Bloggernacle Bullies

I don’t venture into other blogs as much as I used to, mostly because of time. Lately, however, either I have been procrastinating a bit more than usual, or there is a uptick in the kinds of posts that I am interested in, so I have been following a few more blogs. One of the things that I have noticed is that there seem to be new bullies that weren’t there before. Of course, there have always been bloggernacle bullies, but some come and go. What I am interested in is some sense of how these bullies are treated by the bloggernacle.

In my not-so-scientific first stab at this, I think that there are three kinds of bullies. The first are bullies of orthodoxy, ready to sniff out heresy, criticism of the brethren, and failure to have remembered that some GA at some point already definitely spoke on whatever this topic is. These bullies berate the posters or other commenters, attempting to assert their own authority on doctrinal matters. The second are bullies of liberal orthodoxy, who basically do the same thing, but take all the opposite positions. The third are just straight bullies who just want to be contrarian. This last type will often pick up on tangential issues and attempt to blow it out of proportion, such a sa perceived insult, usually in an attempt to avoid a losing argument.

Now of course, not all “orthodox” and “liberal” bloggers and commenters are bullies. Bullying is a specific way of engaging others. This is the part that I am having a hard time putting my finger on. It is more than just taking strong positions or having pointed criticisms. People should be able to openly discuss serious disagreements, and I am the first to raise a critical point. Bullying is not just disagreeing, but a specific type of disagreeing. For me, I think the thing that gets on my nerves the most when I see these bullies is that they simultaneously take strong positions, but then refuse to actually engage the arguments, or at least restrict themselves to the arguments. They often level backhanded personal attacks, treat their opponents’ arguments dismissively, and generally are as disrespectful as they can be within the socially accepted confines of whatever blog they happen to be on.

What annoys me the most about these bullies is their implicit (but sometimes explicit) claim to intellectual superiority who can’t see that they are complete hacks who have simply learned how to speak authoritatively, no matter how thin their actual expertise is in the relevant field. Maybe they went to a “good” school, or maybe they have obtained a certain amount of “success” in the world, or maybe they have held “important” callings. Whatever the reason for their bloated self-importance, they don’t miss an opportunity to let everyone know just what they think and why some poor sap is wrong.

Bullies often get away with their posing because most of their interlocutors are just as ignorant as they are. These bullies dare to speak authoritatively on other churches, feminism, questions of sociology, complex theological matters, historiographical methods, hermeneutics, biblical studies, scientific matters, and ethics without an ounce of awareness of the complex scholarly discussions of these issues. Now, I am not saying that people without actual expertise on these topics should not be allowed to express opinions, only that there should be a certain self-reflexivity and a lot less rigidity than bullies are willing to show when they offer authoritative statements on these topics.

The final issue to consider is why some bullies thrive and others are bullied back, often eventually leaving. Of course, some thrive because they are major players on certain blogs. They can be rude and disrespectful because they are in their sandbox, and their fellow-bloggers are uninterested or unwilling to reign them in. Others thrive because they bully on the side of those who run the blog. Even if their methods are harsh, the administrators agree with their ideological stance, so they are tolerated. The bullies who seem to be less successful are those who take on the blog administrators personally, and who end up getting banned. They fail to recognize where the real bullying power lies.

What have I missed in this analysis?

NB: I want to specify that this post is not about naming specific bullies or ranting about other blogs. I will moderate these kinds of comments. Please keep the discussion to the nature and types of bullying.

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74 Comments

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74 responses to “Bloggernacle Bullies

  1. TT

    All this has led to me consider whether or not anyone would consider me to be a bully. I don’t think of myself this way because I tend to see myself only dealing strongly with those who attempt to bully me or others. I try to be honest, but also charitable, and I try to speak authoritatively only about things with which I feel that I have a sufficient amount of knowledge. Above all, I value the actual substance of an argument and I am willing to acknowledge where I am wrong. You won’t see me taking strong opinions on posts about architecture or law, for instance, because I know very little about these fields. That said, bullies rarely consider themselves to be bullies, so if I have ever bullied some undeserving soul, I offer my sincere apology.

