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Something is very wrong with us, and it’s not bad reviews

 

It’s so much worse than that. Something is very wrong with us, and by “us” I mean the online community of (largely) women authors and readers. What is wrong is the “outing,” threatening, shaming, and silencing of readers who are perceived to be too critical of or hostile to authors. And for those in this online community who believe that this is not their concern or their harm, I would ask them to think again.

Several disturbing events targeting women have happened in the past few weeks. First is an app that allows you to beat the crap out of Anita Sarkeesian, a woman who makes videos about gaming. The app lets you beat this woman’s face until it is utterly wasted from violence, as part of the male gaming community’s ritual of threatening violence and rape against women who, in any way, best men in the gaming world. Then there is the story about a woman who left a comedy club after Daniel Tosh personally heckled her by suggesting she be gang raped when she vocally objected to one of his rape jokes. An incident featuring Eddie Griffin and a woman he is now referring to as a “dyke bitch” has just hit the news.

What all of these incidents have in common is the targeting of women for stepping out of the lines behind which we have historically been expected to stay – to refrain from criticism of men, to refrain from being outspoken, authoritative, aggressive, assertive, self-confident, brazen, in control, more competent than men, etc. And in each case, implicit or explicit threats are utilized as a means to scare women back behind those lines. Whether it’s being raped, beaten, or publicly exposed to ridicule, silencing, harassment, or shaming, each of these situations presents an invitation to violence, both to the women involved, and, by extension, to others who act out in ways that violate some behavioral code to which women are expected to adhere – polite, demure, uncritical, nurturing, etc.

Add to the mix the new website devoted to outing and threatening certain readers accused of being “bullies” on Goodreads.   [note: I am linking to author and blogger Foz Meadows’s post on the site, so as not to drive more traffic there. If you are also concerned about this, I suggest using only Google cached links]. Although there was a similar incident on Goodreads that has created a strong suspicion of the website’s owner, there is a public assertion of anonymity that makes the outing particularly and perversely disturbing, as are the claims of justice and accountability. How is what this website is doing to female readers a whole lot different than the incidents I recounted above? Short answer: it isn’t. It is part of a larger pattern of making women feel physically unsafe by exposing them to the threat and the possibility of actual violence, even if the person doing the threatening isn’t doing physical violence him/herself.

We have seen this kind of behavior before in the online Romance community. Remember when DeborahAnne MacGillivray went full-force against a reader?  Or Victoria Laurie’s aggression toward a reader and a blogger? Jane Litte has her own personal harasser, an author who used very similar tactics to somehow get Jane to be “nicer.” In the SF/F community, Will Shetterly found himself in hot water a few years ago when he outed a LiveJournal blogger with whom he had disagreed.  And let’s not forget the “Dixieland Mafia” incident involving a group of published authors who managed to hunt down the personal info of an aspiring author who had left a negative review of one of their books on Amazon.

Note that one main similarity among these examples is that it’s authors (public figures with books for commercial sale) going after readers (private figures who are responding to a commercial product), not the other way around (and while reader allies of authors might be involved in the GR site, I don’t think anyone believes a reader would be that invested in authors to take such a risk and spend so much time and energy on a site like that). And by “going after,” I don’t mean leaving a snotty comment about a book or about a comment an author left on Goodreads to a reader’s review or comment. What I mean by “going after” is pursuing the reader beyond the online exchanges, attempting to shut the reader up by threatening and or exposing their off-line life to danger and the possibility of violence or other unhinged aggression by crossing a hard, bright line away from snarky online exchange to real life stalking.

What could possibly be okay about that?

First, there is the accusation of bullying. When the GRB site put up banners of anti-bullying organizations, the organizations asked them to take the banners down. That is a decisive cut against GRB’s definition of bullying. As bloggers like Foz Meadows have pointed out

. . . bullying is not a synonym for argument, disagreement or pejorative reactions. Bullying is not a synonym for disliking someone, or for thinking their work is rubbish. Bullying is not even a synonym for saying so, publicly and repeatedly, in a place where that person can hear it – although that’s certainly unpleasant. Bullying is when someone with a greater position of power and/or possessed of greater strength repeatedly and purposefully attacks, harasses, belittles and/or otherwise undermines someone in a position of lesser power and/or possessed of lesser strength. In the vast majority of circumstances, bullying trickles down; it does not travel up, and in instances where the author in question is a super-successful megastar, to say they’re being bullied by reviewers is to ignore the fundamental power-dynamics of bullying. Even on the Goodreads system, where authors can see exactly what readers and reviewers think of them, expressing a negative opinion is not the same as bullying, because although the conversation is visible, it’s not directed at the author; they are under no obligation to respond, or even to read it at all. Feeling sad and overwhelmed because people don’t like your book and have said so publicly might constitute a bad day, but it’s not the same as being bullied.

Bullied individuals cannot just walk away from the bullying, because, for example, someone has posted their personal information online in tacit or explicit invitation for nasty pursuit. Bullying looks like this or this. It is not justice of any kind, let alone an eye for an eye, to do what is being done on the GR Bullies site. To make that association is to create a false equivalence.

And we should know better.

I say “we” here because I’ve seen a surprising number of comments online suggesting that what the GRB site is doing is fine and dandy, and that the readers being targeted deserve it, somehow. And we, as a community of women who can amass how many thousands of comments on the ethics of accepting ARCs and exchanging tweets with authors, or the real life effects of reading about forced sex, should know better than to stand for something that so obviously and intentionally targets and imperils the real life safety and security of other women. This is not the time to be sympathetic to people “getting sick of the high road,” or suggesting that “the two parties should fight amongst themselves and everyone else stay out of it.”  There is no reasonable justification for statements like “I, for one, am happy that there is a group of people who have called attention to the viciousness of a mob,” nor the passive posting of a link to the GRB site by someone in the guise of objective reporting (and could Jane’s recent email asking him not to post vast swaths of her blog content without permission or substantive comment of his own have influenced his GRB post?). The door to inviting, inciting, sanctioning, or providing a means for violence against women who have stepped out from behind the politeness veil has been kicked open, and it is changing the way we can talk about the reader – author relationship. When you really stop to think about what’s going on at the GRB site, even comments like this can feel potentially threatening and aggressive: “Read some of the blog posts there and then tell me those people don’t deserve to be outed.

We should be better than this.

