Jay McCurry, Ed.D.
According to Pew Research, roughly four-in-ten Americans have experienced online harassment, with half of this group citing politics as the reason they think they were targeted. A Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults in September finds that 41% of Americans have personally experienced some form of online harassment. And while the overall prevalence of this type of abuse is the same as it was in 2017, there is evidence that online harassment has intensified since then. According to Statista, gender abuse is most likely to occur on social media than on any other online environment. According to a survey conducted in the United States in 2020, 81% of women said they had been harassed on social media. This leads us to doxing. According to Garbo, doxing is “the act of revealing identifying information about someone online, such as their real name, home address, workplace, phone, financial, and other personal information, which is then circulated to the public without the victim’s permission”. Researchers in a 2017 NYU study identified and analyzed more than 5,500 files associated with doxing and reported that: More than 90% of the doxed files included the victim’s address, 61% included a phone number, and 53% included an email address. Also, 40% of victims’ online usernames were made public, and the same percentage revealed a victim’s IP address.
As a Head of School for a Christian school, it is not a matter of “if” you will come under attack for your convictions, but it is a matter of “when” you come under attack. If you and your school are boldly facing the God-less culture with Biblical values, you can be sure that you will face persecution. English journalist and critic, George Orwell, shares that “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
Author Walter Inglis Anderson says that “Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life.” I want to share four practical rules to follow when attacks and persecution come.
- Never apologize. Clinical psychologist, Dr. Jordan Peterson, says that if you have done nothing wrong, then don’t apologize to the mob. Author and business owner, Seth Dillon, shares, “the cancel mob uses fake outrage as a weapon to bludgeon you into silence and submission. You owe them nothing.” Dillon goes on to say that “If we’re going to make a dent in the momentum of cancel culture that’s been sweeping us away in this big wave lately, it’s going to result, from my perspective, from people really getting a backbone.” Never apologize.
- Don’t take the bait. A crisis response often kicks into high gear after a media inquiry. According to research by Reputation X, “a leader should ask a reporter for an email set of questions rather than talking on the phone.” The article goes on to share, “If you’re lucky, an email or otherwise written set of questions from a journalist is a blessing because you can get an idea of the direction of inquiry from the questions. This enables you to quickly craft a response that is empathetic and concise based on both their questions, and any social media chatter that is surfacing.”
- Be timely. Your response to the crisis needs to be timely and relevant. According to author Dr. Howard Markel, “Early on the morning of Sept. 29, 1982, a tragic, medical mystery began with a sore throat and a runny nose. It was then that Mary Kellerman, a 12-year-old girl from Elk Grove Village, a suburb of Chicago, told her mother and father about her symptoms. They gave her one extra-strength Tylenol capsule that, unbeknownst to them, was laced with the highly poisonous potassium cyanide. Mary was dead by 7 a.m. Within a week, her death would panic the entire nation. That same day, a 27-year-old postal worker named Adam Janus of Arlington Heights, Illinois, died of what was initially thought to be a massive heart attack but turned out to be cyanide poisoning as well. His brother and sister-in-law, Stanley, 25, and Theresa, 19, of Lisle, Illinois, rushed to his home to console their loved ones. Both experienced throbbing headaches, a not uncommon response to a death in the family and each took a Tylenol extra-strength capsule of two from the same bottle Adam had used earlier in the day. Stanley died that very day and Theresa died two days later.” According to Markel, “McNeil Consumer Products, a subsidiary of the health care giant, Johnson & Johnson, manufactured Tylenol. To its credit, the company took an active role with the media in issuing mass warning communications and immediately called for a massive recall of the more than 31 million bottles of Tylenol in circulation. Within a year, and after an investment of more than $100 million, Tylenol’s sales rebounded to its healthy past and it became, once again, the nation’s favorite over-the-counter pain reliever. Critics who had prematurely announced the death of the brand Tylenol were now praising the company’s handling of the matter. Indeed, the Johnson & Johnson recall became a classic case study in business schools across the nation.”
- Be patient. Clinical psychologist, Dr. Jordan Peterson, says “if you can withstand the attack for two weeks, it will eventually go away. In essence, the attackers have no more ammunition to use on you.” Seth Dillon said, “The solution is in enough people seeing boldness and bravery and enough examples where they get emboldened to stand up and fight back against it, and just be vocal about what they believe and why they believe it.” Be patient.
If you have been under attack and it was handled poorly, remember the words of Indiana native John Mellencamp, “What is there to be afraid of? The worst thing that can happen is you fail. So what? I failed at a lot of things. My first record was horrible.” If you are in a leadership position of taking a Biblical stand on a social issue….keep standing. Christian school educators are in a battle for the hearts and minds of young people. This battle is not for the faint of heart. It’s time to boldly declare 1 Corinthians 16:13-14, “Keep your eyes open, hold tight to your convictions, give it all you’ve got, be resolute, and love without stopping.”