty hard to be able to turn those thoughts off. But when I do think about it, it is nearly as fresh and painful as it was then.
posted by Frowner at 7:38 AM on March 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


Bullying is not the after school saccharine of kids with low self esteem compensating. Bullies are peer leaders and their behaviour is systematically rewarded. They are not Nelson Muntz from the Simpsons. They are your bosses and leaders in training. This outrage against a kid resisting exists because it defies what people unconsciously assume is the natural order of things.
posted by mobunited at 7:41 AM on March 15, 2011 [28 favorites]


.
the older kid's response was warranted.

the only thing that bothers me is how close the big-er kid came to seriously f*cking up his own life. had the bully's head been where his ankle was, this could have turned into a haunting, life-long, memory of coma, brain damage and/or death.

just another facet of the unfairness of bullying.
posted by DavidandConquer at 7:41 AM on March 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


In 8th grade, in a new school, having been the runt of the class for years in my old school, and unaware as yet of the power dynamic, I fought back. I was being spat on, I spat back. Once. I was, of course, seen by the teacher and sentenced to detention, which I took without protest. The initial perpetrator, of course, got nothing. Luckily, my parents understood. I used the opportunity to quietly do homework, and took it as a lesson in how the world worked, and from whence "the authorities" took their morals.

My impression is that people who work with children professionally are, generally, fucking clueless about the power dynamics of kids. The best understand that they don't know what's going on, but they're rare. And the kids, knowing that they're only going to get abused by their teachers, school administrators, and other authorities as well, will do everything they can to hide these dynamics from the teachers.

Good on Casey for a measured reasoned response to the violence that the authorities wouldn't protect him from. If he'd turned and walked away without subduing his attacker, the mob would almost assuredly have set upon him and beat the living snot out of him. Been there, got the bruises, thought I was going to be killed.
posted by straw at 7:44 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


All these comments and not one Ender Wiggin comment.

Say what you will about Orson Scott Card but one he got one thing blindingly right: Children are vicious. He clearly lays out early in the book that if Ender doesn't end the fight in such as way as to forbid future conflicts, then he will be fighting for the rest of his life. That's only gotten more true today. Some bully who gets his nose flattened by his victim will only be talked up and bolstered by his friends into elevating the level of violence. Obviously, kids can't be taught that extreme violence is the answer to bullying, but I truly don't see a solution.

I honestly fear this kid just brought more shit down on his head. The next time he comes after him, the little kid is going to be carrying a weapon, I guarantee it.
posted by Macphisto at 7:45 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: "It'd be easier for some of us to "define ourselves" if we'd ever heard one shred of evidence that we were worth another definition. "

EmpressCallipygos, probably no one else said anything because they were as scared of the bully as you were (I know it was like that in my case).

But you seem pretty fiesty, which gives me the impression that nowadays you don't take crap from anyone. If that's true then you've defined yourself in at least one way.

I'd say that makes you worth quite a lot.
posted by bwg at 7:45 AM on March 15, 2011


> I couldn't take it anymore and pinned him to the wall with a chair. No real impact or injury, just a sign that I'd had enough.

I (to my eternal shame) used to bully my younger brother, but by the time I was 12 he had grown bigger and taller than me. Then one day when I tried to pull my usual nonsense he overpowered me, sat on my chest with his fist cocked and made it very clear he'd had enough of my shit and could pound my face into hamburger if he so chose. It probably wasn't the 'right' thing to do, but I can tell you it was the last time I ever tried to beat him up.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:46 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


The larger boy 'snaps' and picks up the smaller boy and dumps him head-first onto the concrete.

panaceanot, you watched the wrong video. In the one linked above, the bully is dropped horizontally, and the first part of him to land is his ankle/foot. IOW: you've slanted this argument in the first reply with false reporting.


Sys Rq: That little kid is either incredibly stupid or was coerced into picking the fight.

... or he is a bully. You missed that possibility. Bullies aren't defined by size.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:47 AM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


I do feel bad that the smaller kid, even though he's a bully, got hurt. But you know what? I'm not going to criticize a 16 year old bullied kid for sticking up for himself. No way.

Bullying is an attack on your self worth. The worst part about it is that you're conditioned to take the abuse. Teachers don't or can't do jack shit to stop it. Adults preach empathy and non-violence (which works in adult society where their peers aren't antisocial 14 year olds). Not only is the bullying implicitly condoned, but the bullied are the ones acting up when they fight back.

So when a bullied teenager breaks out of that, and finds some self respect to do something, no f'ing way am I going to criticize him for it.

The one thing he does not need is adults telling him that standing up for himself is wrong, that he's supposed to just take the abuse.

It may not be best for him to slam a bully into concrete, but for god's sake, he's a 16 year old boy. He's not going to make the best most mature decisions. But nonetheless, what he did is far better than putting up with abuse. It's called having self respect.
posted by cotterpin at 7:48 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


In respone to some commens suggesting the bully was coerced or dared into picking the fight. I don't belive that for a. second.

In my experience bullies know their victims well enough to know who will fight back and who ill not.

Gentle giants let these little pricks look tough with little risk to themselves.

the victim is in a lose lose situation. If you go too a teacher it's unlikely to improve matters so you can only choose to continue to be a victim or fight back.

Good on the kid for standing up for himself. Its criminal that he will be punished but I suspect it will be worth it when he goes back to school and he isn't bullied any more.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 7:48 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was bullied in 6th grade PE class by some doltish 7th grade lout who was old enough to be in 9th grade. His locker was next to mine, and there was pretty much daily harassment from him: poking with pencils, inane insults (I was short, but otherwise pretty normal and outgoing so it was kind weird for me), punches on the arm, etc. I'm pretty sure he also stole my shoes and pissed on them in the toilet.

I never fought back, mainly because I don't like touching people that I loathe. That's one thing about fighting that I can't really grok. If two people hate each other, why in the world are they then getting physically intimate? Anyway, instead, I wished death on him everyday. For the better part of nine months, every time I saw him in the hallway I wished him dead.

Guess what happened? Next year while he was riding his moped late at night a drunken teenager plowed into him with her pickup and dragged him the better part of a mile before she realized what happened. A good deal of his skin was torn off and all of his blood painted the road in a ghastly mile-long streak. Dead.

Now, at the time I wasn't naive enough to think that I had any kind of secret power of deathbringing, but I sure felt bad about wishing death on that stupid bastard. Even if he had it coming to him. I wonder if I had just hauled off and punched him in the nuts really hard if that wouldn't have broken the bullying spell and I wouldn't have walked around with that kind of hatred for another person. He still would've been hit by truck, probably.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:48 AM on March 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


This outrage against a kid resisting exists because it defies what people unconsciously assume is the natural order of things.

Please don't tell me why I think what I think.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:48 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm conflicted. I was bullied all through elementary and middle school. Part of high school too, though the bullying diminished somewhat there. I never responded with physical violence, though my father always told me that the only way to respond and make the bullying stop was to come back at them (and, of course, ineffectual father that he was, he never taught me how to do that or much of anything else). I never did learn to "defend myself," and I don't begrudge those who did learn how, and I admit that I wonder how things would have turned out if I could go back in time and respond violently to the episodes in which I was bullied. But I kind of have the feeling that it wouldn't have turned out well for me, no matter what vicarious satisfaction I get out of the idea of avenging myself when nobody else would avenge me.

I've had a few bullying bosses in adulthood as well. I wonder what the lesson of physical violence as a response to childhood bullying would have taught me about the proper way to respond to bullying as an adult? If a boss were to bully me again, should I punch him, the way one person upthread mentioned as a solution?

It seems to me that there's already way too much rage and physical violence in the world, and especially in the US, as it is. I don't want to contribute to it by cheerleading this meme, even if it makes me look like a spineless weakling for saying that. The kid and the situation are taken out of a context that we can't possibly know anything about, and that's why I don't really want to watch this (or most viral videos like it).

phenylphenol: There is a wonderful movie out there, a 1956 Western with Gregory Peck, Burl Ives, and Charleton Heston called The Big Country. I think it more or less captures the best perspective on this sort of thing. The biggest person will avoid violence at all costs, but will use it as a last resort if the bullying simply will not stop... but no more than necessary, and only with regret.

I don't know. I realize that Westerns are almost always a commentary on larger contexts, but using them as a template for real-life responses seems problematic at best.

arcticseal: But fuck them, fuck all bullies, because 20 years later, I still feel the fear they can instill in a small frightened kid. And fuck the adults who stood idly by while they turned my childhood sour.

Fuck all bullies? Well, sure, in theory, that's well and good. But before I get all self-righteous about bullies, I have to remind myself that sometimes the bully is me, or my best friend, or my favorite co-worker. Sometimes the bully is my own kid (I don't have a kid, but I'm talking in general terms). Sometimes the bully is a person in a position of extreme power, like a congressman or a state legislator or an administrator. Oftentimes the bully is someone who, most of the time, seems like a popular person that everyone would want to know and thinks is generally wonderful. So fuck them too?

Fuck all of us, really. Because most of us have the potential within us to be bullied, and most of us, unless we're recluses in caves, have the potential to be bullies or to enable bullying, given the right set of conditions, whether we believe it or not.

whimsicalnymph: Prescriptive admonitions saying that violence is never the answer are just as un-nuanced an opinion as insisting that violence is always an appropriate response.

Funny, but I see a lot more prescriptive admonitions saying the latter in this thread than the former. And for Pete's sake, who in this thread is singing "Kumbaya"?
posted by blucevalo at 7:49 AM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


As someone who was bullied I have to commend this kids action.
I was the scrawny skinny nerdy punk kid and was picked on for most of my childhood.
what stopped the behavior was a threat of violence.I couldn't believe in high school the same kids were picking on me in 11th grade. Teachers didn't help, police didn't help, parents didn't help. One evening the group of bullies decided it would just be so funny to throw eggs at my car while I was driving, I snapped grab an aluminum baseball bat and went straight to one of the kids house. Woke up his parents at 11 at night and told them calmly that when I found there son I would be taking matters in my own hands. I awaited down the street that kid was called home within 10 minutes.
Never was bothered again.
While non violence is great, I only wish I had shown up at the kids house sooner with a bat if I would have known it was so damn effective.
posted by handbanana at 7:51 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


But you seem pretty fiesty, which gives me the impression that nowadays you don't take crap from anyone. If that's true then you've defined yourself in at least one way.

I "seem pretty fiesty" in here because this is a safe place.

The outside world, not so much.

Yes. Still.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:52 AM on March 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


More on the idea that authority can't intervene:

I deal with bullies and the bullied every day. I teach middle school.

In order for adults to stop bullying two things must happen:

1 - the bullied must tell on the other students and give some sort of description of what happened.

2 - the adults must believe the bullied and honestly and diligently research what has happened, then deal with the bullies harshly.

I had to deal with bullies on my own as a child, without the benefit of adult assistance, but it gave me insight on what kids do to mess with each other. It takes careful examination but you can catch a bully in the act and sometimes you can get them to admit to it.

Then, you crush their mean little souls.
posted by Fuka at 7:54 AM on March 15, 2011 [10 favorites]


I suspect there's some genuine human nature things going on with bullying and fighting back. Somebody who has stood up to their bullies is now no longer clean prey -- they've matured, aged, whatever. This is not actually a bad thing, from a social perspective.

There are two ways these forces can be subverted: Appeals to authority, and weaponry. Neither are actually respected, not really -- the former, because it's just a call to actual mature people. The latter because games of status are not actually supposed to end in death.
posted by effugas at 7:55 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maybe some past bullies can chime in on why the hell they harassed others? There has to be some past bullies on the blue.
posted by handbanana at 7:56 AM on March 15, 2011


EmpressCallipygos: "I "seem pretty fiesty" in here because this is a safe place.

The outside world, not so much.

Yes. Still."


Fair enough. But if folks in here think you're worthwhile, then you must be.

My two cents before bed.
posted by bwg at 7:57 AM on March 15, 2011


A few people have talked about the cycle of violence, and the idea that the bullied in turn abuse others. There is ample evidence for this, but you are missing a key factor: This does not apply to those who stand up for themselves against their abusers. That is a different kind of violence. It builds self confidence and self worth, and helps stop the cycle. It is those who suffer in silence and despair, seeing no way out, who are at most risk of taking their pain out on the next vulnerable target.
posted by Nothing at 7:57 AM on March 15, 2011 [11 favorites]


And I have to add: I in no way believe that this is the best outcome. But it is one of the only outcomes a child in that situation can control. I also think the real solution should and can be systemic, and non-violent. But the kids in the video have no way of making that happen. Their choices are far more limited.
posted by Nothing at 7:59 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, and I second phenylphenol's recommendation of The Big Country, although that's not how I would have summarized it.
posted by straw at 8:00 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was bullied. For the record, I'm a girl. Someone upstream said that girls weren't as physically violent. I beg to disagree.

I had two incidents that were very similar to sonascope. In both cases, the shit when on and on and on, until I finally snapped. People got hurt. One person got badly hurt. I refused to apologize, and found that it was easier to leave the country and go to school in England than it was to deal with the fallout.

My hands are shaking as I remember those incidents. The level of adrenaline in my system right now is like I was riding a rollercoaster. 30 years later, and I still hate those kids with the fire of a thousand white hot suns. They are one of the reasons I've never had a facebook account. Because I'm older, and smarter and significantly more vindictive than I was then...and there's still a huge part of me that wants to see them suffer.

I tell you that story, so I can tell you this story. My son is in the second grade, and was being bullied. The leader of the bullies comes from a family of sociopaths. These kids have been banned from neighborhood pools, because they kept trying to drown babies. Seriously, psychopaths.

I taught my son how to knock someone off their feet. Next time the kid pushed my son against a wall, Boy knocked him down. That happened a couple of times, before crazy mom showed up at my house, all screamy and threaty because my son was being mean by not letting himself get beat up.

In full view of about 25 people, I leaned in, whispered something in her ear, her eyes got wide, her face went white, and she backed the fuck away from me very quickly. I. just. smiled. She practically ran down the block to her house, and nobody has had any trouble with them since. I'm the Psycho Whisperer. ;)

A show of strength is the only weapon against bullies. Talking to them, empathizing with them, trying to be a zen master...that shit doesn't work. Equalize their power, and they have nothing.
posted by dejah420 at 8:00 AM on March 15, 2011 [21 favorites]


It's funny how the experts say violence is not the answer as if it was an absolute. Violence is not the answer in any system where violence is sanctioned and prohibited. In a system where violence runs unchecked (sadly, a lot of schoolyards), controlled violence or implied violence is a rational alternative.
posted by storybored at 8:01 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


No one has won here.

On the contrary, the bullied child will now always have the memory of having stood up for themselves in the face of a hateful adversary. People generally feel good about themselves when they do such a thing. I don't think this is particularly controversial.

This will not stop violence and bullying in general, and it will not stop it at that particular school, and may even increase it.

A suggestion: it is not the bullied child's responsibility to decrease violence and bullying in general, but only the violence and bullying that is coming to his brain in the form of a punch in the face. It is hard not to read your comment here as a veiled criticism of the reaction of the bullied child, and I reject this criticism as ethically immature.


It is fascinating to see how fully grown adult people are reacting to bullying of and by children. For instance, this makes me sick, and seeing adults cheer on physical violence is painful to read. At the same time, I can see how many of these people are being transported back to being that big kid, and transposing their tormentor's face on to the broken ankle child.

My empathy is with the kid that was being picked on, and I celebrate his reaction to what was happening to him.

In my view a "fully grown adult" doesn't insinuate that other people's moral judgments must be based on personal experiences that determined those judgments. Part of becoming an adult is realizing that one can judge an action to be wrong without ever having personally experienced the pain that that action causes.

I suppose another part of becoming an adult is acquiring the ability to judge, with sensitivity and tact, a situation like this one. In this case two important steps are to: 1. accurately determine who the instigator and aggressor is; 2. figure out why the video was being made in the first place and what that reasonably implies about the time-frame of the bullying in question.

An attitude of "a plague on both your houses" will simply not do.
posted by sommerfeld at 8:04 AM on March 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


In full view of about 25 people, I leaned in, whispered something in her ear, her eyes got wide, her face went white, and she backed the fuck away from me very quickly. I. just. smiled. She practically ran down the block to her house, and nobody has had any trouble with them since. I'm the Psycho Whisperer. ;)

"My husband is an auditor in the IRS"...?
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:05 AM on March 15, 2011 [12 favorites]


Regarding the difference in size between these two kids; the worst bully in the neighbourhood around the library I work at is a wiry little snot shorter and smaller than most of the kids he picks on.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:05 AM on March 15, 2011


UbuRoivas: "
"My husband is an auditor in the IRS"...
"

Bwhahahahahaha! No, but I'm storing that one in case I need it. ;)
posted by dejah420 at 8:06 AM on March 15, 2011


Like a lot of other people in this thread, I was bullied extensively as a child, and some of that remains to this day -- my subconcious tells me to be suspicious of strangers, because growing up, strangers were always hostile for no reason at all. And it's probably the reason I started all the martial arts stuff.

As an adult, now, I can laugh off a lot more things than I could have as a child. I have a much better sense of self. I've watched some guy try to pick a fight with a friend of mine at a bar, oblivious to the fact that he was basically trying to start a fight with a table full of people who spent all their free time training. And we laughed, because there is literally nothing any of us have to prove to some untrained guy in a bar. I think it confused him. He pulled out a military ID to show us that he was a Marine! And Therefore Tough!

But that's a sense that comes out of thousands of hours of hard training and wrestling around with people. As a child, when your sense of self is so undeveloped, and your world is so small and hostile? I don't think it's fair to expect that kind of attitude. I don't know if the answer is violence, but I'm pretty sure the answer isn't to expect children to have the sense of self that adults eventually develop.
posted by Comrade_robot at 8:07 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Why couldn't they just talk it out. I'm sure they could have found some common ground maybe even become friends. They could have ridden unicorns together off into the sunset and eaten ice cream with hot fudge from the hot fusge volcano while playing a preview of the xbox 720.

We had plenty of little bullies, they were the worst becuase they were always trying to prove themselves.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:07 AM on March 15, 2011


sommerfield: On the contrary, the bullied child will now always have the memory of having stood up for themselves in the face of a hateful adversary. People generally feel good about themselves when they do such a thing. I don't think this is particularly controversial.

How do you know whether it's controversial or not? I almost never feel good about myself when I react angrily or with violence to a situation, whether it seems justified or not. I may feel vindicated, but to me, that's a different thing from feeling good about myself. Sometimes I may have no choice but to react angrily when backed against a wall. That doesn't mean I feel great after I've had my rage moment.
posted by blucevalo at 8:10 AM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


If, as an adult, someone came up to you on the street and threatened you if you didn't give them your wallet, you'd be justified in punching them. Perhaps not the smartest thing to do, if they have a weapon, but few people would say you shouldn't have done it. Reasoning is certainly not going to work.

If, as an adult, someone came up to you in a bar and fondled you, you'd be justified in slapping them or kicking them in the balls. Perhaps not the smartest thing to do, but few people would say you shouldn't have done it. Reasoning is certainly not going to work.

Kids who are bullied are robbed of much more than their wallets, and they're definitely assaulted, physically as well as emotionally (and sometimes sexually). It's justified for them to fight back.

I am a pacifist buddhist. I don't even swear in anger. But letting violence continue is actually not the most compassionate act, and sometimes it takes violence in order to stop it.
posted by desjardins at 8:11 AM on March 15, 2011 [12 favorites]


Fair enough. But if folks in here think you're worthwhile, then you must be.

Lots of my people told me later on, after the fact, that I hadn't deserved it. But they let it happen anyway.

Come to my defense when someone's got me in a corner, and then I'll believe you when you say that. Until then it's just talk.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:11 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


If a boss were to bully me again, should I punch him, the way one person upthread mentioned as a solution?

If your boss was physically attacking you? Absolutely!! Would you not defend yourself?
posted by hermitosis at 8:12 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


One aspect of sticking up for yourself that is not obvious is that the day you do it, you feel differently about yourself. You walk around with a different shape to your shoulders. That shape tells prospective bullies to go find a victim elsewhere.

That new shape to your shoulders will last for the rest of your life.

It will enable you to walk through shitty neighborhoods largely without problems.

It will enable you to drink in shitty bars without getting beaten up unless you are being a douche.

It will enable you to stand up to workplace bullies.

The 'solution' of complaining to an adult who will ultimately do a lot of yakking and ask you to shake hands and be friends with the jerk who is victimising you does none of this.
posted by unSane at 8:13 AM on March 15, 2011 [17 favorites]


I'm sorry, but this FPP is more prevalent than the schoolyard. This is a case where the "Turn and offer other cheek" people are either the ones who'd prefer you didn't swat them back, or the the type that's never been in the situation.

I remember the bullies from high school. Everyone's right, they're the types that know the teachers and community are behind them entirely because they're the QB, their dad is everyone's bar-buddy, or they're related to have the town.

In these situation, the victim's screwed. If he takes it, they continue to give it. If he retaliates, everyone punishes him in the manner they should have responded to the first kid.

Fact of the matter is that reality and the world is sometimes inalterably skewed to favor those fortunate enough to recognize it, and the rest of us are left with bruises and replays of what we wish we had done running through our head every day while we're driving to our thankless jobs.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 8:16 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bullying is an attack on your self worth. The worst part about it is that you're conditioned to take the abuse.

Yeah, this. Being bullied isn't about getting a fat lip or a black eye. I had far, far more injuries from riding my bike like a maniac than I ever got from fighting in school. Bullies are out to cement their spots in the pack by shaming and dominating kids who can't, or don't want to, fit in. Bullying is a way of establishing a pecking order. It's about humiliation.

Mainly, though, I'm dropping by to see if maybe we could drop "fat kid" and "bogan" as descriptors in the conversation.

I don't know what a bogan is; but as a former fat kid and current fat adult, I claim the right of reappropriation on "fat kid".
posted by steambadger at 8:17 AM on March 15, 2011


Observing my son's karate class, I hear a lot from the instructors about bullying and the importance of walking away from potentially bad situations. And these kids, in their clean white uniforms, between drills, nod their heads because these are THE RULES. THE RULES say things like "We don't pick on others" and "Tell an adult" and "Bullying is always wrong."

But what they see is that bullies not only ignore the rules, and don't feel bad about doing so, but also exploit the weaknesses of the rules--like the fact that adults aren't always around, that kids won't always put a stop to harassment and fighting, that kids won't always tell (even when asked), that *it is possible for them get away with cruelty, emotional and physical violence.* These are the bullies who later whine to teachers, "But he HIT me!" and get away with it, because yeah, there's evidence that the victim fought back...and there are rules and protocols to be followed by administrators. These are the born manipulators. Lessons for those who are victimized, or stand by complicitly: THE RULES can fail. Bullies understand how to get away with getting their way.

In the gap between theory and practice are these kids with their poor judgment and lack of options. What are they supposed to do right then, right there, when THE RULES have failed, the bully has the figurative and literal upper hand, *no other kids are stepping in to help* and when all of these factors are repeated day after day after day? Bullies who thrive on behaving outside the rules shouldn't be surprised when their victims stop following them too. That doesn't justify injury done by the victim--but it should go some way toward tempering the response of those charged with enforcing the rules. To a kid who fights back, there's a world of difference between detention and detention with a side of "We understand; we failed you, too."
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:17 AM on March 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


blucevalo - yes, we all have the ability to be bullies, but having been a victim of bullying, I go out of my way not to be one myself. A large part of the thread has pointed out that it's often the popular people who are allowed to get away with bullying with the tacit agreement of those in authority.
posted by arcticseal at 8:17 AM on March 15, 2011


I guess I am also from a different era, 25 years ago nobody told me "violence is never the answer". I think it was accepted that shit like this happens and unless weapons are involved kids for the most part don't get seriously injured in these types of fights. I'm not saying this is right but my parents viewed it as kind of natural and told me to just hit the guy as hard as possible.

Of course it get more dangerous as you get older, people are stronger, bones stiffen, it is much easier to get seriously injured after puberty.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:19 AM on March 15, 2011


UnSane makes a really valid point. I'm a short, voluptuous, Anglo(looking) woman. Even now, in my 40s, I don't get fucked with in areas where I am probably not safe. (Volunteering at shelters, helping folks in the shanty towns under the bridges, etc.) After my "incident" that caused me to leave the country for a while, my entire posture and attitude changed. I didn't get fucked with in school. I didn't get fucked with walking through Camden. I didn't get fucked with in the middle of punk riots...people left me alone. I obviously carried that "Look, I'll kill you and I'm ok with that" attitude. I still have it. If someone gets too close in public, or steps towards my son, or any number of things that make me nervous, frightened or worried...I spike up like a damn pufferfish.

Bullying leaves scars that last lifetimes.
posted by dejah420 at 8:21 AM on March 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


hermitosis: If your boss was physically attacking you? Absolutely!! Would you not defend yourself?

No, I would not. Mostly because I don't know how to have a fistfight (as I believe I mentioned upthread) -- I never learned -- and I would lose the fight. But also because I don't think workplace violence is appropriate, even if I'm being physically attacked. Don't assume that your response is going to be mine. Anyway, I wasn't necessarily talking about physical attacks. Not all bullying is physical.

arcticseal: blucevalo - yes, we all have the ability to be bullies, but having been a victim of bullying, I go out of my way not to be one myself.

And that's terrific. So do I. But saying "fuck all bullies" misses the point.
posted by blucevalo at 8:21 AM on March 15, 2011


"Anyone who clings to the historically untrue - and thoroughly immoral - doctrine 'that violence never settles anything' I would advise to conjure up the ghosts of Napoleon Bonaparte and of the Duke of Wellington and let them debate it. The ghost of Hitler could referee, and the jury might well be the Dodo, the Great Auk and the Passenger Pigeon. Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst." - R.A.H.

In the case of bullying, the credible threat of violence as a deterrent is pretty effective at preventing bullying. Being able to defend yourself, and knowing with confidence that you can defend yourself well, gives you the confidence to stand up to bullies, and maybe not need to fight.

But if you don't have that confidence, every bully in a 10 mile radius will smell it.

Someone up thread asked about times when fighting back made it worse. All I can say is that the only worse thing than not fighting back, is fighting back ineffectively - it shows more weakness and aggravates the bully. You can try not to fight, and that is good, but when the violence starts - hit hard and don't stop until your opponent is no longer moving towards you.

I've been looking at this system as an effective tool for my son, even though he has yet to experience serious issues at school. One of the things I like about it is that it is a purely defensive system - no punching or kicking, but very effective methods of controlling a larger opponent and inflicting enough pain to make them reconsider.
posted by bashos_frog at 8:23 AM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Sommerfield, I was not responding to the video, per se. I watched it; violence turns my stomach. I was responding to the thread. We have very little information to go from (at least, from the post- I have not gone and found more information elsewhere). We have a few moments of video. I am seeing lots of speculation that seems informed, in many cases, from childhood experiences, but not a lot of evidence that we know anything about the kids involved, their history together, their history with the other kids, their abilities, their homelife, or their motives.

I was not criticizing the kid. I was criticizing the reaction to the kid. One kid dumping another on the ground is not going to stop violence at that school, and it is not a guarantee that it will stop the bullying against the bigger kid. And it may cause both these boys a lifetime of google-trouble. And while the bigger kid may have a lifetime to savor the thought that he stood up to his bully, he might also have some legal/educational/financial fallout... potentially, I am not saying he does/will/should. I don't expect that the bigger kid thought that through in two minutes, nor should he have.
posted by jenlovesponies at 8:23 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wonder if a large part of the problem with bulling is the setting. Put a huge amount of disgruntled energetic kids in what are basically minimum security prisons and bingo you get violence. I was bullied at school, but not so much at camp, scouts or soccer practice.

I wonder if bulling is less prevalent in progressive schools like Montessori with less formal class structures. I wonder if bulling exists in primitive societies. All this "oh it's just a pecking order, it's natural that kids are violent to one another" seems suspect and kind of primitive hobsian.
posted by Omon Ra at 8:23 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Memories of a great movie scene:
Ralphie loses it ... and wallops bully Scott Farkus.
posted by ericb at 8:26 AM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Violence isn't an acceptable societal solution. It is however often a perfectly adequate solution for an individual defending themselves.

I absolutely agree with you, but this naturally begs the question: Then what is a societal solution?

ctrl+F shame... hmm...

I have no great ideas about how this could come about, but shaming, societal enforcement of taboos and mores, would take away at least some of the incentives for bullying. Why do kids bully? It's a complex issue, maybe they were abused themselves, we can speculate all day, but the fact is that if it wasn't positively reinforced, and in fact had more negative consequences socially (not just getting detention or being suspended, although that rarely happens to begin with), it would be much less prevalent. Bullies, by bullying, get more respect from their peers. They are rewarded. It's a twisted toxic mimic sort of respect, but there you go.

It's odd (ironic?) that there's almost a taboo about public shaming in more liberal or politically correct circles (look at any discussion regarding the sex offender registry*), but it's an incredibly potent and effective tool for a society to bridle abusive behavior, and how societies have defined and enforced their rules without bureaucracy or other formal legal measures. Imagine a society where kids avoided kids labeled as bullies, talked about them behind their back, wouldn't be their friends- basically how kids who are picked on are treated presently. Also imagine a society where if a man who regularly hit his wife was disowned by his family, his friends would refuse to talk to him, his employer was legally able and willing to fire him, etc.

Now, I really don't know what this might look like. Maybe instead of teaching our kids to just stand up for themselves physically, we taught them to join with their friends in ridiculing the bully (a bully doesn't just have one victim, so you've got automatic friends and allies). Or just teaching kids that they've got other choices besides kicking ass or changing schools. I really don't know, and would welcome any input or discussion.

All I'm really trying to get at is that shame is a powerful force for changing people's behavior, and it shouldn't be judged just because people have used it for purposes you might not agree with (shame's role in fundamentalist religion, etc), just as you should not discount out of hand the utility of violence in certain situations such as self defense. We shouldn't let the legal system co-opt our morality. It is not a bad thing to punish overtly abusive behavior without a trial. And it's especially relevant to this discussion, because faced with two possible punishments: 1) suspension from school, or 2) losing all of your friends, which do you think carries more weight to a 12 year old boy?

*Now, don't get me wrong, I don't support the sex offender registry as it exists, because it's an attempt to legislate something that has no business being legislated, and its problems are problems because it is not a spontaneously arising phenomenon: People who have never met the abuser and know nothing about them are doing the shaming based on extremely limited information. Whereas if the "shaming" were to arise organically, starting with the victims friends, it wouldn't go on unchecked and possibly unwarranted (most societies today wouldn't permanently shun a young couple who had consensual sex before they were 18, for example). Why are we willing to let a jury of 12 decide a person's fate, but if society at large decides to shun him, then, well, that's just wrong?
posted by mingo_clambake at 8:27 AM on March 15, 2011


Ok, after actually watching that video, I'll say something that might be a bit controversial. That kid that threw the other kid down did him a favor by breaking his ankle and humiliating him. It's too early now to see how he will turn out, but it was a spark of wakefulness for him. It was disturbing to watch, but I can't help but thinking that the bully will be on a different, more introspective trajectory now. I'm not at all saying that he deserved to get his ankle broken, but it very well may have spared him from further harm down the road if he can learn a little now.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:30 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


In the end, there's only one thing bullies respect, and that's sticking up for yourself.

I'm late to this thread, but I want to say that's not true at all. I stood up for myself in middle school, won a fight, then spent the next two years of my life being chased by the bully's older cousins from high school, who were gang members. That's after he showed up at school with a knife to try to shank me.

This wasn't in some urban nightmare school either, this was in Seattle in the early 90's.

Standing up for yourself very often fulfills the very thing bullies were afraid of- being without power, looking weak, and then they escalate out of desperation.

I'm not saying don't fight back, but I am saying, odds are, after you've been targeted, there's no "And now it's done" situation. There are situations now, that I look at, that, effectively would have been better to take the beating.
posted by yeloson at 8:31 AM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


I wonder if bulling is less prevalent in progressive schools like Montessori with less formal class structures. I wonder if bulling exists in primitive societies. All this "oh it's just a pecking order, it's natural that kids are violent to one another" seems suspect and kind of primitive hobsian.

Ontogeny recapitulates philogeny. Young boys do things for the same reasons Barbary apes do them. One of the things they do is form a hierarchy. In pre-industrial societies, kids play and work together, and they form a hierarchy based primarily about age. In school, we group kids by age, and so they tend to form the pecking order based on aggression.
posted by ocschwar at 8:32 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's funny to me how very quick to leap to conclusions people are about a few seconds of video from which almost no context whatsoever can be gleaned. We can't tell what happened, before or after this incident, to precipitate it. There are clues and pointers, but every single one of these clues is open to several different interpretations and may in fact be completely misleading.

In fact, we have no idea what happened here, beyond the fact that two kids are injured now.

The fact that all of us have strong opinions after watching this indicates something to me about how we're viewing it. These things are very deep and primal memories for many of us; our experiences with bullying shaped us so fundamentally that when we see a video like this of younger people, we instantly overlay it with our own experiences, interpreting it strictly in the light of what has happened to us.

That's a mistake. Because what happened to us as children happened to children; and often we habitually see such things through childish eyes.

For instance: one common theme seems to be the black-and-white contrast between "bullies" and "bullied." The sad fact of the world, a fact that children often don't understand, is that life is sadly not often divided so simply. Bullies are abused kids acting out; bullied kids often hit back harder than the bullies did, and cause more damage. Above all, the lines are not so easy to draw in real life. Anyone who's been an authority figure over children, for example as a teacher, has observed this: every "bully" has a sympathetic side; and every "victim" has the capacity for violence that is beyond proportion. The tough thing is making a clear and decisive distinction on the fly; that needs careful and thoughtful adults who know what they're doing, and it isn't easy.

There have been some here who have scoffed at those of us who deplore violence, saying that sometimes there is no other way to deal with bullies. This does not make sense, unfortunately. If you are violent toward another person, you are a bully. Moral wrongs don't cease to be moral wrongs because of perspective; stealing from notorious thief, for example, is still stealing, and lying to a liar is still lying. Bullying a bully is still bullying, and has the same immediate and difficult consequences. Anyone who disagrees should think long and hard about how the big kid in this video must feel, walking away, probably realizing that he's broken another kid's ankle. These are not simple things.

And I'll say this: everyone who says "I did this – I fought back – and it worked for me" is, I think, either forgetting this fact or being disingenuous. They're forgetting the price of rising to the violence. It may have been the only thing that made the victimization stop; but it came at a price. You had to become a bully. Is that a price that's worth paying? Is it worth it to ask children to become bullies themselves to avoid being bullied?

Finally, I accept that violence might be unavoidable now, at least in some places. In such places, adults now have a duty. There is one thing that would have prevented this: adults standing over the children with baseball bats. Maybe that's the only solution.
posted by koeselitz at 8:34 AM on March 15, 2011 [8 favorites]


"It is better to be violent, if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence."

Something that needs to stop is the common (and destructive) misconception that all bullies are 'victims' themselves. People who have a conscience can't fathom that other people don't have as much of one. Sometimes it isn't bullies picking on others because they were picked on themselves, often they're encouraged to be this way from birth. I've said it before, and I'll keep saying it until someone listens; maybe if we're not such a big fan of sociopathic predators, maybe we should stop rewarding them by voting them into office, promoting them into bigger and bigger positions of influence, regarding their complete lack of compassion and concern for the wellbeing of anyone but themselves as an admirable "dominant" trait in a romantic mate and parent to our children.

Another problem is, as has been shared upthread, that people grossly forget what children are really like. I think for a distressing amount of people, they turn like, 20 and suddenly children are like tiny kittens, and even their little temper tantrums and disagreements and schoolyard chiding are just so adorable! Why bother taking them seriously? Give them some pokemon cards or whatever and tell them to knock it off, oh you scamps.

I don't find kids cute, (yeah, i'm one of THOSE assholes) I find them to be amoral, incomplete, ugly little humans that need their guardians to instill in them a sense of right and wrong, and do their best not to encourage an overinflated sense of entitlement; the number of adults I've met who are offended and perplexed that they don't always get their way because they're just such wonderful people shows me that there's a serious dearth in this kind of child rearing. Kids are going to be dumb and fuck up, that's what being a kid is about. If your kid can't figure out who he is without hurting others, then it's time for you and your rotten spawn to go.

As for the video in question, yeah, good on the bigger kid. People who are trying their best to devil's advocate for the cocky little rotter who was picking on him don't seem to understand that this awkward body slam is probably the first consequence he's EVER had to face. I don't think it should have happened; not that the big kid shouldn't have defended himself, I think it wouldn't have gotten to what was supposed to be a videotaped beatdown of a known target had any form of authority ever visited an actual, effective consequence on said bully. I wish I could say what that is, but fortunately due to factors I can't quite put my finger on, I was never really 'bullied' in school, so maybe I don't have the proper perspective to comment here.

(didn't stop me from doing so, did it?)
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 8:34 AM on March 15, 2011 [12 favorites]


I was never really bullied much. I did, however, let it be known that I'd taken some Karate (like 2 months, but hey). The one time a guy was starting to cross the line from good natured ribbing to bullying, I pulled back my fist in a sort of Karate-ish faction, he was like 'hey, don't karate chop me!' and that was that.
posted by signal at 8:35 AM on March 15, 2011


Promise me, son, not to do the things I've done ...

I worry about this stuff a lot with my oldest daughter. She's already had to deal with kids hitting her and taking stuff from her, and she's very timid.

no one should be hit

Yeah, I generally agree and it's what I always tell my daughters, i.e. even if you get hit, don't hit back but defend yourself, but sometimes (and again, dreading this future discussion), defending yourself can require hitting. And, as many have noted here, it can be an effective way of stopping a bully.

The problem is, of course, you're doing nothing to stop the overall bullying, i.e. the bullies will go find another victim (kinda like how The Club works).

But ... the bully was standing there, no, dancing there, punching another boy in the face. What do you want the other boy to do? We don't know the backstory, but those of us who've been bullied can guess that he's tried running away or hiding before. He's tried telling teachers. The bullies have already gotten in "trouble" with little consequence.

Let's say, for argument's sake, he is trapped (can't run away or get help) and getting punched in the face. What would you have him do?

Sure, submission hold or just pushing the littler kid hard might seem better, but that could have likely escalated things further, i.e. he gets ganged up by 5-6 kids.

Violence is not the answer in any system where violence is sanctioned and prohibited. In a system where violence runs unchecked (sadly, a lot of schoolyards), controlled violence or implied violence is a rational alternative.

Ask any schoolkid or prisoner. The best way to get left alone is to go absolutely apeshit and beat the fuck out of someone. It doesn't feel good, but you only have to do it once.

What's that phrase about more fat lips and less nuclear bombs ... ?
posted by mrgrimm at 8:37 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you are violent toward another person, you are a bully.

Bullshit.
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:39 AM on March 15, 2011 [51 favorites]


Uther Bentrazor: “Something that needs to stop is the common (and destructive) misconception that all bullies are 'victims' themselves.”

If you really think that, you should be out there beating up 10-year-old bullies yourself and sparing our children the trouble.
posted by koeselitz at 8:40 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I like the warning on the video: "This video is quite distressing as it shows violence in the schoolyard."

Yes, how will I ever un-see the rare and horrifying sight of teenage boys fighting at school.
posted by frenetic at 8:41 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Macphisto: All these comments and not one Ender Wiggin comment.

*cough*

Admittedly, it was subtle.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:41 AM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


A very big sixteen-year-old body-slamming a very little 14-year-old onto concrete does not seem like a remotely appropriate response to the threat being posed.

I disagree. That little shit got just what he deserved.
posted by caddis at 8:42 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm a little late to this conversation, but I wanted to add a P.S. or TL;DR to my comment above: if the strategy is to give a taste of his own medicine by using his own weapons against him; well, we need to recognize that a bully's main weapon isn't violence, but public ridicule.
posted by mingo_clambake at 8:44 AM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


And I'll say this: everyone who says "I did this – I fought back – and it worked for me" is, I think, either forgetting this fact or being disingenuous. They're forgetting the price of rising to the violence. It may have been the only thing that made the victimization stop; but it came at a price. You had to become a bully. Is that a price that's worth paying? Is it worth it to ask children to become bullies themselves to avoid being bullied?

I love you, Koeselitz, but that is one of the biggest pieces of bullshit I've ever read. Hitting a kid back in self defence is not the same as chronically tormenting someone who is not bothering you in the slightest. False equivalences like this are the exact kinds of crap that teachers and parents typically pull when confronted with complaints of bullying.

I stood up for myself once or twice. I did not thereby become a bully.

Acting in self defence is not bullying.

It's time we taught kids not only that they -- no less than adults -- have the right to self defence, but to provide them with the necessary tools if they want them. You are entitled to your own opinion about whether you wish personally to fight back in any given situation, or whether it is a good idea to fight back, but the fact remains a bullied kid has the right to fight back no less than an innocent person who is attacked by a maniac in the street.
posted by unSane at 8:45 AM on March 15, 2011 [44 favorites]


If you are violent toward another person, you are a bully.

I completely disagree, koeselitz. That's simplistic and absolutely fails to address a single nuance of the complicated behaviors we call bullying. Bullying is not identical to swinging a fist or kicking. It's a long-term, sophisticated set of dominance behaviors designed to put the bullied in their place, to force the recipient to accept this as the status quo, and is used to secure status by the kids in the second tier of popularity.
posted by adipocere at 8:45 AM on March 15, 2011 [11 favorites]


And I'll say this: everyone who says "I did this – I fought back – and it worked for me" is, I think, either forgetting this fact or being disingenuous. They're forgetting the price of rising to the violence. It may have been the only thing that made the victimization stop; but it came at a price. You had to become a bully.

Self-defense is not the same thing as being a bully. For example, is the domestic violence victim who punches her aggressor so that she can get away the same as the aggressor?

Of course violence has consequences, both to the person who commits the violent act and the person who suffers from it. But it's completely ridiculous to say that the person who commits one act of self-defense is equivalent to the person who physically and psychologically abuses that person daily, for years.
posted by rtha at 8:45 AM on March 15, 2011 [8 favorites]


I find this dialog so unutterably depressing that it's making me think it's probably time for another break from it. What I mostly read here is how extraordinarily attached we are to the narrative of the wonderful transformative agency of the punch in the mouth. As long as it is delivered by "the good guy," of course, striking a just blow against evil.

I'm not advocating we teach our kids not to stand up for themselves and I'm not condemning individual children for reacting in a normal way to violence. But anyone who views this scenario as in any comprehensive way a good thing or as an example of "the solution" to bullying is crazy and frankly part of the problem.

The child who retaliates may be left alone, or of course depending on how strong the bully and his or her network is they may get ganged up on, the bullying may intensify. There's certainly no guarantee the bully will stop bullying because one victim effectively turns on them: I'd guess that to be the exception rather than the rule.

Even if the bully is unable or unwilling to marshal a counter-retaliation there is always a weaker, more vulnerable child for the bully to target to work out any anxiety one child's cathartic responsive violence may have had on them.

There is actual work being done on this, sincere professionals striving to figure out and legitimately quantify where the adult response to bullying fails and how to rectify it. It's very boring compared to watching a 12 year old get body-slammed but it is our responsibility as adults to try to respond to the problem in a way that actually reduces violence.
posted by nanojath at 8:46 AM on March 15, 2011 [16 favorites]


> Yes, how will I ever un-see the rare and horrifying sight of teenage boys fighting at school.

Well, to be fair, the image of that kid stumbling around after his ankle was broken is certainly more disturbing than garden variety kiddie punches.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:46 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you are violent toward another person, you are a bully. Moral wrongs don't cease to be moral wrongs because of perspective; stealing from notorious thief, for example, is still stealing, and lying to a liar is still lying.

"They're forgetting the price of rising to the violence. It may have been the only thing that made the victimization stop; but it came at a price. You had to become a bully."

These are the most ridiculous statements I've read in long time. By this reasoning a rape victim fighting back is a bully; not handing over a wallet at knife point is bullying, etc.

This type of attitude scares from school administrators, teachers, etc. scares the living daylights of me.
posted by zeikka at 8:48 AM on March 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


Feel like I'm coming in at the end of this thread now but nevermind. Interesting comments made throughout.

I note a lot of comments from people who were bullied and then struck back and that solved the problem, and one or two from people who told those in authority and this made it worse.

What I haven't seen yet is a comment detailing the following scenario which is true for me and I am sure many others in the world.

I was bullied (verbally and physically - whats the diff? they both do serious damage) off and on throughout my secondary education, not just by fellow pupils (both female and male) but also by the occasional sadistic teacher. I moved school for 6th form and it became even worse (so much for a 'fresh start') as I was one of only two newbies and the rest had grown up together. Anyway I remember it vividly and yes this thread brings it all back. Unlike the guy in this video I never did fight back. Whilst the bullies threw coins at me whilst sat on the bus in front of 20 others and no one did a thing I just say there and felt paralysed. That resentment, frustration, anger and sense of injustice at the situation stayed within and resulted in part with the anxiety and lack of confidence that remains today. The fact that the very people who had a duty of care towards me (teachers) were occasionally complicit in such actions is something it is hard to understand.

Anyway, thought it was important to point out that for all those who did fight back and it worked - I am pleased for you. But please dont forget all those who didn't have the strength for whatever reason and quietly endured those years and who live with the consequences to this day.
posted by numberstation at 8:48 AM on March 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


I find it interesting that most people keep referring to Casey as the "bigger" kid, and wondering why a smaller kid would pick on a bigger kid. Yes, he's certainly bigger, but he's also fat. And fat, in the mind of not just bullies, but also the public at large, erases all the positive connotations that might normally associated with big.

I know that all sorts of kids get bullied for all sorts of reasons, but I think all of the current "obesity epidemic" panic, especially with the focus on fat kids is just making them a more enticing target than ever. There's a schizophrenia to our public policy in the US when Michelle Obama launches a war on childhood obesity, which is spawning posters like this in Georgia, and then she's campaigning against bullying.

Fat adults are routinely bullied in the name of "health" all the damn time. Fat is bad, fat people are destroying America... and but then we get all up in arms over bullying. As much as I loved the "It Get Better" campaign for gay kids, I kept wondering when the fat kids are going to hear similar messages. Oh, I forgot... it doesn't get better until your thin.
posted by kimdog at 8:48 AM on March 15, 2011 [14 favorites]


Uther Bentrazor: “Something that needs to stop is the common (and destructive) misconception that all bullies are 'victims' themselves.”

If you really think that, you should be out there beating up 10-year-old bullies yourself and sparing our children the trouble.
posted by koeselitz at 11:40 AM on March 15 [+] [!]


Something something Not Even Wrong?
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 8:49 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'll say this: everyone who says "I did this – I fought back – and it worked for me" is, I think, either forgetting this fact or being disingenuous. They're forgetting the price of rising to the violence. It may have been the only thing that made the victimization stop; but it came at a price. You had to become a bully.

Codswallop - my wife, who was as tall as some of her teachers by the time she hit 7th grade - was bullied for a good ten years, with no sort of intervention from teachers or administrators, who, owing to the small nature of the school, knew what was going on. One day in class as she was walking to her desk, one of her bullies stuck their leg into an aisle to try and trip her. Up to that point, my wife had always walked away, usually in tears, but that day she up and punched the little waster in the face, in full view of the teacher and the rest of the class and walked out of the room and went home. The next day she and her bully were summoned to the principal's office for the perfunctory 'We're quite disappointed in your behavior' spiel, and that was it. She was not bullied again, she didn't commit violence against anyone else, and to this day, she still feels bad about 'descending to their level'. Hardly the actions or attitude of a bully.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:49 AM on March 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


tl;dr comments.

Bullying is a social thing. As soon as the society (school kids) outright reject it, it'll end. 5 kids are filming while 1 kid punches on another...3 other kids need to walk up and say "WTF are you guys doing? Quit being asshats." Hell, 1 kid stepping in and saying something would have completely changed the situation.

We need to encourage kids to stand up for themselves, AND others. And I'm not talking about being willing to punch your bully in the face. I'm talking about being willing to step in the way of some bully bullying someone else. It's not ok. It's not something you turn a blind eye to and think "Thank God it's not me!" No bully can succeed if half his class is constantly calling him on his bullshit behavior.
posted by toekneebullard at 8:49 AM on March 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


It always seemed simpler for guys-- the bullying was overt, and physical, and if you chose, you could fight back with your fists. It's harder when it's a phalanx of girls pulling every bit of social manipulation and resulting humiliation that they can wield (considerable). There's nothing to hit back at, and yelling just makes them laugh harder.

Shit like this was why I let my son stay home from high school after the first half of Grade 8, and he didn't go back until we found him a good alternative school filled with other interesting and intelligent misfits, a couple of years (yes, years) later. I have a terribly painful memory of basically forcing him out of the car as I was dropping him off one morning. I was in grad school and teaching, with all the work that entails; my father was dying of lung cancer, and it was my day to sit with him, and I was running late and didn't want him to be alone for more than half an hour. Watching my son walk, defeated, into the front door of the high school, looking terrified, was more than enough for me. He never went back. I figured, it's only high school: if he wants to stay home and tinker with websites and read and draw and just hang out, there's nothing wrong with that. He caught up quickly, and graduated on time, too. High school's nothing-- anyone can pick up the curriculum later on, or at community college if they need to, or enroll in college as a mature student.
posted by jokeefe at 8:50 AM on March 15, 2011 [19 favorites]


The thing that gets left out in the debate about bullies, the bullied, and the adults charged with overseeing kids is that there's one culpable party that's rarely invoked, and I think they're probably the most important group in all of this—the "bystanders." When I write about bystanders, I often dip into coarse metaphor to call them the Romans, because they've always reminded me of the faceless masses filling the stadiums in the age of gladiators.

Bullies bully because...well, there are lots of reasons why, some of which would constitute a fair explanation of their ways, if not an excuse for the same. The bullied get bullied, more often than not, because there's something in their character or carriage that makes them a satisfying target. Maybe they don't fight back, in spite of being gallumphing apes, which makes them a better prize. Maybe they're like me, easy victims who manage to victimize themselves in their defense. The teacher do what they can, or they don't. The authorities do what they can, or they don't. The bystanders, though—just make it all possible, providing an audience and a sea of tacit approval, thriving off the reality show delight in damage.

It's not the bullies who make it all possible. Isolate a bully and his quarry away from the scrutiny of other people, with all the attendant empowerment, and there's usually not much in the way of an event, except in rote gestures. It's not dictators who dominate a country, standing alone. It's the masses, the people who stand around gawking, turned on by the spectacle or the ones who are turned off by the brutality, but too gutless to speak up. We gp the nanny state route of insane adult penalties for certain forbidden language, but we don't bother to work on the wellspring of power that feeds these vortices of wretchedness.

Teach your kids not to bully, or to defend themselves, and you may luck out with a good kid.

Teach your kids not to stand on the sidelines in the face of injustice, and you'll change the world. There's no better resistance to a bully than someone who steps out of the crowd and says "this isn't right," whether they have a horse in the race or not.
posted by sonascope at 8:52 AM on March 15, 2011 [40 favorites]


When I was in 6th grade, there was a bully who'd get on the school bus every morning, and pick a random kid to approach and announce "give me your seat or I'll kick your ass," and for weeks everyone just got up and moved, and the bully triumphantly took the seat of his choice. The first time he approached me, I acquiesced, but the second time I simply stood up and said "I guess you're going to have to kick my ass," and stared him down. Violence wasn't necessary, but I was prepared for it, and I would have swung back if he'd made a move, but he stared, blinked, hesitated, then quietly went and sat in an empty seat, and that was that for the rest of however long I rode that bus.