While many, many authors and readers have spoken out against the bullying that is going on at the GRB site, we, as a community, should know better than to think that just because we may, as individuals, dislike others in the community, that talking smack about a book and/or an author’s public persona is in any way equivalent to hunting down someone’s public information, posting it online (or threatening to), and inviting any and all sorts of real life harassment of those individuals and their families, co-workers, dogs and cats, etc. Why would someone do that if not to make the targeted individual feel unsafe at every level? Would it be okay if readers started combing through the copyright records looking for authors’ real names, and then hunting down and posting as much private information as possible, gleefully using words like “justice” and “bullying” to rile up other readers against those outed authors? Because that is much more akin to bullying, and it’s equivalent to what GRB is doing to readers.

And it is already doing harm to the community as a whole, including authors who are not involved in the site. It is confusing the exchange of opinions and the writing of reviews with actual violence, making it even more difficult to have reasonable conversations about reviewing and the role of criticism more generally. It sowing seeds of suspicion toward authors about where they stand and how far they might go to silence critical readers. And beyond the obvious ramifications around readers feeling afraid to post honest opinions and reviews of books, it is generating hostility toward authors and readers who are offering equivocal opinions about how readers need to be slapped back or quasi-supportive comments about the goals of the GRB site (sometimes without having ever seen the site). And the last thing this collective online community needs is more unbridled hostility. Or more revenge outing.

As a community, we should not “stay out of it” or use our own personal dislikes as a justification for totally unjustifiable behavior. We don’t need to like the readers who are being targeted or agree with what they’re doing. We can think it’s crappy or out of line or undesirable. However, none of those thoughts could ever logically lead to an endorsement of literally targeting these readers for harassment. Can you imagine what a world created entirely from the logic that brands the GRB site as “justice” would look like? It would be incoherent and unlivable. It would obliterate the most basic social contract not to inflict intentional, undeserved harm on one another. It would be pure violent chaos.

And we can do better than that. We need to do better than that, not just to protect the integrity of the books and the book-talk, but to protect ourselves as women from even more vulnerability than we already face. Because, in the end, what this is really about is not reviews or criticism or Goodreads message boards, but threatening, punishing, and silencing women. And it’s not okay; it’s never okay.

isn't sure if she's an average Romance reader, or even an average reader, but a reader she is, enjoying everything from literary fiction to philosophy to history to poetry. Historical Romance was her first love within the genre, but she's fickle and easily seduced by the promise of a good read. She approaches every book with the same hope: that she will be filled from the inside out with something awesome that she didnʼt know, didnʼt think about, or didnʼt feel until that moment. And she's always looking for the next mind-blowing read, so feel free to share any suggestions!

834 Comments

  1. Kim in Hawaii
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 04:12:03

    Aloha, Robin. I applaud your post today, particularly your emphasis on community. I agree wholeheartedly with your last paragraph, “We need to do better than that.” You can count on my support to do so. Pupukahi i holomua. Unite to move forward.

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  2. Sunnygirl
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 04:42:49

    Yep, I’m with you.

    Now the difficult question: how do we attempt to stop this? What practical action can be taken against this GRB site, or other instances of this dissent = bullying idea?

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  3. NewLink: Something is very wrong with us, and it
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 04:50:08

  4. KT Grant
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 04:57:57

    It’s sickening isn’t it? Also all these so-called bullying Goodreads reviewers who have been “revealed” on this GRs bullying blog are so one sided, to suit the “movement” of this blog . Every time it starts, it’s because an author leaves a snide comment on a review saying the reviewer is wrong about their opinion, and then it snowballs and the reviewer defends themselves and the author comes back raging, because we all know an author is never wrong, especially when it comes to their book, their “baby” as they like to think their books to be. The author will use derogatory words like cow, bitch, douche aimed at the reviewer.

    Also I love how The whole Selection fiasco is used as an example of reviewer bullying. Hello! The author and agent went on twitter and called the Goodreads reviewer of the review a bitch first.

    The GRs bully blog is laughable. They don’t even have the balls to say who they really are, but yet have no problems outing reviewers’ personal information and making cruel remarks about their parenting skills and their handicaps. They also won’t allow any comments posted that disagree with them.

    Also, it’s pretty much a given we know who the ringleader is, a self published author who has gotten poor reviews in the past, has acted out horribly before and has the same MO as the GRs bully blog. She ended up posting very private information about a GRs reviewer to make them an example and embarrass them.

    I wonder what the powers that be at Goodreads feel about this because it’s putting a bad taste in both authors and reviewers’ mouths about the on-line site and how it is now known as a hostile place.

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  5. Sean Cummings
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 05:56:31

    Great blog posting. Eventually, maybe not today or tomorrow, but eventually this stuff is going to wind up in the courts. We’re just now starting to see lawsuits in Canada where bloggers themselves are being held liable not for the content of their postings, but rather, the comments from readers of the blog itself. There are civil actions being taken against owners of web forums too. We are in very strange territory here.

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  6. Nimue
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 06:09:05

    Great post. I must have slept the last few days as I didn’t hear anything about this new scandal. I’m pretty shocked people who pretend to stop supposed bullies by bullying them openly? That’s a very sad chapter and I’m glad you took a stand.

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  7. Violetta Vane
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 06:30:23

    Agreed. The misogyny of that site—external or internalized—is vicious and overwhelming.

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  8. Patricia Rice
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 06:46:24

    Bullying is not limited to authors against readers or males against females. That might be your perception but Seanan Maguire was personally attacked when her e-book didn’t come out fast enough to suit readers. This horrifying assumption of anonymous privilege has led to attacks on all levels of society. Until we understand how to return the concept of “respect” to our culture, we will continue to descend to the level of behavior of chimpanzees.

    If you can figure out how we do this, I’m behind you, 100%.

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  9. Christi
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 06:51:46

    Thank goodness for this blog post. I was participating in the comments on TPV and was tearing my hair out at some people’s defense of the indefensible. I’ve gotten a lot of harsh and scathing criticism in my day. A group got together once and formed a website for nothing but the purpose of mocking me. I’ve also had my RL personal information outed online.

    Whereas hearing mean things said about me did hurt my feelings, having my personal information given out made me fear for my personal safety. There’s an enormous gaping canyon of difference there, and the people who can’t see that, or write this off as “eye for an eye,” are so painfully ignorant it’s ridiculous.

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  10. AM Gray
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 06:53:09

    I honestly don’t know why people cannot tell the difference between critical comment and abuse. It is beyond bizarre the way they have handled this. And don’t forget the targeting of Felicia Day recently over her comments about the treatment of women in the gaming world, in your list of recent women ‘bashing’.
    Do these authors not even comprehend the effect of bad publicity? Do they really want their name to be linked with the abuse of a reviewer; someone who put in the time, maybe money and effort to read their story… and yes, they didn’t like it. *So what?* Not everyone is going to like every story. Is it too obvious to point this out?

