Bully for You

by Lori Lavender Luz on December 2, 2013

in Uncategorized

If you did any web surfing over the long Thanksgiving weekend for anything other than supersales, you probably know about the incident between a man who is a producer of reality shows for a major TV network, and Diane, who sat in seat 7A on the man’s flight on the morning of Thanksgiving.

I read the unfolding on Storify after it turned up in my Facebook stream for the 4th or 5th time. Clearly, the producer is good with drama, and I was captivated with each tweet. What would happen next? — I kept asking myself at each of his wifi-enabled real-time tweets (though I wasn’t reading in real time, he was live-tweeting the interactions).

It started benignly enough. Diane was rude to gate employees when a flight delay was announced and later to flight attendants in the air. The producer, who has great compassion for service workers, sent over a bottle of wine to calm her down. Kind enough, right?

His accompanying note on a paper coaster ended with a barb: “Hopefully if you drink [the wine], you won’t be able to use your mouth to talk.”

Cranky Diane responded predictably — repaying his insult with one of her own. Game on, they both seemed to be saying — “This means war,” said the producer in a tweet.

I wondered briefly what had made Diane so cranky, as probably many did. Soon we learn she was wearing a medical mask “on her idiot face.” What started out to be an act in defense of civility quickly devolved to become exactly the opposite. Continuing to read was like watching a proverbial train wreck. You know something’s coming, you know it’s gonna be ugly, and yet you can’t look away. I won’t lie. I found the tale amusing, in the way those People of WalMart sites are amusing.

The producer and Diane bantered back and forth about as bad-naturedly as you can imagine. Eventually, the producer invited Diane to perform fellatio on him, via another note. More than 2500 people have Favorited this tweet and a new hashtag was born. In his next note the producer said Diane should be arrested for cannibalism. Since, yanno, she ate an appendage of his (at his insistence).

There’s more to the saga, including their meeting when the plane landed. By that time, tens of thousands of people were tuning in — the way they tune in to the producer’s reality shows — to see drama, victory, humiliation, and people getting what they deserve.

Everyone seemed to be on board (ha!) with how the producer handled big bad Diane. It wasn’t until my friend Joanne pointed out the producer’s misogyny in a Facebook discussion, which included a link to this post on LosAngelista, “Since When is Telling a Woman to Eat Your D Standing Up for Service Workers?”

The producer had set out to combat what he considered bully behavior. But in doing so he ended up bullying a woman in mom jeans and a medical mask. Granted, a cranky woman in mom jeans and a medical mask. He got lots of people to laugh with him at her expense. And in hindsight he feels completely justified: It’s OUR duty to put the Diane’s of the world in their place.

I, too, took to Facebook to sort out my feelings on this situation, first by labeling it bullying. And what arose were more questions than answers. I asked if bullying were ever OK, and many answered No. Never. One person found shades of gray (not 50) and said that one person’s bully is another person’s hero. True enough. We also mulled over:

  • What, exactly, is a bully? Is there a common definition most have in mind or just “I know it when I see it”?
  • Is it okay to stop bullying behavior with bullying behavior?
  • Was the producer’s behavior considered bullying?
  • Is it bullying only if the victim can be identified? (The producer didn’t use Diane’s name or likeness.) Because I linked to the producer’s site, could you make the case that THIS post be considered bullying against the producer?
  • Do we throw around the concept of bullying too easily? So much so that the meaning is diluted, a catch-all for meanness?

As I finally finish up writing this post, BREAKING NEWS changes everything. The producer has had a laugh on all of us and admits, days later, that the entire thing is a hoax.

So many words are vying to be typed here.

Even though the prompt of this post was fake and I, along with 150,000 people were duped (feel powerful, producer man?) the questions about bullying are valid. So weigh in, please.