Exactly. You don't necessarily need to be violent to stand up to a bully. I stood my ground against a bully's threats in school, a bully who could have clearly cleaned the floor with me with little effort. The mere fact that I had the nerve to stand up to him seemed to stop the instant challenge and future ones. He obviously did not fear me, but I do think he respected me.
posted by caddis at 8:53 AM on March 15, 2011


I've just remembered that while I never took on a male bully, I did win against a female bully. I tend to forget about it because "every one knows" (!) that men can't be bullied by women.

She was a verbal and emotional bully who relied on humiliation and embarassment - her favourite was to massively overact being desperately in love with me, while failing miserably to hold back laughter.

One day my response was a rather unexpected "just leave me alone, you bastard".

"But SLTH, don't you know that boy are bastards and girls are bitches?"

"No... you're a bastard... at least, I wouldn't own up to you if you were my daughter."

She went silent and walked away, leaving me alone for the rest of the year. Purely by an accident of my own linguistic fumbling, I hit what I can only assume was her own insecurity. I think that was the happiest day of my school life.
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 8:54 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


And I'll say this: everyone who says "I did this – I fought back – and it worked for me" is, I think, either forgetting this fact or being disingenuous. They're forgetting the price of rising to the violence. It may have been the only thing that made the victimization stop; but it came at a price. You had to become a bully. Is that a price that's worth paying? Is it worth it to ask children to become bullies themselves to avoid being bullied?

I absolutely do not agree with this. On the one occasion that I did successfully stand up to my bully, I did not "become a bully". This is the reverse-racism argument, as if the only difference between two people in a power hierarchy is the words they use. At the end of senior year, when I was rude to the the rich, popular kid who obsessively picked on me and managed to shut him up for just five goddamn minutes, I was not "bullying" him, because social violence is about social position. Look, it's no fun if the weird pathetic kid says something mean to you, but you don't experience it the same way, it does not have the same meaning as when the popular kid says something cruel to the weird outsider. This is the difference between someone just giving you shit and bullying--a bully by definition has social power that the bullied person lacks.

Admittedly, a kid can be bullied in one situation--at home, for example--and be a bully in another. But what does not happen is that rich, popular Leo T bullies me for six years and then I magically turn the tables and bully him by virtual of my momentary language skills. Conceivably, if I met good old Leo today I could use my smarts and popularity to make him look a fool--but that would be because I have social power now, not because our roles are interchangeable on a day to day basis.
posted by Frowner at 8:55 AM on March 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


Yeah, about those programs. They are "statistically" effective, which in education means "ineffective." My school had an anti-bullying program and actually crowed one month about "no bullying incidents" – the same month that I broke a bully's nose after he attacked me on the playground. My teacher actually knew that I was in the right, and during my after-school detention allowed me to bring in books to read... but it wasn't a "bullying incident," no sir! not to the principal and counselors.

Sorry it sounds like they didn't know what the fuck they were doing. That's not an anti-bullying program. The expectation of zero bullying incidents is unrealistic because kids are under-developed emotionally and can't be relied on to do any behavior consistently. Just like they crap their pants, throw tantrums, wake up in the middle of the night. Acheiving 100% compliance is impossible.

A quick checklist of is the bullying program effective:
-Children trust adults to help resolve their problems rather than make them worse
-Adults can identify the social network of peer groups and rankings within the school and work to actively manage the herd.
-Adults can identify children who are the most likely bully targets and most likely bullies in the organization and pro-active countermeasures are taken.
-A culture of empathy and sympathy begins to emerge between peers over time
-Children are taught effective anti-bullying skills beyond just "ignore it and they will go away", "engage the bully directly", "fight them"....
-The resolution of the incident goes beyond suspension of participants and direct discipline towards learning and understanding and emotional development.

Even with all these things in place, one shouldn't expect incidents to vanish altogether, but the management of them, and the impact to students should be reduced dramatically.
posted by humanfont at 8:55 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


It seems there's a pretty clear breakdown of responses amongst those who experienced bullying as children (the opinions of those who did not are pretty much without value): Those who fought back break down into two camps - those whose retaliation didn't do anything to solve the problem, or made it worse; and the much larger (self-reporting) group who retaliated in kind and saw a significant improvement in their situation. There is also the group who was bullied and did not respond in kind, and saw no benefit in their life.

It appears that the group that did nothing and had their lives change for the better because of that is either statistically nonexistent, or incredibly averse to communication.

Personally, the greatest regret I have about the moment I snapped and retaliated against the bullying all through middle and high school is that it took me so fucking long to do it. I had received years of the 'don't sink to their level, violence is wrong, report to the teachers, blah blah' bullshit, and all that did was reinforce that not only was I getting shit on every day, I was obviously handling the response WRONG because it wasn't working and I was still getting shit on the next day. That also made it sparklingly clear what the right response was, when I realized that the 'adult authorities' were either incompetent, or active participants in the problem.
posted by FatherDagon at 8:56 AM on March 15, 2011 [8 favorites]


I have three bullying stories, one my own and one from my little brother. And one about my brother-in-law.

My dad was in the Army and his motto absolutely is "violence is the answer." Even now that he's been retired for 20 years he still believes that (I don't, for the record). I was on the small side in junior high school, and I had bi-focal glasses due to a lazy eye. I was a perfect target for bullying. I tried to ignore most of it, but one day a boy picked a fight with me by getting in my face until I tried to push him away, and the moment I made contact with him he leaned back and sucker-punched me right in the face. Broke my glasses. I was in tears in front of the whole class. And I was still suspended! For getting punched in the face. Well my dad was never one to intervene, told me I had to stand up for myself. I realized that if I was going to be punished even for being the victim of an assault, I might as well go down swingin'. So later that year another kid, two years older than me, started picking on me in gym class. One day he pushed me down hard into a puddle of mud. All the other kids were laughing, that is until I sprung back up and punched him square in the nose as hard as I could. He instantly crumpled to the ground. After that he never picked on me again, and I was no longer afraid of other bullies. The boy and I later became friends.

My little brother had a similar issue, though I think he handled it better than I did. Instead of hitting his bully, he grabbed him by the shirt-collar and dragged him into the principal's office. And the kid left him alone.

To this day my little brother and I are pretty well-adjusted folks and neither of us tolerate bullying in any form, even when it's happening to other people. We stick up for the little guys, it's part of our internal creed.

Contrast this with my brother-in-law who was taught the opposite by his father. His dad (my father-in-law) told his sons to never under any circumstances ever get in a fight. They were taught that they must always run away. The eldest brother was picked on his entire childhood. He never ever stood up for himself. Now he is the bully. He bullies his employees, he bullies his family. He once tried to bully me but it didn't work so he waited until I wasn't around and took out his anger (verbally) on my wife, his sister. His own sister! He is a coward. His father is the same way. He (verbally) bullies everyone in his life to get his way. His whole family just takes it. I don't. They don't know how to handle it. It disarms them. As a result, they are now much more polite and cautious around me and my wife, for fear of being drawn into a confrontation that they can't handle.

I agree that violence should not be the answer, and I think my brother handled his childhood bully better than I did mine, but there is no avoiding the fact that the ONLY way to stop a bully is to stop him yourself, without intervention from an authority figure. Whether that means a punch to the face or a less violent restraint/wrestling move or something, but you have to show them that you will not be cowed. That is that only way. It is the only language they speak.

Bullying is cowardice shrouded in bravado. The only way to stop a bully is to drag that falsely shaded cowardice into the light of defiance.
posted by jnrussell at 8:56 AM on March 15, 2011 [11 favorites]


That was great. I endorse standing up to bullies any way you can. That was like Harrison Bergeron hurling his chains to the floor. You go kid.
posted by dazed_one at 8:56 AM on March 15, 2011


We need to encourage kids to stand up for themselves, AND others.

Yes. This is a key factor - if the kids' peers don't put up with this stuff, there will be less of it in peer situations.
posted by Mister_A at 8:57 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


You had to become a bully.

That is egregiously, dangerously wrong. Intention matters. Conduct matters.

You are endorsing blaming the victims of bulling, by making equal reactive self-defense and the instigating act.

Controlled violence is sometimes necessary because it keeps kids safe. It gets them out of bad situations. It can prevent them from suffering further harm, physical and mental. We should all teach out kids to disengage with minimum force. Don’t kick the other kid when they’re down, etc…, but do throw that punch if it’s necessary to get out of there.

Your solution, complete non-violence, complete non-tolerance for violence, could only work in a perfect world with perfect surveillance and perfect enforcement. Like any utopian, extremist viewpoint, it requires ignoring real life, messy and imperfect. It teaches all kinds bad lessons to kids: be a passive victim, learn that authorities are disinterested or impotent, suppress your rage, you do not matter and are worthless. That's the price of not teaching kids how to deal with bullies properly.
posted by bonehead at 8:57 AM on March 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


I wasn't bullied too much in middle or high school, mostly since I was friends with much of the "A" clique from sports teams (and was probably part of that clique, looking back.) I used those friendships with the popular kids and strategic public humiliations when they were bullying less popular kids to reduce the amount of bullying...

It usually went something like this...
Popular Kid: [picks on less popular kid]
Me: Wow, I bet that makes you feel awesome, huh? I bet picking on someone that is smaller and less popular just because they're a bit of a nerd really makes you feel good, huh? [Sometimes I'd add a personal insult about something I knew that particular person was insecure about.]
Popular Kid: Whatever Schyler, you suck.
Less Popular Kid: [runs off]

I probably can't claim never to have bullied people...I just don't have a clear enough memory of that time period. I know that I prevented far more bullying than I ever could have possibly committed, unless you count me picking on my friends in the "A" clique. Most of the violence was among relative equals [pecking order-wise] in my high school, most of the bullying was emotional, so I'm not sure that violence would have helped much. That said, I feel like the bully deserved what he got in this circumstance.
posted by schyler523 at 8:59 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


That seemed like a restrained and appropriate response. The big kid clearly does not want to fight. He doesn't take a fighting posture. He just lets the kid hit him once or twice. He half-heartedly starts blocking punches. Finally, he sees that the kid's not going to stop and just ends the fight quickly. He doesn't continue to hit him, he doesn't lash out at the other bullies. He just stops the threat and walks away.

One aspect of sticking up for yourself that is not obvious is that the day you do it, you feel differently about yourself. You walk around with a different shape to your shoulders. That shape tells prospective bullies to go find a victim elsewhere.

That new shape to your shoulders will last for the rest of your life.


Yes, I think that happened to me as well. I had a bully that used to pick on me. Then I hit my growth spurt and, while he was probably still a little stronger, the disparity was much smaller. The next time he attacked me, I wrestled him to the ground and sat on his chest. I did not hit him. I just sat there, pinning him to the floor, until he begged me to get off of him and told me I was embarrassing him. Then I got up and neither he nor anybody else ever picked on me again.

To this day, as some others in this thread have said, I do feel more comfortable in crowds. Even when friends or family are teasing each other, I might get teased, but only as an equal, if that makes sense. Nobody picks on me, because I don't have that posture anymore. I look like I will fight back because I will fight back, physically or verbally, although thankfully it hasn't been necessary since I was that teenager.

Bullies can sense somehow when somebody's not going to be a victim. That's of course not to say that victims deserve it -- they don't, any more than I did when I was a victim. But fighting back and shedding that victim posture is something that has effects on an unconscious level.

I don't think physically fighting back is the only way to achieve this. If kids could "fight back" by going to the authorities (school, police, whatever) and having the authorities actually stop the bullying, then they would have "fought back" and won, and they would be able to lose the victim posture. But authorities don't do that, usually, and so kids must use the tools they have.
posted by callmejay at 9:00 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Humanfont, If you can find me an anti-bullying program that is effective in the way you relate that is actually in play today, I'll eat my hat.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:00 AM on March 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


Fat adults are routinely bullied in the name of "health" all the damn time. Fat is bad, fat people are destroying America... and but then we get all up in arms over bullying. As much as I loved the "It Get Better" campaign for gay kids, I kept wondering when the fat kids are going to hear similar messages. Oh, I forgot... it doesn't get better until your thin.

This is not the same. It is, in my opinion, obscene to equate what happens to homosexuals in our culture to what happens to people who are obese. People being killed for their obesity is not something that you hear about regularly in our culture, if ever at all.

The 'bullying' that you are referring to is just well-intentioned people pushing their concern or body image issues a bit too far. It is not usually with the intent of humiliating you.
posted by Fuka at 9:01 AM on March 15, 2011


You had to become a bully.

That's not what "bully" means.
posted by padraigin at 9:01 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


unSane: “And I'll say this: everyone who says "I did this – I fought back – and it worked for me" is, I think, either forgetting this fact or being disingenuous. They're forgetting the price of rising to the violence. It may have been the only thing that made the victimization stop; but it came at a price. You had to become a bully. Is that a price that's worth paying? Is it worth it to ask children to become bullies themselves to avoid being bullied?”

unSane: “I love you, Koeselitz, but that is one of the biggest pieces of bullshit I've ever read. Hitting a kid back in self defence is not the same as chronically tormenting someone who is not bothering you in the slightest. False equivalences like this are the exact kinds of crap that teachers and parents typically pull when confronted with complaints of bullying. I stood up for myself once or twice. I did not thereby become a bully. Acting in self defence is not bullying. It's time we taught kids not only that they -- no less than adults -- have the right to self defence, but to provide them with the necessary tools if they want them. You are entitled to your own opinion about whether you wish personally to fight back in any given situation, or whether it is a good idea to fight back, but the fact remains a bullied kid has the right to fight back no less than an innocent person who is attacked by a maniac in the street.”

Well, I'll try to give an account of what I said.

I do not mean that I condemn all children who fight back against bullies. (And you'll notice that almost everyone who's disagreed with me strongly here has taken this very personally; I'm sorry, I'll try to explain, but please try to understand that I'm not trying to accuse you of anything.)

What I mean is this: children simply don't have the moral framework to make this kind of distinction. Children don't say: "well, he's unjustified, because he has engaged in bullying behavior, which is unfair, and I did the only thing I could to stop that." Adults say this kind of thing by way of justification; but it's very, very far from what children actually experience.

When you are violent toward someone, it hurts you. You go through the experience of dissociation from your own ability to sympathize with the pain of others, and you undergo a disconnection from society that can cause actual physical pain. Adults have often learned to ignore this experience, but children can feel it keenly. Bullies are usually nihilistic types who have not yet learned any coping mechanisms for dealing with the world or its stresses.

When a child has to hit someone, or knock them down, or break their ankle, it is a damaging thing. In that moment, it's just as damaging as becoming a bully themselves. It hurts them. Adults can screw up their rationalizations and say: "well, I had to do it, to keep from getting bullied!" -- but they do so because they've done it their entire lives since. And why? Because it was painful to have to bloody that nose or break that ankle. It was not fun.

When we accept that this is a necessary solution, we're accepting the harm it does to everyone involved. To say that violence is damaging is not an empty, abstract euphemism; it's really true, in an immediate and visceral way, especially for children. And every child that has ever had to hit another child, for any reason, has had to suffer the consequences for it afterwards; it doesn't really matter whether they were bullies or not.
posted by koeselitz at 9:03 AM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


(the opinions of those who did not are pretty much without value)

wut?
posted by mrgrimm at 9:04 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


As a little kid I rode the school bu. There was fighting on the bus, which I didn't like: as a small person I knew I was at a disadvantage. I quickly learned that if I grabbed hold of someone's windpipe with my strong right hand and squeezed below their Adam's apple as hard as I could, they would leave me alone: I particularly remember one kid's eyes, wide in wonderment that I was "breaking the rules" by not sticking to punching.

This poor victim in Australia has done the same thing. When he finally snaps, the smaller attacker is the one who is surprised that his victim discards that role and begins to defend himself. But he shouldn't be surprised: if the other kid wasn't already a long-time victim, he was so much larger that the bully probably wouldn't have ever bothered him for the very good reason that he would be picked up and thrown to the pavement by the much-larger boy.

I think the victim here is entirely within his rights. He turned the other cheek for a long time, and finally defended himself. Sleep well, Victim No More: you took the high road for longer than most people would have asked you to if they saw they way you were treated.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:05 AM on March 15, 2011


When you are violent toward someone, it hurts you. You go through the experience of dissociation from your own ability to sympathize with the pain of others, and you undergo a disconnection from society that can cause actual physical pain.

right.

when someone breaks into my house and threatens to kill my family, I should sympathize.
posted by gcbv at 9:05 AM on March 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


When you are violent toward someone, it hurts you. You go through the experience of dissociation from your own ability to sympathize with the pain of others, and you undergo a disconnection from society that can cause actual physical pain. Adults have often learned to ignore this experience, but children can feel it keenly.

Something tells me that psychic pain would still have hurt me a hell of a lot less than the real physical pain the bitches who beat me up were inflicting on me as it was.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:05 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Fighting back works

That self-defense article is specific to rape, but I think it is applicable to assault as well.

"Forceful physical resistance was an extremely successful strategy."

You don't say!
posted by mrgrimm at 9:07 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


me: “You had to become a bully.”

bonehead: “That is egregiously, dangerously wrong. Intention matters. Conduct matters.”

Show me a child who understands that, and I'll show you an adult in clothes that are way too small.

They're effectively the same. The only reason you know there's a difference is because you've grown up. Don't tell me that a kid walking away from having knocked down the class bully doesn't feel that same painful anguish and self-doubt.

My point: it is beyond ridiculous, and beyond abusive, to ask or expect that children should rise to violence to defend themselves.
posted by koeselitz at 9:07 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Show me a child who understands that, and I'll show you an adult in clothes that are way too small.

No offense here, but my child mostly understands that. She is 2. (I will admit that sometimes she looks and acts like an adult in little clothes.)

She is absolutely certain that it is OK to push back when pushed, even though I've always told her not to retaliate. "Yes, yes! Push Ben! He push me first!!"

It's gonna be a long couple decades.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:09 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


When I was bullied in elementary school, I was hardcore Catholic. Like seriously hardcore. I thought, "I'm going to be a straight-up Jesus". I was beat up, a lot. I was gang-raped at least three times, although people have subsequently confessed to me things that I don't remember so that might be an underestimate. I turned the other cheek, thinking that this was the most Christlike thing I could do. I tried talking them out of it as they punched me. I tried getting them to laugh; sometimes they did but that never stopped the violence. My approach didn't stop anything.

One day, on a field trip to Six Flags Great America, one of the gang told a teacher, "Chad and Lenny are raping jpfed." The teacher looked into the distance and nodded. She said "Is this true?" and I said grimly, "I'll deal with it."

So, quick note. If you ever hear a fourth-grader tell you that he'll "deal with" getting raped, don't trust him to do so in anything approaching an appropriate way. You might think of alerting other authority figures, but unfortunately this teacher did not.

Eventually we moved out of town for unrelated reasons. I didn't ever beat the bullies except in a certain metaphoric sense, years later, in therapy.

If there was any spiritual benefit to the steadfast belief that violence is never the answer, I am not conscious of it. I don't look back at my experiences with pride, or really any esteem whatsoever. What I take from my childhood experiences is the following:

Adults are either not capable of or not interested in stopping even extreme, prolonged, and reported child-on-child violence. The fact that children spend so much time in an environment where children far outnumber adults contributes to this problem.

The philosophy of uncompromising nonviolence did me personally great harm. If I had instead acted as others in this thread did, and used violence in self-defense, the total suffering in this world would have been reduced. The bully/bullies would have been struck a few more times, and I would have been struck far fewer times, and perhaps not been raped so much.
posted by Jpfed at 9:10 AM on March 15, 2011 [15 favorites]


it is beyond ridiculous, and beyond abusive, to ask or expect that children should rise to violence to defend themselves.

That doesn't seem right if it's expected that adults should defend themselves in circumstances of physical assault.

I fully expect my kids to defend themselves physically should the need arise. Teaching kids when it's appropriate to do so is part of parenting and learning it is part of becoming an adult.
posted by dazed_one at 9:10 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Humanfont, If you can find me an anti-bullying program that is effective in the way you relate that is actually in play today, I'll eat my hat.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:00 AM on March 15 [+] [!]

I'll reference again the report I linked above, in particular chapter 5. The attitude that adult intervention at the systemic level does not and cannot work is very much part of the problem. There is certainly a lot of ineffective response which is why it is so important for anyone who cares about this problem to educate themselves about what actually works and advocate for the broader adoption of strategies of demonstrated effectiveness.
posted by nanojath at 9:10 AM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Don't tell me that a kid walking away from having knocked down the class bully doesn't feel that same painful anguish and self-doubt.

Koeselitz, you've had people in here who did fight back and reported feeling only relief that something finally was able to stop the bully.

I understand what you're trying to say about violence -- really -- but you're applying it to a situation in which it does not apply. No one is suggesting that violence should be the first line of defense against bullying -- they are only saying that in too many cases, it is the only last-resort measure that worked. And to ask a child to just submit to being mistreated just because the only alternatives to violence are ineffective is "beyond abusive."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:11 AM on March 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


My kids have very very pro-active anti-bullying schemes in their schools.

The thing about these extremely well-planned and well-executed programs is that they work perfectly in preventing edge-case bullying where an otherwise fairly nice and normal kid might get into pushing another kid around. My kids, for example, are always mortified when you point out that what they're doing could be considered bullying someone, because it's socially unacceptable behavior among their milieu of nice, well-ajusted kids.

It totally flat out does not work with the borderline sociopathic kids who actually do the real bullying, because they do not give a shit what the Principal thinks, and their bullying behavior is being reinforced by all the much more important models they have at home, in the media, music etc.

I completely agree with those upthread who say that teaching bigger more confident kids to intervene in bullying is the way to go.
posted by unSane at 9:11 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


What I mean is this: children simply don't have the moral framework to make this kind of distinction. Children don't say: "well, he's unjustified, because he has engaged in bullying behavior, which is unfair, and I did the only thing I could to stop that.

Actually, kids of middle school age or older are certainly able to grasp that. You're not giving kids enough credit for being able to make these distinctions.
posted by padraigin at 9:11 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


it is beyond ridiculous, and beyond abusive, to ask or expect that children should rise to violence to defend themselves.

Children must adapt to the world that adults have failed to make right.
posted by Jpfed at 9:11 AM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


The biggest thing I'll say of my childhood as a victim: I learned, above all else, to have no respect for "authority" whatsoever. And it is just so fucking typical that the "big kid" is the victim. And then they turn around when the big kid snaps, and suddenly "this will not be tolerated!".
posted by Goofyy at 9:11 AM on March 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


I'll reference again the report I linked above, in particular chapter 5.

....I don't see any headings listing "raw data from an actual example" in that link. I'm talking a real-world example, not a theoretical examination of what needs to happen. I'm talking "We did X, Y, and Z and it actually is working".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:12 AM on March 15, 2011


Don't tell me that a kid walking away from having knocked down the class bully doesn't feel that same painful anguish and self-doubt.

I didn't. I felt confident and powerful: physical violence had previously been outside my ken. I was small, I was "weak," I was a "pussy." I found out that when I needed to, I could unleash more violence than the bully who had tormented me had thought about. Rather than small, concealable, shaming pain, I broke him. It was enormously satisfying.

Did I later become violent towards others? No.
Did it give me the courage to stand up for others when need be? Yes.
Did it reduce my fear of pain? Yes.

Unless you have been in this position and experienced it yourself, you are just quoting psychological theory – and that field has an imperfect record. At best.
posted by sonic meat machine at 9:12 AM on March 15, 2011 [8 favorites]


Dude, when I've stood up to people (on the couple of occasions that I stood up physically) I felt great. Shaken, but great. And I've gotten in front of neo-nazis, I've grabbed someone back from the cops [in a protest situation when she hadn't done anything], I've body-checked some big guy on the sidewalk who was getting into my space. When I've done those things, I've felt powerful. I have never, ever regretted taking my space. What I have regretted is the socialization that has told me that I as a woman, that I as a "good" person must be responsible at all times and in all ways for empathizing with every goddamn human being, even when their boots are on my neck. And those few conflicts that I won as a child stand out as shining stars in my memory.

If you feel bad when you're forced to use physical means, that's fine by me. But it's not a flaw in me that someone has to go through me to get to my weaker friends.
posted by Frowner at 9:13 AM on March 15, 2011 [19 favorites]


FWIW, if somebody grabs your throat, they're gifting you an arm triangle. Easy, basic Brazilian Jiu Jitsu choke hold that'll knock them out cold in about 5 seconds of squeezing. What you whisper to them as they're passing out is up to you. (Perhaps dejah420 has some suggestions.)
posted by LordSludge at 9:13 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


We need to encourage kids to stand up for themselves, AND others.

Kids need to see adults sticking their own necks out to help others. Pretty hard to counteract the dominant messages out there -- that you should always just mind your own business and tend to your own affairs, and that most people aren't worth helping.
posted by hermitosis at 9:14 AM on March 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


In sixth grade I discovered that I could provoke my larger and less nerdy classmates into attacking me.

It was great while it lasted. I'd felt like a victim all along — all through elementary school I'd been horribly awkward and unpopular, and been a target for merciless teasing. But nobody else seemed to think I was a victim. Consensus was, I just needed to be less of a geek, or grow a thicker skin, or stop feeling sorry for myself. Well, fuck that. Getting beat up made it official. If I could just needle away at one of my old tormenters until they lost their cool and threw a punch, then I was a genuine, certified victim, with all the rights and benefits pertaining thereto. I could tell my side of the story without anyone saying I should buck up and quit whining. Hell, I could even show off a bit: "...and then he picks me up, right? And he slams me against the wall..." And of course, I got the joy of seeing punishment land on someone else — punishment that I figured was richly deserved, since these guys had been piling on the non-physical abuse for a long time.

One of the best things that ever happened to me was that a teacher at my school noticed what I was up to. She quietly took me aside and let me know that I wasn't getting away with it — and that from now on, if I teased some poor meathead so hard he threw a punch, I was going to get punished too. It didn't feel like a great thing at the time, of course. It felt like my one defense was being taken away from me. But I realize now, as an adult, that what I was doing was bullying. The fact that I'd been bullied myself in the past didn't excuse or justify it, didn't make it somehow "not count," it just proved the old cliché about victims turning into abusers. And so now I feel really lucky that someone got to me early, before I'd made cruelty into a hard-to-break habit, and redirected me away from it.

But I guess the moral of the story here is that no, violence isn't necessarily going to be a useful response at all. I'm sure I was some kind of edge case. But for me, getting the other guy to attack was rewarding — I felt righteous and justified and in control. I don't know what I would have done if someone had done me some sort of serious injury — drawn blood, broken a bone, knocked out a tooth — but I have the shameful suspicion that that would have felt like the ultimate vindication. I had a long masochistic streak, I loved the victim role, and I think a cast or some stitches would have felt like a badge of honor. In my case, adult intervention was precisely the right thing.

And more generally, this suggests to me that a one-size-fits-all approach to this shit doesn't make any sense. Some bullies respect physical force; some don't. Some respect their parents; some don't. (It may be true that all bullies have been abused — but not all bullies got that abuse at home.) Some respect the authorities at school; some don't. Some will respond to peer pressure; some won't. And on and on and on.

I don't know what I'll do when my kids get bullied. (Sadly, it feels like a "when" and not an "if.") Probably I'll suggest hitting back, because, hey, who knows? It might work? But I don't have any sort of faith that it will work, and it seems incredibly pathetic that it's the best advice I've got — not morally pathetic; not oh-violence-is-never-necessary pathetic; just weak, because my own experience tells me that even a really solid punch won't necessarily protect a kid.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:15 AM on March 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


(the opinions of those who did not are pretty much without value)

wut?


The opinions of people who were not themselves bullied, moralizing on the theoretical behaviours of people who actually ARE dealing with the systemic aggression, have next to no dialectic weight compared to that of the victims themselves. It belies a complete lack of experience in the system of aggression and its consequences. Those without that experience can theorize about utopian ideals all they want, but shouldn't expect to have those contrary utopian judgements respected in the slightest by those who actually had to deal with years of torment.
posted by FatherDagon at 9:15 AM on March 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


Don't tell me that a kid walking away from having knocked down the class bully doesn't feel that same painful anguish and self-doubt.

Yeah, that's bullshit. Even kids can tell the difference between bullying and self-defense.
posted by callmejay at 9:16 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


me: “You had to become a bully.”

bonehead: “That is egregiously, dangerously wrong. Intention matters. Conduct matters.”

Show me a child who understands that, and I'll show you an adult in clothes that are way too small.


There is one in this video. Casey did exactly what the law requires of him in most English speaking countries, and what all ethical teachers of self defense teach.

And he did it on instinct.
posted by ocschwar at 9:17 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


It was not fun.

No, I disagree. I physically hurt my bully, and it felt fantastic. I still remember how fucking amazing I felt when I was hurting him. I mean it. I really, really, really enjoyed inflicting pain on him.

It was the memory of that glorious feeling that motivated me the next time I was bullied. Fortunately for everyone involved, I managed to restrain my enjoyment of violence to only those situations where I was threatened first.
posted by aramaic at 9:18 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Koeselitz, the massive preponderance of anecdata in this thread is against you. Is there some personal experience that makes you feel this way? Because your perspective it's coming across as disconnected and theoretical, but I suspect it isn't really.
posted by unSane at 9:18 AM on March 15, 2011


I feel that kid. I know that feeling, where somebody wants to fight you, starts punching you, but you just don't want to be in that fight. You don't want to fight, because it's wrong, violence is wrong, and it's stupid.

You just want it to stop. So you grab the guy, you grab him and grapple him and try to subdue him, to prevent him from continuing his attack. And then, your rage, it just builds UP, and you can't help but to let it all out on the attacker, and then that other guy ends up bashed against concrete. STOP, you whole body is just telling the other guy to just STOP.
posted by jabberjaw at 9:19 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


When you are violent toward someone, it hurts you. You go through the experience of dissociation from your own ability to sympathize with the pain of others, and you undergo a disconnection from society that can cause actual physical pain.

This is also not true. My sympathy was my weapon. I knew how they would hurt because I had gone through it. I figured out how to be more effective at it than they were, emotionally, physically, and socially. My bullies were extremely attached to the status quo and were resistant to change. In my case, freedom was only won through a long campaign of actions that some here would no doubt find chilling. And a lot of times while I was doing it, there would be a part where I would say something to the bully like, "I know this hurts you because I know it hurt me."

The disconnection from society came before I struck back, when I concluded I was a Trash Person: unwanted, disposable, relegated to be garbage. Why else would this happen? Why else would the adults fail to act? Because I was absolutely worthless. Only garbage would be treated like this. Standing up for myself made me feel less worthless. Standing up for others who were bullied made me feel at least like I had some kind of place in the world.

I know you are extremely attached to this position but, as a kid, people with that position were of no help to me at all. Every year I believed that sort of thing was a year I was hurt.
posted by adipocere at 9:20 AM on March 15, 2011 [13 favorites]


The child who retaliates may be left alone, or of course depending on how strong the bully and his or her network is they may get ganged up on, the bullying may intensify. There's certainly no guarantee the bully will stop bullying because one victim effectively turns on them: I'd guess that to be the exception rather than the rule.

You'd guess? Why would you guess?
posted by effugas at 9:21 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


....I don't see any headings listing "raw data from an actual example" in that link. I'm talking a real-world example, not a theoretical examination of what needs to happen. I'm talking "We did X, Y, and Z and it actually is working".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:12 AM on March 15 [+] [!]


Yeah, thanks for spending a whole two minutes on the evidence (though if you actually spent more than half a minute scanning the headings I'll eat my hat) before declaring your preconceived beliefs confirmed. The entire chapter I cited reviews research on the quantifiable effectiveness of actual programs, it is not raw data, it is synthesized data, but the actual studies of actual programs are cited. I don't expect this to have any effect on you as you clearly are not interested in hearing anything you don't already agree with but I hope some people will get the message that there are effective intervention programs that can and should be promoted for widespread adoption in school systems. But this will not happen unless we as adult advocate them.
posted by nanojath at 9:21 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


EmpressCallipygos: “I understand what you're trying to say about violence -- really -- but you're applying it to a situation in which it does not apply. No one is suggesting that violence should be the first line of defense against bullying -- they are only saying that in too many cases, it is the only last-resort measure that worked. ”

I think you've been reading this thread pretty selectively.

fire&wings: “Best thing I've seen in years... If only every person who has been picked on had the strength of that boy.”

DanCall: “I have to say that I cheered inside when he picked the little shit up and dumped him on the ground.”

b33j: “It seemed reasonable to me.”

alasdair: “a ha ha ha! Awesome!”

This is nothing less than the glorification of the violence. I understand it; as I said, it's a sympathetic reaction from people who've spent their lives telling themselves it was okay, the stuff they had to do to get by as kids. (And it was okay. It's not easy being a kid.) But understanding it doesn't make it right.

Again, we have absolutely no idea what happened here. To judge it in lieu of context is to leap to conclusions; and that's part of what causes the problem in the first place - shoddy conclusions from adults about what is and is not the problem.
posted by koeselitz at 9:23 AM on March 15, 2011


How I managed to get through school without too much bullying, I'll never know. Although I maintained an almost 4.0 GPA, if I look back on it, I am more proud of sticking by people who weren't even my friends initially when they were being bullied by their peers as well as authorities (after columbine), than I am of any academic achievements. Even if I wasn't able to stop the bullying, at least they knew they had at least one ally. I hope it made a difference.
posted by mingo_clambake at 9:23 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


"I have to say, I'm genuinely surprised at the gleeful reaction to this. Two children have been injured here. You think the big kid is happy now? Will sleep well?"

He'll probably sleep better knowing that group of kids will think twice before bullying him again. When my older son started a public high school after nine years at a small parochial school I advised him to always fight back. Once you let yourself be a victim of bullies you will always be victim. I made it quite clear that there would be zero repercussions at home for fighting at school if he was defending himself. My advice was like a cheesy movie title, no quarter, none asked, none given. It worked out for him.
posted by MikeMc at 9:24 AM on March 15, 2011


Show me a child who understands that [intention and conduct matter], and I'll show you an adult in clothes that are way too small.

Toddlers can grasp this. In my experience, most kids keenly understand "fairness". They know that agression is wrong, but reaction is less wrong. They may not have a full moral and ethical framework, but this is pretty basic.

[Bulling and physical retaliation by the victim are] effectively the same.

This corrosive false-equivalence leads to more damaged kids that bulling itself.
posted by bonehead at 9:26 AM on March 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


"When you are violent toward someone, it hurts you."

I have to disagree here. In my snap, it didn't hurt me. It was easily one of the most joyous, sensual, toothsome pleasures I'd ever experienced up to that point. When my fist first slammed into the side of that kid's head, it was like the world went into liquid slow motion, a dissection of the passage of time as meticulous as a frog being sliced open on a little wax-filled tray, where everything about how I understood violence just splayed into clear layers of meaning. When I had him by the throat, I loved that sense of power, and the way I could feel the heat of his skin and the futility of his struggling. I loved it.

The thing is, it didn't make me a bully—not by a long shot. I stopped my counterattack when I hit the level of my moral center, which I'd built up over years of being hurt and with the better example of the people around me who lived decent lives, and when I pulled back, letting the kid drop away from me, I had an understanding of why kids are as cruel as they are that only that moment could have given me. Before, it just seemed so arbitrary, and so richly threaded with the roots of doubt.

Why would anyone hurt me? What did I ever do to deserve it?

Maybe I do deserve it.

That's the corrosive thing, the deeply buried thought that maybe you have it coming because you are worthless, unlovable, or unwanted in the world. That's the disease, there, and the moment I found the transcendent delight in inflicting pain on another person, that's when I really started to understand that it wasn't me, and that I didn't have it coming, and that bullies do what they do for reasons completely unconnected with who I am, because passing that pain down to the next weakest person soothes the burn like a narcotic.

So, did I become a bully? I think I found the way out, actually, and you might question the way I came to that understanding, but all I can do is relate how I got from there to here. Sometimes you have to go into that darkest of places and come out again to see it clearly. Everyone's path is different, but I'm glad I didn't have to take the long way around, working my way through a lifetime of undeserved self-disgust to find out what I should have known all along.
posted by sonascope at 9:27 AM on March 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


unSane: “Koeselitz, the massive preponderance of anecdata in this thread is against you. Is there some personal experience that makes you feel this way? Because your perspective it's coming across as disconnected and theoretical, but I suspect it isn't really.”

Look, my point is that there isn't much to crow about in this ugly little video. Two people walked away wounded. We'd all like to rest happily in the comforting belief that somebody got what was coming to him, that somebody who was abused will never have to worry again, but those are fairy-tale visions; the sad truth is that likely no such thing occurred here. The world is a lot messier than we'd like to pretend. And the belief that this kind of violence actually represents a viable and lasting solution – a belief that, again, seems remarkably prevalent in this thread – is a pipe dream with no rational basis.
posted by koeselitz at 9:27 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Pater Aletheias

Argh! I must have scrolled too quickly! Well played sir, well played.
posted by Macphisto at 9:28 AM on March 15, 2011



Look, my point is that there isn't much to crow about in this ugly little video. Two people walked away wounded.


Nonsense. One of them walked away less wounded than he walked in.
posted by ocschwar at 9:30 AM on March 15, 2011 [8 favorites]


nanojath,

To be fair, you posted a link with a ton of data, that's all mixed up with suppressing actual drug use and serious violence, and even reducing sexual activity, which is really quite a bit different than the threat of bullying. But, even looking inside there, I see:
Several strategies aimed at reducing negative student behaviors are also effective: ignoring misbehavior, reinforcing behavior that is incompatible with negative behavior, relaxation methods, and using disciplinary techniques such as soft reprimands, timeouts, and point loss and fines in token economies.
...and:
Like the Bullying Prevention Program, the Good Behavior Game uses classroom behavior management as the primary means of reducing problem behaviors. The Good Behavior Game targets elementary school children and seeks to improve their psychological well-being and decrease early aggressive or shy behavior. While both of these programs can reduce antisocial behavior, their effects on violence and delinquency have not yet been measured.

This intervention has shown positive effects, as measured by teachers’ reports of aggressive and shy behaviors in first-graders. Long-term evaluations show sustained decreases in aggression among boys rated most aggressive in first grade. Effects on violence and delinquency have not been measured.
The solutions section is here. Is there something here that's supposed to impress us?
posted by effugas at 9:31 AM on March 15, 2011


t's a sympathetic reaction from people who've spent their lives telling themselves it was okay

You can keep saying that all you want, but keep in mind that you're effectively saying you remember my past better than I do.

...which means relatively little vis-a-vis your larger argument, but you're skating on thin ice with the "you're just lying to yourselves" point.
posted by aramaic at 9:31 AM on March 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


Metafilter: There was a lot of blood and no one spoke of it afterward.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:31 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Look, my point is that there isn't much to crow about in this ugly little video. Two people walked away wounded.

Yes, except one of them had been methodically wounded for years, and was exhibiting a sudden burst of healing. Dude, you're just wrong here. On behalf of all kids who were bullied, we ask you to stop. Politely, because we wouldn't want to gang up and make you feel threatened or insecure.
posted by FatherDagon at 9:31 AM on March 15, 2011 [15 favorites]


'It is my firm conviction,' Gandhi affirmed, 'that nothing enduring can be built upon violence.'
posted by shakespeherian at 9:32 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


It appears that the group that did nothing and had their lives change for the better because of that is either statistically nonexistent, or incredibly averse to communication.

I guess I must be "statistically insignificant" then. As for being averse to communication, you're probably not paying any attention to my comments, or you would see that I'm not averse to it. I don't think my life "changed for the better" per se as a result of "doing nothing" (which was really a case of doing nothing because I didn't know how to do anything), but I also think you're setting up a false dichotomy.

It amazes me that so many people in here who were bullied seem to be outraged that there would be a few people who actually did not fight back or go postal or whatever when they were bullied. I was one of them. I'm not a shriveled shivering ninny for not having done so, either. And I don't feel powerless or cowardly as an adult for avoiding violence at all costs. It's not to say that I know how I'd react if violence was necessary, or that I hold non-violence as an absolute unshakable conviction, but in general, if I can avoid violence, I will do everything I can to make that happen. Sometimes, possibly, to my own detriment.

I'd add that from the extreme outrage directed against koeselitz's position it sounds like a lot of people here have a lot invested in the opposite position and that any contrary opinion is sacrilege.
posted by blucevalo at 9:32 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Look, my point is that there isn't much to crow about in this ugly little video. Two people walked away wounded. We'd all like to rest happily in the comforting belief that somebody got what was coming to him, that somebody who was abused will never have to worry again, but those are fairy-tale visions; the sad truth is that likely no such thing occurred here. The world is a lot messier than we'd like to pretend. And the belief that this kind of violence actually represents a viable and lasting solution – a belief that, again, seems remarkably prevalent in this thread – is a pipe dream with no rational basis.

You are wrong. One person walked into the video wounded. Multiple people were complicit in a conspiracy to continue the damage to that person. There was one perpetrator, and many observers: they intended to enjoy the show. Instead, their intended victim picked up the perpetrator and delivered a short, sharp lesson in consequence.

The victim then walked on, did not continue to torment his tormentor, and was fundamentally better off for his action. He stood up for himself. The perpetrator will likely never touch him again – too much of a coward.

When you say "the world is a lot messier than we'd like to pretend," you are actually saying something different than you think.
posted by sonic meat machine at 9:33 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Christ, this thread was tough to read all the way through.

In the end, there's only one thing bullies respect, and that's sticking up for yourself. You can't rely on teachers or anyone else, to stop bullying. Bullies like to pick on the easiest target they can find, and you can bet they'll find an easier target than this kid next time.

This is a horrible and defeatist attitude to take. It also happens to be right, but it's still unacceptable.

If I could only have been so lucky as to have had a growth spurt, and shown the bullies that I was in control. But that didn't happen. I was 16, 5'3", and 110 pounds (despite a concerted effort to bulk up) And let's be honest -- bullies never fight 1 vs. 1. Nobody with half a brain gets themselves into a "fair fight."

How should somebody fight back in my situation? Using the "You need to fight back argument," the logical conclusion is to either buy a gun, or become a bully yourself. Fortunately, I'm not a sociopath.

Eventually, I took up long distance running, which helped a bit. At the very least, I could outrun any potential attackers.
posted by schmod at 9:33 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


me: “You had to become a bully.”

bonehead: “That is egregiously, dangerously wrong. Intention matters. Conduct matters.”

me: “Show me a child who understands that, and I'll show you an adult in clothes that are way too small.”

mrgrimm: “No offense here, but my child mostly understands that. She is 2. (I will admit that sometimes she looks and acts like an adult in little clothes.) She is absolutely certain that it is OK to push back when pushed, even though I've always told her not to retaliate. "Yes, yes! Push Ben! He push me first!!" It's gonna be a long couple decades.”

bonehead: “Toddlers can grasp this. In my experience, most kids keenly understand "fairness". They know that agression is wrong, but reaction is less wrong. They may not have a full moral and ethical framework, but this is pretty basic.”

And yet we have full-grown adults, well-trained in the art of combat as well as the historical and political realities which necessitate violence in some circumstances, who come home from war unable to deal with the way they've hurt and killed other people.

I'm telling you, understanding the moral necessity for violence is not a simple thing. And it is certainly not so simple a child could understand it. A child may be able to tell her or himself that hitting other people is justified in some circumstances, in the same way that an adult can tell her or himself that there are situations in which you might have to kill another human being. Actually doing it, and sorting out all the feelings and experiences that go with that act, is an entirely separate matter.

I really like, however, all the anecdotal stuff that's coming up here – genuinely. It's very interesting, this question of how people felt when they stood up to bullies violently. I don't claim to understand all of those feelings; in fact, that's part of my point – that we can't expect kids to know immediately and intuitively how to feel in these situations. (That's why we try to prevent violence between them in the first place, right?)

But whatever my convictions, it is at least an interesting study in the experience of childhood, these memories people are sharing.
posted by koeselitz at 9:34 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I should have been a prime target for bullies. A scrawny, short, long-haired white boy in a school that was 98% black, I was different and dorky and looked like I should have been a victim. But I used my sense of humor and put on an act of confidence that somehow resulted in me being accepted, and even protected from bullies. Any time a bully would push me to the lockers, someone bigger and badder would happen to be walking by and say "Hey! Leave him alone. He's cool." Everyone saw me as "protected" so I thankfully never had to defend myself physically.

Even though I never had to do it, I have no problem with people fighting back against bullies. My older brother was continually picked on until one day he finally snapped, knocked the kid over and nearly choked his tormentor to death. The other kids had to pull him off. No one ever bothered him again.

(Also, it's Scut Farkus not Scott Farkus.)
posted by The Deej at 9:36 AM on March 15, 2011


I guess I missed your alternative, Koeselitz, unless it was the bit about adults standing around with baseball bats guarding weaker kids against the bullies, which I submit places entirely too much faith in baseball bats and adults.

If the alternative is for kids not to fight back in self defence and to rely on school/parental authorities to sort the whole thing out successfully, that I'm afraid is pathologically naive.
posted by unSane at 9:36 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's not the violence that's important, it's the confrontation.

That's what Gandhi did so elegantly: confront the abusers with non-violence.

But we are talking about a 16 year old kid here, not Gandhi. I'd much rather he confront his tormentors, even with schoolyard violence, than not confront them at all.
posted by cotterpin at 9:37 AM on March 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


And yet we have full-grown adults, well-trained in the art of combat as well as the historical and political realities which necessitate violence in some circumstances, who come home from war unable to deal with the way they've hurt and killed other people.

And this is like standing up to bullies how again?
posted by unSane at 9:38 AM on March 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


There are two issues when dealing with bullying, same as with any abuse:
(1) the best response for the kid/adult actually being bullied, in the moment;
(2) the best response for society as a whole.

Re: (1), I'm a proponent of nonviolence (note: this is different from pacifism). Of course, nonviolent resistance is a political/social act, to deal with ongoing problems. So what should a kid do when they are being bullied persistently? Ideally, build solidarity with other kids and work on a campaign to nullify the bully's power to humiliate (because, as a number of other posters have said, the long-term emotional abuse is what makes something bullying). As someone else pointed out, of course, most kids don't have the training or self-awareness to do this. I had the good fortune to at least partially develop this sort of awareness at one point in my teenage years, but I realize that's pretty unusual. But if you're a parent trying to help your kid, think about it.

Sometimes kids (and adults) get into situations where their immediate safety is the priority, though. They're being beat up by a group of other kids without an audience (out of the political/social context), or don't have the resources to deal with the ongoing situation in a more productive, non-violent manner. I tend to be swayed by the argument that letting yourself get beat up with no positive, non-violent, political/social outcome is a form of self-violence, and that some self-defense (using minimal force necessary to extract yourself from the situation and get to safety) is ethically valid in such situations. I find that I tend to have a narrower idea of what constitutes such a situation than other people. But then, I probably have a lot more experience thinking about creative non-violent resistance than other people.

Re (2), several other posters have made good points. Bullying occurs in a context where
(a) the bully learns their behavior from somewhere, usually because that's how people interact in their home environment (whether the bully themself is the target or not);
(b) there are lots of not-so-innocent bystanders (children and, more culpably, adults) who, through their silence, enable the bullying.

For all the people saying that reacting violently against their bullies stopped the bullying: I have no doubt that that is true, and, as per (1), probably was a good thing for each of you to do in each of your situations, since you had a responsibility first to ensure your own physical and emotional safety. But just because that stopped the bullying against one individual, it almost certainly did not stop the bully from bullying in general. This puts me in mind of a passage from Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five: I can't find the passage, on a quick search of my copy, to quote, but basically, the Tralfamadorians are critiquing the story of Jesus from Christianity, which one of the Earthling characters had held up as an example of good impulses in humanity. They point out that the fact that Jesus was already the son of god only conveys the message that it's bad to pick on the wrong people, when those who picked on Jesus got punished - that it would be a much stronger moral if god said, "hey, I'm adopting this random bum that you've been picking on as my son, oh, and by the way, don't pick on him. ." So while it is absolutely not the responsibility of the person getting bullied to take the broader social implications into consideration, "just stick up for yourself and hit back" is not an overall solution to bullying in general. What about the kids who are physically unable to fight back, or who don't have parents to back them up when they do?

Instead, we need to teach kids (and everyone) not to tolerate bullying when they are the bystander. We also need to teach kids (and everyone) non-violent conflict resolution skills, and we need better, more personalized education so that even kids from homes where bullying is the norm learn other ways to interact, and for the kids who are abused and bullied at home, have opportunities to feel good about themselves that don't involve replicating their abuse with themselves in the more powerful role.

The experience of my family has been that observant and caring adults can make a *huge* difference when it comes to bullying at schools. At the particularly bad school we went to, I had a teacher who, had he looked up from his desk during the "quiet reading" period, could have noticed myriad instances of bullying (yay classroom with 20 boys and 5 girls, and an ex-football jock for a teacher who had never taught fifth-graders, or above the 3rd grade level, before). He just didn't care/couldn't be bothered. The teachers who did care had limited options, until my father finally went in along with my mother to talk to the principal regarding my brother getting shoved around and pushed into lockers and such, and after hearing the "boys will be boys" drivel, said something along the lines of "oh, so we solve disputes by physical violence, that's what's accepted here? If you can't ensure my child's safety while at school, I'm more than happy to come beat you up. You know, if that's how we solve stuff around here." My brother's bullying significantly decreased after that (he stopped coming home with bruises, and never came home with hand-choke-marks on his neck again, at least), because the adults at the school knew exactly who the bullies were and what was going on. My impression is that that is the case most places, just most places the adults, for whatever perverse personal, philosophical, or administrative reason, refuse to act.

(And now there are 56 new comments, so probably someone has already made these points:P)

posted by eviemath at 9:38 AM on March 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


"Is there a comparable amount of anecdata about people who hit back and it made things worse? I've certainly seen people say this, but not in nearly the numbers who say that hitting back made things stop. "

Confirmation bias up the ass.

Is today's victim tomorrow's bully? I've never heard of this happening, but obviously my experience is limited."

I was bullied. I was a bully.

I got bullied in school, mostly for being poor. I remember being pulled off the monkeybars and thrown to the ground for wearing ProWings, the Payless brand of shoes, while (Rahm? Raim?) kicked me with his Nikes. I remember the bus bullies, Jordy White and Robby White (no relation). Jordy was poorer than I was, but was far tougher. I remember my parents and teachers telling me to imagine what his home life was or think about him pumping gas, but that didn't help.

After he got expelled, I told people I had kicked him in the balls to stop his bullying, but that wasn't true.

At the open school I went to, bullying was mostly class-based, with the richer kids picking on the poorer kids. It was the worst in fourth grade, where the teacher basically encouraged it in a way to have most of the kids in the class on his side against some of the weaker kids. Robby White stopped bullying after he got hit in the face with a snowball that had some sort of chemical in it. It was accidental, but it gave him a wicked burn and bruise down half his face and he almost lost his sight in that eye.

I got bullied in the neighborhood too, as one of three white kids living in subsidized housing. I mostly got bullied by kids that were younger than I was, but tougher. Michael "Johnny" Brown (who almost invariably got called all three names) was a runty but solid jockoid who used to shove me around and who I knew I had no hope of fighting back against — I saw him get into real fights and just be merciless. He ended up getting a basketball scholarship that let him become a lawyer — he does legal aid work now and has ended up a really good guy. One kid, Peter, shoved me down at the bus stop into a bunch of those black and silver instrument cases (I think it might have been my saxophone) hard enough that the rounded corner broke the skin under my shirt without going through, and I remember my underwear getting sodden with blood. I'd fight back, but it was just then an excuse for them to whale on me harder.

