Guest post by Judiang: OPEN LETTER TO RICHARD ARMITAGE

[Judiang is having blog problems, so I offered her the space to post her reaction to yesterday’s Cybersmile piece by Richard Armitage here.]

Dear Mr. Armitage,

I’ve been pondering for days how to reply. Now that you’ve blogged, they say you’re awaiting feedback.  Thought I would be my usual snarky self, but was afraid you might misunderstand; so I’ll be blunt and very specific with my words as you charged.

You’ve spoken too soon.

Don’t get me wrong. I applaud you for wanting to break out of your shell and champion a worthy cause like cyberbullying and I empathize with your experiences growing up. But taking on an ambassadorship makes you a spokesman against cyberbullying, and that implies a deeper knowledge about the subject. It implies savvy about social media dynamics – and since you knew fans would read it also – at least some passing understanding of your own fandom. Unfortunately, your words weren’t specific as those you warned we should use. In fact, you were rather vague.

As an ambassador, you had a ripe opportunity to define “cyberbullying” for us. While that might mean different things to different people, I’m sure CyberSmile has a notion and you as a spokesman should too. Where does criticism end and bullying begin? Is it like obscenity – you can’t describe it but know when you see it? Twice you passed up a chance to clarify a crucial point. Did you consider this?

Then there was the confusion over exactly what group you were addressing. Were you talking to teens? If  so, do you think advising them “to tell [the bullies] to stop,” and in contradiction, “ignore them” is really helpful to those being hounded on Facebook and other media to the point of despair and/or suicide helpful? Don’t you think your answer was a bit oversimplified for such a serious issue? Or were you talking to fans troubled by trolls? Were you still addressing teens on the blog when you brought up questions from fans on your timeline? If you wanted to address your fans, you need to talk to us pointedly, and not use CyberSmile to do it. Did you consider this?

Which brings us to pseudonyms. Many people use them, not to hurt others but for privacy and to protect themselves from stalkers, etc. — from people who really mean to do harm. You as a celebrity have more power than those of us who need the protection. You can afford to be RA. We can’t.

By the way, some fans have shed their pseudonyms based on what you said, thus opening themselves to risk. What were you saying about being careful with words? Did you consider this?

Let’s leave Catfish (a film rumored to be a hoax) that you considered to be a microcosm of social media aside for now. Everything in social media isn’t bad or good; it takes time to discover which is which – much longer than the 10 months you’ve been on Twitter. Actually, I wouldn’t expect you to be particularly savvy right now, but please know that if Catfish is how you see social media, you don’t have the full picture. Have you considered this?

Then there’s your advice to pour negativity into art. Who were you talking to? I can’t imagine that this will resonate with either teen bullies or bullied teens. My nieces tell me that rushing to the debate club or painting a picture won’t help the immediate problem. Things have changed since your adolescence.  And what about writing as art? People have channeled their negativity into words since written word began. So again, when does criticism end and bullying begin? Have you considered this?

I keep asking because my impression is that you haven’t. You need to ask yourself harder questions. Your statements, while well intentioned,  seem vague, muddled, and lacking of a keen understanding of social media or cyberbullying. Idealism is fine, but you can’t hope to sway minds without the power of knowledge and experience in your words.

Your fan,

Judiang

~ by Servetus on June 12, 2015.

99 Responses to “Guest post by Judiang: OPEN LETTER TO RICHARD ARMITAGE”

  1. Chapeau Judiang!

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  2. Very well said, Judiang.This is what I am also thinking–he’s gotten in over his head with this ambassadorship. The average teenager has far more experience and savvy via social media than he does. Plain and simple. I re-read the blog entry last night and it still came across as vague, muddled and preachy to me in a fashion that might make some of those social media-savvy teens simply roll their eyes. He means well, yes. But.

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    • He’s definitely over his head and each foray reveals it more and more. Yes, he means well but CyberSmile hopes to affect some real change and gain teen listeners. RA can’t do that this way. I wish he would follow Tom Hiddleston and watch how he does it. That man is social media savvy and knowledgeable about his subjects; he can say more in 140 characters than I can say in an entire post.

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      • I don’t follow Hiddleston (I am hardly on Twitter these days anyway) but I’ve read enough of his comments to know he is very good at expressing himself succinctly. I do wish RA would get some help from somebody . . . and soon.

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  3. Bravo Judiang! Reading what he wrote mainly left me frustrated. I have dealt with bullies in real life and online and yet nothing he has said has really resonated with me at all. I am luckily not in a position where I need it to but there are so many people who genuinely do need help and advice and I struggle to see how he can make a difference. I still applaud his intention, I just question the message.

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    • I believe teens are looking for practical, meaningful advice from adults that immediately resonates and motivates because they perceive that person as a strong adult who knows what’s what. RA can’t do that if he gives the impression that he’s not quite sure in his own mind. Vagueness, triteness, and well intentioned idealism just won’t cut it with today’s more sophisticated generation.

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  4. Great post. I just realized that if he had approached his “ambassador” role the way he prepares for his acting , he might have avoided all the confusion. From what we know, he researches deeply to bring characters to life. Perhaps he thought because his role was essentially playing himself and communicating as himself, he felt he did not need to prepare for his “ambassadorship”. I think he deserves credit for trying; he didn’t have to help CyberSmile and he is addressing a need. But it is unfortunate that his “performance” in this role is not up to his usual standard. I suppose we have come to expect more from him than just showing up and learning on the job. I think his muddled message is also the fault of CyberSmile. If they have a coherent message, they are responsible for getting it out and educating their target audience through their spokesperson. So far, I don’t think that has happened, but of course, it still can and I hope it does.

