Tall Poppy Syndrome: The act of cutting people down

Benjamin Franklin Fairless, the president of the United States Steel Corporation once said:

“You cannot strengthen one by weakening another; and you can’t increase the height of a dwarf by cutting off the giant’s legs.”


I have finally figured it out! I have finally discovered the proper term used to describe people who attack others because of their success. They are people so filled with envy and disdain at the success of others, that they attack and slander them. Back when I was still involved in the music business, the common term used to describe such people was, “Player Haters”. Of course, that term is still used today in the world of Rap/Hip-hop because such people still exist. They are everywhere! And from all walks of life! The term used to describe people who suffer from this form of mental and social illness in the world of psychology is, “Tall Poppy Syndrome”. It is a term derived from a story told by Herodotus and collected by Aristotle.


The story is about a ruler of one city, Periander, ruler of Corinth, who sent a messenger to the ruler of another city, Thrasybulus, ruler of Miletus, to seek his advice about how to better govern his people. Without saying a word, Thrasybulus led Periander’s messenger out into a wheat field, and as they walked along, he began to cut down the tallest wheat ears, thereby destroying the best of his crop. When the messenger returned to convey what had happened, Periander was at first shocked. The messenger described Thrasybulus as a madman who had no problem destroying his own possessions. But after reflecting on the peculiar interaction between the ruler and the envoy, the message Periander derived from it was that in order to maintain his rule, he needed to destroy anyone with extraordinary charisma, influence, or abilities to prevent them from rising above him.


I have never thought of myself as being better than anyone else. I have had, and in some ways still have, my own personal insecurities. Insecurities aren’t necessarily a bad thing in my opinion because they help a person to maintain a proper balance between arrogance and confidence. Insecurities humble people, thereby removing the tendency to be arrogant. On a personal level, I have always been strong-minded and determined to accomplish whatever I have set out to achieve. I have overcome insecurities with a healthy balance of confidence. The scales must be balanced. The objective is to not become so confident that you display arrogance. Unfortunately, despite the effort put forth to avoid being arrogant, sometimes other people will accuse a confident, determined, or successful person of being just that. However, those accusations may very well stem from the accusers own insecurities, or feelings of disappointment for failing to achieve a particular goal or status in their lives. In response, those people often lash out and seek to undermine the achievements of others out of frustration, envy, and spite.


I have certainly been the target of such attacks, and in recent years, those attacks seem to have increased as my notoriety on social media has grown. Ever since the first edition of my book, Consider Islam: Disproving the Patriots of Propaganda, was published in April of 2019, whispering devils have launched attacks from all sides. Although both the first and second edition (December 2021) debuted as the #1 New Release in the genre of Comparative Religion / Religious Studies, on Amazon, I have certainly not become rich from the sales, and I have not carried myself as if I am some New York times Best Selling Author. But the devils keep coming and their attacks are intensifying.


Along with the book being published, in 2017 I started a YouTube channel under my name after my older son Ben, who passed away in 2019 as a result of an automobile accident, encouraged me to do so. He said that I was always talking to people very passionately about Islam and that people seem to like to listen. At first, I was reluctant, but after considering what he said and factoring in the importance and many blessings that come from engaging in Dawah (Inviting people to Islam), which is an obligation upon every Muslim, I realized he was right. I then started making short videos about various topics, along with videos about the subjects of the Khutbah’s that I would give while the Imam/Khatib for the Brazosport Islamic Society. In 2019, the name of my channel changed to, Kenny Bomer LIVE on Consider This TV (now Consider Islam LIVE with Kenny Bomer), as recommended by a marketing company that I worked with for a short time before my book was published. At that point I started acquiring a larger audience and had regulars joining me on my panel during live streams. I also started recognizing many familiar names in the chat during the shows. I didn’t know any of my panelists or viewers prior to that period because I had undoubtedly been a one-man show. But for whatever reason, people started tuning in and some became regular panelists during my streams. In early 2020, in the wake of the Covid 19 Pandemic while most of the world was quarantined in their homes, we started doing live streams on a daily basis. Some of the streams were anywhere from one hour, to eight hours long. Slowly but surely, I started noticing and hearing things from and about my panelists that caused me a great deal of discomfort. I won’t go into all of the details here, but I will say, when you sit amongst backbiters, prepare yourself to be backbitten.


After an unfortunate but totally expected fallout with that early group, one that I in no way instigated, I was back to being a one-man show. Late in 2020, I founded the Consider This TV Network, a multi-channel Dawah organization. With that came a slow but steady progression of new panelists comprised of hosts of other YouTube channels. Although the transition was good for the most part, there have been numerous hiccups along the way and the whisperings of the Shayateen (Devils) has been constant. But as I mention in the Introduction of my book, everything I have engaged in regarding Islam has been for the sole purpose of elevating my status on the Day of Judgment. I have not sought fame and I have not tried to cash in financially. People who know me on a personal level would certainly vouch for that. Through it all, my solace has been in knowing that following the path of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), and thereby the previous Prophets and Messengers (peace be upon them all), brings with it many tests and trials. Keeping focused on striving in the cause of Allah for the right reasons, while knowing blessings are piling up with every bit of effort exhausted, keeps me pushing forward in my own personal Jihad.


