California City Achieves New Lows In Anti-Bullying Laws, Makes Public Entirely Subject To Other People's 'Feelings'

from the protecting-the-elusive-5-25-demographic-from-feeling-down dept

Just stop.

“Fixing” bullying through rushed, stupid, reactionary laws does nothing to address the issue and generally just makes things worse. Carson, CA, Mayor Jim Dear thinks he’s going to beat bullying and he’s going to use a new law to do it. His plan is a real gem, though, requiring only a one-paragraph summary to encompass its utter vapidity. (via Adam Steinbaugh)

Under an ordinance that will go before the City Council next week, it would become a misdemeanor in the small Harbor-area city to cause anyone from kindergarten through age 25 to “feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed or molested” with no legitimate purpose.

  1. This wording suggests there are legitimate reasons to “terrorize, frighten, intimidate, threaten, harass or molest” people aged 5-25. Sadly, the mayor fails to provide examples.
  2. Thicker skin is apparently grafted on at age 25, at which point people can expect to be terrorized, threatened, etc. right up to the limits of existing laws. The subtext here is that people are expected to “grow up” and deal with bullying better at some point in their lives. That arbitrary point appears to be four years past the legal drinking age.
  3. This bill is entirely subjective — the key word being “feel.” No one is allowed to make anyone “feel” any of the above forbidden feelings. As presented here, there’s no “reasonable person” subjectivity bar, which makes everyone in Carson subject to everyone else’s feelings.

    This bill also covers “cyberbullying,” which is incredibly redundant considering all of the feelings listed above. But it goes beyond simple redundancy, offering additional actionable feelings specific to electronic communications.

It cites “hurtful, rude and mean text messages” as a key form of cyberbullying, along with “spreading rumors or lies about others by email or social networks.

“Hurtful?” “Rude?” “Mean?” Have you not met children, Mayor Dear? They can be all of these things without being bullies, simply because their sense of perspective has yet to mature. The most amazing things fall out of kids’ mouths. Some grow brain-mouth filters as they mature. Others don’t. But most start out without a knowledge of societal norms — the unspoken agreement that specifies that you don’t point out what’s different or strange or funny about someone else to their face. But to Dear, these childish statements may be treated as misdemeanors.

For additional unintentional hilarity, here’s a statement from the bill’s co-sponsor.

Councilman Mike Gipson, a co-author of the measure, said the goal was to make Carson a “bully-free city.”

Gipson’s idealism would be admirable if it weren’t completely indiscernible from the sort of thing politicians who have long since kissed their ideals goodbye would make. It’s a promise that can’t be kept, stated as a lofty goal towards which the city will e’er strive, even if it means criminalizing protected speech and non-criminal behavior. If this effort fails (and it will, at one level or another), the goalposts can always be moved, or the definitions changed, so that Carson, CA is constantly approaching the “bully-free” ideal.

The problem with unquantifiable goals is that someone will want to quantify it, if only to justify the arrest and booking of schoolchildren. And when you make certain activities the target, that will be what’s counted. The more “bullies” it prosecutes, the closer it must be to achieving Gipson’s and Dear’s utopian goal. This provides twisted incentives for law enforcement and prosecutors, both of whom are now involved in a problem that used to be solved by parents and schools. Good work if you can get it — especially if you’ve got a crusade on your mind — but it’s hardly a solution to a societal problem.

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Comments on “California City Achieves New Lows In Anti-Bullying Laws, Makes Public Entirely Subject To Other People's 'Feelings'”

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61 Comments
Ninja (profile) says:

That’s the second time today I thought (and commented) the US will need bigger prisons.

Now that I’m thinking about it, having something in your police records will mean absolutely nothing once the majority of the population get an entry in their records.

So you are a felon? What have you done, used too much ketchup in your German sausages?

Loki says:

Re: Re:

I don’t know about bigger prisons, but they have to do something about the loss of all that revenue that our increasingly privatized prison system will lose as they continue to lose the war on keeping pot illegal.

And having a record will still mean something. Thanks to the newly discovered disease “affluenza”, it’ll be a legal way for the upper class to help limit the power of the lower class.

Whether people want to except it or not, this country is devolving into a feudal society.

Anonymous Coward says:

The more bullies

it prosecutes will create shortage of bullies, therefore true to government bureaucratic tendencies, they will have to create newer, tougher, stricter laws to find more bullies!

US Law has starting becoming a fantastic example of how to create criminals where none existed before!

Scote (profile) says:

Actually, CA has had a state law like this for decades

CA has a law against **annoying** or molesting minors.

“647.6. (a) (1) Every person who annoys or molests any child under 18 years of age shall be punished by a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars ($5,000), by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both the fine and imprisonment.”

