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Bullying in Politics

Updated on April 26, 2013

What is bullying? What is its purpose?

Well we all know what it is. We have all been bullied at some time in our lives. At least most of us have. It is a practice that happens all the time. It happens at home, at work, at school, and yes, even in politics. It’s worse now, of course, because of the internet and specifically Facebook.

The purpose of bullying varies, but what it attempts to do is demine a person, embarrass a person, force a person to do things against their will, and at times to destroy their character in the eyes of others, as well as their own.

The bully gets gratification at holding power of some sort over someone else.

Recently the Conservative Government of Canada has passed anti bullying laws in the wake of many tragic events including young people who have committed suicide because they just couldn’t cope with it anymore.

The problem for me is that the democratic system in both Canada and the US, as well as many other countries of course, is adversarial and prone to bullying both within parties and between them. The thing is, like many bullies, our governments don’t even know that they are acting like bullies.

If they do then like most bullies, they don’t care.

There has been a lot of controversy across Canada lately about the new Conservative attack ads on Justin Trudeau and how effective they might or might not be. This just two years from an election. Just... It used to be that attack ads were meant for elections only, but not anymore.

History shows that attack ads can either be very effective, or they can backfire. Most of the time they only work on undecided voters. But people are increasingly saying that they find them annoying and actually offensive. Well at least in Canada they have. They just seem like part of the landscape in the US. I’m not sure Americans care one way or the other. And that is all beside the point.

The point is that while I have heard everything else about attack ads, what I have not heard is that they are clearly bullying tactics. They are meant to ruin the reputation of the opposition leaders they are aimed at. They are meant to make that person look like a fool or like they are unable to run a country. They are personal attacks on an individual.

What does the bully get if they succeed? They feel gratification from holding power over someone. In this case, us in the end. But it is at the expense of an individual.

All the parties have done it at one time or other. It’s part of the game. The target is not supposed to take it personally, are they? But probably few if any who are the brunt of these meaningless attacks are that thick skinned even if they can pretend they are.

Never mind that they are paid for by taxes most of the time. What they are is clearly bullying.

I have no issue with attacking a person’s policies or the direction they want to take our country. Attack the issues all you like. But personal attacks are bullying, particularly when the ads are also misleading.

They call it spin, but in fact it is just perspective bending. In one ad we see Trudeau doing a striptease. Well that’s what it is made to look like. But he was not the leader of a party at the time, he did not actually do a full strip tease, and he was doing it for a high profile charity raising money for, correct me if I am wrong: kidney research.

Spin masters can make anything seem seedy. They can if we are gullible, of course.

Are politicians held to a higher standard in our society? Should they be prepared for this sort of thing? Sure. That’s the way it has always been. Trudeau is expected to take it like a man and of course he will, just as Harper took it like a man when the Liberals told us the army would soon be in the streets if we elected him.

But the point is that while politicians make laws against bullying, they are they themselves bullying and setting an example for everyone including our kids. Bullying is fine if you are in high stakes politics. Really? Is it? Is that the kind of society we want? Is that what we want our kids to think? Do we think that’s right? Do we want it to be that way?

Have we not at least begun to grow out of the 18th century mentality that created this system? Oh yes, it has been going on for much longer than that, of course. Many politicians have taken their own lives over it in the distant past. Often they were expected to. At least politics isn’t that brutal anymore.

I’m not saying we need to see our politicians being nice to each other all the time. They can fight over matters of policy as much as they like. I want them to do that. But why the cheap shots? Js it because they are effective on the lowest common denominator of the population? Have we really not grown up that much at all?

Personal attack ads are bullying and should be illegal if the government is sincere in its quest to outlaw the practice for all of us. This is not a “do as we say, not as we do” situation, is it? Sorry, that doesn’t work on adults. Wait... it all too often seems to in this country these days. But it darn well shouldn’t.


