Folks who work in the public eye — writers, creative types, media personalities, public officials, etc. — face the special risk of bullying, mobbing, harassment, defamation, violence, and stalking from members of the public, who may include readers, customers, and others affected by their work.
If you’d like to understand more about the impact of these behaviors, then journalist Dune Lawrence’s (Bloomberg Businessweek) bracing first-person account is worth your while. Lawrence experienced a two-year ordeal of defamatory trolling at the hands of a man named Benjamin Wey, who currently awaits trial on federal securities fraud charges. Here is Lawrence’s lede:
I saw the photo first, me in a bloody wash of red with “RACIST” pulsing over my face. A couple of clicks brought me to this:
“In the darkest shadow of Bloomberg’s glossy office building in Manhattan, you may find a woman by the name of Dune Lawrence—a ‘journalist’ who has built a career on writing salacious articles about China.”
Lawrence had interviewed Wey on his business dealings for pieces she wrote for the magazine, and when her coverage raised uncomfortable questions, he retaliated by attempting to destroy her reputation via online means.
We often think of cyberbullying and related behaviors in the context of school kids, but they are hardly limited to such settings. Furthermore, they are often very destructive. As I wrote in 2012:
A new study of British university employees concludes that targets of workplace cyberbullying often fare worse than those who experience traditional bullying. Victoria Revay reports for Global News…:
In three separate surveys, 320 British university employees were asked to document their experiences with cyberbullying. The study results showed that victims of cyberbullying tended to have “higher mental strain and lower job satisfaction” as compared to traditional bullying.
According to Revay, human resources professor Aaron Schat of McMaster University in Canada, interpreted the results this way:
He says the challenge with cyberbullying in the workplace may be that it lacks a so-called safe haven, or a physical area where the victim can take refuge to avoid the bully. He says this may also be the reason why victims feel more emotionally distressed.
I have kept my summary of Lawrence’s experiences to a minimum, because her story should be read in its entirety in order to be fully grasped. This is a frightening tale of one person’s extraordinary efforts to use the Internet for spreading baseless lies and rumors about another, in ways that created significant difficulties and embarrassment for the target of his behavior.