Despite my sincerely genuine efforts to share Islam with people to the best of my ability, and for the right reasons, I have been criticized by many non-Muslims, and that is to be expected. But what has broken my heart and is a true source of pain, are the attacks that have come from a small number of Muslims who fall into one of three categories:


1. Those who have a strong social media presence, or who have engaged and been recognized in online interfaith dialogue/debate for a number of years.

2. Those who are lesser known in the world of social media but have engaged in interfaith dialogue/debate for a number of years.

3. Those who aspire to be recognized in the world of social media’s interfaith dialogue/debate, because they want the notoriety that they see others receiving.


My target audience has primarily been non-Muslims, or anyone suffering through some type of hardship. In the process of my work in Dawah, I have found myself at the center of a number of characters of whom I have loved for the sake of Allah as brothers and sisters in faith that may or may not have felt the same love for me. Over time I started receiving feedback about certain individuals who apparently didn’t feel for me, the way I felt towards them. One brother, whom I would refer to as the “ringleader” amongst an early group of Brothers who became regular or semi-regular panelists on my show, certainly had sway over the others in influence. Although knowledgeable, there was something about his “playful” bantering that was drowning in condescension and sarcasm. He carried himself with an obtuse and patronizingly superior attitude, as if he considered himself generally smarter than everyone else.


The more private the conversation, the more those attributes were manifested. So much so that I began to realize he has had the public bamboozled into thinking he is a person, private conversations prove he is not. And even though he was joining my live streams and calling me Brother pretending to support the work I was doing, I received word that he had been backbiting me for months, and even overheard it happen myself on one occasion while backstage for a live stream. At one point he even accused me of being arrogant because I used my name in the title of my show, but he never made the same accusation about two other well-known Brothers in the world of social media who also used their names on their channels. I am referring to Brother Hamzah (Hamzah’s Den) and Brother Farid (Farid Responds) who both use their names in the titles of their shows. I mean nothing against those Brothers in telling this story, I am just trying to make a point.


I could sense betrayal was happening even before it was brought to my attention. I remember telling my son that there was something about the Brother I am referring to that made me feel uneasy. He would act like he supported me, but it didn’t seem sincere. Maybe in some way he actually did want to see me have success, but not at the expense of his own. Or so it seems. I felt very hurt and disheartened by that. Then I found out he was backbiting me, but he certainly wasn’t doing it alone. He had an audience, and such audiences usually chime in on such discussions. . . . and chime in they did. Although I knew it was happening for months before I addressed it, I tried to be patient and to be a positive influence on those Brothers before finally bringing it to their attention.


In 2021, one so-called Muslim Brother and former affiliate of the CTTV Network started threatening to “Destroy Kenny Bomer” after I along with other affiliates removed him from the network after he refused to issue a sincere apology about some racist comments he made about Muslim people of Turkey. Yes, he gave an apology, but a very insincere one that no one took seriously. But in order to give that individual the benefit of the doubt, I said during a live stream that I believed his apology was sincere even though in the back of my mind I found his “apology” questionable to say the least. But I did not want to question his intention or heart, because as Muslims we are supposed to expect the best from people and not think of them suspiciously. But after discussing his “apology” with network affiliates and receiving feedback from our viewers, the consensus was that literally no one believed his apology was sincere. In fact, he created a video afterwards justifying the offensive comments he initially made about our Turkish Muslim Brothers and Sisters. In response, my plan was to encourage him to issue a more heartfelt apology if in fact he was being sincere during the first one. At which point he became extremely angry, and a brief argument ensued.


During that private discussion/argument, he made a snide remark about me scamming people through “Go Fund Me”. Of course, I was shocked to hear him accuse me of something a group of known Christian Islamophobes had already accused me of weeks before. I was admittedly angry about it, and I certainly responded by saying a few things that I regret. Just a couple of weeks before that incident, he asked me to perform his Nikah service (Wedding Ceremony). But days after the argument, he posted a video on YouTube accusing me of creating a story about a fire burning down the home of my Ex-Wife and son in January 2021, in order to scam people out of money through a Go Fund Me campaign. He created numerous videos about it afterwards and joined ranks with the same Christian Islamophobes previously mentioned in order to slander me time and time again through a series of ridiculous videos and live streams.


