Wooly "Bully"

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Farhad Manjoo at Salon has a writeup on Bully, a game we're sure to hear more about now that Joe Lieberman has nagged his way into a fourth term and Hillary needs some wedge issues. The game by the makers of Grand Theft Auto and the Warriors isn't violent or explicitly sexual—a judge who reviewed the game judged it less salacious than what appears on prime time TV. That isn't enough for scolds.

Critics allege, however, that even if "Bully" is less graphically violent than other things kids might play, watch or listen to, its specific storyline sounds alarm bells. Among the social messages that a player might take away from the game is that a good way to handle bullies is to fight back. That's a dangerous lesson, says Barbara Coloroso, author of "The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander," a kind of self-help book for victimized kids and their parents. What Coloroso—who lives in Littleton, Colo.—worries about is "the bullied bully who strikes back" after years of being taunted. "And when you begin to look at Eric and Dylan, you see that's what happened," she says, referring to the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, which has become the trump card for the anti-"Bully" lobby.

Back in 2003, Jesse Walker looked at the birth of video games as an artful medium.

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  1. Among the social messages that a player might take away from the game is that a good way to handle bullies is to fight back

    And of course, everybody knows the real way to deal with bullies is to allow them to continue to bully you, while constantly suppressing that rage, until one day you have enough money to buy a rifle and climb a belltower.

    I think she’s confusing the proper way to handle bullies with the proper way to handle “self-help” authors, who should be ignored. Although it probably wouldn’t hurt to beat the crap out of both groups, I can’t see how it could make “self-help” authors or bullies any worse.

  2. The Kolumbine Killers didn’t fight back… they shot back. If they had stood up for themselves against their taunters earlier they would never have arrived at the point where capping people seemed like a good option. Their bullies would have known not to mess with them because they’d be risking a bloody nose or two. But they stayed passive just like the good little children that Ms. Panties-in-a-Bunch praises and eventually they lost it.

    But Hillary and Co. will use this game in her moralistic arsenal and hordes of pussy ass parents will line up to vote for her in ’08

  3. Qbryzan- No, no! The proper way to deal with a bully is to run to an authority figure for help. It’s never too early to start being dependent on governments of various sorts.

  4. Wait wait…. this woman is arguing that if you get bullied you shouldn’t fight back? Isn’t that called being a victim? Did I miss something?

    I got seriously bullied by exactly two people in my life. In the first case, I didn’t do anything, and that bully came back again and again to taunt me. In the second case, I kneed the kid in the groin even though I was seriously out-sized by the guy. Never had a problem with that guy again.

    Don’t fight back kids. It can lead to, you know, a serious lack of atomic-wedgies.

  5. I went to public school not long ago, and I remember this message (“don’t fight back”) being absolutely endemic. Kids were admonished to ignore bullies (which didn’t work), or run to an authority figure. The latter option, promoted by the administration as the only sensible one, was guaranteed in actual practice to make the problem worse, since as you’d expect it lost the tale-teller any sympathy from bystanders, and the bully typically redoubled his efforts the moment there was no adult present. For students worried about suspension, there was absolutely, absolutely no recourse.

    The belief that violence should be avoided is admirable, but in this specific application it demonstrates a critical failure to understand the social dynamics of the young — which is a particularly despicable failing in people tasked with educating them. I think it is indicative of the overall incompetence of the public school system, and of the flaws with regimented, age-segregated education in general.

  6. And when you begin to look at Eric and Dylan, you see that’s what happened.

    If this lady spent any time looking at Eric and Dylan she would realize that their sociopathy was considerably more complicated than just playing the wrong video games. She sounds like Dr. Laura by way of Dr. Phil.

  7. hale hits the nail on the head here: a complete and utter lack of understanding of the complex social dynamics that comprise public schools. These fools seem to exist in this abstract, theoretical world, where running to the nearest authority figure is somehow going to end the advances of bullies. Were these people ever actually children themselves? I was bullied by this asshole in junior high…I didn’t fight back, because I feared suspension worse than his locker-room assaults. Nor did I say anything to anyone about it, lest 2 things happen: one, I get branded a snitch, and become a social outcast, and two, he comes after me harder. So I just avoided it as much as I could. Later that year, said bully, who was a spoiled rich asshole, pumped a shotgun shell into his temple. Perhaps, if I had fought back, his life could have been spared? ;->

    These kids aren’t stupid, you know…they realize the stakes that are truly involved…much more than some jerkass self-help author who was apparently never a child herself.

