You might have remembered the story that occurred in Central Park on Memorial Day 2020. This is where a white woman was recorded calling 911 to report a black man whom she claimed was "threatening" her life. The reality was that this woman was named "Karen" and she was the one in the wrong when she let her dog off leash. The man was out bird watching and asked Karen to put her dog back on the leash. Instead of complying with this simple request she pulled out her cell phone to call emergency services and accused this black man of being a threat to her life. Her paranoia and over-reaction has led to her being called "Central Park Karen." Thus a new meme was born.
If that were the end of the story we could all rest assured and return back to our trivial lives. But it did not stop there. This new euphemism, "Karen", came to be known as an archetype of a particular type of person. These qualities were that of a white woman with a fair complexion in her thirties or forties who had a predisposition to be a complainer and always seemed to be a victim. Nothing was ever her fault. She was one who always felt entitled, somewhat ignorant and leaned toward the side of being racist.
While we cannot excuse her over-reaction we also must take a deeper look at why we as a society feel the need to create more opportunities to be bullies by creating a meme to bully others. Bullying is not a new phenomenon. It has just taken on a new twist. Now more and more women are being called out for being a "Karen". They are being ridiculed by society where bullying is commonplace and accepted.
Bullies come in many shapes and sizes. There are many ways that bullying finds it way into our society. For a culture that pretends to be open-minded and inclusive, the reality is something quite different. Bullying shows up in our local media on a daily basis. Day time talk show hosts will scare and belittle their guests, often playing with their emotions. Night time late night comedians are no different. Game shows that can undermine and disempower contestants are common. We all laugh when someone is being hit, made fun of and becomes the cruel butt of a joke or an activity.
We also see bullying show up in the larger media. A network news anchor will bully the audience by saying that only he has the truth. A national newspaper or online blog will use their bully pulpit to shame others who disagree with them. Condemning labels like "racist", "pig", "fascist" or misogynist" are often used to name bully and to undermine others. Somehow unconscious individuals believe that if they can label someone and bully them they can control the narrative and stay in power.
Science uses bullying on a daily basis to ridicule and undermine natural solutions. Science will use name bullying like "conspiracy", "junk science" or "anecdotal" to belittle sources that contradict their scholarly opinion. Science is terrified of losing control of its dominance of the narrative.
When it comes to name bullying we are not in a new era. "BBQ Becky" was a name given to a woman who called the police on two black men grilling meat in a park. "Golf Cart Gail" was the meme given to a white woman who called the police on a black man at a football game.
Maybe it is just the death of journalism where members of the media have forgotten how to use words and language to tell stories. Instead they resort to dehumanizing memes to make themselves feel superior. Journalists who follow a particular political party will often create a meme to describe someone of the other party. Never will they bully one of their own. Journalism is certainly not what it used to be. Some say that journalism left town along with the ten cent snow cone and the twenty-five cent bottle of soda pop.
Maybe it is me who is overly sensitive to such an issue. After all my name is Jon (John for some) and I grew up in an era when I was being bullied and ridiculed because of my name. "John" is used quite frequently to mean "toilet". As a kid growing up I would frequently hear my classmates shout loudly to my face that they were going to the "JOHN". This was meant to bully me and to dehumanize my existence.
But somehow I managed through it all as I felt grateful that my name was not "DICK." Those were the guys I really felt sorry for. DICK is another euphemism for the male anatomy. I don't think I could ever live with myself with that kind of public shame coming my way.
Once again, I feel somewhat lucky with all the name bullying going on. I am grateful that my parents
did not name me Enis,
Fanny, Egbert, Adolf or Bertha. We will not even get into names that originate in the Bible, foreign countries or Disney movies. For Gosh sake, can you imagine the shaming and bullying that actor John Wayne must have taken several decades ago. His birth name was Marion Morrison. I would have changed my name too.
A bully is one who lacks compassion, feels powerless deep inside and uses his position (physical strength, popularity or profession) to undermine another individual. A bully is one who has a low sense of self-worth and needs to steal power away from others. They do not generate power from within but will take it from others. A bully is another form of abuser.
As we have seen, name bullying comes from many walks of life. From the playground bully to the network news anchor, from the comedian to the political activist, name bullying has become commonplace in our culture. While a campaign to stop bullying in schools was enacted several years ago, we have only seen bullying to grow worse. The internet troll and the newspaper editor must not have gotten the memo that bullying is now passť.
Maybe we should return to the good old days of the typewriter, print copies of newspapers and television news channels that just reported news and not gossip or opinion. At least we might be able to see some real journalism taking place and not just bullying masquerading as such.