Amanda Palmer on internet bullying

A blog post by Amanda Palmer "on internet hatred" has gone viral, attracting a large number of personal stories of bullying and online abuse, and wisdom on how to cope.


  1. Internet cruelty is terrible and it is *much much* worse for women than it is for men. Now, I am not in any way suggesting that men are not affected or targeted by it but there is a very specific way in which this cruelty is directed at women. There are the rape threats, the endless comments on physical appearance, the diminishing commentary about intellectual capabilities, the “slut shaming” and I could go on and on.

    I do believe there is a degree of responsibility on this for the so called celebrity culture. Some of the biggest sites on the internet make big bucks tearing women celebrities apart. Just look at the way even supposedly “feminist” websites like Jezebel refer to Kim Kardashian (I fully understand Jezebel is no more feminist than I am an Olympian medallist but that is the way they sell themselves). I am not one to defend Kardashian and I couldn’t care less about her antics but sites like Jezebel, Buzzfeed, etc, set the tone for how we collectively a) talk to each other and about each other and b) the way women can expect to be eviscerated publicly. And then, of course, there are the endless unmoderated comments. As if creating a space of civility and respect was “a bad thing” (it is for sites like than in that it discourages mindless page clicks and hence, reduces revenue).

    Sadly, it’s the culture we live in and media, especially the popular kind that traffics in this ethos, should take responsibility for having helped create this problem.

  2. To a degree, you could certainly reduce the likelihood of Internet bullying by simply limiting access. That is, with children in particular, don’t give ’em smartphones. They don’t need them and the devices are a Pandora’s box of issues for them, not the least of which is the very real, very forever potential legal ramifications of sexting.

    Cut the apron strings and turn off the helicopter engines – children do not NEED cell phones. We’ve been snookered by an overblown, ever-present sense of danger for our children and the perception that if they have instant communications capabilities, all can be right in the world again.

    1. Hahaha you can’t put the genie back in the bottle. If you try to keep kids away from smartphones you’ll find they take a sudden interest in spending time at the library. (Facebook is at the library)

      1. It wouldn’t be a perfect solution, but there are ways to limit the amount of access kids have to the internet, even at the library. We can’t put the genie back in the bottle, but we can make it harder to get to the genie. 

        Although I agree with UnderachievingSheep above that, above all else, there needs to be a major rethinking of how people treat each other online.

        1. Since I posted my comment above I was thinking: internet media has blurred the line between public/ consumer  and celebrities. “Look at ‘celebrity’ on Instagram! with a kitten! kissing/ sexing up/ baking a cake!, etc etc” and that gets reproduced endlessly by all these sites and, if you are lucky, the celebrity in question even responds, maybe even directly to you! on Twitter!

          Then the celebrity gets eviscerated, insulted, diminished, etc and, of course, since the above has created this faux idea that “celebrities are just like us”, when a completely anonymous girl posts something, the usual reaction is to inflict on her the same treatment that was given to the celebrity in question (the slut shaming, the cruelty, the unnecessary commentary about her appearance, etc). Even sites like Gawker do this to random people and then hundreds join in the pile on adding to the indignity.

          This, I contend, is what we absorb as to how we are supposed to address each other on the internet and this is, in my opinion, one of the factors that leads to the cruelty Palmer wrote about.

      2. I don’t mean to be offensive, SedanChair, but I suppose you could throw up your hands and take the same defeatist attitude about, oh let’s say… heroine. Yup, no sense in trying to keep your kiddos away from the stuff cuz it’s the societal norm (all their friends’ Moms let them do it) and, hey, it’s just so much darned fun.

        I believe that my job as a parent isn’t to casually succumb to every outside pressue and roll over to allow the world to have their way with my child. My job is to exert loving control over and shape my child’s environment, attitudes, and behaviors as much as possible to help mold him into the kind of person I hope he will become.

        With that in mind, my kiddo will have a cell phone when he can earn the money to pay for the device and monthly subscription fees.

