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Furies and Bullies


Posted on 28 November 2011

furies_2.jpgThere has arisen, it seems to Dr No, a certain class of doctor, typically female and in their thirties or forties, maybe a GP, but not in full time clinical practice, perhaps instead involved in medical education in some guise or other, or perhaps not, who number, amongst their many duties, that of patrolling the internet. They patrol other, often male, members of their profession for what they consider to be misdemeanours, great and small, and when they find such misdemeanours, they feel driven to act, in the name of decency, correctness, and the final eradication of all victimisation, bullying and harassment; and for the greater good of the name of a modern caring profession. Dr No calls them The Furies, after the Roman version of the Greek Ερινύες, the avenging goddesses of wrath, who arose, fittingly enough, from drops of blood spilt at the castration of Uranus.

Now, before anyone jumps to the conclusion that Dr No is all for victimisation, bullying and harassment, and deserves any number of visits from the Furies, not to mention the eternal torment of madness, let him make it crystal clear he does not. Dr No is absolutely one hundred percent against gratuitous victimisation, bullying and harassment. But he is also for another, as it happens classical, Aristotelian tradition, that of moderation in all things. And sometimes he wonders whether The Furies have got their serpents in such a twist that they have lost sight of the virtues of moderation.

There are times, it seems, when it is just a little too easy for our Furies of today, consumed by their avenging wrath, to visit their vengeance with such fury and zeal that the bullying boot transfers to the other foot; from the foot of the alleged bully to that of the alleged victim. The soft stockinged grace of moderation has become the jack-boot of excess, and of oppression. And that is the point at which Dr No stops calling them The Furies, and gives them a more fitting modern name: The Bullies.

28 comments:

"when they find such misdemeanours, they feel driven to act, in the name of decency, correctness, and the final eradication of all victimisation, bullying and harassment" .......... shudders.

T'web is a certainly a weird and wonderful place, but repression, suppression, or oppression are unlikely to achieve the goal of a more enlightened culture (as the Chinese or Rooskees will tell you).

We just have to accept there are many unhinged adults there, even in medicine, that's just the way it is - dialogue and understanding are the best ways of avoiding intellectual sectarianism?

So what have you done to stand up against this? Enough already. You do not know what happened or was said to start of all this nor do I . What if it is actually true that this type of activity did take place? Should we not all stand up to this? especially when appeals to reason have failed. Would you report someone if they behaved in this way? You are criticising a colleague without full knowledge of the facts and you are inviting ridicule. You can argue the facts, if you have them, that what took place was not bullying or harassment but how can you criticise someone for taking action when they believe that it has taken place?

Anon - Dr No has enough facts at his disposal to satisfy himself that what he alludes to does go on; as for what has he done - well - he has written this post! And, for the record and the complete avoidance of any possible doubt, it is not about any one doctor, it is about a class of doctor (see opening sentence).

That's a very silly answer

"Should we not all stand up to this?" - if you mean you employ intellectual censorship, in it's different guises, in a public forum, then absolutely not.

I think Stephen Fry has it just about right when he talks about offense (from 01:08).
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnSByCb8lqY

The greater good is served by forms of communication not overly inhibited by a climate of fear - anyway, anonymous, what is your point - are you suggesting that there are insufficient means to bring out spoken commentators to book?

That's not what I meant at all. I meant standing up to harassment. It is a crime and for good reason. People have been driven to suicide as a result of it. It is very different from merely being offensive. It creates a climate of fear. I'm not talking about censorship. To my mind if harassment did take place then it is right that it was reported. None of us I think is in a position to judge whether harassment did take place but I quite willing to believe that it did. If so good for her.

Under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997: a person must not pursue a course of conduct;
(a) which amounts to harassment of another, and
(b) which he knows or ought to know amounts to harassment of the other.

Must admit, I'm none the wiser.

Anyway, harassment can be construed as any conduct which causes alarm or distress – including speech – and must involve the behaviour being repeated on at least two occasions.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/libertycentral/2009/jun/01/liber...