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    • Yeah, this is kind of a basic thing and I’m surprised they didn’t coach him a little. I mean, when I go to recruitment events with students, I say to everyone on our team, “these are our talking points that you will put your original spin on.” It’s not rocket science.

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    • Thanks. You make good points Kathy. He does need to treat this endeavor like a role – he would have researched it down to the ground. 🙂 Hopefully CyberSmile will supply RA with better information and talking points going forward.

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  5. Thanks! Wonderful post Judiang. 🙂

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  6. It sounds like many of us think Richard Armitage is not the right ambassador for Cybersmiles because he’s not up to our (high) standards for such a role, but there’s a reason why organizations like Cybersmiles ask celebrities (movie stars, famous athletes, singers, etc.), rather than experts in the fields such as sociologists, psychologists, and other scholars to be their spokespersons – name recognition and visibility! Experts may be hired in the back end doing ground work, but they need a popular figure to get the message out – and if not the whole message, at least bring awareness to the issue and start conversations on the subject matter (such as what we are doing now). I doubt many of us will even have heard of Cybersmiles if not for Richard Armitage. For me he’s the light bulb that turned our attention to the subject matter, rather than spelling out the solutions to all its problems. These solutions can be discovered, evolved over time through intelligent exchanges among netizens, including experts in this area and academia. I think we need to give the man more credit for breaking out of his comfort zone to share with us some of his own experience in dealing with cyber bullying, than fault him for not being precise, thorough and perfect in presentation.

    The bottom line is Richard Armitage has at least his fans talking vigorously on the subject matter of cyberbullying, and that’s a good thing. Now if we can focus a bit more on the subject matter itself and less on HIM, it would be even better imho. 🙂

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    • Oh, I give him credit for coming forward. And while it’s true that he has attracted attention because of his celebrity, there is the also need to keep that attention, especially among teens. If they stop to read his posts out of curiosity but end up rolling their eyes and losing interest because of a badly executed message, then RA cancels out the power of his attraction. A knowledgeable authoritative voice will get and hold that attention. We fans will talk vigorously about his type of toothbrush; I want him to have a fighting chance persuading his target audience and not have them put off because his message is muddled.

      Also, it was RA himself who tasked us to be very careful and specific with our words. It doesn’t look good when the spokesman trips over his own advice and words. As an ambassador, he needs to be able to provide the framework by which the debate can thrive. I think defining the meaning of cyberbullying to him and CyberSmile is a good beginning.

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      • It’s a matter of RA practicing what he’s preaching, really—being careful and thoughtful about his words to ensure he’s sending the right message to his target audience. I definitely want this to be a success, not just for a guy I truly admire, but to actually do some good amongst young people who are experiencing this.

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    • Nicely done Fantastica! You live up to your pseudoname??

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    • Part of the problem is that some of us have been dealing with the problem of cyberbullying for several years. Is anyone here not giving him credit? I haven’t read that anywhere.

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      • Yes, some of us HAVE. Been there, done that. And I don’t think anyone here has failed to give him credit for his good intentions and his kind heart. He is indeed a very decent, good fellow. But sometimes you need to bring more than that to the table.

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  7. I do agree with a lot of the criticism about his writing. As a non-native English speaker it was especially difficult for me to follow. I hope these criticisms will help him improve his writing in the future, rather than keep him from sharing his thoughts with us. As long as criticisms are honest, constructive and non-sarcastic, it will do him (and us) more good than none.

    Personally I love Richard Armitage the actor. I admire him for being a nice, decent gentleman but that’s not why I became his fan in the first place. He doesn’t need to be perfect in every aspect to get my vote. He can be just an ordinary human being, with average IQ. I will never put him on a high pedestal unless I want to delude myself. As long as he’s still an actor and in the public eye, I will still be his fan. I think many of us feel the same.

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    • Believe me, I don’t put him on a pedestal. I just want him to succeed in this “role” like he does in anything else and as Fedoralady said, have a real effect on his target audience who really need a strong voice.

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      • One thing I am sure of is that he wrote this all by himself. Maybe he should have asked some of you who are highly qualified in language art for help BEFORE he publishes his articles. 🙂

        I know a lot of his fans are teachers. My parents were teachers and they tend to give critiques whenever they see the need for correction. That’s totally normal for someone in the education profession, because it’s their job (and thus a habit). I went overboard to be the opposite of my parents because I think they only focused on my flaws and made me totally lose my self-confidence as a child. In fact this Cybersmile project made me re-exam my own fear in front of “negativity” (constructive or not). It really doesn’t matter if I totally understand what Mr. Armitage was trying to say. At least I got something very constructive out of it. I thus thank Mr. A for bringing this issue to my attention, and I don’t want him to stop for doing so even if he can’t write perfectly, yet.

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        • I am a former teacher and newspaper reporter/photographer and I still work part-time for the paper. Being able to communicate effectively through the written and the spoken word is important to me personally, but I believe it’s also vitally important for someone in this position Richard now holds to have the right skills in order for his message to be taken seriously and be the most effective. And while I truly applaud RA for his efforts and his sincere desire to help others, yes, I honestly think he needs the help of a good editor with this type of post. As I have said, this differs from his warm and fuzzy posts he shares during the holidays.

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        • Is anyone stopping him? Disagreement is not stopping someone from speaking.

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          • I don’t think anybody is stopping him, but I don’t want him to stop when flooded with criticism. The truth is once you stick your neck out in the public there will be consequences, both positive and negative. On the internet there appears to be more negative reactions based on my own observations because people are not afraid to say so, and I’m not talking about cyber-bullying. That’s why I suggest that he may need some help before publishing his blog post in the future, either from someone very good at communication’s arts, or carefully re-edit them himself. I don’t want the man to feel too embarrassed and stop trying. He’s doing good work and should be encouraged.