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Kasey December 3, 2013 at 5:17 am

I too watched this unfold and not once did I find it funny. Friends of mine posted “laughing so hard I am crying” and “LOL”.. but not once did I “LOL”. I thought obviously this woman was distressed- she’s that woman that we all internally roll our eyes at, but how does battling this woman with awful written words make anything any better for anyone else? I was glad to see it was a hoax. I always like to think this- “You never know what someone else may be going through.” and “treat everyone with kindness and dignity because you do not know what they are battling.”

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Mel December 3, 2013 at 8:04 am

Missed the entire thing until this post. Literally didn’t even hear about it.

I’m a little clueless sometimes :-)

But now that I know that it’s a hoax, I’m even less inclined to click over. I’m sort of through with Internet hoaxes or any manipulation of other people’s attention/emotions.

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Helene Cohen Bludman December 3, 2013 at 8:13 am

Wow. I must live under a rock because I had no idea that this happened until now. What a story. And to find out it was all a hoax? Unbelievable. In all honesty, I probably would have watched the train wreck like everyone else, but i don’t think I would have found it amusing.

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Liz December 3, 2013 at 8:34 am

Missed the whole thing and am glad I did. Misogyny is never funny, and frankly, I am tired — very, very tired — of having to explain why it is offensive.

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Liz December 3, 2013 at 8:37 am

Oh and to answer your questions: based on your description of it, I’d say yes, the producer’s behavior was bullying. Inherent in bullying for me is power: someone uses power to disrespect and push someone around, whether that is the power of numbers (as in a school situation), or gender or class or race or authority.

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Lori Lavender Luz December 3, 2013 at 2:45 pm

Seems clear to me, too. Public shaming is never a noble thing and always an abuse of power.

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Delenn December 3, 2013 at 8:48 am

I only saw this after the fact–and when I saw it I thought he was being inappropriate. Two wrongs do not make a right. I think what annoyed me was the fact that he did not know when to stop, and the inappropriate comment about sucking his dick. Yeah, that was what made it not just righteous indignation and more a Tet-e-tet.

As someone who has a son who can say inappropriate things at inappropriate times–I often give people more of a benefit of doubt than I used to. I would have assumed, if Diane had been real, that she was having a bad day. Maybe I would have sent her the wine and a note saying I hope she had a better day. But more likely, I would have probably grumbled about her a bit and moved on. Because you never know.

As for bullying–never is it okay. Even when you think you have the moral high ground. It reminds me of those people on the internet who threatened to kill a woman who dressed as a Boston Marathon victim for Halloween. Was the woman tactless and probably unthinking when she did that? Yes. Should she have been chastised for it–if she put it out there publicly–well, I guess. But, death threats or other threats–that is bullying, pure and simple.

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Mrs T (missohkay) December 3, 2013 at 9:31 am

I had not heard that it was a hoax. I did find it funny, sort of. I’m not one for body-part humor, so I thought it would have been funnier if he hadn’t resorted to the obvious dude-ist humor of BJs. I hadn’t thought of it as bullying but I think you’re right. I suppose people found the story compelling though, because everyone has wanted to put a crazy rude person in their place before, right? On my last Southwest flight, this guy in the seat in front of me was a world-class jerk because the flight attendants told him that there would probably be a couple of extra seats on board, which he translated as “I definitely get to have an empty seat between me and my daughter” and then he threw an enormous yelling hissy fit when it didn’t work out for him. I would have loved to toss a couple of vodka bottles in his lap.

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Lori Lavender Luz December 3, 2013 at 2:46 pm

That would have been more Okay in my book, MissOkay (ha!). Mainly, because it would have been more private. I think it’s the public shaming and the sexual aggression that bothered me so.

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Jessie December 3, 2013 at 9:40 am

My Dad always brought my siblings and I up with the reminder that we should never let someone else’s bad behavior be an excuse for our own bad behavior, meaning that it’s important to take the high road even when everyone around you is not. It works, even when it’s difficult to abide by, and I have found several situations where I walked away with my head held high because I didn’t join someone in their bad behavior. The producer (hoax or not) was using someone else’s bad behavior (bullying) as an excuse to behave badly himself (which I would also consider bullying.

