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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Cyber Bullies

Note: A friend over at HOB/D - the listserv for bishops and deputies for General Convention - wrote to say that he has apparently been 'blocked' from two of the more notoriously toxic uber-conservative, so-called 'orthodox' websites. this is my response to him:

There is a term for what you - and I and others - have experienced. It's called "Cyber Bully".

While this phenomenon is most predominantly seen among children and teens, it is also becoming increasingly known and documented among adults. Women (no surprise) and LGBT people are a common, favorite target.

You can 'google' the words 'adult cyber bully' and get lots of helpful information. The following is what I have gleaned from a variety of sites on the topic:

A cyber bully delights in the negative attention s/he gets from participating in bullying. The cyber bully attains a deep sense of gratification from the perception of control and power s/he gets from the resulting sense of intimidation from his/her targets.

Cyber bullies are often highly articulate and adept at rhetoric, with a particular skill at turning words, phrases or an argument on their heads. The medium of print - often anonymous - in cyberspace provides a special thrill to many cyber bullies.

Cyber bullies harbor a great deal of internal aggression which they direct at others, which may include projection, false criticism, and patronizing sarcasm, while contributing nothing of any value to the conversation.

They also love to enlist others in an argument and then sit back and watch the argument. Greg Griffith over at "Stand Firm" is a master at this art. I understand that his target du jour is Mark Harris.

Greg is up to his old tricks of posting something out of context from Mark's blog, making a pejorative statement about it, and then sitting back to watch everyone enter the fray - anonymously, of course.

It's all so sadly predictable.

Apparently, he's also done the same thing with Louie's open letter to Bishop Parsely. I'm told that he trolled Louie's website, choosing the most unflattering and provocative picture of Louie and Ernest he could find, made a few comments - just to put some blood on the water - and then threw it all into the shark pool.

And then, he sat back and delighted at the feeding frenzy that ensued.

I thank God that I am blocked from that site. It turns my stomach just to think about it, much less see it for myself. I'm sure it breaks the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Let us not forget that these are the very ones who consider themselves the uber-Christians of the Anglican world - those who have left or are leaving or are the 'dissident remnant' because people like me are 'killing the church."

They are also very adept at creating conflict where there formerly was none by raising questions that are not so much about the pursuit of answers, much less 'the truth', but, rather, are more about casting doubt or calling into question the character and integrity of a person.

Indeed, no answer is ever good enough.

They will split hairs, obfuscate and change the question entirely with the objective of (1) frustrating the correspondent (2) creating the illusion of their being in control (3) casting doubt upon the integrity or character of the person to whom the question is directed.

We have seen this with questions about who is paying the expense of the cost of litigation in the church. That these questions are being raised by the very ones who are either lighting or fanning the flames of discontent is no coincidence.

Notice: no answer will be good enough.

Notice, too, that when a question was raised about funding for the 'secret' theology committee, the response was to raise a question about the source of funding for the cost of litigation in the church.

That's classic, according to the cyber bully resources on the Internet. It's also a tip off to the not-so-secret agenda of the 'secret' theology committee.

Another classic example of a situation of cyber bullying is when I voluntarily removed my (ahem) 'membership' at Stand Firm. That simply enraged the bullies there who then blocked my access to their web page.

It's the old, "You can't divorce me, I'm leaving you - and I'm taking the house, the car and the kids," all-or-nothing, scorch-the-earth, strategy we've seen in many cases of domestic violence.

One of my spiritual directors once said to me, "Sometimes the best spiritual gifts come in the ugliest wrappings." Have no doubt - you are better off for not being able to visit that toxic waste dump.

Here's some of the best advice given as to how to deal with a cyberbully which I have gleaned for myself:

1. Ignore them. Don't respond. Don't engage. I know. It's very hard to do, especially when they attack you or the integrity of someone you know or care about. Ignoring them, however, denies them the negative attention they seek as well as the gratification they feel about the illusion of power they have created.

2. Become alert to provocation. The cyberbully watches and waits and stirs the pot occasionally with additional provocative information. Know that s/he gets intense gratification from watching others engage in destructive behavior. Don't engage.

3. Become an observer. It takes you out of the firing line and enables you to study the perpetrator and collect evidence. When people use bullying behaviors they project their own weaknesses, failings and shortcomings onto others.

In other words, they are telling you something about themselves by fabricating an accusation based on something they themselves have done wrong or desperately fear they may have a proclivity for.

Whenever you receive flame mail or have been otherwise engaged by a cyberbully, train yourself to ask the question, "What are they revealing about themselves this time?"

4. Collect information. This is one time you don't want to hit 'delete'. Create a folder labeled, "Abuse" and keep comments made about you or flame or hate mail you've received. It may come in handy if you. . . .

5. . . . . decide if you want to take action. The best thing is to remove yourself from visiting their web pages. That has already been done for you, thank the Sweet Baby Jesus.

Most ISP's allow you to block email from people. Do that.

If people send you snippets of nasty remarks made about you on other websites, save them. You can always send them to your ISP at: For example, if your ISP is AOL, you would send it to

You have to be prepared to be persistent. Mail each piece of flame mail separately. Eventually, your ISP will respond.

If the violence escalates and you want to take action, you must be prepared and you must be ready to strike back. Hard. Get help from a professional techie before you even consider doing this.