    A review is an opinion. Not a fact. Look up your favourite book on GR and there will be a one star review from someone who hated it. Or they won’t review at all; just in case they attract the ire of an author, who won’t know why their sales are dropping; why people don’t like their books any more.
    But come down on people like this and people will pick up their book and say, ‘Hey, wasn’t this the author who shredded that woman and got sued?’ And maybe that will be their author epitaph.
    These people are their customers. It’s dumb business practice, if nothing else.

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  11. In2books
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 06:57:45

    I think the fact that the anti-bullying organizations and several of the authors that they originally promoted as recommended reading requested their information be removed from their website speaks volumes…. No one wants to be publicly associated with this site.

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  12. Christi
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 07:00:43

    @Patricia Rice: Yeah, but there’s also a lot of societal baggage tied to women voicing their opinions. We’ve been systematically taught to “be ladies” at all times, which in many cases was (and still is) just a tool used to keep women quiet and agreeable. Though I have no doubt opinionated men have experienced backlash for voicing such, the difference is that society puts no pressure on them to hold those opinions back as a direct result of gender inequality. Because women don’t have the power in society, men do. That’s a button that’s always going to be pressed when you tell a woman to “be polite.” Intent rarely means much, sorry to say.

    And I’m sure there are authors who have been verbally attacked by their readers, too. But like the blog post stated, the power dynamic in that relationship heavily favors the author. I doubt that makes it any easier for them (it didn’t for me), but it’s an important consideration.

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  13. Sirius
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 07:07:46

    I do agree with every word you said in your post and you know what I wish for now? I wish everyone of those obnoxious mysoginistic bastards who somehow thinks that critical review is an equivalent of bullying would never ever received a single review on their books. Ever. Do I sound angry? It’s because I am . You think reviewer being outspoken about yor precious “baby” (not about you!!!) is a bad thing? Such a bad thing that you would have a nerve to “out” somebody’s personal information online and somehow delude yourself into thinking that you are doing a good thing? I hope your books (those who created that site which made me want to throw up) will fall into obscurity , maybe then you will get that review where reader discusses negative emotions your book caused her to feel is better than no review. Sorry for the angry rant, but when I saw that site it angered me so very much – yes I clicked once, but never again.

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  14. Jane
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 07:09:46

    @Patricia Rice: I’m sure you didn’t mean it this way, but your comment that refers to attacks on Seanan Maguire for the speed (or lack thereof) to market of her book is another false equivalency argument which seems to imply that if we were all more courteous then things like the GR bullies would never occur.

    People rarely deserve the viciousness of online attacks, however, Seanan Maguire is a producer of a product and any comments directed toward her book, her as an author including her speed or lack thereof, is a critique of the product. The GR Bullies, my own personal stalker, and others like them are attacking the person. An attack against the person is different than a personal attack. For instance, one can attack Seanan Maguire for being an awful writing. For being a slow writer. For trying to price gouge (none of things are true as far as I know). Those are not personal attacks. Those are attacks against Maguire, the author. A personal attack is commenting about Maguire’s fitness as a wife, mother, daughter, friend; something wholly unrelated to the production of her personal product.

    Maguire and all other authors earn money from the book transaction. That commercialization engenders a commercial response, some of it indelicate and some of it unsavory. However, attacking Maguire’s book/author persona is simply not the same thing as attacking a reviewer personally, particularly those that make zero dollars from the book transaction.
    The reader is the ONLY one of the ecosystem who makes zero dollars from the book transaction. Personal attacks arising out of the book transaction make no sense; but personal attacks against reviewers who make zero dollars from the book transaction make even less sense.

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  15. Shiloh Walker
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 07:12:26

    Yes. Just simply, yes.

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  16. helen
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 07:13:31

    @Christi:
    I was wondering about the power dynamic statements. I can see where it would run from author to reader if the author is very famous and has a lot of clout but the midlist author or indie has pretty much no power. The reader in those cases has all the power since…they have the money.

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  17. Nikki
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 07:19:02

    I have never joined or used Goodreads. Primarily it never served my needs as a reader.

    I am perturbed by the fact as always that an author or their more devoted fans will pursue people who disagree or criticize. The mob mentality is terrifying and develops far too easily. If someone reads a book and disagrees, they have a right to their opinion because that was their perception of how the book came across. The same reader who wrote a negative review might get you other readers who like what you wrote, and that same reader might still buy another one of your books. However, to come out against them, to publish their information and encourage victimization and abuse is never, ever appropriate. Disagree among your friends, comment on your own blog without mentioning them, but do not put them out there for the mob. While that author is mad and might think nothing will happen, you don’t know that they might have a truly disengaged fan who will then commit violence to that person. Who becomes responsible then? What if your information is wrong and an innocent bystander becomes the victim?

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  18. kathy cole
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 07:22:14

    @helen:

    The reader in those cases has all the power since…they have the money.

    Which sentiment is why the author freakout makes no sense – how on earth will screaming at paying consumers improve your sales?

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  19. Merrian
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 07:26:46

    Thankyou for this thoughtful and passionate analysis of the situation. Just as I am appalled by the bullying and stalking website I am equally distressed by the comments on various blogs that are either directly supportive of the site or saying that these reviewers deserve it. The level of aggression expressed in all of this against women reviewers (by other women in most instances) for what – having an opinion and voicing it strongly is chilling. They are taking an almost gleeful approach to burning down the book reviewing community. That will be the ultimate outcome of this unfettered behaviour – the silencing of voices and difference and self-censoring and chilling of conversation. We will be left with cover reveals and puff pieces only, due to this misogyny.

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  20. Christi
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 07:28:28

    @helen: The author has the power of publishing their work in the first place. They can stop the possibility for negative comments at that point. It’s not put out there against their own will, and hopefully, they realize doing such will open them up to negative reactions. They have a choice to do it, and realize the possibility for negative reactions is worth the possibility of them making some money.

    They also have the power of an audience. I don’t care how small one’s readership may be, they still have the mediums to incite readers at their disposal.

    Reviewers might also have the choice of publishing their reactions to the product, and they might also have avenues to get those opinions out, but the difference is, they have nothing to gain from it. They’re doing it as a gift to either the product, or to other potential customers. It’s strictly volunteer.

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  21. Mandi
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 07:30:00

    Yes to all of this. The GRB sickens me…as does every other example that was blogged about. But what do we do? I think it was DA or Smart Bitches that came up with the – We’ve Got Your Back – when reviewers had to deal with fall out over negative reviews a year or two ago. I have readers/reviewers backs…but what is next?