  2. Howard

    So, everyone should be more like you? Everyone is not a scholar but everyone has an opinion. Should LDS blogs be limited to scholarly discussions?

    People may simultaneously take strong positions, but then refuse to actually engage the arguments because they know that they cannot prevail by engaging you in intellectual debate.

    Btw, “can’t see that they are complete hacks” doesn’t sound very charitable to me.

  3. TT

    Should LDS blogs be limited to scholarly discussions?

    Just to reiterate what I said above, altough it is buried in a paragraph, “Now, I am not saying that people without actual expertise on these topics should not be allowed to express opinions, only that there should be a certain self-reflexivity and a lot less rigidity than bullies are willing to show when they offer authoritative statements on these topics.”

    As for not being charitable to bullies, I am afraid that I am guilty of this at times.

  4. Howard

    So people without “a certain self-reflexivity” should not express their opinions?

  5. TT

    Howard, I’m sorry. Maybe that phrase isn’t clear. I am trying to say that I prefer that bullies speak to others with a little more respect. By “self-reflexivity,” I mean that people should be aware of the limitations of their knowledge that might inform their opinions, not that they not have any opinions.

    An example: If I said, “Bob Dylan is the greatest musician of the 20th century,” I would be making a pretty bold claim. The fact is that I have some knowledge of 20th century music, but probably not much more than the average person, and certainly a lot less than a whole lot of people. If I at least acknowledged the limitations of my knowledge, and allowed my ideas to be tested by others in productive conversation, I would be engaged in a “self-reflexive” dialogue.

  6. TT, every permablogger at FPR knows 1,000X more about every LDS topic than I do. For this reason, I am always surprised by how readily my comments are received, reviewed, and responded to on this blog. If there were a blog where I’d expect to be belittled, this would be the one. Insteqad, I’m treated like a peer even though I am not one.

    The only bullying I have witnessed on FPR is from visiting bullies (and then maybe some counter-bullying from the permanent members against the visiting bully). There are several blogs I won’t even visit anymore because of the problem you describe; not that I have been bullied, but I tire of the bickering, etc.

    I know this post wasn’t meant to be about “Praising FPR,” but you guys deserve it.

  7. TT

    Howard’s comments lead me to believe that there are others who may read this and think that I am somehow being self-congratulatory, or setting the bar for discussions so high as to exclude all non-experts. If either of these impressions have been given, they are far from the intent of my writing. Quite the opposite! I am trying to investigate those instances where productive discussion breaks down in order to lay the foundations for more productive discussion. I hope that an analysis of “bullies” can illuminate the contours of productive discussion, or at least give a sociological account of why certain kinds of bullying thrive.

  8. Howard

    We all were born with a level of naiveté when it comes to our self knowledge, that is one of the things we are challenged to learn while we are here. To some it may be intellectual, to others psychological etc. Charity implies that we have patience with everyone.

    Maybe you will have more success and less frustration by engaging them on a less scholarly level.

  9. TT

    Thank you Brian, for your very kind comments. You describe the kind of discussions that I hope that we have fostered here, though I am sure that we can always do better. Thank you for your generous readership and generous comments on our posts!

  10. MAC

    “ounce of awareness of the complex scholarly discussions of these issues”

    Too frequently the complex scholarly positions simply don’t pass the sniff test.

  11. TT

    Howard,
    Thank you for your suggestion. I am sure that I should be more patient with bullies, but I am less concerned for how they might treat me than for how they treat others. I am frustrated when I see others intimated or humiliated out of conversations. Again, I am not trying to suggest that the only valuable participants in a conversation are scholars (I would surely be excluded from such a discussion), but that we acknowledge that we are all non-experts more or less when it comes to the vast majority of what is discussed in the bloggernacle.

  12. Ann

    MAC, my momma used to say that limburger cheese stunk to high heaven, but her daddy swore it was the tastiest cheese ever.

    What Brian said.

  13. Howard

    TT you are a bright guy and you are often recognized for knowing you subjects.

