The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'bullying'
It has emerged that children in Britain are posing as paedophiles online to intimidate each other.
Officers have warned parents and children to be vigilant after as many as nine youngsters in Padstow, Cornwall, were targeted through the networking sites Bebo and MSN. Police initially believed a local man was trying to groom the children by befriending them online and arranging to meet them. But a member of the public has come forward and told them that youngsters are trying to settle playground disputes by posing as a paedophile to frighten their rivals.
A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall police said: "Information from the public has highlighted a possibility that the offenders could be children aged 10 and over, masquerading as a paedophile. The investigations are continuing and at this moment we are looking into every line of inquiry and are not ruling out any possibility. However, the language used on the social networking sites such as Bebo and MSN is at times childish. It could be youngsters playing a sick game to try and intimidate friends they have fallen out with. This will be treated seriously and we will be contacting the families of the children involved and we will try and help them by involving social services."Granted, a lot of this is the inevitable modern variant of kids trying to scare each other with imaginary serial killers/monsters/urban myths, updated for the age of paedoterror, though it wouldn't surprise me if, in these jumpy times, some 12-year-old ended up on the sex offenders' register after pulling such a stunt.
(via Boing Boing)
The internet, with its detachment between online and offline actions and its lack of a private register, has spawned the phenomenon of griefers, or highly organised subcultures of people (mostly young men) who delight in ruining other people's online fun:
Consider the case of the Avatar class Titan, flown by the Band of Brothers Guild in the massively multiplayer deep-space EVE Online. The vessel was far bigger and far deadlier than any other in the game. Kilometers in length and well over a million metric tons unloaded, it had never once been destroyed in combat. Only a handful of player alliances had ever acquired a Titan, and this one, in particular, had cost the players who bankrolled it in-game resources worth more than $10,000.
So, naturally, Commander Sesfan Qu'lah, chief executive of the GoonFleet Corporation and leader of the greater GoonSwarm Alliance — better known outside EVE as Isaiah Houston, senior and medieval-history major at Penn State University — led a Something Awful invasion force to attack and destroy it.
"The ability to inflict that huge amount of actual, real-life damage on someone is amazingly satisfying" says Houston. "The way that you win in EVE is you basically make life so miserable for someone else that they actually quit the game and don't come back."
To see the philosophy in action, skim the pages of Something Awful or Encyclopedia Dramatica, where it seems every pocket of the Web harbors objects of ridicule. Vampire goths with MySpace pages, white supremacist bloggers, self-diagnosed Asperger's sufferers coming out to share their struggles with the online world — all these and many others have been found guilty of taking themselves seriously and condemned to crude but hilarious derision.Griefers defend their behaviour by claiming that they're merely giving those who take the internet far too seriously a reality check. The implied subtext is that anything that happens online is just a game and doesn't count. Though, given how the internet has become a mainstream part of many people's lives (witness, for example, the rise in social networking websites), this assertion makes about as much sense as Tom Hodgkinson's call to kill your Facebook account, throw away your email address and instead socialise in the pub with people near you. There's not a great leap from asserting that anything that happens online doesn't really count and absurdly ludditic claims like "if you don't know what someone smells like, they're a stranger".
On the other hand, there is no such thing as the right to be respected, or even to not be ridiculed. If one posts a web page detailing one's peculiar political views, conspiracy theories and/or sexual fetishes online, one can expect to be laughed at and even snidely remarked about. Though there is a distinction between demolishing someone's homepage in a blog or discussion forum and actively gathering a posse and going out to hound them off the net.
Griefing happens in the real world, though it's usually called other things, such as bullying. The difference is that the internet has democratised bullying. In the real world, in more conformistic societies, bullies can typically only be those either of or contending for alpha social status, enforcing an exaggerated version of majority values by picking on those perceived to not conform to them (witness the use of the word "gay", sometimes semi-euphemised as "ghey", as a general-purpose term of derision), and in more liberal or pluralistic environments, even that is frowned upon. Online, anyone can find a group of like-minded misfits, make up a cool-sounding name, set up a virtual clubhouse and start picking on mutually agreed targets, with little fear of social consequences.
Gibson's Law meets the Jon Katz Hellmouth, as school bullies adopt new technologies, from SMS harrassment to "Nigelling" (i.e., ostracising their victims from online chatrooms). (Though is "Nigelling" really so unusual? The less-than-popular kids have always been left out of the quarterbacks'/prom-queens' reindeer games for as long as children have been herded into the social pressure-cookers known as schools. And in this day of the Internet, the misfits would be likely to find their own cliques, even if they consist of a cluster of pseudonymous DeadJournals scattered across the world.