The relationships in the neighborhood made things worse — I had a little brother who would get picked on just as much, though usually by younger kids. I'd step in, and then find out that everyone in the neighborhood was related, "cousins," real or imagined. One of them, Arman, had the same body language as the little kid in the video, that scrappy bantamweight aggressiveness. But the problem with Arman was really his older brothers, Rudy, who was my age, and his even older one who was huge and was usually in prison. I remember pulling Arman off my brother once, and then getting jumped on the way home from school by a handful of guys, but mostly it was just Rudy, punching me and punching me until I ended up crying in a ball next to one of our friends' houses. Arman's now wanted in connection to a shooting, I don't know what's happened to him. He ended up being the cousin of the kids who moved in next door (after the crackhead moved out), but they were cool, for the most part. Those kids' dad, James, called Arman out on his shit once, and Arman gave him one of those, "Don't ever lay a hand on me, old man," speeches, basically showing James to be powerless. But by that time, Arman was stealing stereos and had a gun, so he was essentially outside of the normal bully spectrum and I was just trying to avoid him, since I went to a different high school.

Rudy came over a couple years ago to my parents' house and apologized, not long after Arman threatened James. Rudy finally realized that Arman was a thug and that protecting him meant that Arman never had to deal with any consequences for being a little thug.

But there was never any "Stand up to those bullies and win!" cinematic moment. I stood up to them as best I could and got my ass handed to me, despite years of akido, judo and karate. Martial arts are surprisingly ineffective against people who have gotten into real fights year after year.

So, while this is going on, despite one good year in fifth grade (great teacher made all the difference), I was starting to bully my little brother. I'm still not exactly sure why, I know that things like feeling that my parents loved him more played into it, but as time went on, it got increasingly vicious. We basically couldn't be left alone together at all without me mercilessly picking on him, and one of my groups of friends (I was kind of on the fringes of a couple of cliques), they all had younger siblings that they picked on too, for a variety of reasons. But it was bad enough that he once tried to climb out a two-story window to get away from me, and once tried to kill me with a kitchen knife, though those things didn't really feel real to me, more like it was all part of the sport of it.

And my parents had to leave us alone together pretty often — my dad had a job that required a lot of travel (sometimes he was only home on weekends), and my mom was in school. My brother resented me being in charge, I resented having to take care of him, we both resented being poor. We got sent to a couple of therapists, but really, that only works if you respect the therapists. Instead, I'd go out of my way to wipe boogers on everything in their office.

I picked on some kids at school too, younger kids. I'd grab a handful of their fries each day at lunch and basically dare them to stop me. When they stood up to me, I'd laugh it off. I feel really bad about that too, and about picking on some kids verbally. I remember when a kid, Chris, got a boner in the locker-room in seventh grade, and how not only did I make fun of him for that then (he was pretty much "Boner" for the next two years), I made sure people knew about it when he came to high school.

The only thing that really got me out of all of that was doing theater in high school. I wasn't the most popular kid there, and being a dual-enrollee meant that I had a hard time making friends at either high school I went to (even after getting into the open school, I kept taking German classes and a few others at the traditional high school), but in theater I met a bunch of people who were into the same music that I was, where I had something to do for hours after school, and where I was good at something that people could see and relate about.

So, TL;DR? Standing up to bullies didn't work, ignoring them didn't work, going to the school didn't work, going to my parents didn't work (though my parents were pretty great about it, especially because my mom was bullied much more viciously in high school than I was), changing schools didn't work — basically, the only thing that worked was growing out of it, and into other things. I try really hard now to stand up for folks being bullied, and to try to be compassionate as much as possible, and also to mitigate the feelings of isolation and alienation that I know are on both sides of being bullied, but I'm not sure there is a solution so much as there are ways to minimize some of the harm.
posted by klangklangston at 9:39 AM on March 15, 2011 [38 favorites]


I think you've been reading this thread pretty selectively.

And I think you've been reading this thread pretty selectively if you missed all the people saying "dude, I felt GREAT when I finally struck back because it was the first thing that convinced me that what the bully was telling me about myself was wrong."

Has it occurred to you that the "celebrations of violence" in here are proof enough that kids are not "wounded" by inflicting violence in self defense?

And nanojath:

Yeah, thanks for spending a whole two minutes on the evidence (though if you actually spent more than half a minute scanning the headings I'll eat my hat) before declaring your preconceived beliefs confirmed.

I did read them. I found the same problems that effugas had -- I'll bold the bits that stuck out for me.

Like the Bullying Prevention Program, the Good Behavior Game uses classroom behavior management as the primary means of reducing problem behaviors. The Good Behavior Game targets elementary school children and seeks to improve their psychological well-being and decrease early aggressive or shy behavior. While both of these programs can reduce antisocial behavior, their effects on violence and delinquency have not yet been measured.

So...."this looks promising, but we don't know if it works yet."

This intervention has shown positive effects, as measured by teachers’ reports of aggressive and shy behaviors in first-graders. Long-term evaluations show sustained decreases in aggression among boys rated most aggressive in first grade. Effects on violence and delinquency have not been measured.

In other words: "this seems to do okay in grade school, but we don't know what's going to happen in Junior High yet. It could work, we'll just have to wait and see."

So would you like ketchup or mustard with your fedora?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:39 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


FatherDagon: “Yes, except one of them had been methodically wounded for years, and was exhibiting a sudden burst of healing. Dude, you're just wrong here. On behalf of all kids who were bullied, we ask you to stop. Politely, because we wouldn't want to gang up and make you feel threatened or insecure.”

Look through my posting history; I'd rather you gang up on me all you'd like. This is a rational discussion, not a schoolyard brawl. I'm an adult. I can take it. That's why I waded in here, saying things that I was well aware would be unpopular. I actually enjoy thoughtful debate.

To the point: how in God's name do you conclude that one of the kids had been methodically wounded for years, and was exhibiting a sudden burst of healing? In this age of James O'Keefe videos, how do you conclude anything based on a few seconds of tape like this?
posted by koeselitz at 9:40 AM on March 15, 2011


And yet we have full-grown adults, well-trained in the art of combat as well as the historical and political realities which necessitate violence in some circumstances, who come home from war unable to deal with the way they've hurt and killed other people.


There's a reason it's called shell shock: we are viciously violent primates, but we are not evolved to be around explosions and gunfire.

One on one combat, however, is something we've been doing for millions of years, and we can deal with just fine. YOu can rest assured, Casey's cumulative exposure to stress ended with this incident.
posted by ocschwar at 9:41 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Two points:
  1. Gandhi had an overall political goal, not personal survival.
  2. Gandhi got shot and died.
Which of these points makes him a useful model for victims of violence?
posted by sonic meat machine at 9:41 AM on March 15, 2011 [8 favorites]


It appears that the group that did nothing and had their lives change for the better because of that is either statistically nonexistent, or incredibly averse to communication.

sorry i came so late to this thread!

i got bullied some in junior high but not much. when i got bullied it was pretty humiliating but i more or less just shut down and refused to participate. so they stopped. i don't think i was very fun to bully.

the kids who really got it bad? the sorta unpredictable kids with tempers who fought back. the bullies loved those kids. i guess because those were the kids they could get a rise out of.

i never had any sense that our school was atypical in this way. of course there were plenty of movies / tv shows where a puny kid surprise a bully by popping him one and thereby gained respect and ended bullying, but i don't remember these being perceived as realistic.

don't really have any moral axe to grind here, just wanted to contribute one more anecdata point for non-retaliation as an effective tactic.
posted by escabeche at 9:42 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


klangklangston: “Standing up to bullies didn't work, ignoring them didn't work, going to the school didn't work, going to my parents didn't work (though my parents were pretty great about it, especially because my mom was bullied much more viciously in high school than I was), changing schools didn't work — basically, the only thing that worked was growing out of it, and into other things. I try really hard now to stand up for folks being bullied, and to try to be compassionate as much as possible, and also to mitigate the feelings of isolation and alienation that I know are on both sides of being bullied, but I'm not sure there is a solution so much as there are ways to minimize some of the harm.”

Quoted for emphasis, and because it's the sanest and most thoughtful thing anybody's said yet in this entire thread.
posted by koeselitz at 9:44 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


'It is my firm conviction,' Gandhi affirmed, 'that nothing enduring can be built upon violence.'

No, but bad things can be torn down by violence; and sometimes they have to be. Ghandi was a great man, and what he did in India was a shining example to the world. But his advice to the victims of the Holocaust was egregiously wrong-headed. A non-violent response to Hitler would have led to a world controlled by Nazis.
posted by steambadger at 9:45 AM on March 15, 2011


I have no doubt that that is true, and, as per (1), probably was a good thing for each of you to do in each of your situations, since you had a responsibility first to ensure your own physical and emotional safety. But just because that stopped the bullying against one individual, it almost certainly did not stop the bully from bullying in general.

But it is not the responsibility of the victim to "stop the bully from bullying in general. And it is also not the goal of the victim to "stop the bully from bullying in general."

When a victim fights back against a bully, they are only trying to defend their own self. Period.

Now, I have no doubt that people are able to defend themselves without resorting to violence. I do not deny that there are cases where schools have stepped in and it has been effective. But those are not universal situations. There are times when going to the principal's office does not work. Talking to the parents does not work. Ignoring it does not work. Reminding yourself that the bully is just hurting himself does not work. There are times when fighting back is the only thing that stops a bully from targeting you -- and when you are a target, stopping them from targeting you is the only thing you want. You don't care what happens to anyone else, or what happens to the bully, all you want is for them to stop what they are doing to you.

And you can not fault a child for wanting that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:46 AM on March 15, 2011 [9 favorites]


This kid is a hero, full stop. I cheered when I saw the video and wish I would have saved a copy before it started getting pulled. He showed remarkable restraint in only throwing that shithead bully to the ground and not following him down to the ground for a proper pounding. And for the record, I would still be applauding Casey if he had. I've gone on record here as a bullying victim and there's few things I regret more than not providing my tormentors with the beatings they deserved. I'm not conflicted in the slightest on this issue.

To those propping up the false equivalence between the violence Casey was subjected to and the violence he was forced to resort to: congratulations on your happy childhoods.
posted by EatTheWeak at 9:46 AM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Two points:

1. Gandhi had an overall political goal, not personal survival.
2. Gandhi got shot and died.

Which of these points makes him a useful model for victims of violence?


So because Gandhi was assassinated that makes his theory of non-violence worthless? Was Martin Luther King Jr.'s non-violence worthless because he got assassinated too?
posted by blucevalo at 9:48 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I appreciate what you're saying, koeselitz, but Afghanistan!=Middle School. Those soldiers coming back with PTSD are dealing with a whole system of issues, most of which involve killing and death, not punching and body-checking.

Would that we all could live as Gandhi, and that's a noble goal to work toward, but isn't it just possible that there are degrees of violence, and that the degrees of violence most kids engage in during a confrontation with a bully are not so psychically damaging that society's implicit or explicit encouragement of such can be construed as "beyond abusive?"

Going back to my own experience, hitting my bully gave me a confidence I still have today. At the same time, I'm well aware that violence is not a good thing at all. It is an evil. I chose it, knowing that fact. I would choose it again today, but only after exhausting the other choices.

Also speaking of Gandhi, I think Gandhi was willing to die for his cause, a cause which was greater than himself. This is a nice non-violent weapon to have when you're confronting a bully. Kids rightfully don't think that way about their bullies. Their only cause is self-preservation, so that kind of conviction wouldn't be very effective (I actually tried this a few times, daring bullies to beat me up...sometimes it did work but more often then not it had the opposite effect and I ended up getting beat).
posted by jnrussell at 9:48 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


bonehead: “Toddlers can grasp this. In my experience, most kids keenly understand "fairness". They know that agression is wrong, but reaction is less wrong. They may not have a full moral and ethical framework, but this is pretty basic.”

koeselitz: And yet we have full-grown adults, well-trained in the art of combat as well as the historical and political realities which necessitate violence in some circumstances, who come home from war unable to deal with the way they've hurt and killed other people.

Is that supposed to be a counterargument? Of course there are some circumstances where the emotional trauma of violence becomes intolerable. That doesn't mean that when a kid fights back against a bully, they experience the same emotional state as a soldier executing a prisoner.

So there are probably some kids in some circumstances who can't handle the experience of beating someone else up. And we shouldn't ever celebrate the fact that any of this was necessary; much better to fix the systemic problems that led to the bullying in the first place.

It's bad that the kid had to stand up for himself with violence. It's good that he stood up for himself.

You seem to believe that to cheer for the kid indicates an approval of violence as such. Why can't you accept that it's an approval of a particular response to a particular situation?

Oh, I see:

In this age of James O'Keefe videos, how do you conclude anything based on a few seconds of tape like this?

It's true that we're only reacting based on our best guesses from a few seconds of video. This is the way we react to all video. It does indeed produce inappropriate reactions a lot of the time, but that doesn't mean it's a bad thing to form opinions based on the video; it means we have to change our opinions if and as more evidence comes up.

A lot of people in this thread saw the same video as you, and opined that the violence in this case was justified. You think it was not.

I'd like to hear why not.
posted by LogicalDash at 9:49 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


The poster who mentioned that this is a Rorschach test was spot on. It felt gratifying on a visceral level for those who were bullied to see a bully get hurt, whether it was on this video or in their personal experience. Almost every poster retold their "confrontation" story recalls the pleasure they had in inflicting pain back. What stuck me was the fact that the joy was derived from hurting the other person and not necessarily stopping the bullying from occurring. The psychology of this is fascinating.
posted by ozomatli at 9:49 AM on March 15, 2011


You are endorsing blaming the victims of bulling, by making equal reactive self-defense and the instigating act.

This is true... and I have no problems at all with Casey throwing his weight around for a good cause.

My concern are the shy, small and unathletic kids - or even disabled kids - who wind up the brunt of the bullying. Or even the big kids like Casey who find themselves wolf-packed.

I wound up 6'2, 270lbs in highschool. (And put on another inch in college.) I'd had my own Casey moment. But, of course, by then, the damage was done. I was still ostracized, saddled with lifelong self-esteem issues, and continually taunted, albeit from just out of arm's reach.

But when I was a freshman, there was a kid who was skinny and poor and very much a geek, unlikeable, weird, standoffish. His everyday was a misery. One day at gym class, a bunch of jocks twice his size stole his glasses and broke them, and told the teacher he broke them himself.

It was a stupid lie, everyone had seen it, and it didn't matter. The coach wasn't going to believe him over his strapping young JV athletes, and the kid just said, "I don't care" when some of us pointed out what had happened.

He didn't think his family could afford a new pair, so he did the only sensible thing, and swallowed his dad's shotgun after writing a note of apology.

No. Growing up to be bigger and meaner is not the answer here.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:49 AM on March 15, 2011 [9 favorites]


unSane: “And yet we have full-grown adults, well-trained in the art of combat as well as the historical and political realities which necessitate violence in some circumstances, who come home from war unable to deal with the way they've hurt and killed other people.”

unSane: “And this is like standing up to bullies how again?”

It's an act of violence.

I made the claim that most children aren't equipped to commit acts of violence and be able to easily and quickly apply a thoughtful moral framework to those acts. Several people disagreed with me. So I pointed out that even adults often have trouble doing this, even when they're clearly in the right, and have been taught and trained to understand this.
posted by koeselitz at 9:50 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


In my day the BIGGER kid was the bully, not the smaller kid. WTF?! I guess the water spins counterclockwise there too.
posted by banished at 9:51 AM on March 15, 2011


No, I disagree. I physically hurt my bully, and it felt fantastic. I still remember how fucking amazing I felt when I was hurting him. I mean it. I really, really, really enjoyed inflicting pain on him.

It was the memory of that glorious feeling that motivated me the next time I was bullied. Fortunately for everyone involved, I managed to restrain my enjoyment of violence to only those situations where I was threatened first.
posted by aramaic


(my bolding, for emphasis)
Umm... is this supposed to be an argument against koeselitz's comment?
posted by eviemath at 9:51 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


My first bully was my older brother. It was never really serious though, just a typical (much) older brother picking on and occasionally "beating up" his kid brother. I mean, charlie horses and maybe a bruise... some noogies to be sure. I honestly don't hold this against him, I think maybe he was just trying to "toughen" me up, as a nerdy thoughtful kid with a jock brother.

My first real confrontation with a bully was in fourth grade. We played football at recess for a long time... most of the fourth grade boys were involved including some of the nerdy types like me. Sometimes we'd tire of this and just played that game where you "randomly" toss the ball to someone and everone chases them down and tackles them. Then the ball gets tossed again and you repeat. Of course the kids getting tossed the ball were almost always the bullied kids, or something one of the ring leaders buddies would get it, but it was never as bad. This eventually devolved into most of the boys hounding myself and my best friend... but mostly the friend.

One day, we were standing in the field and I was tossed the ball. I dropped it. The leader got in my face, handed back the ball and told me to run. I said "No". And so he kicked me, in the ass. Not so much a damage causing kick, as a humiliating one. I stood there, stared him down and refused to budge. So, a few more kicks with the same reaction and the ball was tossed to someone else, I never got bugged again by this bully, and I only came back to the recess football when we got back to playing proper games again. I had won, really, without resorting to violence.

When I was 13, I hit puberty and shot up to 6 foot tall, starting gaining a bit of weight... pudge mostly, but also the muscle of a big framed 6 foot tall guy, who wasn't particularly athletic. One day I was sitting in my basement playing Nintendo as my sister's boyfriend and friend watched. They started teasing me about my "big head" (it was in fact big, I've grown into it.) which happened to be one of the same things my brother teased me about it. This was different though... this was mean. The friend stopped, he'd known me for longer and could see I was getting upset. The boyfriend though, just kept on going.

Then I snapped, I stood up, hurled my controller at the ground and pounced on him. A 17 year old high schooler sitting on the couch, with 13 year old me on top of him, raining punches on his chest. I don't think I had the guts to punch him in the face. I don't even know how many times I hit him. I stopped and stormed off, up to my room where I slammed the door, punched the wall and then collapsed on my bed crying and shaking. I had never felt adrenaline like this before... never lost control like this and it scared the fuck out of me. Jason wasn't seriously hurt, except for maybe his ego. He left the house in tears and I'm pretty sure this marked the beginning of the end of his relationship with my sister.

My sister retells the story as a point of pride... about how I stood up to this asshole. But when I think of it, I remember utterly losing control of myself. I never got into a fight again, to this day, and in fact I was able to prevent some of my friends from being picked on (due to my size, mostly). I am scared of what I could be capable of, if provoked to that point again.

I think the kid in this video was incredibly reserved in his reaction. One punch would have been enough to deserve retalliation, nevermind the series of blows he endured. I bet that his own actions scared him, and no doubt he is thinking about all of the what if's, and how the bully could have been seriously injured.

Kids who suddenly find themselves in adult bodies don't have a proper sense of what they are capable of. I imagine he was even surprised with how easy it was to just pick the bully up and drop him. The fact that he didn't continue and didn't just punch the bully's face in says a lot about him. I sincerely hope he doesn't have to deal with these little sociopaths anymore, and that he learned a valuable lesson about what he really is capable of.
posted by utsutsu at 9:51 AM on March 15, 2011 [8 favorites]


how in God's name do you conclude that one of the kids had been methodically wounded for years

koeselitz, from the posted article: "One said they knew the older boy personally and that he had been a victim for some time."

This decontexualizing, not regarding the histories of the kids involved, disbelief of kids' testemonoy is why that no tolerance false-equivalence of yours is so vicious. It's a process that teaches not only the victim, but the bystanders to distrust authority, feel helpless and unternalize their frustration and rage. In some kids, not all, this leads to striking out.

When adults are ineffective, giving themselves excuses via this kind of decontextualization, kids will deal with the situation as best they can. Sometimes this means that bullies will get broken bones when a victim over-reacts in panic. Blaming the victim for over-reacting is a cruel over-response which just feeds more violence.
posted by bonehead at 9:52 AM on March 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


Man, I identify with klangklangston so much it hurts.

And koeselitz is right.
posted by The World Famous at 9:56 AM on March 15, 2011


K, you are making comparisons which are so weak as to be almost content free. If you think hitting back against a bully once is usefully comparable to doing a tour of service in Afghanistan or Iraq because both are 'violent' you have lost me completely.

As I say it seems as though you have a theoretical framework for dealing with this which doesn't actually impinge much on the reality of what it's like to be bullied or fight back. You approved KlangKlangston's post but he was the only person who talked about being a bully as well as being bullied. That seems like very heavy confirmtation bias to me.
posted by unSane at 9:57 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think it's funny that people would actually argue against self-defense. One of the interesting things about self-defense (and why it's often considered a valid justification for hurting or killing someone) is that it can be quite involuntary. Sometimes you have the luxury of deciding whether to fight back, and sometimes you just... fight back. It's all amygdala.

So those of you who think violence is always wrong (always! wrong!), that's great, but the truth is that when your back's against the wall, or someone is physically attacking you, you really have no idea what you will do, what instinct may take over. You -- yes, you -- could injure and even kill someone without any hesitation if you were experiencing enough fear or pain.
posted by hermitosis at 9:58 AM on March 15, 2011


Two points:

1. Gandhi had an overall political goal, not personal survival.
2. Gandhi got shot and died.

Which of these points makes him a useful model for victims of violence?


He also wrote, 'If one does not practice non-violence in one's personal relations with others and hopes to use it in bigger affairs, one is vastly mistaken.'
posted by shakespeherian at 9:58 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


'It is my firm conviction,' Gandhi affirmed, 'that nothing enduring can be built upon violence.'
Gandhi guarded against attracting to his Satyagraha movement those who feared to take up arms or felt themselves incapable of resistance. 'I do believe,' he wrote, 'that where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence.
posted by SweetJesus at 9:59 AM on March 15, 2011 [14 favorites]


So, kids, if you're being bullied, you just need to be like Ghandhi. Awesome.

And if the bullying doesn't stop, that means you're not being enough like Ghandhi.

Got that?
posted by unSane at 10:01 AM on March 15, 2011 [17 favorites]


Umm... is this supposed to be an argument against koeselitz's comment?

Only for the most liberal definitions of "argument". I was only indicating that, in my case, inflicting pain & injury on my bully was fun. Very very fun.

Note the italicized section at the beginning of my quote: that's a common way to indicate what point a person is responding to. In my case, you will see that I was responding to the remark "It was not fun".

It was fun.

...and that's all. I'm not arguing with Koeselitz generally.
posted by aramaic at 10:01 AM on March 15, 2011


Damn, I can't get to the end of these responses, so pardon if I repeat what someone else said, but, there are two things going on here:

1. This kid's situation
2. The forces/circumstances that led to this kid's situation

I'm not sorry this kid defended himself. Size is far from everything in a fight.

But I think the problem is that while many many posters are ok with defensive violence, there is also a fatalistic air of "bullies exist, and must be fought, and there's nothing to prevent it" in a lot of these responses.

Is that all it can ever be? Is every school a little Fight Club monkey cage, where dominance battles will happen because there is no school...none...that can successfully teach or counsel or discipline its students to prevent it happening, no matter how hard they try? Is there no way to prevent this?

I'm willing to listen when it comes to anti-bullying programs/ineffectiveness of. But I'd be much more interested in hearing about places where bullying isn't rampant, if they exist, and trying to duplicate those conditions.
posted by emjaybee at 10:02 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


I am, again, not talking about the kid in the video. I am responding to the repeated assertion in this thread that violence solves problems, and that people who disagree with the use of violence are naive or can only do so to achieve political, and not personal, goals.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:03 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


"There have been some here who have scoffed at those of us who deplore violence, saying that sometimes there is no other way to deal with bullies. This does not make sense, unfortunately. If you are violent toward another person, you are a bully. Moral wrongs don't cease to be moral wrongs because of perspective; stealing from notorious thief, for example, is still stealing, and lying to a liar is still lying."

I'm fine with situational ethics; trying to define purely objective and universal ethics will always be a flawed project.
posted by klangklangston at 10:03 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think that Adam Sandler's Billy Madison taught us all an important lesson about bullying.

Also appropriate: The Onion on School Bullies.
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:05 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]



To the point: how in God's name do you conclude that one of the kids had been methodically wounded for years, and was exhibiting a sudden burst of healing? In this age of James O'Keefe videos, how do you conclude anything based on a few seconds of tape like this?


Because we've been there. I've been bullied. I (briefly) engaged in bullying. I fought other boys, reconciled with them, and made friends with them.

Being bullied is traumatic. A knockout brawl is not. And a knockout brawl that ends an bullying ordeal, is awesome. Major catharsis.
posted by ocschwar at 10:06 AM on March 15, 2011


It appears that the group that did nothing and had their lives change for the better because of that is either statistically nonexistent, or incredibly averse to communication.

Well, since you asked, I was bullied in junior high and elementary school. It wasn't nearly as bad as most of the stories in this thread, mostly name-calling, taking my stuff, and other minor aggravating, although it was enough to send me home hot-faced with shame and anger on a couple occasions. I also got provoked into a fight in first grade which consisted of the bigger kid who'd been bullying me hitting me three times in the face before I ran away. He went on to challenge me to an off-campus fight the next day, and I begged my mom to drive me there so that . . . I don't even know what I would have done, but she refused.

I never hit any of the kids back, and nothing ever really came of it, and I never really got bullied much after junior high. I'd like to think that refusing to escalate the situation helped keep the tormenting minor, but, really, who knows, it could just as well be luck.

I will say that the reason that I didn't tell my story before your comment is that there's nothing to tell. Some stuff happened, and then nothing happened. It's not that stories like mine don't exist or are only experienced by uncommunicative recluses, it's that most of the stories would be brief and pointless.
posted by Copronymus at 10:06 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Non-violence only works when 1) the agressor's behaviour can be controlled by external social pressure (or by internal moral pressure), and 2) that pressure is applied. If both conditions don't hold, non-violent methods don't work. A psycopath is not available to social or moral suasion and bullies don't stop if the social environment supports (or turns a blind eye) to bullying. That's why Ghandian non-violence often doesn't work for kids.
posted by bonehead at 10:06 AM on March 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


It's not the violence that's important, it's the confrontation.

That's what Gandhi did so elegantly: confront the abusers with non-violence.


This.

Non-violent resistance is very different from passively taking any abuse hurled your way.

Yeah, we can't expect kids to innately have non-violent resistance skills. That's why we have to teach them in school. Yes, I understand that this is not generally politically viable (given the outrage in some quarters against merely suggesting that kids who have same-sex parents are not necessarily going to hell).
posted by eviemath at 10:06 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


bonehead: “This decontexualizing, not regarding the histories of the kids involved, disbelief of kids' testemonoy is why that no tolerance false-equivalence of yours is so vicious. It's a process that teaches not only the victim, but the bystanders to distrust authority, feel helpless and unternalize their frustration and rage. In some kids, not all, this leads to striking out.”

That's personalizing it a bit, isn't it? Look, I'm sorry if I'm skeptical of news articles or grainy video, but that's not a function of how much I care about children. Nor did I at any point blame the victim(s) here. I want to make this clear, since people seem to have a misapprehension about what I've said: I don't hold any of the children in this situation accountable in any way.

All I am saying is that what happened here is not right, and the people who are responsible must carry the blame themselves.

LogicalDash: “You seem to believe that to cheer for the kid indicates an approval of violence as such. Why can't you accept that it's an approval of a particular response to a particular situation?”

I can accept that; that's a very good way to put it.

My beef with this thread is that, for many people here, it seems to be accepted that this is how the world works. I am fully aware that the world is like this; but it's only like this because adults allow it to be so. We adults need to accept that we share the blame for this. And when a rape victim (for example) successfully fights off her attacker, that victim should be cheered for doing the right thing. But if that's all we do, we're acting as though a world where victims have to go through that is an acceptable sort of world. It is not.

“It's true that we're only reacting based on our best guesses from a few seconds of video. This is the way we react to all video. It does indeed produce inappropriate reactions a lot of the time, but that doesn't mean it's a bad thing to form opinions based on the video; it means we have to change our opinions if and as more evidence comes up. A lot of people in this thread saw the same video as you, and opined that the violence in this case was justified. You think it was not. I'd like to hear why not.”

Well, largely in the context of the O'Keefe videos of last week; I've been watching them and thinking through how much selective editing can utterly change what we see and what we think we see.

But also because I believe it's actually often a very difficult task to assign blame in situations like this. We don't know what happened – not first-hand. We don't know if, as was posited above, the little kid was put up to it; I wouldn't rule that out. It's possible he's just as much a victim here. Who knows? It was videotaped, and there were several people "on his side;" groups of bullies are notoriously abusive to each other. Moreover, it's difficult to hear what's actually being said. Finally, again, it's very hard to overemphasize the importance of context, and of what happened before and after the video we're seeing here.
posted by koeselitz at 10:06 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


hermitosis: Sometimes you have the luxury of deciding whether to fight back, and sometimes you just... fight back. It's all amygdala.

What if you don't know how to fight back, like me? What would you expect my amygdala do to, assplode? There's a concept called "fight or flight." My instinct is flight.

SweetJesus: Gandhi guarded against attracting to his Satyagraha movement those who feared to take up arms or felt themselves incapable of resistance. 'I do believe,' he wrote, 'that where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence.

False equivalence. Refusing or being unable to fight a bully is not cowardice.
posted by blucevalo at 10:08 AM on March 15, 2011


A few questions to those who believes that a violent reaction is necessary:
Would you also advocate a physical response to verbal bullying?

Secondary:
What level of physical response would be too much? For example, if a bully is poking you in the ribs is ok to break him arm? his finger?

Tertiary:
Is physical violence an appropriate response when the bully is a female and the victim a male?
posted by ozomatli at 10:09 AM on March 15, 2011


shakespeherian: I am, again, not talking about the kid in the video. I am responding to the repeated assertion in this thread that violence solves problems

And those people are responding to your assertion that violence never solves problems, ala Ghandi. Except that violence does solve some problems sometimes, as multiple people in thread have attested to.

Absolutist assertions like "violence is never the answer" only work when everyone is following the same rules. When other people are beating on you, not so much.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:09 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


unSane: “As I say it seems as though you have a theoretical framework for dealing with this which doesn't actually impinge much on the reality of what it's like to be bullied or fight back. You approved KlangKlangston's post but he was the only person who talked about being a bully as well as being bullied. That seems like very heavy confirmtation bias to me.”

I was like klangklangston, though my personal experience hardly matters in the larger scheme of things; I was bullied, and later I became a bully when I had the power. And moreover I have met very, very few people in my life who haven't been both at different times. I think it's ridiculously black and white to assume that people can be painted as one or the other in general. That's why I react strongly against people who say "man, that kid got what was coming to him! Glad he broke his ankle!" I don't think anything good happened here, though the big kid may have done what he had to do. It's not a simple situation. Nor a good one.
posted by koeselitz at 10:11 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


So would you like ketchup or mustard with your fedora?

As you wish. I'm going to say further only that I think there are more things going on in these references than a couple of damning pull-quotes, and that the study of these programs goes beyond what I linked. I grabbed what was easily accessible rather than either dropping it or taking the time to treat the topic more thoroughly, and succumbed to the ever-treacherous tools of rhetoric to defend it, and damaged the effectiveness of my point, which is too bad.

But I'm not equipped at the moment to engage the discussion on a more effective level and I should have followed my first instinct and stayed out of it as a result.

I'll reiterate again that advocating that there are promising systemic approaches is not equivalent to saying kids shouldn't be taught to stand up for themselves or that they don't have a right to defend themselves against violence. I was a victim of serious bullying including physical violence for significant periods in my K-12 life and I'm also a father so these issues are not theoretical to me.
posted by nanojath at 10:12 AM on March 15, 2011


Bully got what he deserved. Props to the big fella.

And Gandhi shouldnt be anyone's role model. The fraudster liked riding wee girls ffs.
posted by the cuban at 10:13 AM on March 15, 2011


I think I've figured something out.

Even though all of us are saying that "violence is the only thing that worked even though I tried everything else first", people are tut-tutting and saying "violence is never a solution."

But that sounds all too much like blaming the victim. Like "she was wearing a short skirt so she shouldn't be surprised she was raped." Like "he shouldn't have bought a new car if he didn't want it to get ripped off."

And deep down in those claims, what I hear is a voice whispering, "better them than me."

So I can only assume that the people who are tut-tutting about how kids should have used non-fucking-violence or whatever were the kids who, back then, just stood around and watched and thought "Better EC than me".

If you wanted to stop bullying so much, why didn't you do so back then when it was going on right in front of you?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:13 AM on March 15, 2011 [11 favorites]


But also because I believe it's actually often a very difficult task to assign blame in situations like this. We don't know what happened – not first-hand. We don't know if, as was posited above, the little kid was put up to it; I wouldn't rule that out. It's possible he's just as much a victim here. Who knows? It was videotaped, and there were several people "on his side;" groups of bullies are notoriously abusive to each other. Moreover, it's difficult to hear what's actually being said. Finally, again, it's very hard to overemphasize the importance of context, and of what happened before and after the video we're seeing here.

Fine in theory, but in practice this attitude is an excuse for institutional paralysis. No violence policies mean that both victim and agressor get punished. In this case, both boys are suspended, both are facing police criminal investigation. Ineffective authority feeds the cycle of violence.
posted by bonehead at 10:13 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


My instinct is flight.

Has been so far. And it's likely to continue that way, because that response has been reinforced by your experiences. But that doesn't mean you won't ever fight back -- and it has nothing to do with whether you know how to fight back.

All you can really say is that you can't imagine circumstances under which you would choose to do so. The great thing is that if one day the switch flipped the other way and you defended yourself against your attacker, there would be legal and cultural precedent for doing so, and it's unlikely you'd be held responsible for any harm you caused.
posted by hermitosis at 10:13 AM on March 15, 2011


A non-violent response to Hitler would have led to a world controlled by Nazis.

Actually, ISTR reading that Norway(?) was making it quite uneconomical for Germany to continue to occupy them through a coordinated campaign of non-cooperation and nonviolent resistance.
posted by eviemath at 10:13 AM on March 15, 2011


False equivalence. Refusing or being unable to fight a bully is not cowardice.

My point was that sometimes violence is the answer, even for Gandhi.
posted by SweetJesus at 10:15 AM on March 15, 2011


And moreover I have met very, very few people in my life who haven't been both at different times.

Really? I've met lots of people who were bullied, who weren't themselves bullies.
posted by effugas at 10:15 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


A few questions to those who believes that a violent reaction is necessary:
Would you also advocate a physical response to verbal bullying?


Oh my God -- NO ONE is saying that a violent reaction is "necessary". People are only saying that "sometimes it has to be a last resort." NO ONE is saying it should be the first thing you try, only that it should be accepted as a last resort.

Jesus, do you also think that people who get abortions think that they're preferable to condoms or something? Of course not -- it's something that you turn to when everything else fails.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:16 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Except that violence does solve some problems sometimes, as multiple people in thread have attested to.

Well, you're right, and I'd like to amend my statement: Violence solves some problems, sometimes. I do not believe, however, that it is ever the best method for solving problems, even if it is the only available method for solving a particular problem. An act of violence is, in my opinion, wrong regardless of circumstances. I will concede that violence may even be necessary sometimes (although I'll attempt to argue any specific instance if given the opportunity), but necessity is not moral justification.

This is not so much an attempt to speak to people who say, 'I fought back, and things got better-- would you rather that I had not?' That's a decision that I'm not trying to make for you. I'm more attempting to speak to the people who are saying, 'That bully got what he deserved,' or 'I'm glad that this happened,' or 'This is good.' Even if violence is sometimes necessary, I don't think it should ever be applauded.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:17 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Ghandi also said "It is better to be violent, if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence."

(I said it too, at the top of my initial reply to this thread, but maybe it got lost.)
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 10:17 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


But that sounds all too much like blaming the victim. Like "she was wearing a short skirt so she shouldn't be surprised she was raped." Like "he shouldn't have bought a new car if he didn't want it to get ripped off."

Or "he should have socked that guy right in the nose if he didn't want to get bullied."
posted by escabeche at 10:19 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I do not believe, however, that it is ever the best method for solving problems, even if it is the only available method for solving a particular problem.

What does that even mean?
posted by unSane at 10:19 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Or "he should have socked that guy right in the nose if he didn't want to get bullied."

You show me one person in this thread who's saying that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:21 AM on March 15, 2011


It may have been the only thing that made the victimization stop; but it came at a price. You had to become a bully.

Utter fucking horseshit.
posted by Aquaman at 10:23 AM on March 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


Empress,

Quite a few people have said, "I wish I had fought back sooner".
posted by effugas at 10:23 AM on March 15, 2011


My beef with this thread is that, for many people here, it seems to be accepted that this is how the world works. I am fully aware that the world is like this; but it's only like this because adults allow it to be so. We adults need to accept that we share the blame for this. And when a rape victim (for example) successfully fights off her attacker, that victim should be cheered for doing the right thing. But if that's all we do, we're acting as though a world where victims have to go through that is an acceptable sort of world. It is not.

This, I fully agree with. It is horrible that one has to internalize the operational patterns of a broken world, from childhood up, and somewhat despairing that the best solution to a grotesque scenario is the one that merely qualifies as 'least ugly to the victim'. In the broader picture, this video is a portrait of two children who've lead lives of pain. In the closer focus, however, it is a snapshot of one child learning that he doesn't HAVE to live in pain anymore. It's a triumph for one, an unpleasant triumph but a triumph nonetheless.

In the best world this scenario never would have occurred, and in one that is merely better than what we have now, it would have been resolved simply and comfortably for both. No one here thinks that those worlds shouldn't be reached for, worked for, striven for with every effort we can bend towards that goal.. but until we reach that point, we also have to accommodate the stop-gap 'least ugly' solution. Those of us that cheer, cheer because we needed that solution ourselves, when everything else broke down.
posted by FatherDagon at 10:24 AM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


koeselitz: "They're forgetting the price of rising to the violence. It may have been the only thing that made the victimization stop; but it came at a price. You had to become a bully."

koeselitz: "Again, we have absolutely no idea what happened here. To judge it in lieu of context is to leap to conclusions; and that's part of the problem in the first place - shoddy conclusions from adults about what is and is not the problem"

Given your expression of what the word "bully" means to you above, I doubt that there could ever be any context that would matter to you in any meaningful way on the salient issues at hand.

The word "bully" does not simply mean "acting in a violent manner, even if only once" (my periphrasis of what you have written), and to distort and ideologically simplify the meaning of this important word in this way is actively harmful to the analysis of the problems of violence among children. Your immediate draining of the rich meaning and associations of this word makes your search for the complex context somewhat suspect.

Nor do I see people in this thread "glorifying violence" as you put it. For you to describe their responses in this way does them all an injustice that at the moment it seems you are finding hard to appreciate. What I think you are really seeing is some people indicating that they morally support the actions of the bullied child who fought back decisively against someone who punched them in the face while being filmed by the antagonist's supporters. In response you are questioning and problematizing that moral judgment and finding it wanting, while none-too-subtly congratulating yourself for doing so. The shoddiness you seek is not where you are looking for it.

I too feel that violence is a fascinating, complex, etc subject; but this doesn't mean I can't notice and celebrate a deserved come-uppance when I see one. Well, come-downance I suppose. To refuse to make a judgment in this case is to make a judgment, and to make the wrong one, in my opinion. We have an obligation to make moral judgments in certain situations.

Elsewhere you write that you believe that "children are not equipped to commit acts of violence". You may believe that, and I may have much more respect for the moral abilities of children than you do, but it is arguably more important in this situation to write about the belief that children are not equipped to endure repeated acts of violence. It seems odd that you have chosen to make drawing parallels between both children in the video your focus here.

It is possible that our deepest disagreement is on the importance of self-reliance. I don't believe that children ought to wait for the bystander adults equipped with baseball bats to save the day, because sometimes those adults are too busy, or indeed too morally confused, to effectively intervene. For example, there may be an adult nearby who refuses to hold the kid in this video who threw the first punch "morally accountable". This adult will, naturally, be worthless to bullied children.
posted by sommerfeld at 10:24 AM on March 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


Oh my God -- NO ONE is saying that a violent reaction is "necessary". People are only saying that "sometimes it has to be a last resort." NO ONE is saying it should be the first thing you try, only that it should be accepted as a last resort.

Jesus, do you also think that people who get abortions think that they're preferable to condoms or something? Of course not -- it's something that you turn to when everything else fails.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:16 PM on March 15 [+] [!]


Actually a great many people in the thread are saying that it is necessary. "The only way to really stop a bully..." etc. The retelling of triumphing over a bully by striking back at them. The non-violent "alternatives" offered up so far have all been shot down and derided as theoretical and naive.
posted by ozomatli at 10:24 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


How does non-violent resistance work when someone is trying to kill you?

Just fucking Ghandhi the bastards into dropping the knife, eh?
posted by unSane at 10:24 AM on March 15, 2011


This thread has brought out a lot of testimonies of mefites who where bullied as children. It's interesting to note the silence of the bulleys. It may not be right, but everyone of us who had to deal with unmitigated pricks like the kid in the video feel a certain gratification thinking it could have happened to our own personal childhood nemesis. Maybe this keeps the bulleys (yeah, you know who you are) quiet.

Good. We didn't want to hear from ya anyhow.
posted by dgran at 10:25 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


"We don't believe that violence is ever the answer," Mr Dalgleish says. "We believe there are other ways that children can manage this."

Hey. here's an idea -- maybe school officials could manage the problem of pervasive bullying so the children don't have to.
posted by Gelatin at 10:26 AM on March 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


I don't think anything good happened here, though the big kid may have done what he had to do. It's not a simple situation. Nor a good one.

I agree with you on this, although I'm still puzzling over your assertion that someone who responds in self-defense becomes a bully, which seems to me to be and oversimplification at best, and flat-out wrong at the worst, depending on interpretation. A bully is not simply someone who commits a violent act, and someone who commits a violent act is not by definition a bully.
posted by rtha at 10:27 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Quite a few people have said, "I wish I had fought back sooner".

They're saying "I wish I had fought back sooner." They're not saying "other kids should fight back sooner."

They're saying what they're saying in response to years of other people telling them that "violence never works and you shouldn't do it," when every single instinct they had was telling them "this might just be an exception to that rule, here, sparky."

It's not the only answer. Just like abortion is not the only answer to family planning. But if the other methods fail, I damn well understand why some people turned to it as an answer.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:27 AM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


In my case, you will see that I was responding to the remark "It was not fun".

It was fun.

...and that's all. I'm not arguing with Koeselitz generally.


Ah, my bad.
posted by eviemath at 10:28 AM on March 15, 2011


Maybe some past bullies can chime in on why the hell they harassed others? There has to be some past bullies on the blue.

handbanana, I'll try. In high school there was a girl, E, who latched onto our small all-female group of friends. I was probably worse to her than I realized I was being, because I thought so little of her. I thought I was being a great person by hiding that and helping to keep her from being totally alone, but it had to have shown. I'm not super proud of it, but I wasn't exactly the professional social worker E probably needed, so I'm not sure it was really my job to fall down on. Anyway, here's how it was. We were a fairly neutral-popularity bunch; the school was too big to know everyone anyway so in my experience, all the 2nd-tiers and below tended to form loose clubs and mind their own collective business... unless you really drew attention to yourself. E did.

E was the most wholly disliked and laughed-at person I have ever known. She lacked almost every possible socially redeeming feature, from the superficial (she moved in shuffles and slumps, lisped horribly, etc) to the personal (she had nothing to discuss, ever, except her one favorite cartoon and how everyone she knew was "being a bitch" on any given day). In middle school the boys used to bark at her. We thought that was terrible, and I for one had fantasies of standing up and shaming them, because I was a good person who befriended the friendless. They did that because she almost always 'did' her unwashed blonde hair in the saddest-looking imitation of Sailor Moon imaginable, and someone said it looked more like dog ears. Her nickname became Dog Ears. We used it.

Not to her face. That's where we welcomed her to our lunch table (coldly to neutrally at best - and why not, especially since she seemed oblivious to the difference), didn't utterly shut her out of our conversations and anime fangirling and such, and in rare moments of hope and kindness, asked her if she didn't know that her hair looked ridiculous, that her level of enthusiasm for Sailor Moon was ridiculous, that she walked like a cartoon caveman, that she chewed with her mouth open, that there was a connection between these things and people's opinion of her. That the gap between her and the rest of us normal dorks with glasses was hers to close. I know now that it can't have been, it pretty much never is. But she always said the same thing: those people were "jerks," and besides she needed to keep her mouth open to be able to breathe while eating, her choice of hairstyle and refusal to brush it were the only things keeping all her hair, whose "natural oils" kept it clean, from falling out... So we rolled our eyes and decided she wanted to be how she was, and tolerated her to the minimum level we needed to keep our own consciences clear.

Yes, there are compassionate ways to deal with unpleasant, probably troubled people, and my participation in treating her as an annoying charity project probably doesn't qualify. But I felt at the time that I was responding as well as anyone could be expected to respond to her. I didn't think of my attitudes and actions as anything but natural, or of myself as even a possible bully. I wasn't openly hurting her and didn't want to, and I wasn't pretty or popular enough to belong to the crowd that had once taunted and ignored (and confused) me. I was just trying to live my life and her hopeless buffoonery was just there, and I didn't want it to be. When she was away and my friends and I started in on a mocking session, it was a relief and a pleasure, and a bonding experience with the few friends I did have.
posted by jinjo at 10:28 AM on March 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: “But that sounds all too much like blaming the victim. Like ‘she was wearing a short skirt so she shouldn't be surprised she was raped.’ Like ’he shouldn't have bought a new car if he didn't want it to get ripped off.’”

escabeche: “Or ‘he should have socked that guy right in the nose if he didn't want to get bullied.’”

EmpressCallipygos: You show me one person in this thread who's saying that.”

Seriously, I'll say this again, Empress, and it's because I respect you and hope you understand at least where I'm coming from: this is the sense a lot of us have, especially concerning comments from sonic meat machine, among others. Maybe we're horribly wrong. But that does not mean we're victim-blaming, or rape-victim-blaming, or doing anything of the kind. It's unfair of you to make these equivalences.

Again, maybe we've gotten the wrong impression from what we've read here, but in a thread where people have said that this video is the "best thing I've seen in years," is it really unreasonable to come away with the impression that people are glad this happened?
posted by koeselitz at 10:29 AM on March 15, 2011


Well, KlangKlangston and Koeselitz both indicated that they had experienced both sides of the coin. I don't know if that has anything to do with their different emotional reaction to the video. Part of me wonders if they had at least a partial identification with the kid who was dumped on the ground, as opposed to those of us who were clearly identifying with the kid doing the dumping.

If so that might explain them coming at it from a different place.

I've no idea at all if this is true but it would be interesting to hear. What I mean is, I see the little pugnacious kid as 'the other' and that conditions my response I'm sure.
posted by unSane at 10:29 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Quite a few people have said, "I wish I had fought back sooner"

Yes, I said *I* wish *I* had fought back sooner. Not blaming myself, not assigning guilt. It's like being trapped in a maze for ages, and then finding a secret door out right at the beginning. You wish you'd known it was there long before, but more than that feeling, you are glad to be fucking FREE.
posted by FatherDagon at 10:31 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


A few questions to those who believes that a violent reaction is necessary:
Would you also advocate a physical response to verbal bullying?
What level of physical response would be too much?
Is physical violence an appropriate response when the bully is a female and the victim a male?


There are two problems here masquerading as one: the level of physical response that it is appropriate for a kid to take when bullied and secondly, what to do with a kid who has acted inappropriately out of fear or desperation.

For the first, teach a kid what the law says: get away with the minimum of force, but it's ok to use force to get away. You don't hit someone for calling you names, but if you need to hit someone to get away from a gang, that is sometimes necessary. It's never ok instigate violence, but it's ok to stop or get away from a fight. If this means a boy would have to shove a girl who is hitting him, ok then.

The second problem is what to do with a kid who did not have a rational reaction, but hurt someone reacting in the moment. Often these kids are the ones caught because they've both done visible damage (bloody nose, bruises) and because they've not planned their reaction, unlike the predatory bullies. Does anyone think that we would have seen the bully's friend's video if the bully hadn't been hurt?

When the adults in charge punish the reactor similarly to or more than the aggressor, this promotes the culture of bullying. It rewards bullying, the bully gets to hurt their victim twice. The victim and bystanders learn that truth leads to punishment. The right answer is separation and counseling, not ineffective, moralizing punishment.
posted by bonehead at 10:33 AM on March 15, 2011 [8 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: “It's not the only answer. Just like abortion is not the only answer to family planning. But if the other methods fail, I damn well understand why some people turned to it as an answer.”

Me too. And I have been very careful not to blame the kids who fought back; they did what they had to do. But being forced to steal bread because you're starving does damage to a person's human dignity; and being forced to fight back does damage to a kid's healthy childhood. That's all I've been saying all along.

There is a system which says "this is normal." There is a system which says "bullies are bullies, you have to punch them in the face, that's the way of the world and it'll never be any different." There is a system which is happy this is the way it is. I want to fight that system. And here, where I sense that a lot of people accept that this is how things are and even are happy about it (yes, maybe I'm wrong; this is my sense) I'm going to try to work against that system which makes violence the currency of the realm.
posted by koeselitz at 10:33 AM on March 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


I haven't read the whole thread (heck, this far down I don't even know if anyone will see it), but I thought I would put this out there.

In response to this comment:

From the SMH article:
Their triumphant response to the older boy's retaliation surprised seasoned experts.

Are you fucking kidding me?
posted by dhens at 7:01 AM on March 15


Actually, yes, the experts are surprised, and here's why:

There's a good article here that talks specifically about what research has discovered about tactics that bullies use, and why the conventional approaches to stop bullying aren't effective in any long-term sense. One of the authors, Alan Kazdin, is the director of the Yale Parenting Center and Child Conduct Clinic, and the John M. Musser Professor of Psychology, Child Psychiatry, and Institute of Social Policies at Yale.

I've bolded the key points:

...We know a few things about bullies as a group. They often have an impulsive temperament, don't get enough parental supervision, and have had significant exposure to models of aggressive behavior in the home (harsh punishment, domestic violence) and media (TV and video games that model bullying). Most bullies are boys, and male bullies use physical violence more often than female ones, but girls do it, too. Bullies are often more confident, fearless, and socially astute than we tend to assume (the old notion of a bully as a cowardly cretin with low self-esteem seems to be inaccurate), and they are often quite popular in the lower grades. But they tend to lose popularity as school progresses, become socially isolated, and have poor academic outcomes. They are more likely to smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol as they enter adolescence and to engage in criminal behavior in later years. But knowing all that has not helped much in coming up with ways to reduce or eliminate bullying.

...Bullying between children happens in places where adults cannot easily detect it—in the halls, at recess, at the bus stop, waiting in lines. Adults typically do not know about such bullying unless there are flagrant and very frequent episodes or they happen to see it with their own eyes, which is relatively rare (teachers detect only about 4 percent of all incidents), since a competent bully chooses opportunities precisely to exploit a lack of adult supervision.

