On January 3rd, Shinedown will release a track called “Bully” to radio. Upon hearing the title, I immediately wondered whether it would be a song attempting to capitalize on the current anti-bullying movement. Hearing the 30-second sample on Amazon (since removed) confirmed that suspicion. My first thought was that it seemed awfully hypocritical given that at least one member of the band is somewhat notorious online for being unable to control his temper on the Internet — threatening people, making personal attacks, shouting down people, and using a large base of faithful followers to do the same and essentially fight battles for/with him. What some might consider, well, bullying.
Ultimately, the question comes down to what bullying is exactly. There are many definitions online, and many differ from each other, but Google’s Dictionary defines “bullying” as: [quote style=”1″]”Use of superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force him or her to do what one wants.”[/quote]
So based on that definition, can the actions of the band members online both in the past on the old Shinedown message boards and currently on Twitter be considered bullying? When I reached out to the band’s publicist and label rep for comment early last week (that request was ignored), I cited the specific example of two of the band members that had negative comments on Twitter directed at them. Rather than ignore the person or even simply replying directly to them, they had a habit of retweeting the negative comment so that their own followers would see it and attack that individual on their behalf. While that may not be what you could consider active “bullying,” it most certainly was facilitating and/or encouraging bullying of that person — and even though it’s passive, doesn’t that still meet the definition of using superior influence to intimidate? And the severity of the initial comment has no bearing on the definition of the reaction to it. Even though someone may “have it coming,” justified bullying is still bullying.
In just the most recent example, someone with 17 followers saying they wished the band would die in a plane crash was retweeted by guitarist Zach Myers to his 11K+ followers. In response, many of his followers attacked the individual, some of which can be seen below, including one that uses the one line that would be national front-page fodder if something actually happened to the person: “were [sic] better off without him”.
In addition to threats from followers, here is the original retweet and responses (to this and other tweets) from the band. Zach Myers and someone using the Shinedown band account deliver insults and threats, and Shinedown head of security Jake Lawson mentions he’d be near the individual this weekend and invites him to meet in person — an invitation/threat made by band members in the past as well.
This particular incident is just one single example, but very similar to past incidents. Oddly enough, I described an incident almost exactly like this in the email to their publicist (which was sent before this incident), except in that case the person ended up closing their Twitter account to escape the harassment.
In some cases (like this one where somebody wished they were dead), the reaction could be somewhat understandable to most people. But those same people don’t have an anti-bullying song coming out. If you publicly draw a line in the sand on an issue and tell people to stand on the right side of it, isn’t it fair for them to expect you to be standing on that side as well? And even if you consider the instigator the bully (which by definition he’s not), that doesn’t make bullying an acceptable response to it, does it?
So do you consider it bullying? Why or why not?