  8. WAIT JUST A DOGGONE MINUTE HERE!
    We solved all these childhood violence problems back in the 1950s with the comics code. Obviously we need a code for everthing a child must come in contact with. Goodbye, Iliad, Huckelberry Finn, Flowers for Algernon, etc. Then all the little tykes will grow up nice, passive and weak. Yeah, a universal code for entertainment, supplemented, of course, with a large, ignorant non-responsive bureaucracy, that’s the ticket.

  9. Swillfredo,

    I’ve never seen an example disprove someone’s own argument so perfectly before. What is truly stunning here is the complete lack of actual causation that anyone has been able to show. In fact, as these violent video games have become more prevalent, juvenile violent crime rates have fallen. It’s just another scapegoat for these useless human beings to go after in a vain attempt to give their empty lives a little more meaning.

  10. I don’t even like videogames, but I’ve read about “Bully” and it really doesn’t seem bad. The main character goes around rescuing people, just not wearing a cape and mask. Otherwise it’s a conventional solitary hero storyline that Zane Grey could have written, had he written about urban teenagers. The makers deserve a small amount of grief for picking a deliberately irritating title, but not this idiocy.

    Just for full disclosure, I think my greatest motherhood failure was caving in to my husband and getting the 8 year old an Xbox last year for Christmas. (No first person shooters, EVER, nothing scary, nothing particularly violent, although he does have two Lego Star Wars games.) If anyone commenting on this thread would be expected to defend the Lieberman position in this fight, I would be the one, and I think in this case, that position is close to insane. (And also, I don’t believe in banning the things. I do reserve the right to say that some of ’em are the worst waste of time, though.)

    And yes, the quoted method for dealing with bullies really only works in Psych Fantasy World. In the real world, you beat bullies by standing up to them, including beating if necessary. I tell my sons “never throw the first punch but always throw the last one.”

  11. I would just like to chime and register my agreement with those making the point that Barbara Coloroso is a twit that no one in their right mind would pay any heed.

  12. “Craig Anderson, a psychologist at Iowa State University who is among the leading researchers on the topic, argues that video games are “excellent teaching tools — a video game captures attention, maintains attention, requires practice to improve skills in the game, and keeps people motivated.” Anderson doesn’t mean this as praise: Games can teach you bad behavior, he and other critics say — they function as simulators.”

    Yes, that’s right. If you’re being bullied at school, just remember that all you need before a fight is up, up, down, down, B, A, start and you’ll be unstoppable.

  13. er, up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, start

    So much for my nerd cred.

  14. Yes, that’s right. If you’re being bullied at school, just remember that all you need before a fight is up, up, down, down, B, A, start and you’ll be unstoppable.

    *AHEM*

    up up, down down, left right, left right, B A, B A, select, start.

  15. That’ll only help if you can defeat your bullies in 30 lives or less.

  16. Wait, I can’t keep track.

    Do video games make kids violent sociopaths or lazy fat-asses with the attention spans of gnats?

    Maybe it’s both. Which is good. It’s easier to out run a fat kid with a gun that can’t remember who he hates.

    But, just to be safe I’ll have my children play the wholesome games of yesteryear.

    You know, like Smear The Queer, Mumbly Peg and Doctor.

  17. Karen:

    “I tell my sons, ‘Never throw the first punch, but always throw the last one”.

    Those are good libertarian sentiments, but in the real world of kids or grown men, if someone is about to throw a punch you can see it coming ahead of time, you just KNOW they’re going to do it. Tell your sons to throw the first punch if the situation calls for it, the first punch or slap is often the last one, and this way they don’t get hit.

  18. Shameless blog self-promotion: the essential reason that politicians scapegoat video games and rationalize the real causes of public-school bullying is that teenagers are the new niggers.

  19. Consider The Source.

    The most valuable three words my mother ever told me. If someone makes fun of you, ask yourself, “Do I really give a shit what he/she thinks?” Most of the time no. So, move on.

    Be More Trouble Than It’s Worth

    My father’s corollary to the Consider The Source Doctrine. If you can’t ignore him and it gets physical – fight to win, but you don’t have to win the fight. Just make sure he knows he’s been in one. He and the rest of the bullies will move on to easier prey.

  20. Evan!,

    You took that kid out, didn’t you?

    Did too! Did Too! Did too!

    Proves my point, don’t it? Buy my book, everybody!

