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The Silence Of Our Friends: Why Anti-Gay Bullying Survives

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“In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends”
— Martin Luther King, Jr.

Whenever I need a quotation to encapsulate all that is right, wrong, or indifferent about the human condition, I turn to Dr. King. He implicitly understood and conveyed so eloquently the shame of humanity, the wealth to which humanity aspires, the possibilities for the future, and the failures for which we must atone. For nearly twenty years I have studied bullying behaviour in children and young people, and the scars that continue on into adulthood. Although I recorded the suffering of many people, young and old, who had been the victims of discrimination, and particularly homophobic discrimination, for a long time I did not consider the role played by those who stood at the side. I did not consider why “our friends” remained silent, why they did not intervene, and why they left their peers to the mercy of those “enemies” who taunted them relentlessly.

On April 17 I gave my inaugural lecture to an assembled crowd of over 150 friends, fellow academics, former colleagues and interested citizens to mark my appointment as Professor of Human Development. The title of my lecture was “A land of mythical monsters and wee timorous beasties: Reflections on two decades of research on bullying.”

While the purpose of my lecture was to reflect upon my career as a developmental psychologist, as I prepared my hour-long presentation I began to consider why it is that we, all of us, have allowed bullying to continue. Since joining Brunel University in 2008, I have wanted to understand that “silence” of which Dr. King so incisively spoke. I was also drawn to another quotation, attributed to the British politician, Edmund Burke, which continues to haunt my thoughts:

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

But what does this mean? Does it mean that those who do something are bad men, or that those who shout the loudest are our enemies? I would hope the answer for many readers is a clear “no,” but for many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people (LGBTs) I think the answer is a resounding “yes.” Often our allies have neither the resources nor the skills to combat the organised political and religious machinery that constantly seeks to deny even the most fundamental principles of equality before the law for those who walk a parallel path.

I call it a parallel path simply because, if we ignore just for a second the issues of sexual orientation or gender identity, what separates us? Do we not live together in the same streets, work together in the same firms, pay our taxes together, raise children together, and, if we are lucky enough, worship together? Do the children of LGBTs look any different from those of heterosexuals? Do LGBTs shop in different stores, eat different foods, or travel on different forms of public transport. No they do not. LGBTs are our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, cousins, neighbors, community leaders, political leaders, and religious leaders. They may not be “out” but they are there. They may find it difficult to support those who are “out,” but they are there. And of course we have our heterosexual friends. They too may deplore the violence and destruction that follow many LGBTs throughout their lives but what does it take to mobilize them? What is it that holds them back, like their closeted LGBT brothers and sisters?

I have spent the last three years questioning why those “friends” sometimes do not step up and challenge those who seek to discriminate. Social psychology tells us that bystanders may not feel responsible for the actions of others, particularly if they are one of many. Alternatively, the silence of others introduces an element of ambiguity about that which they have seen or heard which prompts hesitation or, at the very worst, inaction and complicity. But is that it?

If I am one of twenty people watching a beating, am I likely to stand by because I am only responsible for 1/20 of that which I observe? If no one else steps forward to intervene, do I presume that I cannot trust my eyes, and all that I see before me is a mirage? I think and sincerely hope this is not the path I would or have taken.

So why do we allow the persecution of others to continue? Is it because we believe in the justness of the punishment meted out on a particular individual or group? Perhaps! Is it because we are afraid of becoming victims ourselves? I think that is a distinct possibility. Is it perhaps because we do not know how to intervene or feel powerless to intervene? I believe this is where much of the answer lies, and it starts in school.

Suicide Risk in Boys Who Are Bystanders (N=554)

Suicide Risk in Girls Who Are Bystanders (N = 520)

Based upon the research I have conducted, I believe powerlessness combined with an emotional response to the victimization of others is at the heart of our silent friends’ inaction. They are themselves traumatized by what they see. They are, to all intents and purposes, co-victims. In my study conducted with 1,074 young people in secondary schools in the United Kingdom (average age 13.5 years), a colleague and I considered those factors that predicted suicide risk among young people who had witnessed bullying.

Our data showed that powerlessness (red) played a significant role in predicting suicide risk (28% for boys and 31% for girls) with fear (green) accounting for about 7% for both boys and girls.

For boys, being a bully also played a part (blue), much more so than for girls (8% and 1% respectively). The remainder (purple) has yet to be understood.

If results similar to ours are found in other studies, they suggest that some of our silent friends may not be our friends at all. Sometimes they become our tormentors in order to save themselves from the wrath of the bully. However, others (perhaps the silent majority) may be ill-equipped socially or emotionally to intervene when any form of persecution happens.

