Thursday, July 30, 2020

Standing Up to Bullies! Isolated Communities and "Culturally Homogeneous" Groups

Just because we grow older doesn't mean that bullies grow up and change with age. The same thinking patterns and dysfunctional mindset of inclusion and exclusion continue forward throughout their lives. When surrounded by friends that lack critical insight and exist in a self-validating group of friends there are few checks and balances to this behavior. Further, because such groups have few feedback loops they can become a menace others through the creation of "culturally homogeneous" communities. Without the capacity to self-monitor and reorient aggressive behaviors it is up to the legal system to ensure such behaviors don't continue on in a way that damages the community further.

The Problem with Dysfunctional Groups in Isolated Communities

Much of the literature revolves around child bullying and aggressive behavior in school. There is little literature in how people from an isolated communities who maintain extremely tight sports/friends groups grow up to be adult bullies. In most cases this trajectory is thwarted as people become exposed to the social and legal consequences of aggressive behavior. If they do not learn boundaries at home or in their communities people may move closer to criminal behavior as the concept of "normal" gets distorted. 

According to Resource Control Theory, bullies may utilize prosocial and/or coercive strategies to access social resources (Clark, et. al. 2020). In this case embarrassment over the discovery previous alleged misconduct and embezzled funds may have created one motivator while differences in the perceived racial/religious differences of the victims leads to a secondary social context. The motivators matched with lack of diverse exposure in an isolated community and inward validation a tight knit"clannish" group may be just some of the reasons why these behaviors occurred in this instance.

Language Indicated Racial and Religious Motivations To Behavior

In-out group dynamics based on superficial differences can be used to create racially and religious division that tear society apart. It is important to look at the language of the group and how they utilize face-to-face and online language such as Facebook and text to create social adherence and coordinated action. We can see similar inflammatory rhetoric issues not just in hate groups but also in gangs, times of war, divisive politics and much more. We must be careful on how we use language. 

According to a study of online hate group presented at ASONAM '13 Proceedings of 2013 IEEE/ACM International Conference on Advances in Social Networks Analysis and Mining behavior language choice and content are important markers of hate group activity (Ting, et. al. 2013) the language used can be telling of a groups values, intent and next steps.

Such content and linguistic analysis has been used for some time. Law enforcement uses it to reconstruct context for crimes, predict future crimes, and prosecution of past crimes. We may psychologists and human resource departments to understand group culture. It is also has been put to use in the intelligence community to discover subversive groups, derail violence, and arrest potential terrorists.

For example lets say people in the group said things like "We don't need 'those"' types of people in this town!!!!!" or made a comment like, "Let's show this guy want don't want him or 'his kind' around here!" What they are essentially doing is creating differences between people that have only small differences in order to rally their base to engage in coordinated activities. 

Lets say someone within the group challenged them about what "those people" and "his kind" actually meant. Further asking questions, and assuming their isn't a lot of ego deflection, we would find they would either mean specifically a race, religion, or other superficial difference. Further questioning might lead to a core and fundamental discovery that "those people" and "his kind" refers to anyone one that doesn't validate their distorted self-image (this becomes even more telling of the influencers in the group" and core assumptions of ethnocentric superiority. 

Challenge within the group would have indicated a healthier external point of view. It would have allowed for a little more critical thinking. Dysfunctional groups are characterized by inner validation that reinforce distorted viewpoints where questioning is not possible while more functional groups can gain outer validation where people are allowed to question poor behavior without significant retribution. As a real life example not one can say that I have done anything to them and thus everyone ostracized quickly for fear of "falling out of the graces" of central ring leaders.

We can continue to look at the environment and other markers of criminal intention. In this situation we already have a context of the use of racially charged language use such as "nigga babies", "dumb niggas", and other such terms that were pointedly used to describe children but also used in general social context to refer to others such as Black sports. The language itself becomes a marker of why such coordinated activities occur and how some are deemed as "outsiders" and some as "locals".  

It doesn't really stop there. The group also spread religiously based bias by indicating Muslims (the definition will get more interesting in the future) are violent and crazy and should be stopped with force. They went as far as to put in false police complaints with similar genre of activities while at the same time encouraging people to take on more aggressive actions. Actions that ranged from whispering and raising their nose in the air all the way to staring down children in a parking, restricting help, and encouraging an officer to walk up aggressively and ask "Do you have a gun?"

