Have you heard the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf?
It a story of a young shepherd who when bored cried, “wolf”, the villagers came to his defence and there was no wolf. He did this again and again, each time the villagers came to help him and there was no wolf. The villagers became weary of his behaviour. The final time he cries wolf, no one comes to help but this time there really is a wolf. The story ends with the line “Nobody believes a liar, even when he’s telling the truth”
This post is not about a shepherd, it’s about bullies.
This post is not about those who are true victims or survivors of bullying.
This post is about those who are not victims of bullying but claim to be.
Now before anyone starts to do the ‘funky internet freak out flaming dance’, let me finish…
Bullying is a horrific experience for anyone, and anyone can fall victim to it. It can be a very subjective experience and it’s important not to ignore someone’s experiences or perceptions or feelings because they do not fit with your own.
There are not many people who would claim to be the victims of bullies when they are not. Indeed those who do are a strange, rare breed. Why bother? Regardless, every claim of bullying really must be taken seriously and to the best of our ability, investigated. However, looking back at the story of the boy who cried wolf, there is a danger that when someone perpetually and falsely claims they are bullied, there will come a point when they eventually are and that no one will believe them anymore.
The nasty bitch in me, the bullying survivor says, “hell mend ye”, the victim in me, wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
From my voyeuristic foray into internet drama, my understanding is that when someone perpetually and highly vocally draws attention to the fact they are being cyber bullied and the communications are all publicly available to see, it is often (but not always) in fact the reverse, they are the one doing the bullying: a very subtle form of bullying. So subtle it’s difficult to detect at first, second or third glance. It’s all a game. It’s a game of manipulation.
It’s a common tactic of any bully online or off – get the sympathy of the masses, no one will ever believe that you are not the victim but instead the perpetrator. It’s a clever manipulation of people, of language, of situations, of the vulnerable. It’s a clever manipulation of the sympathy of the masses, it plays on their kindness, it plays on their need to protect others from the vile bullying of nasty, spiteful, unintelligent, lonely… oh you name it… I’m sure you can think of all the stereotypes of nasty bullies we know and hate.
The reality is, bullies are rarely that blatantly nasty. They are charming, popular, helpful, likeable, they help you, they’re nice to you…you name it, they don’t fit the usual stereotypes. You can’t tell or point them out just by looking at them. Yet detection is a lot easier when their behaviour is public and traceable online.
The horrible truth is that there really are people who cry “bullying” when they are not truly being bullied. They are in fact the real bully. They are smart and they are subtle. There is a real danger in their behaviour. It’s obvious there is some kind of issue needing addressed when someone needs to partake in such practices, but it’s not likely to be requiring support as the victim of a bullying campaign.
My really worry, the real danger, is that it trivialises the experiences of those who really have been bullied online and off. The real victims. It reduces the reality of true bullying to a drama, where the actors confuse the positions of bully and victim. This makes me worry that when someone who truly is being bullied cries for help, no one will come, they will only hear “wolf”. No one will believe them, and this is potentially so damaging for them, and all of us. Bullying victims rarely feel listened to, we should all be angry when people pretend to be victims, it makes it harder for those who really need the help, to be heard. The voices of those who shout loudest always drown out those who need to be heard the most.
People only have so much tolerance for bullshit. Slowly but surely people come to realise, one by one if necessary, that they are being manipulated. Lied to. Taken advantage of. But what of the real victim of bullying? When everyone is sick of hearing “I’m the victim” from a bully, what chances has a real victim of bullying got of being heard?
True bullying isn’t surrounded by drama. True victims don’t seek attention. Rarely do those who are truly bullied identify as victims. Rarely to do they scream it from the rooftops. Rarely do victims make calls to arms among their friends. Rarely will a victim partake in the very behaviour they claim to be making them so very miserable. I struggle to see this behaviour as speaking out or standing up to bullies, it’s drama, pure and simple. I worry that high-profile dramas detract from the reality of being bullied. The dramas mask the real bullying.
I worry that when “Nobody believes a liar, even when he’s telling the truth”, those who have never lied will never be believed. Victims of bullying need to be given a voice but not one that drowns out everyone else.