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  22. Kayla Harris
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 07:37:12

    Brilliant, you hit it right on the spot. Bully of women in any context must be exposed, dealt with and eliminated. Well done you for an fabulous article x x x

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  23. Michele | Just a Lil Lost
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 07:38:43

    @Sunnygirl: Great question. Last I heard, the site still exists. Although, it might be a tricky line that it crosses if the server (be it Blogspot, WordPress, etc.) takes it down.. would they then cry censorship?

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  24. Christi
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 07:40:06

    @Michele | Just a Lil Lost: It’s hosted on GoDaddy. You can go here to report it: https://supportcenter.godaddy.com/Abuse/SpamReport.aspx

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  25. Sirius
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 07:44:32

    Oh and self published books without somebody recommending them first or if I know the author already? It is now official good bye . I at least looked sometimes in the past in hope of finding gem. I don’t want to anymore. Just for the fear of stumbling upon the author who treats their readers like this.

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  26. Lynne Connolly
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 07:45:22

    Bullying is a complex subject. I was bullied at school for being working class (I had a “common” accent, brought in sandwiches instead of having the school lunch, didn’t know which knife and fork to use, had second hand sports equipment etc etc) and spent three years fighting and learning, resulting in my denying my background for years.
    In the writing world, there are all kinds of bullying. A group of people ganging up against anyone or anything, and this is really my point, whether they deserve it or not.
    A few years ago, some of the major romance blogs ganged up against an author who had done something wrong. But the treatment was so vicious that the author had a stroke, and she now has carers to look after her. She lost all her contracts, but in any case, she’ll never write again. I’m not naming her because of the same reasons Jane gave. And because the last thing she needs now is more attention.
    I joined in that bullying, and I will never, ever fail to remember that, and I will never do it again. However much she’d transgressed, she didn’t deserve what happened to her.
    The worst, IMO, is the anonymous bullying. I don’t take any notice of that. If they don’t have the guts to say who they are, then they’re not worth listening to. I don’t care about the reasons – I learned long ago if you say something online that you wouldn’t say to someone face to face, then don’t say it. However much you think it’s justified.

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  27. CG
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 08:01:37

    Maybe a tad off topic, but how do they get the personal information in the first place? Are there steps we as readers or reviewers can take to protect our personal information from something like this (beyond the obvious)? I feel like my personal info isn’t out there for anyone with a grudge and a computer to legally acces, but maybe I’m wrong.

    Are they breaking the law to obtain this personal information?

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  28. Michelle
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 08:01:45

    Of course the only reason someone has a stroke is become people were vicious to him or her. Doesn’t matter if someone smokes, has high cholesterol, has uncontrolled hypertension, diabetes, has a vascular defect or aneurysm, or carotid stenosis, or atrial fibrillation as a source of emboli.

    So all you mean girls, you better stop being mean to others or you will make them all have strokes.

    (But one point I disagree with is that you can’t out someone who has their real name used often by themselves in their own public blog. I mean later they can go back and delete all their posts, but if you put your own name and info on your public blog, don’t point fingers at someone who uses it.)

    Poor Ridley. How long will it take authors to learn that Twitter is not private. It’s not a good use to bash readers with.

    I still remember when Jane was targeted by some lowlife author and called names, and told she was a bad mother. There were some other low level authors who defended him. Jerks.

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  29. Courtney Milan
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 08:02:36

    The word “bullying,” I’m afraid, is being used the way the word “socialist” is used–as a generalized epithet without any regard to the actual meaning of the word or the justification of the charge. Being not nice to someone is not the same thing as bullying someone.

    The majority of the shit in this particular bucket hit the fan while I was moving/packing/unpacking/on the road, but everything I’ve read about it has just horrified me. Aside from the issues of power dynamics that are at play here, my biggest problem is that the point of the blog in question is not just to criticize harshly, but to actually make people less safe.

    I wish I could say this is something new, but many years ago, a friend had a stalker (boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend) post her personal information, address, and the fact that she had just had an abortion (which happened to be true–the boyfriend had told his ex about this) to a fundamentalist forum. I’m researching the history of women at Cambridge right now for one of my projects. Making woman physically unsafe is a standard way to deal with women who stick their necks out.

    Being a woman means that someone out there thinks it’s okay to use your vulnerabilities to make you unsafe. The fact that those “someones” include other women just makes me hurt.

    I’m okay with women being “mean.” I’m okay with women being critical. I’m actively in favor of women using their thinking skills to digest and discuss the world around them, in whatever fashion best lends itself to that discussion, including the use of harsh language (and this last one is usually what is meant by “mean”).

    I am not okay with anyone making anyone else less safe. I don’t care what someone has done to you. You don’t expose people to the risk of physical harm. That is just wrong, and it’s different in kind than someone saying mean things about you and/or your books on the internet.

    This shit has been going on for thousands and thousands of years. Can we knock it off already?

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  30. Patricia M.
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 08:04:09

    I can speak from personal experience how scary it can be to have personal information published. This has nothing to do with authors and reviews but it is analogous. My husband was one of the driving forces behind a lawsuit in my community to stop the harassment of Hispanics by the police (which was won). There were a lot of articles in the local paper and in the on-line version people could comment. One of the commenters to one of the articles published our address and suggested “protesting” at our home. I was frightened, especially for my young daughter. Our address was easy enough to get since my husband has an unusual last name and we are in the phone book, but the publishing of it in the comments section carried a not so implied threat. Nothing came of it, thankfully, but that does not change the fact that publishing personal information carries an implied, if not explicit, threat. Anyone who would do something like that is inciting others to harmful acts.

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  31. Linda Hilton
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 08:08:32

    Everything you said, yes, yes, yes.

    As Foz Meadows makes clear, it is the power dynamic that makes this so ugly. If there were merely disagreement over a review, with each side respecting the other’s right to an equally valid opinion, fine and dandy. But this is an attempt to, in Archie Bunker’s word, stifle. I think it’s important to keep that in mind, because the actions are symptoms of a much deeper ill.

    There is a flip side to this coin, however, that I think the Dear Author staff needs to take a little bit of extra credit for.

    Too many writers in this age of Smashwords and Kindle Direct Publishing seem to think all they need do is buy a stock photo for cover art, add a title and their name, then upload their MS Word file and they’re “published.” If a friend or two buys a copy, now the author is “a professional.” The family and the friends all think it’s so wonderful that Sis or Mom or Cousin Nancy or My Wife or Aunt Gracie has written A Book and they rush out to post gushing reviews.

