The Other Bad Guy, a More Sinister Threat

Paul Markel © 2012

criminal shooting target
The Other Bad Guy, a More Sinister Threat

LUVERNE, AL –-( When we were little kids we were taught to identify the villain in our favorite cartoon or TV shows.

All the bad guys wore black masks, were unshaven, and often wore black knit caps.

Consider the bad guys that Ralphie shoots with his BB gun in “A Christmas Story.” As we matured and were educated by Hollywood action-hero and thriller movies, we knew the villain was on screen because of the ominous, menacing music that began to play when they appeared.

Unfortunately, most good citizens carry over the Hollywood or television versions of what they perceive to be a threat or a bad guy.  Numerous target makers sell “bad guy” paper targets with realistic pictures of a masked robber or terrorist.  For decades we’ve ingrained these images into our subconscious.  We train ourselves to look for that menacing character skulking around in the shadows with a ski mask and switchblade knife.

Unless you live in a particularly terrible neighborhood or are a police officer by trade, you don’t likely encounter villains and vermin on a daily basis.  Any veteran law enforcement officer will tell you that most of the bad guys they arrest don’t look at all like the typical Hollywood stereotype.

My Gunfight
It’s normal for first time gun carriers to imagine what we’ll call “my gunfight”. They imagine the late-night stop at the convenience store or gas station and spotting a masked robber holding the customers at gunpoint. They visualize the knife-wielding robber approaching them at an ATM.

Here is what they don’t imagine or visualize; shopping at their favorite grocery store at 11:30 a.m. and a crazed ex-husband walking in the front door with a shotgun looking for his former wife then taking hostages.  They don’t expect to be sitting in a booth at a popular waffle restaurant at 4 p.m. and a mentally unstable man walking in and indiscriminately opening fire. Both instances took place recently.  Reasonable people certainly don’t consider sitting in a church pew Sunday morning when a lunatic enters the building with a gun to terrorize the parishioners.

Less than six months ago a good friend of mine, a professional firearms trainer and part-time deputy sheriff was accosted in his business in the middle of the day by a man who perceived that he had wronged him.  The antagonist was not a drug-addicted meth-head or a robber wearing a ski mask.  He could more aptly be described as a “good ole boy” wearing jeans and a flannel shirt driving a pick-up truck.

This same trainer, who looks more like an MMA fighter, than a cop, was traveling with his wife when a local cab driver tried to press a strong-arm robbery. The driver demanded twice the agreed-on cab fare with an implied threat of violence.  During both instances, my comrade had to produce a firearm to stop the threat.  No shots were fired, but it convinced me that I needed to write this piece.  If my friend, who definitely does not look the part of a good victim, could be accosted, twice, what chance do the rest of us have to go about unmolested?

Unperceived Bad Guys
Most of us like to think we can see trouble coming, we know what the bad guy is supposed to look like.  The ugly truth is that many threats materialize from under our radar because the person(s) intent on harming us don’t look like our perceived image of a villain.  In the real world, there is no menacing music to tell us the villain has entered the scene.

As a former cop, I cannot recall the number of times I saw convicted criminals, those I’d dealt with personally, while out in town.  I’d see them in the local grocery store or gas station.  They don’t wear neon signs that say “Danger: Violent Felon”.  Every time you enter the big box store whose headquarters is in Arkansas the chances of brushing elbows with a felon is high.  But it’s not just the career criminals you need to be aware of.

Bad Guy
The Other Bad Guy, a More Sinister Threat

The Social Bully
There are certainly a number of societal issues to credit for the rise of what I’ll call the “social bully”.  This nation is more litigious than ever before and it’s getting worse.  Good citizens live in fear of being sued for acting even in the interest of self-preservation.  The modern enlightened generation has attempted to breed out the boy in boys and the man in men.

Say what you will but, when I went to elementary school fistfights were numerous while shootings were unheard of.  Kids who got into fistfights generally worked out their frustrations and moved on.  Both actors would end up bruised and sore but ninety-nine times out of one-hundred that was the end of it.  They both realized that fistfights hurt and learned their lesson.