    Jesus also knew his material, He was very successful with parables which offer multiple levels of information, something for everyone if you will. I’m sure your material could be presented to appeal to nearly everyone as well.

  14. One of the nicer things about the B’nacle is the large community of active commenters that span the spectrum from academics to students to well-informed general readers to the average Mormon in the pew. On the whole, we get along pretty well.

    It’s worth noting as well that most people actually learn how to do polite but productive conversation (including how to politely disagree) on LDS topics by regular comment interaction on blogs. We all went through a posting or comment learning curve. The bullies are the ones who either don’t pick up this social skill or who don’t care.

  15. b

    one person’s view from the back row

    quite frankly, every lds-related topic has been exhausted seven ways from sunday in the lds blogisphere. as a result of this, the “bullies”, who are merely hyenas/vulutures with no sense of respect and community, wait from a distance wait till the lions (and other on the upper half of the food chain) finish communally feasting upon their portion, and only when after the lions withdraw, they descend and selfishly attempt to drag away into every direction more than they can chew, disrupting what would be more or less a harmonious feast for those on the bottom half of the food chain. yea, that was a run-on sentence riddled with gramatical errors, but who cares, maybe a “bully” can set me straight.

  16. “complete hacks who have simply learned how to speak authoritatively, no matter how thin their actual expertise is in the relevant field”

    You rang?

  17. TT

    Howard 13,
    If I am hearing you correctly, you are suggesting that I am a snob who talks past people. Hmm. I will have to think about that more and consider how I want to address this perception in my future writing.

    Dave,
    I concur 100%. I think that the vast majority of bloggers and commenters out there are capable of a relatively sophisticated level of online conversation skills when compared to other online communities, especially sports and political blogs. I think that your analysis of bullies and social cues is spot on.

  18. TT

    lol Steve! Good to see you drop by.

  19. jane

    I think at least part of this is a personality issue, too. I’ve been an avid Bloggernacle fan for years now. In the beginning, I tried to comment, and had what felt to me like a horrible experience – right away, my first forays were met with criticism, why my opinion was wrong, how my info was inaccurate. I was devastated! I felt humiliated, embarrassed, my feelings were hurt, I had just put myself out there publicly, which felt very vulnerable and scary, and got a public smackdown. I hastily retreated into my shell, and became a lurker. Having since witnessed many, many bloggernacle conversations, it’s clear that I didn’t receive particularly harsh treatment; this was a fairly innocuous back-and-forth. I was (am) so thin-skinned, that I felt bullied, but I’m sure the perma-blogger didn’t intend to bully. In retrospect, I could have defended my stance (I think I actually had more expertise in this area than the perma-blogger), but the idea of defending my position felt too contentious and unsafe.

    I can enjoy a lively debate, but I most enjoy it within the context of a secure, happy relationship, in which the friendship trumps the argument. In other words, we might differ in our opinion on a topic, but that difference doesn’t pose a threat to the relationship.

    I’ve noticed that different sites have slightly different tones, and different bloggers, of course, have different personalities. Some bloggers make a real effort to make new visitors feel welcome. Others just want to jump right into the meat of the discussion. And of course, the pre-existing relationship between the commenters/bloggers matters. A newbie might raise hackles by a controversial comment; a familiar participant who makes an identical comment is given a certain benefit of the doubt. I guess that’s how it is with all relationships.

  20. TT, your post is curious. It reminds me of the occasional post by the uber-conservatives who get spurned somewhere, then rant about how the bloggernacle is full of apostates. I don’t know who the bullies are that you’re talking about, or what exactly they’re doing to be bullies. I suspect that I can act like a bully sometimes, but within our little domains we all have that ability. I guess I wish I knew what your post really meant.

  21. Jane, was it me??!?? I’m sorry!!

  22. jane

    No, Steve. You’re all right. :-)

  23. Mark N.

    What the heck is a “scholarly discussion”?

    Is there a book like “Robert’s Rules of Order” out there somewhere that will let me know when I’m about to do something naughty?

