Bullying on video

March, 14, 2011
3/14/11
5:53
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
There's a video making the rounds today on Twitter and Facebook, and it has delighted everyone from sportswriters to NBA players.

In it, a scrawny mean kid does some classic bullying of an overweight kid.

Who takes it.

And takes it.

We know from the existence of the video that people are standing around not just watching this, but videotaping it. Humiliating.

A line is crossed, though, and the victim just loses it. Picks up the smaller bully, inverts him, and throws him at the ground. Shocking! It looks bad. That bully (ex-bully?) struggles to walk away on the leg of his that took the brunt.

I've seen research on bullying, and basically they find that they attach themselves to easy targets. Early in the school year, bullies shop for victims. (A lot of kids are bullied for the first time early in the school year.) Some kids make it hard, either by fighting back, or arguing, or whatever it is, and they then tend to be left alone for the duration. Others say nothing and make it easy; those kids tend to remain victims all year, evidently to great long-term emotional detriment to both bully and bullied.

This big kid in the video officially took himself off the "easy to bully" list, and good for him going about the business of preserving his own dignity. I'm always happy to see somebody stand up for themselves in this tough world.

Every bit of commentary I have seen on that video is 100 percent thrilled and along the lines of: Take that you little bully punk. The big kid is piping up for everyone who has ever been knocked around by those who are more vocal, more powerful, more socially connected. With this video, the comments are saying, the world just got a little more fair. Bullies everywhere are now on notice.

But I still cringe at one child breaking another's leg, or close enough. As much as I'm thrilled to see an end to victimhood, I won't even link to that video because I find the moment of impact disgusting, like a snuff film. Back story be damned. This is still one middle schooler (or close) cracking another against the concrete. It's a dumb physical intimidation game, playing out at an age when the injuries are real, but the social skills less so.

The basic question is: Do we want to change who wins the hallway wars?

Or do we want to end the hallway wars?

The power structure shifts in the moment on this video, and that's exciting. This is a movie moment, for sure. Cue the victory music, and watch victims of bullying line up to buy tickets.

But the game remains as cruel as ever. If the lesson here is to hurt the living crap out of your enemies, the world is no better off.

Some commenters are even outraged that the bigger kid was, we have heard (through some unknown channels), suspended by the school.

As if a school could bless one child breaking another's shin, or whatever the diagnosis ended up being. As if the school could favor this broken leg, but not that one.

To me the school's reputed position is perfect: Damage another kid, you're in trouble, no matter what. That's the cost of doing business, to be factored in before busting the limbs of others.

I assure you the school's discipline -- if true -- will be at most the third most important part of this, after one kid's injury, and the other's presumed emotional emancipation. It's a rounding error.

The school takes a smart position against student violence. Period. In that they reward exactly who they want to reward: All those who can solve their social problems without violence.

No one said that was easy. It's hard. Learning all that is also no small part of why we have school.

The world of business, for instance, can endure social awkwardness, disagreements and everything else without people roughing each other up physically. Those are among the key skills of being an adult.

That doesn't mean every bit of violence is pure evil. In America, we're all beneficiaries of, say, the American Revolution and the Civil War and who knows what other violence has been committed on our behalfs. I'm not naive here.

But it does mean that if you're against violence in schools, you've got to be against violence in schools, even if you have sympathies with this or that protagonist. If you're against violence in schools, I can't see cheering for it.

Henry Abbott | email

TrueHoop, NBA

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