I was going to call this “Grab the Popcorn”, but then I realised it links into some pretty heavy things. So I’m going general first. Go down the bottom if you want to see what I’m fussed/whining (whining if you’re still scared someone might think you’re a kid – there is actually some technical name for this condition, and the description isn’t very flattering. I can’t remember what it is and I have a lot of words to get through, sorry, so I’m not going to go hunting for it.) about. Long complicated sentences a speciality.
Disclosure: this post is part of me integrating a rather nasty event that happened yesterday and which I will not detail at this time. It upset me. I need to look whats under it and deconstruct. I need to look at it a way that might be seen by others in case they have something to say. It needs to become part of my internal furniture so I can move on. Here goes:
Online in general, bullying happens quite a lot, I think anyone that’s seen a WoW raid group, a bad one, has seen it for example – the theory goes that being anonymous means you can behave badly without repercussions. However, being online also means that some behaviour is too obvious to miss. Or should be. In Wurm Online, with its small community, reputation is everything. It is grown slowly, through the people you know and interact with. That’s more similar to real life, so real life behaviour has some relevance here, and indeed your normal internet bully tactics won’t work. They would be quickly spotted, denounced and you’d be known for what you are. A form of bullying closer to the real deal will work though.
If I speak with some authority on this it’s because I’m old. Oh yeah ..and dealt with quite a few of these in my time. Bullies share common behaviour which is not hard to describe in terms I hope are clear. It’s shared and common because it’s derived from the tools society hands them and to an extent it derives from a hiccup in development also.
So… how it works is this. I could do with diagrams but LiveBrush keeps going funny on me – or I’m pressing the buttons for Blender – who knows.
How it works
1) Isolate victim
2) Build own support structure and note possible colluders. This is important.
Quote from the Guardian: October 2012
“Savile was a star; rich, famous and – we can now see – brutally cunning. Those who should have acted chose the comfy options. Kids who dared complain about “Uncle Jimmy” were punished. His charity work helped build him a 24/7 alibi.”
Bullying takes many forms.
3) Start with small malicious actions
4) Do something that would be regarded as aggressive if spectators and participants were not pre-prepared via previous points
5) Shut victim up
The indifference of spectators to the plight of the person being bullied rises with each small incident and with each repetition until a point is reached where a larger attack will not draw much attention and smaller attacks are deemed normal. This same pattern is found in domestic abuse.
The indifference of spectators is crucial for a bully to operate.
The bully has to suspend the normal rules of behaviour for as long as it takes to attack the unfortunate victim without being called out. Well-prepared spectators even if shocked, will do the “it’s just one incident” thing, and not act.
A special note about collusion: point 2) – “build own infrastructure and support system” is all about people who will join in the bullying or support the activity in other ways. It’s simple – you form a gang, group of cohorts, organisation of some sort. Victim is excluded from this of course, but you are also looking out for people who will do the dirty work if you tell them to. This has several advantages. It means even less support for the victim. It means the blame can be spread if something goes wrong. It means the blame can be averted entirely by simply telling someone else to attack and then claiming not to have issued the order. And it means a ready-made chorus to tell the bully what they are doing is just fine, since the colluding members of the group are now fully involved in the actions taken, and invested in presenting them in a good light.
Self-validators and those with assurance are not as easy to manipulate and cannot be relied on to follow an order or harm another person. There aren’t many of those in a bully’s entourage anyway so it’s not a problem.
Newcomers to the area need to be sucked in quickly, or they might be loose cannons – or offer protection.
Weak people will collude more readily and can be made to hurt someone in case they are targeted themselves, or for fear of being left out of any spoils/advantage. An astute bully will have such people marked out long before they are handed the metaphorical knife and issued the order to do harm.
Side note: People do not necessarily collude with a bully because they are bullies too. Self-preservation and self-interest will make an otherwise rather nice person do just what they are told. As will self-doubt when everyone behaves as if things are fine. We know this from history.
1) That support system and running the colluders takes a lot of maintenance. Bullies can operate without a support system, I’ve seen it done. But it’s not common. Whatever the organisation, it has to be kept going and everyone in it must be kept happy lest it occur to them that the victim(s)(why waste a good organisation on one target) might not be Satan’s Spawn after all, and the leader might not be Mr/Mrs Great. Their own support system at least drains them, even if well-organised.
2) There’s always one person. I meet a lot of these one-persons, because I am one. There is always that awkward person who instead of meekly joining, turning a blind eye to what is going on, and doing what they are told to victimize another person, says “This is wrong, and I’m not going to do it.” Gasp. Nowadays I pick my fights more (due to wear and tear), but I surely can spot a kindred soul.
3) Going too far. One thing bullies are incredibly addicted to is believing their version of reality. So… immortality… never getting caught… being all-powerful…. being morally justified…. put all that in one big bag and shuggle it and you pretty much have the inside of a bully brain (see developmental model further down too). Anything that doesn’t fit the self-aggrandisement is labelled untrue – and all cohorts must adhere to this edited reality even when it is inconsistent, changes, or is destructive. Um… it kind of makes them seem, powerful and invulnerable, but reality always arrives on the scene at some point, and it hits hard. Most really ghastly dictators come to an extremely sticky end. In the interim it’s sometimes possible to convince some authority that this person is barking.