    Along comes someone who dares to point out the flaws in Aunt Gracie’s lovely creation: the faulty grammar, the WTF history, the ludicrous dialogue, the creepy hero, the TSTL heroine. (And all too often, I might add, it is the hero who is creepy and overbearing and the heroine who is TSTL, which is a creepy dynamic in and of itself.) It’s not because the reviewer has been snarky, even though she may have been, or that she’s accurate, which she usually is: It’s that the authors and their supporters have no clue how to deal with public criticism. They’ve probably never even dealt with private criticism. And a few of them react disproportionately to the “violence” they perceive to have been part of the “attack” on their book.

    I don’t write that to in any way justify or excuse the actions of the bullies on the GRB website, but rather to offer some small explanation for them and perhaps a path to others’ avoiding that kind of behavior. I remember the days of my judging in RWA contests and the nasty letters written back to “that mean judge #4″ and I remember the horrible, vicious critique one of my manuscripts received when an equally unpublished friend gave it (without my permission) to a published friend of hers. I’ve been on both sides of that issue. There was another friend who, after both of us had contracted for our first books at about the same time, asked me to read the first chapters of her next and I had to tell her that in my opinion it just didn’t hang together at all. Her response was to call me jealous and a host of other things (including unchristian).

    But all of those criticisms were received in private, and we authors had time to thicken our skins at least a little bit before our books went live. And if our books got negative reviews (which they did!), well, we could blame our editors. We had lots and lots of buffers.

    The self-published author today doesn’t have that, and if her work isn’t of professional quality, she’s going to be found out, she’s going to get negative reviews, and there’s a very good chance she’s not going to know how to react.

    Dear Author’s “First Page Saturday” is, in my mind, one of its most valuable features for that very reason: It not only gives the featured author the experience of putting her work before an unmoderated public of fellow authors, readers, whatever, but also the experience of having to react to the often conflicting responses. It’s tough. It takes a certain amount of courage to upload that sample and then a very different kind of strength to watch as the reactions come in. Because in the First Page Saturday script, the power dynamic is reversed. Here it’s the reviewers who have all the power, even if only for one day, and it behooves the author, regardless what kind of reaction her sample evokes, to recognize how vital it is to balance the two in order to achieve success.

    The truth is, there are some vicious reviewers out there, and good for them. They’re not afraid to point out that there is a lot of shitty writing out there. The other truth is that a lot of writers just aren’t prepared to accept the fact that they wrote that shit, and all the pats on the head from Aunt Louise or Grandma Phyllis or the roses and champagne from hubby won’t change that. The book is what it is, good, bad, horrible, and learning to suck it up and move on to the next project is part of the life of a writer. “Some people” obviously haven’t learned that yet and would rather bully their critics than hone their craft. They deserve their Karma, and I think it’s well on its way to biting them in their butts.

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  32. Las
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 08:19:52

    @kathy cole:

    Which sentiment is why the author freakout makes no sense – how on earth will screaming at paying consumers improve your sales?

    Ignoring the seriousness of stalking and revealing personal information for a minute, THAT is what just kills me about all this. It’s so mind-boggling stupid. Why would you risk alienating potential readers with such behavior? I’m pretty sure attacking paying customers is the exception to the “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” rule.

    I would really like to see an example of an author being attacked by reviewers/readers, because I keep seeing that mentioned as a justification for that site. Unless people are flocking to authors’ sites to sell them how much they and their books suck–and while obnoxious, that’s still not bullying–it doesn’t count as a “mob” that some authors are describing.

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  33. Tamara
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 08:20:12

    I can’t get over the sheer hypocrisy of it. That GRB site owner should be utterly ashamed of herself.

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  34. Lil
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 08:20:24

    I was really grateful a few years ago when I discovered the online community of Romance readers and reviews. The reviews have been a great help in guiding me to books I like, and I have also enjoyed the discussions.

    However, I have become a bit hesitant about posting comments myself. I know my first reaction to something I consider idiotic may be a bit intemperate, so I try not to hit the send button too quickly. Recently, though, I find myself hesitant to say anything that isn’t positive, and that bothers me.

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  35. Kat Kennedy
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 08:30:58

    @CG: I am a paranoid person when it comes to my personal information – which is why there was so little on me compared to the other girls. But I still found some out there which I had to take down.

    To get rid of as much personal data as possible:

    1. Check all social networks you’ve ever joined. Deactivate ones you don’t use and limit personal info on ones you do.

    2. Check people finder sites like Spokeo, PeekYou, etc. They mine data from social network sites and build profiles on you. You will be surprised how much information may be there if you have, at any point since you began using the net, been a little sloppy with your personal info.

    3. If you want to keep your identity safe, it is best to have an email that doesn’t include your real full name – even in the sign up. If they can get your real name, they are that much closer to getting your info.

    4. Check that your IP address is anonymized and doesn’t reveal your address when searched.

    I hope that helps. I would wish for anyone to go through what the girls have been through.

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  36. Courtney Milan
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 08:38:39

    @Jane: I don’t think the power dynamic issue explains the problem here.

    There’s a difference between strongly worded discussion (an area where I do think the author/reader power dynamic plays into the appropriateness of response), and direct or implied threats of physical violence–which are never appropriate, not for anyone, ever. STGB is engaging in implied threats of physical violence by posting names, places of business, and suggesting that these items might be useful to those who care. That would be activity that is inappropriate for anyone.

    The power dynamic explanation cannot explain the entirety of my loathing for the kind of attack the goodreads bullies are using, because I can think of extremely powerful woman who have been subjected to threats of physical violence precisely because they are powerful. In that case, those threats exist to weaken the women themselves, and also to threaten those who watch. It sends a clear message: Don’t you dare reach for power, because if you do, you too will get this.

    There is something particularly loathsome about the people who posted Sandra Day O’Connor’s address in DC and suggested that she should get raped, or people who talk about lynching Barack Obama, or people who threaten to hang out outside Oprah’s studio and shoot her. Regardless of what you think about those people, I hope everyone agrees that this is wrong. Those people are very powerful–no doubt about it. There’s no doubt in my mind that they have more power than their attackers. But those attacks are designed not just to attack, but to disenfranchise.

    You do have power, Jane. So do many other reviewers. I’m not saying that the power is equal. I am saying that your stalker targeted you–and the STGB targeted the reviewers they did–because you have power. It’s intended as an object lesson to others who are less powerful: that if readers stick their necks out, they will be chopped off. Sending the message that powerful women need to be cut down to size by any means necessary is, to me, the more despicable aspect of this issue than the the power dynamic.