        So, yeah, my child’s friends will probably assume my wife & I are Amish but I’m intent on giving him the tools to survive and thrive in the real world before needlessly plunging him headlong into the digital abyss. And if that helps in limiting his unnecessary exposure to online bullying, so much the better.

        1. I suppose you could throw up your hands and take the same defeatist attitude about, oh let’s say… heroine

          Not at all, every child should have a chance to be a heroine.

          To engage with your argument, it’s actually a part of my job to regulate the Internet access of a wide range of teenagers. There is no strategy that will diminish their craving to participate in social media. Bullying is bad on or off the Internet, but trying to cut kids off is a bad approach and one I would change if it was up to me.

          The Internet is the real world, by the way

        2. That’s fine, if you can manage it.  My experience is that when the rubber hits the road, you may find circumstances are far different than you expect.  I restricted my kids from online access, cell phones, facebook and the like until I felt they were ready for them.  But understand that all you will be doing is reducing their access, not preventing it.  Unless you confiscate every device from every possible vector (friends, extended family, public places) and every device (phones, handheld video game devices, smart tvs, car systems, school computers, library access, etc.) and then lock them into a harness, they will get access if they really intend to have it.  You may find that task much more difficult than you imagine as your children get older.

          Mind you, the false equivalency argument of comparing a powerful utilitarian device like a smartphone against a recreational drug is a weak sauce argument and I think you know that.  I understand your greater point, but it’s kind of absurdio ad reducto, don’t you think?  

          1. “Mind you, the false equivalency argument of comparing a powerful utilitarian device like a smartphone against a recreational drug is a weak sauce argument and I think you know that.  I understand your greater point, but it’s kind of absurdio ad reducto, don’t you think?”

            Truly. I was working in extremes to exaggerate (slightly) a point.

            But… I believe you give cell phones far too much benefit of the doubt by calling them a “powerful utilitarian device.” C’mon, I work after-hours on-call at a healthcare facility and I can barely justify having the always-on, immediate communication capability of a cell phone.

            Cell phones are an toy and media consumption device, first and foremost. That they happen to also allow the rare spot of verbal communications is incidental any more.

            I don’t have rainbow-colored blinders on – I’m well aware that I’m facing an unwinnable fight when it comes to reducing the exposure to technology and its ills to my son. But it’s my responsibility as a parent to fight that good fight.

    2. Wait, misogyny on the internet is due to children (half of whom are female) having access to the internet?

      And children having access to the internet is because parents are being too over-protective?

      I’m getting motion sickness from the circular logic.

      1. I agree. I think people forget that adults get bullied online too.  And they get bullied in daily life, too, not just online. It seems a pervasive part of our culture – the intense sense of competition means that there are people who feel they have to cut down everyone else in order to prosper in life and they are taught this early.

    3. I kind of like that you are implying the bullying is mostly caused by children. It envisions this wonderful world where all the awful people on the internet are just going to grow up and become decent or civilized. Unfortunately that’s not true.

    4.  I think I agree that the “genie is out of the bottle” stance expressed by some below.  I’m not sure taking these gadgets away is really helpful. A better strategy seems to me to be discussing with your kids the real and perceived dangers of the internet/social networking and trying to set boundaries for them. Not allowing kids to participate at all in the culture that surrounds them probably just makes it far more attractive, and they will tend to try and participate anyway, only without your knowledge. Of course, they can’t go out and buy a phone on their own, but they can go to friends houses and get online without parental supervision. That’s far more problematic.  I think what you are suggesting is in many ways more helicoper parenting than not giving them phones.

    5.  I agree!

      We should also stop all children from going to schools. So they don’t bully each other.

  3. I’m a little ambivalent about this.  I’m glad she’s harnessing her fans to gather resources against bullying.  This is a good thing.  But I read the “New Yorker” piece in question, and although it is a pretty poor (and poorly researched) bit of writing, it hardly rises to the level of unbearable bullying.  The commentators there were 99.9% in support of her.

