The first step in stopping bullying and harassment in your society (and it makes no difference whether you are living in Japan, the United States, Britain, Australia or another country) is to recognize it wherever and whenever it occurs.


“That’s Ridicule – Change the Channel” (T.R. – C.T.C.)

Try watching network television with the remote control in your hand during the prime-time viewing hours of 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. Watch a program – any program – until you hear one person ridicule another person. Say the words, “That’s Ridicule” out loud. Then change the channel. Watch the next program until you hear one person ridicule another person. Say the words, “That’s Ridicule” out loud before you change the channel again. Repeat this (T.R. - C.T.C.) for three hours and observe how many times you had to change the channel in the course of a single evening of television viewing.


Watch a parliamentary debate or session of Congress. Do the leaders of the ruling and opposition parties ridicule each other? Why or why not? Would such behavior be tolerated in your school? Why or why not?

Home, Home

In Japanese, the word home is a two-syllable word meaning to praise someone or something. Because Japanese people rarely praise each other to their face, many people have low self-esteem. Home, Home is a small-group counseling technique used to empower people with low self-esteem. Here’s how it works:

Divide the class, department, office, etc. into groups of five people. Have the groups sit in a circle. Within each group, make one person “it.” The other four people then take turns saying nice things about the person who is “it.”

This technique is highly effective. The main reason that it works so well is that it stands the bullying model on its head. Instead of having the group attack one person as is usually done in bullying scenarios, four people say only nice things about the person who is “it.”

Teach or Use Acceptable Modes of Debate

Don’ts for Debate

Just as there are rules in sports like boxing, judo, and karate, there are also rules in debate (most of these apply to the game of life as well). Let’s look at some of them.

Ad hominem – This is a Latin expression that means “to the man.” An ad hominem argument is an attack on the person rather than the person’s argument. The best modern example of this is probably from the Dan Ackroyd-Jane Curtin exchanges on Saturday Night Live. In a spoof of Washington-style political television shows, Ackroyd began each of his retorts with, “Jane, you ignorant slut…” Ackroyd attacked Curtin in this way because he had no intelligent response to her argument.

Hearsay – A good definition of hearsay is “Information heard from another.” Properly speaking, hearsay is second-hand news, usually from someone who has no direct knowledge of the situation. In legal matters, hearsay is defined as “Evidence based on the reports of others rather than on the personal knowledge of a witness and therefore generally not admissible as testimony.”

Poisoning the well – Although this practice may also involve hearsay and ad hominem arguments, it generally applies to a situation where one or several people is/are trying to destroy the reputation of another my saying bad things about the person within a community that they all share. In a figurative sense, it means that no one will want to drink (i.e., associate) with someone whose well (i.e., reputation) has been poisoned by so many stories of bad behavior or unkindness. In this type of environment, the good things are never mentioned while petty, trivial matters are trumped up and distorted to reflect poorly on the person under attack.

Straw man – This term is used to describe the instances when a person misstates or replaces the proposition under discussion by arguing for or against something else. Their argument is a “straw man” or a scarecrow, if you will, meant to represent something real – in this case, the topic under discussion. But like the scarecrow in the field, the false argument only appears real to those who are easily fooled. Their argument is not a man – it is not real. Like the scarecrow, it’s a bunch of clothes filled with straw.

The best example of this at the moment is Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Assange has released hundreds of documents that show the prejudice and wrongdoing of those in power. But rather than argue or discuss the content of the documents, government leaders have substituted a straw man: the issue is not spying in the UN or prejudice against specific countries, but that Assange has leaked classified documents. The argument is not that the Arab world would countenance a preemptive strike against Iran, but that Assange has been charged with rape in Sweden.

© 2009 Charlie Canning. All rights reserved.

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