4) External intervention. While spectators and colluding groupies can be prepared nicely – dare I say groomed even, an external eye will see what’s going on in one fell swoop. If that external person has some authority, and the rules of the game (or life) allow – it’s game over for the bully.
What to do
Go for point 4 of the weaknesses. But be aware that (hmm from personal experience and very roughly) 75% of people you alert will insist everything is just dandy and do nothing, a hefty 15% will find a way it’s your fault not the perpetrator’s, 5% will join in and bully you too. Somewhere in the remaining 5% is salvation. The numbers are stacked heavily against the victim due to indolence, self-preservation, and self-interest. So play the numbers. Tell everyone you can. Tell everyone in detail. Tell more people. Tell their dogs. Tell their cats, the woman on the bus, your lawyer friend, that man who sold you a dodgy kettle, your teacher, your family, your friends, the milkman. And find ways to spot people who either begin to join in or decide to blame you and find ways to avoid them too. Some people will express sympathy which is nice of them, but for solving the situation it’s not going to do it.
Edit: I forgot to put (and in case this information is useful to anyone) – the further away from the situation you go seeking support and telling people what is going on the better your chances of getting an unbiased and external response. People close to the action are being persuaded that its ok, and may have things to lose by admitting it’s not right. They might secretly be sympathetic though.
Do not, ever, shut up about it and allow it to be brushed under the carpet – until you find someone, somewhere that has some integrity.
And then find more of those. You will take damage on your way, but even a small group of white knights can stop the bullying. An actual anti-bully organisation with some clout is way more effective, but weirdly they usually have the same % of non-intervention – possibly they are too involved or have targets that dont actually have much to do with just stopping the bad behaviour. Such organisations are particularly prone to blaming the victim, I noticed more than once. For example in domestic abuse situations if the victim (somewhat unsurprisingly) takes to drink, he or she will become the focus of investigation (social agency called in has unfilled target/new mission statement to do with alcoholism?), while the abuser looks on with pleased surprise, Christmas having obviously arrived early. Ring any bells for anyone that example? I bet it does.
And sometimes the bullies are within the rules. There are still ways to legitimately stop bullying though even if the rules are not helpful – it might take some strategy, but can be done. Having enough people being aware of and censuring the bully might in itself work.
Obvious bully is obvious. You can spot them easily. No need to comment. The other breed – the outwardly urbane, the Mr/Mrs Great are a tad harder. Here are clues I look for – no books involved – I just learned over the years that people that do this stuff are dangerous.
1) promise merchant – uses promises to lure people, or to make them think they will gain something common enough and very mild warning signal – watch for this though: (the big giveaway) – promises someone something, withholds it or makes them wait and watches them squirm.) (signals control issues better than a beacon on a hill).
2) control – when a person uses promises as above particularly the squirm one, needs to dominate not only immediate surroundings but things further out and stresses when thwarted. Stress shows up in different ways though – you need to know them well enough to notice they are stressing, and be able to link it to them having been thwarted. For example someone’s surroundings look good – not just the house, but the whole road too. Right. You know the person that is making this happen. A cat wanders up and digs a flowerbed across the road, the person responsible for the nice road gets fidgety although its not his garden, not his cat, and the beastie has merely made an experimental scratch and decided it will go somewhere else for relief. And you know when this person fidgets it means he’s stressed. Later you hear him yelling at his wife. Hope I have explained this ok. I feel I slightly missed and may rewrite.
3) slip of the tongue – lies and inconsistencies. Background details that you notice have changed substantially. Big warning signal – otherwise mild person suddenly talks about doing a violent act with some relish and in detail. Should be enough out of character to be surprising. The addition of detail is especially worrying. Don’t touch this person with a bargepole.
4) tantrums – by the time you are on the receiving end of one, it’s too late. Run. If you notice anyone older than 3 having one, yes, its not a good sign. Here’s why according to me: the root of bullying (bar psycopaths who are on a different road) is fundamental insecurity, hence the control issues. The insecurity comes about thus: conflict arises around 3 when a person realises they not only have external reality to deal with but people to deal with too, and none of this can reliably ordered for optimum happiness(definitely a discovery you’re allowed to yell and scream about!) Human development involves gradual acceptance of this realisation and the evolution of survival strategies to deal with it so that the conflict fades. Bullies have not completed this step and will still exhibit the 3 year old response (tantrum) along with the strong impulse to destroy that which causes the conflict which for them has not faded – this is easily transferred to a person they cannot bend satisfactorily to their reality. It might even be a superficial thing that is deemed not right – eye colour, whatever. Ok?
And quite often they actually do grow out of it (the missing step is completed.)