History tell us that all too often we have accepted the leadership of bullies and their doctrines with little more than a whimper because we are, at heart, social animals that conform to the herd. Yet to challenge the herd often means that one is branded an outsider, a trouble-maker, or an activist. Alas, activism itself is not always founded upon a principle; it is often born of an experience, a tragedy, or an injustice that shakes the very foundations of a life, a family, a community, or a nation. Activists start from a position of vulnerability and need the support of those “silent friends,” and we need to find ways of empowering those friends so they act on principle rather than in response to a tragedy.

 

Ian Rivers is Professor of Human Development at Brunel University, London. He is the author of ‘Homophobic Bullying: Research and Theoretical Perspectives’ (Oxford, 2011), and has researched issues of discrimination in LGBT communities, particularly among children and young people, for nearly two decades.

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Nikki Haley Continues Her IVF Evolution With Yet Another Policy Position 

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Nikki Haley is now on her fourth in-vitro fertilization (IVF) policy position. In a period of less than two weeks the trailing Republican presidential candidate has gone from saying embryos are “babies,” to distancing herself from the Alabama Supreme Court ruling that claims embryos are “children,” to saying she supports IVF but it’s an issue for the states, to calling for federal protections for IVF.

After the extreme Alabama Supreme Court ruling that declared human embryos to be “children,” the former Trump UN Ambassador quickly announced she agreed that embryos are “babies.”

“When you talk about an embryo, you are talking about, to me, that’s a life. And so I do see where that’s coming from when they talk about that,” Haley had said.

But public sentiment runs strongly against the Alabama Court’s February 16 ruling and Haley’s concurrence February 21.

Haley, who is trailing Trump in the polls by strong double digits, pulled back from aligning herself with the toxic Alabama decision.

RELATED: Republicans Kill Bill to Protect IVF After Claiming They Fully Support It

“Well first off all, this is, again, I didn’t say that I agreed with the Alabama ruling. The question that I was asked is, ‘Do I believe an embryo is a baby?’” Haley told CNN, as The New Republic reported. “I do think that if you look in the definition, an embryo is considered an unborn baby. And so yes, I believe, from my stance, that that is.”

That appears to not have been sufficient, because she quickly switched her stance yet again.

“We don’t want fertility treatment to shut down, we don’t want them to stop doing IVF treatment, we don’t want them to stop doing artificial insemination,” said Haley, again to CNN, on February 22. “But I think this needs to be decided by the people in every state. Don’t take away the rights of these physicians and these parents to have these conversations.”

And now, another switch.

“We don’t need government getting involved in an issue where we don’t have a problem,” she told CNN’s Dana Bash on Friday. “We don’t have a problem with IVF facilities. If you have a certain case, let that case play out the way it’s supposed to but don’t create issues and that’s what I feel like it’s happened with this.”

READ MORE: ‘Trump’s Lawyers Got It Dead Wrong’: Espionage Act Trial Will Not Be Stalled by DOJ Rule

But there is a problem, and it was caused by Republicans. Specifically, by the Dobbs case and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. The Alabama Supreme Court majority opinion mentioned Dobbs over a dozen times.

“I think we want IVF to be as accessible as possible to parents who are wanting those blessings of having a baby,” she also said Friday, adding a religious element to her remarks. “I don’t know the details of any of the bills, so I can’t weigh to that. But what I can tell you is, we don’t want to take that away from parents who desperately want to have a child.”

“Michael and I got our children from fertility processes. We need to make sure that those are available, that they’re protected, that it’s personal, and that the whole situation is dealt with respect,” she added, echoing pro-choice concepts while applying them to IVF.

Asked, “should there be a federal protection” for IVF, “or do you think it should be left to the states?” Haley replied: “Well, I think there should be federal protection that we allow for IVF places to be able to function.”

She added, “I think that the people need to decide if they want to get into the details of it or not. It’s the same thing of, do they want to decide, you know, exactly how many embryos or anything like that. I hope they don’t get into that. I want to see that decision between the parents and the doctors. But I think the only thing that the federal government should do is make sure that IVF places are protected and available.”

Professor of law Joyce Vance said recently, “It’s pretty simple. If life begins at conception, IVF is off the table. If you make an exception for IVF then we’re just having a conversation about who you’re willing to make exceptions for.”

Watch the video above or at this link.

