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Intellectual Bullying Just As Harmful As Other Forms Of Bullying


When we think of childhood bullying, we’re likely to conjure up images of either a vulnerable child being mocked to tears, or having to endure some form of sadistic physical abuse. But there’s also a more mental way of embarrassing or humiliating an innocent child—by “lording” one’s intellectual superiority over them.

This more insidious, and frequently sarcastic, form of bullying has received far less recognition than the two more well-known forms. As Rohban Zahid puts it: “What seems to fall in between the cracks are bullies who . . . torment students who are “less smart.” And this author goes on to make a more sweeping comment (condemnation?) on our meritocracy-like culture.

Individuals within society are placed into an “intellectual hierarchy” determined by the numbers and letters that come in the form of students’ grades and GPA’s. The problem arises . . . when individuals at the top of this hierarchy are [wrongfully]permitted to belittle students at the bottom. This construct creates . . . intellectual bullying, the emotional and psychological harassment one imposes on another based on his/her intellectual understanding. Intellectual bullying is no different than physical bullying as it [can eventuate in] a devastating, long term effect on [one’s sense of self-worth].

So, how might we best define this increasingly dominant mode of bullying? Here are some workable definitions taken from the Web:

By intellectual bullies I mean people who are indeed smarter (have a higher IQ), who have more knowledge in a certain field, and generally carry the sense of entitlement to be dismissive, disrespectful, mean and emotionally abusive, and play tricks/pranks on others. [And, curiously] we glorify people like this in TV shows, and we don’t consider [it] a form of bullying. (Quora, “Do We Show More Leniency Towards Intellectual Bullies Than Physical Ones?”, 2014)

Adding another dimension to this phenomenon is Joe Bouchard, who remarks:

The intellectual bully specializes in condescension. Their insecurities are masked in large words and aloof, arrogant sentences. Their offense consists of a belief that they are smarter than thecompetition. They enjoy making others feel inferior. (“Ranking Bully Types,” corrections.com, 2010)

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