    Part of being a public persona in the internet age, when one has to kickstart and crowdsource the resources to be able to make a living creating art, has to be an ability to deal with public criticism.  There is nothing worse than being talked about, other than not being talked about.  The firestorm around her tour created a huge amount of buzz – without which I never would have heard of her or bought her music.

    And I am not condoning any of the ill-informed and misogynist crap flung at her, I’m just saying it sure as hell raised her profile.  It’s a reverse Streisand effect – stupid things others say about you makes you more famous and well-liked. See also Fluke, Sandra.

    Glad she’s putting her fame to good use by helping support more vulnerable bullying victims.

    1. People said nasty things in this situation, but even before the whole flap around her tour, she was the subject of shit-talk. I remember when she went to the Golden Globes with Neil Gaiman, and all anyone could talk about was her hairy legs and pits. That’s just one example. She doesn’t fit the normal profile for a female singer/musician, hence she gets quite a bit of shit from some quarters.

      Such talk might “raise the profile”, but that doesn’t mean it’s nice or makes you feel good. Sure, AFP is an artist trying to get her work out there, but she’s also a human being.

    2. As an outspoken, quirky female artist, I’m sure Amanda Palmer gets plenty of real hate mail. I wouldn’t have minded this post if she’d shared some examples of real bullying, or no examples at all. Instead, she cited that New Yorker blog post, without linking to it. That post was harsh, but basically fair criticism. It’s in incredibly poor taste to mention your bad press in the same breath as the bullying that drove Amanda Todd to suicide.

      1. You missed the point then. Try being a little quicker to understand and a little slower to judge. Then the meaning of her post will become clear.

  4. Comment rewritten because really, who cares about me? But the summary of my comment was that I experienced bullying in school and was delighted to escape it an adulthood, where as a non-public person I’ve never encountered it since. For teenagers today, and for adults who have a public Internet identity, it is a different world, and I find it hard to understand because I neither experience it nor am a bully myself.

  5. Perhaps it was because I was a victim of real life bullying, but online bullying never phased me. Oh, sure, people TRIED it. The great thing about the internet is that you don’t have to read what people write.

    In short, wa wa wa, kids need a thicker skin. I’ll save my sympathies for the kid getting his ass handed to him on the playground.

    When I say I was the victim of real life bullying, and that it may bias my opinion, here is a SHORT list of things that have been done to me.

    Strangulation with my own scarf. Falling into a pit trap (no, seriously). Being boarded up in a doghouse. Having my glasses broken. Having hanks of hair cut off. Being pinned down and having weeds stuffed up my nose. Being hit in the head with rocks. Being physically picked up and thrown into traffic. Being set on fire. Having someone try to run me over with a pickup truck. Being publicly accused of masturbating in public. Being publicly accused of trying to suck my own dick on the bus. Someone telling the school I had a gun (that was fun). Someone telling the school that I was selling drugs.

    So fucking pardon me for not considering mean things online to be something so difficult to deal with.

    1. yeah, maybe you should tell people like Kathy Sierra that she should get a thicker skin rather than be alarmed by the graphic nature of threats of sexual violence against her, including publishing her home address which eventually led to her canceling public speaking engagements out of fear for her own safety. That would do, I am sure, to fix the issue of misogyny, cruelty and bullying on the internet.

      ETA: Here’s a pretty comprehensive list of some of the most prominent cases of abuse against women on the internet. Thick skin, I am sure that would help all of them…

      1. Those are both good reads. Many of the cases in there (though not all) clearly cross the line from ‘being mean’ or even ‘being a fucking psycho’ to criminal behavior.

        I can’t claim to know the special brand of rape fear that it seems many women have. I maintain that in many cases, people need to remember GIFT, and chill out. It’s a rare case indeed where some asshole yelling at you through the internet is conveying anything other than noise.