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            • I don’t want him to stop doing anything he wants to do. But he is responsible for his reactions to anything anyone says. It’s pretty normal that public figures are subjected to criticism as well as praise. This is one of the consequences of being an adult and having a career where you are visible in the media.

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      • yeah, in fact, you could say are explicitly not putting him on a pedestal here and subjecting him to the same kind of treatment that you would subject any adult to.

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    • Has anyone (yet) said that this would make them not a fan?

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  8. My first membership in a internet forum dates back to 1998. I actively participated/discussed in 3 and as the topic for all of them was “dogs”, discussions were emotional, often heated and got sometimes very personal and insulting.

    The moment I started my own company in 2005 in this business, I quit the active involvement. Everyone there knew of my company and I was aware of how everything you say can (and will) be used either for good or bad.

    I’d learned my lesson HOW draining it can get to explain, explain again and again – and there will always be somebody left, who just won’t agree with you, because that’s just how it is. 😉

    I joined Facebook relatively late in 2009 and enjoyed it a lot, but of course it gets old after a while too. Nice to see what distant friends/relatives are doing, but I found that if you only keep the virtual contact, it lacks “heart” soon.

    Twitter to me – as I joined only last year – is still somewhat new and fascinating, but the general social media patterns are there of course.
    But because I’m curious about people and “what makes them tick” it is somewhat more interesting than Facebook to me – for now. 😉

    From what Richard wrote he clearly lacks all this background & feeling for social media. When he started tweeting he just jumped in and it was really funny to watch. He encouraged fans to interact but at some point he fell prey to his inner people-pleaser. You need a bit of a “to-hell-with-it” attitude and shouldn’t instantly feel ashamed for not noticing that fan B has posted her tweet way earlier than fan A and is now royally pissed off, that he favorited fan A’s.

    He is struggling between “carrying his heart on his tongue” and “not saying/doing something wrong” … in a rather personal letter (containing some astrological musings) to him last December, I wrote, that imho he needed to let go his “inner handbreak” from time to time to better tap into his own depths. This is still my opinion. But as I now have his time of birth (thanks to a karmic friend from the other side of the world, whom he’d told) I can see his struggles more clearly. He is still on the quest for the perfect balance between reason and heart. The only advice I will give here and now, is that to reach his life’s goal, it has to be the way of the heart and it has a lot to do with developing the will to defend ones beliefs. And that he is trying to do now. Still a bit vague, yes – but the will & heart is there 😉

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  9. Great post! Bravo!

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  10. Hear hear!! Great post Judi! I wish I could say you took the words from my mouth but of course you are much more talented with words than me. I have already commented on the subject a few times so won’t repeat myself 🙂

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  11. Why should we reach in and tidy his messages? Sorry – he may be quite new to social media but why blame him for this post or any interview before dealing with social media? He wrote from his heart, not as an expert in social media. Cybersmile is the platform he presents but he’s not intended to be the one to solve cyber problems. That’s how I take his message – no more and no less. It’s my choice if I take it at face value, a paradigm, or not. He is free to express himself and I am free to agree or disagree. But I would not assume to pull apart his words because he’s not that experienced in terms of internet platforms – what’s the point of it?
    I take him as an actor with honest positions which I am interested to read of. He wouldn’t have to share his positions, I treasure his will to do so.

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    • I know you’re not a native speaker of English, so maybe you are using this word in some different sense than I am usually using it — but no one is blaming him for anything. Judiang asks, over and over again — have you considered? have you thought about? We are responding critically to what he said. As you said, each of us is free to disagree and this is a place in which we are disagreeing.

      I know Armitage doesn’t understand this (based on his suggestion that it doesn’t matter in debate if someone is right or wrong) — but if his whole point is that people need to take responsibility for their speech (that is the biggest possible point he is making), then he, too needs to take responsibility for his speech.

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      • One of the (many) things I have always admired about him is his professionalism re his work. I know this is not a paid acting gig (I assume he receives no compensation from this non-profit), but I would expect him to approach this “role” with the same thought, research and preparation he puts into his work for stage and screen. For me to expect that should be seen as nod to the high standards he has set, not as a slam, shouldn’t it?

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    • If RA were just sharing his view on his personal blog, I wouldn’t mind what he said or how he said it. But this wasn’t a personal chat. He was acting as an ambassador for a national organization that is serious about its goal – reaching young people about cyberbullying and resolving the problem. As a spokesman, I hold him to a higher standard and expect him to communicate CyberSmile’s views and goals in a way that effectively reaches the target audience. So yes, he needs to gain better savvy, experience, and communication on the topics if he wants to be a good spokesman.

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      • I can’t help but as long as CyberSmile doesn’t mind to publish this message on their official blog they don’t seem to fear any “harm”.

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        • That they didn’t urge him not to say that is evidence that their own thinking about this issue is not very clear. It’s basic advice to Internet beginners not to use their own names in social media.

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          • Agreed. Yet I don’t feel it’s my task to put him right. I am not indifferent, maybe striving for harmony?

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            • That’s fine, but you probably won’t find it here (see previous posts on this topic). I don’t see the fandom as a unit or unified, I don’t write with that in mind, I don’t seek that end (ich bin zu oft eines Besseren gelehrt worden), I don’t urge it on others (becuase it has too often been pushed on me), and I don’t think seeking harmony is a universally virtuous strategy. The utility of harmony is ultimately dependent on context.

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              • As for me RA’s personal opinion is no question of vital importance even in this serious context. Maybe that’s why I “take it easier”? 😉

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                • I don’t think so, but it doesn’t really matter. You’re not required to take it seriously, although this assertion stands in an odd relationship to your earlier statement. If you don’t take it seriously, then why is it a problem if we disagree with it?

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  12. So we agree to disagree – I think he chose his words carefully.