When students see bullying, they tend not to report it. Surveys indicate that they usually believe nothing would be done if they did tell about what they saw. Bear in mind that about 85 percent of bullying happens in front of others, usually peers. The event is institutionally invisible, but there are typically witnesses. These peers intervene only about 10 percent to 20 percent of the time, but when they do, they can stop bullying. Even when the child who steps in is considered weak in the group's hierarchy of power, the bullying stops within 10 seconds in more than half the instances of intervention by peers. The extensive body of research on bullying has led to a new appreciation of the power of bystanders to enable or disable bullying....

...The time-honored assumption is that if your child cleans a bully's clock once, or merely shows himself willing to try, the display of bravery will activate the bully's innate cowardice or possibly his latent capacity to respect a worthy opponent. Either way, he'll leave your child alone. It would be nice if life worked this way—that is, if it were like a movie starring Harrison Ford as your child—but it usually doesn't....

One hallmark of a bully is a sophisticated ability to pick victims who won't put up a fight. When you urge your child to stand up to a bully, you're asking him to do something that the bully already figured out he was unlikely to do. That's why the bully picked him in the first place.
Bullies tend to choose victims who are socially withdrawn, seem anxious or fearful, are nervous in new situations, or have some physical characteristic that might make them more vulnerable....By the time you're finding out about it, the bullying has probably gone on long enough to reinforce the roles of bully and victim through repetition. You're asking your child to buck very long odds. You might be right—your child might be the exceptional victim who proves the bully's judgment wrong and pushes back against the grain of the reinforced pattern of victimization—but chances are you're not...


So...yeah. The experts have every reason to expect that fighting and winning against a bully does not work. The research that's out there overwhelmingly supports it.

From where I sit (and I am no expert, not by a long shot), if you want a long-term solution to bullying, the following has to happen:


(1) First and foremost: the administration, faculty, and staff of a school have to recognize that bullying is a real problem that damages kids in the short-term and can affect them into adulthood. It should not be ignored or brushed off as "kids will be kids". Nothing reinforces bullying in a school faster than a teacher/staffer/principal who dismisses an act of bullying as just part of growing up. Kids don't report bullying because they genuinely believe that no one will listen to them and do anything about it.


(2) The administration, faculty, and staff of a school have to be made to understand that they can't pick out a bully or bullies by appearances or other stereotypes. The church-going, straight-A-making captain of the cheerleading squad could be going home every night to an alcoholic father that beats her, which is why she uses her popularity to ostracize less popular girls just to see them cry. What's more, these kids are smart enough to recognize that teachers fall for stereotypes like everyone else. If they maintain decent grades and a clean-cut image, even if they get caught they're likely to be given a slap on the hand.


(3) The administration, faculty, and staff of a school have to be made to understand that they can't underestimate bullies. As Kazin says in the article, bullies are good at what they do, and make intelligent decisions so they don't get caught. They'll bully where the adults won't see, and only in front of witnesses who either won't snitch (other kids intimidated by the bullies) or don't see what's happening as bullying (teachers who dismiss what's happening as "just teasing"). By the time bullying report makes it to the parents or teachers, chances are it's been going on for months without an adult knowing.


(4) The administration, faculty, and staff of a school have to be made to understand that they can't blame the victim of the bullying. The victim feels bad enough as it is; telling him that if he didn't do such-and-such or behave in such-and-such a way simply tells him that the bullying will continue with the supervisor's approval (see point (1)). What's more, it's not the victim's responsibility to solve the problem in the first place.


(5) The administration, faculty, and staff of a school have to be made to understand that bullying takes different forms. Boys are more likely to get physical with their bullying. Girls go for psychological bullying: slandering, spreading rumors, intentionally excluding others from the group, and manipulating relationships. Girl bullying is frequently harder to detect than boy bullying, largely because when reported to teachers, teachers tend to dismiss it as "drama" (see point (1)).


(6) The administration, faculty, and staff of a school have to send a clear signal to parents and students alike: bullying will not be tolerated. The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (considered the leading bullying reduction and prevention program in the world; Dan Olweus is considered the father of bullying research and I recommend you take a look at his work) recommends establishment and enforcement of class rules against bullying, holding regular class meetings with students about bullying, and increased supervision of students at "hot spots" for bullying.


(7) The administration, faculty, and staff of a school have to establish intervention programs for the bullies themselves. Yes, you read that right. It's tempting to want to take the bullies out back and hang them from the highest tree, but there are real reasons to try to help them instead. Chances are they've got serious problems at home that drive their behavior (see point (2)). Bullies are at a higher risk to be involved in criminal activities as adults; leading them away from bullying behavior may help them avoid that in the future.

(8) The administration, faculty, and staff of a school have to encourage other kids to report bullying, take the accusations very seriously when they do, and response in a real, substantive way.

Bystanders are more likely to report bullying and stand up against it if they feel they have the support of teachers and other adults in a school environment. The role of bystander has been one of the major discoveries in bullying research. Researchers have come to understand that bystanders are not merely passive witnesses. They give or withhold approval of bullying and mobbing. And by virtue of their numbers, bystanders have more power than anyone to stop bullying and mobbing in the environments that they occur in. It sounds hokey but it's true: if enough people stand up against bullies, and do so consistently, the bullies have no choice but to back down. If they don't, the bullies understand that they've received approval and proceed accordingly.


The parents should do what they can, of course, but they aren't able to be in the school environment, so their efforts won't have a big an impact on the actual bullying itself. But their love and support of their kid will go a long way towards helping the kid make it through school. So attend meetings, talk to the teachers, and most of all listen to your kid.


I should point out that the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program is geared towards elementary and middle-school students. I'm not aware of a program that's been similarly effective on the high-school level. If someone knows of one I'd love to hear about it.
posted by magstheaxe at 10:34 AM on March 15, 2011 [25 favorites]


I think for all the folks pointing to examples of attackers being fended off as crime statistics- that's not a school situation. Bullies are getting social power by bullying- they're not masked, they're not strangers in the dark, they are doing it in front of others.

When you stand up to a random attacker and drive them off, they don't have further consequences on the line- they're not going to have to see you everyday and have people point out you punked them.

This is why bullies and random attackers or muggers aren't the same thing.
posted by yeloson at 10:34 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


How does non-violent resistance work when someone is trying to kill you?

Just fucking Ghandhi the bastards into dropping the knife, eh?


Why are they trying to kill me?
posted by shakespeherian at 10:38 AM on March 15, 2011


koeselitz -- it's equally unfair of you to say that "using violence makes a victim a bully hirself". It is also equally unfair of you to saddle them with the responsibility of "trying to stop bullying altogether." If you want to be so compassionate, where's the compassion for the kid who got so desperate that they truly, honestly, and sincerely felt that that was the only damn option they had available to them because nothing else was fucking working no matter how hard they tried?

I think you'll find few people in here who say violence is the first resort. But if someone uses it as a last resort, implying that they somehow "failed" by being violent is just cruel. It implies that they should have put up with that treatment a little longer, because shit, they've been trying the non-violent approach and it wasn't working, so...what else do you expect them to think?

Again, maybe we've gotten the wrong impression from what we've read here, but in a thread where people have said that this video is the "best thing I've seen in years," is it really unreasonable to come away with the impression that people are glad this happened?

Do you not also see the people who are saying that they're not "glad", but they can understand? Have you not been reading the accounts of how every other resort got exhausted because the teachers were ineffective and the bullies weren't taking the non-violent approach seriously?

You're not seeing that what caused this kind of violent response was desperation -- the desperation of a cornered and wounded child. You want to stop bullying, come to the defense of that child, don't accuse that child of "sinking to a bully's level."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:38 AM on March 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


Nor did I at any point blame the victim(s) here. I want to make this clear, since people seem to have a misapprehension about what I've said: I don't hold any of the children in this situation accountable in any way.

But you would characterize Casey as a bully, right?
posted by the other side at 10:40 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


...The time-honored assumption is that if your child cleans a bully's clock once, or merely shows himself willing to try, the display of bravery will activate the bully's innate cowardice or possibly his latent capacity to respect a worthy opponent. Either way, he'll leave your child alone. It would be nice if life worked this way—that is, if it were like a movie starring Harrison Ford as your child—but it usually doesn't....

One hallmark of a bully is a sophisticated ability to pick victims who won't put up a fight. When you urge your child to stand up to a bully, you're asking him to do something that the bully already figured out he was unlikely to do. That's why the bully picked him in the first place. Bullies tend to choose victims who are socially withdrawn, seem anxious or fearful, are nervous in new situations, or have some physical characteristic that might make them more vulnerable....By the time you're finding out about it, the bullying has probably gone on long enough to reinforce the roles of bully and victim through repetition. You're asking your child to buck very long odds.


This explains the triumphant reaction rather than why the experts are surprised by it.
posted by skinnydipp at 10:44 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


(1) First and foremost: the administration, faculty, and staff of a school have to recognize that bullying is a real problem that damages kids in the short-term and can affect them into adulthood. It should not be ignored or brushed off as "kids will be kids". Nothing reinforces bullying in a school faster than a teacher/staffer/principal who dismisses an act of bullying as just part of growing up. Kids don't report bullying because they genuinely believe that no one will listen to them and do anything about it.

This is 100% true and must be the starting point. This thread itself is strong evidence that being bullied as a child can affect someone well into adulthood.
posted by ozomatli at 10:46 AM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Sure, submission hold or just pushing the littler kid hard might seem better, but that could have likely escalated things further, i.e. he gets ganged up by 5-6 kids.

You could see this happen in the video. The victim kid takes the first punch, and then sort of reaches out to stop the next one. That was enough to send the bully into Muhammed Ali mode.

From that moment on, it's pretty obvious that the victim needs to respond with enough force to render the bully incapable of escalating, and that's exactly what he does.
posted by rollbiz at 10:46 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


unSane: “Well, KlangKlangston and Koeselitz both indicated that they had experienced both sides of the coin. I don't know if that has anything to do with their different emotional reaction to the video. Part of me wonders if they had at least a partial identification with the kid who was dumped on the ground, as opposed to those of us who were clearly identifying with the kid doing the dumping.

If so that might explain them coming at it from a different place.

I've no idea at all if this is true but it would be interesting to hear. What I mean is, I see the little pugnacious kid as 'the other' and that conditions my response I'm sure.”


That's a remarkably clear way of putting it; thank you.

I guess it's just that, for me, it's a very difficult situation to gauge, even assuming we know what happened; and it's hard to know what outcome is correct. I mean, I am all for a bunch of us adults standing around cheering for a kid who stood up for himself. But if we actually end up being a bunch of adults cheering because a kid broke his ankle... that seems out of bounds, to me, and I don't know how I feel about it. That's why I had such an emotional reaction to Uther Bentrazor up above; if people really feel that it's good that a kid broke his ankle, why aren't they in there breaking the kids' ankles themselves? The point is that it seems almost abusive to me, that attitude.

Of course it's not so simple as that. This didn't happen in a vacuum; and when people cheer here, they're at least ostensibly cheering for a kid who they believe stood up for himself. And of course they wouldn't want to go around breaking little kids' ankles, even if those kids were bullies. (At least I hope not.)

I just want to encourage some equity here, and an awareness that the violence here isn't "clean;" violence never is. Unfortunately, that's how life works. I am glad that some people manage to stand up for themselves in the face of bullies. In a perfect world, however, they really shouldn't have to.

EmpressCallipygos: “koeselitz -- it's equally unfair of you to say that "using violence makes a victim a bully hirself". It is also equally unfair of you to saddle them with the responsibility of "trying to stop bullying altogether." If you want to be so compassionate, where's the compassion for the kid who got so desperate that they truly, honestly, and sincerely felt that that was the only damn option they had available to them because nothing else was fucking working no matter how hard they tried? ... I think you'll find few people in here who say violence is the first resort. But if someone uses it as a last resort, implying that they somehow "failed" by being violent is just cruel.”

Again, I've tried to make this clear over and over again, so I hope this makes sense: I didn't intend to imply that any of the children here "failed," or that any kid who stands up to bullies has "failed." Nor did I say "using violence against bullies makes you a bully" as a matter of moral condemnation; as I tried to explain above (and apparently failed) what I meant is that children who are forced to be violent have to go through the same experiences as bullies when they do so. To me, that's really the tragedy.

What I've been trying to say is that we've forced kids to go through something that is unnatural and damaging to them. Forcing children to stand up to bullies, instead of preventing the bullying in the first place, harms them. That's really the issue here, as I see it: adults have failed. It's nicer to think about David and Goliath and all that, but the backdrop is that something really needs to change.

Again, that's not the fault of the kids. It's the fault of us adults.
posted by koeselitz at 10:46 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have been very careful not to blame the kids who fought back; they did what they had to do. But being forced to steal bread because you're starving does damage to a person's human dignity; and being forced to fight back does damage to a kid's healthy childhood. That's all I've been saying all along.

The problem is, you're not making clear that you DON'T blame the kids who fought back. We are in agreement that "being forced to fight back does damage to a kid's healthy childhood," but where we disagree is who is doing that forcing, and where to lay the blame for who forced their hand. You have come very, very close to sounding like you lay that blame at the feet of those very children themselves.

There is a system which says "this is normal." There is a system which says "bullies are bullies, you have to punch them in the face, that's the way of the world and it'll never be any different." There is a system which is happy this is the way it is. I want to fight that system. And here, where I sense that a lot of people accept that this is how things are and even are happy about it (yes, maybe I'm wrong; this is my sense) I'm going to try to work against that system which makes violence the currency of the realm.

with all due respect, you are indeed quite wrong that the people who are "defending violence," for lack of a better word, are saying that "violence is the way of the world and it'll never be any different."

The people who are defending violence are not saying "bullies are bulies and you have to punch them in the face." They are only saying "I tried everything else and it didn't work, so then I punched them in the face." If anything else had worked for them, they'd have done it. I promise you.

Again, I'm not saying alternate solutions never work. For some fortunate few, they do. But for quite a few, they don't. And you can't just expect those kids to continue to suffer because "violence shouldn't be the currency of the realm." At the very least, some more compassion towards those kids would help, because they're already feeling worthless.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:47 AM on March 15, 2011


I dare say that any experts surprised by a positive reaction to this video are not, in fact, experts.

I mean that. If they've structured their data such that they're flat out unaware of the sorts of responses for this thread, well, they've got even worse selection bias problems than we do.

Now, regarding:

The time-honored assumption is that if your child cleans a bully's clock once, or merely shows himself willing to try, the display of bravery will activate the bully's innate cowardice or possibly his latent capacity to respect a worthy opponent. Either way, he'll leave your child alone.

There's a claim that the above is untrue. It's justified because:

By the time you're finding out about it, the bullying has probably gone on long enough to reinforce the roles of bully and victim through repetition. You're asking your child to buck very long odds.

What a peculiar position. It's basically saying the kid can't fight back, because he hasn't fought back. The genius, sophisticated bully has already marked this kid for life.

Right. I think I'm going to have to demand some hard data to back up this claim.
posted by effugas at 10:49 AM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


But that doesn't mean you won't ever fight back -- and it has nothing to do with whether you know how to fight back.

All you can really say is that you can't imagine circumstances under which you would choose to do so.


True, and I never implied otherwise. Although it's hard for me (only me, not extrapolating my experience) to imagine how I would fight back if I don't know how to fight back in the first place. It may be that I would find a way to fight back, but it's equally plausible that I wouldn't find a way, either, and that I'd get beaten to a pulp.
posted by blucevalo at 10:49 AM on March 15, 2011


This explains the triumphant reaction rather than why the experts are surprised by it.

Not to mention its explanation for why this can't work is that it's "unlikely" because the bully picks out a person who is unlikely to fight back. That's the point: you reach that place where you have to respond, and you do so, and you become a non-target.

Educational theory continues to amaze.
posted by sonic meat machine at 10:49 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


If these were 2 adults and the exact same thing happened what would be the outcome?

Someone is shown on video repeatedly punching another person who only fights back after he has been hit a few times?
posted by outsider at 10:50 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


This obviously speaks to a lot of adults' empowering violence-is-the-answer moments from their childhood, but it should go without saying that adults encouraging kid-on-kid violence is seriously bad news. It seems to me that it tickles the same endorphin center that makes bullies feel good to begin with.

The bottom-line is that counter-violence can stop bullying in some instances, but violence itself is not the magic mechanism. Empowerment is the mechanism and violence is one tool. I always just acted indifferent and too-cool-for-school, keep walking and talking if necessary. It's similar to the Love and Logic Teaseproofing strategy: http://www.loveandlogic.com/pdfs/teaseproof.pdf.

I also n-th the idea that sometimes bullied kids are manipulated into fighting other bullied kids for the entertainment of the manipulative kids. Bullying by proxy. In fact, that's the reason in my case why playing cool worked. Bullies are like trolls, just don't feed them and they will often get bored. Violence is not a solution for many of the small kids who are bullied because they stand out as easy targets. Playing cool may not be a magic bullet always, but you can teach cool. You can't teach height.

Seriously, though, get a hold if your nostalgia and realize that violence is not acceptable for adults to encourage in children. Remember Nietzsche's warning about fighting monsters. Don't bully by proxy as an adult. Don't become a monster. Encouraging child violence is seriously unacceptable.
posted by Skwirl at 10:53 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


If these were 2 adults and the exact same thing happened what would be the outcome?

Now do one where the younger kid is a giant panda and the older kid is a Vietnam veteran. Where's your moral calculus now?!
posted by shakespeherian at 10:54 AM on March 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


Now do one where the younger kid is a giant panda and the older kid is a Vietnam veteran. Where's your moral calculus now?!

Both are riding fixies without helmets and drinking Pabst. WHERE DOES OUR HATE GO??
posted by FatherDagon at 10:55 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


@effugas: I believe the numbers are drawn from data presented in "Understanding Bullying: From Research to Practice," by W.M Craig and D.J. Pepler. Canadian Psychology, Vol 48 (2007).
posted by magstheaxe at 10:56 AM on March 15, 2011


The bullying from a select group of kids began for me in kindergarten when I wasn't allowed onto the slide. When I told the teacher that the other kids wouldn't allow me on the slide, she told me to just push past them and get on it. I did and one of the bullies pushed me off the top of the slide. I got a minor concussion and two days off from school. The bully wasn't punished.

In first grade a bully began stealing stuff from my desk. When I told the teacher about it, he denied it and claimed that the pencils and toy cars were his. The teacher believed him and I was punished for lying.

In second grade I was beat up repeatedly. I complained loudly to my parents, the principal, and any adult who would listen. They told me to "just walk away" and wouldn't believe me when I told them that that solution was impossible.

In third grade the abuse continued, sometimes in front of teachers. Nothing was ever done about it. I was beginning to think that this is how all children spent their early years. One bully threw me off of my bike and hit me in the face with his backpack, bloodying my nose. When the issue came before the school principal, the bully complained that I had "buzzed" him on my bike and that he had just gotten angry. He was made to apologize to me in the principal's office. When I said I didn't believe he was sorry, I was given detention.

In fourth grade someone came to our class to talk about bullying. He trotted out the "Just walk away" line again and one of the bullies who had been tormenting me turned to me and said, "If you try to walk away from me, I'll hit you in the back of the head."

That day at recess he began to pick on me and I turned and walked away. True to his word, he hit me in the back of the head. Hard. It took me a couple of seconds to realize that the reason my knees were hurting was because I had fallen down. He continued his assault on the back of my head to the cheers of other kids around us. In some act of desperation I punched, as hard as I could, straight up with my right fist. My whole body was numb and I couldn't feel a thing, but, even though my ears were ringing, I could hear that the tone of the area had changed. Where there had once been a bunch of cheering, there was now only one child screaming in pain. My punch had landed in his eye hard enough that blood was seeping out from between his fingers. He stumbled and fell as he tried to run to the nurse's office.

He was out of school for a week and wore an eye patch for the remainder of 4th grade. The entire right side of his face was black and blue for a month. I heard he'd had three surgeries to correct a "broken eye socket" although I never heard that from any adult. Nothing ever happened to me and I assume that he didn't tell the truth of what happened that day on the blacktop.

That was the last day I was ever bullied in school. Sure, there was some teasing and joking at my expense through later grades, but there was never any physical bullying. He stopped bullying altogether, as did a few of the other bullies I had been contending with.

Adults may say that they care about bullying, but it has been my experience, and, after reading similar stories from everyone in this thread, clearly the experience of many others, that the only way to stop a bully is to stand up to them and MAKE them stop.

I applaud the actions of the bullied victim in the video. To those who claim that his actions were out of proportion, I say that he did what he could at the time. It could have been a lot worse and I still would applaud his acting in his own self defense. If that bully ends up with a concussion and a broken ankle, he deserves it and I hope he has a long time on crutches to consider his actions.
posted by Revvy at 10:57 AM on March 15, 2011 [15 favorites]


Oh, and by the way: most of the people who bullied me grew up to be criminals. At least one went up for murder in his late teens (drug-related). Another raped someone.

When people call bullies "sociopaths," they're not exaggerating or being facetious. I think some of you didn't experience the same type of bullying that has inspired some, including myself, to violent reactions.

For what it's worth, the guy whose nose I broke got in trouble later, went to reform school, and ended up fine. He tried to friend me on Facebook a couple of years ago.
posted by sonic meat machine at 10:58 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


The people who are defending violence are not saying "bullies are bulies and you have to punch them in the face." They are only saying "I tried everything else and it didn't work, so then I punched them in the face." If anything else had worked for them, they'd have done it. I promise you.

I read lots of this thread (though certainly not you, EC) as saying almost exactly "bullies are bullies and you have to punch them in the face."

Again, I'm not saying alternate solutions never work. For some fortunate few, they do.

This here's the crux -- what is "typical?"

In my experience, in my school, in my time (1980s, with no particular "anti-bullying" program at my school that I recall) bearing the bullying until the bully got bored and moved on was an effective strategy, not for a fortunate few, but for most people, most of the time.

And of course there are situations where a bully fixes on one kid and no amount of patience and forbearance suffices to make them go away. The kid in the video might have been one such. And I don't have an easy answer for those kids. I'm not going to be the one to counsel Gandhi-like restraint to them. But what I do think is that those kids are an unfortunate few.

All I want to do is push back against the widely popular notion that bullies are bullies and will keep on bullying you until you punch them.
posted by escabeche at 10:59 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


A few thoughts:

- In that kid's place, I would have thrown the rat down a flight of stairs if I could

- I think "getting the bystanders to intervene when they see bullying/injustice" is, besides constant supervised lockdown, the only real solution to bullying. Problem: when taught to do that, the kids will swiftly turn their intervention to perceived injustice from the teachers! Schools only train kids to be cogs in the machine, man – but in this case, I think it's sort of the reason... kids tolerate injustice because from their POV they're swimming in it.

- Nothing showcases the savage side of human nature like international relations and middle school. Better to be feared than to be loved, etc.
posted by furiousthought at 11:01 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Encouraging child violence is seriously unacceptable.

More unacceptable is punishing the kid for defending himself, or acting like we'd do anything different in his situation, or speaking in moral platitudes about perfect universes where the bully might be some actual proxy false flag operation.

Give me a break. Kid did the right thing. If there are ways of making sure the l'il punk isn't out smacking people, great, lets see them in practice. But there, right there, right when that kid was getting punched in the face numerous times, he absolutely did the right thing. Full stop.

Yes, it is true that the best case would have been to prevent the initial punching. Adults failed to do that. Kid took care of the problem.
posted by effugas at 11:02 AM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


All I want to do is push back against the widely popular notion that bullies are bullies and will keep on bullying you until you punch them.

Well, the notion that "bullies are just misunderstood and you should try to be compassionate to them" always made me feel like the subtext was "so therefore, victims are babies for complaining about being the poor little misunderstood bully's punching bag," and I'm just trying to push back against that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:02 AM on March 15, 2011 [8 favorites]


Why are bullies such a protected class?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 11:04 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: “The problem is, you're not making clear that you DON'T blame the kids who fought back.”

On the contrary, this is the from the third comment I made in this thread:

me: “I do not mean that I condemn all children who fight back against bullies.”

I would have thought I made that pretty blazingly clear.
posted by koeselitz at 11:08 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


@effugas: I believe the numbers are drawn from data presented in "Understanding Bullying: From Research to Practice," by W.M Craig and D.J. Pepler. Canadian Psychology, Vol 48 (2007).

Here's that article. No data, just platitudes. Got anything else?

Honest truth is that I can't imagine any study being done that could possibly conclude "Victims of bullying should just fight back." That sort of finding could be frankly career ending in its political incorrectness. But, by all means, if you've got data that shows "Students who violently confront bullying end up worse off" -- from anything other than adult retaliation -- I could totally be convinced.
posted by effugas at 11:13 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


But what I do think is that those kids are an unfortunate few.

Yeah, and let me tell you it incredibly fucking sucks to be them.
posted by Jpfed at 11:15 AM on March 15, 2011


On the contrary, this is the from the third comment I made in this thread:

me: “I do not mean that I condemn all children who fight back against bullies.”


I have to admit, I missed that, as it was surrounded by comments like:

When a child has to hit someone, or knock them down, or break their ankle, it is a damaging thing. In that moment, it's just as damaging as becoming a bully themselves. It hurts them.

And every child that has ever had to hit another child, for any reason, has had to suffer the consequences for it afterwards; it doesn't really matter whether they were bullies or not.

Don't tell me that a kid walking away from having knocked down the class bully doesn't feel that same painful anguish and self-doubt.

My point: it is beyond ridiculous, and beyond abusive, to ask or expect that children should rise to violence to defend themselves.


I understand what you are saying now, but while I notice one comment that you didn't blame the desperate kids who fought back, I afraid I don't quite see where you do lay the blame in your comments. Whether you're aware of it or not, it's coming across as, "I don't hold it against the few kids who just really felt they couldn't handle it, but really, kids should be able to handle it better," and that just sounds too much like the same "you should be strong enough to suck it up and take it because they don't know any better so " twaddle that I was getting from those in authority.

Hence my ire.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:21 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


That school has a habit of ignoring bullying and endangering the victims.
posted by ocschwar at 11:22 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


@effugas My mistake. I'm at work and don't have all the info on bullying that I've saved on my hard drive.

You might try contacting one of the authors of the article I posted, Alan Kazdin, or the Yale Parenting Center and Child Conduct Clinic, for the source of their data.

Would you care to share the data (if possible, you too may be at work) that you have showing that students who violently confront bullying end up better off? As far as I know, those finding contradict the current research, so I would love to see your information.
posted by magstheaxe at 11:22 AM on March 15, 2011


koeselitz, people are reacting negatively to your comments because they sound amazingly like the platitudes of an authority figure who just wants the problem to go away. Similar, in fact to the school people in this case: "We don't believe that violence is ever the answer," Mr Dalgleish says. "We believe there are other ways that children can manage this."

Many of us have seen first-hand how effective these sentiments are in practice. See, for example Revvy's post above.

Non-violence and no tolerance theories and policies are not new or revelatory; they are common. Bullying continues unabated.
posted by bonehead at 11:23 AM on March 15, 2011


hermitosis: This is what I grew up learning from my mother, and from teachers, and all the people who were supposedly looking out for me. So I never hit back, no matter what -- and the few times I came close, I was filled with shame and dread, terrified of becoming just like those other kids.

...The bullied mentality carries over into adulthood. ... True pacifism is an instinct that an adult can only adopt as a conscious choice; pacifism based on fear is completely worthless.

...After many months of training, what I discovered under my veneer of pacifism was a whole lot of anger. Anger that I'd been carrying around my entire life.


I wish I could print this post out and mail it to my 10-year-old self. Blaming the bullied for becoming angry, or for having inclinations towards self-defense, is a double bind. It not only hurts in the moment but also trains you to think of yourself as powerless, something that I am still struggling to unlearn. Like you, I never hurt anyone in response to my bullying, although I came close, and like you, I'm only now feeling the reawakening of anger that has been latent for more than a decade. Reading this made me feel a lot less alone.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:25 AM on March 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


koeselitz, I would appreciate it if you, without embellishment, without adding any other information about your perspective, and without putting forward any other argument or position in the same comment, made a clear and simple statement that said there is no equivalence between a violent bully and a person who physically defends themselves from a violent bully, and that your previous comment was just a moment of bonehead wording that doesn't reflect what you actually think. That self defense does not make one a bully, even though you put that sentiment in bold letters in your first post to the thread.

Though your comments since then have dropped that particular claim, I'd really like to see an unambiguous affirmation that you do not believe that idea to be true or accurate. Because that idea continues to color your contributions in this thread in my eyes, and I would like to be able to drop it in order to more effectively engage with your other ideas.
posted by jsturgill at 11:25 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


koesilitz: “I do not mean that I condemn all children who fight back against bullies.”

koesilitz: I would have thought I made that pretty blazingly clear.

Not clear at all. This sure looks like a blanket condemnation to me:

koesilitz: If you are violent toward another person, you are a bully.
posted by Dixon Ticonderoga at 11:26 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


your previous comment was just a moment of bonehead wording that doesn't reflect what you actually think.

Please allow me to make clear that I don't endorse this line of thinking either.
posted by bonehead at 11:28 AM on March 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


But being forced to steal bread because you're starving does damage to a person's human dignity; and being forced to fight back does damage to a kid's healthy childhood. That's all I've been saying all along.

Not so much.

This does not make sense, unfortunately. If you are violent toward another person, you are a bully. Moral wrongs don't cease to be moral wrongs because of perspective; stealing from notorious thief, for example, is still stealing, and lying to a liar is still lying. Bullying a bully is still bullying, and has the same immediate and difficult consequences. Anyone who disagrees should think long and hard about how the big kid in this video must feel, walking away, probably realizing that he's broken another kid's ankle. These are not simple things.

You're arguing a very particular set of morals that others are disagreeing with. You're certainly welcome to your own morals, but we don't all agree that absolute moral wrongs exist regardless of perspective, outcome, and circumstance. And it sounds a little like you're talking down to anyone who disagrees. Which you may not have intended, certainly, but I think we're better off remembering none of us are arbiters of justice or morality.
posted by Phyltre at 11:28 AM on March 15, 2011


One of the most serious problems is that school authorities (and parents to a large extent) are conditioned to see conflict between children as a sort of zero sum game. For example, when one of my kids comes up the stairs wailing, the inquisition usually establishes a six-of-one and half-a-dozen of the other standard of blame/punishment.

Same thing in schools. Two kids wind up in the Principal's office, two different accounts. Teachers are conditioned not to blame one kid over the other. Not least because the teachers often unconsciously share the bully's perception of the victim as annoying/problematic/PITA/squeaky wheel.

Whereas anyone who's actually been bullied knows that except in edge cases, it's not murky at all. The victim has to do nothing but exist. The most egregious bullies are exactly sociopaths.

Clearly schools should do their absolute utmost to eradicate and otherwise deal with bullying. But they won't eradicate it, and there's no reason whatsoever to believe that even the most perfectly executed anti-bullying program will prevent any particular individual case of bullying.

Which brings us back to where we started, which is that fundamentally, if someone is hitting you then you have the right to self defence, no matter your age or size. Maybe you could be Ghandhi. Maybe you could walk away. Maybe you could utter a sharp-tongued zinger to put the bully in his/her place. But you do not have to. You have the absolute right to hit the bastard and keep hitting him/her until the attack stops.

Zero-tolerance and non-violence policies completely eviscerate this response by making it a disciplinary affair. If hauled into the Principal's office in these circumstances I'd tell my kids to say exactly one thing: "Here's my Dad's number: call him".
posted by unSane at 11:33 AM on March 15, 2011 [11 favorites]


mags--

There's probably 50 data points in this thread suggesting that, yes, standing up to a bully worked. For more than a few of the people on this thread, it was a defining moment in their life.

Notably, there's some interesting synchrony in the stories here -- note how multiple people are citing that the bullies actually tried (sometimes successfully) to become friends with them. It seems that there may be a human (really, social animal) nature element going on here.

So I would say the burden of proof is strongly on you to show that, in fact, the anecdotes on this thread do not represent the larger reality. I would be surprised if you could do this, not least of which because I do not believe any such study could be conducted, let alone published, that would support a direct finding that fighting backed reduced bullying.

I did, however, find this piece:
Effects of Participation in a Martial Arts-Based Antibullying Program in Elementary Schools

This study evaluated the Gentle Warrior Program, a traditional martial arts-based intervention to reduce aggression in children, as it was implemented in three elementary schools. The sample consisted of 254 children in grades 3, 4, and 5 who participated in the Gentle Warrior Program as part of a larger school violence intervention. Results indicated that boys who participated in more Gentle Warrior sessions reported a lower frequency of aggression and greater frequency of helpful bystanding (i.e., helpful behavior toward victims of bullying) over time, relative to boys with less frequent participation. The effect of participation on aggression was partially mediated by empathy. The effect of participation on helpful bystanding was fully mediated by changes in student empathy. No significant results were found for girls. Results of the study provide preliminary support for the use of martial arts-based interventions to address bullying in schools for boys, by teaching empathy, self-control, and peaceful strategies to resolve conflicts. (Contains 3 tables and 1 footnote.)
Apparently when everybody knows how to defend themselves,

1) Overall violence went down
2) When violence happened, others were empowered to stop it

Granted, this is one study, but it certainly makes me more curious about what's on your hard drive.
posted by effugas at 11:36 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Jesus, the kid did the right thing in this particular circumstance but how is this site which I usually respect suddenly full of so many kneejerk, simplistic concepts?

Man, I'm both surprised and delighted-- dee-fucking-lighted-- to have been informed by so many of you that the eternal solution to being bullied is "to fight back."

Because, as we all know, every person bullied is exactly like this kid--bigger, stronger, and able to actually do so. Because bullies never pick on clearly physically weaker kids. They never taunt the kid in the wheelchair or the fat kid who can't run or move fast. They never pick on the gay kid in a deep Southern community. They never, ever have four friends who would be happy to help hold you down if you pushed back. Never. Oh, and bullies are never simply the spoiled brats of affluent parents who make sure that it's your fault with one phone call. They're never your bosses' kid. They're never, you know, your boss. And let's not forget, adults involved never pick sides for all the same reasons kids do either. Nope. Not at all. You just gotta believe!

Everyone celebrating this video are doing so because they saw it exactly where the video started and stopped caring right after it ended. Like it was a very special episode of a goddamn TV show. The number of people shitting on the people who are pointing out that there might need to be a little more thought than that saddens me deeply.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:39 AM on March 15, 2011 [11 favorites]


jsturgill: “koeselitz, I would appreciate it if you, without embellishment, without adding any other information about your perspective, and without putting forward any other argument or position in the same comment, made a clear and simple statement that said there is no equivalence between a violent bully and a person who physically defends themselves from a violent bully, and that your previous comment was just a moment of bonehead wording that doesn't reflect what you actually think. That self defense does not make one a bully, even though you put that sentiment in bold letters in your first post to the thread.

Though your comments since then have dropped that particular claim, I'd really like to see an unambiguous affirmation that you do not believe that idea to be true or accurate. Because that idea continues to color your contributions in this thread in my eyes, and I would like to be able to drop it in order to more effectively engage with your other ideas.”


I haven't withdrawn that statement at all; nor am I about to. I've on the contrary made it clear over and over again what I meant: that children who are forced to violence experience the same rush of emotions and moral confusion that bullies do. It isn't fun for either party; nor is it healthy. And it isn't right to put kids through that experience.

Phyltre: “You're arguing a very particular set of morals that others are disagreeing with. You're certainly welcome to your own morals, but we don't all agree that absolute moral wrongs exist regardless of perspective, outcome, and circumstance. And it sounds a little like you're talking down to anyone who disagrees. Which you may not have intended, certainly, but I think we're better off remembering none of us are arbiters of justice or morality.”

On the contrary, I was not and am not arguing a set of morals at all. The above was not a moral statement. I have tried to make that clear over and over again.
posted by koeselitz at 11:40 AM on March 15, 2011


Violence is endemic at that school.

Color me unsurprised/.
posted by ocschwar at 11:40 AM on March 15, 2011


XQUZYPHYR: "Jesus, the kid did the right thing in this particular circumstance but how is this site which I usually respect suddenly full of so many kneejerk, simplistic concepts?"

Well, obviously, it's apparently because they disagree with you.

posted by ShawnStruck at 11:43 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Man, I'm both surprised and delighted-- dee-fucking-lighted-- to have been informed by so many of you that the eternal solution to being bullied is "to fight back."

That's an incredibly disingenuous reading of this thread, and I suspect you know it.
posted by Aquaman at 11:44 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


You're arguing a very particular set of morals that others are disagreeing with. You're certainly welcome to your own morals, but we don't all agree that absolute moral wrongs exist regardless of perspective, outcome, and circumstance.

Exactly. I don't buy the idea that "violence is always wrong". In fact, I think violence is a natural consequence of living in a physical universe, one which underpins everything we are. Among other things, violence is at the absolute heart of the social contract, the one that says that if we do or do not do certain things we will be dragged off by big men with sticks to face justice. The idea that violence rightly belongs only to those big men (or to the teachers, or the school counselor, or the "social order") is fascism, not pacifism... it turns strong, happy people into self-hating victims.
posted by vorfeed at 11:45 AM on March 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


I haven't withdrawn that statement at all; nor am I about to. I've on the contrary made it clear over and over again what I meant: that children who are forced to violence experience the same rush of emotions and moral confusion that bullies do. It isn't fun for either party; nor is it healthy. And it isn't right to put kids through that experience.

Bull. Shit.

Confronting another person to make him submit is an entirely different experience from being confronted by such a person.
posted by ocschwar at 11:45 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


koeselitz: That's why I had such an emotional reaction to Uther Bentrazor up above; if people really feel that it's good that a kid broke his ankle, why aren't they in there breaking the kids' ankles themselves? The point is that it seems almost abusive to me, that attitude

I would have too, had that resembled anything I've said here or elsewhere.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:48 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm a little late to the show, but I think this is a great place to brag about my little brother.

Watching that video could have been watching my little brother. He was huge for his age (still is), diagnosed ADHD, OCD, and bipolar. He was constantly tormented in school from about 3rd grade on. Things got so bad that my parents took him out of public school and put him in a local charter school, the smaller class sizes were supposed to be better. Unfortunately this was the kind of school where kids who had been expelled from public school all got dumped and the bullying magnified.

The ring leader was this scrawny little beast who barely came up to my brother's elbow. The first part of the video was what my brother dealt with on a daily basis. He was told to suck it up, be a man, and deal with it. 'The other kid is so small, how could he really be hurting you?'

One Friday my brother snapped too. Again, the video could have been him, big group of boys surrounding him with this little git throwing punches. With one very notable difference. My brother didn't body slam the kid. He put him in a head lock, wrestled him to the grass, and sat on him until a teacher arrived. My brother simply said "I couldn't take it any more."

Of course my brother was the one who got suspended because the teacher saw the headlock, not the other kid punching. I was a grown, married woman at the time. When I came home from work and got the phone call from my mom, I was thrilled. My husband and I took my brother out for a steak dinner. I've never been more proud.

I saw that video and knew that it could have been handled better because my baby brother handled it better.
posted by TooFewShoes at 11:50 AM on March 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


And on preview: how on earth is "There have been some here who have scoffed at those of us who deplore violence, saying that sometimes there is no other way to deal with bullies. This does not make sense, unfortunately. If you are violent toward another person, you are a bully. Moral wrongs don't cease to be moral wrongs because of perspective" not "arguing a set of morals at all"?
posted by vorfeed at 11:50 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Two kids wind up in the Principal's office, two different accounts. Teachers are conditioned not to blame one kid over the other. Not least because the teachers often unconsciously share the bully's perception of the victim as annoying/problematic/PITA/squeaky wheel."

I know that I may not be remotely typical, but this was my history.

I would get beat up, and both of us would end up in the office. He would be punished for fighting, and I would be punished for fighting. The bully would roll his eyes and take it, as he was used to it, and I would go into an impassioned defense of myself for being beaten up, not "fighting." I'd point out that rolling into a ball on the floor wasn't exactly "fighting," and warding off punches wasn't exactly "fighting," but defending yourself in a fistfight or a principal's office makes you guilty.

"Well, Mr. Wall, did you ever think that maybe something you're doing is the reason you're in my office so often?" the principal would ask, and that, as they say, was that.

It was somewhere around the fiftieth time I'd heard some variation of this that I developed a theory that aliens had brought me to Earth as a sort of observer, because my real world couldn't possibly be as asinine and capricious as this. The real world can't work this way, can it?

One day, my mothership is going to crash through the roof of this fucking school and come for me, and then you'll all be sorry, and I'll have a flying car and a pet robot.

On the plus side, I developed a visceral understanding of nuanced magical realism decades before most people do.
posted by sonascope at 11:50 AM on March 15, 2011 [8 favorites]


XQ--

You're absolutely correct. The circumstances in which this kid was able to defend himself are not shared by all. Sometimes, the bully is larger, or cheats (has allies/adults/weapons, which are all ultimately the same).

That doesn't mean we can't celebrate when that isn't the case -- when the playing field is in fact even enough that the hero can actually win. Sometimes, it isn't. That day, it was. And what we're seeing from this thread is -- there's an awful lot of situations where, yeah, it's possible to stand up to somebody who isn't playing quite dirty enough to make you pay for it.

ocs,

I think koes is arguing that we should ideally have a world without the initial punching in the face, and at the point where things have devolved that far, we've already failed and the heroic recovery doesn't necessarily obviate the fact that the kid had to be in a fight at all.

He's not wrong about that. I'd rather not meet the mugger at all, than fight him off successfully. But man, it's a totally different set of emotions and morals when you're filled with adrenaline and righteous indignation, and I wonder if this is just something you have to experience to understand.
posted by effugas at 11:52 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Koeselitz, then I strongly disagree with you in this.

You said this:

If you are violent toward another person, you are a bully. Moral wrongs don't cease to be moral wrongs because of perspective; stealing from notorious thief, for example, is still stealing, and lying to a liar is still lying. Bullying a bully is still bullying, and has the same immediate and difficult consequences.

And then you said this:

I do not mean that I condemn all children who fight back against bullies.

The two statements are not compatible. If you condemn bullying, you must also condemn children who defend themselves against physical violence, because you define those children as bullies. The only way out of this conundrum for you would be if you do not condemn bullying by anyone, which is equally abhorrent to me. You have either unwittingly boxed yourself into a corner, or you are a monster. I’m not sure which.

Your message that committing an act of physical violence, even if justified, has consequences is an important and valid one that is a wonderful contribution to this thread. Your equation of self defense (not bullying) with acts of unwarranted physical aggression and extended psychological and physical abuse of others (bullying) is absurd and morally repugnant.
posted by jsturgill at 11:55 AM on March 15, 2011 [12 favorites]


The video my girlfriend showed me yesterday (can't find the exact link now) had a caption saying something about how the big kid'd been been bullied for years. Anyone have a cite for this either way, or is this snopesy cruft?

Both she and I grew up unusually tall (she's 6'1", I'm 6'2" but stopped growing after about age 15) and her brother even more so (I think he's 6'7" or 6'8"). All of us caught shit growing up for being tall, for looking different*, for being smart.

I think it was mostly the "catching shit for being tall" that brought us smiles as we watched this.

But the added context of the big kid having received this treatment for years - which I don't doubt, given the body language involved, and that there's a group of younger kids ganging up to videotape their humiliation of him - that is what made it really enjoyable.

When the usual unfriendly treatment escalated into straight-up humiliation and violence in junior high, I was able to get it together to fight back. I remember a similar situation, where a little banty fuck was getting all mouthy and physical, and I popped him once, and he went down. And similar to someone who posted upthread, I had the experience of giving the Darth Vader Neck Grip to a bully, in this case a bigger and older one**. Unfortunately this one particular group of jerks was persistent, and it was only their moving to the high school (where I had scary metalhead friends who informed them quite plainly that they needed to cut it out) and my moving to a private high school*** that really made things stop.

In retrospect, I wish I'd fought back sooner. It never seemed like a good thing to do; I realized that if I used any sort of physicality on someone who was my age or older but half my size, I'd be seen as the aggressor. Also, my moral compass had pretty much come from superhero comics**** and repeated viewing of my Dad's favorite movie***** so I wasn't about to set myself up as King Shit of Fifth-Grade Mountain.

But when I finally did? It felt good, and it gave me confidence, especially because my parents and the school sure weren't doing anything to stop it******. It led to my having the confidence to strike out on my own when my family was being crazy, to explore all sorts of social scenes, to move across country multiple times; to get work as a bouncer despite being visibly physically disabled. It led to my having the strength to remove myself from fucked-up, imbalanced "friendships." Most importantly, it led to my having an independent source of pride. I'd dealt with the jerks on their own terms, and come out strong, and realized in doing so just how crap they really were; nothing to fear, really.

Also, what jsturgill just posted.

* they're multiracial and grew up all around but partially in Stone Mountain, GA; I looked 3-5 years older than my classmates, had acne from age 9, and, in retrospect, dressed like some sort of beatnik
** That'll teach you to play keep-away with my copy of Amiga World, asshole.
*** Where there was a zero-tolerance fighting=expulsion policy, so the bullying stayed within the realm of verbal daggers and social humiliation
**** "With great power comes great responsibility." "We don't use their tactics, that's because we're not them." Bad guys can go straight, and good guys can go bad, and people always believe they're justified. Mutants are people, too. People can be lovely on the inside even if they look like an orange rock-monster.
***** Gandhi, believe it or not
****** brought home to me the first time someone brought scissors to the yard to shank me on the four-square court, and we were given equal punishment

posted by jtron at 11:57 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Same thing in schools. Two kids wind up in the Principal's office, two different accounts. Teachers are conditioned not to blame one kid over the other.

I had a situation like this in Jr. High which was, thankfully, not serious but a textbook case of misguided "fairness." The guy who sat behind me in Civics class had been doing little things to annoy me for quite a while, most of which I ignored, or even smiled about, just to let him know I wasn't going to act annoyed. Finally, when the teacher turned his head, he reached around me and grabbed the pen from my hand as I was working on my assignment. I told him to give it back, which got the teacher's attention. When confronted, he insisted it was his pen, and I argued that it wasn't. The teacher sent us both to the principal's office. Oddly, we walked there together, just the two of us, and he kept up the "it's my pen" charade the whole time. We explained our sides to the principal, and he finally admitted that he took it and returned it and we went back to class.

After class, the teacher called me aside and said "I know [other guy] is a troublemaker, and I knew he took your pen, so I'm sorry I had to send you to the office with him." I just nodded but it struck me as odd that classroom justice regarding a pen seemed to have the same level of required evidence and innocent-until-proven-guilty threshhold as a criminal case. Then again, it was Civics class.
posted by The Deej at 11:59 AM on March 15, 2011


that children who are forced to violence experience the same rush of emotions and moral confusion that bullies do. It isn't fun for either party

I felt no moral confusion when I said yes to a challenge to fight after putting up with harassment for months. I was a little afraid, but mostly I just wanted this to be the thing that made it stop. And when the bully knocked herself down without me throwing a punch or doing anything besides putting my fists up and being willing to fight, I felt relieved, and yes, a little gleeful at what she'd done to herself. And you know, it was kind of fun.

If standing up for myself and gaining a little self-respect (something you overlook when declaring that the child who acts in self-defense can only suffer negative consequences from engaging in violence) makes me some sort of amoral person, then so be it.
posted by rtha at 12:01 PM on March 15, 2011


I haven't withdrawn that statement at all; nor am I about to. I've on the contrary made it clear over and over again what I meant: that children who are forced to violence experience the same rush of emotions and moral confusion that bullies do.

Even in the face of the people who've reported in this thread that they were forced to violence and experienced none of that "moral confusion" you speak of?

And are you sure that bullies experience "moral confusion" in the first place?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:02 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Something I forgot: those kids are lucky the little one's rotation wasn't off; I thought he was gonna get Ganso Bombed. Kid was lucky to get out of that with a busted ankle/knee (I've seen reports of both).

Also, not to confound anyone's careful collation of anecdata, but more often than not when I've been committing violence on a person, I discover that I am weeping/sobbing.
posted by jtron at 12:04 PM on March 15, 2011


> I was not and am not arguing a set of morals at all

I really like you, but you're really coming across as doing exactly that, and making no shortage of proclamations and generalizations about bullying and response to bullying. Really, while one can find statistical trends about these things, in individual cases there is always something a bit unique and not so black and white. I don't know how any conversation about this can proceed sanely unless we deal in specifics rather than abstracts.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:08 PM on March 15, 2011


Koeselitz, I shared my beating-bullies experience and I was opposed to your views at first, but now I'm on your side.

While many may not agree with koeselitz's premise about the psychic hazards of being forced into a violent act (and I have problems with that too, if only to question the seemingly broad definition of the word "violence"), can we really argue against the intended goal he's proposing?

Truly it would be a better world if we could change the system and end the cycle of violence. And kids shouldn't have to resort to violence to solve their problems. I also submit that the violence many of us employed in beating our bullies was not the actual answer to the problem in the first place. In our successful cases it was the act of defiance that showed the bully we weren't worth the effort. If that same act of defiance could be achieved without violence it would be just as effective, or perhaps even more effective.

But that does require adults to help kids understand how to do that. They can't just act as authority figures, discouraging or encouraging bullying with their own forms of violence (that of being able exert various forms of control/punishment on children), but rather they should foster a culture of mutuality, an expectation of respect in which everyone is a steward of justice and equality. When an authority figure comes down on a bully it only stops the behavior while the authority is present. When a peer comes down on a bully, especially a peer he respects (either through fear or love but love is better) then the behavior changes.

That's why for some of us the violence worked. We gained a small amount of respect (fear) and changed the behavior. For those of us who tried violence and it didn't work, well the respect was never gained and so the behavior didn't change. Which again, shows that violence is never THE answer. How much better would it have been for all of us if other kids were willing to say "what you're doing isn't OK." Eventually someone the bully respects (either through fear or love) will convince him to change his behavior. And if enough people do this enough times, and if it is also coupled with inclusion of the bully (i.e. don't cast him out for being a bully, but forgive him and allow him to change) then the world would get demonstrably better.

That is an idea worth advocating. And as koeselitz said, the current system is worth fighting because for all our self-reported successes, there are plenty of failures too.
posted by jnrussell at 12:09 PM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


jsturgill: “The two statements are not compatible. If you condemn bullying, you must also condemn children who defend themselves against physical violence, because you define those children as bullies. The only way out of this conundrum for you would be if you do not condemn bullying by anyone, which is equally abhorrent to me. You have either unwittingly boxed yourself into a corner, or you are a monster. I’m not sure which.”

I will grant that I phrased this badly at the beginning, and what I said was open to a lot of interpretation. My point – that it is damaging for kids to be in situations where they're forced to violence – was easily lost. I take responsibility for that.

vorfeed: “I don't buy the idea that "violence is always wrong". In fact, I think violence is a natural consequence of living in a physical universe, one which underpins everything we are. Among other things, violence is at the absolute heart of the social contract, the one that says that if we do or do not do certain things we will be dragged off by big men with sticks to face justice. The idea that violence rightly belongs only to those big men (or to the teachers, or the school counselor, or the "social order") is fascism, not pacifism... it turns strong, happy people into self-hating victims.”

This is somewhat true. But in a society that pretends to any kind of civilization or decency, or any livable society at all really, people have to make an agreement not to resort to violence as a matter of course. Yes, this agreement is sometimes bolstered by the threat of violence; but that threat is there precisely because we all hope that the violence can be avoided in the end.

The point is that, in this sense, violence is always wrong; it does obvious harm to the victim, and it does harm to the violent person, estranging her or him from society and creating an unlivable situation for all.

