As I mentioned in my essay on safe spaces, sometimes bullies win.
Sometimes the bullies wear at a person’s resolve enough so that one little weird and probably innocuous incident from an unrelated source is enough to rattle that person. Enough to change the calculus used to determine whether something is worth doing, such that suddenly something that they were gung-ho to do (like Ophelia Benson speaking at TAM) becomes a headache just not worth undertaking.
It doesn’t matter that the last straw — the incident that caused the equation to flip from “worth it” to “not” — might have been completely innocent. It really doesn’t. All the damage has already been done.
The years of targeted hatred someone like Ophelia Benson has experienced has done its job, has sensitized her to the point where an ambiguous warning that she might be shot must needs be taken seriously. Especially where the convention at which she was to speak, has taken great pains as of late to studiously avoid any responsibility for making the convention a safe space for these people.
And yet, people have as of late taken to calling Freethought Blogs and its bloggers the bullies. I’m guessing it’s because when we say that harassment policies help to protect people from nonsense like this, and others complain bitterly that we’re trying to “ruin” their convention, they see our unwillingness to back down as an effort to bully them into seeing things our way.
Are you noticing a familiar motif to this particular fight? It rings almost identical to the fight against Christians who believe that stopping them from bullying others is in fact a way of bullying THEM. That they have such a fundamental right to bully others that someone telling them to stop is the REAL bully.
I complained bitterly on Ophelia’s post that this situation played out the way it did.
Jafafa Hots @74:
Well, I guess TAM is now a safe space for poor Blackford now that one of the “bullies” isn’t going to be there.
I bet he, Stangroom, Sarah Mayhew and the ERVites are so pleased that they’ve successfully bullied one of the “bullies” out of the picture.
What’s the commonality between all four of the entities/groups I mentioned? They’ve claimed we’re the bullies. And, they’ve themselves bullied one or many of us. They’ve done all the chipping damage they needed, so that our resolves were weakened such that one of us, when faced with an ambiguously worded but creepy email flipped her “worth-it” equation.
And now they’re doing it with me, claiming, repeatedly, that I blamed them for the emails that Ophelia received. Of course, I didn’t. It doesn’t even take any kind of special parsing of my original bitter complaint about the bully-crying bullies to get exactly what I meant.
But what I meant doesn’t matter. Nor does what I actually said, regardless of how well it comports with what I meant. What matters is the narrative that the bullies built to be able to slime me with the epithet “liar”, and the fact that they’ll use it in isolation of corroborating evidence from now til eternity.
Do I care what the bullies themselves think? Of course not. It would be a difficult slog trying to post my beliefs and my philosophies on the internet every day if I had to kowtow to every bully who came along and demanded that we stop talking about the things I want to talk about. It’s never the bullies that one cares about when one laments that certain contrafactual narratives gain a foothold. It’s the fact that good people, who are right about a lot of things, and who otherwise agree with a lot of what I say, fall for these narratives and repeat them credulously.
That’s what hurts. Not the bullies, but the people who believe them.
Of course, I’m certain that by my saying so, the bullies will take heart in the fact that they can win these wars of attrition — that all they have to do is keep piling on the slurs and the insults and the lies and eventually that camel’s back will break and that equation will flip.
And they’ll pop their champagne corks, even if none of them get to claim the killing blow. They’ll have achieved their goals even without being the last person to place that one last straw. They’ll have won.
At least, temporarily. At least, until people support the demoralized and mend some of the damage. Challenge the lies and the liars using those lies to bully us.