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“”[Bullies] threaten the weak to feed some insecurity that rages inside them. … Surviving a bully requires constant learning and adaptation. Which is why bullies are so powerful, because it’s so much easier to be a follower, to go with the crowd, to just blend in.
|—James B. Comey, former FBI director|
Bullying is the intentional intimidation of a (perceived) weaker individual, common in the context of schoolchildren, students, military cadets or service personnel, and various workforces or social groupings. When done over the internet it is often referred to as cyber-bullying or e-bullying. The reasons for bullying are disputed, but most can agree that bullying is caused by a desire for power or social acceptance. Bullies find satisfaction in causing the suffering of others. If suffering is caused without the specific intent of harm to others it is not usually considered bullying; more often it would simply be described as acting inconsiderately.
Types of bullying
There are different categories of bullying, each kind receiving different levels of tolerance. Physical bullying, vandalism, threatening, and sexual bullying are typically considered the worst kinds of bullying (these actions are illegal in the adult world.) Verbal bullying, social exclusion, and gossip are considered less severe and may not be taken as seriously, even though it can lead to lasting psychogical conditions, including depression and various personality disorders.
Verbal bullying is the most common form of bullying. It most often involves personal insults, such as calling someone stupid or fat. However, simply calling somebody a mean name once or twice is generally not regarded as bullying — it has to be repeated and, usually, manipulate the victim's own insecurities.
Social bullying involves giving the victim inferior status to others. It is controversial as to when social exclusion becomes bullying. After all, you wouldn't want to sit next to your most hated enemy, would you? It doesn't mean you are trying to hurt them.
Physical bullying is most represented by the media. Attention to physical bullying is much improved in modern times, but it should not be mistaken for an uncommon phenomenon.
Slander and gossip
Slander is the use of false statements to deface someone's reputation. Gossip is similar, but may be true or false. This form of bullying goes almost unnoticed compared to any of the others listed, especially since it does not involve direct contact with the victim. Although it receives far less attention, false rumors can still be incredibly detrimental to one's peace of mind.
Theft and vandalism
Theft is not always bullying. Thieving only becomes bullying when it is done with the specific intent of causing suffering to the owner of the stolen property. Vandalism is the defacing of property. Vandalism, too, is not always bullying. Vandalism is often done as a form of art. Like thieving, it only becomes bullying when it is done with the specific intent of causing suffering.
Threats and coercion
Coercion is the act of forcing another to do something they find unpleasant. Blackmail, intimidation and torture are all used in forms of coercion. Coercion is not bullying if it done with the intent of furthering personal goals. It only becomes bullying when done simply because it is uncomfortable to the victim.
Cyber-bullying is a subset of bullying that can include all of the above except physical bullying and
theft/vandalism (Hacking someone's account and defacing it as a form of cyberbullying can be considered theft/vandalism). The only difference is that it is delivered via the internet, texting, or some other electronic means.
In many cases, bullying is used as an attempt to shut down opinions that the bully doesn't like. This is called the heckler's veto: harass the speaker until they stop being an annoyance. This is also used as a common form of protest (things like "mic checks" at Occupy events), but is frequently used as an attempt by denialists to shut down science or political discussions. Extreme cases, especially when violence or blackmail are involved, can verge on terrorism.
Bullying and suicide
Psychological research shows that the victims of bullying are more likely to have suicidal ideation or suicide attempts. There is also evidence for increased suicidality in the perpetrators of bullying, although that link is not as strong.
- James Comey’s memoir: Trump fixates on proving lewd dossier allegations false by Philip Rucker (April 12, 2018 at 5:41 PM) The Washington Post.
- A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership by James B. Comey (2018) Flatiron Books. ISBN 1250192455.
- Verbal bullying can be considered a form harassment, and therefore a civil case, but slander is the only one listed that is definitely illegal.
- Klomek, et. al., "Bullying and Suicide", Psychiatric Times, Feb 2011. Numerous cases of bullying victims committing suicide have received media attention in recent years.