This is, again (and it's clear that I should stress this now) not to say that any child who fights back is a bad person. This is to say that a world where children have to fight back is not the kind of world we should hope for.
posted by koeselitz at 12:09 PM on March 15, 2011


Burhanistan: “I really like you, but you're really coming across as doing exactly that, and making no shortage of proclamations and generalizations about bullying and response to bullying. Really, while one can find statistical trends about these things, in individual cases there is always something a bit unique and not so black and white. I don't know how any conversation about this can proceed sanely unless we deal in specifics rather than abstracts.”

Reading back over what I've said, I can see what you mean. And I apologize for jumping the gun and making broad statements out of an emotional disdain for what I perceived as a certain amount of bloodlust here. I agree that things are not easy to deal with in the abstract; this is the sort of thing, however, that lends itself to a whole lot of personalization. We all see in this what we grew up seeing. I guess I was doing that, too. What I grew up seeing was this: every victim has a capacity for being a bully, too, and things are not as simple as a punch in the face that makes everything right.

And there's another broad statement which might have no actual validity. I guess qualifying it as my own sensation, even my own feeling, might help. It might not have anything to do with anyone's reality but my own.
posted by koeselitz at 12:13 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think anyone in this thread has argued that a world where man is wolf to man would be preferable to a world of non-violence.
posted by jtron at 12:13 PM on March 15, 2011


Bullying sucks. It's not confined to childhood, but by adulthood, we're expected to have more resources. I've seen parents do nothing when they see their kids being unkind. Some parents encourage their kids to be adversarial, in the name of teaching assertiveness. Teach kindness, and keep your ammunition dry.

I humbly apologize for my badly mixed metaphor.
posted by theora55 at 12:14 PM on March 15, 2011


But that does require adults to help kids understand how to do that. They can't just act as authority figures, discouraging or encouraging bullying with their own forms of violence (that of being able exert various forms of control/punishment on children), but rather they should foster a culture of mutuality, an expectation of respect in which everyone is a steward of justice and equality. When an authority figure comes down on a bully it only stops the behavior while the authority is present. When a peer comes down on a bully, especially a peer he respects (either through fear or love but love is better) then the behavior changes.

Your problem, in a nutshell, is you've realized that adults can't just tell bullies to knock it off, but you think that they can just tell a bully's peers, "YOU tell the bully to knock it off". Yeah, about that.

I note the one data point we've seen, that actually does cause bullying to drop and bystander interference to increase, is when students are entered into a martial arts program as a group. Interesting result, not one I actually expected.
posted by effugas at 12:15 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


You know, I'm about to be un-PC and say: our schools would be better if they aggressively sequestered the stupid. I tested in the 99th percentile; many of the people who bullied me were held back one or several grades. I would be willing to bet that many others were in the same boat.
posted by sonic meat machine at 12:16 PM on March 15, 2011 [8 favorites]


I don't think anyone is sayng that we're "hoping for" a world where children HAVE to fight back. But I think what's happening is that you're mistaking the map for the road. Whenever you go to Googlemaps and print out the driving directions, they always have the disclaimer that "this does not take into effect any unforeseen road conditions" or some such warning that a downed tree, detour, or other unexpected obstacle may force you to go off the guide and take a different path. And if there's a fallen tree on I-80, it would be foolish to try driving through it just because Googlemaps says that's what you're supposed to do.

I think everyone can agree that a world without the need for defending one's self against bullies is devoutly to be wished. But the problem is, we're not in that world yet. We're all working towards it, but we're not in it.

And when it comes to bullying, too many people seem to believe that we are in that world, where nonviolence is always guaranteed to work. But we're just plain not there yet. Of course it would be better to not have to use violence, but there are times in which it really, really is the only thing that stops a bully after you've exhausted all the other options. Just like sometimes you have to take a detour even though Googlemaps says you shouldn't -- because the actual road conditions are different.

The map is not the road. The nonviolent ideal is not the world we're in just yet. We want it, and we all strive for it, but we're not there yet, and no kid should be made to feel like they did wrong by not wanting to suffer in the meantime.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:17 PM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


sonic meat machine: "The perpetrator will likely never touch him again – too much of a coward."

Oh how often I wished that was true; serious beatings didn't deter some of the psychotics I had to face in school.

Sometimes a bully is just a little crazy person who should have been locked up in treatment years ago. I know some of mine certainly were.
posted by NiteMayr at 12:21 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Your problem, in a nutshell, is you've realized that adults can't just tell bullies to knock it off, but you think that they can just tell a bully's peers, "YOU tell the bully to knock it off"

That isn't quite the idea I was trying to express. Maybe I just wasn't clear enough. You're right of course that it doesn't help for adults to just tell kids "YOU tell the bully to knock it off," but it does help if we foster a "culture of mutuality" (the words I used), and it seems the data about the martial arts programs proves my point. That's an example of fostering such a culture.

For indeed isn't the major theme of any martial art the idea that you treat your opponent with respect at all times? If we empowered kids with that idea and the idea that we are all stewards of our fellows wouldn't we be creating a better solution to bullying? Am I missing something?
posted by jnrussell at 12:25 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


jnrussell--

Yeah, you're missing that martial arts are not simply "fostering a culture of mutuality". They're teaching how to punch, kick, grab, and tolerate pain. We deliver the message with an awful lot of training about how these skills are to be used -- and, heh, perhaps the interspersed messaging is where the reduced violence comes from -- but the fact that the only data we've seen thus far supports training in violent behavior is really quite surprising to me.
posted by effugas at 12:33 PM on March 15, 2011


Teach your kids not to stand on the sidelines in the face of injustice, and you'll change the world. There's no better resistance to a bully than someone who steps out of the crowd and says "this isn't right," whether they have a horse in the race or not.

I was never bullied as a child, which really seems much more like a fluke than anything, because I was small, bright, and a bit awkward-a peferfect bullying target. But I kept to myself and was socially passable enough to fit in with the crowd to a certain extent, and I was also a girl.

One of the proudest moments of my life was when I stood up to a bully- not my bully- but the bully of the smallest, shortest girl in our entire 7th grade class. She's probably less than 5' at her adult height, and at that age she had to carry a rolling backpack. This one boy, ironically quite short himself, every day when she came into class, would steal her backpack and weel it around or toss it across the room playing keep away with her. I watched this with unease, along with the rest of the class of about 20 kids, and did nothing for the first couple weeks. It's bizarre to explain why-but the attitude was "none of your business, keep your head down, don't look, not my problem, don't get involved" amongst everyone else. Even the bigger boys.

Well, the day I'd had enough was the day I risked branding myself as a harpy and "goody-two shoes" amongst the girls forever, but it was worth it. I, and my close friend, went up to the boy, took the backpack from him, and said something at first mild, like "Hey, just give it back already, that's not cool." His little lazer gaze snapped around to us and he whined, "Whatever." This escalted into us making fun of him for having to pick on a girl. And I'll never forget the moment the tide turned and there were snickers from the class backing us up, because that more than anything stopped the bullying. The girl never had problems with him in that class again.

However, the bully displaced his agression and harassed my friend and I for the remaining two years of middle school, eventually getting one of his friends involved. Sitting behind us on the bus kicking our seats, spreading rumors, spitwads, gross sexual things, you name it. But do I regret it? No. I had more social capital than that girl, and I could take it. I wouldn't take it back for anything.
posted by Nixy at 12:36 PM on March 15, 2011 [10 favorites]


There are a lot of people here implying that its impossible for adult authority to act effectively to stop bullying. That's simply not true.

Well, maybe it is in candy-puff marshmallow land. In the real world, where leaving someone with brain damage gets you... back in school, while your victim is unlikely to ever pass exams, things don't quite seem to work that way.

Or maybe I could tell you about my nephew, a big, functioning autistic boy, who was getting written up for "class disruption" and damage around the classroom in his second year in school for the three weeks he wasn't even there, because the other kids had learned his teacher would accept him as a scapegoat for, well, anything.

Or being sent home from school late last year because he'd climbed a forbidden piece of playground equipment. When he got changed for bed his grandmother noticed he was a solid blue-black bruise from his armpit to his knee. What had happened? Well, he'd climbed to get away from a bully. Who started throwing rocks at him. Until the teacher came and sent my nephew home for the day.

But his school doesn't have a bullying problem, they say. Oh no! They are in all the national anti-bullying programs, and by ignoring bullies, they have perfect scores on all of them!

If you are violent toward another person, you are a bully.

Hey, who knew the French Resistance were bullies?

Maybe we're horribly wrong. But that does not mean we're victim-blaming, or rape-victim-blaming, or doing anything of the kind. It's unfair of you to make these equivalences.

But not unfair of you to characterise self-defence as bullying, apparently.

Like the bullies I remember from school, you idea of fair seems very slanted to establishing terms that get you what you want with no possibility of resistance.

Why are bullies such a protected class?

Because a bunch of people with a mix of invisible bullying backpacks and absolutist life philosophies that make Rand look complex are invested in protecting them.
posted by rodgerd at 12:37 PM on March 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


"Well, KlangKlangston and Koeselitz both indicated that they had experienced both sides of the coin. I don't know if that has anything to do with their different emotional reaction to the video. Part of me wonders if they had at least a partial identification with the kid who was dumped on the ground, as opposed to those of us who were clearly identifying with the kid doing the dumping. "

Not really. I commented mostly because there was a slew of geek vindication comments and it made me think about all the times when I saw bullying where that narrative wasn't true. I framed it mostly around my experiences because, hey, it was long enough as it was.

I also remember my friend Alex standing up against another guy also named Josh who bullied him. That Josh was popular and athletic, and would pick on Alex during gym. Once, Alex got just hysterically mad and palmed a combination lock and went after Josh. I don't remember if Alex hit Josh or not, I do know that Josh kept hitting Alex and Alex kept bouncing back up like a ball, just seething with rage. It didn't end anything — it ended when Josh went to a different high school (this was middle school) — and a shot to the head with a combination lock could have killed Josh, which would have ruined Alex's life.

I do remember being trapped in a circle and forced to fight Andy Gilchrest, which ended up making us friends because we rode the same bus after that and he also played Shadowrun. He was the fat kid, I was the gawky kid, and it was more windmilling and high-pitched shrieks than a fight. But it allowed both of us to stop being really bullied by that group, weirdly enough.

And I remember Andre, a kid who was in eighth grade when I was in sixth, who got bullied relentlessly. My guess would be that he was a high-functioning autistic, just because he was given to weird fits. He ended up launching himself across a table and stabbing one of the bullies with a pencil. The bully stayed in school, and (as far as I know) had no come-uppance; Andre was expelled.

The only time I've seen this sort of violent response be effective in the long term was on a bus ride home, where Julia smashed James in the face. Julia was a big, gawky girl, easily over six feet in middle school. She had horrible, stringy hair, a huge nose and buck teeth, and a weird screechy voice. She lived in my neighborhood, but I don't know anything about her family — she was the type of girl for whom plastic surgery would have been tremendously kind. But she wasn't just ugly, she was mean and angry (which makes sense, given that everyone basically hated her all the time). This kid James, who was a sixth grader that sucked up endlessly to us eight graders, and who got used as a proxy to tease people since he was small and quick, just kept ragging on Julia, and pulling her hair from behind in quick jerking motions. She finally stood up, whipped around, and brought her fist down square in the middle of James' face, and blood just started shooting out of his nose.

She was punished. I don't think he was. But she didn't get picked on by any of us any more. Just isolated, alienated and ostracized.

I wish I'd been nicer to her — she really got the shit end of the stick in a lot of ways. I know that a couple of years ago, she'd fallen in with the crust punks in town and was calling herself Wolf, and that some of the bikers around town were afraid of her because she was a terror on her bicycle.

Who else from the neighborhood? Well, there was Travis, a kid with a whole bevy of learning disabilities who had the unfortunate luck to look totally normal, which meant that everyone always assumed that he was being obnoxious on purpose (just had no impulse control at all, and a crazy bipolar mother). He got it worse than I did, since he lived a couple doors down from Arman and was smaller than I was. But when he stood up to bullies, he'd get the shit kicked out of him, usually by a mob of boys.

There was Cedric, a little mixed boy whose mother always rushed out to defend him from teasing and bullying, who ended up only getting it worse because of that. His mother was a big, black intelligent woman who was raising her kid on her own while she was in grad school at U of M, but Cedric would steal toys and food, so ended up getting picked on endlessly for being poor. Being mixed made it worse, since that meant that he basically had to hang out with the black kids while simultaneously being the lowest on the totem pole.

He was a lot younger than me, probably five years, so when I was in high school, he wasn't even in middle school yet. He was younger than anyone else in our clot, but he used to get forced into fights with even younger kids, sort of precocious bullies. He would hang out with some of those kids' older brothers that lived on a different block, and they ended up getting him drunk and molesting him.

I didn't find out about that until later, after I'd moved out of the neighborhood, when I found out that Cedric had been arrested for molesting some of those younger kids that he hung out with. He'd basically been the ringleader, at least how I heard it told, of a circle of bullies and abusers, but nothing came of the charges (young kids are bad witnesses, and he couldn't have been more than 16 at the time, so it was juvie justice). I know that he ended up getting the shit beaten out of him when he came back to the neighborhood, and that after that, he and his mom moved.

Who else? Well, there was Courtney, a long, slim basketball player who fucked his chances at a scholarship by getting in too many fights, and who basically took over the courts at the back of the park near us for a while. He bullied relentlessly until he had an accidental kid and had to get a job. But he broke two noses and a jaw before he gave up fighting, though the jaw was because his neighbor started jabbing him with a pen over beer bottles left on his lawn.

There was Matt and Marty, and their brother Mitchell, who lived down the hill from us. Matt was a squinty undershirted thug who beat the shit out of me a couple of times, while Marty was kind of his lanky sidekick. They picked on my friend Yama relentlessly, along with another one of their friends, Ibn. When Yama stood up to them, they jumped him from behind and beat the shit out of him. It turned Yama hard and angry for a long time, and Yama's had trouble with fights ever since. They stopped bullying Yama when Marty accidentally shot himself in the leg with a .22 rifle. I was always kind of on their good side, because I looked out for Mitchell around the neighborhood, because Mitchell had Down's (and was just the sweetest kid). But for a while, their cousin (who was in and out of prison) declared that their block was off limits for everyone on our block, and had a gun to back it up.

Then there's Sinque, who I got to watch come up for a while. He's about 16 now, and is being raised by his grandmother, who managed to do an absolutely shitty job on all of her other children and grandchildren, because his dad is in and out of jail and there's a restraining order keeping him from the neighborhood. Sinque's a bright, sensitive kid with diabetes, and he's always been a little runty, so he got bullied all the time and we always tried to be a safe place for him to come over and read or whatever. He'd also do all of our household chores for change if we let him.

Because he's always been runty and bullied, he's gotten to be good with his fists, and generationally, he just got screwed — the kids in the neighborhood go in waves, and the kids that he fell in with are almost all children of other children from the neighborhood. So, he's the one getting busted in the woods with pot, the one who can't understand that if you're going to do something illegal, you've got to be surreptitious about it. And he gets all these platitudes about what a smart kid he is, and how he could do anything with his life, but you can tell that whenever you talk to him about something like that, he's just writing you off and staring past you. He was a good kid. I hope he's still a good kid. But I remember him getting bullied all the time and just not being able to stop it in any meaningful way (hey look, it's that white liberal who used to live down the street! He's got a policy answer for anything!). I know that the advice he's always gotten from his family is that if someone steps to you, you have to step to them. I remember that he went crying home after being beaten once and his grandma turned him right back out and said, "Why are you crying to me? You got to hit him back." It's really a common mantra in my old neighborhood.

So, this last summer, he was doing something, maybe drinking a forty, maybe smoking a jay, out in the park and these old African guys (I think they're from Senegal, but I forget) start giving him the, "Young brother, why you want to pollute yourself?" speech from their park benches. Sinque just went buck on one of them, beating him unconscious. This 16-year-old beating a 50-year-old man enough to put him in the hospital.

These are my experiences. Like I said, I don't know if there's any sort of answer to bullying. I can just say that I've seen a fair number of bullies and a fair number of people get bullied and I don't feel all rah-rah about any of it.
posted by klangklangston at 12:40 PM on March 15, 2011 [14 favorites]


This is somewhat true. But in a society that pretends to any kind of civilization or decency, or any livable society at all really, people have to make an agreement not to resort to violence as a matter of course. Yes, this agreement is sometimes bolstered by the threat of violence; but that threat is there precisely because we all hope that the violence can be avoided in the end.

The point is that, in this sense, violence is always wrong; it does obvious harm to the victim, and it does harm to the violent person, estranging her or him from society and creating an unlivable situation for all.


Except, again, this is not actually what violence does. Violence cannot be entirely "avoided in the end" on a social or even an individual level, and it does not always "do harm to the violent person, estranging her or him from society and creating an unlivable situation for all". You can insist that violence obey your moral calculus until you're blue in the face, but the reality of physical force still exists... and it's a deeply amoral (not immoral) reality.

I think that both a world where man is wolf to man and a world of non-violence are a fantasy -- the one displays ignorance of the actual behavior of wolves, and the other ignorance of the actual behavior of man. As with most human behaviors, I think the solution (such as it exists) lies in harm reduction, not moral absolutism... and that requires us to accept violence as it is, not as we'd have it be in a perfect world.
posted by vorfeed at 12:40 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was bullied in middle school. I won't go into details, as they are not particularly different from what anyone above has told, but once I actually complained enough that my dad showed up at the school. I remember he grabbed one of the shitheads by the shirt and almost lifted him off the ground while asking him what his problem was. The shithead started mumbling something about having to teach me a lesson as I sikpped the gym class or some such (never happened, by the way). Anyway, what I will never forget was my dad dropping the kid, turning around and telling me, in front of everybody, that I deserved everything coming my way. I try not to remember this too often...
posted by c13 at 12:43 PM on March 15, 2011


I find it kind of interesting that many people identify with the kid being bullied. A few folks have recollected that they weren't always the good guy and that their childhood wasn't black and white. What nobody is saying is that they identify with the adult side of the problem. Maybe that's because, as an adult, we feel pretty helpless that this is still going on. The irony is that we have the most power here. Childhood anecdotes aren't leading to adult solutions.

I also don't see how letting kids stand up to bullies is an adult solution. The kids who aren't able/willing to go hand-to-hand can do what exactly? Borrow their parents' gun?
posted by Skwirl at 12:43 PM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm not wildly convinced adults know how to make things better. But wow do they know how to make things worse.
posted by effugas at 12:46 PM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


@Skwirl: So what is the adult solution?
posted by jnrussell at 12:48 PM on March 15, 2011


Metafilter: I was bullied in high school
posted by arveale at 12:48 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I also don't see how letting kids stand up to bullies is an adult solution.

I think the message is a bit more subtle than that. Yes, there are parents who do give the approval if a bully just isn't responding to non-violent means, and if the school isn't helping. But that's not quite "letting kids stand up to bullies" as such.

In my mind, I think what I see in a situation like this is that we, as adults, too often see something like this and fret about "how do we stop the horrible scourge of bullying" and then wring our hands and go back to the usual means that aren't working. When we see a case like this, our reaction should be "let's figure out exactly how and where we failed."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:49 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


> Childhood anecdotes aren't leading to adult solutions.

I don't think there is a solution. There's only nuanced and level headed response that is sensitive to the particular dynamics of any given confrontation or pattern of confrontation. Platitudes, truisms, systems of coping, etc are all trying to solve a micro problem with a macro blanket solution. Some kids do need to fight back, others need intervention, others need some other sort of mediation. But to just say that this is this and that is that is putting one's own vision ahead of any kind of real answer for a particular human situation.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:49 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I also don't see how letting kids stand up to bullies is an adult solution.

It's not an adult solution. The adult solution is to put a stop to it, something that no adult ever did for me, many people posting in this thread, or that kid in the video. If a kid tells you that they're being bullied do something about it. If you see bullying happening, be the adult, step in and punish the bully. If you see a pattern, report that pattern to the parents of the offender. If the pattern continues, report it to Child Protective Services and the Police.

Standing up to a bully is a kid's solution. If the adults fail to be adults, it's the only solution they have.
posted by Revvy at 12:56 PM on March 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


Skwirl: I find it kind of interesting that many people identify with the kid being bullied. A few folks have recollected that they weren't always the good guy and that their childhood wasn't black and white.

I hope I'm wrong, but it sure sounds like you're doing this: Two kids wind up in the Principal's office, two different accounts. Teachers are conditioned not to blame one kid over the other. Not least because the teachers often unconsciously share the bully's perception of the victim as annoying/problematic/PITA/squeaky wheel. ...
posted by en forme de poire at 1:00 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm reminded of The Mountain Goats' song "Against Pollution."
A year or so ago I worked at a liquor store
And a guy came in
Tried to kill me
So I shot him in the face
I would do it again
I would do it again
The point of the song seems to be that sometimes the world requires us to do terrible things, that sometimes the right thing to do comes with a cost. The world we live in is pretty broken.

To extent that this is what koselitz is getting at, I agree completely. But to the extent that he suggests that kicking this somehow means that kicking that kid's but wasn't the right thing to do, I get off the train.

I think this makes bullying an even more problematic thing. On one hand, you've got an insufferable little shit, which is a problem in and of itself. What makes it worse is that he puts other people in a position where the right thing for them to do is bad for them.

I think the bully should take the blame for that too.
posted by valkyryn at 1:04 PM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Jesus, c13, that's awful. I'm sorry.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:05 PM on March 15, 2011


Koeselitz, I sent you a memail.
posted by jsturgill at 1:09 PM on March 15, 2011


klang,

Thank you for your post. That could not have been easy to write.
posted by effugas at 1:13 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have no doubt that that is true, and, as per (1), probably was a good thing for each of you to do in each of your situations, since you had a responsibility first to ensure your own physical and emotional safety. But just because that stopped the bullying against one individual, it almost certainly did not stop the bully from bullying in general. (me)

But it is not the responsibility of the victim to "stop the bully from bullying in general. And it is also not the goal of the victim to "stop the bully from bullying in general."

When a victim fights back against a bully, they are only trying to defend their own self. Period.


Empress Callypigos, we are not in disagreement here.
posted by eviemath at 1:14 PM on March 15, 2011


this all reminds me of the story of Tom Tricket (which may or may not be embellished/fantasy)
posted by caddis at 1:17 PM on March 15, 2011


"The kids who aren't able/willing to go hand-to-hand can do what exactly?"

Too bad every kid can't know a Bird. Bird was a guy I grew up with who by age 16 was pretty much on a path to be a career criminal, drug abuser and violent sociopath. There was a guy, I'll call him "P", and his friends who were out to make my life hell whenever they saw me (I hesitate to call it bullying as it started with some really dickish behavior on my part). Anyway, one day "P" was following me home from the local McDonald's making verbal threats and I happened to be passing Bird's place. I knocked on the door, explained to Bird what the deal was and threats were made. "P" never bothered me again, he brokered a "cease-fire" of sorts through his girlfriend. Turns out he was terrified of Bird (and for good reason). Every kid should know a Bird or at least be able to rent one like "My Bodyguard" or something. No real point to this anecdote but I hadn't thought of it for years until today.
posted by MikeMc at 1:18 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm kind of shocked at how many people are dehumanizing the bullies referring to the bullies as 'sociopaths and blaming some combination of them or the victims for the issue. I know that most of us, myself included, were firmly on the 'victim' side of this equation as kids, but looking back I'm honestly not sure that the bullies were any better off. In my experience, it was never the most popular kids who were bullies, it was the kids who were on the cusp of being liked by peers, but never enough to feel secure in their identity. They were so insecure in the school social system that they felt like they had to be violent to be liked.

When you can reliably reproduce an undesired reaction (bullying) by using a particular system (Western-style K-12 education), it becomes pretty apparent that the *system* is the problem and that both bully and victim are victims.

I'll never understand why those of us who were thoroughly failed by this system, socially and in many cases academically, turn around and meekly send our own children to perpetuate the cycle.
posted by zug at 1:20 PM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


> I'll never understand why those of us who were thoroughly failed by this system, socially and in many cases academically, turn around and meekly send our own children to perpetuate the cycle.

1) Many adults forget how they felt about the world when they were children. They might have intimations and memories, but by and large it is glossed over.
2) Private school is expensive.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:22 PM on March 15, 2011


zug,

Bullying wasn't invented by Western K-12.
posted by effugas at 1:25 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


bullies are good at what they do, and make intelligent decisions so they don't get caught.

I've noticed only one comment here that pointed out the significant fact that the bully had his friend along to videotape the whole episode! Not only did he start an unprovoked attack on the kid who was standing there minding his own business, he wanted to record it with a view to his victim's future humiliation -- not expecting for a moment that the humiliation would be his own. We would not even be seeing this encounter if it were not for the bully himself.
posted by binturong at 1:27 PM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'll never understand why those of us who were thoroughly failed by this system, socially and in many cases academically, turn around and meekly send our own children to perpetuate the cycle.

It's pretty hard not to send your own kids into the same situation. Most readers of this thread live in countries where education is compulsory. What's the alternative?
posted by Jpfed at 1:29 PM on March 15, 2011



You can build social dynamics in the classroom so that peers collectively reduce peer to peer bullying incidents. These are just a matter of education.

Yeah. Right Ralph. I was bullied in school and in the neighborhood from six to ten yrs. old. I went to my parents, teachers and even (back then) the neighborhood beat cop. Nothing saved me until a spurt of growth between ten and twelve. In two years I went from scrawny to 6'2 and 185. I was suddenly the biggest kid in the whole school. But lacking that growth spurt I would have been bullied forever.
It looks like sixty years later we are still waiting for those "social dynamics" to have the effect you are imagining.
posted by notreally at 1:37 PM on March 15, 2011


en forme de poire: No. I was wondering if it was truly possible that so many MeFites were victims and never bullies themselves. I can think of one time a joke went too far and I honestly thought the kid was laughing with us until he chased me around the classroom with a pair of metal scissors and later let me know that he felt bullied. I wasn't an angel, but I didn't deserve to be stabbed either. Shades of gray. Goodness knows brotherly bullying sent me to the hospital a handful of times as the victim, too.

I think of klanklangston's story and feel pretty damn privileged. I do think even such a dire situation has systematic and institutional causes that can be alleviated with community solutions. The deal is that you have to get the adults talking and they have their own petty problems a la Rhee's quote about "it's the adults." But the lack of self-knowledge really stands out when people, like Michelle Rhee, dive straight into confrontation. She's no saint either.

Devil's Advocate: The Principal who punishes both kids is a) aware that they have no proof beyond their own intuition b) motivated to minimize incidents, and promoting counter-violence could easily spiral c) trying to keep their job d) engaged in other layers of conflict between kids, adults, etc... Not noble, and I still boggle at why, in my own life, adults never put two and two together or failed to act when they did. I know I've sometimes acted against injustice and sometimes failed to act as well in my adult life. In general I think it's a good start to promote cultures of communication and tolerance and to demote cultures of violence. For instance, I wonder what would have happened in klangklangston's neighborhood if some adult started a Neighborhood Watch? Might be a non-starter for all I know, but some things work some places and some places they don't.
posted by Skwirl at 1:42 PM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


I got hit a bit in elementary school, but nothing too bad. The one I really remember was in 7th grade. I was your typically scrawny kid, 5'2" or so, 60 lbs, the usual. This was everyone's first year at a new (private, prep) school, so no one really knew anyone that well. There were a couple of guys who liked picking on me, for whatever reasons people have for singling out other kids or establishing a hierarchy or some such. One of their favorite moves was to bully me into giving them my notes from various classes, so they didn't have to do any work. Again, typical.

My solution to this problem was very weird. On one page of my World History book was a table displaying the Greek alphabet with its English transliteration. So I taught myself how to write English in the Greek alphabet, and I got really good at it, such that I could keep up with an hour-long lecture without missing anything. This was all so that, when they made me give them my notes, I could watch them stare at my notebook, then look back at me and say, "What the fuck is this?", just so I could then say, "I don't know, man, it's all Greek to me."

I'm kind of an asshole. I think I may have mentioned that before.

Anyway, they didn't think I was very funny, and one day between classes they cornered me. As I turned to walk away, one of them grabbed me around the waist from behind and lifted me up with one arm, putting his other hand over my throat, while the other kid stepped back and cocked his fist to punch me in the stomach.

PRO-TIP: If you are bullying a soccer player, do not leave his legs free. I back-heeled the kid holding me in the shin, then raked my heel down his shin in red-card fashion as he let go reflexively and elbowed him in the gut. He doubled over, the other kid stepped back in surprise, and I told them not to do that again. Then I picked up my bag and walked into class.

The Greek thing, I think is pretty funny. It could have ended there, but it didn't. I'm not proud of hitting that kid, but I'm not ashamed of it either. He grabbed me and I was about to get hit myself. I didn't do anything that would really have hurt him, but I made sure they knew they were in for a fight if they wanted one, and surprise surprise, they didn't. I don't encourage violence and I try not to get into fights, with astonishing success most of the time. But I knew what I was doing then, maybe because I was an adult in too-small clothing or whatever, and I knew that I had to stop things before they really started. Those kids weren't bad seeds or anything, they were just assholes, and they didn't know that I was one too.

Here's the really weird epilogue. Sometimes, when I get stressed out, depressed, or anxious, I can recite that Greek alphabet to myself until I calm down. Maybe that's because it was a moment when I turned powerlessness into power or something, I don't know. But I don't think I was personally harmed by that moment, and I think I may have been helped.
posted by Errant at 1:45 PM on March 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


effugas: Bullying wasn't invented by Western K-12.

I concur. But the system as currently designed sure does promote it.
posted by zug at 1:50 PM on March 15, 2011


No. I was wondering if it was truly possible that so many MeFites were victims and never bullies themselves. I can think of one time a joke went too far and I honestly thought the kid was laughing with us until he chased me around the classroom with a pair of metal scissors and later let me know that he felt bullied. I wasn't an angel, but I didn't deserve to be stabbed either. Shades of gray. Goodness knows brotherly bullying sent me to the hospital a handful of times as the victim, too.

posted by Skwirl at 3:42 PM on March 15 [+] [!]


I imagine most bullies wouldn't even classify themselves as a bully.
posted by ozomatli at 1:51 PM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


I bullied someone once. This right before the first time I stood up to a bully. She was an ugly fat girl. I threw an apple at her (I missed) and called her a boy. Never got caught. But to this day I'm still ashamed of what I did and what went through my mind as I did it. If I could ever find her I'd wash her feet with my tears and beg forgiveness.

Since then I have done my very best to never pick on another human being. It is sometimes difficult, but not so hard when I remember the apple.
posted by jnrussell at 1:57 PM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


I had few bullying problems in school. One was with another girl, and it consisted of mostly sniping on her part and the occasional scuffle. Fortunately for me, she was really bad about picking ambush points. In high school gym class once she would not stop with the sniping and I told her to shut up or I'd smack her. She didn't shut up, and, well... We both got sent to the principal, and we both spontaneously claimed that there'd been no fight, we had no idea what the teacher thought she saw, and we were perfectly good friends. And that just ended it.

The next was a pack of boys who used to ambush me on my way home from school. It was mostly verbal abuse and some thrown mud. One day they made the mistake of throwing rocks at me about half a mile further down than usual. That meant that I was still fuming when I walked by one kid's house. So I rang the doorbell, showed his mom my back, and told her, "your son did this." I felt a little bad, because he wasn't the ringleader, just the only one whose address I knew. Apparently this generated a shitstorm because not only did he avoid me thereafter, so did the rest of his gang, and one of them mentioned that his mom had gotten a stern call.

The worst was the kid that kept hitting me. I'm actually not entirely certain that I didn't start it. I was kind of sarcastic and may have made a rebuffed him at some point, but I first really noticed him when he tried to push me down the stairs. We weren't in the same classes, so it was all shoves on staircases and smacks to the back of my head in the hallway, and ambushes waiting for the late bus. At one point he cornered me with a gang of his friends and I panicked. I grabbed his glasses and threw them down the hallway and then made a break for the doors while he went to retrieve them. I recall making some pretty biting comments to him in the hallway when he asked why I would do such a thing the next day. The next time he managed to corner me, again with a pack of boys backing him up, I had a pen in my hand, and I took a swing at him. I swear, I was going for his eye socket, but I missed and ripped his jacket. By the time I got home, I was in tears, because I had genuinely tried to hurt another human being. That my clumsiness made me fail didn't help - I'd meant to hurt him. My mother asked me what was wrong, got the whole story out of me and called the school. I think the magic words "harassment" and "lawsuit" may have come up. The next day, I identified the boy for the principal, and the school put an end to it. I gather he was told that if there were any more complaints, he'd be off the football team. My high school was a bit odd in that my being an honor student actually put me on even footing with a football player, and the fact that I was a a girl, and white, while he was a boy and nonwhite made a difference. Years later I ran across him and he yelled taunts across a parking lot, and I realized I couldn't remember his name. Clearly, in the long run, I'd hurt him worse than he hurt me.
posted by Karmakaze at 1:58 PM on March 15, 2011


It's pretty hard not to send your own kids into the same situation. Most readers of this thread live in countries where education is compulsory. What's the alternative?

There are a few.. homeschooling, private school, and knowledge -- some public schools are better in this regard than others. I think being an actively involved parent in your kid's life is probably the single most important thing, so that you know when this stuff is occurring before it escalates to physical violence.

I personally have chosen to refuse to have children unless and until I am in a financial position to ensure they never have to endure public school.
posted by zug at 1:58 PM on March 15, 2011


ozomatli: “I imagine most bullies wouldn't even classify themselves as a bully.”

I sure didn't. It was a good six years between me getting knocked down and kicked on the schoolyard and me hitting any kid that said a word that made me feel bad – which was most words, it should be admitted – but it all seemed like a natural progression to me. Oh, I was just one of the victims! I was just fighting back! Bullshit. I may not have wanted to admit it, but I'd become the bully by then.
posted by koeselitz at 2:00 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


With the economic situation facing public schools in the US stopping bullies is going way down the list of teachers' and administrators' priorities. Up on the list is scrambling for funding and dealing with growing class sizes.
posted by bdc34 at 2:01 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


> I personally have chosen to refuse to have children unless and until I am in a financial position to ensure they never have to endure public school.

Your choice is your choice, certainly. But, I don't think that private school is all roses either. Bullying that may manifest as low level violence and taunting in one place may show up as more subtle psychological torment at another. There's nothing guaranteeing that the latter won't be more detrimental than the plain old former.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:07 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


zug- private school is not necessarily an alternative. Anecdotally, the incidents I described above in the thread happened to me while I was enrolled in a private school- much worse than anything I experienced in public school.
posted by Jpfed at 2:08 PM on March 15, 2011


The kid took two shots to the face. I'm not saying violence is the answer--I can't say it made me weep either. I've been in one fight in my life (and as a 36 year old that sometimes has a problem shutting up, that isn't bad) all because some punk thought it would be funny to repeatedly spit on the quiet dorky kid from up north to amuse his friends. I came out of it with five stitches, but I will not be spit on. The stitches obviously weren't part of my plan, but that incident gets filed under the "Lesson Learned" category.
posted by ironbob at 2:14 PM on March 15, 2011


I should clarify that when I say 'private school', I don't mean private schools modeled on the current K-12 system -- I don't see any reason why those should be any better, on average, than public schools given that it's still the same system. I mean alternative system private schools, such as homeschool collectives, Waldorf, Montessori, or Sudbury schools, where the entire paradigm has been altered.

Again, a particular alternative school may or may not be any better than public schools, but I am reasonably convinced that due diligence on the part of parents could help the situation significantly.
posted by zug at 2:15 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd wager money that the heavy set kid is never going to shoot up a school. Maybe before this, I wouldn't make that wager.
posted by Bushidoboy at 2:16 PM on March 15, 2011


Adding to the chorus - I was a big (read: fat) kid w/ thick glasses in Junior High, pretty nervous in bearing, and came in as a 7th grade transfer student from a private school. In short, I was a great target. I was consistently bullied in my gym class all through 7th grade, and lived in sick-to-my-stomach dread of the class. I was picked on almost every day by the bully leader and his little minions. I wanted to crawl away and die. (Instead, I started listening to The Smiths)

...

I hope that schools and educators have developed some wonderful new anti-bullying techniques (for example, the now widely spread no tolerance policies weren't in effect then). But at the time, it was terrible, and I was miserable and embarrassed and ashamed. One day, while being mocked and pushed, I just lost it and punched one of the tormentors as hard as I could in the face.

And then it stopped.
posted by seventyfour at 2:16 PM on March 15, 2011


For the record, I was in private school when I seriously retaliated. Against an older and much more popular boy. Nobody said a damn thing about this kid torturing a smaller and younger girl, and I didn't get super violent in retaliation until he hurt my baby sister, who was no more than 6, when he was 14-16.
posted by dejah420 at 2:18 PM on March 15, 2011


magstheaxe, when I asked rhetorically if they were fucking kidding me, I didn't mean that the positive response to the bullied kid's actions (BTW, calling him "Kid Zangief" creeps me out a bit) was a studied scientific approbation of "fighting back." I read the article as if the experts were surprised by many people's gut reaction to and identification with Corey, a surprise which seemed incredible and out-of-touch to me.

All of the talk of how bullies have it bad? Well, guess what, a lot of child molesters were molested as children themselves; that doesn't excuse them one iota.

Finally, Gandhi (It's spelled G-a-n-d-h-i, aaugh!), while a hero of mine when I was in high school, has become more flawed in my view. Shame works on people with a conscience (or, at least, who are worried about public opinion), such as the Brits, not so much with the Nazis.
posted by dhens at 2:29 PM on March 15, 2011


The Principal who punishes both kids is a) aware that they have no proof beyond their own intuition b) motivated to minimize incidents, and promoting counter-violence could easily spiral c) trying to keep their job d) engaged in other layers of conflict between kids, adults, etc..

There are resource pressures on the principal too, their own limited time and lack of staff resources. But how the school handles dicipline is hugely important.

Zero-tolerance, no-violence policies, like those in the school district in the original article have not stood up well to scrutiny. They served neither the bullied studens nor the bullys well (pdf). These policies disproportionatly hurt racial minorities and the developmentally disabled. They are inconsistantly applied, often for trivial offences. The links argue that these problems are nor in misapplication of the policy but structural, inherent in the way the policies work. The most significant outcome seems to be a higher level of suspension and expulsion from school, which is linked to higher drop-out rates and even teenage mortalities.

Whatever the solution to stopping bullying is, strict zero-tolerance is not the answer.
posted by bonehead at 2:30 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


"For instance, I wonder what would have happened in klangklangston's neighborhood if some adult started a Neighborhood Watch? Might be a non-starter for all I know, but some things work some places and some places they don't."

Heh. That was my second job, working for the neighborhood watch! I worked from 8pm to midnight, manning the walkie talkie base station while my neighbor walked around doing "recon." I played a lot of freecell on the computer where I was supposed to be logging things.
posted by klangklangston at 2:30 PM on March 15, 2011


I understand where the larger kid is coming from, and I'm glad he stood up for himself, but a lot of adults standing around jeering at the other child and projecting their own experiences onto him strikes me as enormously distasteful.

Adults failed in this situation. The bullied kid is not a representative of our bruised egos. We should be ashamed rather than celebrating.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 2:33 PM on March 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


It's the adult's responsibility to ensure that the conflict does not occur in the first place. The child that defends themselves is in an unfortunate situation, but they are no more doing wrong than if they were defending themselves from the exact same situation of being harassed and attacked, but instead by an adult.

If the individual doing the bullying was an adult, you would cheer. It really sucks that child bullies come from horrible home situations that cause this behavior, but it is in no way the fault of the child that defends themselves from being tortured by a bully, when that bully gets hurt because their target defends themselves.

The fix? Start taking children away from abusive households. Have higher social standards on reproductive rights. Spend more money on education- for better teachers as well as better students- and stop letting the parasitic wealthy keep their heel on the back of humanity's neck. Free up the funds for the rest of humanity.
posted by Bushidoboy at 2:36 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


"I understand where the larger kid is coming from, and I'm glad he stood up for himself, but a lot of adults standing around jeering at the other child and projecting their own experiences onto him strikes me as enormously distasteful"

It's part of the learning process. The kid needs an affirmation from the community that his injury is his own damned fault.
posted by ocschwar at 2:36 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


The day I really stopped caring what authorities had to say in any way -

I'd come out of junior high getting in many fights and standing up for myself (though it didn't seem to stop the bullying, or make me feel better or more confident or anything like that). My parents considered me a "problem child" for getting suspended so often for what amounted to self-defense. Then freshman year of high school came, and the consequences of getting in fights got much more serious. I'd decided I needed to stop being a "problem child" and just not fight at all. But the fights came to me anyway. There was a big fight in the middle of the cafeteria with a hundred or so bystanders cheering and yelling, and I decided NOT to fight back. I just dodged the punches and defended myself the best I could without striking any blows. The lunchlady tried to stop us. Eventually it got broken up.

When I went to the principal's office I was questioned for hours about WHY I HAD PUNCHED THE LUNCHLADY (of course I hadn't), and what I had done to PROVOKE the kid who fought me (just existed, basically.) I was suspended for a full week and it was put on my record, reported to colleges, etc.

That's what my nonviolence got me...
posted by naju at 2:38 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Re: Gandhi, his favorite book was the Bhagavad Gita, which promotes peace and non-violence, but also allows for self-defense when necessary.
posted by naju at 2:44 PM on March 15, 2011


I'm happy that the bullied kid put a stop to it. I'm not criticizing his actions at all.

My point is that the entire internet passing around videos of this kid is fucked up. Reading some of the things people are saying... a lot of you in here seem like bullies right now.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 2:46 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Solon,

Example?
posted by effugas at 2:49 PM on March 15, 2011


> Re: Gandhi, his favorite book was the Bhagavad Gita

Shoot, the Gita is just one chapter in the Mahabharata, which is all about war. It's Arjuna's conversation with Krishna about the merits of choosing a side and fighting.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:50 PM on March 15, 2011


I have to wonder if the people here that are suggesting reporting bullying to teachers or admin, were ever actually victims of bullying themselves. Because I can tell you from personal experiences, school staff simply don't give a shit.

At all.

In fact, reporting the bullying will get you, the victim, labeled as a troublemaker and a student to keep an eye on. I was bullied all through elementary and middle school, and into high school. I took most of it, reported some (never to any effect at all). You could be there enjoying your recess or lunch, a bully comes up and starts hitting you, you report it and you both get detention or suspension or what have you. School officials fail completely at countering bullying. There is too much victim-blaming and too much dismissal as "boys will be boys" kind of crap. The victims still get suspended or expelled, and it still goes in your school record, and your college prospects get fucked to hell because you had the nerve to be a convenient target.

I had a bad motorcycle wreck when I was 12, leaving me with ruined knees. In gym class one day, one of the bullies came up behind me and kicked me in the back of the knees, to much laughter from his fellow assholes. I crumpled in agony and tears, literally unable to stand up again. The gym teacher told me to "man up" and go run my laps, when I refused, I got detention. The bully got nothing. This is the kind of shit that school officials allow every single day, and their inaction is what directly leads to incidents like this video.

It wasn't until the day that I finally snapped like this kid, and went absolutely apeshit on another kid who started hitting me, that it finally stopped. Think Ralphie from A Christmas Story. I don't even remember what happened, I just remember sitting on top of this kid, pummeling him even after he stopped yelling and cursing, and that when they finally pulled me off the kid, we were both covered in his blood. I, of course, got suspended along with the bully.

But at least it stopped.

After living with that constant hell for all too many years, I have absolutely zero sympathy for bullies. But I think what makes me the maddest about the whole thing, is that I hate what bullies made me into. I'm normally a peaceful guy and would prefer to use my words rather than my fists to deal with conflict. But because of all the constant shit I had to deal with as a kid, shit that was all but encouraged by the schools' complete lack of action, if someone started hitting me today I would almost certainly snap again and fight until one of us stopped moving. I still bear the scars--some physical, some emotional--of things that happened more than 20 years ago.

Heck, if I was walking down the street and saw a bunch of kids ganging up on another, I'd probably tangle with that too, because I know firsthand how completely hopeless it feels to be a repeat victim of bullying, and worse, to know that the people who are supposed to make you feel safe--teachers, administrators, coaches, parents--will do absolutely nothing to make it stop. That kind of utter despair is something that no child should ever have to live with.
posted by xedrik at 2:51 PM on March 15, 2011 [14 favorites]


Example?

For example: I cite a thread of hundreds of comments posted by honest-to-god adults, many of them calling a 12-year-old (who we know next-to-nothing about) a sociopath, a little fucker, an asshole, a little bastard, someone who had it coming, someone who deserves worse.

Christ, I guess I'm just some naive looney softie, but whatever cruel actions he has done, he's a child. He deserves some anonymity, and not this gleeful ragefest. We've shown more restraint in threads about Sarah Palin.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 3:01 PM on March 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


@effugas:

There's probably 50 data points in this thread suggesting that, yes, standing up to a bully worked. For more than a few of the people on this thread, it was a defining moment in their life.

With all due respect, the plural of "anecdote" is not "data". I'd prefer to see something scientific, otherwise I have to go to the MMR-vaccine-hating parents that I know and apologize for not giving their anecdotes the same weight as actual scientific research.


So I would say the burden of proof is strongly on you to show that, in fact, the anecdotes on this thread do not represent the larger reality. I would be surprised if you could do this, not least of which because I do not believe any such study could be conducted, let alone published, that would support a direct finding that fighting backed reduced bullying.

Honey, I've already cited the research that I knew about, and directed you to the people who did the research when I wasn't able to provide the data you asked for. It's your turn to come up with some numbers.

But hey, what the heck, I'll do it for you. After twenty seconds of Googling, I did in fact find a study that appears to back up your hypothesis that eye-for-an-eye may be the way to go here:

Researchers have found that if boys or girls are able to stand up for themselves, being attacked by enemies can help their development.

Studies have shown that children become more popular among, and respected by, teachers and fellow pupils if they repay hostility in kind. They remember such experiences more vividly than friendly episodes, helping them to develop healthy social and emotional skills.

The research shows that while bullying is not always character-building, there can be advantages to being shouted at, or ostracised on Facebook.

In a series of experiments, psychologists from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), measured the friendships and hostile relationships of 2,000 schoolchildren aged 11 and 12.

Researchers compared children who reciprocated a fellow pupil’s dislike with those who tried to ignore or placate their enemy. Those with the highest “antipathy” marks — repaying hostility with hostility — seemed the most mature.

Girls who gave as good as they got scored significantly higher on teachers’ ratings of social competence. They were more popular in class and often admired throughout the school. Boys who stood up for themselves were judged to be better behaved in the classroom than those who suffered in silence.

The researchers are not arguing that being tormented by bullies or being on hostile terms with a string of classmates is healthy.

Melissa Witkow, now at Willamette University in Oregon, who led the UCLA study, said: “The children who are not disliked by anybody are the most well-adjusted, not surprisingly.

“However, among kids who are disliked by a peer, our research suggests it may be [helpful] for some young adolescents to return that peer’s dislike than to either not be aware or to continue liking that peer.”

The experience gives children an early lesson that not everybody is going to like them in life and teaches them about conflict resolution.

Source


So, per UCLA's findings in this one study, being bullied teaches you conflict resolution. And standing up to bullies makes you more popular, shows you're mature, and allows you to develop healthy social and emotional skills.

This is all very fine and well for the kids who are able to stand up for themselves. That there may be benefits to doing so is sort of a given. If nothing else, the bully might actually quit tormenting you.

From what I can gather, however, the study doesn't address later retaliation from bullies. It also doesn't address the special needs child who may not be able to defend himself physically, or the fact that bullies tend to deliberately seek out children who are unlikely to physically defend themselves (Olweus, et al).


So what does that mean for those children? The kid who successfully confronts his bully, only to find the next day that the bully shows up at recess with all of his friends looking for revenge? What are we supposed to conclude for the disabled child, who's already experiencing a lack of acceptance from the other children? Or the kid who's simply dealing with a bully who's bigger and faster than he is, and who will beat him to a pulp if he so much as raises his hand?

What are we supposed to tell the children for whom physical confrontation is simply not an option? Because those kids are suffering at the hands of bullies, too, and they're already hearing an awful lot of victim-blaming language from teachers, adminstrators, and even parents.
posted by magstheaxe at 3:04 PM on March 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


And in related news -- The Pro-Bullying Lobby: Conservative Leader Explains Why He Is Mobilizing Against Anti-Bullying Measures
American Principles Project executive director Andy Blom: "... all the curriculum on bullying is about LGBT ... All of it is being used as an opportunity to force homosexual teaching into the schools. ... In truth, the whole homosexual agenda gets filtered into the schools through anti-bullying."
posted by ericb at 3:06 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ralphie loses it ... and wallops bully Scott Farkus.

Better version of the movie clip with full dialogue.
posted by ericb at 3:09 PM on March 15, 2011


Also, I can't believe we've had a whole thread on bullying without mention of Louis C.K.'s awesome and poignant episode.

(apologies if someone already linked to it...I didn't see...)
posted by whimsicalnymph at 3:10 PM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Now, if we could take all of this empathy for the bullied kid whose response may seem a little over-the-top to someone who only looks at the single incident, rather than the context of all of the bullying that the kid has experienced, and have everyone apply it in the context of more formalized systemic oppression (like that microaggressions thread that I linked to earlier), we could make some real progress! Hey wait, what if we go in the reverse direction, and apply some of the lessons that have been learned about combating racial oppression, classism, sexism, homophobia, etc. and teaching tolerance of difference on these fronts to the issue of teaching tolerance of other sorts of differences among kids and teaching other kids to combat bullying.

Erg, I can't find it again, but someone commented that a truly effective anti-bullying program would have to break down the hierarchical structure of kids' social interactions so that they no longer could get benefit from bullying others, nor have to fear ostracization or humiliation due to being the target of bullying. But then the kids would start questioning the other hierarchical structures that dictate pretty much everything about their lives, so you don't see that much in, say, public schools, which are pretty darn focused on controlling kids often. That's the thing about effective anti-bullying campaigns - I've seen small, local examples, but I think that they tend to come out of this radical education for critical consciousness perspective, and get shut down or hopelessly crippled before they go too far.
posted by eviemath at 3:11 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Casey Heynes Mash Ups and Trailers.
posted by ericb at 3:12 PM on March 15, 2011


Shame works on people with a conscience

Which is, actually, most people, although some only apply it to a limited subset of humanity that they consider part of their social grouping.

But in any event, that's why there's boycotts and other such tactics of nonviolent resistance, eg., economic disruption. (Not especially relevant to childhood bullying, but then, childhood bullies, at least in my experience, for the most part are out for increasing their own social status by humiliating others, so are actually particularly vulnerable to shaming attacks.)
posted by eviemath at 3:15 PM on March 15, 2011


whimsicalnymph, is there a link to that video that's viewable outside the U.S.?
posted by eviemath at 3:16 PM on March 15, 2011


It seems blatantly clear to me from these heartbreaking stories that the real culprits were the adults who refused to believe or care about kids being bullied, until those kids had to lash out or just become withdrawn and afraid.

I'm going to go home tonight and hug my kid, and before he starts school in the fall, try to talk to him about bullying and what to do if it happens. And I will never let him stay somewhere that he feels physically threatened if the administration fails to take it seriously or stop it. I'll homeschool him first. Or transfer him. Or press charges. Whatever it takes.
posted by emjaybee at 3:17 PM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


mags,

I don't doubt actual scientific research. I'm specifically calling you out, saying please bring the actual scientific research to the table. Anecdotes aren't data, but they're not nothing either.