So dishing up a distressing dose of REALITY (more than twice) is now tantamount to harassment because hearing something unpleasant about youself may cause alarm - Franz Kafka, eat your heart out!!

The Witch Doctor can always remember many years ago when harassment guidance documents were first issued to all and sundry including medical staff, feeling quite indignant about them. It indicated that the powers at be didn’t seem to think that those of us who had been through the mill of life several times over couldn’t stand on our own two feet and deal with the insults, annoyances and pettiness of everyday life personally in our own way and in our own time.

I suppose you might say I took these documents too personally.

You might also say the content of the documents harassed me because they put my blood pressure up and I felt insulted.

So I did what I thought was a reasonable thing to do at the time - I dealt with them myself and binned them.

It didn’t pass me by in these early days either, that these documents were the seedlings of a money tree for the legal profession.

Anon - Dr No repeats: he is not talking about any one individual in this post, but the behaviour, often in a sort of, for want of a better phrase, loose collective, of a certain class of doctor, even if, at one time, one individual is taking a particular course of action. But he is not, repeat not, singling out a particular individual. There is no individual 'she'.

He also - obviously - considers genuine and malicious harassment a crime, and should of course be so, but there is the nebulous grey area where an person might cry 'foul! I've been harassed' when in fact to the woman on the Clapham Omnibus the insult was so slight as to seem trivial, or even perhaps bruising, but to be expected in the rough and tumble of debate, and so not malicious.

Not for the first time the law collides with itself here. On the one hand, we have harassment law, with its somewhat loose and subjective definition of harassment (that which I say causes me distress), and then we have the law on free speech, which, famously, allows free speech, even when it is offensive. So the second law, which allows you to offend me (and so cause me distress) twice, clashes with the first, which says you cannot.

Much of the difficulty, Dr No suggests, arises from legal sloppiness (CPS: 'harassment is not specifically defined'), in particular by focussing on the often subjective notion of what constitutes harassment. Why - an anonymous poster on Rant only the other day called Dr No a leading c*nt. Had the poster repeated the abuse, then Dr No too could have claimed 'foul!' (because it alarms and distresses him to be called a c*nt) and reported the matter to the police, and expected prompt action.

More to the point it seems to Dr No, is the mindset of the alleged harasser. If the intention is deliberate, malicious and calculated to cause gratuitous alarm and distress, (whether frankly repeated or not) then Dr No would want to see that behaviour challenged. But if offence arises on one side or the other because of valid disagreement, perhaps about an emotionally charged subject, but nonetheless valid disagreement, expressed in a spirit of free debate, the the absence of gratuitous malice, at least for Dr No, effectively removes the criminal dimension.

We should perhaps remind ourselves that the current harassment law came about largely to counter the very concrete harm of stalking. Over time, its use has been extended to far less concrete areas, and, as the A&E CN points out, has in so doing created a Kafka-esque world where it is perhaps simply too easy to cry foul! and in so doing stifle proper and necessary - but perhaps to some offensive - debate.

Which brings us back to the point of this post: is it really in our collective interest to allow the Furies to use the law - harassment is by no means the only legal framework that has been used - to bully and so attempt to silence those whose views with which they disagree?

WD - you posted as Dr No was penning this - astute words as ever. Classic creep too, Dr No might add!

“Dr No repeats: he is not talking about any one individual in this post”. Who are you kidding this is entirely disingenuous?

“More to the point it seems to Dr No, is the mind-set of the alleged harasser. If the intention is deliberate, malicious and calculated to cause gratuitous alarm and distress, (whether frankly repeated or not) then Dr No would want to see that behaviour challenged. But if offence arises on one side or the other because of valid disagreement, perhaps about an emotionally charged subject, but nonetheless valid disagreement, expressed in a spirit of free debate, the the absence of gratuitous malice, at least for Dr No, effectively removes the criminal dimension.”

Wow. Completely agree. To distinguish which is which requires full knowledge of the facts and the people involved. What distresses me is how quick you and others have been to rush to judgement about recent events.

