Otherism also known as Othering is when a person is considered to “not be one of us.” It is the exclusion of a person who deviates from “acceptable” norms.
The exclusion can be based on race, religion, ethnicity, country of origin, social economic factors, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and more. Many forms of otherism treat the person as less than human. Terrorism and ethnic cleansing depend upon on the extreme use of otherism to disregard the humanity of victims.
Otherism is expressed in different ways. Legitimate micro aggressions can be incidents of otherism. Racism, sexism, ableism, labeling, hate speech and hate crimes are typical variations of otherism. People who engage in othering lack empathy for their targets. They are unable to see the common bonds of humanity and focus only on perceived “differences”.
The following is an examination of otherism as it was recently applied to me in reaction to a video of my electric skateboard invention. While this example is particular to me as person with a disability, the pattern of otherism exhibited can be readily seen in incidents of racist, sexist, and other hateful commentary.
In my case, having a disability was the catalyst for the otherism. When people engage in otherism on the internet, their goal is to express their lack of respect in the form of scornful and contemptuous commentary. They see the target person as less than themselves. They want to show their disdain both for the person and the group that he or she represents to them.
What does Otherism look like and who does it?
The video negative comments can be grouped together by type. Many times, the Otherist wants a “reason” to use as the basis for his negative commentary. In his mind, the Otherist is not being negative (he does not think of himself as an Otherist), he is just “telling it like it is”. The groupings I created apply not only to my video commentary, but also to many other victims and incidents of othering.
Pseudo-Logic Based Othering – The Otherists perceive their comments as logical responses to perceived factual errors. They want to set the record straight. In my case, a number of Otherists felt that the captioned description of my activity as “active” was mistaken (offensive even). Some of the Otherists felt that there was no need for me to wear kneepads since I already use a wheelchair for mobility, so effectively, “What does it matter if I injure my knees?”
- Marcelino Sanchez says they created a motorised wheelchair skateboard to keep active, stays sitting down for the rest of his life
- Josh Heslop the irony of being active is amazing
Frank L Lmfao this is like calling hoverboards a way of staying active
Charles Steel He is not being active he is just sat down. He not even pushing
- Pete Gibbons Active my bollocks.
Marc Stoops Keep active. He’s sat on his arse. He’s basically playing a game.
- Ricky Shaw What do you mean more active? He’s only moving his finger???
- Brent Perry but why the knee pads? His legs already don’t work
- Jamie Lemoignan Milligan really knee pads out of all things knee pads ?
You Don’t Belong Here Based Othering – These Otherists feel that since I have a disability, I don’t belong on a skateboard or in a skateboard park. The message is clear “Your kind is not wanted around here”.
- Ry An Nathan All well and good, but if you’re going to ride like that, get out of the bottom of the park. You’re in the way!
- Teodor Ciprian Now let’s see you get off the thing, pack it and go home.
Know Your Place Based Othering – These Otherists feel that I should only use a wheelchair because that is the “acceptable” activity for a person with a disability. The message is “Don’t be uppity and try to be like us. You are not our equal”.
- Jimmy Anthony Lillis I fail to see why he feels the need to use a skateboard when he has a wheel chair. Just use the chair to go down the ramps.
- Damien Davoodi Wtf you need another pair of wheels???? You already in a wheelchair use that as a skateboard
- Mohd Nor Already in a wheelchair and you want yo break more bones? Next time u be a vegetable on bed. Oh wait. Then you make the same board just bigger for the bed to roll on wheels.
- Jaime Romero Yeah especially if the want to brake something else, like maybe an arm or their head or something. Smh
- Antti Alasimonen hahahaah maybe he want to be paralyzed from neck down next!
Dismissive Based Othering – These Otherists disregard what I can do and want to point out something they think I can’t do. The message is “You will never be like us, so don’t even bother”.
- Rusty Nash Hey bro do a kickflip!!!!
- Pete Usher bet he cant do a kick flip
- Scott Mcgough lmao, but you right tho, he SHUD be doin kikflips from handstands, and pina coladas n stuff.
- Sam Hales Yeah great idea til you roll off in the direction of heavy traffic and realise you can’t get off .
- Jhudge Pope Skateboarding looks alot less extreme with out the fear of paralysis
Bandwagon Based Othering – This type of Otherist doesn’t start out as one. But he follows the actions of the crowd and wants to join in the fun. When a mob torments it’s victim, many of the tormenters are these people.
- Nick Chao met this dude at lex before. I asked me to film him on the miniramp and he ate shit.
Outright Othering – There is no subtleness here. It is straight up name calling, scorn, and contempt.
- Luke Birchall Looks utterly ridiculous
- Brian Blakemore How stupid
- Luke Heasman What a pussy
- Shahzaib Ramzan Like the wheelchair wasn’t bad enough
- Patrick Mclachlan so that’s the reason for the disabled ramp
- Callum Micheluzzi what a crippy idea
- Fletch Hutchison what a fucking dick head, looks like the biggest bell end. Just neck yourself you cripple fuck.
Why do Otherists behave like this?
It is important to recognize that Otherists come in many shapes and sizes. Their exact motivations vary. But what certainly can be said about them is that they derive satisfaction from making derogatory comments about someone else. Expressing scorn for their target makes them feel better about themselves. They think their expression of contempt is seen as evidence of their superiority, whereas expressing admiration would be seen as confirming their inferiority.
Most Otherists want to be part of a group. They can’t make it on their own. Therefore, they feel a sense of power by rejecting “others” from their Group.
In my opinion, internet Otherists are weak-minded and chronically dissatisfied individuals who are lacking in self-respect. And most likely, they not well respected on their own merits in their social circles. As a result of their low self-esteem, they feel the need to tear down others to compensate for their own weaknesses and shortcomings.
Outsized Negative Influence
It is important to recognize that while the Otherists make up a significant percentage of the video commentary, they represent a tiny percentage of the people who engaged with the video. While internet Otherists are the low end of humanity and seem to be everywhere, there are actually not that many of them in terms of percentage. The problem is that by their very nature they tend to make lots of visible negative commentary, whereas the majority of people do not comment at all. They stand out by design and therefore, they have an outsized negative influence that effects all those that encounter them.
For example, this video as over 2.5 million views, 3K shares, 16K likes and maybe one or two hundred negative comments. But these negative comments are prominent for everyone to see. They tend to attract more negative comments and dissuade positive ones. Most people don’t want to engage with the Otherists, so the Otherists end up ruling the roost and intimidating the majority of people into staying silent.
What can be done about it?
The method to deal with the othering is for social media moderators, news outlets, page owners and the like to remove the commentary and the Otherists’ ability to make comments. You can’t argue sense into them. But you can expose them for what they are, delete them or block them. Without the ability to comment, internet Otherists are as powerless and pitiful on the internet as they are in person.