  24. jane

    I’ll also go on record and say I’ve received a lot of love and support on the Bloggernacle, too, which meant quite a lot to me when I was at a particular low point. And the person I’m thinking of (my pseudo-bully), was one of the people to reach out with kindness when they realized I was really struggling and hurting.

  25. TT

    b, great analogy!

    Jane,
    Thanks so much for sharing your experience. I am sure that your experience is not unique in the least, and it is a good reminder to me at least to be extra sensitive to commenters whom I don’t recognize, rather than treating them with as much frankness as I would a known entity or friend.

    Steve 20,
    This post is a little self-indulgent to be sure, permitting me to rant in my own sandbox. I certainly don’t mean to throw out some blanket accusation against the big, mean, horrible rudies on those other blogs.
    I am not really sure that the identity of the bullies or even any specific examples are relevant to the “meaning” of my post. I guess that it is best seen as an chance for a collective introspection on the quality, tone, and nature of community conversations.
    I remember a while back that BCC was dealing with similar issues in a series of posts. I didn’t follow the discussion. No doubt you all have thought much more deeply than me on the issue of a productive bloggernacle ethos, or at least the one that you all have chosen to cultivate. I’d appreciate any insights into the issue of online bullying that you all have considered.

  26. TT

    Mark,
    When I referred to “scholarly discussions” in my original post, I was referring to the collection of literature and other materials produced by professional members of the academic guild on specific topics, not a specific way of ordering a conversation. I have no idea what others might mean by it.

  27. TT, it’s all about building a community first amongst your permabloggers. Mutual respect and genuine friendship attract. It’s the BCC secret sauce — we all really, really like each other.

  28. hawkgrrrl

    Hmmm. This is a great, thought-provoking post. I am not sure I totally agree with you about the proliferation of bullies, though. By your definition, we are all potential bullies any time we feel strongly about an issue or get a little emotional or territorial in a response. I think that’s just being human. Given that trolls are kicked off the bridge pretty fast, I think the ones remaining are really just figuring things out, even if they occasionally get really into it. I love that I can read someone else’s opinion, think to myself “What an idiot!,” respond brilliantly and then realize a few posts down that the other person had really enlightened my viewpoint. And then find that they got something out of what I said, too.

  29. TT

    hawkgrrl,
    I agree that there are probably no more or less bullies now than before. I think that you are right to point out that my definition about what constitutes a bully is a little imprecise, and I would appreciate any help in refining it. I tried to suggest that bullying is more than just disagreeing or feeling strong, or even getting emotionally worked up. Rather, there is a certain je ne sais quoi about it. Any thoughts?

  30. I think one has to be careful. I think that sometimes when we get wrapped up in a debate that it can all too easily turn into a “cry uncle” sort of debate. Taking a step back is helpful. I’m not sure I’d call that bullying. But I’d lay good odds many of us have fallen into that trap at times. (I certainly have – although I’d like to think I do better now than I did 10 years ago)

    Likewise sometimes we can get caught up in the humor of a situation and not realize how we’re coming across to others. I know I’ve done that as well.

    It’s a hard line to walk. The fact that we don’t get all the feedback in posts that we do in face to face meetings makes it much harder.

  31. Yet Another John

    One thing I’ve noticed is that long-time commenters or posters get cut more slack than newbies. I guess it’s a matter of paying your dues.

  32. TT, I would definitely consider you guilty of what you accuse others of here. FPR used to be one of my favorite blogs, before the UrbanMormonism “A hub for the thoughtful and intelligent” crew came on board. TT, you are perfectly capable of being polite and sociable, but only when people give you what you think is your due deference. When people, like me, point out your positions and approaches are internally inconsistent, you go aggro and enlist your UM pals to do the dogpile and then openly tell me to just go away and leave you to your sandpile. You only want things to go your way, and if people criticize you, it absolutely must be done on your own terms. I, for one, lament FPR’s decline and long for the days of Mogget’s thoughtful posts and genuine candor.

  33. I miss Mogget too! Mogget, come back!

  34. TT

    Kurt 32,
    Our narratives of these events diverge on a number of points, but there is no need to rehash them again and again. I think that we agree, however, that I do have certain standards for how I think conversations should be conducted, hence this post. When I have lost my patience with you, it is when I have perceived that you have flagrantly violated those standards despite repeated warnings.