Spare a thought for Ghyslain Raza, probably better known as the "Star Wars Kid" (though not to his friends). He got his Warholian 15 minutes when some classmates stole a videotape of him mimicking a Star Wars character, digitised it and uploaded it to the internet. The armchair bullies of the world soon smelt blood in the water and started doing their own masterly remixes of it, adding titles like "Dork Clones" and artistic enhancements such as sounds of flatulence. All this fame was too much for Ghyslain, who was forced to drop out from his private high school. It is claimed that he "will be under psychiatric care for an indefinite amount of time" and may be obliged to change his name to have any hope of a normal life.
Meanwhile, the four classmates who digitised and posted the video were last seen in an Internet chatroom plotting ways to get an iPod donated to Ghyslain redirected to them (they, and not that dork, are the ones who really deserve it, the reasoning goes; after all, they launched the video into the net, and all he did was carelessly leave a video tape lying around). (via NWD)
Read: Why nerds are unpopular, an interesting essay which starts by asking the question of why intelligent kids are so unpopular in schools, and going from that to the malaise of living in a world detached from any real meaning:
And the active persecution is, if anything, the less painful half of the popularity equation. As well as gaining points by distancing oneself from unpopular kids, one loses points by being close to them. A woman I know says that in high school she liked nerds, but was afraid to be seen talking to them because the other girls would make fun of her. Unpopularity is a communicable disease; kids too nice to pick on nerds will still ostracize them in self-defense.
The author posits that the culture of sadism and cruelty is an emergent property of human nature in an unnatural environment (both schools and the wastelands of suburbia), and that in a world without meaning or purpose, kids find their own meaning in popularity and create their own arbitrarily vicious society. (I.e., the Lord of the Flies Effect.)
I think the important thing about the real world is not that it's populated by adults, but that it's very large, and the things you do have real effects. That's what school, prison, and ladies-who-lunch all lack. The inhabitants of all those worlds are trapped in little bubbles where nothing they do can have more than a local effect. Naturally these societies degenerate into savagery. They have no function for their form to follow.
If I could go back and give my thirteen year old self some advice, the main thing I'd tell him would be to stick his head up and look around. I didn't really grasp it at the time, but the whole world we lived in was as fake as a twinkie. Not just school, but the entire town. Why do people move to suburbia? To have kids! So no wonder it seemed boring and sterile. The whole place was a giant nursery, an artificial town created explicitly for the purpose of breeding children.
As far as I can tell, the concept of the hormone-crazed teenager is coeval with suburbia. I don't think this is a coincidence. I think teenagers are driven crazy by the life they're made to lead. Teenage apprentices in the Renaissance were working dogs. Teenagers now are neurotic lapdogs. Their craziness is the craziness of the idle everywhere.
Social phenomena seen through American high school archetypes: A WSJ writer claims that public criticism of SUVs (that's American for big-arse personal monster trucks) is geeks against jocks, the bookish dweebs who got beaten up in high school dressing up their rage at their former persecutors' wealth and soulless materialism in the garb of moral outrage, out of sheer impotent spite.
This anti-SUV fervor strikes me as a classic geek assault on jock culture. Here are the geeks: thoughtful, socially and environmentally conscious. They understand that only spiritually shallow people could possibly get pleasure from a motor vehicle. Then there are those jocks. They cruise through life infuriatingly unaware of how morally inferior they are to the geeks. They make money, become popular, play golf and have homes that are too large. And they're happy! For all the wrong reasons! And so every few years the geeks pick on some feature of jock life (McMansions, corporations, fraternities, country clubs) and get all worked up about it. And you know what? The jocks don't care! They just keep being happy. The geeks write, protest and fume. The jocks go to St. Croix.
By the same token one could dismiss any progressive concern is the whining of sore losers (or, indeed, "Jealousy masquerading as Class Consciousness"). Though, even if there is some truth in it (pertaining to the psychological motivations of some progressive activist types), that doesn't invalidate the argument. (via Plastic)
Whenever talk of fighting bullying at schools comes up, the religious right and their ilk get up to vigorously oppose it, as it would protect leftists, homosexuals, freaks, nerds, hippies, atheists, questioners and other undesirables from being set right by the crew-cut defenders of our values. Bullies, their argument suggests, are the unsung guardians of moral probity, the kids who draw the line and make sure everybody else toes it, without whom the values that make Our Great Nation great would be lost, and who grow into staunch patriots, the backbone of society. Well, perhaps this is the sort of righteously patriotic act they have in mind. (via one.point.zero)
All-too-realistic Onion article: Columbine Jocks Safely Resume Bullying
Cameras were installed on school grounds, enabling authorities to more closely monitor the activities of all students for suspiciously nonconformist behaviors or modes of dress. All entrances to the school are now locked and accessible only by intercom or specially coded key card, preventing the sort of open, comfortable learning environment that might encourage students to express themselves. The soothing presence of armed patrols, coupled with high fences surrounding the grounds, reassures jocks that they can feel free to once again torment the school's geeks as they did before April 20, without fear of reprisal.