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  13. This post very concisely outlines the criticisms it seems a lot of people have for RA’s first foray into blogging. I’m one of the camp who didn’t necessarily “want” to criticize him because I was pleased to hear what he had to say, in whatever way he was able to express it, and I guess I tend to take what I can from any given post and let the rest slide. I do totally agree that it’s a risky proposition to divest oneself from pseudonymity, particularly for minors, and while I generally shake my head when RA backpedals, that’s one point I do wish he’d address because there is true potential for harm and danger for those who take that advice, and I have to believe he’d feel terrible if anyone was exposed to danger after following his stated preference to post using real names and pictures.

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    • I’m sure he would feel terrible. I don’t want to criticize him either but since he’s taken on the role as spokesperson for such a weighty issue, I hope that he will be as prepared as he possibly can be to help young people. Unfortunately, part of the problem is that he currently lacks the social media savvy, experience, and perspective to field the types of questions commentators have asked. I hope with time, the issue resolves itself.

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      • I also am guessing that he spends time with a really unrepresentative sample of teens and kids, i.e., teens and kids he runs into on movie sets, and his own nephew.

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        • Perhaps, perhaps not. He does represent Young Minds, which aren’t all rich priviliged kids, I imagine…and he most likely did a lot of Urban and The Shed Crew.

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          • I didn’t say underprivileged kids, because rich kids also bully and are bullied. I said “that he spends time with.” Does he interact with teens through Young Minds? I think we would know that, no?

            The teens he met in Urban and the Shed Crew are all actors and are not likely to be underprivileged given the parental time and financial investment necessary for a child to take up that kind of activity.

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  14. Great post, Judiang, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Most points that bothered me with his message have already been taken up by you and far better than I could express them. Therefore I just want to add what has disappointed me most: that he hasn’t found his own voice imo. I’d guess he knows he’s not the social media expert, expert advice how to deal with cyberbullying is not what’s expected from him – that should be the job of the organization. His job: to raise awareness. He could have done that with sharing his own experience, how it has hindered him and how he has overcome it. No sob story necessary, but personal experience. Not cyber- but rl bullying – still the ‘human condition’ of being bullied is surely related. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to intrude on his personal life. And the marketing headline of ‘RA opens up’ is not to my taste. But he could have had a strong voice, experienced in the rear-view from his success and his age now. And that could have had an effect on teens struggling now, even if he’s not web-savvy.

    And I’m a bit sad he didn’t feel up to it – perhaps it really is too much to ask?

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    • Thanks Fufi (love your name.) 🙂

      Well, it was his first time out talking about personal bullying. Maybe he will supply details once he feels more comfortable and realizes that type of story would really resonate with people. Early days.

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      • Thanks 🙂

        You’re right of course, early days. And I hope I was clear enough I’m not at all interested in ‘sniffing out’ personal details?! Just wishing him to be a bit more commanding as a person and a bit more ‘free in his skin’ 🙂

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  15. Great post,Judiang 🙂
    He is just another fan of simple solutions sigh #SadFace# 😉

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  16. The post is not perfect, but a. he is clearly not an expert but that is not his role – nor is it his job to “solve” the problem; b. he is not a professional writer – he is fantastic at the job he does – so let’s give him some credit for the attempt c. I read on another blog how a mother is using the content of the post to counsel her 10 year old daughter to step away from the nastiness that breaks out and there are early signs it is working. Small impact already? Bravo! Finally d. it got people talking. Look at the number of comments on this blog!

    I must say I am getting tired of all the analysis that goes on when he tweets, when he posts a selfie, when he deletes something – and now this. Am I the only one who thinks this is getting tedious?

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    • I read that blog, too. If you notice, I “liked” KellyDS’ post, because I respect her right to read him as she wishes and talk about what is important to her. I have also read others. Including those that say “I don’t want to talk about this” or “I’m not letting this change my opinion of Armitage.” Which is fine. I liked those blogs, too, and I respect their authors’ rights to express their opinions.

      With regard to “tedious,” you’ve been to this rhetorical place on this blog before. If you read this blog, you know what it is about and that detailed analysis and conversation is frequent. You might also consult this post:

      https://meandrichard.wordpress.com/2011/10/15/ot-on-academics-and-their-obsessive-concerns-and-niggling-disagreements/

      I think this is the second time you’ve said or implied that I shouldn’t write or encourage a discussion about a particular topic. Please don’t tell me what I shouldn’t write about it. The next time you violate the comments policy, you will be blocked.

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    • I am also tired of discussions on whether RA should post selfies or not. He can use social media any way he wants to and I don’t understand why people get actually upset about such trivia.

      I have followed RA-related blogs since 2010 and what kept me in ‘the fandom’ – apart from the man himself of course – have been discussions which included different points of view.

      If I come across blog posts somewhere whose subject doesn’t interest me I simply don’t read those posts… If there was a blogger who wrote many posts I didn’t like I would stop following the blog.

      Luckily this fandom is diverse and we can all find places where we can interact with other fans in a way we prefer 🙂

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      • “How many leather jackets does he own?” There’s another discussion I would personally never need to read … but hey, every now and then I read something I haven’t thought about it before on that topic.

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  17. Whoa. Let’s not overreact. I meant that is what I am seeing generally, not on this blog specifically. I was making an observation, that is all. That said, block me if you wish, that is your right. I do notice you do not like people who disagree with you.