    FWIW, you have never been banned here, unlike at so many other blogs and we invite you to participate here in full fellowship.

    Mogget is much more masterful than myself when it comes to having patience with you. Mogget has promised to return, and I join the chorus in hoping that it is sooner rather than later.

  35. jupiterschild

    TT, SmallAxe, Nitsav, dogpile on Kurt!

  36. jupiterschild

    Did I say that out loud? Sorry, I thought this was the back-channel…

  37. jupiterschild

    Seriously, thanks TT for bringing this up. It makes me reflect on the tone I’ve taken and urges caution. I think for me it’s a temptation to be a bully not when someone is making a comment that takes an opposing side, but when someone makes a highly contrary comment purporting to be an expert on the topic discussed or belittling “so-called experts” of the topic. Many people fit into this category, probably including myself. This happens especially when someone proclaims what a given text means, or dismisses in one stroke all the writing and thinking of a given strand of scholarship.

    That is not to say that I’m justified in giving into this temptation toward bullying. Moggett and Kiskilili are two of the most expert people I know, and are nearly unflappable when it comes to commenting. They’re models for us all…

  38. I felt bullied here a few days ago. There was a post that the author (it seemed to me) characterized anyone who would disagree as being racist, elitist, colonialist, etcist., To me this poisoned the discussion. I viewed this as being a proactive bully, beating anyone who came along and disagreed to the punch. They must be racist (what else could they be?) When I disagreed I was told it showed tons about what I thought of other cultures.

    To me this is the type of things I would consider bullying. It seemed like name calling and character judgement. Right here at FPR.

    I may be misreading the whole thing, and if I have I apologize, but for now I do not think I am. Maybe I was even part of the problem – if so I am sorry again.

    I miss Mogget too.

  39. jupiterschild

    38- That would be me. I’m very sorry you felt bullied; that was never my intent. To clarify, I never called anyone racist, elitist, colonialist, etc. I hoped to establish that the arguments in question couldn’t get away from their racist etc. origins, but not that anyone who used premortal agency as reflective of mortal placement was racist etc. I recognize that that line can get blurry, and apologize for not being more explicit.

    I’m glad you’re still participating; I’ll be more careful (and that goes for anyone else offended by my comments).

  40. Mogget may return? Good news indeed.

  41. Howard: So people without “a certain self-reflexivity” should not express their opinions?

    I think you missied the point. If I am reading correctly, the plea was simply that we all acknowledge our opinions to be just that — opinions. TT seems to be saying that stating opinions as facts is the type of behavior (bullying) s/he objects to.

  42. TT, how gracious of you to not ban me, no attempt at ad hominem there, eh? Your only standards are that you not be held to what you would impose on others. If I have flagrantly violated standards, you are every bit as guilty of violating them as well. Pretending otherwise is just nonsense. The condescending tone you are taking in your response speaks volumes, TT, volumes.

  43. Hi Kurt! Long time no see.

  44. Mark IV

    32, Kurt:

    . . . you go aggro . . .

    Do I detect a fellow World of Warcraft devotee?

  45. hawkgrrrl

    The real bullies are the ones who mean to intimidate others. On the flip side, there are some sensitive Sallys out there. There are a few people whose posts I just ignore because I think they might break down and cry even though they are annoying as all get out with their whiny self-absorption. Newbies I like to defend and welcome and take under the wing. But if someone comes across as all high and mighty (a bully), it can be a little fun to play king of the Hill. Is that bullying (to bully the bully)? I like to think of that as matching intensity.

  46. To put it simply I would label a bully someone who uses intimidation as a means to gain power. In the Bloggernacle (and many other kinds of venues of discussion), ‘gaining power’ means winning the argument. Personally I see little wrong with attempting to win an argument, but bullying is attempting to prevail in certain ways.

