Bullies and Bystanders

If your reader feeds mostly consist of echo chamber walls, you probably don’t know that one of the more prominent Appleverse podcasts, Angry Mac Bastards, has recently went off the air, so to speak. (Admittedly I have been away from this corner of the internet for a while now, so the news may just be news to me.) The absence of this news is especially curious for sites like The Loop, which has been associated with the podcast, at least in the past.

Rewind a little. Here is my initial reaction a while back on my first (and last) listen to Angry Mac Bastards:

Fastforward back to now. Here is the incident that led to Angry Mac Bastards’ demise. Basically, they cyberbullied a developer named Aaron Vegh for… I’m not sure why. Here is an except from the segment:

Darby: Well I think you can sum up this Aaron Vegh’s, just the whole thing, just at the very beginning of his, ah, Hire Me web site. It says “Hi I’m Aaron, I’m the nerd you’re looking for. I’m a programmer ready to take on the next big challenge of my career. I’ve written a book, shipped two iOS apps, started my own web development firm, and worked for The Man. I’ve taken the chance on a startup, and I’ve started a magazine, though that one didn’t work out so well.” You know, this, this, this… there’s a picture of this fucker in a, if the gamma on your monitor is fucked you’ll think it’s a turtle neck it looks to be some kind of zip-up fleece performance job.

John: Thing.

Darby: You know, bagging on people’s personal looks is kinda low, but he’s got hair that’s been Photoshop’d on, your standard three-quarter turn, arms crossed, head slightly nodded, stock photo, “I am wise beyond your knowledge” uh gaze at you. Like John you were saying it’s just everything about this derp sums up that he’s the last person that anyone wants to hire, and (laughing) we spent so long talking about some poor fucking homeless guy that we’re slagging this poor chump’s attempting to get a job, but he’s done it so badly, it’s just disturbing.

And the response to the aftermath? Well, John C. Welch (that’s the “John” above) has apparently closed down not only Angry Mac Bastards, but also his website and Twitter account too. A non-apology apology remains in the internet archive though:

Fighting the Internet Outrage Machine isn’t worth it. It’s not worth the headache it will cause our sponsors, it’s not worth the headache it will cause our families. Our families don’t deserve that kind of crap.

There is just too much irony there to analyze fully. Let’s move on.

Even worse are reactions like Harry Marks‘s (Marks is, of course, a noted fan of the podcast):

They took apart a developer’s website in a mean-spirited and childish way, not unlike how they’ve torn apart bad tech writers over the last four years. Yes, they’ve been doing this for four years, but now suddenly it’s a problem.

That’s where defenders of Angry Mac Bastards are wrong. It is not only a problem now, suddenly. It has always been a problem. Unfortunately, too many of us bystanders simply watched and let the cyberbullying continue. And, worst of all, the people who actually listened to the podcast and its sponsors encouraged and enabled the continuing cyberbullying.

Honestly, we can all use some bystander intervention training. The first step is to name and acknowledge the offense, and not just in some excusable non-apology apology way. Blaming the response on the amorphous Internet Outrage Machine, despite the copious uses of capitals, is pretty much the opposite of that.

Yes, we might not do it consistently. But avoiding a hypocrisy charge at the cost of complacency is a really bad reason to let behaviors like AMB’s go on. Start somewhere.

(Needless to say, I have no problem with people criticizing arguments and positions, even in harsh terms. That’s not what Angry Mac Bastards do.)

Feel free to talk to me on Twitter: @RagingTBolt.


5 thoughts on “Bullies and Bystanders

  1. Or you could just not listen to the podcast. Saying mean-spirited and childish things about someone isn’t “bullying” them unless you actually interfere with them or their website.

    There will *always* be people somewhere who are going to say mean-spirited and childish things; to attempt to “intervene” with all of them is going to be a full time job! Why bother when ignoring them is just as effective?

    • Because by ignoring it — to be a bystander who does nothing — you allow the unacceptable behavior to continue. See the bystander intervention guide I linked to. Stopping some unacceptable behaviors is better than stopping none.

      • My point is that not everyone agrees that what they did was unacceptable; rather than decide your view is the only correct one and thus you are justified in “intervening,” you could simply allow that other people’s views are also valid and so ignore the podcast.

      • Not everyone agrees bullying someone for being black or for being gay or for being Jewish was unacceptable. Unanimous agreement better not be a prerequisite for intervention. (And yes, bullying someone for their looks is bad like bullying someone for their race.)

  2. Wow – I pay “less” attention to the innerwebs that most. I was wondering what happened to AMB and John Welch’s site too. I never listened to AMB, but was aware of it. I did follow Welch somewhat frequently.

    @DDA & @RT – I’m conflicted by your positions.

    I found Darby to be too much, when I’ve heard him, just bullying for its own sake. However, I’ve generally felt John Welch was acceptable because he wasn’t out there picking on someone or company for no reason. Though he was always willing to go crazy on someone with nary an expletive left unexpressed. Very visceral. Still in my experience, Welch was (easily?) provoked, yet kept his most crass statements on his own site. Given: “NMD” was too much. He always struck me as a tireless crusader against (Mac) computing bias; though certainly not an Apple apologist…

    I apologize for my own gratuitous verbiage. “Jokingly” I want to show everyone how smart I am…

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