Unfortunately, there *are* a LOT of “Dianes” out there, and I really hate that behavior. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with calling someone out on their behavior, as long as you do it politely. (lol, even if I do make up elaborate mean responses in my head, at least I keep them to myself ;) ) If they want to degrade things, resist and walk away. It’s weird that adults so frequently ignore the advice we give our kiddos. I do think we overdo the label of bullying, but I certainly don’t see any problem with making the world a nicer place. It’s mean enough already.

Great post! I, too, missed out on this completely :)

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Lori Lavender Luz December 3, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Oooh, your dad and mine were cut from the same cloth.

I like your way of handling. If you really want to simply stop the behavior, you will be polite. If you want to “win” or make a dig, then you’re likely to get a little snarky (which may be the funner way, for sure, but not the more appropriate way).

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jjiraffe December 3, 2013 at 10:52 am

Oh, boy. Yes: I followed along and sympathesized in the beginning, until he tossed out the misogynist comment, which was gross. Flying around Thanksgiving (as I just experienced) can be hellish and this year one flight attendant gave me and my daughter an extra big bottle of water (he was almost in tears) and told us thanks for being the only nice people on the plane. I think all we did to deserve this praise was to say please and thank you. :(

By the end of the Twitter saga I suspected a hoax. It was way too over the top to be true.

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Battynurse December 3, 2013 at 11:06 am

I don’t get what his point was. I know what he states was the point but really? He made it all up to prove a point about being courteous to workers and one another? Seems like there are so many ways this could have been accomplished that would have been more effective but would have resulted in less publicity for him.

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Lori Lavender Luz December 3, 2013 at 2:44 pm

You are so wise. It was more about the attention than about promoting kindness toward service workers.

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Justine December 3, 2013 at 11:15 am

Like Mel, I missed it, too. But I think he was much less interested in serving up the bully than he was in doubling his twitter following. “Be nice,” his injunction to the false “Diane,” should have applied to him, too. Kindness is the only remedy for pain, of whatever kind, IMHO.

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Geochick December 3, 2013 at 3:01 pm

I missed the entire saga. And now I’m glad. I didn’t read any of it, just your description and I’m kind of ticked at the producer. He dropped to the lowest common denominator by supposedly antagonizing a supposed world class jerk. That just makes him a world class jerk. (Although, the wine barb was pretty damn funny) I think bullying is tossed around way too much these days. A kid at the park complained of others bullying him when really he was being sulky. It’s turned into an excuse.

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Jean Parks December 6, 2013 at 8:39 am

I saw all of that & frankly, that guy totally lost me the very second he suggested the woman “eat his di!*” since when is it okay or funny to say such things to anyone? That is was a hoax was just more icing on a really lousy cake imho.

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Sharon Greenthal December 7, 2013 at 8:29 am

I’ve gotten to the point where any out-of-this world story sets of the hoax-a-meter in my brain. This one took a little time but I was sure it was a joke – no one could be that awful, and no flight attendant would participate in the passing of those notes.

Bullying as a joke is not funny. Bullying is never funny.

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Elin Stebbins Waldal December 7, 2013 at 10:35 am

It seems to me as we peel back the layers of this story it sadly reveals that civility is on the brink of extinction. And whether it was a hoax or not, people seemed to take great pleasure in shaming “Diane.” On a different yet somewhat similar note did you happen to read the marvelous post on Salon called: My embarrassing picture went viral? It is an amazing read and addresses what it is like to be a target of human cruelty on line.

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Lori Lavender Luz December 7, 2013 at 10:51 am

I did see that and thought it a brilliant response. Plus, Caitlin Seida’s response was so well written.

Thanks for bringing it up here. Here’s the link for anyone who wants to see.

http://www.salon.com/2013/10/02/my_embarrassing_picture_went_viral/

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Pat December 7, 2013 at 12:44 pm

It be fair to say that this sort of social media stunt is human nature at its worst. What was the point of it?

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