Tag Archives: verbal abuse

Gillard and Abbott and the art of verbal abuse

27 Mar

It ain't over till it's over. by Dr John Bullas via flickr

 

Watching Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott go at it is a lot like witnessing a couple trapped in the death throes of a hideous relationship. They’ve got to the point where verbal abuse is not a side issue: it’s the issue. Whatever the specific conflict, it gets buried in a hail of verbal salvos designed to accuse, blame, denigrate, manipulate, control, and put down.

The couple sees each other only as adversaries. Their goal is to bring the other undone, and achieve domination. They struggle to achieve this in some or all of the following ways:

The verbal abuser refuses to responsibly communicate. She or he establishes what can be discussed, or withholds information, making genuine discussion impossible. She or he can prevent any possibility of resolving conflicts by employing this blocking tactic.

Diverting from the matter at hand into abuse that the other then feels obliged to defend or return is another impediment to discussion of real issues. Climate change, the economy, gay marriage – no matter what the topic on the table, it is always subsumed under the couple’s compulsion to do one another in.

Doing the other one in has become the raison d’être of the relationship. In a worst-case scenario, it has become the participants’ entire reason for getting up in the morning, and has taken on the qualities of a life-controlling addiction.

A verbal abuser will often accuse his or her partner of some wrongdoing or breach of the basic agreement of the relationship. This always distracts from the current issues, and puts the partner on the defensive.

Then there’s judging and criticizing. The verbal abuser may express their critical judgment of their partner. This is often disguised as being helpful and when in enacted in that form, can be particularly insidious as any retaliatory accusation of wrong-doing can be disingenuously denied, as in “Wot, me?”

Sometimes verbal abuse is disguised as jokes. While the comments may be presented as humor, they have poisoned barbs. They may be delivered inelegantly, or with great skill, but their intention is to diminish the partner, and throw her or him off balance.

Trivializing can also be a form of verbal abuse. Trivializing is the attempt to make what the partner has said or done, insignificant. This tactic can be quite hard to identify and name, although you know immediately and viscerally when it’s happening to you, and it makes you want to hit back, or crawl under a stone, depending on your particular learned method of self protection.

Undermining is another tactic. The abuser will attempt to slaughter an idea or suggestion with a few pointed comments, or derisive laughter.

Name-calling is also a classic tactic of the verbally abusive, as is reference to the hated other’s appearance, mannerisms, and past mistakes.

All these tactics can be employed in the privacy of home, or in public, often at dinner parties and barbeques, because couples in this state do best with an audience. An audience offers a golden opportunity to shame the other, and hopefully get somebody else on side. So delusional are couples by this stage, that they really do think what they say is taken seriously by those poor sods unwittingly subjected to their folie à deux. They have no idea that all anybody wants is for them to leave and never come back.

It can be disconcerting to be anywhere near couples dedicated to destroying one another. It can remind you uncomfortably of your own parents, or adults you knew as a child who were set on this path. It isn’t unusual, unfortunately, and having to witness it in adult life can provoke flashbacks.

In a verbally abusive relationship, there is no specific conflict. The issue is the abuse, and this issue can never be resolved. There is no possibility of closure.

This does not bode well for the Australian people.

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Abbott says Gillard “too precious” about “bitch” word

25 Mar

by Stephen Rowler via flickr

 

Not content with standing under a banner proclaiming that Julia Gillard is “Bob Brown’s Bitch,” Opposition Leader Tony Abbot (aka the Nope Dope ®!!) said on the 7.30 Report last night that Prime Minister Julia Gillard is getting a bit “too precious” about the signs.

I’m not easily offended – I have to stop myself from scrawling the F word on signs in public parks in Nevada that say “No profanities. Have a nice day.” But I don’t like the signs I saw at yesterday’s Tea Party moment in front of Parliament House.

As others have pointed out, we’ve seen more violent rallies in the past. Then there was that spectacular papier-mâché John Howard as a little dog with its nose up George Bush’s fundament.

I thought that was pretty funny.

But calling a female PM some bloke’s bitch has really got up my nose, and I don’t even care that much for the PM. It’s nothing to do with the dignity of office either, that disappeared as a consideration a long time ago.

The bitch sign is actually no more offensive than portraying Howard as an arse licker, except that’s not a gender specific insult, whereas bitch most certainly is.

If you call a bloke a c**t  that’s a bigger insult than calling him a prick. Some feminists regularly try to insult me by telling me I’ve got a prick in my head, and I should get back in my “man fondling box”, and strangely, I’m not offended by either of those observations. If a woman called me a “c**t I wouldn’t bat an eyelash, but if a man used the same expletive in anger, I’d be a little troubled and keep my distance.

Then there’s those wonderful subversives who reclaim bad words and turn them right back at you. I love to see forbidden language exposed for what it is – words with cultural baggage.

It all comes down to intent – what forces fuel the use of the expletives? Loathing, rage, fear? Affection, humour, joshing? It’s the emotions that give language life  and meaning.

The difference for me between the Gillard bitch placards, and Howard as a bad mannered dog is humour. There was nothing humorous about the bitch placards. They were a little bit scary because of that. Their rage-filled message was unmediated by invitations to laughter.

Though there are groups in which the word is entirely lacking in offense who would have found it funny.

I didn’t like it, but I have to concede that’s an entirely personal preference and I can’t make a moral judgement on whether or not Gillard is “too precious” and Abbott is “sexist” in positioning himself in a manner that endorses the sentiments of the sign. I suspect he wanted to insult the PM, he usually does. And she usually wants to insult him.

We live in a culture of insult, daily faced with the onerous task of decoding the language used by us and around us, making instant judgements abut whether or not the words were intended to offend, and whether or not we’ll agree to be offended.

But what I do intensely dislike, no matter where it comes from, is the distorted, screaming fury (or fake fury that’s even worse) that sets the tone in Parliament and increasingly outside the chamber. It doesn’t matter what they say when they’ve turned themselves into the raging furies, frothing and spitting from faces reddened with outrage, real or fake.

I can’t hear them anymore.
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