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Bully for You

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.