Tuesday, December 6, 2011

From the Bully Pulpit: Confronting the Truth

By now this video has been all over the world and back again. The raw hurt shown here is hard to watch. It can make people uncomfortable. In fact, it's made a few people so uncomfortable, they've manufactured a controversy over the veracity of this video.

I'm uncomfortable with the volumes that speaks about them.

While some may have honestly mistaken this video as an admission to lying...

...it is obvious that this video was made much later after the outpouring of support and concern the former video rightfully elicited.

These videos elicited much worse responses from a few particularly poisonous personalities, though. Particularly noticeable among the usual homophobic bile was the use of a common tactic bullies employ when bothered by the facts: smear victims further by attacking their credibility.

There are a number of ways bullies go about this.

Downplaying the pain bullying inflicts is not an outright denial of responsibility, but accusing the victim of overreacting is a ploy to shift blame away from the bully. Attacking the victim's overall personality is even more common. A person branded a crybaby or drama queen will have a hard time feeling like he or she can be taken seriously.

Questioning a victim's mental health and how it affects credibility is even worse, from kids simply calling each other crazy to adults arming themselves with a cursory knowledge of psychology and publically sharing their "diagnoses" of their victims. If the victim has a known mental health history, bullies will stoop to playing up old stereotypes and stigmas associated with mental illness in order to make it look like the victim simply imagined he or she was bullied.

Last but not least is outright accusing the victim of lying. I won't deny that false accusations do fly- usually from bullies trying to hide or justify their own behavior. 

But the young man in this video didn't name anyone, didn't name his school, didn't even leave any hints as to who exactly was bullying him, which makes me wonder why some of the people who've responded so harshly got so defensive. There is also nothing in it for anyone to lie about being bullied. It's not fun for victims to even tell the truth, fearing as we do exposing our vulnerabilities to others and opening ourselves up to more bullying.

And given how many people have died because of bullying, the stakes are too high for us to not take it all seriously.

That's why I never doubted Jonah Mowry.

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