  21. Bullying is a problem that can be solved only by the peer group. The real solution is to stand up for others when they are being bullied. Bullies do what they do to gain status. If the group does not sanction the behavior, it goes away. Maybe a video game about standing up for others is a pretty effective tool for engendering this attitude.

    On an individual level the advice of ralphus’s parents is pretty good.

  22. Most of what Coloroso says, at least in her “Breaking the Cycle of Violence” outline, makes sense. Unfortunately she has the typical disarmament–>peace prejudice. She doesn’t see any conflict in the following:

    We must do what is necessary to take the weapons out of the hearts, minds, and hands of our kids. We need to give kids the tools to be able to stand up for their own rights while respecting the rights and legitimate needs of others; to handle conflicts nonviolently; to act with integrity when confronted with difficult situations such as peer pressure to cause harm; and to develop a personal code (inner moral code) that gives them the wherewithal to do what is right in spite of external consequences and never merely because of them.

    Non-violent conflict resolution is a powerful tool to resolve verbal conflicts between individuals. But in bullying, and later on violent crime, the fundamental conflict is in the mind of the bully or criminal. NVCR is simply a way to get hurt worse. The only effective response to such violence is countervailing force.

    Coloroso doesn’t remember that as the push to keep “weapons” off school campuses escalated, so did the violence.

    And by the way, the tell someone in authority “solution” would be a lot more relevant if said authority figures would get up off their butts and actually do something. In every school I’ve seen any staff member, including janitors and cafeteria help, could name the ten worst bullies. It shouldn’t be necessary to report bullying.

    Bullying is a problem that can be solved only by the peer group. The real solution is to stand up for others when they are being bullied.

    In the real world standing up for other victims gets you pummeled or, if you win the fight, results in all the victims following you around expecting protection.

    Bullies do what they do to gain status. If the group does not sanction the behavior, it goes away.

    For most bullies having power over someone is far more motivating than social acceptance. To the degree that status is important, “the group” consists of the bully’s cronies, not an easy group to change.

  23. One must be clever in dealing with bullies that can beat the crap out of you. Forty years ago, my high school was plagued by a bully. Then, one night he came out of the spring dance to find someone had smeared dog shit all over the front seat of his car, spelling out “stop bully” on the fabric.
    (not many people bothered locking their doors in those days). Who ever did it (and it wasn’t me) never said a word, and the bully never bothered anyone again.

  24. I never met a bully who didn’t understand a slap in the mouth or a slug from a .45.

  25. *AHEM*

    up up, down down, left right, left right, B A, B A, select, start.

    That’s only if you want to go two player.

  26. While in school I never met a bully with an IQ over 90. I always figured it went part and parcel with doing poorly in school.

  27. “”And when you begin to look at Eric and Dylan, you see that’s what happened,” she says”

    Okay. She not only humanizes these psychopaths by referring to their actual names… but by their FIRST NAMES. How soft and fuzzy.

    Coloroso probably thinks Columbine was a trajedy for “everyone”, including the killers. Y’know, because of icky things like asshole jocks, violent video games, the availability of firearms, and trenchcoats. We are all victims.

  28. And let me add that Coloroso is a real class act for seeking money and attention over some dead teenagers. And her “Littleton” address only adds to her street cred.

    Welcome to Oprahworld.

  29. I never met a bully who didn’t understand a slap in the mouth or a slug from a .45.

    Politicians have that same understanding.

  30. No, no! The proper way to deal with a bully is to run to an authority figure for help.

    A lot of good THAT did me. My bullying got so bad that my parents (in one of the few instances of real parental concern they ever showed) went to the principal and asked the school to intervene. They were told (exact quote):

    “We’re educators, not security guards.”

    Of course, one of the few times I fought back against a bully who was physically assaulting me, I was given two days suspension. The same principal expressed shock and offense that my father had told me that I had a right to defend myself against such beatings.

    Why I didn’t pull my own Columbine is nothing short of a miracle.

    Here’s my prescription for dealing with bullies: First catch the bastards. Then, taking a cue of the British Navy, give each student a length a rope and make the condemned walk a gauntlet. Assuming the bully survives being repeatedly wiped by his classmates, at the end of the gauntlet, there will be a gallows waiting to finish the job. The bully’s body will be left hanging in the school cafeteria for the rest of the academic year as a warning to the student body.

    Yes, I’m being serious.

  31. repeatedly wiped by his classmates

    Talk about coddling!

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