This blog is the second entry in a series exploring bullies and bullying. Add my observations to your own, so that together we can react to people who use force to influence the rest of us. Today a question about terrorism…
Previously I wondered how bullying might emerge in a person. Another question that won’t go away: How might bullying take advantage of *terror?
Philosophers who examine the place of language in human interaction are insistent about the place of spoken and written words. The Greeks called this rhetoric, the ability to use speech convincingly, and thus effectively. Well-considered words, offered to others with diligent care and empathy, could affect change.
But what if someone wants to be persuasive when their words don’t work very well? If their communication is consistently disregarded? Or if they’re punished for their spoken/written thoughts? What then? Lacking success in rhetorical interchanges, that person might try something else—other behaviors that attract attention, no matter whether it’s positive or negative. Something that’s emotionally engaging, and thus persuasive. Enter terrorism.
Terror—one form of fear—can be persuasive, forcing agreement or fostering emotional pushback. It’s hard to ignore violence, actual or implicit. A terrorist wants you to agree and comply. Words are secondary, perhaps not necessary at all. Enter the bully.
On a smaller scale, it seems reasonable to suggest that bullies have given up on the notion of civil interchange—the measured consideration of ideas, ideals or behaviors. Their words may be only partly effective, unless used as weapons of persuasion. When added to fearsome speech, though, frightful actions can accomplish even more. Alone or in tandem, persuasive words and actions help bullies and terrorists get their way. (As an example, think of anonymous death threats that use social media or phone calls.)
Bullies prevail by frightening us into compliance. They want to convince us, first by fearsome words, and then by terrifying actions. Whether ending in violence or not, terror is bullies’ rhetoric. It’s their coinage.
And they want us to pay the price….
*A word of caution: It would be wrong to call all bullies terrorists. That term is too-frequently loaded with clichéd emotional freight. On the other hand, it’s reasonable to think of well-practiced terrorists as bullies. A distinction without a difference…?
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