A recent TED Talk by Monica Lewinsky has drawn attention to cyber bullying for people involved with politics. The trend is especially disturbing for female figures in politics thanks to the growth of social media.
Politics can bring out the worst in folks. Otherwise normal people, of all political stripes, can become absolute bullies in the defense of their beliefs. Some of these bullies are even elected to higher office.
One only needs to look throughout the US political system to see this in action. These tea party protestors who were unhappy with President Obama’s policies.
Increasingly the place where politically-minded bullies go to spread their toxic gossip and hate is online through social media. This has become a very popular form of cyber bullying.
A good example is the blog Madam Premier, which points to examples of flagrant misogyny directed at female Canadian politicians. It’s abuse like this that women receive online on a consistent basis.
It should go without saying that this is a serious form of bullying. It combines workplace bullying, cyber bullying as well as psychological bullying.
Monica Lewinsky’s TED Talk
In a recent TED Talk by Monica Lewinsky, the woman who was at the centre of the Bill Clinton sex scandal, took a hard look at the early days of gender-centric political cyber bullying.
“I was then swept up into the eye of a political, legal and media maelstrom like we had never seen before. Remember, just a few years earlier, news was consumed from just three places: reading a newspaper or magazine, listening to the radio, or watching television,” said Lewinsky. “Instead, this scandal was brought to you by the digital revolution.”
When the scandal broke, everyone wanted to know about Lewinsky and her relationship to Clinton. The word probably wasn’t coined then, but today we would describe the media’s response to the Lewinsky scandal as ‘slut shaming.’
“What that meant for me personally was that overnight I went from being a completely private figure to a publicly humiliated one worldwide,” said Lewinsky. “I was patient zero of losing a personal reputation on a global scale almost instantaneously.”
Masha Lederman wrote an excellent piece on Lewinsky for the Globe and Mail this week.
“Ms. Lewinsky, now 41, walked a rapt audience through what it feels like to be the target of widespread online bullying. She went back to the events that have shaped her life and almost, she said, caused her death: her affair with Mr. Clinton when she was a White House intern”.
No easy solution
The important thing to remember is that cyber bullies are often trying to provoke a response from the person they are tormenting. Wherever possible, do not indulge them.
But, if you are receiving constant sexual and physical threats, you should take precautions—both legally and in your everyday life—to ensure that you are safe.
The major problem people dealing with online bullies face is the anonymity that these bullies enjoy online. Many of them wouldn’t say half of what they post if their real name was attached to it. Bullies are cowards which is why they hurl personal insults and threats at someone while they hide behind a fake avatar.
Have you been bullied online? How have you dealt with it? Let others know who may face similar problems.