The paper you cited did not support your findings. Citing an author is a silly appeal to authority. "Go call this guy" -- what, really?

You'll note I came up with some numbers, from a martial arts study. Not sure why you didn't notice this. I do notice your followup research seems to agree entirely.

You're not wrong that fighting back is not an option for some, or that there are situations where it doesn't work. This is obviously the case -- Klang's experiences make that very clear. But there's this wildly dismissive attitude towards standing up for yourself, as if it couldn't possibly be effective. And I'm calling you out on this belief, because it appears it's factually incorrect.

What I am very specifically asking you to back up is this:

So...yeah. The experts have every reason to expect that fighting and winning against a bully does not work. The research that's out there overwhelmingly supports it.

If it's so overwhelming, where's the data? The only thing I can find overwhelming data on is that most anti-bullying programs do nothing of value. This, I can find data on everywhere. Where's the overwhelming data against defeating a bully having an bullying-ending effect an appreciable percentage of the time?

You made the claim. It's your burden to provide the data.
posted by effugas at 3:22 PM on March 15, 2011


(Interestingly, it's pretty clear LGBT programs have been effective. Maybe I was a bit flippant with the 'Culture of Mutuality' comments earlier; I can't imagine much more mutual than clubs.)
posted by effugas at 3:27 PM on March 15, 2011


With all due respect, the plural of "anecdote" is not "data".

Uh, anecdata = anecdote + data, no? Portmanteau words and all that?
posted by tantrumthecat at 3:27 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


tantrum,

He's saying that we're not exactly a controlled sample set -- that our experiences might be biased based on our backgrounds, or perhaps people are much less likely to speak up if their experiences with bullies weren't quite so rosy.
posted by effugas at 3:29 PM on March 15, 2011


whimsicalnymph, is there a link to that video that's viewable outside the U.S.?

Or viewable to someone without a Hulu account?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:30 PM on March 15, 2011


The video is here: http://vimeo.com/21029369
posted by effugas at 3:33 PM on March 15, 2011


There's a distinction between standing up for yourself, and standing up for yourself through violence. What some of us are concerned about is the definition of "works" with the particular tactic of returning violence with violence as one way of standing up for yourself. We've heard a lot of anecdotes that it has "worked" for some people to stop violent bullying from specific bullies in their lives. We've heard from some other people that this tactic has not "worked" for them in the same sense. I think it's pretty clear that this is highly situation-dependent.

There's a second question of the broader societal effect that returning violence with violence has. There's a prisoner's dilemma effect at play, which may be part of why this issue has caused such debate here. Think of the U.S versus U.S.S.R. nuclear arms race during the Cold War. Clearly, a world free of nuclear weapons is far better for everyone involved. Yet both countries felt a need to build up their nuclear arsenals for their safety from the other country. Likewise, I'm reading that many other commenters felt that they needed to return violent bullying with violent self-defense, because the bullying wasn't being dealt with appropriately by supposedly responsible adults in their lives. (Others had a 2x2 game with different reward structure, so non-violent or passive responses were more useful both in the short and long term.) Yet as some of the same comments alluded to, developing a tolerance for violence, while everyone reporting here mentioned that they were able to keep it under control, is a dangerous thing. Who gets to decide what is appropriate or justified use of violence? As the studies on bully outcomes later in life note, it's probably not helpful in the long run for the individual either, if they are unable to keep it under control and it develops into their main tactic for solving problems. In that case, we might say that the returning violence with violence response doesn't "work" in the larger scale and longer term sense.
posted by eviemath at 3:40 PM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


This video almost brought me to tears, after I collapsed with laughter.

We don't believe that violence is ever the answer

Who does he think he's kidding? And, "bullying experts"? Please. My idea of a bullying expert is a member of a prison gang not some social worker.
posted by BigSky at 3:42 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


A professor (somehow) in today's Sydney Morning Herald offers the following solution:

"He should have gone for help - told a teacher."

Thanks, professor! Let's have a look at how that would have panned out:

Big Kid: Oh, okay, I'm going to be picked on once again. Here it comes. Ah, punched in the face. Not exactly new.

Rat Kid: Hurr! Hurr!

Big Kid: I'm going to go and tell a teacher.

Rat Kid: Awwwwyaganna go tella TEACHA areya?

Rat Kid Friends: Dunwurry Rattie we GOT IM!

Rat Kid: Imma fuckin DECKYA ya fatcunt!

Big Kid: Oh, there goes a teacher now, perhaps he'll...no, no, he's seen me, but he's just kept walking.

Rat Kid: GINGACUNT! CARN, I'll fuckin GO YA!

Big Kid: Help, help, I'm being oppressed!

Onlookers: Hurr! Hurr! He's calling for help, what a big fat BABY!

Big Kid: Okay, I'm going to the teacher's office. Oh you've hit me in the face again.

Rat Kid: GARN then, go cryta tha TEECHA ya poofter cunt! I'll fuckin GETCHA AFTA SKOOL!

Big Kid: Hello, Mr or Mrs Principal, Rat Kid and his buddies are bullying me again.

Mr or Mrs Principal: You need to learn to ignore them Big Kid.

Big Kid: But they were punching me in my face and said they would get me after school.

Mr or Mrs Principal: I'm sure it's nothing to worry about. Oh Reception Lady, did you order those pencils?

Reception Lady: Yes Mr or Mrs Principal.

Mr or Mrs Principal: Thank you. Off you go to class now Big Kid.

*LATER, AFTER SCHOOL*

Rat Kid: Rite ya ginga POOFCUNT, Imma fuckin SMASH YA!

Big Kid: Here we go again!

Big Kid gives a resigned smile and a helpless shrug to the camera.
posted by tumid dahlia at 3:44 PM on March 15, 2011 [17 favorites]


What are we supposed to tell the children for whom physical confrontation is simply not an option?

You tell them that you're going to make it stop. And then you make it stop.
posted by Revvy at 3:46 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Reading over this, I'm amazed at the number of people who one day hauled off and beat the crap of someone. Didn't anyone else repress shame and rage and then spend five, ten thousand dollars in therapy trying to make it better as an adult?

Weirdos.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:09 PM on March 15, 2011 [21 favorites]


"Christ, I guess I'm just some naive looney softie, but whatever cruel actions he has done, he's a child. He deserves some anonymity, and not this gleeful ragefest."

The old saw about actions having consequences comes to mind. Besides he seems anonymous to me, his face is blurred, I wouldn't know that kid if he walked up and punched me in the face. In a couple of days, at most, this will lose the internet's collective interest and few people outside of that school will even remember it. He's just lucky big boy didn't put the boot to him after the piledriver.
posted by MikeMc at 4:11 PM on March 15, 2011


You tell them that you're going to make it stop. And then you make it stop.

Oh, is that all you need to do? How, pray tell, do you make it stop, when the school won't touch the bully, when the bully's parents don't care, when the police say there's nothing they can do? Get on your knees like fucking Tripitaka and wait for the end?

If Ghandi was in an Australian school, he'd be dead, because some knuckle-dragging neanderthal would've king hit him from behind and he'd have hit his head on the cement path, and everybody would be frantically scurrying about wondering how they'd let that poor, poor bully down.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:11 PM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Besides he seems anonymous to me, his face is blurred.

Many of the other videos are not blurred. One domain is his full name.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:18 PM on March 15, 2011


a truly effective anti-bullying program would have to break down the hierarchical structure of kids' social interactions so that they no longer could get benefit from bullying others, nor have to fear ostracization or humiliation due to being the target of bullying. But then the kids would start questioning the other hierarchical structures that dictate pretty much everything about their lives, so you don't see that much in, say, public schools, which are pretty darn focused on controlling kids often.

Definitely – school bullying is a little savage mirror of the hierarchies that dominate kids' lives, the sort of thing that for ex. post-colonial studies would have a lot to say about. I think the kids are usually a little more aware of this than the responsible adults ("we're paid not to know this") to be honest. And once you've trained kids to stand up to injustice suddenly they're harder to control. Better to look the other way and let the system not handle it – a lesson people seem to learn really well.
posted by furiousthought at 4:19 PM on March 15, 2011


2) Private school is expensive.

And not a solution. Bullying and teacher indifference is not the exclusive domain of public schools. At least, from my experience in an Australian private school.

I don't want to validate Lovecraft in Brooklyn's sweeping assertions that Australia is a culture of thugs. Those are, frankly, ridiculous. However, we do have a strong element of that in our society - we laud and idolise sports stars, and more often than not intellectuals, academics, artists, and scientists and their achievements merit little attention. The arts, especially in Sydney, is notoriously underfunded.

But a culture of bullies? Pro bully? I think not. We are, as are the US and the UK and many other places, struggling with the issue of bullies. And we are not dealing with it well.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:22 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


What makes me most sad about this is hearing all of your stories: you who were hurt by bullies, whether you fought back; or didn't; or whether you did, and it didn't work; or if you really really wanted to but were afraid... Whatever. It's abuse, any way you spin it, and I just want to say: I'm sorry that happened to you. I guarantee you didn't deserve it.
posted by mingo_clambake at 4:23 PM on March 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


evie,

Yes, I know somebody for whom violence became their go-to resolution mechanism. It has been a problem for them. No question, the violent path taken to its extreme breaks down much of the socialization which is the point of school in the first place.

Most things fail in their extreme, though.

furiousthought,

No, you don't get to blame colonialism or any modern force for child bullying. It, alas, is a human universal, one that shows up everywhere. That being said, it is indeed possible that other systems have better ways of pulling the community in when bullying becomes particularly problematic (may also have worse ways, though).
posted by effugas at 4:23 PM on March 15, 2011


What makes me most sad about this is hearing all of your stories: you who were hurt by bullies, whether you fought back; or didn't; or whether you did, and it didn't work; or if you really really wanted to but were afraid... Whatever. It's abuse, any way you spin it, and I just want to say: I'm sorry that happened to you. I guarantee you didn't deserve it.

Thanks Mingo. I suspect many of us need to hear that.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:24 PM on March 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


I find it despicable that so many comments seem to condemn the bullied kid for acting out while he protected himself. He acted exactly as I would expect a 10th grader act in the mist of the shame, humiliation, fear and repulsion that he was feeling.

The little bullier got...... feel my words.... exactly what he deserved.
posted by mikehipp at 4:25 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


This thread has reminded me of a thing I had forgotten. When I was in sixth grade, I was almost garrotted in the full view of a roomful of people and no one even noticed.

It was the band room between classes, which as you might expect was a crowded, milling space. I will also stipulate that I could be quite a smackable young lady, and that D. and I had been needling each other for months. We were the two book-smartest kids in the grade, and although he never passed up a chance to be nasty to me, he also never passed up a chance to talk to me, and being talked to was something at least, so I let it go on.

I was toying with a long, discarded elastic gold cord, the kind that you wrap around presents, and I said something sharp in response to him. He grabbed the gold cord and twisted it around my neck and said: say uncle. I wouldn't, and wouldn't, until the room turned dark, and I said uncle.

Afterwards, I had an odd, hollow feeling. Being a sheltered child, I supposed that it couldn't have been a terrible thing for him to do if no one noticed him doing it, or bothered him about it. If I had been quicker off the mark, I might have learned an important lesson that day, which was that terrible things may be done to you right out in public and no one will come to your help, but that does not mean the things were not terrible, or that you deserved them.

Sadly, it took me decades to learn this. I can see the marks left on my life from that.

One time, though, I did slam and hold a boy up against a wall for bullying me, and sure as a by-God that sorted it out. Oh, man, if I could draw that memory into a bathtub with some bubbles and just wallow in it.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:34 PM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


[M]artial arts are not simply "fostering a culture of mutuality". They're teaching how to punch, kick, grab, and tolerate pain. We deliver the message with an awful lot of training about how these skills are to be used -- and, heh, perhaps the interspersed messaging is where the reduced violence comes from -- but the fact that the only data we've seen thus far supports training in violent behavior is really quite surprising to me.

I don't think it's anything about a "culture of mutuality" -- it's about fixing your ego. You learn to set aside that part of you that bristles at criticism, because that's the only way to improve. The less ego you have, the more readily you accept correction and the more quickly you improve.

Martial arts that promote frequent, live sparring (practice fighting in a controlled environment) drive this point home most clearly, because the "correction" happens any time the opponent lands a blow, gets positional advantage, or gets a submission. You simply MUST accept that "My approach was wrong; theirs was better. I need to learn to do something else." or you'll keep getting beat the same way over and over and over...

In a very real and immediately painful way, sparring points out the faults in your fighting. And you learn that having your fighting faults brought to light is a GOOD thing, because it allows you to correct them and improve.

FWIW, I think Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is by far the best martial art in this regard. (The object in this grappling sport/art is to "submit" your opponent -- either choke them unconscious or break one of their limbs, but the losing player "taps out" to signal that they've lost before any actual damage is done, so nobody gets hurt. And you can fight very frequently without accumulating damage -- most BJJ gyms spar every single class.) I've done Tae Kwon Do and Krav Maga for years, and they pale in comparison when it comes to teaching students, almost as an accidental side-effect, how to lose their ego. I'm very curious if there are other martial arts, sports, or any activities out there that even come close.

It's such a strong pattern that after you recognize it in class, you carry it out into the real world -- you get more tolerant of people criticizing you outside of class, on non-fight topics. If somebody criticizes on the way you dress, you're less likely to snap back a cutting retort about, say, their hairstyle. Maybe they have a point. Maybe I really shouldn't wear black socks with tennis shoes. Thanks for the tip -- now I dress a little better!

At the same time, you haven't forgotten how criticism made you feel and how you were prone to react back when your ego was all insecure and defensive, so you take it easier on other people. So, ironically, by learning this violent martial art, you not only learn to take criticism better, but you become less likely to dish it out to those who can't take it. This all leads to less conflict, less bullying, less fighting.

Another curiosity is that after sparring with a group of people for a time, you get to be pretty good friends. Fighting becomes not an angry thing, but something fun that you do with your friends. Some angry asshole challenging you to a fight feels like some angry asshole challenging you to a game of tennis or to come over and watch television. Like... why would I fight you?? I don't even like you!

There's also the commonly cited self-confidence that comes with martial arts: If you "know" (or even just think you know) you can whip the other guy, then you have nothing to prove and nothing to gain by fighting them. And if a potential bully senses this confidence, they may decide they're better off leaving you alone.

Anyhow, that's my quick take on it. Curious what other people think!
posted by LordSludge at 4:34 PM on March 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


@effugas

Anecdotes aren't data, but they're not nothing either.

They're anecdotes, is what they are. Like what the anti-vacciners use. Hence my skepticism.


The paper you cited did not support your findings. Citing an author is a silly appeal to authority. "Go call this guy" -- what, really?

Well, yeah? Why not? Shoot him an e-mail. What's the worst that can happen, he says no?


You'll note I came up with some numbers, from a martial arts study. Not sure why you didn't notice this. I do notice your followup research seems to agree entirely.

Again, I'm at work, and I gave it a cursory glance. I did believe, however, that the study had merit, and assumed that the study you cited was not conducted by people seeking to keep their careers from ending due to political incorrectness (like you assumed when I made my post).


You're not wrong that fighting back is not an option for some, or that there are situations where it doesn't work. This is obviously the case -- Klang's experiences make that very clear. But there's this wildly dismissive attitude towards standing up for yourself, as if it couldn't possibly be effective. And I'm calling you out on this belief, because it appears it's factually incorrect.

Then I have stated my case incorrectly. There are instances where standing up for yourself does work. But there appear to be far more instances where it doesn't work, because of how effective the bullies are when selecting their victims. It's logical when you think about it--why would a bully select a victim he couldn't bully?

You see the same sort of pattern in domestic violence, now that I think about it. Abusers are well known for selecting partners they can manipulate and abuse. And of course, the most dangerous time for a domestic violence victim is when she tries to leave her abuser--that's when domestic violence victims are usually murdered. Anytime she asserts independance and tries to leave, the abuse escalates.

And yet, people say "Just leave him". I suppose the same mentality underlies the whole "Just stand up to your bully" thinking that so many people seem to have.


What I am very specifically asking you to back up is this:

So...yeah. The experts have every reason to expect that fighting and winning against a bully does not work. The research that's out there overwhelmingly supports it.

If it's so overwhelming, where's the data
?

Tell you what: I'll get home much later tonight. I'll dig around on my hard drive and see what articles and what-not that I've saved about bullying. And if I don't have anything that explicitly details the research on this matter, I will e-mail the researchers I cited and see if they're willing to share their info with me, or at least where they published it.


The only thing I can find overwhelming data on is that most anti-bullying programs do nothing of value. This, I can find data on everywhere.

You and I are not in disagreement on this point. The results for school programs are at best mixed (at least in the US--I have not looked at data for other countries).


Where's the overwhelming data against defeating a bully having an bullying-ending effect an appreciable percentage of the time?

You made the claim. It's your burden to provide the data.


You know, I think I'll go ahead and email the researchers anyway, see what they say.

In the meantime, you go ahead and post your overwhelming evidence for the claim that you made. I've already found the article on the UCLA study on my own, so whatever else you've got, would appreciate the links.
posted by magstheaxe at 4:42 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh, is that all you need to do? How, pray tell, do you make it stop, when the school won't touch the bully, when the bully's parents don't care, when the police say there's nothing they can do? Get on your knees like fucking Tripitaka and wait for the end?

No, you take charge. You harass the school, sue the parents, and point the physical damage out to the police (that's called assault). Post leaflets around the bully's neighborhood with his picture and his crimes. Gather the parents of the other victims (there are going to be plenty) and confront the parents of the bully. Take that same group to the school board and tell them that nothing is being done to protect children from physical violence in the school.

You're the adult. You figure out a way to make it stop before the victim does because their way will involve violence, guaranteed.

If none of the above options work, then perhaps that's a community you don't want to live in. Move.
posted by Revvy at 4:43 PM on March 15, 2011


I never fought back. It never stopped.

Violence, insults, whatever. My life would have been much better if I had used those tactics instead of being quiet and humiliated and sad and running home and telling my mom. Neither teachers nor parents were able to offer any help whatsoever for the YEARS this was going on.

Now guess who wants to be on Facebook? And guess who my mom updates me on when I call? And guess who I still have to talk about in therapy?

So her mom died of cancer. Good.

(And my partner's childhood bully: So he died in a car accident because he was drunk driving. Good.)
posted by heatherann at 4:48 PM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


(to me) No, you don't get to blame colonialism or any modern force for child bullying. It, alas, is a human universal, one that shows up everywhere.

I wasn't. What I meant to suggest was that post-colonial studies & similar would have some insights into the mechanics of it. I don't grant that bullying as manifested is a human universal*, though its wellspring of rivalry/dominance behavior probably is, and that could possibly be directed in at least a more harmless fashion.

*in the Cure That's Worse Than The Disease Dept, societies with heavy child labor regimens may suffer less intra-child bullying; of course, all the dominance is being exerted top-down in that case – but, it's a different set of behaviors.
posted by furiousthought at 4:51 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can we have a big ol' Metafilter group hug? It seems like this thread could use one.
posted by torisaur at 4:54 PM on March 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


Then I have stated my case incorrectly. There are instances where standing up for yourself does work. But there appear to be far more instances where it doesn't work, because of how effective the bullies are when selecting their victims. It's logical when you think about it--why would a bully select a victim he couldn't bully?

There is a problem with your logic. You are saying standing up can't stop bullies, because bullies select those that can't stand up. THIS IS CIRCULAR LOGIC. You did not invent this argument. One of the leading researchers in bullying apparently did. This frankly does not give me much faith in said leading researcher, given the straightforwardly poor quality of his argument.

I will admit that the data on this thread is merely anecdotal, but it is eventually the burden of the scientist to show how the lay experience does not reflect reality. That's sure an awful lot of stress-induced conversions -- which shouldn't be too surprising, because there's lots and lots of data on how sufficient stress will create radically different behavioral patterns across all ages, cultures, genders, etc.

Now, if hard, well-controlled data exists for bully resistance -- which does exist, in spades, for vaccines! -- then I'm quite interested. I'd love a study for instance that said:

"Out of 1000 students who were independently identified as suffering from bullying, we found:

400 tolerated their abuse without incident or improvement.
200 complained to their schools, with no improvement.
100 complained to their schools, with improvement.
100 attempted to defeat their bully, and succeeded, ending the abuse.
100 attempted to defeat their bully, and succeeded, but the abuse continued.
100 attempted to defeat their bully, but failed, and the abuse worsened.
"

That would absolute convince me that I'm wrong.

And for the record, I think the psychology around domestic abuse is significantly weirder than that around bullying (there really is no analogue to 'but I love him'). I do agree though that just telling people "just leave him" is akin to "just stand up for yourself". Nobody can be told to follow that path. They can be pretty sure they won't face significant consequences for defending themselves, which is something we try very hard to give adults.
posted by effugas at 5:09 PM on March 15, 2011


furious--

Hmm. I could agree with that. We have the results of societal hierarchies being created almost de novo; it might be interesting to see which cultures developed specific bullying mechanics.
posted by effugas at 5:13 PM on March 15, 2011


Sonascope It was somewhere around the fiftieth time I'd heard some variation of this that I developed a theory that aliens had brought me to Earth as a sort of observer, because my real world couldn't possibly be as asinine and capricious as this. The real world can't work this way, can it?

I was bullied and beaten up quite regularly and somewhere in elementary school I imagined that I was an android who fell to earth with no way to communicate home. And I was a broken android who would run down in the near future. I imagine escapism is very common, but it is strange seeing a fantasy so similar to my own.
posted by munchingzombie at 5:20 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ctl+F: "I was bullied"
32 results, minus three dupes: 29

Ctl+F: "I was a bully" or "I bullied"
1 result each: 2

Someone's not owning up. You people aren't that nice.
posted by $0up at 5:22 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's been repeated many times in this thread that "good for those of you that can fight back, what about all the kids who couldn't?"

My answer to that is, everyone can fight back no matter how small or weak you are. The thing holding you back the most is your own inhibitions and your unwillingness to fight dirty, and your own fear of getting hurt. Being outnumbered isn't the issue - in the video, the fat kid was outnumbered too. Real fights are over fast, before the others can intervene. And if you don't have the advantage of size, you should take advantage of the sneaky and underhanded blow, to exploit their overconfidence.

The top of your head is as hard as a bowling ball - a sudden strike to the teeth and mouth of your opponent will cause severe damage no matter their size.

Everyone's eyes are as soft as the next persons, and just as vulnerable to sand.

Don't even get me started on what you can do if you manage to get your teeth on someone's hand or fingers.

Seriously. We are all completely capable of absolutely destroying someone if we put our minds to it. That's just how are built to be: we didn't evolve over thousands of years to be helpless vegetarians. The catch is that usually only the truly desperate or insane are willing to fight this dirty. Oh and remember to smile =)

I'm not saying you SHOULD commit this level of violence: all I'm saying is don't mistake the fact that you are unwilling to fight back with the inability to fight back. We all had a choice, and some of us took it.

You won't win every fight. But it's better than losing them all before they've even started. It's like the guy who's never approached a girl because he fears getting rejected, well, he'll never get anywhere. If you don't play, you can't win. And in some cases, you only need to win once to have won all the ones in the future too.

Of course the solution is "better teachers, better system, etc" but I don't think I'm alone in saying that I have absolutely no faith that this will happen anytime soon.
posted by xdvesper at 5:25 PM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


You know, something just struck me.

People relentlessly bullied as children never forget that bullying. They remember faces, names, places, and the precise actions. And that makes them angry for a good long while, possibly forever. It makes the angry and it makes them hate bullies of all kinds. It might even fuck them up psychologically. Actually, of course it does. They were kids and they were bullied while their brains were growing and while they were assimilating experience on what their life was going to be like. So it becomes part of them - they were one of the bullied kids who got pushed around, humiliated, psychologically and violently and sexually assaulted for, and this is the real kicker, absolutely no reason whatsoever. That's now part of the structure of their brains. Speaking only for myself here, but I don't forgive them, I have no compassion for them, and I'm not intellectualising it away.

Which leads me to only once conclusion: people who excuse bullies and say it's not their fault because daddy was a drinker and mummy was a stripper and really they just need to be understood and talked to, they are intellectualising and therefore tacitly excusing their own experiences as bullies and this means that they were bullies themselves. Why do they say that the bullied and picked-on should go and tell a person in authority and then we can all sit around and talk it out and maybe we can do some counselling and let's just all get along and be friends why don't we? The reason violence isn't the "answer" to them is because all that time they were bullies - and now they're sympathising with the bullies themselves because they remember what it was like to be one - they were afraid of getting their fucking jaws broken, their chests kicked in, their fingers crushed, their necks snapped, their balls smashed. Because nobody deserves that, right? What's a few fat jokes, a few small tits jokes, a few small dick jokes, a few pimple jokes, a few jabs in the arm, maybe tripping them over now and then, maybe giving them a wedgie, maybe a few pushes and shoves, maybe a few punches to the gut or knuckles across the cheek? Come on, it's just kids, right?

Well when those fat jokes and small tits jokes and small dick jokes (or, in my case, small dick [I didn't do it on purpose, after all] and big fat boytits, to the extent that I either didn't shower for weeks on end at boarding school, and when I did, did it with shirt and underwear on, because it was hilarious fun for the other kids to pull back the shower curtain or run after my towel) and pimple jokes and jabs in the arm and tripping overs and wedgie givings and pushings and shovings and punches to the gut go on day after day, week after week, year after year, that is actually the purest definition of the purest kind of vindictive, evil torture: inflicting damage on an innocent person.

I guess my point is, if you were bullied, you remember, and when you see a film like this, where a bully gets what he has had coming to him for a very long time, your heart jumps with joy.

If you were a bully, you worry about a film like this, and you hem and you haw, and you say well the bullied kid should have done this, or done that, but not fought back. Because you're still afraid, after all this time, of getting your fucking face smashed into the ground for somebody who has had enough of your bullshit.

I guess it taught me a few useful lessons, though, what I went through in school. Firstly, I've learned to love animals more than I love people, it's taught me to have zero interest in people's opinions of me, and it's resolved me to the fact that, if I am picked on ever again in my life, I might end up in hospital or in jail or both, but I'm not going down until the other guy loses a fucking eyeball.
posted by tumid dahlia at 5:25 PM on March 15, 2011 [24 favorites]


Why should kids expect to get decent advice about how to deal with bullying wheon a site as educated and intellectual as this site can't even offer anything other than just stand up for yourself? It amazes me that so many of you who were bullied are apparently unwilling to even consider how as adults you might find some ways to actually be more helpful.
posted by humanfont at 5:28 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Because it's the simplest and most effective course of action.
posted by tumid dahlia at 5:37 PM on March 15, 2011


humanfont, I can think of a lot of grownup and civilized tactics to reduce bullying as a whole, but they are not going to help the kid on the front line, alone in the crowd in the hall.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:37 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why should kids expect to get decent advice about how to deal with bullying wheon a site as educated and intellectual as this site can't even offer anything other than just stand up for yourself?

What's your suggestion?

If you have no recourse to authority, you can either deal with it yourself or take it. Neither is a good option. But that's all there is.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:39 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


humanfont: "it amazes me that so many of you who were bullied are apparently unwilling to even consider how as adults you might find some ways to actually be more helpful."

Out of curiosity, what is it you think it is that might actually be helpful? I mean, let's assume a child being bullied has tried the obvious advice adults always give kids: ignore them, walk away, tell a teacher, tell a parent, tell an administrator and is still getting the shit kicked out of him or her. What options does a kid in that situation have?

I've got:

* Home schooling
* Hitting back
* Suicide
* Mass homicide

And your other suggestions are...?
posted by DarlingBri at 5:40 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


What about the kids who couldn't fight back?

I have just one word for you, and it is the word that was where I started:

Traps.
posted by adipocere at 5:43 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


What about the kids who couldn't fight back?

This might not work so well anymore, but I also got good mileage out of supposedly knowing black magic and practicing Satanism, and having a natural talent for the evil eye. Went pretty far in a superstitious Bible belt town.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:45 PM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


This might not work so well anymore, but I also got good mileage out of supposedly knowing black magic and practicing Satanism, and having a natural talent for the evil eye. Went pretty far in a superstitious Bible belt town.

Seriously? If so, mad props!
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:48 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


And your other suggestions are...?

Well, mine was self-mutilation. More kids should start giving that a whirl. Actually got called into the principal's office after a particularly semi-public event (went into the boy's bathroom, locked myself in a cubicle, and cut the living shit out of my arm to the extent that I needed something like a dozen stitches in one particularly nasty bone-revealing gash). Happily one of my few friends had a clue of what was going on, convinced my to come out, put paper towels on my arm, and took me to the office and told them I needed a doctor. A few days later I was back at school and was called to the principal's office. No "What was the cause of this?" because she didn't give a fuck. It was "You're scaring the other kids, if you do that again you are expelled." Yeesh. Oh and then I was banned from the end-of-school formal. Still, it stopped the bullying!
posted by tumid dahlia at 5:48 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


tumd dahlia, yes sorry, how silly of me. Please add "self harm" to the list.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:50 PM on March 15, 2011


Excellent. So here are DarlingBri's and tumid dahlia's

TOP 5 WAYS TO STOP PEOPLE BULLYING YOU

1. Home schooling. From your parents who are likely both working in order to keep a roof over the family's head, and put food on the table.

2. Hitting back. For which you will be suspended or expelled. Or, if you fuck the bully up as much as he actually deserves, possibly going to jail.

3. Suicide. Coroner's report states: "Suicidee listened to heavy metal and read comic books and played video games, was likely driven to hang him/herself in the cupboard because of the evils of these media. Heavy metal and comic books and video games should be banned and nobody will commit suicide ever again anywhere in the world."

4. Mass homicide. Police report states: "Perpetrator listened to heavy metal and read comic books and played video games, was likely driven to machine-gun other students because of the evils of these media. Heavy metal and comic books and video games should be banned and nobody will commit murder ever again anywhere in the world."

5. Self-harm. Doctor's report states: "Patient listened heavy metal and read comic books and played video games, was likely driven to cut open her own body using a razor and break her arm by smashing a door shut on it repeatedly until she passed out by the evils of these media. Also is an attention-seeker."
posted by tumid dahlia at 6:08 PM on March 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


Why should kids expect to get decent advice about how to deal with bullying wheon a site as educated and intellectual as this site can't even offer anything other than just stand up for yourself? It amazes me that so many of you who were bullied are apparently unwilling to even consider how as adults you might find some ways to actually be more helpful.

Maybe the two aren't unconnected. Maybe the truly useful and helpful advice in the long run is to force yourself to learn how to stand up for yourself. One of many unsavory, unwanted, and unpleasant things you have to learn to do in life if you want to learn to be a whole, healthy, productive person. Just because you personally don't like the advice, doesn't mean advice isn't being given.
posted by umberto at 6:12 PM on March 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


Seriously? If so, mad props!

It wasn't something I had tried to do. Kids were just scared of my interests in history and fantasy, and I found sometimes it worked to my advantage. (I did have weak moments, and I remember asking my mother for a big showy cross necklace so people would know I wasn't a Satanist. Don't think I ever got it, though.) It is definitely a bit of psy-ops I would suggest to a child while in the meantime I worked on the grownup conflict-resolution business.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:14 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


With all due respect, the plural of "anecdote" is not "data". I'd prefer to see something scientific, otherwise I have to go to the MMR-vaccine-hating parents that I know and apologize for not giving their anecdotes the same weight as actual scientific research.

With all due respect, you've just cited one paper that didn't contain *any* data at all, but claimed it had the solution to the problem -- that solution being to set up networks of academics who would then 'study' the problem and transmit their findings to schools and NGO's.

So you might want to dial down the snottiness about scientific validity and reliability.

There's a difference between people reporting that their kids were vaccinated and then they started showing symptoms that were diagnosed as autistic spectrum, and people reporting their experiences of bullying, and telling how it made them feel and how that experience impacted on their life. Nobody is claiming that you can extrapolate from the latter to come up with a global solution to bullying -- they're simply providing personal testimony as to their experience.

Now you can take that for what it's worth, but it's far from worthless, and in my view, it's worth a great deal more than that first paper you cited as evidence of some supposedly enlightened 'expert' view.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:17 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


People relentlessly bullied as children never forget that bullying. They remember faces, names, places, and the precise actions. And that makes them angry for a good long while, possibly forever. It makes the angry and it makes them hate bullies of all kinds.

This is so true. Even now, 25 years after I was bullied, I hate bullies. Hate them. I didn't love watching the video, but I saw myself in that video and understood exactly why the behavior was justified. Not because there shouldn't be a better way to deal with bullying (there should be) but because, for that kid, there wasn't.

The time that I fought back was a defining moment in my life. I'm a lawyer now, and every once in a while, I run across another lawyer who is a bully, which I define as someone who is cruel to those with less power than the bully (and, tellingly, often obsequious to persons with more power). I go out of my way to stand up to the bullying lawyer. And you know what? Most of the time, the bully backs down, because bullies are used to winning by intimidation and threats and, when called on it, there's rarely much else there.
posted by seventyfour at 6:17 PM on March 15, 2011


tumid dahlia, I am a counterexample to your theory on bullied vs bullies in their reaction to this post.

Also, I am very sorry for what you went through.
posted by eviemath at 6:19 PM on March 15, 2011


tumid dahlia, I am a counterexample to your theory on bullied vs bullies in their reaction to this post.

Yeah, I kind of apologise for being so all-encompassing and hyperbolic with my statement about hearts leaping for joy. It was purely my own reaction and I incorrectly assumed it would be the same reaction of people who went through similar things. I don't mean to speak for all those who were bullied.
posted by tumid dahlia at 6:22 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


My answer to that is, everyone can fight back no matter how small or weak you are. The thing holding you back the most is your own inhibitions and your unwillingness to fight dirty, and your own fear of getting hurt. Being outnumbered isn't the issue - in the video, the fat kid was outnumbered too. Real fights are over fast, before the others can intervene. And if you don't have the advantage of size, you should take advantage of the sneaky and underhanded blow, to exploit their overconfidence.

I've been following this thread closely and I wasn't going to say anything so long as this was insinuated and not just stated, but now that it's out there....

Sometimes fighting back just gets you more fights. Even if you win. Then they just get someone bigger, and you beat them. Then they come in groups. They then bring in other kids, their relatives, older ones from high school. Fought and fought and fought. And I broke body parts more than once (never my own), but they did not stop. Boys, girls, I fought them all. Fighting on the way to school, on the way home, up and down the steps. I fought in high heels after I picked up my "Mayor's Award for Excellence". I got suspended once, because I did more damage than was done to me, no matter how much I protested that they tried to beat me every day.

I dreaded it every time. I took off my coat real slow hoping a teacher would come and they never did. I fought them so much they called me "Mike Tyson" and all that got me was outcast (and more fights). They called me lots of other names too.

The only time I ever lost a fight was when I picked it (so yes, I'll own up to bullying someone, I was that stereotypical kid who picks on someone because they have a crush...and boy that didn't make him like me back, just got me flat on my butt). I also picked a fight with someone I could beat, a tall mentally handicapped girl, and I broke her nose. I'm sure if she remembers me at all, it was as a bully because I was a bully. The only thing I never had was a group.

For me it started when I transferred to a new school. At first I ran from the fight and went to a teacher. Then I was a "tattle tale". I tried a lot of things. I tried bribery, stealing food and sodas from home and giving them away. Pathetic. I tried hiding in the bathroom. Mostly I tried staying to myself as quietly as I could and reading. And I tried beating them. You may run one of them off, but there are others. We don't even know how things will turn out for this boy. We don't even know if this will end the abuse, especially not with his school's attitude.

I haven't been in a fistfight in years and years, don't even know if I could anymore. Some of those people are my Facebook "friends" now and I don't think they even remember. I have seen myself as an unlikable, contentious person, always fighting, bad, probably crazy. But at least I fought back!
posted by Danila at 6:27 PM on March 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


I read in today's Aussie print media - I know, insert grain of salt here - that Casey's father is claiming that Casey has been bullied for ages, and finally snapped.

"He's not a violent kid, it's the first time he's lashed out and I don't want him to be victimised over that. He's always been taught never to hit. Apparently other people's parents don't teach their kids that."

For what it's worth, she says quietly, I've just enrolled my son in a martial arts class. After he was held down, kicked and punched by bullies who are three years older than him - while the adults/coaches/volunteers charged with supervision were drinking beer in the clubhouse - I was thinking he needed some self-defence advice above and beyond me saying "next time, hit them back".

And after reading this thread, I'm very keen for my golf-playing, glasses-wearing, books-and-video-games-obsessed son to gain the skills to fight back if it ever goes that far again.

Thank you all for your input, even those who have argued against retaliation, and thanks for posting, Moorooka.

posted by malibustacey9999 at 6:36 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are the exact wrong solution to this problem. It perpetuates the bully myth. With right training you can rely on teachers and parents to help. You can build social dynamics in the classroom so that peers collectively reduce peer to peer bullying incidents. These are just a matter of education.

You can do that for the future, but that doesn't help the kids that are being bullied today, who need a plan of action while the parents and teachers furrow their brows and try to find the best way to educate themselves to stop children from tormenting each other.

A vague plan about changing social dynamics doesn't stop this kid from being bullied to the point of breaking, nor does it help the thousands of other kids that are out there right now who need help. So while your education plans are coming about, I'm going to teach my kids two things:

1) If you're being bullied, stand up for yourself and show them you're not going to take it lying down.
2) Come home and tell your dad, because he'll rip the sleeves off his shirt and go to work to keep you safe and happy.
posted by dflemingecon at 6:40 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


We put kids away from their families into a public institution that can hardly be called a supportive community. Here they are told where to be, when, and what they have to do. They are not allowed to grow up, since our system is designed to extend childhood as long as possible into what used to be regarded as adulthood.
And then when they are acted upon violently, we tell them they cannot physically defend themselves (!).
In an adult court of law, would he have been found liable, or would it be considered self-defense?
I think it's somehow (perhaps ironically) related to the modern trend of 'protecting' children to death (of their self-direction and freedom). Somehow children are not 'people'... They are children.
If Mr. Dalgleish had a peer who was physically violent towards him, he could get the guy fired, get a restraining order, get him arrested for assault. Children have no such resources. They are, so to speak, 'in the jungle.'
The truth is, if the kid had gone to the principal etc. and told them about the continued bullying, the chances the perpetrators would get kicked out of school is very low. The only way to make that happen is to fight back! Then both get punished. And it still leaves the kid open to the bullying of others because he hasn't really stood up for himself.
I also have a feeling that if a child does not allow him/herself a situational response and the bullying continues over time, it could very well simmer into a more violent response later--i.e., bringing a weapon to school etc.
posted by Thinkmontgolfier at 6:52 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Students said violence was a daily occurrence with fights often filmed and posted online.

"The fights I have seen here, it's horrible. It really makes me feel unsafe," one said. A classmate added: "People pick on him every single day, they hit him around and stuff, and he just got sick of it and let out the anger."

Online sympathisers have started a "Casey Heynes Anti Bullying Day".

A NSW Department of Education and Training spokeswoman said the school "does not tolerate any violence and deals with all cases according to its community-agreed discipline code".



Bullshit Ms. Spokeswoman, bull-fucking-shit.
posted by MikeMc at 6:52 PM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


That should read: "And if even if he uses the school authority channels successfuly, it still leaves the kid open to the bullying of others because he hasn't really stood up for himself.
posted by Thinkmontgolfier at 6:57 PM on March 15, 2011


skwirl: No. I was wondering if it was truly possible that so many MeFites were victims and never bullies themselves.

It's practically a tautology that there isn't room for many at the absolute bottom. But I do think that in a thread about being bullied it's hardly surprising that many of those people would show up to tell their stories.

I think this attitude is illuminating, though: if your own experience growing up involved playing the roles of both victim and aggressor, it might be particularly hard to believe that other people are routinely victimized in such a one-sided way (as it seems like this kid was). This could explain a lot of non-intervention on the part of teachers, administrators, and parents.
posted by en forme de poire at 7:00 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't know. I watched this hours ago, and it made me feel really good, in a vicarious way. I was bullied too, but I didn't stop it early enough. I wish I had. I'm in my 30s now, and my life is certainly informed by what happened to me when I was younger. I took martial arts for some years, and I carry myself in a way that I believe forestalls any other "issues" nowadays-- I go into bad neighborhoods, and I don't fear. I know how to fight, and since becoming a post-teen adult I have had to fight once or twice. I also carry a lot of knives. It's absolutely because of the way I was treated. They have become totems of a sort. Spyderco lockback in the left front, utility knife in the front right, often a Leatherman Wave on the belt. I use all of them for work and daily use, but I also know how to fight with them.

I've posted in other threads about bullying, and I'll say here what I've said in the past-- I was thisclose to being a clocktower psycho. For a long time afterwards, I was a budding Bernhard Goetz, just waiting for someone else to fuck with me. I'm not like that now, in fact, I'm pretty easygoing. I have the skills to defuse and redirect (and defend myself, if it comes to that). But I think often about those that bullied me, and I wish that I had the wherewithal to do what this kid did.

I think that if I did, I wouldn't have written everything else I did here.
posted by exlotuseater at 7:02 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


In an adult court of law, would he have been found liable, or would it be considered self-defense?

Self-defense, as I runderstand it, is defense up to the point that you have neutralised the threat and that the threat is no longer a danger to you. This is textbook self-defense, because you need to remember that bullies don't stop until you stop them. In the video I'm pretty sure that the big kid was tempted to ruin the little ratbag even further, possibly by kicking him in the head, but actually had the self-restraint to do so because the threat had been neutralised. So both parties actually came out of this really well.
posted by tumid dahlia at 7:03 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


What does anyone here think of peer mediation? The last time I got picked on it was in my new school. This girl wanted to "fight" me, and once again I moved realll slow hoping for help, but this time it worked and someone intervened. Then we were both sent to peer mediation. Several of our fellow students - trained in mediation - sat down with both of us and tried to get us to talk about what the problem was. Now, in a way it was kind of ridiculous, because my problem with her and her friends was that they picked on me and wanted to beat me up and her problem with me was....she thought I stunk. The mediators didn't really accept this, and we all worked together to come up with an action plan.

And they didn't pick on me again. No one did (at school). I wasn't "marked" for bullying anymore. And I don't think the bullies really liked having a powerful group of students look at their actions and find them ridiculous.

I remember feeling like that was the first time my fellow students ever stood up for me.
posted by Danila at 7:04 PM on March 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


I think the answer to the question about what a specific kid should do in a specific situation where they are being bullied but no one is addressing it is, it really, really depends on the specifics of the situation. What we can do as adults, however, includes:

(i) work to create environments where kids don't get bullied in the first place;

(ii) teach any kids in our lives to speak out against bullies when they are the bystander (a simple "hey, that's not cool" will suffice);

(iii) make sure that the kids in our lives have loving, caring adults who will listen to them and support them, who interact with the kids enough to notice when something is wrong that the kid isn't talking about, and who give the kid positive feedback about themselves and their abilities so that the bullying doesn't take over their whole life, but is merely one negative part of an otherwise positive life;

(iv) advocate on bullied kids' behalf with other adults who are falling down on the job, confront them and hold them to account for their actions or inaction (there are a lot of sub-what-to-dos that I could suggest here) that facilitate the bullying;

(v) support the parents of bullied kids, when they are not part of the problem itself(*,**);

(vi) take bullying seriously for the abuse that it is, and make sure that other adults around you take bullying seriously as abuse;

(vii) speak out - publicly, in fora where kids will see it - about our experiences with bullying, like the "It Gets Better" campaign, so that bullied kids have some role models, and some hope(***);

(viii) teach kids about oppression, social justice, and all of their options for resistance (violent and non-) - a fair amount of the bullying that I've seen has been class-based or had homophobic components, for example, so provide resources for building community with other bullied kids when possible (eg. for glbtq kids, or kids who are being bullied partly or largely on the basis of some other (real or perceived) group membership) - but also, help kids to wage their own battle of non-violent resistance against their bullies and to think up creative, non-violent, but dignity-maintaining solutions; run through scenarios with kids so that they feel more confident in their abilities to handle the bullying, or can test out various options for how to respond in a safe environment.

* When my brother and I were in university, a story came out in the local news, in the aftermath of yet another school shooting, of an area kid who had been expelled because other students thought that, since he was the subject of their bullying, he might potentially turn into a school shooter. Yup. Insanity. My mother called up his mother to let her know that she wasn't alone and to offer any help and support that she could. My mother could probably add to my list of suggestions above.

** My bullying occurred in fifth and sixth grade. Things were pretty decent in the high school that I went to (up to about two years behind mine, at least - those younger generations included some real little twits, from what I could tell). There were a couple (two or three that I remember, in particular) of kids in high school who had obviously been through worse bullying at some point in their lives, though: avoided interaction with other students, tried to blend in and be as innocuous as possible, the shuffling walk, never making eye contact, very quiet voices, and so on. I didn't see anyone actively bullying them in high school - perhaps more scary, most other students I talked to about the one girl who was in one of my classes didn't know or remember that she existed (she was very good at not drawing attention to herself, apparently). Given some snippets of interaction, I suspect that those particular couple of kids got a fair amount of abuse at home, though. It's important to remember in all of this that some kids don't have parents who are willing or able to stick up for them, and in fact may even contribute to the kids' experience of bullying and abuse. So it's important to be an ally to the kids in your life, even if they aren't your own kids.

*** Please give bullied kids positive role models. I've seen too many turn to Ayn Rand in their high school or college years because feeling like a misunderstood superior assuaged their battered egos and sense of self. While understandable, and a phase that I seem to recall passing through at one point (or, at least, I *wanted* to think I was some misunderstood superior being who would be discovered and taken away from all the sordid reality, at times - don't think I ever actually believed it), it's not helpful in the long run - if we let the bullies take away our sense of empathy for others, then the bullies have won, or some such.
posted by eviemath at 7:06 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Out of curiosity, what is it you think it is that might actually be helpful? I mean, let's assume a child being bullied has tried the obvious advice adults always give kids: ignore them, walk away, tell a teacher, tell a parent, tell an administrator and is still getting the shit kicked out of him or her. What options does a kid in that situation have

The "obvious" advice is totally useless and wrong. That's the firs thin a good program has to get through to the adults. This is where things fail.
Once we get to where we want to provide the child with some useful tactics. We need to understand the reasons the bully chose "n" as their target. Then we need to raise the costs fOr the bully's aggressive behavior. Peer allies may be required. there a number of steps short of physical confrontation which can work in most circumstances.
posted by humanfont at 7:08 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Like, it seems, many others on here, both my wife and I were the victims of bullying. My wife needed to change schools, it was so bad. I simply made a point of befriending the largest kid in class, and at least avoided any violence, if not the verbal abuse.

We have four boys. The eldest, now thirteen, was taught from a young age to stand up to bullies, whether it was himself or another kid being bullied. We also taught him a simple technique - push the bully over. You'd be amazed how many kids are unprepared to be flat on their arse. Our eldest only needed to do this a couple of times in primary school and never had a problem after that.

But, you know, kids get older. Late in primary school, Year 6, my son had a best friend who was suffering through some pretty severe bullying. Towards the end of the year my son's friend was attacked and had two of his fingers broken.

My son's friend refused to tell anyone about it; not his parents, not the teachers. This is the way of victimhood self-perpetuating itself.

But my son knew. He knew very well. And he came to my wife and I and asked, "What should I do? My friend doesn't want anyone to know, and won't tell anyone."

So we explained that the teachers wouldn't be able to do anything about it unless they were told, and that sometimes doing something your friend doesn't want is the best thing for them.

Ultimately, the bravest thing my son did about bullies at the school was explain the situation to the Head-master, against his best-friends wishes. The school immediately suspended the bully and put a stop to the crap that was going on.

It doesn't always take violence to solve the matter. Sometimes it just takes communication.
posted by Neale at 7:13 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


A very big sixteen-year-old body-slamming a very little 14-year-old onto concrete does not seem like a remotely appropriate response to the threat being posed

This is such wickedly ignorant bullshit that it brings all the hate, fear and violence of those days right back to me again. Me. Now. At the age of 51.

Oh, that poor, poor very little 14-year old who was PUNCHING AND TERRORISING ANOTHER 14-YEAR OLD FOR THE FUCKING YUKS.

God. GOD. People who try to defend these horrible little shits disgust me almost as much as the horrible little shits themselves. I just have to remember that these defenders of violent little shits don't have One. Fucking. Clue. And then I feel slightly - just very, very slightly - less rabidly furious towards them. But not much. Not much.
posted by Decani at 7:16 PM on March 15, 2011 [12 favorites]


Ok, I'm going to follow the example of others and volunteer some of my experiences. The only reason I'm doing this is to counter the assertion that private schools are a solution to bullying.

A caveat - nothing of what I experienced compares to many other stories here. I am aware of that. But the impact of such experiences are always subjective. The events that breaks one person's heart may, to someone else, seem minor.

So, I moved schools, and continents, when I was sixteen. I didn't want to, but it was a decision my family made for reasons that are not relevant here. So it came to be that I spent my last two years in highschool at a well regarded Sydney private school. At the time, it was single sex, except for the last two years, which were co-ed.

I was outcast from the outset. I was marked as not "one of us" by being one of only three new boys to enter the grade that year, not being sporty (which, as has been noted, is a big thing in Oz), my accent and by the fact that I was one of the few non-caucasian kids in the school (maybe 20 out of 320 kids in the grade). I think that the fact that I had an English accent was a big deal for some reason. Some people (who had never spoken to me) claimed they hated me just for that.

In hindsight, a lot of the isolation I felt was culture shock. Those kids spoke a different language (figuratively), had different in-jokes, customs, secret handshakes - the legacy of an entire highschool career together. I had no hope of breaking in to that in two brief years. And the other kids had no interest in helping me to do so.

The other component was the entrenched uniformity and privilege of my Australian school. My previous school had a lot of expat kids, and we all made an effort to be welcoming - we knew it was hard for them. That courtesy was not extended to newcomers at my Australian school. Quite the opposite. I was different, and so deserved less courtesy then someone transferring in from another Australian school.

Maybe it doesn't sound that bad, but I was lonely and depressed enough to contemplate suicide a couple of times.

There was also physical bullying. Australian guys are freaking huge. I was, and am, a comparatively small person - about 165cm tall. I liked drama and music at a sport obessed school. I was also isolated and depressed. I guess I looked an easy target.

We were required to join a sports team, with two afternoons of practice and matches every weekend. There were a couple of guys on the volleyball team that I was required to play on that would push me around, smack me with balls - the idiot coach didn't notice, and when I tried to tell her about what was happening, she actually didn't understand what I was trying to tell her. So I gave up on that.

I did snap one day, and go for the guy with the blood-rage intent of wrapping my hands around his through and choking him to death. I'm not hyperbolising. I wanted to kill him. He backed away, and tripped backwards over a mat. I stopped myself just before I got my hands around his neck. I hissed LEAVE. ME. ALONE in his face, and walked out to splash cold water on my face. I scared myself with what I felt, and what I wanted to do. I heard him later making fun of that incident. But I don't remember him bothering me so much after that. But I switched sports anyway.

I kind of regret not at least hurting that guy - I wanted revenge and I never got it. But then, I'm extremely glad I didn't get to choke him. Had I started, I wouldn't have been able to stop. Who knows what would have happened then?