Even after organizing a Shurah Council comprised of a group of respected Muslim Brothers and Sisters who unanimously voted against him based on evidence that was presented that proved he was lying and slandering me, he has continued to slander and accuse me of scamming people and much more to this very day. In March 2022 he began a new attack against me by contacting numerous people on my Facebook friends list, telling them via direct messenger that I am a liar and a fraud and attaching links to various videos that he himself created in his effort to “Destroy Kenny Bomer and his CTTV Network”.


Some people feel threated by the accomplishments of others. They see the success of others as an attack against their own opportunities or achievements. Those individuals are defined as, “Narcissists” in psychology. The term “narcissism” comes from the Greek myth of, Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection. Narcissists want attention. When they see attention being directed towards others it is a blow to their egos. They see the success of others as somehow hindering their own opportunities. They want the spotlight so much that they are willing to defame others by attempting to tear them down and discredit them. They do so through slander, criticism, questioning motives, and many other forms of ridicule in order to undermine the people they attack. The aim is to cut them down and belittle their achievements. Psychologists refer to these tactics as “pruning behaviors”.


Studies indicate people who become the targets of “pruning behaviors” of those suffering from the effects of “Tall Poppy Syndrome”, often develop their own mental imbalances in the form of depression and anxiety. Targeted people tend to isolate themselves for fear of criticism and rejection. They become reluctant to share their achievements because they want to avoid the criticisms that often come with doing so. They suffer from low self-esteem, start to be less productive, and become apprehensive about expressing themselves. Unfortunately, and as much as I hate to admit it, I have experienced all of those feelings and emotions. The only way for me to get past those feelings was to remember and focus on what has led me down this road in the first place. I had to set the words of man to the side and refocus. Because just as when I started doing online Dawah, my focus is Allah, and my objective has always been to please Him. It is that reminder to myself that has helped me to overcome what people have said or might say. Allah knows my heart and intentions and that is what matters most. The opinions of the envious pruners of progress and player haters of the world mean nothing in the long run. All that matters are the positive intentions in one’s heart and mind to please Allah and to defend this beautiful gift of Islam that we have been given.


Abu Hurairah (MAPH) reported that Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said:


“He who calls others to follow the Right Guidance will have a reward of those who follow him, without their reward being diminished in any respect on that account.” (Sahih Muslim)


There is enough room in this world for everyone. We have all been given gifts and talents. The objective is to use what Allah has given us as a means to worship Him by helping and encouraging others. That is why I have established the Consider This TV Water Well Project in an effort to build wells for people of the world who do not have access to clean drinking water. Sure, I could just donate myself, but by encouraging others to donate everyone benefits. I benefit from encouraging people to help others. Furthermore, we can accomplish so much more if we work together. After my Ex-Wife and son lost everything during the fire in January 2021, I immediately started to help them. Part of my helping them was to encourage others to help them. Is there something wrong with that? Of course not. How can encouraging others to do good be a bad thing? It can’t be.


I do not do what I do for self-glory or financial gain. I do what I do for the sake of my standing before Allah on the Day of judgment. Seeking self-glory and recognition should be avoided. We need a clear goal, and what better goal is there in life than to please our Maker? Therefore, we should sharpen our skills and talents and use them in a productive manner. We should home in on our strengths, while recognizing and admitting our limitations. We should be confident while avoiding arrogance, be proud but modest, and be humble but not humiliated. We should maintain a willingness to encourage and help others. By doing so we help ourselves.


Allah speaks about racing towards good deeds in many verses of the Qur’an. The race is not meant to leave people behind, but to encourage them to press harder and to not waste time in doing so. What happens when competitors in a race see someone pulling into the lead? They strive harder, which in turn makes the person in the lead strive harder to maintain the lead. Leading is not a bad thing if it is done with the right intentions. But if you are leading in arrogance or in an effort to humiliate others, you have lost the race and may never reach the intended destination. The intended destination is the key to it all. As a Muslim, I know the pathway to success lies on the Straight Path that Allah has established and by following the example of the best of mankind, Prophet Muhammad (SAW), who has set the pace for us to strive for. That constant effort requires endurance and the ability to overcome obstacles along the way. That includes overcoming the efforts of those who are trying to chop you down one word or action at a time.


In closing, when a good intention comes to mind, act on it immediately because something in the future might prevent the intention from being accomplished. I pray that Allah accepts my effort and intention to encourage others to look past the wicked intentions of those affected by the “Tall Poppy Syndrome”. And I pray that Allah allows you to grow and reach your potential, and that what I have said aids you in some way for the sake of Allah. Ameen


“It is they (True Believers) who race to every good work and these who are foremost in them.”

Qur'an: Sural Al-Mu’minun 23:61


NOTE:

Allah speaks about racing towards good deeds in many other verses of the Qur’an.

He says: And hasten to forgiveness from your Lord and a garden as wide as the heavens and earth, prepared for the righteous (Q 3:133); and the forerunners, the forerunners – Those are the ones brought near [to Allah] (Q 56:10-11).




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