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    • Actually, I love people who disagree with me. This blog is chock full of disagreements, some of which have stretched over five years. I disagree vehemently with some of my best friends in the fandom about really significant things like whether or not Armitage should be in Hannibal (for instance), or whether Into the Storm is a worthwhile movie, whether the Hobbit adaptations are a legitimate approximation of Tolkien’s novels, or whether Armitage should have changed agents, or … or … or. We also degree over stupid things like whether a suit looks good on him, or whether he has a fat *ss, or whether beard or stubble is better. We frequently disagree here, commentators frequentlly disagree with each other, and the bloggers frequently disagree between each other. But there are rules for disagreement when conducted here, and they are enumerated in the comments policy. One is that the expression of disagreement doesn’t delegitimate the topic of discussion by suggesting that the topic should not be discussed. If you find it tedious, stay away, because nothing is going to get less tedious in the short-term future. On the contrary.

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  18. I largely agree with Fantastica’s post above about RA’s primary role as an ambassador being to draw attention to the cause, not provide expert opinion or advice. I tend to think he would do this better if he didn’t attempt two-way engagement at all, though he may only have done this because his earlier words were slightly careless, I don’t know.

    I’m not sure that asking RA to define cyber-bullying is very helpful or fair. As is the case with regular bullying, we can all identify instances that clearly are bullying and instances that clearly aren’t. Of the instances that people will disagree about, I think it’s likely that it is genuinely indeterminate whether they count as bullying or not. I don’t think there’s a set of criteria for bullying out there waiting to be identified by experts and presented as necessary and sufficient conditions. There are numerous ‘not nice’ acts that have the potential to cause distress, and when they are directed at the same individual either repeatedly or in a severe form then we may want to call this ‘bullying’. The term isn’t definite by any means, but I think it’s useful so far as it helps to identify a certain type of behaviour that crops up frequently in various arenas.

    I think (though I may be wrong) that in part RA is trying to move the focus to the ‘not nice’ acts. Much of his advice seems to be along the lines of: think before you write; consider your words and tone; consider the potential consequences of the interactions you have with others online; try to empathise with those that you disagree with, etc. Sure, this is pretty simplistic advice, but in truth many people fail to do these things frequently. The blogs that I take the time to read (including this one) already do all these things, and don’t need reminding to be thoughtful. But even if the advice is not useful to many, I do think some could benefit from it.

    I’m not defending his post in its entirety, by any means. I agree with Servetus about the importance of pseudonymity (I actually think his comments on anonymity somewhat contradict his remarks on being able to defend your opinions; his dislike of anonymity comes across as more of a gut feeling than a reasoned position). I agree with some commenters above that his advice to those who experience bullying is far from perfect (though I don’t think in giving advice he necessarily presents himself as an expert; we all know that he is a celebrity ambassador sharing personal thoughts, not a social scientist). And I agree that his post is very vague in places.

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    • I don’t think RA needs to be an expert, rather he needs to go into this ambassadorship as prepared and knowledgeable as he can be so that he can communicate effectively with his target audience. My impression was that the vagueness and muddled-ness suggested that either he was not clear in thought or execution or that CyberSmile had given him little guidance.

      So facilitate discussion about cyberbullying and how to solve it, it is not unreasonable for people to know what Cybersmile thinks it means if they want to get on the same page. What is cyberbullying to Cybersmile? What might be clear to you may be unclear to them and vice versa. Their spokesman will be expected to communicate that. This doesn’t require RA to be a professional or an expert. If Cybersmile expects RA to advise young people by winging it, then RA does need a fairly good understanding of cyberbullying and social media in which it thrives if he wants to resonate with today’s teen.

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      • If you mean that RA could have provided a Cybersmile account of cyberbullying, then sure, he could have. Maybe as an ambassador he ought to have. But it would have been imprecise and not all-inclusive, and so wouldn’t help to answer any of the difficult questions you’ve posed in your post above.

        Also, what use would it be really? A bullying charity is likely to have three primary aims: provided support to those who are bullied, influence the behaviour of those who do, or are likely to, bully or contribute to bullying, and support those who work with groups who are particularly vulnerable to bullying. Cybersmile appears to have a lot of resources directed at the third group. I have seen some fair criticism of their helpfulness in regard to the first. But as for influencing those who might partake in bullying behaviour, I would think that encouraging thoughtfulness and raising awareness of the harm caused by bullying would be a good way to go.

        The point in focusing on the small acts, I think, is that bullying doesn’t always require a bully. The heavily critical comment you send to someone who has already received a stream of similarly harsh comments may contribute to significant emotional harm. Does that means you should never be critical? No, of course not. But encouraging people to think about the constructiveness of their critical interactions is not a bad thing. No, this doesn’t help you determine whether a particular instance is justified or not. These are complicated issues that will continue, thankfully, to be given a lot of thought. My point is only that I don’t really see the use of Cybersmile wading into this minefield, from their point of view at least. If you’re having this debate, as we are, then you are already a convert. Sure, sometimes you will make comments that in hindsight were unnecessary and overly harsh, but that’s to be expected. As many people have pointed out, there’s a huge good to be had in self-expression and critical discussion, so refraining from critical interactions out of caution is absolutely not the answer. But if you are already wary of your words and tone, if you sometimes withhold your opinions when you do fear it could do real damage, and if you stand-up for those targeted with abuse, then you are already doing all you can. You are not the target of an anti-bullying charity.

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        • To me, this statement is not cogent: “bullying doesn’t require a bully.” If someone hurts someone else’s feelings, okay, then someone has hurt one’s feelings. Unfortunately we all do that, and some people do it intentionally; we have a secretary like that at work; she has nothing nice to say and she says it to everyone and occasionally feelings are hurt. It’s not bullying, though. She’s just an old, unhappy person. Hurt feelings have to be handled between the involved parties. To me, that kind of interaction, even if intentional, is substantially different from bullying. People have said things about me and my opinions during this discussion that I find hurtful. It’s not bullying. If bullying can happen without a bully, then anytime anyone’s feelings are hurt, that person can cry “bully.” That is a dynamic I see every day in the US and not one I want encouraged any further or spread in schools or elsewhere.

