A very good discussion indeed. I talk allot about bullying here. Verbal attacks is how common bullies start and then shift to the physical stuff. It really can be seen here in Aikiweb. There are some individual posters who are bullies and routinely seek out targets to harass. Often it starts with a debate then turns ugly. There is one bully I have in mind that is really smooth with his verbal attacks. If faced in person I am sure you would see how weak and insecure he is.
How do you combat that? Often these internet forum bullies are like the "popular" or have others intimidated they have free rein on the board. They will also get other bullies to gang up on a target. IF you complain your a winer, and seen as weak that intensifies the bullies verbal attacks. You often have to just stop posting. In my mind you have surrendered to the bully. Other tactics such as getting others to attack you or labeling you as someone not welcome, i.e. a troll, breaking rules etc. That is usually done by the bully(s) making complaints to moderator(s). That can be really effective if they are friends or well liked by the moderator(s). I think to combat these bullies is different then other situation. You have to be polite and ignore them. These bullies are looking for attention and power among their peers. Taking that away and not being someone they can verbally attack makes it difficult for them to feel like the Big Man on Campus.
Yes, bullies only can be verbal and start with verbal attacks that can be very harmful. It is really true in the schools with kids. The school bully now can use the internet to intimidate the target. No longer does the bully have to physically locate the target, and the target no longer is able to dodge the bully. The bully can start a remote verbal attack and then can lead to very dangerous physical attacks. The internet works in the favor of the bully, making it easier to intimidate with verbal attacks.
With the internet so much part of our lives bullies have found and easier another way to bully and I think it is has been very effective for them. It has not worked in the favor of the target in very much for kids. Adult targets dealing with bullies have more options and they may not ever have to face their bully. Sadly, it is still a huge problem for kids.
For me and the person who feels I am a target to a bully, when he starts with verbal attacks, I ignore it.