    “Intimidation” seems to often come in the form of intellectual superiority and rhetorical skill (although I’m sure there are others). Intimidation in terms of intellectual superiority is manifest when there is a lack of “self-reflexivity” as mentioned above, as well as when one party talks “over” another party (which often times means using lots of terms one party does not understand), etc. This raises the question of whether a bully can be a bully without realizing s/he is a bully. Sometimes people are very opinionated but unaware of how limited their understanding is, and sometimes people don’t know that they’re using “technical” language.

    So, to be sure, bullying is also dependent on the on the way one receives the message. Having been at FPR for a while I know that some bloggers (myself included) can be taken as a bully when not necessarily intending to (although I’m sure sometimes we do intend to).

    Intimidation in terms of rhetorical skill happens when one party is able to sidetrack the argument down a route where s/he can intellectually intimidate the other party, as well as labeling their dialogue partner certain things (usually ‘-ist’s) and failing to substantiate it. These two can also be related, where I’ve seen some individuals so good at the latter that they lead the argument down that route to win the argument (usually after they’ve lost the argument on ‘intellectual’ grounds and feel bullied in the ‘intellectual’ sense).

  47. I still don’t get who we’re talking about, except maybe it’s TT and SmallAxe.

  48. David B

    I am thinking that maybe we should focus less on winning the argument and more on just helping the other person understand our point-of-view, opinion, or argument. Let’s take the competition (pride) out of it.

  49. Howard

    Geoff J,
    Yes you’re right.

    Rereading and rephrasing I came with something like; Those offering authoritative statements should include self-reflexivity and less rigidity.

  50. I actually think that non-responsiveness poisons the Mormon blog commenting experience more than any bullying. I’ve given up frequenting several blogs simply because the bloggers refused to engage when someone brought up an interesting or contrary point. Worse still, I’ve seen several instances in which an interesting comment gets ignored until a favored commenter repeats basically the same argument at which point everyone falls all over themselves pointing out how brilliant the plagiarizer is.

    Quite honestly I’ve begun to feel that way a little bit about FPR. Poor, poor, pitiful me…

  51. Steve # 47, given the timing of this post and that I don’t think TT ever commented on ABEV before yesterday, I am guessing that I am one of the bullies he is thinking of based on this comment and the exchange following it.

    As an object lesson, however, I would invite all those participating in this discussion to take a look over at the exchange of comments on that thread at ABEV and tell me how you think that TT’s initial comment on that thread to which my comments were a response measures up by the criteria in the main post here. I suppose I should just say that I had the impression from that comment that TT was the one being a bully on my thread!

    Besides, TT, I agreed with you only a few hours later over on the T&S thread on Elites, and gave you props for the points you made — didn’t that make up for it? (By the way, I really did agree with you there — I wasn’t just giving you props because I thought I had responded too severely to your sarcastic comment at ABEV.)

  52. C Jones

    As Steve Evens points out, (for only one example of many good blogs) BCC bloggers like each other and have created a community of like-minded people. BCC is usually fun to read because of that– they are smart and witty and entertaining. And they police their commenters accordingly.
    Nothing wrong with that.

    But maybe what is being called bullying here is really discontent with what we expect from Mormon blogging and the actual reality of it.

    For example I realized that I expected my exchanges with other Mormons to have a quality of brother- and sisterhood. And charity, or even service. So when that isn’t a factor– when comments get ignored or ridiculed– it is a little jarring. So for me the problem isn’t bullying or whatever, it’s my somewhat starry-eyed expectations.

  53. Peter LLC

    There’s no such thing as a bully–just ineffective ban stick usage.

  54. I think I might have a comment in blog jail if someone could check the spam filter.

  55. Tom

    TT was being a bully at ABEV.

  56. Tom

    I should add, though, that it’s hard not to be mean sometimes. I’ve been having a hard time not being mean and sarcastic this very afternoon on another blog. I wasn’t as bad as I could’ve been–I deleted one sarcastic comment before I posted it–but I wasn’t as good as I could’ve been either. It’s an impulse deep inside us, I think, that makes us want to build ourselves up by putting others down. I think there’s too much of that sort of thing all over the internet. And I think it’s worth committing to do better when we are meaner than we should be.