I switched to fencing - no weekend matches, and I thought fencing was kind of cool. But the no weekend matches thing meant that it was favoured by some of the meatheads who wanted more time to lift weights during the rugby off-season. These guys were huge, and extremely built. They didn't care about the sport, so they just messed about, and intimidated and pushed around the younger and smaller kids. Once day, during practice, one of them poked me in the groin with a fencing sword as I was sparring with someone else. Without thinking, I turned as slashed him across the back with a rapier. They're not sharp, but they're springy and metal - it probably raised a weal. He fronted up to me (over me) and proclaimed "You would crumple if I punched you". To which I said "Go on then". He stared, and then turned and stalked off.

I wasn't afraid at the time. I think that I assumed that had he punched me in front of witnesses, he was be expelled. Or may I was just relying on his fear that that was what would happen. he may have not cared about school, but I'm sure that his parents did.

Later, he and his friend found my bag, and scattered its contents around. It seemed to me to be the ultimate act of cowardice. I didn't need to be afraid of them.

There is bullying in private schools. A lot of it is the social ostracism variety - rumours and innuendo, mocking, isolation and so forth - it was done to me, and it was done (to a much greater extent) to other bookish, weird, unattractive and shy kids. But there is physical violence too.

You can argue that private schools have reputations to uphold, have more teachers who can pay more attention and that therefore they will be better. But in my experience, the teachers didn't notice, spouted platitudes when the issue was raised, and ultimately did nothing.

Then again, the kids didn't bring shivs to school either. So maybe, by comparison, they are better.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:23 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


"skwirl: No. I was wondering if it was truly possible that so many MeFites were victims and never bullies themselves."

I guess it depends on your definition of bullying. I did and said mean things to other kids. I never considered myself a "bully" as it wasn't ongoing meanness. This isn't to say I didn't pick on the same kid more than once but I never targeted anyone for sustained abuse (this would be grade school). I in turn suffered similar treatment from other kids. Some kids suffered years of taunts and physical abuse at the hands of many different kids. I knew a guy named John (now dead) who was picked on from grade school all the way through high school. I lost track of him after that and I hope his remaining years were better. I've always felt bad for not stepping up on his behalf, especially later in high school. He was a good guy and extremely intelligent but awkward (both physically and socially). I know it's worthless now but sorry John, I should have helped you.
posted by MikeMc at 7:23 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I also don't see how letting kids stand up to bullies is an adult solution.

At 16 the boy is going to be an adult shortly. What's he going to do then? Men suffer violence in general society more often than women, despite the profile of Thursdays in Black and similar initiatives. There won't be teachers to make the a guy who thinks he looks funny walking down the street go away, or when (as happened to me) he's having a quiet burger and shake and a gang of four guys who remember him from school decide to have a go, just for old times' sake.

(Although I can tell you a glass to the face of the ringleader stopped that dead in a way that appealing to the looking-steadfastly-at-his-grill cook for help sure as hell didn't. Or hoping a cop would stop by before I had my brains kicked into the gutter.)

Or my daughter? What's her adult response to a would-be rapist going to be as an adult? Run to a teacher? They won't give a shit when she's a teenager in all liklihood, I'd rather teach her how to use pain compliance before she needs it, thanks.
posted by rodgerd at 7:27 PM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm reminded of a certain Missouri bully that finally got what he deserved...
posted by schyler523 at 7:28 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can not blame this kid for reacting the way he did. I'm sorry he did react that way or felt he had to react that way. He made a choice that was maybe not perfect but he doesn't have perfect information or perfect tools, he used the tools he had. The school should have done something long before it came to this.

I have both been bullied and bullied. I, like all bullies, went after someone further down the social pecking order. Why? Because if I picked on them, the other bullies would pile on and leave me alone. I wasn't proud of it, I did it because I was a coward. Not being a sociopath however my guilt/empathy to the victim was greater than my fear and it stopped soon after it started. I became friends with my victim and of course returned to being a victim myself.

I was assaulted many times by one particular bully in gym class, the locker room and once even while going to the bathroom which resulted in a very embarsing and upsetting situation for me. Even showing up in the office wet and sobbing did not result in anything more than him being told to appologize to me, which of course let to more torment. What finally stopped it was one day I, like the kid in the video, reacted out of rage. I nearly broke his nose and gave him probably a mild concussion from bouncing his head off the bleachers. This happened right in front of the gym teacher who did nothing except say something like "you'll think twice before picking on him again". While I'm glad I wasn't punished under a stupid zero tolerance policy I was angry then as I am now that it had to come to that. The school and the faculty failed both me and my bully by letting it get to that point.

Yes that got him to stop picking on me, but it didn't stop him from being a bully. I don't know what he is up to these days, I do remember him getting kicked out of school several times for fighting and at least once he got busted for bringing a knife to school. I would much rather have not hit him, I would also much rather that he was better socially integrated and maybe had more love and care in his home life. The skinny little 13 year old in gym class didn't have the luxury of worrying about that tho.

The school failed me and him, just like this school failed both of these boys.
posted by MrBobaFett at 7:29 PM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


What does anyone here think of peer mediation?

It would have made a huge difference. It was three girls in my gym class who had been watching the bullies target me every day -- for nearly a year -- who finally decided amongst themselves to try to do something about it. The three walked up to me one day at the beginning of class, while I was trying to dodge the bullies, and got in a protective wedge around me and asked if I wanted to play doubles with them (we were doing badminton). They introduced themselves and were my game partners for the day. They were the ones who ultimately convinced me to go to the principal's office to turn in the bullies, and said they'd come with me.

The principal's mediation between me and the bullies was pretty lame. Something tells me if those girls had done the negotiating we could have gotten to the bottom of what was going on with the girls and why they'd targeted me in the first place.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:36 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


God. GOD. People who try to defend these horrible little shits disgust me almost as much as the horrible little shits themselves. I just have to remember that these defenders of violent little shits don't have One. Fucking. Clue. And then I feel slightly - just very, very slightly - less rabidly furious towards them. But not much. Not much.

In that case, get ready to hate me a whole bunch more. I was violently bullied on a daily basis for three years, and then verbally bullied for four more after that. I actually do know a thing or two about the effects it can have on a person.

And yet, somehow, I am capable of not cheering some kid's leg being broken by someon twice his size. I guess there must be something wrong with me, huh?
posted by Sys Rq at 7:36 PM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Wow, big thread, I got here very late.
MonkeyToes - re 'the rules' and karate class. At my daughters traditional TKD class (I also train there) we don't talk much about bullying, except that if you are being physically attacked you need to get yourself out of danger - and usually this involves disabling your attacker. Aside from the normal TKD curriculum, kids are taught appropriate self-defence for different situations (e.g. defense against someone pushing you around in the schoolyard vs attempted abduction by an adult). I'm pretty happy with this approach.

My daughter will be starting high school next year and should also reach black belt around that time, I'm hoping her enthusiasm continues throughout highschool... bullying is evil but I'm more concerned about high school would-be date rapists when she is a bit older. As a Dad it's nice to know she will be able to physically enforce her right to say 'no' if she ever needs to.

As far as my own experiences as an Australian at school...
As a victim:
I was not an unpopular kid but I was quiet and lacking social confidence, so occasionally some bullies would try to start with me. They normally backed off when I made clear the limits of my tolerance. It helped I was big enough to handle myself. Why is it usually the smaller guys that are bullies? Maybe the bigger guys don't feel such a need to prove themselves? There was one guy (and his mate) who kept hassling me throughout high school. I wasn't physically scared of him - I just dislike confrontation, it makes me anxious - but he must have thought I was. I wondered why he didn't realise that I was physically quite capable of beating him up. One day I had enough, grabbed him and pushed him up against a wall. I pointed out to him quite calmly, that I was able and willing to beat the s#!t out of him, at any time I liked. He backed down and never caused me trouble again.

As a bully:
One day after class a number of students were still in the room, mucking around. A good friend of mine started having a dig at one of the other students, who was short, skinny, and had some unusual personality quirks - basically a typical target for bullying. It started out as normal 'taking the piss' and escalated into something physical. It wasn't that my friend disliked or hated the other kid, he didn't have much to do with him normally at all.

I didn't think much more of it until the next day being called to the principal's office. Even then I didn't know what it was about until the principal raised the subject. And as he questioned me, I felt his disappointment and looked back on my actions with disgust. I had stood by and done nothing, when I could have easily stopped the incident at any time. I had been on the student council previously but was told due to my role in this incident I would not be serving again. I felt so ashamed and wondered why I had not seen the bullying for what it was, at the time. Even years later I still look back on this as the low point of my school years.

"taking the piss":
I would say this is definitely a big part in Australian culture - making fun of someone, trying to get a rise out of them. It's actually a sign that someone is friendly, and comfortable with you.
Normally it is not bullying because it's only really socially acceptable to do this under certain circumstances; e.g. amongst friends. Also Australia is usually very egalitarian, so being able to 'dish it up' means you also have to be 'able to take it'. One-sided verbal abuse, victimisation, continuing when it's clear that the recipient is not comfortable - these are no-nos.
A few years ago I attended a Grand Prix party at a mates house in Melbourne. He was a Cypriot, had lived in Australia for a while. His friend was German and had only just arrived. After a few drinks we started 'taking the piss' of the German guy, in a fairly good natured way (very tame by Australian standards!). But after a little while of this the German started to seem uncomfortable, and I realised that he was not responding in kind - he was beginning to think we might be serious! It was a little reminder for me on cultural differences, I was more careful after that.

Sorry for the very long comment, hopefully someone finds it interesting enough to read through. :)
posted by joz at 7:49 PM on March 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


I was wondering if it was truly possible that so many MeFites were victims and never bullies themselves."

I guess this one of the things that's disappointed me about this thread. For all my victimhood - and I got loads, trust me - the reality; the banal, horrible realilty is that I have no doubt I was hated by others as much as I hated my bullies, for much the same reasons, too.

People remember what's important to them. Ergo, it's very easy to remember the horrid pain of being bullied. The shame, frustration etc.

Remembering the casual insults tossed off, the easy brutality, is not so easy. The emotions and actions that led to it from other kids. The times you watched, or egged on, or snickered, or turned away, and forgot by time you went home. That's a lot harder to remember.

And what is never remembered - what we can't remember is the feelings of other people we interacted with at that time. The very same feelings that a lot of us feel have bent us, warped us. Indeed, adolescence and childhood are the worst time to foster empathy - they are self-obsessed years by necessity.

So forgive me if I'm not so blithe in assuming my adolescent victimhood provides me with an unblemished purity - an inability to engender the feelings I loathed in others. That my memory, for god's sake, is somehow an accurate representation not only of what happened, but how people felt. I've spent a lot more time in consequent years thinking about my feelings in primary and high school, rather than other people's - and it would be a damned lie to say it wasn't the case back then, too.

I know I engendered those feelings in other people. And I'm adult enough - now - to admit it, to be ashamed of it, to understand it, to wonder who else was collateral in my own damaged adolescence, and finally to reach the best and only uneasy detente with the ambiguous, shadowy past that I can. An unknown and unknowable space that in reality probably contains neither the best nor the worst my imagination and scattered memories can fill it with.

Ironically, it was my the more serious abuse/abusive relationship that I think has played a role in coming to this realisation. In that relationship, I was often forced to question my own behaviour, and what I "had done" to warrant such treatment. And there's always something you've "done". Thinking about that, made me realise that the situation - for all its gravity - was casual to the other party, and would remain so to this day, in his mind. It would be fodder for nothing more than the occasional musing - if that - and he would be shocked and offended if I positioned our relationship as one characterised by abuse - as would my parents and many other good people who let it happen.

What was nothing to him has left an indelible brand on my psyche. And I know I did a lot of things that were "nothing" to me in school. I'm not so confident they were nothing to others, however.

So that's why I'm so unwilling to cast the stone at children - at bullies - here. Bullying is a verb, and anyone can do it - its definition can be subjective and internal. It's context-dependent.

The flames of self-righteous anger and extrapolation are not purifying. As adults, with the ability to accept context, empathise with others, exercise our rights and our discretion, we have the responsibility to do that - what we can't as children.

I don't accept only three people in this thread have ever bullied someone. If you say you haven't, have you ever stood by? We try not to remember that stuff, and why would we? Dodging the slings and arrows so adroitly. But of course most - if not all - of us have. We are in a system that encourages and supports those actions.

I'm not bigger than the system, and I think very few people are. That's why it's so important to think of this in a systemic way, rather than some kind of fable or narrative. The tone of some comments here - judgemental, vicious, gleeful - don't seem so different to some of the comments I got as a child. Worse, they're not so different from some I gave.

I'm proud of my ability to get beyond that now, as an adult, most of the time.
posted by smoke at 7:54 PM on March 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


"What does anyone here think of peer mediation? "

I had forgotten all about it. In elementary school, it didn't work; me and Robbie got sent to it, and he said the right words, but it was pretty clearly pro forma. In middle school, we didn't have it that I remember. By the time I got to high school, the kids who fucked with me were neighborhood kids, not school kids. If I kept my head down on the bus, I only got called "fag" and had shit thrown at me about once a week, but the bus was always kind of a free-for-all anyway. It was just too packed, too long and too early for the driver to police all those kids and drive.
posted by klangklangston at 7:55 PM on March 15, 2011


A friend of mine practices Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, an art that teaches you how to subdue someone without harming them physically (unless one chooses to).

Perhaps if kids knew how to defend themselves in a non-violent way they would have the confidence to stand up to the physically abusive type of bullies. Once bullies know they can't hurt you they will leave you alone. The side-benefit is it would allow you to stand up for other kids just as easily.

My friend told me a story about a guy who was planning to get rough with him during a heated softball game, and all he had to do was smile and softly say something along the lines of "I wish you would", which completely took the wind out of the aggressor's sails.
posted by bwg at 8:01 PM on March 15, 2011


I was bullied mercilessly by one particular group of kids in my high school. They harassed me in the halls, prank-called my house at all hours of the night (way before caller ID)... the ringleader and a couple of his friends rode my bus, and would throw shit at me, hit me, shove me, yank my hair, threaten to rape and kill me -- all while the bus driver watched and laughed. No one did a thing to stop it -- my parents went to the school numerous times, asked the police for advice, confronted the bus driver, tried talking to the bullies' parents -- it just got worse until, one day on the bus ride home, I had had it. The bus got to my stop, I stood up from my seat to get off the bu, the ringleader grabbed my hair and yanked me back into the seat, and I turned around and hit him as hard as I could with the book I was reading, right in the mouth. Then I ran. The bullies left me alone after that. I wasn't proud of doing it, but I had no earthly idea what else to do.

(Oh, and the lovely bus driver? Reported ME to the principal and tried to get me suspended from school and permanently kicked off his bus.)
posted by sarcasticah at 8:03 PM on March 15, 2011


I'd be curious to hear/read about societies, schools etc. where bullying doesn't exist.

All of the non-violence crap, although well intentioned, negates the fact that in most instances, standing up for oneself does end the bullying. The school is but a microcosm of society at large, and I would say that everyone offering the victim hollow platitudes about reasoning with the bully etc. = those who tell the working class and/or colonized people to reason with their employer/colonizer (and not fight, and not revolt).

True, sometimes a strike, or a revolt, or a revolution leaves one worse off; but I would argue, that more often than not, direct, targeted retaliation towards injustice is the most effective means of ending, or at least mitigating an intolerable situation. Whether individually, or collectively.
posted by nikoniko at 8:04 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, in addition to being bullied, I was definitely a bully, too. Nothing physical, mind you. (I was always really, really scrawny.) But, yeah, I was a real fucking asshole to a few people.

When you're constantly being reminded that you're on the bottom, you might do some cruel shit just to prove to yourself that you're not.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:12 PM on March 15, 2011


My dad grew up in Australia. He claims he was bullied, but that he stood up for himself. He also claims that he used to help other kids who were bullied. Not sure if it's true, but it's a nice story.

I'm honestly not sure what would happen If i were confronted by people larger than myself (most everyone). I suppose a combination of weakness and craziness should keep most people away
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:13 PM on March 15, 2011


I'm only 25 or 30% of the way through this thread, but I can't stand it any more, I have to say something. My apologies if someone has said it already.

xdvesper: It was back then I think that I was slowly infused with the cold emotion that pretty much knew that power was the only thing that mattered: the strong dominated the weak. It was merely part of the natural order of things, like how kids had to study for tests and the sky was blue.

This perfectly displays the distopian result of the "kid had it coming" attitudes voiced here, and the casual acceptance in human society of violence as a proper response to violence. This thread, with a very few exceptions, makes me weep for doomed humanity and the chances it will never follow up on to use the astounding cerebral power it has been given to teach itself to rise above its lizard-brain roots.

antifuse: If I find out that my kid is BEING a bully? Oh SHIT you know that is going to end right quick.

And how do you envision doing that, exactly? Smack the punk around a bit, teach him a lesson?

I just made an unfair assumption there based on zero evidence, and apologize. But just that tone of voice is exactly the insidious kind of thing I'm talking about. It's just more of the same - even if it's not actual physical violence, it still implies that it's acceptable to throw our parental weight around because we're bigger and can use intimidation and force to impose our will on a child, instead of standing up and being responsible for what we teach our children, using adult brains and insight and socialization and wisdom and love to teach our little brats a better way to live life than eye-for-eye-tooth-for-tooth. And oh yes, I know what shits kids can be. I couldn't stand most of 'em even when I was one. And I'm quite aware of what shits a lot of parents are too, for that matter. But there has to be at LEAST one other answer than "It's a tough world, kid, and the only solution is that you gotta be tougher" (yeah, there's happy life to look forward to). And there must be a way, as a civilization, to start inculcating such an alternative. People who rationalize about the possible (unknown to us) motives and history between these two kids, and say that fighting back is an expedient, or even the only viable, way to "stop" the bullying are missing a fundamental point: THE ADULTS THERE (and everywhere, for example in the world so eloquently described by sonascope 'way upthread) HAVE FAILED THEIR DUTY to (1) prevent or at least discourage this kind of thing from even being a common event in the first place, and (2) teach the children in their charge how to be something *other than* mean violent little sociopaths. Period. I mean, isn't that THE main obligation of being a teacher/parent/authority figure??

I don't want to sound like some hippy-dippy clueless fool who thinks that just "being nice to each other" is a realistic plan, but godDAMN people, I thought Metafilter was maybe above this kind of widespread tolerance and even support of the continued recycling of tit-for-tat abuse! Apparently I was wrong, and even us "smart" "grown-ups" can't advance beyond the joy of violent visceral scenes like the one in the video, even after at least 2 million years of evolution and something like 50-odd thousand years of so-called "civilization". I know I'm being a nanny now (as if anyone's even left reading the thread at this point) but JESUS, y'all ought to be ashamed of yourselves.

So I guess no matter how big our forebrains get we'll forever just be monkeys sitting in the mud and beating each other with sticks until all but one final "victor" (ha) is dead, and I just need to let go of any tattered lingering hopes to the contrary.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:13 PM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Ender's Game was the first thing I thought of. there's that 'Ender is Hitler' essay that always makes the rounds, but i doubt this kid is going to commit genocide.

I don't want to sound like some hippy-dippy clueless fool who thinks that just "being nice to each other" is a realistic plan, but godDAMN people, I thought Metafilter was maybe above this kind of widespread tolerance and even support of the continued recycling of tit-for-tat abuse!

Same here. But what was the bigger kid SUPPOSED to do?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:14 PM on March 15, 2011


This clip of an amazing documentary about schoolkids in japan and their amazing teacher touches on bullying and the tactics the teacher uses to try to nip it in the bud. The bullying bit starts at about 1:35.
posted by schyler523 at 8:37 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


$0up: “Ctl+F: "I was bullied" ... 32 results, minus three dupes: 29 ... Ctl+F: "I was a bully" or "I bullied" ... 1 result each: 2 ... Someone's not owning up. You people aren't that nice.”

True enough, I guess.

Bullies are like hipsters; everybody hates 'em, everybody has a visceral reaction to 'em, everybody wants to whup their asses, and nobody but nobody is ever gonna admit to being one of 'em, even if they know in their heart they are.

Chances are that plenty of the people in here saying that the little bastards should be kicked in the teeth have been bullies themselves at one time or another. But none of us dares accept how easy it is to become a bully; we'd rather sit here, with perfect moral clarity, and cheer for the fact that a kid broke his ankle. It wouldn't be so easy if it was our ankle that was being broken.

mikehipp: “I find it despicable that so many comments seem to condemn the bullied kid for acting out while he protected himself. He acted exactly as I would expect a 10th grader act in the mist of the shame, humiliation, fear and repulsion that he was feeling. The little bullier got...... feel my words.... exactly what he deserved.”

I don't blame any kid who sticks up for her or himself. That's just fine; they're doing what they have to do to get by. But what's striking to me about this thread, and perhaps a bit worrisome, is the total dissociation we all have made from the bullies, and how easy it is for us to act as though bullies themselves are wholly other, wholly separate from us, so much so that we can cheer their injuries without compunction or human compassion. Please note that, whatever else this video shows, breaking an ankle is a serious injury. The bones of the ankle are very complex, and often don't heal correctly, especially considering how much pressure most people put on them when walking. I wouldn't be surprised if this kid was maimed for life because of this fight. Did he "bring it on himself"? Maybe. Did he "get what was coming to him"? The answer to that question says a lot about your attitude toward other people.

Part of the reason I'm active in this thread is because, as I've said, I can remember being both a victim of bullying and a bully. And, as I said above, at the time I still thought I was a victim, fighting back against the people that were picking on me. I was just sticking up for myself, I thought. I remember when a kid I knew (I can't call him a "friend" because, although I hung out with him a lot, I never shared anything worthwhile with him) made a little sarcastic remark about how I wasn't very good at leading the cross country team. I remember punching him full-on across the shoulder and back several times. He just stood there; he was big enough that I don't think it hurt, but I could see in his eyes that he respected me even less, he really hated me in fact, even if he was afraid of me. And that hurt even more than his sarcastic comment.

There are a couple of ways I could have gone with that. Lifelong bullies, I think, are the ones who see that disrespect and snap; they try to beat their way to the place where they don't have to feel the pain any more. I think they're usually ones who were abused as kids, and taught that that's just how you handle those situations. (I wasn't abused, thankfully.) I was lucky: that feeling just made me despair, made me crawl back into myself, and after I left high school and headed to college I never hit anybody again.

All this is to say: I know what the bully mentality is. Like it or not, something is going through the minds of most bullies. It's something like: "if I hit him, if I teach him a lesson, it'll make all this shit I feel, all this pain and anguish, go away. It'll teach him not to make me feel like that ever again." That's what bullies are trying to do; they're trying to force respect, love, dignity, honor, or at least some positive social interaction, out of other people – because they're convinced that no one would ever give it to them willingly.

So, in sum, TL;DR version:

I don't blame any kid for sticking up for himself or herself. Those kids are just doing what they have to do.

But "he got what he deserved" is the mentality of a bully. Believe me; I know.
posted by koeselitz at 8:39 PM on March 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'd be curious to hear/read about societies, schools etc. where bullying doesn't exist.

Before I came to Australia, I went to a school in Hong Kong. It was an international school, run on a UK curriculum. It was about 50% Chinese kids, and 50% expat kids from a variety of countries, but predominantly the UK. We counted once - we had about 79 different nationalities.

Kids came and went all the time. Even at the age of 11 or so, we conciously tried to be accepting and open to the new kids, because we all knew how hard it was to move around and start at new schools. With so many different cultures and nationalities smashed together, you couldn't exclude people on difference, because there weren't enough people who were the same.

There was very little bullying. Almost nothing physical, and very little of the taunting/mocking/ostracism variety. There were the various cliques that you get at any school, but no rivalry or bad feelings between them. Inter-school sports leagues weren't a big deal in Hong Kong, so perhaps jocks didn't get the social status that they do in Australia, but even so, the jocks didn't bully smaller, weaker kids. The school focused a lot on music and drama, and there was no stigma attached to the arts. You could be a jock, and be in the production Fiddler on the Roof (with a crazy interracial cast).

Teachers took bullying seriously, the few times it happened. But generally, there was a culture of acceptance.

That is not to say that it didn't happen at all - it wasn't a mirror world utopia - there was one kid who was the brunt of jokes the entire time he was at that school - the whole seven years. He came in half-way through the first year, which must have been hard for him. But when we tried to be nice, he went out of his way to be an insulting, annoying twerp in response. After a couple of weeks, we gave up, and he cemented himself in the role of annoying jackass. And he stayed that way.

I feel sorry for him, now. I never found out why he was being such a jerk. We did try, and then after a while, we didn't care because we disliked him so.

He mercilessly mocked and teased the few other kids who were shy enough to take it. I slammed him up against a wall for it, once. I don't feel bad about that, although I do feel bad for him. I suspect he had a mild, undiagnosed behavioural disorder, or had experienced some pretty bad bullying at his previous school, and was just trying to fit in, however badly.

He's a doctor now. Good for him. He even has fond memories of his time at that school - I understand he blossomed somewhat in the later years.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:47 PM on March 15, 2011


But what's striking to me about this thread, and perhaps a bit worrisome, is the total dissociation we all have made from the bullies, and how easy it is for us to act as though bullies themselves are wholly other, wholly separate from us, so much so that we can cheer their injuries without compunction or human compassion.

I should make it clear -- I never watched the video. I had no interest in it.

I only commented because I am sick unto the back teeth of people asking me, after the fact, to "show compassion" to the bullies -- when NONE was ever shown to me for being bullIED.

I didn't fight back. I tried really hard to just ignore it or tell the principal or talk to them, the way I was supposed to, but it never worked, and the only conclusion I could come to is that maybe I just deserved to be treated that way. No one, no one, ever suggested otherwise to me.

Bullies don't deserve to be thought of as inhuman. But I also didn't deserve to consider myself to be inhuman. Acknowledge that each and every time you ask me to show compassion to a bully, and I will.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:48 PM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


FWIW, I think Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is by far the best martial art in this regard. I've done Tae Kwon Do and Krav Maga for years, and they pale in comparison when it comes to teaching students, almost as an accidental side-effect, how to lose their ego. I'm very curious if there are other martial arts, sports, or any activities out there that even come close.
Anyhow, that's my quick take on it. Curious what other people think!


Judo, of course.

There's a BJJ instructor who wrote that fear and anger are two ends of the same stick. In that sense, I don't believe that violence is the answer; in our culture, anger is the more 'socially appropriate' response in a male, but going crazy angry is still a reflection of fear.

Personally, for me, being bullied drove me to pick up martial arts. Eventually, somebody in Kung Fu told me that I wouldn't last a single Judo practice, so I decided to pick it up to prove them wrong. I don't totally condemn violence because Judo changed my life. It brought me role models, instructors who were kind and helpful. It brought me friends who were generous and supportive. It made me get in better shape. (Do you know how strange it was the first time I was in better shape than somebody else?) It inspired me to lose a bunch of weight (so I wouldn't have to fight the superheavyweights), which is something people had been picking on my entire life.

At some point, a few years in, I wasn't doing Judo because of fear or being bullied anymore. I was doing it because it was fun. Nobody who meets me these days believes I was ever bullied. So I don't want to say that violence isn't the answer, because in a way, it was my answer, but in an indirect way. I didn't punch anybody in the nose or anything. But learning about violence and being familiar with it gave me a sense of self that allows me to be more or less unaffected by it.

Sometimes I look back at my life and I realize how extremely lucky I was that I stumbled into Judo -- I could just have easily gone in a different direction, towards one of those martial arts which don't really spar and stress that the world is dangerous and that you need to be afraid. And if I'd done that, I'd be a very different person today. People have tried to give me money to do seminars, and I've always given the money back: the way I see it, I owe Judo that much.
posted by Comrade_robot at 8:58 PM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


People relentlessly bullied as children never forget that bullying. They remember faces, names, places, and the precise actions. And that makes them angry for a good long while, possibly forever.

I was bullied in middle and high school -- I was a complete fucking weirdo (as I remain), and there was no avoiding it. I got rid of some of my bullies by fighting back; but not all of them. One of the kids who bullied me most relentlessly hanged himself in his dorm room during his freshman year in college; so, yeah, he had serious problems that had nothing to do with me. Nevertheless, it took me twenty years to feel bad about what happened to him.

I think we're confusing two entirely different questions here. The best theoretical long-term solution to the abstract concept of bullying has absolutely no relevance to a kid who's being bullied right here, right now. That's why those of us who were bullied as children are cheering this kid on: not because we think this was the best possible outcome, but because he said "Enough. This far, and no further." I'm glad there are social scientists coming up with ways to resolve the issue; but until they do, I'm on Casey's side.
posted by steambadger at 9:21 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: “I only commented because I am sick unto the back teeth of people asking me, after the fact, to "show compassion" to the bullies -- when NONE was ever shown to me for being bullIED.”

Seriously, don't feel compassion for bullies if you don't want to. I don't remember asking you to before now, and even in this instance it was really specific to this case. Even in this case, compassion is not required. I'm sorry that people told you over and over again that you had to be compassionate toward bullies. That sounds like an odd and very unfair thing to tell a child, frankly.

I'm also sorry that I was so unable to express myself earlier in this thread; it's clear that that led to a lot of misunderstanding. I don't think my words have really crystallized until my last comment; I probably should have waited to say anything until now. I must have seemed just like all those people who told you that you had to feel "compassion" for people that were bullying you.

Most of all, I'm sorry you were bullied. It sucks. I have been bullied, but I have also been the bully. While I know that doesn't make me guilty of the bullying you suffered, I feel some guilt, in a sense, for everyone who's had to suffer through that; I know I've been a part of that problem, as much as it pains me to admit it. It's really a tragic thing, bullying – something terrible and horrific. It's something to be avoided at all costs.
posted by koeselitz at 9:24 PM on March 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


Koeselitz, while I disagree with you on some things, you've done a really great job of defending and clarifying your position without defensiveness or sniping.
posted by dejah420 at 9:29 PM on March 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


Koeselitz, while I disagree with you on some things, you've done a really great job of defending and clarifying your position without defensiveness or sniping.

Seconded. You're wrong, I think, Koeslitz -- but you've maintained a difficult position with grace and equanimity. Thanks for that.
posted by steambadger at 9:34 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I'm also impressed; this is obviously very personal for a lot of people posting, yet we've been able to disagree very strongly without crossing any lines or needing a moderator to reset the tone. Thanks.
posted by en forme de poire at 9:41 PM on March 15, 2011


He deserves some anonymity, and not this gleeful ragefest.

If he had been worried about anonymity, he should have probably given a little more thought as to whether filming the attempted humiliation was a good idea.

But "he got what he deserved" is the mentality of a bully. Believe me; I know.

Believe me, you're projecting.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:46 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I will share with you here a story I have never told anywhere.

I was bullied a lot in junior high. Quite a lot. The last time I was bullied, after weeks of daily torment, I finally snapped and went after my tormentor.

The basic rule I understood was: the one who hits the ground first loses. So I body-checked him into a wall and threw him to the ground. I had one knee in his chest and my hands on his face.

Up to this point, he was laughing at me. Laughing! Oh, sure! What can the fat kid do?

He stopped laughing when my thumbs reached his eyes. And pressed!

As a young teenager, I had a moment when I wanted nothing so much as to gouge out the eyes of my tormentor. And I would gladly, gratefully blinded him.

When he finally realized I deadly serious, he fought me. He struggled and finally threw me off him.

He got to his feet and ran away. "You're crazy!" he shouted. And I delighted, as he ran away, that he had plainly lost control of his bladder and his bowels.

For a little while, in my childhood, I was a crazy as any axe murderer. I'm glad, in an abstract way, that I did not blind that young man. Yet, even now, decades later, I can't find any guilt in me, or sympathy for my victim.
posted by SPrintF at 9:55 PM on March 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


I only commented because I am sick unto the back teeth of people asking me, after the fact, to "show compassion" to the bullies -- when NONE was ever shown to me for being bullIED.

I didn't fight back. I tried really hard to just ignore it or tell the principal or talk to them, the way I was supposed to, but it never worked, and the only conclusion I could come to is that maybe I just deserved to be treated that way. No one, no one, ever suggested otherwise to me.

Bullies don't deserve to be thought of as inhuman. But I also didn't deserve to consider myself to be inhuman. Acknowledge that each and every time you ask me to show compassion to a bully, and I will.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:48 PM on March 15 [+] [!]


This is a really honest and reasonable request I think, and one that, expressed and honored early in, could really improve the noise level in a conversation like this. I regret coming into it with a basically judgmental attitude about accepting violence as a solution.

EmpressCallipygos, you deserved compassion and support and people at your back when you were being bullied and I hate that it wasn't there for you, and I want that problem solved more than anything for other kids. You (and everyone who was bullied) deserve compassion now and for whatever it is worth I have it. I wish when it had happened to me (and I don't compare myself to anyone else, and God knows there are plenty of people just in this thread who suffered so much worse than me that I can't really even comment on it - but truly, some fairly evil and degrading shit was done to me in my day) I'd seen some other way than to take it, and fight back in whatever way I could manage. Bringing adults into it honestly never occurred to me and I think there's a lot of astute and meaningful questions to be asked about why that was.

I suppose I deeply want to believe that there are chances for successful systemic intervention in the cultures of schools (in particular) and that biases my objectivity about looking at what is being attempted. I have a very young kid in the inner city public school system and so obviously it means everything to me. Compassion and support for the bullied is obviously the starting point of any reasonable approach to the hopeful idea that bullying can be reduced here in the real world that my kid is a part of through no fault of his own. While contentious threads like this really expand my views on bullying and I'm grateful this conversation is here, warts and all.
posted by nanojath at 9:57 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


In my life aggressors have usually stopped once I explain to them that they may beat me or even kill me but someone is losing a body part before it is over, and it damn sure won't be me.
Once you make it clear that the behavior will stop our by god you intend to wear the other guys entrails as a hat people get reluctant to dance.
Some times you just have to out crazy the bastards.

From the look of his shoulders as he left, I am sorry but Casey did not learn that from his unfortunate afternoon.
posted by The Violet Cypher at 10:10 PM on March 15, 2011


Lovecraft in Brooklyn, my point was not what the bigger kid was "supposed" to do. He did what he did given the situation he found himself in, and without knowing more about what went before I don't have much to say about it.

Rather, my point was that he, and for that matter the smaller kid as well, was in an untenable but unfortunately common situation that shouldn't exist in the first place if adults in positions of authority, culpable for the children's education and wellbeing, were doing a better job. I know that's a practical impossibility in the "real world" as it currently exists, and that knowledge is why I'm so depressed about the human race. But I'm also disappointed by the bulk of the attitudes and comments here, a Metafilter thread, from a group of people who I'd hoped would be a bit more mature than the general populace. Before I started reading I was hoping that the discussion would center around how to go about effecting a change in the world...but instead I read many many posts justifying or at least rationalizing vengeful violence.

To repeat: I know that this isn't a perfect world and that logic and mature sensibility aren't going to do squat against any given threatening bully. But why aren't we directing our obvious group intelligence toward finding a different, compelling way to raise our kids so that there are fewer bully/victim situations? Toward figuring out a human society that's not built on pecking orders and pissing contests? Gotta start somewhere.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:11 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


SPrintF, right there with you, buddy.
posted by steambadger at 10:20 PM on March 15, 2011


I worked for as a temp replacement for a few months at an elementary school with a population of kids with tremendous needs. The kids generally feared the weekends, and were pretty well behaved on Mondays. As the week went by, there would be more and more incidents. The staff was tremendously dedicated to trying to improve things, which largely meant not letting things get worse. There were early morning case meetings and late afternoons doing sports. It was exhausting, and I don't think I could have cut it there for the years that some staff did.

Our general policy when there was violence between kids was indeed to ask each kid what happened, and to indicate to each kid that participated that the error occurred when blows were dealt (rather than going to a staff member). For younger kids, the exchanges that we could spot tended to be disputes between rough equals.

We tried remediation, I recall an effort between a couple of 12 or 13 year old girls, one who was more the bully. I remember it not going terribly well, the most constructive offering from her was something like: "well I know you can't help being a slut, so maybe I should just not let myself get bothered by that". This really was her trying. It would have taken a lot of intensive intervention for this girl to start to take responsibility for her actions. Years. And there were hundreds of kids in this school, many of whom had similar, or even more serious problems.

My point being that: this was the most dedicated group of professionals I had the privelege of working with, and I had worked at most of the schools in the district. This place attracted those kind of people. The other schools, for all their virtues, did not handle bullying as well. But this tremendous effort was a mere dollop of sanity in the basin of need that the school represented.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 10:31 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


malibustacey9999: He's not a violent kid, it's the first time he's lashed out and I don't want him to be victimised over that. He's always been taught never to hit. Apparently other people's parents don't teach their kids that.

You know, that's a key point here. We're surmising in this thread that a lot of the kids doing the bullying are not being well-parented: they're being abused or ignored or neglected or otherwise setup to display bullying behaviour in schools. Since the parents are a wash, we're then looking at the schools to teach kids to behave respectfully, to stick up for one another, and to not use might to set things right.

And I swear to God, I find that hilarious. We are talking about institutions that cannot even teach children to read. What on earth makes anyone think they are going to be successful at overcoming catastrophic home environments and indoctrinating children positive social behaviour?
posted by DarlingBri at 11:46 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Damn. This is probably the most harrowing MeFi thread I've ever participated in...a single nexus point through which a couple hundred realities have flowed.

I actually want to hug every single person on this thread, whether they posted or not (and I know not all of you did). And the moderators too, who watched but did not interfere. Thanks.
posted by effugas at 11:46 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Throughout this entire thread, my own personal experiences of bullying have matched up the most with klangklangston's, in that the most significant quality I can find in the bullying I got was randomness*. I went to a lot of different schools which had not much in common except that I wasn't popular at any of them, and there were varying degrees of bullying, and its attendant physical violence, at each school. For the most part I didn't fight back, even when called out, and for the most part I eventually managed to bore my antagonists away, so I count those as points for non-violence. Once or twice I hit people back; in one case a guy who sat directly behind me stopped hitting me in the back of the shoulder when I turned around and punched him in the face (really, not hard enough to do more than startle him), and in another case I ineffectually tried to beat up a fellow who far outmatched me in strength and fighting technique and was publicly humiliated and beat up pretty thoroughly, so on the "stand up for yourself" front I've found efficacy to be limited at best - 50%.

In each of those two cases, the bullying from those particular people ceased after the point was made, but does that mean that the bullying stopped as a result of a public fray? I feel like that was the narrative I had when I was younger, but really these days I chalk it up more to the fickle moods of crowds of amoral children than anything else. I think the thing that's easiest for me to forget about nowadays is the complete lack of agency I felt as a kid. Other kids would beat me up or not, and whether I fought back or not didn't seem all that relevant to whether they would pick on me again or not.

But to be honest the whole story "I was picked on, then I got the snot beat out of me / beat the snot out of some other kid, then everything was A-OK again" feels to me like it has the easy resolution of an afterschool special, or more to the point a boxing movie, rather than something that has actually happened to me - to go back to the Slate article that magstheaxe linked upthread, "It would be nice if life worked this way—that is, if it were like a movie starring Harrison Ford as your child—but it usually doesn't."

And this is all just me, I'm not trying to negate the feelings of other mefites who by their own accounts here had moments of real catharsis and self-transformation that hinged on moments of violence inflicted by themselves on people who had previously inflicted violence on them, but I just can't see a way to draw a general conclusion that seems useful at a societal level from a bunch of testaments to the "wonderful transformative agency of the punch in the mouth," as nanojath had it.

The most striking thing to me about many of the testaments in this thread has been the striking contrast between the visceral, and moving, recollections of bullying victims about the pain that was inflicted upon them, and the relative indifference that is displayed towards the pain of the bullies themselves once retribution has been meted out. Surely it does not take Gandhi, whatever his perceived flaws, to recognize that violence becomes possible only once we forget that the person on whom it is committed has the same feelings that we do?

*(sorry if you feel this misrepresents your experience, klang)
posted by whir at 11:53 PM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's taken a while to catch up with this thread, what with sleep and work getting in the way. I woke up tense, which is probably my fault for reading the thread before going to sleep. It does show that the scars from bullying do last even though you may forget them.

One thing I want to add is that although they left me alone after I retaliated, I was left angry and quick to fly off the handle by the experience. It probably took another couple of years through 6th Form for me to recognize that and just calm the hell down. I realized that if I continued down that path, then I wouldn't like who I would turn out to be. So I can sympathize with those that make the point that you can both be the victim and the bully.

I tried all I could at the time to get them to stop bullying me, but nothing seemed to work. As EC said, it's the last resort to lash back out, and one I wish the scrawny little kid I was at the time didn't have to take. I ended up being vindicated, but burst into tears once I got home safely (still better than bursting into tears from taking yet another kicking).

This thread has been harrowing reading, but I remain impressed that we could argue both sides without it degenerating.

Hugs to everyone.
posted by arcticseal at 12:37 AM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's the Louis C.K Bully episode on Fancast, if you can't see Hulu. I think you need a Fancast account, though. I can't find it streaming elsewhere. If anyone else can locate a copy of the episode that can be watched outside the U.S. and without registering, please post.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 12:59 AM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


To those who are expressing disappointment in ... um, something? ... lack of empathy? on the part of those who were bullied toward bully children — well this seems obvious, but people are capable of nuance and holding conflicting beliefs and emotions. I'm pretty sure almost all the people who have posted here can be adult and wise and caring about the small bully, imagining that he might have a difficult or abusive home life, imagining that he may have been bullied himself before getting in with a gang, imagining whatever damage it is that compels him to torment someone else. And I'm pretty sure almost all the people who have posted here believe that violence is bad, that children should not have to suffer abuse, that they should not have fight to try to make it stop, and that anything that can curb bullying is a valuable effort.

But they can at the same time feel glad if they were able to do something to stop the abuse against themselves, and they can feel a great deal of unextinguished anger regarding their experiences. It's perfectly natural. If people speak from that part that was terrorized and abused and will never quite heal entirely, it doesn't mean that they do not or cannot also see the bigger picture and feel real concern for the bully as well as the bullied — from the older, wiser, less visceral part of themselves, the part that identifies more as a parent or caretaker than as a child.

I almost feel like we are reading different threads, because I'm not seeing oh, yay — broken ankle WOO! in the personal stories that people are sharing, but descriptions of how they felt as a child who was tormented and terrorized. It's okay to give voice to that child without being able to offer a definitive societal remedy as an adult. It doesn't mean that the adult doesn't devoutly wish for such a remedy.

I don't really understand the wish to paint former victims as part of the problem. If a child was abused by his/her parents, I think almost everyone would understand if they still had anger about that as an adult, without expecting them to somehow solve the larger issue of family abuse.
posted by taz at 1:35 AM on March 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


It pains me say it now, but I'm someone who was bullied and probably is remembered as a bully by others. I wasn't a physical bully but I'm sure that I did things that I faintly remember but which are scars to others. Likewise, some of the mild bullying I got was pretty trivial, yet I remember it vividly to this day and it caused months of anguish to me. It probably also led to me making friends with rough crowds for protection, with people who were bullying others. I stood up on occasion to defuse situations or deflect bullying from what I felt were innocent targets, but let other cases go with whatever warped notions of right, wrong, and self-preservation I had at the time.

What finally worked for me to break the cycle was stepping outside the bounds of physical confrontation. I built a small flamethrower at home, brought it to school, demonstrated it with wild eyes for a reasonable size crowd as a strategic deterrent, and luckily it didn't blow up in my face. I never brought it back or tried it again, but rumors worked well enough that I never got messed with. Bringing a knife to school would have been useless since they were common, but a duct tape flamethrower was something out of the movies, no matter how impractical it would have been to actually use. I'm just lucky that this was all pre-Columbine, or I probably would have been arrested the next day.
posted by benzenedream at 2:23 AM on March 16, 2011


eponysterical.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:30 AM on March 16, 2011


I was bullied most of my childhood. I came from an abusive home with a father who hit me and my sister and a mother unable to stop it. Apparently that amounted to a sign on my head that said "bully me". I tried to fight back nut I was a small girl and I couldn't do much. The sad part is, many of my bullies wore the bruises of their own abusive homes.
One bully was a neighbor that my parents insisted I play with even though she would regularly hit or scratch me. Her family was fucked up too and my mom though spending time with her would make it beteer (while ignoring our own problems.) So when that girl commited suicide as an adult, my mother could mot comprehend why I didn't feel bad. I should have, she had a shitty upbringing that made her do what she did. But I couldn't, even as an adult, that nerve was too raw.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 3:00 AM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


My kids attended a Friends' school from elementary thru 12th grade. Bullying, even teasing, was absolutely not acceptable. Any instance of it, when made known to faculty or parents, turned into a major inquiry into "Who did what to whom? This has got to stop!". Seemed mostly to be a respectful and live-and-let-live environment, from what I could see as a parent.
posted by JimDe at 3:24 AM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think this attitude is illuminating, though: if your own experience growing up involved playing the roles of both victim and aggressor, it might be particularly hard to believe that other people are routinely victimized in such a one-sided way (as it seems like this kid was). This could explain a lot of non-intervention on the part of teachers, administrators, and parents.

I've long held this view. Parents and most teachers are not outliers. A parent is, by definition, someone who negotiated their social life well enough to find a mate; most teachers are parents. Outcasts and the most egregiously bullied are outliers. Many of us "bloom late," finding mates and paths of our own, but in my own case it was only the Internet that gave me refuge. I tried to talk to teachers; it didn't work, because they saw me as the troublemaker for not wanting to participate in what they saw as "harmless fun" because their own bullies were trivial and they bullied people themselves. (Yes, almost all people do. Only a few of us don't.)

Violence offered a solution where it was necessary for me to deal with a problem myself because, socially, I didn't exist. Instinctively, adults view any outcast (like myself or the many bullied people upthread) as an outcast, even if that status comes from sociopathic little shits who provide no value to the world. Violence didn't end my bullying, but it ended the physical aspect of my bullying, which was by far the worst. Calling me names? Ignoring me? Refusing to sit next to me? I can take all of that. It's doable. The threat of constant physical abuse is not.

In addition, I want to emphasize that bullies are fundamentally targeting other people with unstable home lives. I was not abused, but my home life was not good, either. We were poor, and my mom was effectively a single mom. This is why the idea that bullies are generally people with bad home lives is so disgusting to me: fuck them. The real targets of bullies always have a point of vulnerability, or they would just be normal, non-outlier people who have some bullies and some people they bully.

The Internet was my final refuge. I found a community of people there who were similar in temperament and age to me, and from 13 to 18 they were my friends. I had people who called me "friends" in the "real world," of course, but those people had so little in common with me that they offered me no potential for self-actualization. I credit the Internet – and those friends – for allowing me to grow beyond the shit I suffered to become a normal, functioning, happy adult.
posted by sonic meat machine at 4:24 AM on March 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


In addition, I want to emphasize that bullies are fundamentally targeting other people with unstable home lives.

Quoted for astounding truth.
posted by unSane at 5:32 AM on March 16, 2011


As a kid, I was about as weird as many of you; not terribly athletic, quiet, read a lot, liked computers and role-playing games, a bit socially awkward and probably dressed funny. I was never bullied, though, but I don't know why today. If my recollections are correct, I should have been prime bullying material. The worst I had to contend with was that apparently none of the girls considered me boyfriend-material. So my explenation is that either a) I was not all that weird anyway, or b) the schools and the environment in my home town was not condusive to bullying. There but for the grace etc, I guess.

I want to thank you all for sharing your stories and ideas here. I've got kids now myself, and I'm terrified that any of them should end up as bully or victim. I'll try my best to bring them up to be emphatic, responsible persons, I guess. There's no "magic bullet" solution here a parent can bring to bear.
posted by Harald74 at 5:44 AM on March 16, 2011


I don't really understand the wish to paint former victims as part of the problem. If a child was abused by his/her parents, I think almost everyone would understand if they still had anger about that as an adult, without expecting them to somehow solve the larger issue of family abuse.

I fully agree with your whole comment, taz. It may be that at the root of the problem is a simple refusal to acknowledge the level of anguish and sustained anger that repeated bullying can engender in someone. For example, I would find it hard to believe that the same people so quick to tut-tut the 'bullying' and 'glorification of violence' that they oddly see in this thread would be as eager to wade into a thread containing numerous personal stories of people who had been victims of racism on a repeated basis during their childhood and opine that their anger is somehow shamefully inappropriate. Or argue insistently and repeatedly that there is a racist in all of us, or bemoan the unfortunate reliance on the lizard brain by those who are as-of-yet-unenlightened.

This is probably because so many people had to express their anger and frustration for so long that it finally stigmatized into silence these sorts of foolish equivocators. It is sad to realize that there is no such stigma for determinedly attempting to demonize some of the more enthusiastic expressions of support for a victim finally overthrowing a malevolent and insistently hostile attacker. There is such a thing as tact.

I firmly believe that it is attitudes like the ones expressed in this thread (all violence is wrong, anger on behalf of a victim is wrong and should be attacked, it is ok to condescendingly blur key differences between (a) repeated physical violence targeting a child as an outcast and (b) words on a screen) that are the central ingredient in perpetuating the problem. I know I encountered any number of adults when I was a kid who were scared to death of ever making a moral judgment, of figuring out who punched first, who ganged up with others first, who made a film of the attack, and so on. These adults didn't think of themselves as cowards. They thought of themselves as even-handed, fair, on the one hand this and on the other hand that.

The courage to make these moral decisions is what separates adults who can help from adults who may be bitterly remembered by the children they abandoned as smiling helpful maintainers of the horrific status quo. If more adults displayed this courage, and did not abandon their moral obligations and responsibilities, children would not as often be cornered like an animal and finally lash out, only to be rewarded with expressions of dismay from these same adults that their response was inappropriate or insufficiently measured.
posted by sommerfeld at 6:12 AM on March 16, 2011 [10 favorites]


I want to emphasize that bullies are fundamentally targeting other people with unstable home lives.

Not in my case. About the worst thing I can accuse my family of is a sort of "benign neglect," with parents who didn't quite get that there's a difference between "the advice you got from parenting books" and "what your specific child needs". They tried, but...we just both had really different scripts, and they didn't get that.

Ironically, the place where they fell down hardest is in "how to help your child cope with bullies." They were telling me that bullies "just want to see you upset, so don't let them see you get upset." They didn't get that what I really needed to hear was "but it's still not fair for them to be doing this, and you don't deserve them to do this to you." So I ended up processing that as "there's nothing you can do about actually being targeted. Just don't let on that it's happening."...Yeah. You know what that did to me.

Look, we can go over the whys and the wherefores of who bullies target and why they bully people, and whether a child should fight back or not and how they should fight back, but the fundamental thing I hope people can take away from this is that if a kid snaps and fights back against bullies, that's a sign that the bullying had gone on much, much too far, and someone should have taken it seriously much, much sooner.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:24 AM on March 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


I was never really bullied as a kid, being like this kid a rather large person. I enjoyed wrestling with friends and when people saw me picking up other people and throwing them around people left me well enough alone.

Once, while drunk, at a place where not many people knew me I was sitting on the porch with my brother. We were just sitting there shooting the shit having a fun time at a party at a university. Someone thought that my brother was hitting on their girlfriend and got him in a headlock. I went into super big brother mode and threw that guy off the porch upside down into a parked car. He was not hurt that badly, but I was trembling with rage and was honestly very scared with myself and what I could have done to this kid. So far that is the one and only time I have ever responded with violence. I strive to never ever start a fight, but always finish one and I applaud this kid for doing what he did.
posted by koolkat at 6:27 AM on March 16, 2011


me: “But "he got what he deserved" is the mentality of a bully. Believe me; I know.”