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          • ‘To me, this statement is not cogent: “bullying doesn’t require a bully.” ‘

            Sure, fair enough. When someone is emotionally hurt because they are subjected to numerous cutting criticisms and not nice comments from many people who aren’t acting collectively then they aren’t being bullied. I’m willing to concede on definitions. But that doesn’t change the fact if you know or can make a reasonable guess as to the circumstances in which a person is in, you ought to take this into consideration before you act. I’m not saying that knowing that someone will suffer hurt feelings automatically means you ought not to criticise them, just that it ought to be a consideration. This is particularly true in online communities, where some members really heavily on their online life and so are vulnerable in this respect, and people are liable to set upon a person who behaves or speaks poorly.

            ‘If bullying can happen without a bully, then anytime anyone’s feelings are hurt, that person can cry “bully.”’

            I think it’s clear that I wasn’t saying this at all. My main point was that, interesting as the distinction between constructive critical discourse and unnecessary and harmful criticism is (I don’t want to say ‘bullying’ as I think that there’s a big gap between bullying and comments that are unjustified because they are unhelpful and likely to hurt, hence my focus on ‘not nice acts’), I don’t think it’s in the interest of Cybersmile to wade into that discussion. Nor do I think that RA needs to do so to be a successful ambassador. Thus, I think the request I have seen many people make for RA to clarifiy the difference between bullying and critical discourse is misplaced, and misunderstands the target and purpose of an anti-bullying charity.

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            • I’m pretty confused, then. What is the purpose of an anti-bullying charity, then, if not to (a) raise awareness about what bullying is (b) try to stop bullying and/or (b) support victims of bullying? How can they know who their target audience even is, or measure whether they are successful in their efforts, if they can’t define bullying? To be sure, CyberSmile has a (problematic) definition, at least.

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              • I think I am completely confused over this whole thing and I don’t think it’s just my fibro fog talking, either. I guess I don’t quite understand how this charity accomplishes its mission . . . *scratches head*

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                • Wow, THIS is fascinating — it took me a bit (after clicking through the merchandise they well, well, I guess they have to keep themselves afloat somehow), but high in their advice to teens who are having trouble is — a recommendation to call ChildLine!

                  ChildLine was always my favorite Armitage charity, so I think I will stick with them. In some years up to 25% of their calls can’t be answered because they don’t have the resources, so I think I’d just rather support the people who are doing the work directly.

                  Cybersmile also has an online community and a Positivity Shrine.

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                  • Well, this is good information to know. I am with you about preferring to give support to the people “on the front lines,” so to speak, trying to make a positive difference.

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              • I’m not saying they shouldn’t give an account of what bullying is, I’m just saying that it won’t be in the form of necessary and sufficient conditions. If they did attempt to do so, any such definition would be open to reasonable disagreement. And if (if – I’m not claiming to be an expert here) one productive method of counteracting bullying is encouraging people to be more thoughtful and considerate (which, again, is only my interpretation of what is going on in RA’s post, and given its vagueness I’m not 100% confident of this view), then one can do this without giving a decisive verdict as to whether each instance of criticism is justified or not.

                Again, I’m not saying RA’s post does this entirely successfully, just that whatever its flaws, giving an explanation of precisely when critical discourse becomes unjustified due to its potential to harm isn’t one of them.

                I’m very much in agreement with the blogger on Nowhere in Particular RA as to the most important target of RA’s post. So thanks for reposting that, I wouldn’t have seen it otherwise

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            • This is their “vision” statement: “Through education, awareness and support we aim to combat the growing threat of cyberbullying and create a much safer, more enjoyable digital environment. We want to provide the people affected by online hate campaigns with the tools and coping strategies to aid and enable their swift recovery. This vision is at the core of Cybersmile and we are committed to creating a more considerate and caring future for all.”

              I read that as (a) stop cyberbullying (b) make the world a nicer place (c) support targets. Is that an unreasonable reading?

              To me, that makes the line between “not nice” and bullying even more crucial. (Or maybe he just wants to make the world a nicer place, which is fine, but honestly, whatever, so does Hallmark.) “Enjoyble, Pleasant, considerate, and caring” are words that have been, can be, and will be used to shut down discussions that make people uncomfortable without doing a thing against actual hate campaigns.

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              • This is what concerns me. The idea that if you disagree or find something possibly lacking in any way with what Richard Armitage says/does, then somehow you are “not nice” and possibly even a bully in some fans’ eyes, and therefore, you should not speak your mind. “Peace” at any price? I’m sorry, but I reserve the right to my own opinion and the freedom to express it.

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              • ‘“Enjoyble, Pleasant, considerate, and caring” are words that have been, can be, and will be used to shut down discussions that make people uncomfortable’

                This is 100% true. So has political correctness. But political correctness has also transformed the way people commonly speak about marginalised groups such that sexism, racism and homophobia (while still very much alive and kicking!) are no where near as everyday or commonplace as they were 30 years ago. That a message is sometimes misused is reason to be wary, sure, but it’s not reason to write off the message as entirely without merit in any context.

                I personally wouldn’t tell people to be pleasant, but advice to be considerate and caring seems largely good to me.

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                • Maybe you don’t spend as much time as I do warding off comments about how inconsiderate and disrespectful you are, and how disgusting your blog is 🙂 And now those comments will be justified by things Armitage has said.

                  I think I’m going to decline to be drawn out on political correctness because the topic is too big for this blog and it overlaps but doesn’t fully intersect with the main questions I’m still at sea about, which is the question of “not nice” vs “bullying.” If anyone else wants to talk about it, they are free to do so.