  57. That does it, TT. Now I’m going to have to find you after school at the bus stop, and kick your . . .

    p.s. Don’t you still owe me a few weeks worth of your lunch money?

  58. TT

    John f 51! Wow, if you thought this post was directed at you, I am very sorry! I actually thought that we had quite a productive exchange despite my original sarcastic comment. I appreciated that you really kept your cool and I think we both raised some good points, and I hope that we both understood one another better. I reiterate that this post had nothing to do with you! In fact, Tom (55) is probably correct in some sense. Yet his comment raises the question that I think we’ve been struggling with here, which is how to define a bully.

    C Jones, I think that you’re right on that we should have more charitable exchanges. But you’re also right that our expectations for how we should be treated are probably out of proportion. arJ’s perception (50) that he’s been ignored here really surprised me, but then I remembered that I don’t really comment on probably half of my own posts, mostly because of lack of time. I can see how people would feel slighted by that and not want to comment again because of it.

    For all, I think that this post has forced me to look in the mirror and reconsider my own commissions and ommissions in my treatment of others, and also to reconsider my expectations for how to be treated. Thank you all for your participation in this exercise.

  59. hawkgrrrl

    Oh, yeah, now I get it. You BCCers are all just a clique. It’s not a bullying thing. This is a different schoolyard phenomenon. Over at MM, we don’t cotton to this cliquish behavior. Those of you who feel left out, come join us over there. Give us your poor, your tired, your bullied commenters, yearning to be free . . .

  60. It’s easy to seem like a bully in this type of communication because you can’t see when your words hurt someone or were taken the wrong way.

    Additionally, plenty of intellectual bullying is perpetuated by people who don’t notice what they are doing until it gets turned on them. It’s so much easier to cry foul when it’s a foul against you.

    I think one of the best ways to run a litmus test to see if you are tending towards bullying is if you find yourself unable to allow someone to walk away from a conversation without labeling them as unintelligent or lily-livered. It may be they just wanted to express their opinion without being eaten alive. Another way to run a litmus test is to ask yourself “if my mother/father/spouse/child/someone I care about expressed that opinion, would I respond the way I’m responding?” It’s all too easy to forget there are tender souls behind the font.

  61. Haven’t read the comments. Just the original post…

    Actually, I have ashamedly viewed myself as a “bloggernacle bully” on occasion.

    I completed college and law school and learned not only to think on my feet, but also to write prolifically. I can whip up a lengthy comment quite easily. And on occasion, I’m able to shoot off some fairly snappy one-liners.

    But why would this facilitate me being “a bully?”

    Because, frankly, there are occasions where I, and other bloggers are simply a bit better equipped for the debate than other participants.

    Not everyone is able to write that easily. Or even half as quickly as I can.

    Not everyone is good at snap responses. Some of them take quite a while in formulating responses.

    Others are just at a disadvantage for not having been around as long as I have in this community or as long as some others have. Reputation and all that…

    So, there’s an imbalance of power there. And that can easily turn into bullying.

    This probably sounds awfully presumptuous and arrogant on my part – and that’s because it is. Although I would note that I don’t consider myself a really “big fish” on the bloggernacle. More of a middle-of-the-pack sort of guy in reality.

    But there have been times when I’ve gone toe-to-toe with some ALL-CAPS-ranting newcomer and really felt like I was picking on someone who really wasn’t equipped to adequately defend themselves verbally.

    Sure, they were being boorish, and I was solidly in the majority opinion in smacking the idiot down. But… Isn’t that what playground bullying is?

    The strong and well-liked picking on the weak and unliked?

    There was a recent thread on Mormon Mentality where this happened. Some anti-Mormon idiot came in with his ALL-CAPS key, his bad spelling, his wild-eyed conspiracy theories and wretched logic and a few of us regulars literally had a field day on him.

    Was that bullying?

    We also have lurkers who never comment, simply because they are too intimidated to play with the other kids. Why is this?

    Some people don’t comment because they are afraid that they will be ridiculed or dismissed for their poor spelling and grammar.