        1. The rape threats are pervasive against women bloggers. Last year a particular post I wrote about racism got a lot of attention. In no time I was getting emails and comments with rape threats (yeah, that’ll would teach anyone, right?) alongside commentary about how I should be also deported for daring speak about the rights of minorities/ betraying the country, etc etc.

          It was nowhere near as intense as what Sierra got but I can tell you this much: it was very unsettling and worrying in a kind of vague way that you cannot prevent unless you completely lock yourself down to the outside world.

          A couple of weeks ago I wrote something that criticized a certain media organization local to me. It was one of those posts that you would never expect to get much attention further than the few dozen people who a) are interested in media b) happen to be local and know this organization. Employees of this organization shared it all over facebook where I saw (rather by accident because I don’t go looking for that shit) dozens of comments about not only the fact that they considered me ugly but also using every epithet possible to describe what a failed human being I am (cunt, imbecile, an idiot, etc.). This, I am afraid, is “writing on the internet while being a woman”. I have the thick skin you mention and yet, it still affects you because of the sheer insensitive nature of what people say.

          The alternative is to quit writing publicly altogether and I have considered it many times.

          1.  That sucks. Sadly, it’s not surprising. Don’t let the bastards get you down though. Some are on the attack because you are writing something they don’t like.

        2. You seem to be arguing with yourself.
          “I can’t claim to know the special brand of rape fear that it seems many women have” vs. “It’s a rare case indeed where some asshole yelling at you through the internet is conveying anything other than noise”

          Someone yelling at me through the internet that they hope I get raped, that they want to rape me, hurt me, harm me, know where I live, where I work, where my family lives… yeah, thats not noise.

          1.  I don’t see a contridiction in what I said.
            A. Most people are blowhards
            B. In MOST of these cases fear of rape is illogical, from my (male) point of view.

            Perhaps you missed the part where I said that there is a point where it crosses the line from ‘being mean’ to criminal behavior. What you described is clearly over that line.

          2. Fear of rape — when your photo, address, and other identifying info has been broadcast online — is not illogical.

        3. Are you vying for a position on the Republican “Team Rape”? No? Then shut up before you dig yourself a deeper hole. A rape threat isn’t a joke or an irrational fear. The threat of rape is extraordinarily real and it is something all women have to deal with. Your claims that rape fears are irrational only helps perpetuate the rape culture that exists in our society.

          1.  It’s like people don’t even read what I write. Look up there ^. Most cases. MOST. Not all.

    2. So you expect kids today to avoid where teenage social life largely is? And many kids have not developed the tough skin to say “oh, this guy is just being a troll, I will ignore him.” You really have to learn to not feed the trolls and sometimes, even if you know this, it’s hard.

      There have been a rash of kids (especially young women) killing themselves over the combination. Don’t forget that when girls bully, they tend to go for psychological terror, and that can be even worse. I was bullied in real life too and am incredibly thankful it was pre-internet.  I’ll point out that I was never physically harmed by my bullies, just tormented and isolated for about 5 years of my life… Being bullied both places would have been a nightmare for me and I could easily have been one of those girls.  Couple the real life bullying with being a social outcast online as well, and you can just imagine the hell.

      1. Kids are psychopaths. I mean this literally, they have stunted abilities for empathy and self control. Give them an outlet where they can be horrible, and they will be.

        Where did I say kids have to give up their social media of choice? If someone’s horrible to you, block them, unfriend them, etc…

        Who the hell lets their kids online without preparing them for this anyway? “Hey Timmy, I should let you know, certain people are going to be horrible to you online. Way worse than they are in real life. This is because they can’t get punched over the internet.”

        Learning to deal with this stuff is a survival skill. People will be horrible to you your whole life. If you take every verbal assault personally, you’ll worry yourself into an early grave.

        1. If kids are psychopath it is probably because they are in an environment that facilitates that.  One common theme on bullying is the lack of intervention from the schools, because they are afraid of pissing off the popular kids parents or because the school thinks the kid being bullied is bringing it on themselves or whatever. Inevitably, the kids at the top of the social heap tend to be the worst shitheads.

