Javier E. David of NBC News Doesn’t Know Shit about Bullying

David wrote an article titled Cyberbullying’s Got a New Target: Big Companies, which holy shit someone in the editing room should have pointed out that “bullying target” and “big companies” create a huge oxymoron when used together.

At the heart of bullying is a power imbalance.  A big kid targets a smaller kid, a group targets an individual, a majority class targets a vulnerable one.  Big companies are none of those, least of all an individual (which I think is the conflation being made here).  They’re multi-billion dollar teams of marketing gurus, advertising executives, and lawyers.  They are the bullies.

The best I can say about David is that he seems to immediately want to divorce himself from the word ‘bullying.’   Emphasis mine.

Cyberbullying isn’t something normally associated with large corporations. However, in the last week alone social networking played a big role in humbling two culturally influential institutions: Starbucks and DC Comics.

Yeah not the same thing.

So has social media ushered in the age of cyber-bullying of big companies?

According to experts, the answer is yes … and no. By and large, the Internet is seen by many as a way to hold companies accountable for their business practices, and give consumers a measure of leverage. Yet it also means big firms no longer totally control their own narratives, and companies can quickly become helpless bystanders in their own story.

Also not the same thing.  Also, you’re using two different formats for cyberbullying.  WHERE THE FUCK ARE THE EDITORS?

That means online activists have at their disposal the means to make questionable corporate behavior go viral. Just ask Sallie Mae, who in 2013 was accused of harassing the family of a dead college student for the balance of a student loan. A relative took to Twitter to denounce the company, unleashing a torrent of social media haranguing that forced the company to back off its aggressive collection efforts.

This is bullying you dumb stick of fuck.

Using social networks to blast big companies isn’t exactly bullying, [marketing expert Renée Richardson Gosline] explained, but something that gives users credibility with their followers, and is part of the whirlwind of free speech.

It’s not at all, actually.

“The cyberbullying you see is one-half of a coin that puts it into a narrative,” she said. “We obviously construct a hero or the villain, and if you’re the company you want to fall on the former. If you’re on Facebook or Twitter … people may not actually be that outraged, but you gain social capital by calling out a company as being incorrect.”

Not when all you want to do is buy some fucking coffee.  I don’t want stores to be the heroes, I want them to be the places that sell me the things I need or want at a reasonable price.  (And you know have some basic human decency in their hiring practices, wages, and employee benefits.  Are we calling that heroic now?  Good Christ…)

The retreat recalled a similarly sticky spot that JPMorgan* found itself back in 2013, when a seemingly harmless Twitter question-and-answer session with one of its top bankers was quickly hijacked by hostile spectators.

*Noted economy ruiner.

“Social media is starting to drive the first round of public opinion,” [Jules Polonetsky, executive director of the Future of Privacy Forum] said. “It can provoke a more extreme view than what may be represented by the public.”

In that vein, something as anodyne as a comic cover can become a battle cry for aggrieved comic book fans.

A comic book cover that turned sexual assault into an entertainment spectacle and a selling point, but hey who’s counting?

As Starbucks was taking its lumps over “Race Together,” a proposed cover for an upcoming issue of “Batgirl” struck some users as sexist. The ensuing backlash put DC on the defensive for a week before the company decided, with little explanation or fanfare, to pull the plug on the cover.

Absolutely not true to anyone who’s followed the story at all.  Neither the writer nor the cover creator felt it was appropriate and both sides requested that it be pulled.  PLUS, and this is kind of important, part of the reason the cover was pulled is the people objecting to it were receiving threats of violence (which is bullying) because of it.  Journalism David…maybe do it next time.  Let’s let the so-called marketing expert end things.

According to MIT’s Gosline, yanking a product or initiative can be a double-edged sword. While it can help a company acknowledge a bad decision, it can also cement a negative impression.

“When you take your toys and go home, the end of the narrative becomes your failure,” she explained. “If you stay out there, you can repair your image … but when you end the conversation on a bad note, that’s the last recollection people have about you.”

Yes Renée Gosline, when you yank something that millions of people have admitted is problematic, you are a failure and that’s what gets cemented in people’s minds other than, you know, admitting mistakes in a rare moment of honesty and ultimately doing the right thing.  I’ll go tell all the companies that have yanked sexist, racist, and homophobic ads and products that the enduring legacy of those acts is failure.  YOU HAVE A GODDAMN DOCTORATE FROM HARVARD, WHAT THE HELL?

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About Alex

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