Dr No had the idea for this post in mind before recent events; recent events may or may not be another example - but the Furies transformed into bullies idea was already there. Those who care to look will find similar events, at least one of which made it into the national press, that pre-date more recent events. So he really isn't talking about any one individual, he is talking about a pattern, a pattern - or trend - about which, obviously, he has concerns. Otherwise he would not have written the post.

Rushing to judgement: Dr No cannot speak for others, because he does not write their posts, but if you read Dr No's recent post, you will find that the emphasis, from title to end, is on curiosity. It was not that he jumped to judgemental conclusions: it was that he saw things which raised his curiosity. Selective quotation may suggest he had jumped to conclusions, but a full reading of the post will show he was in fact being curious about a figure who sought public office. Those who care to notice will also note that he did not publish as soon as the 'story' broke: he waited to see if the dust would settle, and with it his curiosity, but, as we know, it didn't unfold that way.

Dr No can give another example of not jumping, or appearing to jump, to conclusions. When he wrote the comment here, he was going to title it "She who doth protest too much" (a title as it happens later chosen and used, as they are quite entitled to do, by another blogger), but in the event he gave the comment a more neutral, and, he suggests, less judgemental title: "A reply to Dr Coales".

Dr No appreciates that there may appear to be a degree of semantics involved here. The point he is making is that he did not go out of his way to suspend his critical faculties and jump to conclusions; on the contrary - he was simply saying there are curious questions here that he for one considers might be best cleared up.

Now, if we want to look for someone who does appear judgemental - but let's not go there. Let's stick to the point of this post: do we really want members (plural) of the profession setting themselves up to police the profession, using methods that, at least to Dr No, appear to have more than a whiff of the bullying about them?

Here is something to be very curious about indeed.

It may well take right booted, left booted, male or female bullying to a whole new level.

http://www.quackometer.net/blog/2011/11/the-burzynski-clinic-threatens-1...

http://rhysmorgan.co/2011/11/threats-from-the-burzynski-clinic/

It seems to this witch that the laws pertaining to freedom of speech must always trump any laws relating to bullying or harassment.

Dear Dr No,

The threats of legal action by SWMNBM (1 and 2) do bear more than a little resemblance to the actions of the figures of Greek mythology. I think that our medical furies do have elements of Greek tragedy about them, being brought to downfall by their own character faults. I have some sympathy with their grievances, having found the DNUK forums rather too embittered and cynical for my taste. I occasionally look in still but things are pretty unpleasant there much of the time.

I do not know what is happening behind the scenes, but I see that dr coales has taken down her blogposts about us. I took this as a tacit acceptance that repeating the accusations was weakening rather than invigorating her case. I see that she has posted about the democratic deficit in her college, and think this a point well made. Our colleges and BMA (and most of all GMC) do fail to take on board the dangerous alienation of the workers. There are some like Dr Gerada who push for change effectively, but they are notable for their singularity.

It may be that they are dogfighting with the enemy at altitude, but for those of us on the beaches as Dunkirk under Stuka attack, cannot be blamed for thinking "where the hell is the RAF?"

Dr Phil

"And sometimes he wonders whether The Furies have got their serpents in such a twist that they have lost sight of the virtues of moderation.

There are times, it seems, when it is just a little too easy for our Furies of today, consumed by their avenging wrath, to visit their vengeance with such fury and zeal that the bullying boot transfers to the other foot; from the foot of the alleged bully to that of the alleged victim. The soft stockinged grace of moderation has become the jack-boot of excess, and of oppression"

This type of bullying is mostly due to jealousy of some kind. Usually of those who stand out in one way or another. So, as long as there is no room for harm, it is then so insignificant to the recipients, who are usually used to this kind of trivia, it is always best to ignore, much like a line in the sand that a little 'wind' will blow away ... leaving the bullies eating their insides out time and time again, very painful.

Perhaps we are not such strangers after all. Not for the first time has Dr No seen Armstrong and Miller in Boots and No; nor is it the first time he has felt the hot caress of a warm desert wind...