          Also, sometimes, even blocking, unfriending, etc doesn’t help, when you have a case where if you unfriend one person, it makes you persona non grata (did I spell that right?).  This is a more complex problem than just blocking one person – if the whole school is in on your torment (or lots of folks in your school) that will likely carry over into digital life.

          I’d say lots of parents do this, because the parents of older teenagers are older than me, and have no real experience of the internet.

          I agree learning to deal with this stuff is a survival skill, but you have to learn this and learn how to deal with it. Young kids often do not have these skills and in some cases, no intervention means some of these kids are going to do serious harm to themselves or others.

          Again I was not attacking you here. I was just pointing out that the digital world can also mean you can be an outcast in a new way.

          1.  No worries, I never considered it a personal attack. Where would we be if we couldn’t have a spirited debate without taking personal offense? Congress, that’s where.

            You are right that some kids just plain aren’t equiped to not absorb the abuse. I believe the majority can learn though. I have no idea what to do about that on a larger scale, but on a smaller scale I’ve mentored a few young people on coping with bullying. The key there getting kids to get past their informal ‘code of silence’  when the situation calls for it.

          2. You are right that some kids just plain aren’t equiped to not absorb the abuse. I believe the majority can learn though.

            No. Just no. It’s not the responsibility of the abused to learn to put up with abuse. Teaching children to accept that abuse is the natural order of things is just evil. I’d rather teach them to hunt down their abusers and rip their nuts off. That’s the only way that it’s going to stop.

          3. I have to agree with Antinous below (and not just because he’s the moderator! EDIT: Or rather Antinous above).  We have a huge problem in our culture with certain people getting away with abuse because they are alpha dogs. They are never punished for what they do, while victims are continually blamed. Just look at the Stuebenville gang rape. The only way anyone paid any attention to what happened to that poor girl is because Anonymous (and Roseanne!) stepped up the publicity and turned up the heat. The “best of the best” got away with that shit because they are football players in a football town.

            I’ll admit that one of the big reasons I did not send my kid to public school was so she did not have to deal with the shit I did. Her school has a no tolerance policy and has indeed gotten rid of problem kids. It’s also a very small school and that helps, too. Even if she runs across this sort of stuff later in life, I think she will be more emotionally equipped to deal with it because we gave her a good foundation.

            Good on you for doing out reach. Please keep doing that. It’s one person at a time, but it’s something positive.

          4.  It seems that I can’t reply directly to Antonious here. Anyway…

            I didn’t mean to imply that they should figure it out themselves, though looking back, I was not clear on that point. What I meant was that they can be taught, just like we teach kids to look both ways before crossing the street.

            Sorry, I have a terrible way of only writing half of my thought, and figuring the rest goes without saying. I will strive to be more clear in the future.

        2. Again you break people into the strong and the weak, giving a natural selection argument on why we should accept bullying. Instead of considering bullying to be a crime and a social evil, you consider it to be part of the natural order of things. You also claim kids are psychopaths, not understanding what that means.

          The reason that bullying is ignored is because of people like you. You have convinced yourself that the problem lies in the victim, not the bully or the society that ignores bullying.

          1.  Perhaps I meant sociopath. One of those two, I have a hard time with the distinction. I’m not breaking things into strong or weak, I don’t see how you derived that. Many kids who get bullied turn around and bully other kids, so there isn’t even a clear abuser/abused distinction.

            I’m also not saying that we have to accept it. Not in that we can’t strive to eliminate it. We do have to accept that it happens, and we often don’t know it’s happening until it’s been going on for a while. The best measure there (in my opinion) is to prepare kids to deal with it, rather than letting it wreck them.

            Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. It’s a cliche, but so what?

