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Take care when the bully affects to be bullied

EVERYONE'S being bullied.

Beyond genuinely disturbing cases in the school playground, Pippa (yon Middleton of that ilk), Scottish businesses and the BBC are all having their metaphorical lunch-money nicked. It's the new narrative and one not to be trusted because it's a carefully and repeatedly deployed tactic, except, obviously, on the part of the People's Pippa.

Bullying comes in many guises. Our primary class bully used to take pleasure in twisting my ears. I've forgotten his name but if you're reading this: my ears are fine now, but I bet you still look like Oliver Hardy. Companies and communities covering up crimes will bully individuals. No one is in a better position to bully than a newspaper, and midmarket madsheets indulge in it with gusto.

Online is a new forum for bullying, be it real as in schoolkids on Facebook, or mythical, a phenomenon occasioned by the least able of two sides in a debate trying to delegitimise the other.

The best way to deal with a bully is to bully them back. But that's when it looks confusing to observers. If they arrive just as you're poking your tormentor in the eye, you look the guilty party.

Bullies know this and play on it. As soon as you strike back, they cry foul. It can be seen in the Ulster Inversion, where former bullies now claim their human rights are infringed, hold civil liberties marches, and set up protest camps. They enjoy the sinister irony.

Both there and now here, if you believe everything you read, bullies are bullied, bigots are discriminated against and you can't get a word in edgeways for folk shouting about how they've been silenced. There's an inverted relationship between posterior and breast. When the Daily Monster is accusing others of bullying you know the looking glass has gone through you. It's a sad fact that the first draft of history is almost always false, and we must hope historians in the future will dig deeper than a few newspaper headlines.

One feels for the people churning out such tropes. To write three or four times a week "Alex Salmond's dream of separation lay in tatters last night as …", your soul must have turned to sawdust, particularly if following up with "as a leading London-based comedian/juggler/orthodontist added his voice to No".

Much of this is like online "trolling": promulgating over-the-top untruths to solicit a reaction, though in this case passive horror is preferred to fighting back.

In terms of yonder referendum, an answer might have been a return to traditional debating in public halls. But, up and down the country, the same story is heard: the No side will not debate. This is roots where the grass is definitely greener on the other side.

Most "Better No'" public pronouncements come from professional Labour politicians with a lot to lose and, while their cheerless chestnuts subsist in the rubric of threats, warnings and Brobdingnagian deployment of deliberately misread statistics, the poor folk on the ground flounder and hide because they cannot muster a positive case.

They know it full well. All they have is heart, bless 'em, and its beat gets ever weaker, like an unpleasant parade disappearing into the sunset.

Online, the debate is overwhelmingly dominated by Yes, hence the need to bully it away. Much of the worst bile comes from the Unionist side but, unless it involves a resigning politician, that never provokes a story. By contrast, a solitary swear word from a Cybernat in Lower Strathsnotter sees a mad rush to the typewriters.

Don't believe me? Buy a computer. Have. A. Look. Then come back and tell me which side is deploying facts, reason and authenticity and which is personalising, degrading and using too many exclamation marks.

If it makes you happy, I'll affect Olympian detachment with a back-covering reference to "both sides". It's a brilliant technique for presenting a biased case, so fill both your boots.

Certainly, there are two sides to bullying, but when the bully is affecting to be bullied, you have to separate him from his victim. Then point him out. It's pretty obvious in my experience. He looks like Oliver Hardy.

Contextual targeting label: 
Local government

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