When I was a student getting earning a four year degree at a state university here in the US, I went through harassment based mainly on racial prejudice.  It was an opportunity for me to see how current structured harassment can take place and develop within a group; though at the time I did not realize this.  There were many aspects and specific facets to the harassment, and though I didn’t realize it at the time, what it provided was a way to see these things and discuss how they happened.  This way any others going through such experiences would have something describing what they may be going through in a way which could be helpful.

The type of harassment I experienced began with just a few individuals, and at first I would not describe it as group harassment.  It was individuals who had learned of a violent student protest I was involved in back in 1990.  The protest was regarding the system of apartheid in South Africa and a local college’s links to it through financial investments.  The goal was to get the college to divest.

When I finally went back to get my degree at a different school it was 2002, and when I experienced the harassment it was from 2003 - 2006.  So we are talking post-9/11, and I understood if the past came up, given my ethnicity (of Indian descent) there may very well be flack.  I had been through it previous to 9/11 and was used to it and afterwards in some ways that intensified.  So be it I had learned to let it roll off my back and keep it moving.


Somehow this was different.  Somehow this time the experience exposed itself as something else.  I had been targeted first by a professor who wanted me gone.  He tried on his own with one or two others turning up the heat on me (the person targeted for harassment) a bit.  As those attempts failed to accomplish either the person he had targeted leaving, flunking out or getting thrown out, he tried organizing by first spreading half truths and falsehoods to basically paint the person he targeted, in this case me, as a Muslim terrorist.  In truth the person he had targeted was a Buddhist, not that he cared.  That should make no difference of course, as the majority of Muslims are law abiding good Americans and immigrants.

Nonetheless, the harassment spread, becoming increasingly complex and orchestrated as time progressed.  It was a small degree program with almost all classes taking place in the basement of one remote building.  Thus, it was very easy to keep the harassment localized; keeping an open secret removed from sight to put it another way.  Ultimately the goal became to get me to quit, flunk or get kicked out as a result of the pressure from the harassment.  It was of course an intense major to begin with.

Though the harassment came from various sectors of the populace there were those designated as the leaders.  Those students pretty much blindly followed orders.  With those in charge saying, “that one’s a bad guy we need to get rid of him” they brainlessly followed sans care.  In fact, most seemed to enjoy the behavior, and reveled in the act.  It seemed to make them feel more powerful, as if powerless previously.

There were also those like, Eduardo Colon confessing to me in my junior year he was law enforcement, and had been on campus for around eight years.  This was simultaneously a little surprising and not.  It wasn’t because he had often participated in the harassment, and often tried to befriend me, and then, on a parallel tract, flip the script and enabling, facilitating or tacitly participating with regards to helping achieve the desired end of the scheme du jour.  Bits of our conversations got back to people in the class and the professors, and as I had told no one, that left only Eduardo as the source. 

It was slightly surprising initially, as he was also someone later on going out of their way to be the loudest, lewdest and most crass boasting openly about all the crazy, immoral an/ or illegal things he liked to do (college stuff).  I suppose this earned him cool points, and simultaneously served as a distraction from his late twenties to mid thirties appearance.  Hopefully those unwitting college students around him, participating in his bs didn’t get their names and dates written down for the permanent record.  Regardless, at first, he seemed the one person, at first willing to befriend me, acting like he needed someone’s, anyone’s, help just like I did.

The truth came when I told him I was tired of the harassment, which he admitted he had seen (perhaps to gauge where I was with the whole thing).  He decided to admit this and then reveal the truth of another person also in law enforcement serving undercover.  He said if a lawsuit was brought it could blow their covers, and reveal all their work.  Racially, he was a minority and so was she, so perhaps he felt an amount of pity would be elicited towards them averting some hard earned blowback. 

Was I really supposed to be sympathetic?  Here was this guy this guy admitting he had been pretending to be a friend, confirming he had been in on the harassment, confirming he had been leaking private conversations and most of all the Federal Government was complicit here and that they were both working for them.  Both had most likely done this to others for years.  Sympathy was the last thing roiling up.

In spite of it all, somehow graduating was accomplished after finding a way to graduate the program.  The next step became writing people and dropping the switch that turned on the beam rendering what was once hidden exposed and brought into the light.  I knew if it happened once there would be more.  If nothing else there was the possibility of providing what I never had.  There was the opportunity to be a voice describing similar experiences, perhaps providing an aid to help people selected for harassment anticipate moves.

There were definite methods, tactics and strategies each time a new scheme was set into motion with the desired result of eliciting a response from the target person to either quit, flunk our or get kicked out due as a result of pressure.  Most schemes employed different takes on the same few methods, side methods etc. 

One the thing which seemed to make it difficult for harassers was the fact some people genuinely liked the person they were targeting; thus it was learned at times, some degree of popularity or likeability, could at times work to ones advantage provided there was sufficient level of perspective allowing for detachment once the pendulum swung in the opposite direction.  

I was older, and as such not around as much and not able to be immersed in the college life as deeply as the majority of students younger than myself.  And there was the live-in girlfriend an hour away from school, where life was, and other than school priorities were.   This helped.

