Reality shows and the present epidemic of bullying:
One of the reasons that bullying has become so out of control in our schools is the overabundance of reality shows on television, which seem to glorify and glamorize the abuse of others.
Shows like “Bad Girls Club,” Jersey Shore (which I think are the absolute worst), and The Real Housewives franchise, are shows in which people as old as their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s act like middle schoolers in a locker room brawl. Grown men and women, whom you would think would have a modicum of maturity, often resort to name-calling, bashing others, and yes…even hair-pulling, shoving, punching, and kicking.
When I see this, a question always comes to mind: “What kind of example and message are these shows and their stars sending our children and teenagers?”
Violence has indeed been shown on TV and in movies for decades. However, before reality shows were heard of, TV was not real, and kids of my generation understood because our parents never let us forget it.
We knew that what we were seeing was only actors playing the parts of fictional characters in fictional shows. Moreover, we were taught not to try anything we saw on TV in real life because it would put us at risk of getting hurt and/or worse. We grew up with the understanding that “It’s only a television series” or “It’s just a movie,” and none of it was real.
Sadly, as television networks slowly run out of ideas for fictional shows and reality shows gradually take over the airwaves, TV is becoming less fictional (and interesting) and is sending the message to kids that bullying is okay or that you have to be a bully to move up in the world…that to get ahead, you have to step over another person.
And most reality show stars are narcissistic has-beens who are just dying to stay relevant and get the last shot at fame, which makes them lousy role models!
“Power is not what you have. It’s what the enemy thinks you have.” ~ Saul D. Alinsky (Rules for Radicals)
Bullies crave power like a fat kid craves McDonald’s Big Macs. Power tastes delicious. Understand that most bullies attack in groups, or more appropriately, mobs. Being in a mob gives people tremendous power and bullies know it.
Power feels good because it can get people prestige, street cred, notoriety, and popularity. Power has a way of cushioning the ego, and as we already know, most bullies have meaningless lives outside of the mob and bullying environment (school, work, community, etc.). So, the power they get from being a part of a mob adds “meaning” to their lives that they could never get by any other means. Power is what gives bullies a cause and a purpose in life.
Group power is even better! Because in a mob, each individual can bully a target, lose themselves in the bullying, and get a degree of anonymity. Therefore, bullies are much safer in the group. The group shields each bully from taking any responsibility for their appalling behavior. Groups provide protection from exposure and personal consequences.
So, how do you fight back against a mob?
One way is to call out one or two of their members by their names and tell them to “get a grip,” “knock it off,” or “calm down.”
I recently read this in a book about survival and it makes perfect sense. Anytime you call out a few members of a mob by their names, it brings them back to themselves by personalizing them. What you’re doing is basically, separating them from the mob when you loudly call out their name.
Mobbing is THE severest form of bullying. Once the bullying reaches the stage of mobbing, this is when the bullying becomes life-threatening! And if you’ve ever been a target of it, you know firsthand how destructive it is.
The reasons that mobbing is so hard to remedy is because not only has it already rendered us so distraught that we’re unable to think clearly, but we aren’t able to name, describe, nor communicate the steps bullies take to destroy us.
A successful smear campaign is started by a bully or bullies who are well-practiced in the arts of persuasion and influence and can last for years.
Here’s something I want you to realize. A smear campaign is nowhere near as tricky as it looks. You’d be amazed at just how simple it is to smear someone. It’s so easy that it shouldn’t be so effective, but it is!
To quote the old Geico commercial, it’s “so easy; a caveman can do it.”
Here’s a chronological, step-by-step recap of how bullies do it and succeed at it:
1. The bullies have a dislike for a specific individual who refuses to conform to their standard of who she should be.
Now all this time, the bullies have been able to influence everyone else and get them to submit to their will and every whim. Then, low and behold, along comes the target (we’ll call her “Cindy”) who’s stubborn and either unable to or won’t submit to the bullies’ control and allow them to change her personality into what they think it should be.