Pretty sure a lot of younger siblings should be in jail based on this law.

JP says:

Re: Actually, CA has had a state law like this for decades

Younger siblings? All siblings children with siblings are going to run afoul of this new law. What younger sibling hasn’t annoyed their elder sibling? What older sibling hasn’t annoyed and/or terrorized their younger brother or sister at some point Hell, both options are half the fun of having siblings!

Anonymous Coward says:

One bad law after another. Here’s another law so vague as to be used for nearly anything, just cook up a reason why you feel ___________ and fill in the blank. If they can’t get you on using computers, they can make something up that will work. After all, how do you prove a feeling scientifically and legally?

Cop on the street gets filmed doing something wrong? Hey no problem, he was feeling terrorized while he was doing his job in public. He’s got a charge to suck you into the legal system.

Politician feels threatened over a political ad while he’s campaigning, no problem. His reputation was threatened by this bullying newspaper reporting all these things he can’t be.

mattshow (profile) says:

I’m hoping, at the very least, the law will require some sort of positive action on the part of the accused. I have a few tattoos and I’ve been told by other people that when they first met me, they were intimidated by me because of that. Apparently, depending on their prejudices, sometimes you can intimidate someone just by wearing shorts.

New Mexico Mark says:

Next on the city counsel agenda

There will be a vote to declare Hadleyburg… er… Carson “The most incorruptible city on the face of the earth”.

Also, was it just me or did anyone else find that picture of Mayor Dear a bit creepy? It looks like a scene from early in a horror movie before any of the other characters catch on that the reason the evil person smiles so much is because he’s bat-s*** crazy and deeply in love with his chain saw, “Elvira”.

Anonymous Coward says:

I have the perfect plan for defeating this act of genius.

Step 1: Show up at City Council meeting with someone under the Age of 25 (we shall refer to said person as “Snotty Pre-teen”).
Step 2: Snotty Pre-teen must read an incredibly condescending and sarcastic speech to the Honorable Mayor during the comments period.
Step 3: Wait for the Honorable Mayor’s negative reaction.
Step 4: Snotty Pre-teen must state that Mayor’s negative reaction has caused him/her to “feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed and molested” and that this makes the Honorable Mayor a bully under his own ordinance.

Bonus Step: Have further commenters berate the Honorable Mayor for committing an act of bullying and initiate recall petition.

Anonymous Coward says:

Legislating growing up

I’ve always had a mouth that could be much faster than my brain, and when I didn’t control it, I could say all sorts of things. On more than one occasion I said things well before I even really understood how crude, insensitive, or even mean-spririted they were. There are times I think back on some of the things I said as a kid, and burn with a lot more guilt than I did when I first said them.

I wasn’t bad, just thoughtless. What I needed was a dope-slap, or even better, someone to point out to me how stupid my words were and why. I didn’t need a fat criminal fine and a jail sentence, I needed to learn how best to control my impulses. I needed to connect to the basic empathy and decency inside of me that could tell my mouth just where to stick those stupid words and how far.

This law as written is not how you cultivate the decency inside a person, and I think that will be bad for everyone involved, the bullies, and the bullied.

Eponymous Coward says:

25 year age cutoff

“2. Thicker skin is apparently grafted on at age 25, at which point people can expect to be terrorized, threatened, etc. right up to the limits of existing laws. The subtext here is that people are expected to “grow up” and deal with bullying better at some point in their lives. That arbitrary point appears to be four years past the legal drinking age.”

The reason I assume for the 25 years of age cutoff is that the human brain isn’t fully developed until then, so I imagine their concern is on the developmental impact of being bullied.

zip says:

lowering the bar -- the current definition of "BULLY"?

I’m confused as to exactly what a “bully” even means today.

It used to be, at least in the old days, a bully was the kind of boy, typically in late-elementary or middle school –public school– who would do things like shove someone to the ground and laugh, and the victim doesn’t dare get back up and fight back, because he knows he’ll get the living crap beat out of him — as many before him have.

Traditional bullies were typically boys who failed one or two grades (often from all the suspensions they got due to fighting) and were therefore the biggest and toughest guys in the class, the grade, or even the whole school (next to the PE teacher, of course). Bullies loved to start fights, and win fights, and just plain hurt people in general, and didn’t care how many (more) times they got suspended from school for it.

To me, that’s what a typical bully used to be. But it seems that now, the word “bully” is often used against someone who has never beat up anyone, or even threatened to (either overtly or through sheer reputation) — or is even remotely capable of it.

Anyway, I always ask this question, because what ‘bully’ has always meant to me is obviously not what it means to many people today.

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