I watched a disturbing video from March 3rd that was making its rounds on the internet. Somewhere in Great Briton a group passing out leaflets against hate crimes is bullied by members of the BNP, an ultra nationalist group. I don’t pretend to know anything about either group beyond what can be found on wikipedia, but I found the body language and word use of the bullies interesting and disturbing.
The aggressor was clearly intimidating the man with the leaflets, getting up in his face, telling him to leave. His voice was loud and threatening. But the words the aggressor chose were the words of a victim:
‘No one is getting violent here are they?’ he says getting up into the leafleter’s face ‘You’re heightening the situation so you take a step back and stop threatening me!’ he steps forward again forcing the leafleter to step back. ‘No one is threatening you are they?’ he says as his comrades shout profanities over his shoulder at the leafleter, ‘You’re not welcome here.’
Eventually the leafleters return to their car and leave, coming back later to pass out their fliers. The bully acts like a bully, moves like a bully, sounds like a bully, but uses words to paint himself a victim.
On the car ride home this afternoon I heard North Korea behaving in the same way as the BNP bully. They swing around weapons, then declare themselves threatened when their neighbors react.
At school some of the teachers have been working through Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to help students think about people's actions. I’m trying to find where this interactions sits, if it sits there at all. Why do we humans feel the need to frame ourselves as victims before lashing out? Why this dance and mincing of words?