It wouldn't be hard for researchers and law enforcement officials to interview people within the group, follow up on witnesses, review Facebook/social media postings of group members, and collect group text to determine the full scope of behaviors. Names of core group members are well known and their actions have now become general public knowledge. I suspect that in a small town there are just too many close association. That is one reason why law enforcement officials should not fraternize with those engaging in hate related activities.

Small Towns and a Big America

Small towns are beautiful and offer opportunities to really get to know your neighbors. That is one of the reasons why people buy houses and raise children in such places. However, when a maladaptive personality influences group behavior that further encourages others to engage in hate based intimidation the definition of who and whom is allowed is problematic. Its not a problem if you aren't the target but it is a problem if you have responsibilities to children and others within the community that may have been injured from such behavior. 

Family oriented communities are not the same thing as ethnically cleansed communities. Ethnically cleansed is a harsh word that may technically fulfill the definition but could be slightly into hyperbole depending on how its viewed. If there is low minority rates, an active group of community members seeking to make life uncomfortable by exploiting perceived differences, and little accountability for such behavior therein lies a larger problem of complacency. So I want to walk back that highly charged term to something more along the lines of highly encouraging "culturally homogeneous" community which maintains a softer connotation more likely to be palatable to the average reader.

We want to keep our communities safe and great places to live and enjoy nature. That should not be a code word for racially and religiously motivated "cultural homogeneous" group adherence and enforcement. I do see a few mixed race children and other small sprinkles of diversity but one has to wonder if they are more or less tolerated as "lesser than" members of society in so long as they just sort of stay out of public life. It appears to be a contentious issue if they are socially active, educated, vocal, confident and highly engaged in helping the community. In other words, if they are highly visible and are willing to enforce reasonable boundaries for aggressive behavior that could draw discontent.

We should be careful to not allow malaptive personalities and a "cultural homogeneous" mindsets to become the norm of how we view our community and interact with the public. Being different is not only not wrong it can be an asset when drawn into community and political affairs to create positive outcomes. Diversity can bring new ideas and new ways of ensuring our community not only accepts the Americanized values of equality, but also improved economic positioning that can enhance the lives of residents and our children and grand children (From any background).

So what can I say? I've seen things in the past year and half that I have not seen in any other place on the planet. Instead of shying away from the challenge to help my people become better I embrace it more and with a bigger hug of understanding. Intimidation is useless if you are not intimidated. When I see the people I grew up with and played sports with and went to church with and did fun things act this way I realize the difference education and exposure made in my life (There is a lot more to that story). I want to reach back and grab their hands and pull them into the modern world and the fundamental American value system of equality and fair treatment. 

The world is changing, there is civil unrest, there are long-stemming issues racial/religious issues that are being pushed into the public debate. The locals I know are good people at heart (I could tell by the few very worried faces who were too fearful of their social networks to reach out) but who haven't had much exposure to other types of people. That lack of awareness makes them susceptible to "boogie man" stories and scary "outsiders" lurking in the shadows type fairy tales that limit their ability to fully accept the essential principles that made this country great. Once we accept the argument that America is only an idea based on core values and principles on how we treat each other, engage in commerce, and relate to the world around us we can see these hate behaviors as a detractor to our national development. If we are going to be a global bulwark against limiting and destructive ideologies that are waiting "at the gates" so to speak then we all have a responsibility to make our communities, country and nation a better place. Its our civic duty!

I believe in solutions more than complaining so I will be coming out with more information on how to develop a positive and accepting culture that leads to healthier lives and a more prosperous future for all our children. 

Clark, et. a;. (2020). Resource control theory posits that individuals may utilize prosocial and/or coercive strategies to access social resourcesChild & Youth Care Forum, 49. 

Ting, et. al (2013) Content matters: a study of hate groups detection based on social networks analysis and web mining. ASONAM '13 Proceedings of 2013 IEEE/ACM International Conference on Advances in Social Networks Analysis and Mining. Pages 119-120 v

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