READ MORE: Tuberville: Secure the Border Because Immigrants ‘Know Nothing About God’

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‘Trump’s Lawyers Got It Dead Wrong’: Espionage Act Trial Will Not Be Stalled by DOJ Rule

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Special Counsel Jack Smith’s prosecution of Donald Trump in the Espionage Act case, which will be tried in Florida, will not be stalled by the U.S. Dept. of Justice’s policy on not taking certain actions 60 days before an election. The case, often referred to as the classified documents case, includes 31 charges under the Espionage Act.

MSNBC legal analyst and contributor Katie Phang Friday afternoon reports on the “BIG news out of Ft. Pierce.”

“The DOJ advises Judge Cannon that the ’60-day rule’ does NOT apply in Trump’s case as he has already been indicted & the case is already being litigated,” Phang writes. “So, no reason to delay taking him to trial, even with elections in November.”

Phang notes professor of law and her fellow MSNBC contributor Joyce Vance has been making that point.

“Read the policy for yourself,” Vance added Friday. “it doesn’t apply after a case is indicted, when the judge, not DOJ, is in charge of the schedule. Trump’s lawyers got it dead wrong.”

Vance points to her own Substack newsletter’s commentary, where she explains: “At the start of his filing, Trump tries to invoke DOJ policy as a justification for not having a trial this year. But he gets the analysis dead wrong. Trump tries to claim the protection of a DOJ policy against interfering in elections—a huge irony in light of Trump’s efforts to corrupt DOJ after the 2020 election and get the Justice Department to legitimize his false election fraud claims.”

READ MORE: Trump Swore Under Oath He Had $400 Million in Cash – Now He’s Telling a Court a Different Story

“Trump argues that ‘Given President Trump’s status as the presumptive Republican nominee and President Biden’s chief political rival, a trial this year would also violate Justice Manual § 9-85.500, which applies to the Special Counsel’s Office, and prohibits ‘Actions that May Have an Impact on an Election.’ ‘”

“The provision Trump references reads as follows: ‘Federal prosecutors and agents may never select the timing of any action, including investigative steps, criminal charges, or statements, for the purpose of affecting any election, or for the purpose of giving an advantage or disadvantage to any candidate or political party,'” Vance notes.

She adds that the timing of a trial is controlled by a judge, not the DOJ.

READ MORE: ‘Injustice’: Experts Condemn Supreme Court’s ‘Fundamentally Corrupt’ Trump Decision

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Tuberville: Secure the Border Because Immigrants ‘Know Nothing About God’

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U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville says America must put God back into the country and the government, and right now the government isn’t honoring our “Judo” Christian values. The Alabama freshman Republican, a Christian nationalist, also says God cannot be put back into this nation currently because immigrants, who “know nothing about God,” are crossing the southern border illegally.

Sen. Tuberville is also calling for massive cuts to the federal government, saying only the “mentally unhealthy,” “elderly,” “veterans,” and “farmers” should be eligible for financial support from the government.

Tuberville told Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo that “the federal government is not here to take care of every person in this country. We have to take care of the mentally healthy, mentally – mentally unhealthy. We have to take care of our elderly, our veterans. Everybody else needs to go get a job. They need to get off that couch. We’re paying so many people. Maria, we have turned into so much of a socialist country headed to communism.”

He insisted there is no “free speech” in America. “They’re taking all of our rights away.”

READ MORE: Bartiromo Blasts Biden Administration for Encouraging Americans to Register to Vote

“We need to ask God for help, our country needs help,” Tuberville said in a separate interview. “We’re in a tough situation right now. I’m right here in the middle of it. I get to see it every day.”

“We live in a constitutional republic that’s trying to do things without our Judo-Christian [sic] values. And that’s how this country was built. And we got to get back to that. If we don’t, we won’t make it,” Tuberville claimed.

“The biggest thing right now I will tell you is what’s going on at our southern border. When you’ve got a country without borders, you don’t have a country. And it goes back to one thing: God is not in this building. We’ve got to get God back in this building and we’re gonna get God back in our country. We’ve got to get the God back in the nuclear family. We have to get moral values back into our country. And you can’t do that when you have a million people every couple of months come into this country that know nothing about God, that know nothing about our laws and constitution.”

Back in October, Tuberville said European countries have been “lost” to “immigration” as he praised Christian nationalist authoritarian Viktor Orbán of Hungary. Tuberville has a history of promoting white nationalism and has said he sees a white nationalist as a “Trump Republican.” The Senator also declared immigrants “don’t assimilate,” and are “globalists” who “don’t go by the laws.”

Watch the videos above or at this link.

READ MORE: ‘Jaw Dropping’: Democratic Senator Slams Tuberville’s ‘Open’ Talk About ‘White Supremacy’

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