                  I don’t know much about you, but I was thinking that it’s interesting how the lines are failling out in this discussion. Those of us who have been the object of those particular charges over and over again are tending to respond in similar ways, I think.

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                • Sorry, that was cryptic. I guess the conclusion should have been — people in my experience are very happy to label all kinds of problematic behaviors as reflective of “consideration.” It’s a word that means very little to me because of that. Usually when someone tells me I’ve been inconsiderate here, what they mean is either that I said something they wouldn’t have said, or that it bothers them personally.

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                  • I didn’t say that problematic behaviours were worthy of consideration, which doesn’t mean much to me either. I said the fact that a statement is likely to cause distress is worthy of consideration. Which is just to say that when this is the case it will sometimes be unjustified to speak (morally unjustified, that is; I’ve not seen anyone suggest that people do not have a right to say not nice things). I don’t think this is particularly controversial. Sadly I cannot provide you with a catch-all formula! I think the best way to make progress in this regard is considering specific instances with the aim of developing an account of who much weight we ought to give to what: the harm of emotional distress, the good to an individual when they are able to express themselves, the good to the hurt person in terms of broadening their mind, the good of encouraging an environment of healthy critical discourse, etc, etc, etc.

                    I think this is a worthy endeavour, but a lot to ask of RA in role as celebrity ambassador to a charity.

                    ‘Maybe you don’t spend as much time as I do warding off comments about how inconsiderate and disrespectful you are, and how disgusting your blog is 🙂 And now those comments will be justified by things Armitage has said.’

                    No, I don’t, thankfully. Yes, you (and others) may be right to be wary in this regard. I’m not immersed enough in the fandom to make an evidence-based judgement as to the risk of this occurring and likely the degree of harm. As I said, I agree with the other blogger at NPRA* that RA fans (at least not those involved in these interesting discussions) are not the primary target his words. I may be wrong about this though, and even if I’m right, it may still be the case that given his fractious fandom this charity was not a wise choice on his part.

                    *I actually googled this acronym just to make sure it didn’t refer to a particularly offensive group. I have an irrational fear that one day I’m going to accidentally refer to the acronym for the American society who are into adult/child sexual relations.

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                    • LOL, that’s NAMBLA, I think.

                      I don’t think anyone here has said — I didn’t say, certainly — that I disagree with KellyDS on that point, i.e., that he saw his audience as teens. (I think it was short-sighted not to think further than that, given that the mechanism of dissemination was one that was followed primarily by fans and superfans, but I agree that was the original intention, even if it wasn’t explicitly stated and the second post is not written in a way that takes much consideration of a teen audience.) That said, everyone has a perspective. I’m not a teen, so I don’t write about what Richard Armitage means to teens. I’m me, so I write about what he means to me, and how what he says strikes and affects me. There’s a limited amount of words in my fingers, and I don’t understand why (after writing about Armitage for five years) I am required to qualify every post with “I respect and love Richard Armitage” or why I should have to list the things I agree with him every single time before I disagree. One effect of fandom is that the crush gets the benefit of the doubt but the people write about him don’t. Because I didn’t say, “I am against cyberbullying,” apparently a lot of readers thought I am in favor of it; because I didn’t say “I agree cyberbullying is a serious problem,” people assumed I didn’t think it is. This is an argumentative fallacy (affirming the disjunct), but I can’t live my whole writing life guarding the world against it or I would spend all my time saying what I don’t mean and none of it saying what I do mean. I need to spend my time writing about what I do mean, in this case, how Armitage’s words affect me.

                      For a lot of people, that idea of “virtuous Armitage” is really important and central to their conceptions of him. It’s not for me, I haven’t seen any evidence that convinces me he’s particularly saintly, and I don’t get a particularly thrill from reading a post in which IMO, he reveals that he’s a normal fellow who, because of life experiences, tries hard not to hurt people and is proud of that feature of his personality. That description applies to 75% of the people I know. I admire virtue and in general have praised him for doing things that I find virtuous when I heard about them. I didn’t find his actions particularly virtuous in this case, and I said why, and I defended my position.

                      whether this fandom is unusually fractious I will leave to those more familiar with other fandoms than I.

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                    • I don’t disagree with anything you’ve written in that post. That’s a good place to leave it, I think 🙂

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    • I think rhetorically you’re always at a disadvantage in the “response to my critics” position. If you feel you said what you wanted to say in the initial post, it’s best to limit anything you say if you feel you just have to respond, if that’s what you’re doing — not expand your claims. That isn’t unique to Armitage, that’s probably true for everyone. In this particular case, I think he probably shouldn’t have made this post, because he prolonged the controversy over what he had originally said. This is also kind of a beginner social media move — to assume that you can persuade people of things if you just explain yourself fully. Everyone is not going to agree with him. That’s just a given of life on planet earth.

      on the ambassador thing — I have mixed feelings, because he’d be better off being an ambassador to youth troubled by cyberbullying, or a campaigner against it. Those things are admirable, but to do them he would need a more robust definition of what he’s doing. Switching the emphasis to “not nice” acts makes it easier to speak, I suppose, but the waters there are extremely murky, and so far he hasn’t shown himself as especially rhetorically adroit on defining those topics. Someone wrote me today to say that I had been impolite. After trying to clarify with her what I said that had bothered her, said I didn’t believe I had been in that case, and left it. That’s a line he’s never going to draw effectively.

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      • I too have mixed feelings about his role as an ambassador, and I also have mixed feelings about this particular charity.

        As for the focusing on ‘not nice’ acts, I’ve tried to explain in my reply to Judiang above why I think this may be a good strategy and why neither he nor Cybersmile are best positioned to attempt to draw the line between justified and unjustified critical comments and interactions.

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  19. Thank you for this post, Judiang- you put into words much of the frustration I’ve felt since RA began sharing his thoughts on cyber bullying.