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  37. Carolyn Crane
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 08:38:54

    Oh, thank you for this, and for linking this to the larger subject of slapping down women who step out of line, and that it’s not just men who do it to women.

    This whole thing has been making me sick and angry on behalf of the reader/reviewer victims. My heart goes out to these women, and I’ve really been impressed by their fortitude in the face of this Internet ugliness, which can make a person feel so sick inside. I hope those reader/reviewers know how people are pulling for them and wishing them well.

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  38. Jennifer Leeland
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 08:41:23

    Quoted: “People rarely deserve the viciousness of online attacks, however, Seanan Maguire is a producer of a product and any comments directed toward her book, her as an author including her speed or lack thereof, is a critique of the product.”
    I completely disagree with this. Bullying is bullying regardless of whether it’s a reader or an author. Comments directed personally toward an author (like calling him/her a fat, lazy cow for not producing or calling the author “stupid and retarded” comments I’ve seen towards authors) are not about the product, but the person behind the product.
    Of course, we little sensitive flowers need to stop taking things so damn personally when it comes to reviews/reader comments. But I want to point out, as someone who has dealt with the constant “one view” about bullying, that a group of smaller, mean-spirited kids can be as vicious and ugly as the common “big kid” who is often viewed as a bully. I call it the “piranha syndrome” and it’s just as brutal and hurtful.
    To me, when intelligent discourse goes out the window and people aim personal, hurtful attacks at another person regardless of the “position” in an effort to demean them, it’s bullying.
    Do I like it when a reviewer attacks my characters, my story or my structure? No. But it’s very, very different to call my character a cunt than it is to suggest that the author is a cunt.
    Why is it any different for an author to feel bullied when readers attack HER/HIM than when authors attack readers? The positions of power are interchangeable. Readers have power to buy, to criticize, to spread by word of mouth positive and negative opinions about authors. And authors have an audience to spread their opinions plus some have their sock puppets to dance for them.
    I guess what I’m saying is that I wish we’d all remember that behind the “product” (the review, the online profile) is an honest to God person. I try and remember that when I call up my cell phone company to complain. The person on the other end of the line might represent “the product” but that doesn’t mean I should call them and cuss them out, call them names and generally scream at them in my frustration. Curse the product? Certainly. Spread by word of mouth how awful they are? Certainly.
    I do NOT understand the idea of an author condoning threats of violence, outing anyone’s (author or reader) personal information or gathering their followers to join in abuse of another. The dog pile that ensues shows us in a ugly, vicious light.
    Though condemnation of bad behavior is absolutely necessary, I wonder at some of the vitriol that can come out when we do. Believe me, I have done my share. I don’t like what I see in myself when I do.
    I don’t think it’s a “reader” “author” “reviewer” thing as much as it’s a human thing. No one-author, reader, reviewer-wants to be attacked personally, to have their real life exposed for ridicule, to become the bottom of an online dog pile.
    Controversy is all part of the online experience, but I do believe too many lines get crossed and it would be better if I can remember that behind a name, behind a review, behind a profile is a real, live person who has thoughts and feelings like I do.
    As far as a solution? I honestly believe the worst curse I can bestow on someone is obscurity. Like an obnoxious co-worker or a mean little kid, if they are ignored, shunned and alone, they eventually go away.
    The problem is that there are too many people who agree with them, who believe they are justified in their ugly and personal attacks.

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  39. Lynnd
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 08:43:28

    @Sean Cummings: Out of curiousity, do you know in which province/territory these cases are being started (or the case cites). I haven’t seen them reported but would be interested in following them.

    Robin – great post. You have said everything that I have been thinking for quite some time now but far more eloquently that I. We need to realize that the fight for the rights which women have have so painfully struggles for is not over and that we can’t rest on our backsides thinking that the battles are done. There will always be those who want to roll back women’s rights and put us back into the our perceived roles (both other women and men) and it is up to those of us who refuse to comply to stand up and say NO WAY IN HELL! /getting off my soapbox now.

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  40. Lori
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 08:47:51

    In the bigger picture it’s the way we’re socialized that demands women be nice or face ridicule and punishment.

    Publishing someone’s private information is so egregariously wrong that I’m still gobsmacked that anyone alive is defending it. Or that it’s still up.

    I know there are disagreements about the proper steps to take but I do believe that in this case trying to get the blog taken down for abuse is the correct thing to do. It’s not trying to silence a voice but rather refusing to allow someone to victimize others because they had the gall to have opinions in a snarky tone.

    As a community we have the ability to make it a point to refuse to play into this mean girl-nice reviewer bullcrap. We need to stop trying to silence the voices whose tone we don’t like because that makes us part of the problem. Do I like the snarky comments? The behavior of all? Absolutely not. But those voices are part of this community too.

    In my opinion we need to highlight these situations when they occur, understand the damage they do to us, all of us, as women and not try to stifle it but be louder and more confident that we’re not going to sit back and let it go on.

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  41. Christi
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 08:58:34

    It’s almost like some of the people defending the GRB site behavior haven’t ever been on the internet before. Like somehow trolls are some appalling new thing to be battled against unironically. You don’t feed the trolls! They’ll get bored and go on to trolling someone else.

    What I think annoys me almost as much as the inexcusable release of personal information to incite the masses, is this attitude that they’re somehow policing the internet and making it a batter place. Because of course, this one small group of authors should totally be the authority over how everyone else behaves. It’s stupidly arrogant. Stupid because *they* can’t even adhere to their own moral code, arrogant because they somehow think they’re important enough.

    If it weren’t so scary and violating, I’d be laughing my head off at these people.

    I imagine ten minutes reading YouTube contents would give them aneurisms.

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  42. Jill Sorenson
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 09:05:20

    @Las: I can think of only one clear example and I’ve been on GR for awhile. I flagged a review of a YA book called Hades, written by a teen author. The reviewer hadn’t read the book (it wasn’t out yet) and the comments were all about the author’s looks and personality. One person threatened to hunt the author down and punch her in the face. There were hundreds of comments from popular YA bloggers in this thread.

    In response to my flag, a GR rep (Patrick Brown) contacted me, saying he thought the comments were meant in jest. Maybe they were.

    Whenever the subject of bullying comes up, I think of this example, because that group of bloggers crossed the line in my opinion, especially considering the age of the author. Of course there are many, many more examples of authors behaving badly.