Regardless of the ‘can’t help but slow down and watch slander,’ some people saw through it and liked me, and also there was a good amount of people who I believed genuinely felt compassion, as time went on the more it became obvious, something wasn’t right.  The more they got to know me the more it became obvious there were huge holes in the story being fed them by the professors, Eduardo, Vivian Lee and others compared with who it was becoming obvious really was among them. 

The more time went on the more they had to try different lies and methods of slander to get people to distrust and dislike the person they had unfortunately targeted for harassment.  After a while when the labored scams failed obvious contradictions arose, as many of the stories became just a “let’s throw a whole lot of things at the wall and see what sticks” approach.  Sloppy.

Hence, the afore mentioned method, or side method, employed.  It is the title of the article- the “cooler” method.  This was a side method running in parallel and in conjunction with the main strategies and tactics employed to extricate the target of their harassment from the group they wanted him gone from.  I found this method would be run wherein the popularity of the person targeted makes it too difficult when trying to gain the required support to carry out an instance of discrimination based group harassment.  In other words, the ‘cooler’ method is used when the person targeted for extrication has earned too much popular support for the harassers to gain cooperation from the surrounding community.  A false sheen of distaste has to be painted on the harassed, otherwise…

To do this certain people good at manipulation, will be used to cool people on the idea of the person they are attempting to get rid of.  For the scheme to succeed various and progressively growing methods of verbal slander and discrediting, behind the targeted person’s back will be the first step.  In other words, they will get other popular people to start saying say, “that person isn’t so cool,” “they aren’t so special,” “they’re weird,” “they’re incompetent” etc. 

When those things fail they will become more blunt and crude and use things like sexual innuendo or whatever they feel may or may not work.  Although it never happened to me, I’ve even seen an openly gay person, in the class, often railing about gay issues, turn around and attempt to paint someone who was not gay as being gay as though it were a negative thing, because it was believed that could drive a wedge between the person and the group.  I was labeled a Muslim terrorist training with Al-Quaeda, when the truth was I was a Buddhist who sometimes didn’t even look at Buddhism as a religion as much as a life philosophy.  They didn’t need proof, just popularity and a way to parlay that into some believability within the group. 

They may even do it subtly when the person is around.  For example they may bring up discussions held behind the persons back where they pointed out certain behaviors for the purpose of getting the people around them to believe those behaviors meant this or that bad thing.  Kind of a ‘see what I mean’ scenario.  You know, they claim to have read it somewhere, or learned about it in a class etc.  This way when the person targeted for harassment is just acting like themselves these ‘coolers’ are working to cool the rest of the group on the idea of liking and/ or caring for that person.  Thus, false attributes are projected onto the targeted individual.

Effective ‘coolers,’ unfortunately, don’t really care about anything but their own desires and goals.  It’s I want this and will do anything it takes to get what I want.  They will say/ do anything to get what’s desired without care for another person being psychologically harassed, etc.  Fact is they may even enjoy it.  Rappers often describe such people in songs as those willing to work with or for the government, selling out their grandmothers in the process if necessary, because they love doing it.  They are people enraptured by the act of burning others and turning on them.

Unfortunately, what I learned is the sorts of folks born to go undercover and spy can often be less than altruistic.  In some cases they can be essentially sociopaths, incapable of understanding how normal folks feel.  What makes them perfect for the job, unlike other sociopaths, among other attributes, is their ability to feign compassion and emotions effectively.  They pretend well.

Sometimes people are involved out of desperation.  Perhaps they are flunking and are offered a way out, in a school scenario.  In a workplace or profession they may be offered second chances, a reprieve from impending termination or much needed promotion. 

The former are those unable to be reasoned with.  They don’t and can’t care.  For them it’s a job and one they love doing.  For the latter, I empathize and feel sorry.  One can’t help, but to forgive those like that who did what they did to me.  There is also forgiveness for the people who are like the former, though I don’t forget. 

It must be difficult, among other things, living with the inability to form normal human emotions, and for the inability to understand that good acting and pretending to be normal doesn’t make you normal.  Whether sociopaths, mildly autistic or whatever other disorder they have causing them to be that way, yet function perfectly in every other way, it must be hard and simultaneously confusing.

Nonetheless, doing it to people who are innocent makes it a crime.  It is against the laws of the country and the school in question.  For those going through similar harassment, take solace in that.  In the end no matter how it gets spun you are right.  The harassers are wrong.  You have done nothing deserving of that.

If you are going through it or have, as you read these words try to find something here which will help.  Use it.  I graduated.  Remember what happened to me and apply it. 

See if it fits anywhere, and if it does take notes.  It may be coincidental, but also keep in mind that when it reoccurs it becomes a behavioral pattern and no longer simply coincidence.  If possible, use what I write to anticipate what’s next.  That’s the whole purpose of this.

For those watching who are not sure; do what you can to support the people targeted and that way build a natural network of support against it happening to yourself.  Be real, to whatever extent you can without becoming a complete victim yourself.  It separates you from those less than fully developed.  Remember, as long as it is happening to one member of a society everybody’s a potential victim so.  All those who function in a real manner.

To read about my inspiration for this article go to

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