    I too wish he would clarify who his intended audience is, and target his message accordingly, but only after gaining a more demonstrable understanding of the realities of the topic- it would be regrettable if the good RA could do through his profile as an actor was lost due to a lack of genuine connection with those who need to hear the message most.

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  20. Another thing that I haven’t raised yet but is also a matter of “how good an ambassador he is” is the effectiveness question, just because I suppose we are going to be solicited to donate to this. When I donate to earthquake relief in Nepal, there’s a number there. So and so many people fed, housed (or not). It’s unclear to me how the CyberSmile Foundation will measure whether they are successful in their efforts, as I don’t know how they are measuring the status quo now. If I’m going to donate money to a charity I want to know what they are using it for and whether their efforts make a diference. If this is just all about what we feel good about … ??? I’m sure Armitage raises the “feel good” factor of the whole thing, but I don’t know if he can concretely stop a single instance of cyberbullying.

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    • That’s a good point. How DO you measure the success of a venture of this nature? With our humane society, we look at the number of animals surrendered to the city/county shelter each month, how many get adopted and how many get rescue commitments along with the number euthanized. We have stats that many a shelter would envy in terms of the kill rate, which has dropped considerably in the last two years. People here know we are making a difference and that makes them a whole lot more willing to support our cause.

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      • Both YoungMindsUK and ChildLine, which I admire and wish he would have stuck with, have statistics available about numbers of children served. I will have to see if I can find that info for CyberSmile. I would be curious.

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  21. As always, Judiang, I love your incisive and insightful mind. You challenge me to think of issues in nuanced ways. Sorry that your blog platform is still wonky. I look forward when you can blog to us again. And thanks to Servetus for sharing your post here.

    My own thoughts about RA’s essay became rather long. Ha! So I think that I’ll just blog them.

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  22. I noticed in one of the UK newspapers today, on the papers Problem Page that a woman was asking about two sixteen year olds she knew who were being cyber-bullied.

    The ‘Agony Aunt’s’ reply was to refer the two to Cybersmile.

    RA is someone known out there in the wider World, writing from the heart about something he’s experienced, in his own words. Cybersmile and other charities don’t ask people to be Ambassadors unless they are visible figures – like the Nowhere in Particular blog’s parent’s point makes.

    Cybersmile doesn’t need or want a university lecturer/journo/marketeer/whatever, etc with precision writing and grammar, who is unknown to anyone and who can’t make that connection with people from the heart as an Ambassador.

    It’s not meant to be a precise piece of literature, written by an expert writer – a bullied teenager isn’t going to be worried about the grammar, but will want the content to be helpful.

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    • Judiang has responded to these objections several times, so I hope you’re not offended if I ask you to read her responses above.

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  23. Fantastic piece, Judiang, and so well organized. My reactions to the specific points & in general follow:

    1) Defining cyberbullying- I think that’s primarily incumbent on Cybersmile to do & they bury their definition rather well on their website. It’s partly a site organization problem, as well as a somewhat circular definition- listing this under “Help Centre” is a head scratcher for me, but anyway:
    https://www.cybersmile.org/advice-help/category/what-is-cyberbullying

    2) Confusion about whether specific comments he has made are directed toward teens in general or his fans in general – this is indeed a problem. Since I doubt he’ll ever write in bullet points, I simply choose to interpret and apply them charitably and as makes best sense to me. That doesn’t entirely work, but it’s all we have. As you & others have suggested, tweeting his thoughts separately that primarily apply to the fandom would help to clarify at least that much.

    3) Pseudonyms- Even though I use one, I don’t feel pressure to change at all. The biggest problem here is if teens follow his advice and use their real names and pics. I would only recommend this for Facebook, not Twitter. Completely different settings, different purposes. This could really create safety issues on Twitter and other youth sites rather than solve them. Which leads into-

    4) His general social media savvy- After thinking about this for a while, I’m convinced that his role as ambassador at Cybersmile isn’t expected to include subject expertise. That’s Cybersmile’s job. He’s there to bring visibility to the issue & to Cybersmile through his own story & how he was able to rise above bullying to become successful. He’s an inspirational, compassionate figure, not a representative in the informational sense. The clincher: Fifth Harmony is also a Cybersmile ambassador. I doubt that they’ll be writing any analyses on the subject, but if you find something, let me know 🙂

    5) Pouring negativity into art- I had no problem with this. And since this was part of his own story, and he’s inspiring kids through it, some kids will pick up on it immediately, some later, some not at all. But if they like him, they’ll find it interesting & maybe pass along to a friend.

    So in general, I’m thinking a good bit of our confusion has at least as much to do with Cybersmile as with Richard. I admire him for sharing things that are bound to bring back painful moments for him. He’s a very special man! (And I realize no one here is saying that he isn’t! We all love him 🙂

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    • Actually, we dug out and looked at the definition of cyberbullying according to Cybersmile last week, and there is a separate discussion on that post.

      I believe that Judiang and I are also interpreting charitable and as makes best sense to us. Interpretation is a confusing thing — there isn’t only one available.

      Actually, I didn’t read the post to say that he had poured negativity into art — I read it as a suggestion that it was something people who wanted to say negative things on the internet should do.

      Judiang has told me that she’s basically said what she wants to say on this topic, so I am going to close comments. Thanks to everyone who participated. I know I can hardly wait until Judiang’s blog is back on line.

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  24. […] back to Judiang and her essay reaction to the Armitage Essay, I love her incisive and insightful mind. She challenges me to think about issues in nuanced ways. […]

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  25. […] to response to criticisms, which is here. My response to that post is here, and here’s a guest post by Judiang that articulated additional concerns I endorse(d). At that point, Cybersmile appears to have dropped mostly from my references — in part […]

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