    I don’t agree that threats or outing someone’s personal information is appropriate, ever. That includes the person responsible for this awful Bullies site. The “bullies” they’ve “outed” (are home addresses posted? I didn’t see that) don’t deserve this. No one does. The comments about Kat Kennedy as a mother made me sick.

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  43. janicu
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 09:08:49

    @Jane The Seanan McGuire incident involved Amazon shipping the physical books before the release date (a mistake on their part) but not the e-copies (holding them to the actual release date). Customers who had preordered the ebooks, unhappy that they weren’t getting their copies earlier than they were supposed to TOO, go vicious and sent McGuire hate mail. http://seanan-mcguire.livejournal.com/425907.html — this was pretty awful.

    I think that calling authors names like that is never right, but I don’t think it is the equivalent of writing a snarky review or calling out an author for bad behavior like the so-called “GR bullies” have done. I’ve looked at their reviews and seen the long comment threads when they’ve spotlighted an author’s behavior. But you know what? Being opinionated and being loud about those opinions is not wrong. Yes some of the reviews have made me wince, but still not wrong for them to have an opinion on a book even if I disagree with it.

    I really REALLY don’t understand how I’m supposed to sympathize with the GR Bullies site over the so-called bad deeds of the “bullies” when the GR Bullies site is selective in it’s profiles, doesn’t put up the whole story (I’m not a dummy, GR bully site, I can use google), and does something so creepy as to specifically look for information on someone and post it all in one place (in one case telling the world where someone eats regularly and at what times? WTF)? It is wrong, plain and simple.

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  44. Keishon
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 09:12:44

    I’m late sorry but I find the whole bullying thing horrifying and appalling behavior. It’s enough to make you want to quit sharing what is essentially an opinion on a book that’s intended for other readers. I was online and using the AOL message boards to talk to Nora Roberts and other readers back in the 90′s. Never did we have the animosity we have now. The attacks on readers does hurt the community, badly. I don’t (sadly) see a way to fix the situation as more authors get online and mingle with readers in the reader space. This shit recycles itself. The lack of professionalism though …. there are no words for it.

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  45. Author on Vacation
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 09:14:23

    @Lynne Connolly:

    Bullying is a complex subject. I was bullied at school for being working class (I had a “common” accent, brought in sandwiches instead of having the school lunch, didn’t know which knife and fork to use, had second hand sports equipment etc etc) and spent three years fighting and learning, resulting in my denying my background for years.

    Dear Lynne:

    1. Your Georgian novels are fantastic.
    2. I am sorry you suffered these incredibly negative experiences with your peers. However, I assure you your accent and living habits were not more “common” than the behavior of your tormentors. For all their presumed “better class,” they clearly were not raised to understand that expressing cruelty and ridicule towards another person due to a perceived ignorance or other deficit is a pretty low-class thing to do. One might even call it the eptiome of vulgarity.

    A person ignorant of the niceties of table silver can learn them much more easily than a cruel, oblivious person can improve his/her disposition.

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  46. Melody Clark
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 09:26:09

    I’m very sorry if reviewers are targeted. I think anyone who is harassed or bullied has every right to be protected. I always respect my reviewers’ views, both positive and negative. People are welcome to read my Goodreads responses to verify that. I personally pay little attention to most “citizen reviewers” because their perceptions are so subjective. They tell us their experience of reading a story and little else, but they have a right to their opinion. Their opinions should be respected.

    However, the sheer bullying madness that is brought down on writers is part of the reason behind the backlash, I’m afraid. There are plenty of citizen reviewers who have a sanctimonious ax to grind and seek out writers on whom to use it. Some writers also target other writers, too. Other reviewers are just trying to make a name for themselves with their own brand of cruelty, paying no mind to the human being effected by their remarks.

    That does not make it okay to vilify and target those who are merely expressing themselves, but the matter should be seen in context. There has also been a LOT of bullying going on against writers. What we ALL need to do is fight our battles with the ones who bring them, if indeed they must be fought at all, and not group all people into our own narrow categories.

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  47. Cheryl McInnis
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 09:30:03

    @Lynnd: Lynnd, One case that has gone to court here in Canada is in Moncton, NB. Here is a link to the CBC news article about it…hope it works for you.
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/story/2012/06/20/nb-cormier-online-comments-706.html

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  48. Keishon
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 09:32:04

    One last thing: using terminology like “citizen reviewers” and “amateur reviewers” whether true or not is in itself provocative to me. Says a lot about the person using it too. Carry on.

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  49. Melody Clark
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 09:36:16

    Keishon, it says nothing more about the person making the comment than they want it to. Don’t group people together according to your own perceptions. You may just be wrong.

    I say “citizen reviewers” to differentiate them from reviewers who critique a story based solely on structure. Citizen reviewers tend to lead with their own emotions, based on personal experiences. That doesn’t make them bad. It makes them different — and thus deserving of their own definition.

    Anyone who presumes to be offended by the term may be telling us a lot about their own perceptions of the relative importance of their opinions. lol

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  50. Sirius
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 09:41:58

    Melody Clark, I would appreciate the examples of the reviewers bullying writers please. No, being harsh about their books does not count. I think that if writers (those who cry bullying of course) would have gotten it into their heads we could have avoided so many problems. Attacking your book is not the same as attacking you as a person, repeat it after me. It is just not. I have read the books where I wanted to shoot the character , so annoyed they made me and said so. Does that mean I was bullying the writer?!!! I would say that it means that book got my emotions involved and very deeply and that’s about it. I never ever ever attacked the person who wrote the book, but I have seen too many writers crying foul where review has nothing of the personal attack on the writer and writer still comes all upset an d equals on her “baby” as if it was attack on her.

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  51. LG
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 09:44:58

    @Melody Clark: From what I’ve seen, reviewers who are vicious towards authors (towards the author as a person), or who slam a book with bad reviews for reasons that have nothing to do with the contents of the book, tend to be smacked right back down by other readers. Most people aren’t stupid – they recognize when someone is being a jerk or is just plain crazy.

    You say that none of that makes STGB okay, but your comment still seems pretty close to “those reviewers brought this on themselves.”

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  52. Julia Broadbooks
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 09:46:09

    I don’t usually feel compelled to comment on the internet author/reader/reviewer dramas. They are usually so bitter and hateful and don’t really involve me, so I just avoid them. But this is different. I feel that to remain silent is to tacitly approve their actions. It is not okay to post someone’s personal information. It is not okay to imply that other people will be taking note of that information. People say crap I disagree with all the time, online and in real life. I don’t get to threaten them into silence.