:-)

Then and while we indulge and allow that caress of the warm desert wind to play with the head, can we define 'stand out'? Because, as far as my simple self can grasp, people can stand out for good, as well as the wrong reasons; be exceptionally good at something ... or exceptionally foolish or stupid ... etc, and many times you can't tell who is who. Problem is, both do work very hard at it!

So, why be jealous of anyone at all?! ...

My problem with what has happened over the past two weeks, is that it has progressed from two spotty faced youths (at least that's how I imagine them)posting obscenities on DNUK, to Dr Rant, who hasn't posted for at least six months or so, to Dr Grumble, Fuddled Medic and possibly Phil Peverly, who has also been quiet. I do think that trolls on DNUK should be pulled up, but it's the creep that's involved that bothers me. If this was purely personal, what was the raison d'etre in involving Rant? How and why has this expanded from immature trolls, to the august Dr Grumble and company? And is there any connection with the paper that the GMC plans to publish in February on social media or the Levenson inquiry for that matter? There's too many coincidences and I don't like it.

Rant is the curious (that word again) one. Dr No does not know what happened behind the scenes - he only knows what is in the public domain, and which is available to be seen by anyone who cares to look.

What he does know is that six months ago, Rant was sticking a regular rude finger and more (see note) up le derrière of colleagues; and now he wants us to pack it in. When asked about the change of heart, he replied his attacks on former colleagues were 'collateral damage', which Dr No doesn't really buy. The finger doesn't get where it is going without red-dotting the old chocolate starfish first.

One hypothesis doing the rounds is that the, ahem, lead hardcore author on Rant's team died earlier this year, leaving only softer members with less stomach for traditional Rant material. There is also some evidence (in the public domain) that some form of Coales-alition may have arisen between the remaining members of the Rant team and a certain individual currently proposing to stand for high medico-political office.

Dr Grumble may simply be a case of all too understandable irritation at unwanted platform changes introduced by google tipping him over into (temporary?) shutdown of his main blog. He has remained active and visible elsewhere. But then again - as Dr No has noted before, Dr G's last post did pose an interesting trilogy (posted (see note) on Guy Fawkes' Day; a video to do with Hitler, and a title of 'It's Over') and, as Dr No's esteemed colleague Auric Goldfinger is wont to observe, things that happen in threes may not always be down to chance.

But, like Suspicious, Dr No is bothered by the creep that appears to be at work here, indeed deeply so. He finds the cyber-snooping and then heavy-handed responses of the Furies (which go back to at least Scot Jnr, and possibly beyond) to be apparently more evident, and, at least among the Furies, increasingly acceptable as a means of policing colleagues. Add in Silton's forthcoming guidance on social media, and Levenson, and it all starts to look uncomfortably like we are heading for the kind of state so chillingly revealed in that excellent film 'The Lives of Others'.

Note: Rather curiously (that damn word again!), the post Dr No had in mind has recently disappeared from google's 'other' cache. For those who are interested in these things: google's normal cache for blogger and twitter (google being the control freaks they are) redirect to the current page, and so if a blog/post has been taken down, you get a 404/page not found response. However, google has another ('text only') cache, which normally doesn't redirect, and a text only version of the page remains visible. This is the page that was visible but a few days ago, and which has now disappeared. One can only speculate how or why. All that remains now is what for want of a better description we might call the snippet/snapshot cache, which provide the snippets and snapshots seen in on a google results page. Put (warning: you will access 'adult' content) "blogurl:http://www.drrant.net/ preparing fisting" without the quotes into google's blogs (more > blogs) search box and hit enter and you will see what Dr No is on about. A similar forensic approach is now appears to be needed to see Dr G's last post.

To be honest Dr know, although I firmly support bloggers when they expose an injustice, a fault, or discuss a policy in the hope of improvement, and you all do make a difference, I sometimes find it hard to stomach when a personal attack is launched against, say, a colleague or a person in particular. Ugly!

