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Are Bullies Like Terrorists?

by Izzy Kalman (June 2006)The website,, like many other anti-bully activists, have taken to comparing bullies to terrorists. On their home page you can get the detailed comparison.

The truth is that Columbine was for schools what 9.11 was for the nation as a whole. Columbine resulted in the nation’s determination to make schools safe for students. 9.11 resulted in the nation’s decision to make the country safe for its residents. We are trying to make schools safe by trying to target bullies and we are trying to make the country safe by trying to target terrorists. To make sure that our country keeps up the fight against bullies, it is convenient to compare them to terrorists.

What most people fail to realize is that terrorism does not come from a bully mentality. It comes from a victim mentality. Does anyone imagine that terrorists think the following: “I feel an irresistable urge to bully people. What would be a good way to do it? Maybe I’ll fly a plane into a building in the most powerful nation on the planet? I know I’ll die at the same time, but I don’t care because the knowledge that I will be such a horrific bully is worth dying for.”

Of course not. What they think is, “Our people are being victimized by a powerful, immoral, country. We have to get back at them! We have to make them stop! Let’s fly airplanes into their most important buildings! And I don’t care if I die in the process. Saving my people from this Satanic country is worth dying for!”

Yes, terrorists are motivated by feeling like victims, not like bullies. To them, we are the bully. (And if we use the academic definition of bullying, the terrorists are right!) They are angry, they want revenge, and they want to stop being bullied by us. Anger and desire for revenge are what victims feel, not bullies.

What is our country doing to make our schools safe? We are trying to get everyone to stop engaging in bullying behavior so that no kids will feel like victims. If the US government were to respond to 9.11 the way it did to Columbine, it would be making sure that no one in the world would have any reason to be mad at our country. We would give in to the demands of every terrorist organization in the world so they will no longer feel bullied by us. We would ask every nation in the world what our policy towards them should be so they will have no reason to be mad at us. Then our country would finally be safe from terrorism.

No one in their right mind would think that such an approach is possible, or that it would work if it were possible. Yet we naively think this can work in schools.

If we truly want to make our schools safer, we need to remember that the most dangerous people are not those who feel like bullies. They are people who feel like victims. Teaching kids how not to be victims will make our schools safer than the most intensive efforts to target and eradicate bullies.

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