Enough of the general stuff, now the Popcorn:
In Wurm Online, bullies do attempt character assassination, which works fine on new players. With older players of course, it doesn’t since they already have their good reputation which sticks quite nicely. For an older player you need something more…. in tune with how the game works. All the griefing tools we are familiar with are fine – try perimeters, that’s always good for a sense of unease. But best of all for bullying purposes are the inbuilt organisational structures. A big alliance or village can make another player’s life a complete misery totally within the rules – just take control of the local resources – clay, tar, land, ore, roads where possible – exclude the victim and there you have it. It’s a much harder game for the person so targetted. Can shut down trade opportunities too – now I think of it – via word of mouth. Bully heaven.
And all totally within the rules.
I am in the middle of one of this, except I have my own resources so a resource embargo is not really going to do much. Mostly I miss having people to talk to. The bully’s support system chat amongst themselves exclusively – but then a few kind folk break ranks and keep me company so the isolation is mitigated somewhat, not hugely but still.
I had something of this twice this year (just bad luck), last time I moved and gave up my deed rather than deal with the person whose way I was in. This time I’m not inclined to go anywhere really, continually giving in isn’t maybe right. I’ll try it the other way and see if I can just stick it out. Oh yes – I’m sitting on a rather nice peice of land (again). Maybe that has something to do with me being singled out for this? On the other hand I did row this person a while back – and left his deed. In myself I know I was right to ditch that village – I didn’t find that behaviour acceptable, and I’m not under it’s (now extended to entire area) control. They might perceive that as a problem for them though I have no interest whatsoever in disrupting whatever they are doing. I doubt my single personal merchant with low grade goods is much threat to their market either.
The difficult thing with a setup such as I’m facing is mainly that the influence of the person who has an issue with me is very large on a small server. Err that’s pretty isolating. It also means I travel further than anyone else to get anything I need in order not to bother anyone who might worry about me being there etc. That part is annoying, but not the end of the world. Actually… it’s mainly the company I miss. Being a homebody, there’s no chance to accuse me of any crime, though that might be tried at some point. I’m on-deed, rarely leave. I grow trees, I smith. I talk to the 3 people that talk to me. And I’ve asked everyone to remove any permissions I have as a double precaution against any stray accusations. Of theft for example.
I’m willing to apologise and bury the hatchet to be honest, in the interests of a quiet life – until it all gets really too awful for peace to be made, but so far any olive branch I’ve offered has been thrown back at me with spikes embedded. I do get the feeling this past argument is being bigged up to justify current behaviour. It wasn’t really a big deal. Well, I think not. I left a village and bluntly said why I was going is all, I don’t find some behaviours acceptable. For me that’s it over (months ago) – but maybe it festered.
I think, for this game as others you need to be really careful how much power individuals can muster. The idea of a collective is very nice, but in practice it can be used badly, and often is. I think… collectives can be really destructive and malicious, or they can be wonderful and nurturing. There’s… no check on it though, nobody watches to see how it turns out. Rules don’t have to be broken – the game mechanics favour the collective heavily (more workers, more resources, more help, more support). It’s a very easy system to use against an individual. Even non-brain surgeons have figured that out.
By now my prime deed (coastal, near access canal, farmland) is sitting like an island in the middle of a swamp of united malevolence – I’m pretty sure some people would like me to go. But I’m not an awful horrible person or player. I don’t deserve this, frankly.
How long will I last I wonder? And will I keep playing Wurm after this experience? Who will join in the bullying? Who will break ranks? When asked to victimize me will someone grow a pair and say “This is wrong and I’m not doing it.” ????
Hehehe we’ll just have to wait and see.
Meanwhile I don’t have a support system to maintain and don’t have to sit online for hours per day (these people don’t work?) in case someone strays from the fold, so life is easier for me than for my adversary in that sense. I don’t have to ask anyone’s permission to do things, that’s another good thing. Nobody controls who I invite to join my deed either, and I cannot be ordered to kick out any villager I like and trust because someone’s dog once got their toe in a door or whatever the excuse is. That’s a very good thing indeed. O yes.
I have my 3 friends to talk to for as long as they withstand the tide. I don’t need anything that I can’t get. And I tell everyone that will listen what happened. I can only really be targeted by mud-slinging. Mud slinging is very effective. True or not people believe. That’s why I’m wondering if I’ll play after this. You see, I know who I am. I know what is true of me. It’s good stuff – I’m not up there with Hitler. Just a normal 53 year old mum, bit daft, definitely kindly despite all the hooting and growling. I doubt I could effectively step into the role of a despised, reviled, hated nothingness no matter how carefully it is crafted for me by another or how often I am told in so very many ways by another that it fits me. It doesn’t. I’m ok. I’m not that. I am an ordinary player very much enjoying an unusual game (except for maintenance chores) which is usually very sociable, but not now. If more people begin to believe I am horrible and must be ostracised and they act accordingly, then this game has actually become damaging to me. I don’t need superfluous upset or to be on the end of aggression, that’s for sure.
So… will I last?