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Bullying beyond the classroom

Emily Bazelon, a senior editor at Slate, has written a book on cyberbullying, Sticks and Stones, and gave an interview to Terry Gross yesterday on Fresh Air.  One of the schools she talks about in her book that is a notorious bullying school is located in Connecticut.  She describes the school as being extremely competitive and that a culture of meanness thrives as a way of getting ahead.  In this school, you can get bullied simply for being not as economically well off as your peers.

The mother of one of the students who was targeted was less interested in curtailing online social media access than changing the culture of the school.  Bazelon says of the girls who bullied the other student:

“We want to think that empathy is this natural quality we all have, and in fact, almost everyone is capable of empathy. But there are these moments in adolescence where kids freeze out these feelings. I spent a lot of time with some of the girls who were bullying Monique [who is profiled in the book], and in moments it chilled me to listen to how dismissive they were in talking about her. But in other reflective moments they would say things like, ‘You know, I see that she’s walking down the hall with her head hanging down and really doesn’t have as many friends as she used to have.’ So it wasn’t that they were incapable of empathy, it was much more that they were in a culture in which they were being encouraged to be cruel to another kid to enhance their own status instead of really letting their feelings of empathy for her have an outlet.”

When I heard this part, I immediately thought of bankers and wondered just how many of them are living in Connecticut.

13 Responses

  1. Isn’t what happened to you at Kos a perfect example of cyber bullying?

    Then it was Hillary, last year it was Anything republican:

    (From a conservative website )

    Leftists cyber bully pollster for calling Romney momentum early – Conservative News:

    While Kaplan is targeted as a gear in the GOP machine, one of his clients is the very partisan former Democratic congressman Alan M. Grayson, who is campaigning to return to Capitol Hill.

    Everything was fine until September, when a Kaplan poll showed an advantage to Romney in Virginia right after the Democratic National Convention, he said.

    “All of a sudden, the left-wing, they just went out to destroy me,” he said.

    Remember, Gravis was making the move from wholesale to retail, so nobody really knew who they were, except the pollsters and consultants who hired them.


  2. ” It was hell” . . . recalls former child.

    I don’t remember any ‘natural empathy’ on the part of all my class mates in school. Some, but not all. The belief that kids have some sort of ‘natural empathy’ seems too sentimentally silly to take seriously at any level whatever, based on some of the kids I went to school with.

  3. I was bullied by my two older brothers until I learned how to fight well enough to start inflicting damage. I am not sure this was their fault, my birth-mother praised this and other Hobsian behaviors.

    I do believe some mentally ill people believe that crippling their offspring makes them more dependent on the parent and thus increases the sense of power/control that gives these individuals such pleasure. This does appear to have worked with 3/5ths of my siblings, however, one brother learned how to manipulate her…I guess, that’s a risk.

    As for myself, at 16 I resisted the regime and was promptly tossed from the house…oddly in every encounter since she took up right where she left off. I’d say it was compulsive, but she does seem to know how it appears, because she knew to avoid doing it in front of strangers. I am sure her insults would have the desired effect today, but it’s been 25 years since the last encounter and my powerful nightly nightmares have diminished to the point of bad/weird dreams. I think it was Goodall that explored this self-destructive behavior in mother chimpanzees towards their young.

    If you want to understand bullying, I would encourage you to watch a mis-titled program called:

    National Geographic: Stress: Portrait of a Killer

    In it Robert Sapolsky explores bullying as an extension of hierarchy.

    • Wow, I am so sorry you had to suffer through such misery. Am glad things are better now in your life; thanks for writing-

      • Thanks, but my point was that these hierarchical bullying behaviors have primate analogues and when viewed in a another species, it allows the human to see it clearly. Another benefit of animal studies, it allows for accurate measurement of the debilitating results, health problems, shorter lifespans to name two examples with the right wing ideologues claiming “lifestyle” issues.

        From my experience, I would say that workplace bullying is on a skyward trajectory due to the lack of jobs. In other times, bad managers were punished by the “monkeys” leaving for better run firms…that option is no longer available for most workers.

        • should have been “with[out] the right wing ideologues claiming “lifestyle” issues.”

        • “…these hierarchical bullying behaviors have primate analogues…”

          Which gives us a prize clue as to why they’re found throughout the human species, and why it’s so damn hard to get rid of them. Boast of our brains as we might, at the end of the day we’re still monkeys.

          Thanks a heap, Mommie Dearest Nature. 👿

          • I understand the “Mommie Dearest” reference, but I am not blind that my experience is the exception in parental abuse, mostly it’s males, but keep in mind, when it’s maternal, the damage is far greater…the mother figure is the most important in all mammalian species.

          • Perhaps we shouldn’t even try to get rid of them. Perhaps we should admit to them and understand them so we can control them and restrain them.

            Anyway, we aren’t “just” monkeys. We are the Irish Elk of monkeys. We are the last of the High Pleistocene Megafauna . . . the Great Ice Age Beasts.

    • Parts of this sound mighty familiar.

      • I am sorry for you if they do r-u, far too many people I know will come forward and tell me similar stories after I tell mine, I do believe this form of parental bulling is far more common than is known. Let’s face it, it is pretty un-American to say your birth-mother is less than perfect. If this helps:

        I remember being arrested for trespass after going back after I was tossed out, the cop sent his younger partner to into a restaurant to get coffee and then he turned to me and said, “listen..I see this shit everyday, you are not alone, rich..poor..it happens all the time out here, some women are not meant to be mothers, when you get back out, DO NOT come back…it’s for your own good I tell you this”.

        It was good advice, unfortunately, I allowed her third [now former] husband talked me into a rapprochement That also ended badly, though in a less dramatic scene. It’s weird, they hate you, but they want you around to abuse, how e’ffed up is that? Like I say, it’s been 25+ years, so the wounds heal over…and being to sleep through the night with far fewer nightmares has been a real blessing.

        See a doctor who has dealt with PTSD patients if you are victim of this type of abuse, the rest of shrinks are worthless crap when it comes to this. And whatever somebody tells you about “confronting your fears” stay away, this isn’t war, a shark or a lion, it’s your birth-mother and they have the power to diminish you in ways that no non-family being could.

        • In my case it was more my father, and a little less extreme, but still quite bad. The principle still holds and the advice sounds quite high value. And it set me up to be a very lucrative bullying target at school.

          Many years ago I remember talking to a much younger co-worker and the conversation worked around to school time memories. He told me about his experience of high school bullying and then he said that while . . . he probably shouldn’t say this . . . Columbine really made his life much better at school. His chool mates began wondering whether he might sanp and go postal on their asses. I believe school bullying should be very firmly suppressed, including very quich resort to permanent expulsion from the school system if it continues. I could give a rat’s ass about teaching “empathy” to the perpetrators.

          It leaves me very sympathetic

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