What is the Bully Mentality?

The Mortgage Corner

Olweus Bullying Prevention Program

The Trump administration and congressional Republicans’ “stonewalling” efforts, as House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi has put it, are the latest example of the bully mentality, but few pundits or even Democrats seem to understand its exact meaning.

I began to write about the bully mentality, as I called it in 2014, initially in response to Republicans’ bullying tactics, such as House Majority Leader John Boehner’s “no compromise” vow to block any Democratic legislative initiatives, rather than negotiate bills and policies acceptable to both sides of the aisle.

And Republicans have been getting away with using such bully tactics to forward their agenda for years, perhaps even since House Majority Leader Newt Gingrich in 1994 as part of the Contract With America dissolved the congressional joint committee to work out differences in legislation with Democrats, “because I can”.

And Democrats don’t seem even now to want to confront Republican stonewalling in carrying out their constitutionally mandated oversight of the Executive Branch when the White House is attempting to block every attempt to investigate the many possible crimes enumerated in the Mueller Report.

Most people recognize bullying when they encounter it—someone using strong- arm techniques in the school yard, or cyberbullying in social media—but not the bully mentality behind it.

Personnel Today, an organizational management website, provides an easy definition: “Bullying behavior often seems gratuitous, with no obvious motivation other than to cause pain and humiliation and satisfy something in the mind of the bully.”

It lists the characteristics of a bullying mentality:

o Underlying feelings of insecurity, inadequacy and a fear of ‘being found out’

o Fear that their status is based on their position, rather than their own qualities

o Being in the wrong job (fearing that they are ‘not up to it’)

o Authoritarian personality characteristics

o Excessive use of defense mechanisms, such as projection, rationalisation, displacement and denial

o An inability to accept or engage with their own shortcomings

o Trying to ‘right wrongs’ – taking revenge on innocent people for perceived wrongs done to them

o Boosting their own ego by undermining other people

o Feeling a need to crush people whom they perceive as a threat to their precarious status

Most research on bullying has been with schools as they have been battling the rise of bullying in schools.

Following the 2016 Presidential election, the Southern Poverty Law Center conducted an online survey of 10,000 K-12 teachers, counselors and administrators on the negative impact of the election. Educators reported a skyrocketing of targeting and harassment of students that began last spring, most frequently in majority white schools, including verbal harassment, slurs and derogatory language, and incidents involving Nazi salutes, swastikas and Confederate flags.

“The behavior is directed against immigrants, Muslims, girls, LGBT students, kids with disabilities and anyone who was on the ‘wrong’ side of the election,” reads the SPLC report, The Trump Effect: The Impact of The 2016 Presidential Election on Our Nation’s Schools. “It ranges from frightening displays of white power to remarks that are passed off as ‘jokes.’” Ninety percent of educators say their schools have been negatively impacted for the long-term, while 80 percent said students are increasingly worried about the effect of the election on themselves and their families.”

And a national survey just released by the Human Rights Campaign found that bullying—which has occurred more frequently since the onset of the 2016 presidential campaign—is on the rise since the election.

“The survey of 50,000 young people ages 13-18 is the largest study of its kind, and it tells a disturbing story. Seventy percent of teens said they witnessed bullying, hate messages or harassment during or since the election. Of those incidents, 70 percent were racially motivated, 63 percent were based on sexual orientation, 59 percent were motivated by immigration status, and 55 percent of incidents were related to gender.”

Such behavior cannot be tolerated in a participatory democracy such as ours. The current White House’s behavior is a case in point, and endangers more than our domestic security, but that of our democratic allies as well.

It endangers our warming planet as well, when such a bully mentality prevails in our alliances, including the Paris Accord which many be the world’s best effort to mitigate global warming that even the US Pentagon warns endangers national security.

One vanguishes bullies by standing up to them—in whatever form they manifest, whether a dictator, autocrat, terrorist or gang leader—who we mustn’t forget prey on the weak and defenseless, yet seem to magically disappear when the fear they attempt to engender is opposed by sufficient courage.

Harlan Green © 2019

Follow Harlan Green on Twitter: https://twitter.com/HarlanGreen

About populareconomicsblog

Harlan Green is editor/publisher of PopularEconomics.com, and content provider of 3 weekly columns to various blogs--Popular Economics Weekly and The Huffington Post
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