As an example of good blogging, take, for example, the Witchdoc's latest post; http://witchdoctor.wordpress.com/2011/11/30/first-do-no-harm/

While she 'enquired' about the scientific evidence to support a certain clinic's claim to some kind of 'new' treatment for cancer, she neither belittled them or a specific person within, nor reject to their claim outright, she is asking 'very' legitimate questions that 'do' need an answer, and I now feel I want to know those answers too and hope those answers will be coming very shortly too. Otherwise, this establishment opens the doors wide for lots more questions that will need lots more answers, and the public will be watching! So, to me, this type of 'decent' blogging that has a purpose which is very healthy and should continue because it aims to better and not 'do harm', and does not pose a threat of court action to the said doctor either.

I do not believe that doctors following this example need fear any 'fury' from anyone, including the GMC too, because if that happens, members of the public like myself will not standby and watch people who genuinely care unjustly being taken to the slaughter, but will definately stand up and scream NO!

You elaborate on the rest of your comment now ... while I go look for Dr Grumble ... but the current 'Freedom of speech' freedoms, whether in medicine or anywhere else, are now posing many serious ethical questions that, IMHO, need serious attention, solutions, and guidance to follow.

According to Dr Coales' twitter account she believes that medical bloggers should not be allowed to be anonymous and doctors should not be using obscenities on the internet.

It would be a dark day if she were elected.

Of course, by the time you read this she may have thought better of it and deleted the tweet (like some of the other things she's deleted which she doesn't people to be able to refer back to.

The rather unpleasant baiting of Dr Pal going on on Dr Rants comments, and the discussion of the case she championed does not reflect well on the profession. It is the modern equivalent of the poison pen letter of the past, but I cannot see how it can be banned. It is not too hard to set up cybershelters offshore, much as our wealthy set up tax shelters.

Discussions on-line are so often more inflammatory than face to face conversations, with flaming and trolling all over. It reminds me of the pamphlet wars of the seventeenth century. It took a long time for the written press to establish rules, yet the Leveson enquiry shows that the attributable word is no protection against bullying and mobbing.

I am growing quite fond of Dr Coales blog, but she is barking up the wrong tree if she thinks regulation is the way forward. As a professed Conservative I would hope that she is opposed to needless restraints on freedom. Rather she should emulate the reaction of that well known Conservative the Duke of Wellington. In reaction to some disreputable stories about him being circulated he opined "publish and be damned!"

Boots

"According to Dr Coales' twitter account she believes that medical bloggers should not be allowed to be anonymous and doctors should not be using obscenities on the internet" - "not allowed" - what law might be invoked to enforce such injunctions?

Or does it imply that transgressors should face a kangaroo court like the GMC?

These really is rot of the 1st order.

Yes, Anonymous and A and E Charge Nurse, My Black Cat noticed that tweet too and arched her back and started to spit all over the place!

I told her not to be so stupid, and that it was possibly the case that this doctor just liked to construct a bed of nails for herself, then lie on it, then complain of the pain to all and sundry for her own obscure reasons (or maybe no reason at all).

Stupid cat!

Dr No has also noted that the Koreans are still firing missiles rather wildly, including this $150,000 corker from last weekend. One supposes they want to know the identity of anonymous bloggers so that they can aim their corks more accurately.

Just to elaborate a little on this;

"This type of bullying is mostly due to jealousy of some kind. Usually of those who stand out in one way or another. So, as long as there is no room for harm, it is then so insignificant to the recipients, who are usually used to this kind of trivia, it is always best to ignore, much like a line in the sand that a little 'wind' will blow away ... leaving the bullies eating their insides out time and time again, very painful."

Well, to illustrate, here is a perfect example;

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2069761/Sally-Bercow-brands-Came...

'They' always end up making a show of themselves! ... on full display ... and no room for learning from past lessons either, always!

Haven't you lot got any WORK to do?

"Haven't you lot got any WORK to do?" - we are working, blogging is just more work, but in another guise.

We are all anoraks and work bores ........ sometimes I wonder how our partners put up with us?

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