Oh, and it wouldn't hurt to pray for the cyber bullies in your life. It probably won't change them but it will help you. Enormously. At least, that's what's enabled me to deal with the cyber bullies in my life.


it's margaret said...

Ummmmm YES!

Bill said...

Elizabeth writes; "Ignore them. Don't respond. Don't engage. I know. It's very hard to do, especially when they attack you or the integrity of someone you know or care about." Absolutely correct. These folks have inflated egos. If you really want to hurt them, just ignore them. The second best thing is to laugh at them. They take themselves far to seriously. By laughing you once again, deflate their egos.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Hey, Bill, surfing the net is not how one should observe "The Great Silence". Remember: "Silence is the absence of the world but the fullness of God." St. Teresa, I believe.

Tee hee.

PS - I've been praying for your lost wallet: "St. Anthony, St. Anthony look around. Something's lost and can't be found."

Everybody, please pray that Bill finds his wallet.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Yup, Margaret. Yup, yup, yup.

And, I put these up as a reminder to follow my own advice.

June Butler said...

Some of "those sites" are poisonous. I wouldn't sign up to be able to comment there.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Well, Mimi, I try not to 'visit' there, unless someone writes and says, "You have GOT to see THIS," and usually the 'this' is a news article that I might not be able to read - well, at least from that particular perspective - any place else.

Otherwise, I don't go. Blew out my last asbestos tennis shoes and put away my Kevlar vest months ago. Too toxic for me and not good for my soul.

susankay said...

Elizabeth -- It is so hard for me to remember to pray for them but so critical to my well-being -- and ... God willing ... to theirs.

I have heard in 12-step programs that having an unresolved resentment/hatred is having someone living rent-free in your head. So true and so easy to forget. I don't want any of them in my head -- rent-free or otherwise.

June Butler said...

The latest at one site is some really sick stuff. I went there after reading your post, and it turned my stomach.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Well, Mimi, I'm happy to say I don't know what you're talking about. ;~D

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Susankay - I LOVE that saying from the 12-Step program. Good to remember when applied to cyber bullies.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, y'all. Bill found his wallet. TBTG and this very powerful cyber community.

Kirkepiscatoid said...

I'm praying for Bill's lost wallet too...and laughing about your Great Silence interchange.

Now, for what it's worth, when I do the Great Silence, I might SURF the net (just as I might read a book to find something prayerful to think about) but I don't REPLY to anything till the morning. I have found that interesting, because it makes me more thoughtful in my responses!

Bill said...

Dear Elizabeth,
Silence has ended and I wasn't surfing, I knew exactly what blog I wanted to read.
I'm sitting here with Mother Margaret and Sister Barbara so I think I'm in good company.
How are you managing without us?

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I'm doing brilliantly. Got a pup at my feet and a pup on my hip. I haven't been able to feel my left foot for the last 10 minutes, but I'm warm as toast. I have no doubt that it's a great deal more quite here than it is there - esp. if you are with one of the Barbaras.

Марко Фризия said...

This is all such good advice and I am glad you addressed this topic. I will add one more suggestion: Pour out your soul in prayer for these folks. Breathe out peace, serenity, and love. Don't succumb to the temptation to ingest their poison and spit it back at them. Of course, this is very, very hard when some souls engage in deceit and seem to take delight in causing us hurt. Of course, I struggle with this and I certainly haven't "arrived" in terms of being 100% charitable 100% of the time. But I am working on it.

Jeffri Harre said...

I haven't gone to "that place I won't read" for more than a year. I don't even go when someone says "you've got to read this" about some snippet of news they've managed to scoop, because someone else will eventually publish it without the toxic additions. Lately, I've even avoided TitusOneNine. I get enough stress from other sources. I don't subject myself to the garbage.

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

A very good analysis of the goings on, not only in Viagraland but in the USA generally these days; rethoric violence having increased with the arrival of the first elected non white President.

We are watching you, you know.

Seeing Eye Chick said...

SusanKay is onto something. A friend who was in a 12 step program told me that hating or obsessing *negatively on someone is like making them an idol in your head. Everyday you devote part of yourself to their existence. There is truth to this.

I have had the unfortunate experience of dealing with Cyberbullies over the years. Back in the day they were called Internet Trolls or just Trolls.

Some have the desire and energy to become serious stalkers. They can cause problems for you socially and professionally. And just steal your life by eating up precious time engaging you on their emotional crap that you cannot fix. After all it is their crap. Their emotional issues.

Tell the truth. Be Compassionate. Let them have their own space, which equates to a rope. Trolls will hang themselves eventually. You just have to be patient.

In the end you have your space, your place to tell your side of a story. and they have theirs. You do not have to even acknowledge what they say. Simply be specific in your communication. Cite your sources to back up your position. Trolls are not that great a technical response because they can never leave it at just that. They always have to put a little dig in there somewhere. Some kind of nasty metaphore which lets you know that this is all deeply personal and negative.

Hang in there.

KJ said...

I go there no longer; it's not a place of spiritual health. When I did try to engage in "conversation", I was frequently told I was "off topic." That usually meant I had made a point of some merit. Probably something to do with Jesus and that love nonsense.


William D. Lindsey said...

Elizabeth, thank you for a really thought-provoking posting, from which I learned a great deal. I see that a link to a posting on my Bilgrimage blog about this post has now appeared under your post, and am glad you know that I highlighted your posting in one of mine today.