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    • Spirit Whisperer profile image

      Xavier Nathan 

      5 years ago from Isle of Man

      Yes, my friend I hear you and I am in no way advocating the actions of the bully or the victim. The dynamic, however, as I see it, is the same in the school yard between the bully and the victim as it is between a corrupt government and its people. Until the child regains his self confidence he is powerless in the face of the bully. Until each person in a nation awakens from a kind of self induced apathy which robbed them of their confidence in the first place the government will continue to bully. The government is elected by its people and ultimately without their backing the government is powerless. It is apathy that elects bullies, the kind of apathy that makes the individual accept his lot because of the separation he perceives between himself and his fellow man. Heal this separation and the bully stands naked and helpless in the school yard of the life.

      It is indeed very nice to make contact again.

    • Slarty O'Brian profile imageAUTHOR

      Ron Hooft 

      5 years ago from Ottawa

      Hi my friend.

      I am not sure we entirely disagree except on perhaps two points, victims and governments role. Some people do make themselves victims but many don't and are victimized anyway; and surely a government can find better ways of steering a nation than bullying it's people? They could be moral and benevolent and still point us in the right direction. In fact if they knew what the right direction was that would be a moral and beneficial thing to do.

      But unfortunately governments these days have no real vision or visionaries and they are being led by the nose rings by bankers who they owe money to and lobby groups that help them get elected.

      Nice to see you again.

    • Spirit Whisperer profile image

      Xavier Nathan 

      5 years ago from Isle of Man

      Another excellent treatment of an issue that effects us all and some more so than others.

      There will always be bullies as long as there people willing to play the role of victim. It takes both to create the dance. I am of the opinion that the dance can look ugly but some people need such a dance for their own personal development. We judge and criticise what we fear and what we see as ugly but who are we to judge what others create fro themselves. I believe that the best we can do is walk our own path doing as little damage as we can to ourselves and others and be willing to help when asked to. Sometimes a government unconsciously plays the role of bully in order to wake a nation from its slumber. It is in extremes that people react urgently and those are the times when they are most likely to wake up. Isn't that what is happening all over the world right now and which could never have happened if governments were benevolent and moral?

      Thank you.

    • Slarty O'Brian profile imageAUTHOR

      Ron Hooft 

      5 years ago from Ottawa

      Well when I wrote this piece I was not intending to make a political statement about who is the better party or leader. It was intended as a statement about the hypocrisy of the current government talking anti-bullying legislation on the one hand and being bullies by mounting attack ads on the other.

      I am a fiscal conservative, but I am a social liberal. That means I think we should have as many social freedoms as possible.

      Now you have every right to believe what you like, and since I know you from the religious debate forum I know you are a fundamentalist who thinks everyone has to believe what you believe. You're religious views however, have no bearing on me, only on you.

      So you have the right to be gay. Is that bad? Will you use that right if you have it? No? Then that's up to you. Neither will I, but I will also not condemn anyone who is gay, nor take away rights from them that I have just because they are gay.

      You think they will go to hell? So what? They don't. What gives you the right to force them to believe what you believe or force them to do what you do, or force them not to do what they want to do? You have no right at all to do any of that.

      So that you have the right to hold your opinions we have to separate church and state. If we did not do that then next thing you know the Catholics would be telling you you are a heretic and burning you at the stake. They have done it before when they were in power.

      Protestants who came to power did the same thing to Catholics in the European religious wars.

      So stop sticking your nose where it does not belong. You believe what you like and try to get along with others who do not believe what you believe. That would be the right thing to do.

    • profile image

      Brenda Durham 

      5 years ago

      Oh my God.

      ....I've never paid any attention to Canadian politics before. But your article showed up in my HubFeed and caught my interest.


      Just from Googling Justin Trudeau's name, I found out a lot of information. I found out that, apparently, a liberal is a liberal whether it's in the U.S. or in Canada. And I found out that Canada's in big trouble if they're listening to Justin Trudeau and his followers who are whining about him being "bullied". Because......he's like an Obama clone, backing homosexuality and catering to Muslim groups and voicing sympathy for the Boston terrorists!! Blaming it on lack of tolerance instead of blaming the killers!

      Have you even vetted your Candidate, either personally or as a Nation? Or do you, like one article I found said, just see his pretty face and ignore what comes out of his audacious mouth?

      Please please be forewarned---------America is sinking into a pit of tension and confusion and irrationality, mostly because we have a President who was unfit to start with. Don't let Canada follow that path.


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