What we have today is “zero-tolerance” nonsense that punishes the victim equally with the aggressor.  Fistfights are treated like felonies.  The genuinely good and righteous kids understand that fighting back will end with their expulsion with no appeal.  The good kids are afraid to fight back against the bad kids.  The bullies are now emboldened and victims even timider.

This situation doesn’t end in junior high or high school.  The social bully, being even more emboldened, proceeds through life pushing people around caring nothing for others.  And why should they care?  The good citizens, those with families and careers, have been taught by example that they are ones with everything to lose.  Hell, so-called safety experts offer advice to just “give them what they want” and “don’t fight back”.

I saw a ridiculous poster printed by the local police department the other day hanging in a sandwich shop.  The poster listed “Crime Prevention Tips”.

One of the tips was “if caught in a robbery just give them what they want, don’t take the chance of getting hurt”.   What an awesome way to enable criminals!

In the first example I gave regarding my friend the firearms trainer, the good ole boy was the quintessential social bully.  Everyone that knew him would relate that he was hot-tempered and quick to violence.  His solution to most issues was to punch the object of his wrath in the face.  Why isn’t he in jail?  Because that’s not how our current system works.  Short of outright murder or narcotic trafficking the social bully will never spend real time in jail.

Why fear the Social Bully?
The social bully might not be known to you, but he’s the guy who thinks you cut him off in traffic or took his parking spot.  He’s the one who attacks you for seemingly no reason because in his mind you affronted him.

The first justifiable shooting by a Texas resident holding a concealed carry license took place after two pick-up trucks bumped side-view mirrors in heavy traffic.  Driver #1 jumped out of his truck and ran over to the other.  He reached into the open driver’s window and began pummeling driver #2’s face with his fists.  Belted in behind the wheel and unable to move his vehicle driver #2 produced a pistol and shot #1.  The post-mortem investigation found that the deceased had numerous, previous assault charges, was quick-tempered and violent.  He was a life-long social bully.

Social bullies aren’t just men. Two weeks ago an acquaintance of mine pulled into a quick-stop parking lot.  When the man emerged a couple minutes later a woman tried to run him down with her car.  She was angry because he “took her spot”.

Parting Thoughts
The social bully is dangerous because he or she looks just like your neighbor across the street.  They don’t wear ski masks and hide near the ATM.  The social bully is in the restaurant, the movie theater, and the grocery store.  Because the social bully doesn’t fit the pre-existing villain stereotype he/she often is able to attack before the good citizen realizes what is happening.

Possessing no fear of the civilized man, the social bully moves through life largely unchecked.  The enlightened members of our society will offer myriad excuses for the bullies’ behavior and innumerable billboard attorneys will get them off if ever pressed into a courtroom situation.

Being emboldened by an enabling society and fearful victims, the social bully attack can be more than a simple sock on the nose.  Having lived their lives unrestrained the bully’s assault can become a vicious, crippling beating, stabbing, and even a shooting.  Take a long hard look in the mirror.  How many vicious punches to the face could you withstand before losing the ability to defend yourself?

Your choice as the good citizen is either to increase your vigilance and rethink your image of what a bad guy really looks like or simply shrug your shoulders and wait to be a victim.  In the end the choice is always yours to make.

Paul Markel © 2012

About Paul Markel

Paul G. Markel became a US Marine in 1987 and served this nation in time of peace and war.  Mr. Markel has been a professional bodyguard, police officer and Small Arms and Tactics Instructor.  His lifelong training and skills are being put to use today as an instructor at the recently launched “Emergency Tactical Skills” program.  The ETS program is an intensive, comprehensive training program designed to give the end user the skills they need to be victorious and survive the most hostile of situations.  For more info go to:

Paul Markel

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9 years ago

Good read, and wholly accurate. I was fortunate to follow a criminal trial recently that involved one such social bully. The case arose from a late-night card game between a large group of local businessmen and friendly acquaintances. The perp was in the hole by the end of the night, while another player had come in late and racked up the winnings. Evidently the perp felt slighted when the big winner bluffed him by going all in earlier in the night, so he waited for him outside after the game ended. As the winner was walking to his car, the… Read more »