    Around these parts, we don’t gut-punch the weak kid. We use words instead. Those who are more literate are the ones with the power around here. Another factor is how much time you have to stay in an argument. A lot of people are too busy to really hold their own in a debate here. It’s the obsessive, or the really fast writers and thinkers who have the upper hand. I’ve been guilty of shooting off such fast responses to some opponents that they just couldn’t keep up and backed-off, a bit flustered (doesn’t happen all that often, but it has happened). I’ve also seen other voices drowned-out before.

    Feminist Mormon Housewives has occasionally been accused of similar dogpiling on any hapless guy who tries to take a traditional position (check the Snarkernacle archives for some examples). Not saying I agree with that take on FMH, but the perception is definitely real.

  62. TT

    SR,
    I think you’re absolutely right. I think that often people choose to offend others because they are offended themselves. Thanks for your comment here.

  63. TT

    Seth, I think you raise some really interesting points here about when people “deserve” to be treated harshly. I am not sure where to draw that line either, and I admit that I have been rude to those that I think are deserving. More to think about…

  64. Everyone shut up and hand over your lunch money. Now.

  65. hawkgrrrl

    According to the Pres. Benson pride talk, it’s equally prideful to take offense as it is to give it. The comparison is the pride–whether you have a superiority complex or an inferiority complex. So, to the Sensitive Sallys out there, get over yourselves! And to the egomaniacs, a come down once in a while might do ya some good!

  66. Don’t forget accountability when it comes to writing and commenting in the Bloggernacle:

    …if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words,…ye must perish… Mosiah 4:30

    Is this bullying? If so, what kind?

  67. Excellent post. Very sorry if I’ve been the source of such problems – all sorts of things have happened on my blog in the past four+ years – a learning experience still early on the learning curve. The post certainly makes me want to be more careful about how comments are handled and watch out for people who might feel victimized without my realizing it. And I can relate to TT’s desire to maintain standards and have rules about what is presented and how in the comments section. It’s very annoying when people seem to be intentional uncivil. But they may be the one we should be reaching on any particular post – you never know.

  68. My litmus test for when I’m bullying is if my wife berates me for my tone in comments. Her shame and frustration on my behalf is an almost infallible barometer of my sometimes prickishness.

  69. TT: Yet his comment raises the question that I think we’ve been struggling with here, which is how to define a bully.

    I agree! And while we’re at it, can we try to define the terms dillweed, jerkwad, doofus, and dinglefritz? I swear I’ve encountered some of all those at blogs but it is so hard to tell which is is which…

  70. Mark N.

    At a non-Bloggernacle political chat forum that I frequent, there is a certain poster of Orthodox persuasion that posts in a rather dogmatic “my church is right, and yours is wrong” manner, which I view as a form of the bullying described above. Unfortunately, the only manner I can see of communicating with him is to adopt the same tone; anything less, from what I’ve seen, is viewed as an admission that you’re unsure about the divinity of your own church.

  71. Mogget

    Nice, chaste, Mogget-kisses all around!

    And thanks for the kind words. But I must admit that to the extent that I retain some level of Christian behavior, it sometimes comes only from being willing and able to get up and walk away from the computer. Speaking only of myself, it seems clear that if I wish to teach the Bible, I ought to live it, and more especially when it’s difficult to do so.

    I’ll be back in a few months, and based on a back channel conversation with Jupiter’s Child, I think I’ll do a series on how NT authors used the OT, sometimes by radically changing it, to convey their insights on Christ. In this I think I find two personally important things: the joy they found in Christ and their sense of the importance of God’s earlier promises.

    AGain, thanks for the kind words! I really, really, appreciate it.

  72. Moggett!!

    I look for ward to your triumphant return.

    You still owe me an example of the exegis process applied to 1 John 1.

    Best wishes.

  73. Mogget

    OK, let me make a slight course adjustment:

    I will be back shortly, and when I do I will do the formal exegesis of 1 John 1 in all it’s bloody detail for Eric. Then I will write on the OT in the NT…
    ;)

  74. {joins the throng in chanting}

    Mogget! Mogget! Mogget!