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Bullying and mean behaviour is making headlines again. I'm not surprised to see teacher’s leader Chris Keates claiming that the "bullying-type" behaviour of media stars like Alan Sugar and Gordon Ramsay encourage bullying behaviour in school children. After all they've been raised by our society to star status - not only despite their bullying behaviour, but even because of it!
With the launch of a new series of ITV's I'm A Celebrity we may well see bullying behaviour in the jungle. The big question is will this behaviour be rewarded with the bullies being kept in the jungle by the public vote? Because it’s rewarding them by not booting them out. The longer they stay in the louder the "Kerching" of those ££s when they get out of the jungle and are asked to do personal appearances and promote products.
Thankfully the winners have been more well-rounded personalities without a bully bone in their bodies. The likes of Tony Blackburn, Phil Tufnell and Carol Thatcher won without bullying their fellow camp mates. But there were always the characters in the background that back-stabbed and bullied a bit (can’t recall who but know there were!)
Then surprise, surprise we find Naomi Campbell back in court charged yet again with bullying behaviour. Despite the numbers of time she's been accused of such behaviour her supermodel status has never wavered.
Public Humiliation And Intimidation Of Other People Suddenly Seems Cool
It would appear to the average person that bullying has become "cool" because the nature of observing the bullying of others turns analysis away from you and your insecurities, imperfections and problems in your life, and thrusts attention on to someone else. It's a bit like schadenfreude - that German saying about we get personal happiness from someone else's despair. Despite the fact we’re talking about a long distance between the TV viewer and the bullying they see on screen, down deep in our human Psyche we personalise the experience. And at some level it's a relief to see others getting some flak when maybe we've been getting stress and hassle in our relationship or from our boss at work.
Feeding into this bullying culture-as-cool is the insults cast with incisor-like sharpness by columnists and bloggers everywhere that deride public figures. These are seen as witty and funny no matter what the outcome for the victim. It makes us feel better particularly if we don't feel very good about ourselves to see others torn apart by the likes of columnists and on TV by the Sugars and Ramsays. Pundits and commentators don't seem to think there’d be mass appeal for an alternative point of view that doesn't involve a bit of nastiness.
Now that we've seen TV personalities and others, like columnists, becoming aggressive - and it's become acceptable and even profitable for such people - like any behaviour once one barrier is broken the next one is pushed against. You only have to remember how much criticism Ann Robinson came in for her verbal attacks on contestants in The Weakest Link. Her dry and measured approach seems like child's play compared to some of the behaviour we now see.
A great example of this is George Galloway and his outrageous attacks on Preston and Chantelle in the last Celebrity Big Brother. People were rightly shocked at the time. But he’s gone on to be welcomed with open arms in many places. It certainly hasn't harmed his earning potential!
We get used to such behaviour and then the next goalpost is moved as the next boundary is crossed. The same is true for other things like how far sex scenes have gone on TV and how far song lyrics go before they get banned from airplay. This is exactly what's happened with aggressive and bullying behaviour.
There are a couple of long-term results from this bullying behaviour. For those in the public eye who act aggressively there is definitely celebrity "notoriety" at least in the short term. Sadly they'll get big money for bad behaviour. They pander to this unseemly side of our nature but just as quickly as they reach the pinnacle of celebrity they’re liable to fall off that perch. When you look at the personalities with real staying power - Michael Parkinson, Michael Aspell, Des O'Connor, Bruce Forsyth, and the late Richard Whiteley - they carved out careers based on “likeability” and wit. They serve as a word of warning to people who think bringing others down may lead to a long-term career. On the other hand when you look at the first "Queen Of mean" – Nina Myschkow (not sure how to spell her surname) - her career died after a few years and has only been resurrected in recent years with her showing a kinder, more gentle side.
Too many people seem to be buying into this idea that it's cool to be seen to be mouthy and aggressive. For some, they score points because they can come up with the quickest and rudest put down. Where once we had a culture where, e.g., teenagers would be mouthy and aggressive within their own groups as a bit of a lark, now sadly we see this turned outwards in all aspects of society.
We've become a culture where we’re in awe of bad and mad behaviour that's signalled by the rise in popularity of things like "gangster" movies. Good examples are Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs and Lock Stock and Three Smoking Barrels - all of which became cult films and where aggressive and bullying behaviour was part of the main characters’ behaviour. Previously in these sorts of films there were distinctly the "baddies" and "goodies" and increasingly these lines are blurred.
Feeling a bit bad and dangerous excites our deeper psychological drive to be the "top dog". But the point of society is to socialise us and make us more fair-minded and respectful. The rise above the mean culture goes against this. For some people this voyeuristic desire to watch others get bullied quenches this deeper, darker thirst. Many thankfully don't carry over this behaviour into their own but for others sadly they do.
As humans we absolutely absorb both subtle and overt messages around us. We learn by example! Definitely some children will copy aggressive behaviour they see on television. Those who have poor impulse control, a tendency to aggressive behaviour, poor communication skills, and no better example from their parents will think this is the way to behave. They’ll respond this way particularly to the behaviour they see lauded in popular reality TV series and by television presenters. They figure those people are famous and rich so that's ok. It's a green light to copy it and we should be aware of this negative impact.
Top Tips For Beating The Bullies -
1. Begin by setting your boundaries and asserting yourself with the bully. Saying something direct works with some bullies. Practise what you’re going to say keeping it simple like, "I don't like those sorts of comments so please stop."
2. If they continue point out that you don't like their tone of voice or the types of things they’re saying and that you’re making a note of their behaviour. In a work setting this may set them straight.
3. Keep a diary of all incidents no matter how trivial. Include the date and time of the bullying, the nature of it, and what you did.
4. If it persists and is in your place of work discuss it with your line manager in the first instance and ask about your company's anti-bullying policy.
5. If the bullying is happening elsewhere involve the appropriate third-party to help stop the bullying. You don't have to face it alone!
Published on MSN.co.uk
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