And Cindy may not realize the bullies’ motives and that just by being herself and doing her thing, she’s enraging the bullies. So, she goes on about her business, makes plans for her future, makes achievement after achievement, and maybe she gets loads of positive attention and praise from others because she’s so successful and well-liked.
2. Next, the bullies begin to smear Cindy. To implement their smear campaign, they watch Cindy, studying her behavior carefully until they’re able to anticipate her reactions.
3. The bullies then train their audience (i.e., the other classmates or coworkers to expect a specific type of behavior out of Cindy. They point out these behaviors when they occur. The bullies then associate Cindy’s completely innocent behavior with something bad or evil.
For example, let’s say that Cindy is sweet, playful, and likes to engage in a little banter. The bullies watch as Cindy banters with people in the school or workplace. She playfully calls someone a “dummy” or a “goofball,” but others know that it’s all for harmless jokes and think it’s funny because Cindy is a genuinely kind person.
4. So, the bullies begin making offhand comments. They remark that Cindy’s kindness is only an attempt to kiss ass because she wants something from people and that she thinks the people around her really are dummies, but only disguises it under a veil of fun jokes and playfulness.
The bullies also make statements that Cindy thinks she’s cute and that Cindy thinks she’s smarter than everyone else. Then repeat, repeat, repeat!
To quote a propaganda minister to a well-known dictator in history, “Tell a lie once, and it remains a lie. Tell a lie a thousand times, and it becomes the truth.”
5. The next time others see Cindy being kind to and playfully bantering with someone, she doesn’t look so cute, and the banter isn’t so funny anymore. Now people see a side of Cindy they can’t believe they never noticed before.
6. Now feeling smug with gratification, the bullies look at themselves, then at Cindy with smirks on their crooked faces and try the same thing all over again.
7. And before you know it, everyone wonders what they ever saw in Cindy, to begin with, and begins to have negative feelings toward the poor girl.
8. Cindy begins to pick up on the negative vibes around her and withdraws a little. She doesn’t speak to people as much as she did and doesn’t understand what she did or said to bring it all about. The bullies notice that Cindy is more distant than usual, and they point this out to everyone.
“Hey, look! Do you see that? Now, what did we tell you? Cindy really does think we’re all dummies! She really does think she’s smarter than the rest of us!”
“And her ass-kissing (Cindy’s sweet disposition) didn’t work, so now she’s too good to speak to anyone!”
9. Cindy’s withdrawal only inflames everyone’s feelings of dislike and resentment. Although her becoming distant is only out of self-protection, others mistake it for smugness and arrogance.
10. And it only snowballs from there, getting worse and worse over time. Understand that people are human, and they make mistakes. They misjudge innocent others all the time.
And when bullies condition the whole of a group, school, organization, workplace, or community to see any quality in a particular person as a bad thing, a smear campaign is most effective. So everyone, even those who aren’t bullies and are otherwise kind and compassionate, can become extremely cold and cruel to a target. And everyone repeats the same cruelty, over and over again.
Understand that smear campaigns are just too effective because they can quickly become bullying, then escalate to mobbing, which is the most severe kind of bullying. And once it increases to mobbing, it’s unstoppable, and the only way you can take your life back is to leave that toxic, poisonous environment altogether.
Holding bullies accountable isn’t the end-all, be-all. Yes, bullies must be exposed and made to take responsibility. I’ll agree with that. But!
A bully may be punished and severely so, but there’s no guarantee he/she will learn from it and leave the target alone.
In fact, it almost never works because in most situations, when a bully is caught and held responsible, it only further angers the bully and makes them that much more vindictive and determined to retaliate against the target.
In instances such as these, the objective should also be to take steps to care for and protect the victim.
If a bully sees that others are rallying around the target and showering him/her with love and support, the least likely he (the bully) will continue to harass that target or plot retaliation.
Remember that bullies are great big wusses at heart and prefer to catch the target alone and isolated because that is when the target is most vulnerable.
Giving support to a victim of bullying could be as simple as walking them home from school, praising them for an accomplishment, or helping them to enroll in a self-defense class.
So, if you see someone being bullied, give them support, and show you care. You never know. You could end up saving a life! You could be someone’s hero! How awesome is that?