    3. I am truly sorry if you thought I was attacking you or questioning your experience and how horrible it was, because I wasn’t.  That sounds horrible and no one should have to put up with it. I’m sorry that no one helped you. This was a major fail on the part of your school, your community and your peers.

      I was just pointing out that non-physical bullying can be damaging as well and when you are a teen you general do not have the critical distance to deal with it.

      1.  Nowadays I’m mostly over it. It left some scars (unfortunately no good ones, in a ‘chicks dig scars’ sort of way) that I’m still dealing with. Overall, I think I’m a stronger person for it all. Though I do dislike people on the best of days, and loathe authority figures.

        I’m going to come out and state that my perspective is skewed. I still believe what I believe, while acknowledging that I COULD be Wrongy McWrongison of Wrongville. I don’t think so though.

        For me, online bullying was shrugged off with a “whatever” and the internet was the first place I’d ever found people that I really considered my peers. Bullying? I’d walk barefoot over broken glass for the sense of belonging.

        I got a bit worked up there at the end of my ‘short list of torments’ and was a bit more dismissive than I’d normally be. I still maintain that the best strategy is to arm the youth with the emotional tools to genuinely not give a shit over nonsense. Shouting into a void can’t be any fun for a shit-stirrer. Recognizing when genuine trouble is potentially rearing up is also vital.

        Sadly, not much can be done about the bullies themselves, short of them criminally implicating themselves. Strangers online are untouchable. Schools are either powerless to do anything, or don’t care, or both. And in my experience at least, the parents of the bullies are just as bad. Or worse, as the one who threatened to attack my mother demonstrated.

    4. That sucks and it does seem to bias your opinion. I don’t blame you though, because people who experience violence/abuse are likely to normalize it and in consequence belittle other people’s experience with abuse, especially if they differ in nature. I did that too. But the claims you are making are still really offensive to those, who suffer from this kind of abuse and to women in general. Just because you know what it is like to suffer in general, doesn’t mean you know how different experiences affect different people. That they have no reason to whine according to you certainly didn’t stop a whole bunch of young people from killing themselves, so I dare say their suffering was real enough.

      1.  I formally acknowledge that I was being an ass, and a temperamental one at that. While I still find the phenomena baffling, I should not have dismissed the very real pain that people have gone through.

        Goddamn it’s hard to eat crow like that. First impulse is to attack, next is to make excuses and call it reasons. I try to avoid disingenuousness in my life, but this has been one of the harder times.

      2. This is awesome. I think we should all build a coalition rather than have factional fighting. If you read the comments over at AFP’s blog, that is largely what is happening – people sharing with not much judgements going on. Seeking to understand others perspectives is one of the most loving and compassionate things we can do.

    5. So you have no sympathy for people like Amanda Todd or Tyler Clementi? That is despicable.

      Your “wa wa wa, kids need a thicker skin” attitude assumes that they died because they were weak and that internet bullying isn’t real bullying. You are wrong. Anything that can cause enough emotional anguish for a person to take their own life isn’t something that you should laugh off because you think you are so strong that you survived it. You don’t get it. Breaking people into ‘weak’ and ‘strong’ is one of the purposes of bullying. Bullies get to feel strong because they can hurt the ‘weak’, put them in their place, and solidify that bully’s understanding that their position in the social hierarchy is stable. Strangling with scarves and posting online a gay roommate’s sexual encounter with his boyfriend serve the same purpose.

      Your victimization by bullies didn’t drive you to suicide. But don’t let that discount the people that it has. They weren’t ‘weak’ or ‘thin-skinned’. They were human beings. And human beings are driven to emotional anguish when they are ostracized and when people try to hurt them for being different. And the world is worse because of it.

      1.  I think I adequately responded to all those points above. It would appear that you jumped right into the fray, or felt the need to repeat pretty much exactly what other people have already said. Either way, I invite you to scroll up, and look thinks over again.

  6. I liked this article.  I think I’m going to share it with my teenage son.  He’s a musician, and has a youtube channel, and already knows all about trolls.  But still.

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