Alvy Ampersand: “Believe me, you're projecting.”

Can you explain what you mean here?
posted by koeselitz at 7:23 AM on March 16, 2011


koeselitz,
"I think the thing that's easiest for me to forget about nowadays is the complete lack of agency I felt as a kid. Other kids would beat me up or not, and whether I fought back or not didn't seem all that relevant to whether they would pick on me again or not."
Agency matters. The bullied aren't picking the fights, choosing the battlegrounds, setting the terms, deciding the stakes. The chooser is operating in a different mental reality than the chosen.

There's some pretty strong offense taken to the concept that the chooser's "he got what he deserved" (punches to the face) is somehow equal to the chosen's "he got what he deserved" (body slam). What Casey deserved was being left alone. He did not get that. There was one party who chose to deny him peace, and for that, he "got what he deserved".

There's some bonus offense from equivocation -- well, a fight's a fight. People are still bitter, twenty years later, about being asked by mealy mouthed adults what they did to bring this upon themselves.
posted by effugas at 7:43 AM on March 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


Whir: The most striking thing to me about many of the testaments in this thread has been the striking contrast between the visceral, and moving, recollections of bullying victims about the pain that was inflicted upon them, and the relative indifference that is displayed towards the pain of the bullies themselves once retribution has been meted out.

Most of the "pain" meted out to bullies in this thread is minor compared to what preceded it, and was performed in self-defense. These aren't stories about killing a man, and the years spent replaying his death in your mind, etc., but typically stories involving a punch or a pummel. Why should someone acting in legitimate self-defense be particularly concerned with the pain inflicted to stop someone from inflicting violence and pain upon them? And, even if they were, why would you expect that their acknowledgment of the bullies' pain to be as vivid, moving, and visceral as the recollection of the teller's own pain at being bullied and the relief he/she experienced when the bullying stopped?

An adult, with distance from the incident, can ponder the great circle of injustice that creates bullies, and can, with distance, muse that the bully (as shown in that great Louis CK video) has a terrible home life, or what have you. They probably did. I feel sorry for them. But I don't feel one iota of shame or regret for inflicting "pain" by punching some guy in the face when I was in junior high, because I was protecting my self and my sanity, and I remain not the least concerned about transitory or minor pain* felt by the bullies themselves once "retribution" (or, more neutrally, "self defense") has been "meted" (or more neutrally, any word at all) out.

Also, Greg Ace: People who ... say that fighting back is an expedient, or even the only viable, way to "stop" the bullying are missing a fundamental point: THE ADULTS THERE (and everywhere, for example in the world so eloquently described by sonascope 'way upthread) HAVE FAILED THEIR DUTY to (1) prevent or at least discourage this kind of thing from even being a common event in the first place, and (2) teach the children in their charge how to be something *other than* mean violent little sociopaths. Period. I mean, isn't that THE main obligation of being a teacher/parent/authority figure??

Absolutely agreed, and I don't think anyone in this thread, bully, bullied, or neutral would disagree. The adults have failed the kids, the schools have failed the kids, and violence is a terrible way to resolve disputes.
posted by seventyfour at 8:14 AM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


"For example, I would find it hard to believe that the same people so quick to tut-tut the 'bullying' and 'glorification of violence' that they oddly see in this thread would be as eager to wade into a thread containing numerous personal stories of people who had been victims of racism on a repeated basis during their childhood and opine that their anger is somehow shamefully inappropriate."

I don't think that you're understanding what the criticism is about — it's about saying things like that the only way to stop a bully is to fight back. The analogy to racism (though stereotypical racism, with its uneven power dynamic, could be explained as bullying) falls down if you think that the best solution to racism is to punch a racist in the face.

In which case, you're a SHARP.
posted by klangklangston at 8:18 AM on March 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


violence is a terrible way to resolve disputes

A minor point here, but an argument or a disagreement or a misunderstanding is a dispute. Bullying is none of those things. Bullying is an assault.
posted by Maaik at 8:21 AM on March 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


So Metafilter is where all the kids who got bullied hang out. Where do the bullies hang out? Free Republic?
posted by seventyfour at 8:23 AM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


k:“But "he got what he deserved" is the mentality of a bully. Believe me; I know.”

me: “Believe me, you're projecting.”

k: Can you explain what you mean here?


Considering your extensive and thoughtful participation in this conversation, you honestly deserved a better response than the one I gave. While I think I get where you're coming from and think you've made some good points and valid observations, I'm just bothered by what I feel are pretty sweeping generalizations on your part in this thread.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:33 AM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't think that you're understanding what the criticism is about — it's about saying things like that the only way to stop a bully is to fight back.

I have heard anti-violence people in this thread make monolithic statements such as all violence is always morally indistinguishable from other violence, that self defense makes you ethically the same as a bully, that violence never ever ever resolves a problematic situation.

I don't recall any of the people sharing their stories about how they reacted to bullies with violent acts doing the same for their perspective. What I remember them saying has been couched as "this is what worked for me. A physical reaction to physical violence should not be taken off the table. It's always an option of last resort, and sometimes it works when the system has failed. I wish someone had told me that when I was being bullied." Perhaps I've failed as a reader, but I really don't think so.

These arguments couched in absolute terms that have been made against any and all acts of self defense have distorted the rhetorical landscape in this thread. For christ's sake, is it so hard to use hedge words when making grandiose pronouncements about other people's experiences and philosophies? To leave space for exceptions and alternate narratives? Because I get your point that any use of violence is problematic, but the way some people have tried to make that point is disrespectful and reductive.
posted by jsturgill at 8:39 AM on March 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


Seriously, don't feel compassion for bullies if you don't want to. I don't remember asking you to before now, and even in this instance it was really specific to this case. Even in this case, compassion is not required. I'm sorry that people told you over and over again that you had to be compassionate toward bullies. That sounds like an odd and very unfair thing to tell a child, frankly.

What I mean when I talk about "showing compassion towards a bully" is the observation that "oh, maybe they're just jealous of you" or "maybe they have trouble at home" or whatever. Which is true. I understand this. I did even then. But all that everyone's platitudes that "oh maybe the bully is just picking on you because she's got a bad home life" did to me was make me feel like I was weak for letting it get to me.

Everyone seemed to be worried about the bully's feelings -- but it seemed like no one was worried about my feelings, otherwise why would they be trying to make excuses for the bullies? Wow, maybe there really was something wrong with me after all for taking it so personally, why can't I just shake off getting gum thrown in my hair and getting tripped on the stairs and...wow, I must really have a problem if I can't just suck this up. But it doesn't seem like I can do anything about it -- no one seems to be asking about my feelings, so maybe I should just learn to try to deal with it. Especially since the only advice I get is to try to pretend it's not bothering me. Damn, I suck for feeling hurt like this.

That was my inner monologue for about five years, and it's bullshit, frankly. Yes, the bully may have emotional problems. But it is not the responsibility of the bullied to shoulder those problems. When you ask a victim to be understanding of the bully's feelings, acknowledge the victim's feelings as well -- acknowledge that no, it ISN'T fair for the bully to be saying or doing those things, and no, it ISN'T true what they're saying or doing about you, and yes, it IS hurtful and mean. Like when a rabid dog bites; the dog may not be able to "help it" that they're biting and snapping at people, but you don't just say "don't worry, Fido couldn't help it" and send the bleeding victim back out to play. You may explain that Fido couldn't help it, but you ALSO perform the first aid of "you DID still get bit, though, so let's get you an antibiotic and a band-aid."

As an adult I understand how a troubled home life can make some people lash out. But I also remember what it felt like to be a kid that didn't understand why HER troubled home life somehow meant I deserved to be called worthless, and I also remember feeling like I was the only one that was even asking that question.

I should also offer everyone an apology for looking at this whole situation through my very unique filter; some parts of the filter just don't fit all situations, and I get that. It has been coloring my responses to things people say, though, and I'm starting to check that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:58 AM on March 16, 2011 [10 favorites]


"I have heard anti-violence people in this thread make monolithic statements such as all violence is always morally indistinguishable from other violence, that self defense makes you ethically the same as a bully, that violence never ever ever resolves a problematic situation.

I don't recall any of the people sharing their stories about how they reacted to bullies with violent acts doing the same for their perspective. What I remember them saying has been couched as "this is what worked for me. A physical reaction to physical violence should not be taken off the table. It's always an option of last resort, and sometimes it works when the system has failed. I wish someone had told me that when I was being bullied." Perhaps I've failed as a reader, but I really don't think so.
"

Well, you've conflated Koeselitz with an entire "anti-violence" side, and the fifth comment in the thread starts out "In the end, there's only one thing bullies respect, and that's sticking up for yourself," which is pretty obviously meant in a violent context, and there are further quotes like, "for the most part the most effectively reply to bullying is disproportionate violence."

So yeah, I think you are over-simplifying on both sides, and are seeing a couple of narratives in this thread that are much smaller than the overall breadth of comments. Going back and rereading just now was helpful for me too, because I had been seeing a lot more agreement and a lot less discussion than what actually happened in the thread, in part because it was moving really quickly yesterday and it seemed like every time I read through what people had posted, there were 86 more new comments ready to load.
posted by klangklangston at 9:09 AM on March 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Klangklangston, there have been a few examples here of people sticking up for themselves in non-violent ways. The bus story, about a confrontation that ended without violence, was particularly interesting to me. That 5th comment you quoted was, I think, phrased in order to leave open the possibility of exactly that kind of non-violent confrontation. What context made clear was that it also left open the possibility of violent confrontation. Your reading of the comment as speaking strictly about violence is perhaps a little ungenerous?

I didn't want to make my comment "about" Koeselitz, so I tried to phrase it more generally. That may have lead to some broad brush painting, for which I apologize. Perhaps Koeselitz stood alone. It doesn't seem that way, though. There seemed to be broad agreement about or respect for the things s/he said, without any particular commentary or divergence on the monolithic nature of some of the assertions. I think that monolithic nature is an important point to bring up, so I brought it up.

Here's a good example of what I'm *not* talking about:

"for the most part the most effectively reply to bullying is disproportionate violence"

Do you see the hedge words in that? "For the most part," "the most effective?" It leaves room for a discussion and productive disagreement. "Most is overstating it." "It can be effective, but actually studies show XYZ is more effective." "Yes, that is effective, but so is this other thing." "Don't forget the negative effects of disproportionate violence. [Anecdote]."

Having such a well-hedged phrase or sentiment be characterized later on in the thread as "the only way to stop a bully is to fight back" does the phrase, the idea behind the phrase, and the person who posted it a disservice. As extreme as the quoted idea is, it at least didn't pretend to be infallible and it allowed for disagreement on a fundamental level.

This is slightly important to me because dealing in absolutes is, from my limited experience, the best way to make men into monsters, and yet those absolutist terms and ideas have not been explicitly singled out for comment. Even worse, in the post I was responding to those absolutist ideas were wrongfully attributed to people who haven't made that point at all.
posted by jsturgill at 10:13 AM on March 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


I really don't see those monolithic, absolutist assertions you say are there though: "that all violence is always morally indistinguishable from other violence, that self defense makes you ethically the same as a bully, that violence never ever ever resolves a problematic situation." I certainly wouldn't assert any of those things, and I really don't think anyone has been arguing those positions.

I should also clarify that I don't mean to castigate the kid for fighting back, nor do I think people who respond with violence to defend themselves have committed some kind of moral wrong. To the extent that I seem like I'm tut-tutting victims of bullying, I apologize, that's certainly not my intent. But it's one thing to respond with violence in the context of self-defense and it's another to advocate the use of force as a way to solve these problems.

We aren't kids on the playground, we're adults who can rationally decide one the best way to solve a problem, and "punch the problem in the face" doesn't seem like an acceptable solution to me. I think klang expressed it most clearly: the solution to racism isn't to punch racists in the face. The solution to the angry dog problem is clearly not "ignore the dog and go back out to play with it," but is it really "kick the dog to teach it to fear you?"
posted by whir at 10:42 AM on March 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure anyone here is advocating absolute pacifism, most pacifists don't advocate absolute pacifism. Violence however I would agree is generally bad. It is a tool but should be a tool of last resort. People who jump to use that tool first generally need to be given/taught better tools.

i.e. go to an adult if you are bullied. Now the victims responsibility more or less ends there. From there the adult needs to take action and try to resolve the problem. When the adults do nothing, they take that better tool away from that victim. Eventually they are left with just violence, and that sucks.

To be fair to some extent this is exactly the problem with the bully as well. Violence is the only tool they have been given to deal with their problems. These aren't monsters from a D&D game, generally speaking they are not born sociopaths. They are children. They are children who learn, they absorb what goes on around them. They are more or less the sum of what they are taught and have learned.

That is why we should feel compassion for the bully AS WELL as the victim. Because we are both humans and empathy toward other humans is an important part of being human. It is one thing that keeps us from also becoming a bully. A bully's empathy has been dulled or worn down by god only knows what. He or she is a child who needs care and help to get in touch with their empathy again and need to learn better ways to handle their problems.

I don't judge the victim for being a victim or for defending themselves, but I do also wonder why the other child is behaving they way he is. Because I don't like watching children going around hurting other children. Hell I'd rather not see adults hurting other adults. I'm sure neither child came out of this unscathed.

If you have never hit another person, I hope you don't have to. For me there was a visceral reaction to the sound and tactile feedback that did not sit well in my stomach. I felt the same thing when I saw that child get his ankle broken and I have no problem believing the victim doesn't feel great about it either. It was a lose/lose situation.

I don't blame the victim, I blame the system. All of those children deserve better.
Sorry about the rambling this is more upsetting than I thought it would be.
posted by MrBobaFett at 10:46 AM on March 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


I very, very much doubt that anybody participating in this discussion really believes that violence is a great "answer" to anything.

That said, I am set on edge by assertions that believing the bully in the video got nothing but his just desserts is, itself, the thinking of a bully. I resent that: I was bullied throughout my school career, badly. I never bullied anybody myself, and I think the little turd got what he had coming, karmically speaking.

You know what else? I'd be willing to bet a year's salary, based on nothing but the video clip, that the target of the bullying never imagined that a broken ankle would be the result of his actions, and that had he known in advance that would be the outcome, that he would have done otherwise. And that's the real difference bullies and people who are not: a bully will hesitate to engage in violence only for fear of getting themselves hurt.
posted by Ipsifendus at 11:07 AM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


"That is why we should feel compassion for the bully AS WELL as the victim."

The most compassionate thing we can do for the bully is tell him that he got his just desserts in this case and that he should draw a lesson from it.
posted by ocschwar at 11:25 AM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Here's the problem of adulthood: You can't just say, "fuck them," to the children you don't identify with and cheer on the children that you do identify with. If only because some bullies grow up to be good adults and some bullies grow up to be criminals, abusers, rapists, etc... The adult solution is that there are proven interventions that significantly increase the odds of at-risk children building resilience and finding their best self but you're shit out of luck if you're too apathetic or bitter to allow those resources for every child. That's the duty of adulthood, to make a safe space for every child.

The proven interventions include: intensive, multiple year relationship with a third adult (Friends of the Children or Big Brothers/Big Sisters), early parenting education in at-risk communities, and general anti-poverty support for families. There are adult bullies right now who want to cut the shit out of these programs so there's plenty an individual can do to support children in today's environment.
posted by Skwirl at 11:28 AM on March 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


ocschwar, I don't think it's reasonable for a 14 year old child who already has what he has ingrained into him to learn anything from this other than how he should modify his tactics. i.e. Maybe I should use a knife next time, or attack from behind. Without some external positive re-enforcement he won't grow.
posted by MrBobaFett at 11:47 AM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Without some external positive re-enforcement he won't grow."

He needs external negative reinforcement.
posted by ocschwar at 11:52 AM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


No, he doesn't. That is what has gotten him where he is.
posted by MrBobaFett at 12:06 PM on March 16, 2011


He needs external negative reinforcement.

I worry/believe that such a response would teach/reinforce the notion that ethics is based on negative consequences - that it's only wrong if someone more powerful than you catches you doing it, and can punish you for it.

Please note that I am *not* advocating for lack of consequences to kids' actions. The consequences need to be directed toward helping the child who has made some bad, hurtful choices to develop a better conscience and internalized ethical system, and to develop better social and emotional skills and tools for dealing with situations that make them angry or uncomfortable or whatever (which may be the presence of someone different from them in some way - which is a completely unjustified reason to be angry or uncomfortable with someone, but unfortunately is a learned response that many kids have; or it may be that the choice of target for their bullying is pretty much random, and there's some other issue at play that they are dealing with very, very poorly).

Caveat: this is not the concern of the other kid who is the victim of bullying. Their responsibility is their own safety. But for the rest of us adults who are somewhat removed from the situation, this is very much our concern.
posted by eviemath at 12:10 PM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


He's going to GET very, very negative external reinforcement when he hits 18. A stitch in time saves 9. A busted ankle at 14 can save you from a prison beating at 19.

And from what his mother's said in the media, he has not been lacking for positive reinforcement, and very lacking for negative:

His mother wants Casey to apologize
posted by ocschwar at 12:13 PM on March 16, 2011


The consequences need to be directed toward helping the child who has made some bad, hurtful choices to develop a better conscience and internalized ethical system,

"Kid, you should not have picked on Casey. You deserved what you got, and you're lucky you didn't get hurt worse. Don't do that again."

Done.
posted by ocschwar at 12:17 PM on March 16, 2011


"Great, from now on I will pick on people who are smaller than me or otherwise unable to defend themselves."
posted by whir at 12:20 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Johnny, you apologize to Suzy now!" is not the same as taking the time to sit down with a kid and have a thorough, honest discussion about, eg., "Johnny, how do you think your actions made Suzy feel? How would you feel if someone did something like that to you? Do you think it's okay that you get to do that to other people, but they don't get to do it to you? Do you think a society that works along that model would be a good one to live in? What if someone comes along who is bigger or more powerful than you who thinks that they should get their way and doesn't care what you think?" and so on, where in between the questions, Johnny responds honestly, with the adult actually listening respectfully and asking him more questions about his responses, and helping him come to a better understanding of how his actions fit into the broader social compact, and the sort of consequences they could have later on in life.

"Kid, you should not have picked on Casey. You deserved what you got, and you're lucky you didn't get hurt worse. Don't do that again."

Only teaches the kid that he picked on the wrong guy and got caught, and he really should choose his victims better or take better care not to get caught next time.
posted by eviemath at 12:20 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Johnny, in my example, may very well come out with, "but Big Meany does that to me all the time!" In which case, the adult in question has the responsibility to deal with and fix that situation, but also point out that Johnny's beef is with Big Meany, not with random other kid.
posted by eviemath at 12:22 PM on March 16, 2011


Ha. The mum there sure fulfilled her end of the stereotype. (Given the benefit of a doubt: she may have been selectively quoted, but prolly not.) The proper public response in this case would be silence while you get busy managing your own house.
posted by Skwirl at 12:24 PM on March 16, 2011


Oh my, I misread that headline. The bully's mom wants the bullying victim to apologize?!
posted by eviemath at 12:28 PM on March 16, 2011


"Only teaches the kid that he picked on the wrong guy and got caught"

No, he learned that already, when Casey beat him. What he needs to learn next is that Casey was in the right and he was in the wrong.
posted by ocschwar at 12:30 PM on March 16, 2011


Sure, ocshwar, but I don't think your proposed lesson plan will teach that particular lesson.
posted by eviemath at 12:32 PM on March 16, 2011


How not? If his own parents tell him, "serves you right," he'll internalize it.
posted by ocschwar at 12:33 PM on March 16, 2011


ocschwar: “The most compassionate thing we can do for the bully is tell him that he got his just desserts in this case and that he should draw a lesson from it.”

This is basically the principle on which most US prisons function. I don't think it makes any sense to say there should be "positive" or "negative" reinforcement, unfortunately – it can't be as binary as that – but the criminal (and the bully) do need a certain amount of rehabilitation, at least on a certain level, if you'd rather not have them get worse.

I appreciate the sense of moral clarity you're looking for, but the facts about how psychology works don't back it up. There are an ever-increasing number of clinical sociopaths in society – people who simple lack moral scruples at all and don't really care about whatever "moral lessons" you'd like to give beyond what it teaches them about how to avoid getting caught by you next time. Antisocial behavior disorder has been shown to be caused by environment; it's caused by having a family that teaches this kind of violent disregard for others.

Breaking a kid's ankle and asking him to deal with it on his own is not, let it be understood, a cure for antisocial personality disorder. It won't do a damned thing beyond teach the kid not to let anybody videotape it when he stabs somebody next. As much as this vaunted "tough love" seems like a nice thing, it simply doesn't work. It has failed consistently in the past, and it will fail consistently in the future.

There must – must – be a more structured response to bullying. I don't doubt that it involves punishment; but it certainly doesn't involve simple schoolyard justice. In fact, assuming that this is a case of bullying, even though the bully here had his freaking ankle broken (which is quite harsh, I hope we all understand) – even so, I think he probably ought to be punished again, in the right way, in a way that makes it clear that authority will not stand for this whilst giving the bully a chance to work off the bullying and actually consider the consequences of this.

There's a reason we have trials and carefully draw out evidence publicly and think over crimes, rather than meting out instant justice decided by a handful of people on the scene. Discipline and punishment need rigor and structure to be effective; otherwise, the only thing they teach is revenge. As it is, it's very hard to distinguish the position you're laying out from vengeance.

ocschwar: “No, he learned that already, when Casey beat him. What he needs to learn next is that Casey was in the right and he was in the wrong.”

Exactly. You've given no description of how exactly he can be taught this; and none of the solutions you have given will lead to that outcome.
posted by koeselitz at 12:33 PM on March 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


I appreciate the sense of moral clarity you're looking for, but the facts about how psychology works don't back it up. There are an ever-increasing number of clinical sociopaths in society – people who simple lack moral scruples at all and don't really care about whatever "moral lessons" you'd like to give beyond what it teaches them about how to avoid getting caught by you next time. Antisocial behavior disorder has been shown to be caused by environment; it's caused by having a family that teaches this kind of violent disregard for others.

We don't know that he's a sociopath. We know he's a bogan, from a bogan family, with bogan friends, in a bogan school.

And so, he internalized bogan morality. Which means someone needs to get him to internalize normal morality instead. And that starts with the world at large telling him he deserved that broken ankle. And yes, punishing him further.
posted by ocschwar at 12:40 PM on March 16, 2011


What koeselitz said. Simple non-rehabilitative punishment tends to make kids pouty and obstinate. It puts them on the defensive, and people on the defensive don't generally engage in self-reflection, especially not to learn difficult stuff like empathy and important ethical lessons. If a kid finds that a generally safe and trusted adult in a safe and loving environment expresses some disapproval of and disappointment in something they've done, the kid might not just switch to defensive mode, or might switch out of defensive mode quick enough to engage in some self-reflection, but my experience is that kids with those sorts of circumstances don't tend to get to the point where they are beating up other kids in the first place.
posted by eviemath at 12:41 PM on March 16, 2011


Also, if the one lesson is counter to everything else the bully kid has learned so far in terms of allowable community ethics, the mixed message of all of a sudden getting punished for what was perfectly okay before is probably going to seriously skew the "bullying is wrong in all cases, not just this one" message.
posted by eviemath at 12:43 PM on March 16, 2011


Also also, this term "bogan" has come up before, but I am unfamiliar with it. Explain please?
posted by eviemath at 12:44 PM on March 16, 2011


Evie, it's kind of the Australian version of the terms redneck or white trash or chav.
posted by mingo_clambake at 12:51 PM on March 16, 2011


en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bogan

Bogans are the Aussie underclass. And this kid and his mother are good examples of why the term can be justifiably pejorative.
posted by ocschwar at 12:52 PM on March 16, 2011


So, let me get this straight: bullying is bad, and should be punished harshly and punitively, but poor-bashing is okay? So, what if I bully a poor kid? Which ethical imperative wins?
posted by eviemath at 12:54 PM on March 16, 2011


ocschwar: “We don't know that he's a sociopath. We know he's a bogan, from a bogan family, with bogan friends, in a bogan school.”

Ah. Brilliant. And this is where this conversation ends.
posted by koeselitz at 12:57 PM on March 16, 2011


Being poor is not the same as being in the underclass.
posted by ocschwar at 12:58 PM on March 16, 2011


Daily Beast article by Paul Campos, relevant to my earlier comment about fat kids being bullied.
posted by kimdog at 12:59 PM on March 16, 2011


"Ah. Brilliant. And this is where this conversation ends."

Well, if you want to stay ignorant of why that school is a hellhole, why Casey is not the only victim of bullying there, then yes, end the conversation.
posted by ocschwar at 12:59 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Being poor is not the same as being in the underclass.

Uh huh. I thought perhaps you had a different, more restricted definition of "bogan" from what I found online. Maybe you weren't tarring all people who had a certain combination of socio-economic class and cultural expression with the same brush in terms of expecting them all to have the same actions and values. But you were. It rather detracts and distracts from your argument on the topic of appropriate societal response to bullying, and makes it come across like you are arguing for merely bullying the bully into submission.

Poverty is not caused by individual moral failings.
posted by eviemath at 1:07 PM on March 16, 2011


I should make that last sentence stronger: poverty has no correlation, positive or negative, with individual moral failings.
posted by eviemath at 1:11 PM on March 16, 2011


"Poverty is not caused by individual moral failings."

Except when it is. Moral failings can quite easily result in unstable employment. And then be covered up by defensive posturing.
posted by ocschwar at 1:11 PM on March 16, 2011


Except when it is. Moral failings can quite easily result in unstable employment. And then be covered up by defensive posturing.

When someone comes from a poor background, without connections providing a safety net, sure, you see that sometimes. When someone comes from a rich background, daddy pays to take care of the consequences. People are people, and you get about the same mix of them, at all strata of society.

Maybe that's not quite true. My experience with rich folks has been that they tend to have a little less empathy than other folks.
posted by eviemath at 1:14 PM on March 16, 2011


Moral failings can quite easily result in unstable employment. And then be covered up by defensive posturing.
posted by ocschwar at 1:11 PM

My experience with rich folks has been that they tend to have a little less empathy than other folks.
posted by eviemath at 1:14 PM


My experience with both rich and poor folks is that:

a) there are both good and bad people in both camps, and
b) whether or not they're dicksmacks is a separate issue from their economic background.

I think this is a tangent, y'all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:20 PM on March 16, 2011


"When someone comes from a poor background,"

Which I do. And which Casey does too.

"without connections providing a safety net,"

It's Australia we're talking about. Generous welfare state and medical benefits.
No excuses for being antisocial.

"When someone comes from a rich background, daddy pays to take care of the consequences"

And your point is, what? Underclass subcultures exist. They are often repulsive.
posted by ocschwar at 1:20 PM on March 16, 2011


"We don't know that he's a sociopath. We know he's a bogan, from a bogan family, with bogan friends, in a bogan school.

And so, he internalized bogan morality.
"

This has been a really nice discussion so far. If you could avoid dropping stuff like this, it could continue being a really nice discussion.
posted by klangklangston at 1:23 PM on March 16, 2011


Interview with bully's mom from Australian TV (at least as of 3:30 CT): http://au.todaytonight.yahoo.com/
posted by seventyfour at 1:31 PM on March 16, 2011


So are they going to or have they interviewed the bullied kid's mom? I support dealing intelligently and using evidence-based techniques with the behavioral problems that cause bullying rather than either ignoring the problem or merely punitively punishing the bully, but giving the bully's apparently also-a-bully mother a platform to continue publicly shaming the bullied kid is definitely the wrong approach:(
posted by eviemath at 1:38 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


"This has been a really nice discussion so far. If you could avoid dropping stuff like this, it could continue being a really nice discussion."

So it's "nice" to diagnose a 12 year old as a sociopath?

To say he's impervious to moral reasoning? All I'm saying is this kid learned the wrong morals from the wrong people. If he's a sociopath, then nothing will really correct his behavior and he might as well be put to sleep. You might find my contribution to the discussion so far overly brusque, but really, sociopath?
posted by ocschwar at 1:39 PM on March 16, 2011


Congrats to oschswar for finally turning this exceptionally moving and interesting thread to shit.
posted by unSane at 1:40 PM on March 16, 2011


Hmm, from this article, in discussing factors contributing to aggressive behavioral patterns of bullies,

The third factor is the use of power-assertive child-rearing methods, such as physical punishment and violent emotional outbursts. Children of parents who make frequent use of these methods are likely to become more aggressive than the average child. “Violence begets violence.”
posted by eviemath at 1:41 PM on March 16, 2011


If that link is behind a paywall for anyone, drop me a memail.
posted by eviemath at 1:42 PM on March 16, 2011


From the same article,
It should also be pointed out that the aggression levels of the boys participating in the analyses above were not related to socioeconomic conditions of their families, measured in several different ways. Similarly, there was basically no relationship between the four childhood factors discussed and the socioeconomic conditions of the family. This lack of relationship may, to some degree, be a consequence of the relative homogeneity of the Scandinavian countries in this respect. Accordingly, it is quite possible that studies from other countries, with greater socioeconomic inequalities, for example, the United States or Great Britain, will show somewhat stronger associations between the presence of bully/victim problems in the child and the socioeconomic conditions of the family.

Indeed, there were mixed results on this topic in different articles I found.
posted by eviemath at 1:43 PM on March 16, 2011



A prior incident at this school.


I wonder why nothing was done.
posted by ocschwar at 1:52 PM on March 16, 2011


I think I missed the part where klang called bullies sociopaths.
posted by eviemath at 1:53 PM on March 16, 2011


"There are an ever-increasing number of clinical sociopaths in society – people who simple lack moral scruples at all and don't really care about whatever "moral lessons" you'd like to give beyond what it teaches them about how to avoid getting caught by you next time. Antisocial behavior disorder has been shown to be caused by environment; it's caused by having a family that teaches this kind of violent disregard for others.
"

Mea culpa for attributing this line to klang, though.
posted by ocschwar at 1:59 PM on March 16, 2011


ocschwar, the institutional and individual responses (or lack thereof) of schools and of teachers to bullying has a huge impact on the prevalence of bullying. Some schools have particular problems with bullying. Other schools don't. I've no doubt that this is a particularly bad school. Do the administrators there fit your definition of "bogan", however? They are the ones whose actions and inactions have created an environment that is so tolerant of bullying.
posted by eviemath at 2:00 PM on March 16, 2011


"I've no doubt that this is a particularly bad school."

And why do you think that is? Do you think the staff like watching kids like Casey get treated like this? Or do you think they might be exhausted from dealing with their disciplinary decisions getting no support from the parents ? Yes, I'm assuming here. And I'll eat my words if my assumption is proven wrong.

And that assumption is that they are worn out from confronting parents like this bully's, that they ran out of give-a-shit, because this particular school, like many in the Western burbs of Sydney, is too full of kids like this one and his friends. Culture matters.
posted by ocschwar at 2:08 PM on March 16, 2011


So the administrators, like the one in your link who couldn't be bothered to call a kid's parents for three hours after he'd been sent to the hospital in an ambulance, aren't bogans, correct?
posted by eviemath at 2:13 PM on March 16, 2011


And the administrators expelled the bullied kid but not the bully because they "ran out of give-a-shit"?
posted by eviemath at 2:14 PM on March 16, 2011


"So the administrators, like the one in your link who couldn't be bothered to call a kid's parents for three hours after he'd been sent to the hospital in an ambulance, aren't bogans, correct?"

Maybe, maybe not. I prefer to call people like that "useless eaters."
posted by ocschwar at 2:15 PM on March 16, 2011


And the administrators expelled the bullied kid but not the bully because they "ran out of give-a-shit"?

Your question implies disbelief. Your disbelief implies you think I am defending them.

I am not. An admin's duty is to care until retirement. These failed in their duty. They are bad admins and bad people. But bad people get jobs too. And in other circumstances, they would not get exhausted.
posted by ocschwar at 2:23 PM on March 16, 2011


giving the bully's apparently also-a-bully mother a platform to continue publicly shaming the bullied kid is definitely the wrong approach

eviemath, did you see a different interview than the one seventyfour posted? In this one she says that she's shocked, disappointed, that "in a way" her son deserved what happened, and that she would like to see him apologize. She does mention that the other kid was older (in a sort of halfhearted way), and she does say that the media/internet attention is making it all harder, but she didn't seem to me like also-a-bully here, and didn't try to shame the bullied kid as far as I could tell.

It's not possible to link to the video directly (bad web designers! bad!), but at the moment a link will come up in the main video window if you click "Bully video goes viral." I'm curious if she expressed different sentiments elsewhere?
posted by taz at 2:25 PM on March 16, 2011


I think you misunderstand, taz -- the bully's mother would like the bullied kid to apologize to HER son. That looks an awful lot like "shaming the bullied kid" to me.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:05 PM on March 16, 2011


Again... are we seeing the same clip? (earnestly asking! not sarcastic!) In the one I saw, the interviewer asks "are you going to get your son to apologize?" and she answers, "I would like for him to apologize, yes."
posted by taz at 4:15 PM on March 16, 2011


For context, the interview with the bully's mother was on Today Tonight, a low-grade populist outragefilter "current affairs" show that is notorious for chequebook journalism.

The bullie's mum probably pocketed at least $50,000 for that interview.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:15 PM on March 16, 2011


I haven't seen the video, just going by what people posted here.
posted by eviemath at 5:19 PM on March 16, 2011


bully's. also, that figure was pure speculation on my part, based on the kinds of amounts they have paid in the past. get trapped in a mine or sail solo around the world, and you attract bids of $hundreds of thousands, overnight internet sensations & talking points du jour normally get offered $10K to around $50K
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:21 PM on March 16, 2011


We know he's a bogan, from a bogan family, with bogan friends, in a bogan school.

bogan curtains opened and we heard the bogan clap of bogan hands
a bogan man would tell a bogan joke and get a bogan laugh from all them folks
and drifting around on bubbles and thinking it was us that carried them
when we finally got it figured out that we had truly missed the boat
posted by bwg at 5:42 PM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Can't get the video to load, but the description on it says "The mother of the boy whose bullying has become an internet sensation says he deserved his punishment", as taz says. I should follow these links before commenting:P


Your question implies disbelief. Your disbelief implies you think I am defending them.


Actually, I'm honestly trying to understand your position, albeit with some skepticism, since poor-bashing raises my hackles; particularly poor-bashing in a thread about bullying, since a lot of the bullying I've witnessed has had definite poor-bashing components, and a lot of poor-bashing I've witnessed has had bullying components.

So far, what I can piece together is something along the lines of: the bully kid was not a bad seed (not in the sense of being a sociopath at least), but he was affected by his environment which mostly consists of bad seeds. Now, the bad seediness of these other seeds in the garden is cultural, so learned; but also the fault of their own moral failings, so we can call them highly loaded derogatory names without being bullies ourselves. This garden full of bad seeds provides such a strong bad influence that the neutral seeds running the school (who may or may not be slightly bad, but certainly aren't bad enough to get a hurtful derogatory name applied to the group that they belong to) are unable to counteract it. But some retaliation by a fellow student who has no social status in this garden will snap the bully seed out of it and set him on the path to good-seediness (or at least not being a bully). Which I gather, from wikipedia and similar online sources about "bogans", will involve giving up his metal-music-listening, plaid-wearing, and affordable-car-driving and -tinkering ways, and will also enable him to speak in an accent more acceptable to people of higher socioeconomic status (all of which seem to me to be entirely unrelated to ethical values on the subject of bullying, thus my initial question about your use of "bogan").

I prefer to call people like that "useless eaters."

This merely puzzles me.
posted by eviemath at 5:46 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Aha! Now I see what's happening: ocschwar's link above* goes to an article that says the mother wants Casey to apologize, but they don't show the video interview in that article, and they quote "I would like for him to apologize" as though she's talking about Casey — but she's not, she's talking about her own son. Dirty journalism.
posted by taz at 5:47 PM on March 16, 2011


giving up his metal-music-listening, plaid-wearing

Actually, the bully fancies himself as a Blood (as in Bloods v Crips), if photos from his (somewhat out of date) Bebo profile are anything to go by.

Then again, gangsta wiggerism also fits within the definition "bogan" - which can basically be extended to include anybody perceived to be lower class than you.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:15 PM on March 16, 2011


In addition to the silence from bullies, we've also had a silence from educators and administrators fr the most part.

I think the silence from bullies is really simple: bullies do not perceive themselves as bullies. They're not guiltily staying silent; they honestly don't realize they were bullies. I think they largely think they were if anything the victims -- always being picked on by teachers, etc.

Mostly they don't think they're bullies because the memories did not have the same emotional import for them as they did for the bullied, and so they didn't stick. That's why bullies try to friend you on Facebook, because they've completely forgotten what they did to you. In that respect it's quite innocent.

On educators and administrators: for these people bullying is a problem to be solved, which means they can tick a box and say 'dealt with', without opening up any pandoras box of nightmarish confrontations with parents etc. The path of least resistance is to go into conflict resolution mode, which presupposed that bullying is about a conflict to be resolved, which it absolutely isn't. The interests of the educators/administrators and the bullied are not coterminous, which is to say that optimal outcomes for one are not the same as optimal outcomes for the other.

I think it's time that bullying is recognized as something on a par with sexual assault. Because, in its more serious forms, its impact on the psyche can be as drastic.
posted by unSane at 6:20 PM on March 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


If he's a sociopath, then nothing will really correct his behavior and he might as well be put to sleep.
I refuse to believe the kid is irredeemable. As others have mentioned, there are plenty of examples of those who have bullied who have gone on to have worthwhile lives. I'm in contact with one guy who was on the fringe of the bullying behaviour I experienced; he's a good guy raising his family and a good dad. So we shouldn't write this kid off yet, he still can be a valuable member of society.
posted by arcticseal at 8:12 PM on March 16, 2011


This:

from Sommerfeld: "The courage to make these moral decisions is what separates adults who can help from adults who may be bitterly remembered by the children they abandoned as smiling helpful maintainers of the horrific status quo. If more adults displayed this courage, and did not abandon their moral obligations and responsibilities, children would not as often be cornered like an animal and finally lash out, only to be rewarded with expressions of dismay from these same adults that their response was inappropriate or insufficiently measured."

The moral decision to stand with the bullied means girding one's loins for the discomfort of confronting bullies and bullies' parents. It means having the spine, as adults, as teachers and administrators, to take notice and act -- to act against people who are probably used to confrontation, and nasty behavior, and lying. I'd bet good money some adults at Casey's school were aware of his being bullied by a gang of little thugs, repeatedly, and looked the other way.

Maybe they rationalized their cowardice and failure to act. Maybe they just pretended not to hear.
posted by slab_lizard at 9:08 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


ocschwar: “So it's "nice" to diagnose a 12 year old as a sociopath? To say he's impervious to moral reasoning? All I'm saying is this kid learned the wrong morals from the wrong people. If he's a sociopath, then nothing will really correct his behavior and he might as well be put to sleep. You might find my contribution to the discussion so far overly brusque, but really, sociopath?”

First of all, I didn't diagnose anybody with sociopathy; I very clearly and distinctly said that that's where bullying leads. And it's true, as far as I can tell. Second, it's starkly clear from my comment, which mentions things like "rehabilitation" and "structured punishment," that I believe and hope that this bully can actually and truly be taught a lesson and become a productive member of society. Treatments for sociopathy in adults may be rare, but they aren't necessarily in children; that was, in fact, the whole point of my comment.

On the contrary, saying this:

“We know he's a bogan, from a bogan family, with bogan friends, in a bogan school.”

... consigns him to the dustheap by saying: "you can't win, kid. You were born in the wrong place in the wrong time, raised by the wrong people, and had the wrong standard of living. That's it." Whenever you judge people and name them by their social status or income level that's what you're doing: you're condemning them to a life sentence. You're saying that it's soaked into him: his clothes, his lifestyle, his family, his lack of money, his situation, etc.

Or you're not. But it sure as hell sounds like you are. And considering that "bogan" is pretty much a meaningless and vague word (I've heard people use it to mean "someone poorer than me" and "someone stupider than me" and even "someone who listens to the wrong music – who knows?) – well, it's just a pointless descriptor in a serious discussion.

If you want to talk about people in a serious way, there are better words you could choose.
posted by koeselitz at 9:29 PM on March 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Like "dickhead".
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:52 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


The thot plickens, like Rosie's rabbit stew.

Clarification and apology from the tabloid which twisted the words of the bully's mother. How very, um, Daily Telegraph-ish.

I haven't seen the mother interviewed on Today Tonight or A Current Affair or wherever it was because I don't watch that crap.

I am, however, delighted to learn that she knows her son is a feral little mongrel who needed to be taught a lesson.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 6:26 AM on March 17, 2011


Clarification and apology from the tabloid which twisted the words of the bully's mother.

That's....actually quite refreshing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:30 AM on March 17, 2011


And say, you know what...

His mom should film that apology and post that on Youtube. Not "film her son looking at the camera and apologizing," but film her kid walking up to the guy he bullied and apologizing to his face. Because we're all going to see that the bully isn't going to be able to look his victim in the eye, and we're going to see how insincere and cowed and cowardly the little putz really is, and that getting out on Youtube is going to take the wind out of his sails right quick.

Best thing that could happen, methinks.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:32 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Apology video.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:57 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ah, and the correction from the newspaper (if it, itself, is accurate) also clarifies that both of the boys were suspended for four days. That's at least a bit more even-handed than I had had the impression of previously.
posted by eviemath at 10:34 AM on March 17, 2011


His mom should film that apology and post that on Youtube. Not "film her son looking at the camera and apologizing," but film her kid walking up to the guy he bullied and apologizing to his face. Because we're all going to see that the bully isn't going to be able to look his victim in the eye, and we're going to see how insincere and cowed and cowardly the little putz really is, and that getting out on Youtube is going to take the wind out of his sails right quick.

You think?? I dunno, it'd be satisfying, for sure -- for not only Casey, but for anyone who's every been bullied. But I can't see the bully, himself, thinking, "Golly gee I'm a coward and I just learned me a valuable lesson... I better change my ways...".

Rather, I can easily see him thinking, "Yeah, you got me back on this one, ya big nerd, but I'll play along for now and you just wait I'll get you back...". And, of course, he'd have to one-up a broken ankle + worldwide humiliation, which would be....???

A: Not good.
posted by LordSludge at 1:07 PM on March 17, 2011


Not going to pass judgment on the parties. But I am completely disgusted with people posting this sort of material online and then groups coming down in support of one side or the other. It's little better than mob style internet justice that happens frequently in China. At the very least, I haven't heard any news of this going into the real world with threatening phone calls or harassment of either party.
posted by FJT at 6:40 AM on March 18, 2011


What I'm thinking, Sludge, is not that having his apology televised will make him Mend His Ways.

What I'm thinking is that all the bully's little buddies are going to see what a meek cowardly little shit he really is and turn on him themselves. And so will all the other kids this guy's bullied -- because undoubtedly there are others -- and if he ever does try to go for Casey again, there'll be another kid standing by who's gonna start laughing and simperingly say "oooho, you're gonna apologize again, hahaha..." And then some other kid will chime in quoting the bully's mom back at him, and then everyone's gonna gang up on the bully instead as a means of coming to Casey's defense -- or even just for their own revenge -- and his power will be gone.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:47 AM on March 18, 2011


What I'm thinking is that all the bully's little buddies are going to see what a meek cowardly little shit he really is and turn on him themselves. And so will all the other kids this guy's bullied -- because undoubtedly there are others -- and if he ever does try to go for Casey again, there'll be another kid standing by who's gonna start laughing and simperingly say "oooho, you're gonna apologize again, hahaha..." And then some other kid will chime in quoting the bully's mom back at him, and then everyone's gonna gang up on the bully instead as a means of coming to Casey's defense -- or even just for their own revenge -- and his power will be gone.

This seems quite mean. Way upthread, torisaur has a good point about how ugly and cruel life can be in a small town for the bullied. It's a hard label to shake. This is similar to that, it would be making it close to impossible for him to live down his past - a standard courtesy we extend to most everyone in our social circle. It would be a more apt punishment if everyone was treated similarly, but that simply isn't our culture and the bully along with everyone else knows this. The vast majority of children know they are immune to such a draconian punishment no matter how much they act like little shits. And I can't see how making this kid feel like the object of persecution way beyond the standards of his community is going to somehow make him more empathetic.

In addition, the internet has provided a ready audience for the shame and humiliation of others, and not just that of the bullied. I've seen a few instances where parents turn to the internet to shame their children as well. However, I think there's a real difference between someone feeling shame arising from a punishment understood as appropriate by the person punished (e.g. apologizing to the person wronged) and the humiliation that comes from being held up as an object of ridicule for anyone and everyone. This is connected to the principle that it is easiest to persuade someone when you let them come up with the idea themselves, while if you spell it out and try to force it upon them, they'll be more resistant no matter how sound the logic.

This is pretty subtle stuff and I don't have any fixed ideas on how these matters should be handled. But I will say that it's difficult to imagine most of the calls for mockery and shame and humiliation (and I don't just mean this thread) as having any effect beyond hardening the heart of the person targeted. The times where a sense of shame has caused me to question and change my own behavior have been when I've imagined the experience of the other person, not when I was focused on my own pain.
posted by BigSky at 2:17 PM on March 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Empress: while I believe that some small fraction of sociopaths are born, most other people making bad or evil decisions are just humans who have been trained badly or make stupid mistakes. The kid (instigator in the video) may have been bullying in the video, but to agree with BigSky, I don't think that should mean he is mocked and pelted with eggs for the rest of his life. He doesn't has much power now -- he just got his ass kicked in front of the entire internet, which is plenty humiliating. I'd much rather see him get whatever type of treatment is best at eradicating bullying behavior, and I doubt that is sustained mockery.

all the bully's little buddies are going to see what a meek cowardly little shit he really is and turn on him themselves

Replace "bully" with "fatty", and this could have come from one of the bullying kids. This is drifting into weird revenge fantasy territory.
posted by benzenedream at 4:38 PM on March 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Way upthread, torisaur has a good point about how ugly and cruel life can be in a small town for the bullied. It's a hard label to shake. This is similar to that, it would be making it close to impossible for him to live down his past - a standard courtesy we extend to most everyone in our social circle. It would be a more apt punishment if everyone was treated similarly, but that simply isn't our culture and the bully along with everyone else knows this. The vast majority of children know they are immune to such a draconian punishment no matter how much they act like little shits. And I can't see how making this kid feel like the object of persecution way beyond the standards of his community is going to somehow make him more empathetic.

You're right.

However, I don't think that he was showing his victim any such consideration when he asked his own lackey to film himself trying to beat Casey up. You don't think he wouldn't have also put that up on YouTube? When was HE going to remember that his victim also had a right to " live down his past" and when was HE going to spare Casey the "draconian punishment" of not having HIS past dredged up?

He wasn't. That's my point. HE wasn't planning on extending his own victim the "standard courtesy" of not having strangers forever being able to pull up a YouTube video of a beatdown. And if his victim hadn't decided he wasn't going to take it, the bully would have posted this on Youtube anyway, and his victim would be the one facing the "draconian punishment" you're talking about -- and no one would have done anything more than just tut-tut and shake their heads over how cruel some kids can be.

Fuck that. I don't think posting his apology is draconian ENOUGH for him.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:45 PM on March 18, 2011


EmpressCallipygos: “Fuck that. I don't think posting his apology is draconian ENOUGH for him.”

At what point did you become convinced that "draconian" punishments are a good thing? You've never seemed like the type to believe in them before; maybe I'm wrong, I don't know.

EmpressCallipygos: “I don't think that he was showing his victim any such consideration when he asked his own lackey to film himself trying to beat Casey up.”

I know it's galling, what happened here – and what happens to kids all over the world all the time. It's really a painful and terrible thing, and the victims of this sort of thing really ought to be cared for and given a chance to live a safe, happy childhood.

But, galling though it may be, our standard of how much consideration we show to people can't be the same standard as the worst among us. Yes, I know that he wouldn't show the same consideration in our place – he's a bully. The point is that we have to be better than him in doling out punishment. And the point of punishment, in turn, is to make the bully a better person by teaching that bully a lesson about equitable living in society. That's why revenge and punishment are very different things; punishment is actually supposed to be good for the person it punishes.

Again – that's galling, I know, saying we should be "improving" the bully who has caused so much pain. But otherwise all we do is perpetuate the culture of bullying. It's very, very easy to give in to the urge for vengeance here; and it's my observation that the culture of bullying thrives on vengeance, no matter whom it's directed toward.

In my view, only a long, careful, slow punishment can help these cases; well, designed community service, for example, or consignment to foster care and a rehabilitory school. Handing out wads of emotional pain as punishment, and expecting the bully to understand that lesson and internalize it, doesn't seem like it works very well.
posted by koeselitz at 5:39 PM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, it's taken several days to read through this entire thread. I have laughed and cried, or maybe my eyes have just got sore from all the reading. Like most acts of violence bullying requires the oportunity to happen. Good school design can play a part in this, as well as the vigilance of responsible adults and intervention of peers. However, if violence is endemic in the local environment it is very difficult to remove it's effects from any school or other meeting place. It was certainly a revelation for me to be relieved of it's effects when I changed schools in my teen years.

jinjo, your Sailor Moon loving friend sounds like she was dealing with some kind of trauma. I would hesitate to try to be specific, but only wanting to talk about one thing suggests that she had a lot she felt she couldn't talk about.
posted by asok at 5:59 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Do not poke the penguin.
posted by jojo chandran at 4:53 AM on March 19, 2011


1961 called. It wants its sitcom plots back.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:03 PM on March 19, 2011


Penny Arcade just weighed in.

I think this is the common feeling: Not supposed to approve. Totally approve.
posted by effugas at 1:33 AM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


effugas: your link went to the 'recent activity" Metafilter page. I found the comic here.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:50 AM on March 20, 2011


Interview with bullied kid
posted by Comrade_robot at 8:54 AM on March 20, 2011


Interview with bullied kid

What a great kid!
posted by ericb at 10:10 AM on March 20, 2011


A couple of salient points from the video comrade_robot linked above:

1) The bully didn't suffer a broken ankle, but just a skinned knee.

2) Casey seriously contemplated suicide about a year before this all happened (at the age of 14!); the bullying had been escalating for years.
posted by jenkinsEar at 10:34 AM on March 20, 2011


Interview with bully (doesn't seem to include video of interview, but there is a summary at this link).

http://news.ninemsn.com.au/national/8226894/net-video-bully-sorry-but-says-he-was-provoked
posted by seventyfour at 7:26 AM on March 21, 2011


Aww, man, bully comes across as a dickbag in that interview.
posted by klangklangston at 11:05 AM on March 21, 2011


I think he more comes across as a really confused kid who doesn't have much in the way of self-consciousness. Of course, that has the potential to flower into true dickbaghood as he comes of age.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:08 AM on March 21, 2011


Here's a link to the video of the interview, via Salon.com.
posted by seventyfour at 1:29 PM on March 21, 2011


So apparently what the bully learned is "Don't bully because you end up getting hurt bad." That's an actual quote.

Not winning.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:22 PM on March 21, 2011


Having watched both video interviews, I can say: "There are no winners here."
posted by ericb at 3:43 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Casey Heynes "Little Zangief" interview.
posted by bwg at 7:07 AM on March 25, 2011


A great video 'Stand Up! - Don't Stand for Homophobic Bullying' created as part of Ireland's BeLonG To Youth Services annual Stand Up! LGBT Awareness Weeks.
posted by ericb at 4:27 PM on April 1, 2011


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