In the 1970s, there was a big difference between bullies and cry-babies. Your mum would have preferred you to hang around with the latter, but sometimes the former had a twisted charisma so strong that you found yourself joining in the taunts of ‘Onion Head! ’ at some poor unfortunate creature sporting a cranium of a somewhat allium caste. After a bit, of course, if you had anything about you, you realized what a knob you were being and went off to sample the more solitary, civilized pleasures of shoplifting and reading Oscar Wilde with the bedroom curtains closed. But you could be certain, as you festered in your pilfered Chelsea Girl vest, that bullies were bullies and cry-babies were cry-babies and never the twain would meet.
Fast forward some four decades and things are not so simple. This is the age of the Cry-Bully, a hideous hybrid of victim and victor, weeper and walloper. They are everywhere, these duplicit Pushmi-Pullyus of the personal and the political, from Celebrity Big Brother to the frontline of Islamism. Jeremy Clarkson is a prime cry bully, punching a producer and then whining in The Sunday Times about ‘losing my baby’ (The baby being Top Gear). Perez Hilton, recently of the CBB house, is a good example too, screaming abuse at his wretched room-mates until they snapped and hit back, at which point he would dissolve in floods of tears and flee to the Diary Room to claim that he felt ‘unsafe’. Stephen Fry is one, forever banging on about his own mental fragility yet mocking Stephen Hawking’s voice at a recent awards ceremony.
Esther Rantzen — an anti-bullying campaigner — strikes me as another. An otherwise anodyne interviewer recently felt moved to ask her if she was a bully, due to her reputation as an over-bossy boss during her That ’s Life heyday and the rather vile reports of her yelling out ‘My husband’s ex-wife ’ during a trivia quiz at a TV bash – the question being ‘What burnt in Richmond?’, the locality in which the woman whose husband she took had recently been cremated. Rantzen has re-created herself as a pathetic widow, complaining about having no one to go on holiday with, so desperately lonely for human companionship that she once rang her daughter to say that the Almighty would want them to live together. (Not as much as He’d want people not to gloat over the deaths of people whose lives they had ruined, surely.)
Even social media – the source of so much fun and friendship for most of us – becomes a double-edged sword in the hands of the Cry-Bully. They will threaten women with rape on Twitter then boo-hoo about the invasion of their privacy when called to account. It’ s a sort of Munchausen’s syndrome – causing one’s own misery then complaining about it – seen most sadly in the case of Hannah Smith, the 14-year-old girl who took her own life in 2013 after allegedly being cyber-bullied on the teen website Ask.fm. It turned out that some 98 per cent of the abusive messages came from poor Hannah herself, with only four posts being contributed by actual trolls.
Cry-Bullies do end up isolated, as their determination to be victim and victor eventually wears out the patience of the most forebearing friend. But they can also be found hanging around in gangs; then, Cry-Bullies really come into their own and are not just irritating but dangerous. Islamism is the ultimate Cry-Bully cause; on one hand stamping around murdering anyone who doesn’ t agree with you, on the other hand yelling ‘ISLAMOPHOBIA’ in lieu of having a real adult debate about the merits of your case. Their ‘helpline’ is even called Tell Mama – bless. The British-born Islamist recently sentenced to twelve years had no problem posing with severed heads (‘Heads, kaffirs, disgusting’) and asking friends back home to send him condoms which he planned to use raping women captured as ‘war booty’ but then claimed to be having nightmares and suffering from depression in order to escape jail.
The transexual and pimp-lobbies bring classic Cry-Bully tactics into play whenever they come across someone who doesn’t – shock, horror! – think the same as them, as unashamed feminists from the activist Julie Bindel to the comedian Kate Smurthwaite have discovered. In these cases, the claim that ‘safe spaces’ might be violated by the presence of someone who thinks differently to them; but born women, mysteriously, are expected to surrender the ultimate Safe Space – the female toilets – to pre-op chicks with dicks if they are not to be accused of violent bigotry.
I don’t like much about monarchy, but the old saw they are said to live by – ‘Never complain, never explain’ (if only Prince Charles could do this!) – is a good one. The Cry-Bully always explains to the point of demanding that one agrees with them and always complains to the point of insisting that one is persecuting them. They really are the very worst sort of modern moaner.