    I put a great deal of effort into teaching my daughters to be polite when they were small. It worked. But now, I fear it worked too well. As my now 18yo goes out into the world, she finds it really hard to shut down people she doesn’t want to talk to. A certain kind of guy takes advantage of that. She is getting better at drawing her own boundaries. And that FB block is a wonderful thing. All the same, she is avoiding hanging out on Skype so she doesn’t have to again tell a certain man that she isn’t going to be dating him.

    At this point, I’d rather she’d be a bitch than a doormat.

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  53. Melody Clark
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 09:48:12

    I have been harassed, called at home, threatened online, and stalked for many years because of my writing. I have had to change my phone number three times. I write male/male erotica, and there are plenty of reviewers who think their dislike is all they need to vindicate attacks. I know many other writers who’ve gone through the same thing.

    Attacking my book is attacking me if the point of attacking the book is to attack the writer. You can mask an attack behind a review, but the point is still made clear. Also, why do you think the writer is the one who is wrong? Maybe the reviewer is? Or, more probably, the writer and reviewer merely like different types of books. That doesn’t make one wrong and the other right. It means they disagree.

    I think reviewers and writers need to realize we are not warring camps. We’re the same people. In point of fact, some of the most vicious reviewers are themselves writers. The hidden agenda there should be obvious. The problem is that bullies will be bullies. It’s only by accepting the relativity of our own perspectives — and that our way to write is not the only way to write — that we’ll all get along.

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  54. Melody Clark
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 09:51:08

    LG, I don’t even know what STGB means, for one thing. I very clearly indicated that no one “brings it on themselves” — I said it must be seen in context. Yes, there is a lot of bullying that goes on between camps. In fact, we are NOT warring camps, we’re the same people.

    We just need to see the relativity of our own views and learn to be nicer to each other.

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  55. LG
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 09:52:27

    @Melody Clark: Sorry – STGB = Stop the Goodreads Bullies

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  56. Natalie L.
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 09:53:33

    First of all, it’s Seanan McGuire.

    Second of all, Amazon and B&N shipped the print edition of one of her recent books a few weeks before the on-sale date but held the electronic edition until the official release date. Because of this, she was the target of an awful lot of personal attacks of the sort being decried here–I refer you to this post on her LJ: http://seanan-mcguire.livejournal.com/425907.html

    I’m not sure why Jane thinks that the personal attacks (including threats of rape and other violence) McGuire had to endure for something beyond her control are a false equivalency–yes, McGuire is a writer, but I’m really failing to see the difference here; being an author doesn’t make personal attacks acceptable.

    ETA: I see that someone else has made this point–more or less–already. Ah well.

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  57. Sean Cummings
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 10:07:23

  58. Liz Talley
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 10:14:04

    It’s at times such as these, I’m really glad I don’t know what the hell is going on.

    You know how to solve some of this? By authors not going online and reading all their reviews on GR and Amazon and anywhere else readers have free reign to post their beliefs. Yep. That’s the solution. Just. Don’t. Do. It.

    I totally understand the impulse. I’ve done it myself. It goes like this – you have a book out and you want to know what everyone thinks. So you shop around for your reviews. And then you find one. And it hurts. And then you call that reader every bad word you know. And eat a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. And then go back on the site, re-read the horrid review. Rinse and repeat.

    So you know what would be better for everyone involved? If you just pretended there was no GR or kindleboards or whatever else is out there, and just concetrated on what you can control…your writing. Then you can go to sleep each night picturing legions of readers sighing over the beauty of your words, reveling in your meaty characters and desperate for more from your brilliant fingertips.

    At least that’s my new plan.

    Because you not everyone likes you. You’re not Sally Field, dammit.

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  59. Madame X
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 10:16:30

    I’m starting to be really, really disturbed because I think the Stop the GR Bullies site is accomplishing its aims. People who are only casually invested in the issue seem willing enough to agree that the site is offensive – but many of them are also convinced that the reviewers called out on the site are actually bullies. They accept the skewed version of events presented on the site and don’t investigate further.

    As of right now, by checking goodreads…The Holy Terror has written 200 reviews with a 3.5 star average; Ridley has written 269 reviews with a 3.45 star average; Lucy has written 99 reviews with a 2.92 star average; Kat has written 318 reviews with a 3.34 star average.

    They’re not “bullies”. They’re “readers”. They’re not running around bashing authors; if they were, the average star ratings would look different. We focus so much on the negative, on the fact that the profiled reviewers object to author tantrums etc., that we’re totally forgetting the fact that most of what they do is…read books, share what they think, and help other readers discover books that they’ll LIKE.

    Incidentally, there’s a new post up on the GR Bullies site that gives examples of “bully reviews” and none of them are by the people she’s already called out. Why? Because they write good reviews.

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  60. Jane
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 10:19:27

    @Natalie L – The point is that calling an author names is not equivalent to what the STGB site is doing. Outing, stalking, and harassing a reviewer for reviews is not on the same level as name calling. To bring it up is to create a false equivalency – to wash away the things that STGB as if these reviewers were somehow asking for it.

    I certainly don’t agree with readers calling Maguire names and I don’t agree that reviewers/readers should attack Maguire for not shipping out the book but to me that is a different argument.

    By bringing up Maguire’s situation, which is not the same (although bad), seems to be an excuse for what the STGB people (and people like them) are doing. It’s not so different than what Julie Leto was saying on Twitter (as referenced in one of Robin’s links above) or the comments made on the Passive Voice (also referenced above).

    So, no, I don’t think that the name calling toward Maguire was appropriate and I would have very little (if any respect) toward a reviewer who engaged in that behavior. However, this type of thing does not excuse the type of behavior that is described in the original post.

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  61. Julia Broadbooks
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 10:20:14

    @Liz Talley: Best advice ever.

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  62. Melody Clark
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 10:20:51

    Liz, amen, exactly. If someone can’t handle the reviews like a professional, they shouldn’t read them.

    Madame, the question isn’t “good” or “bad” — it’s the reasons behind the reviews. If someone regularly ranks down a book because he/she doesn’t like the author as a person, and ranks up a book when they do, that is bullying. There’s also just a lot of simple meanness that goes into reviewers (many of whom are writers) trying to make a name for themselves as nasty reviewers.

    I’d like to see more analysis and objectivity put into everyone’s perceptions, writers and reviewers.

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  63. Courtney Milan
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 10:27:51

    @Melody Clark:

    Madame, the question isn’t “good” or “bad” — it’s the reasons behind the reviews. If someone regularly ranks down a book because he/she doesn’t like the author as a person, and ranks up a book when they do, that is bullying.

    No, it is not. When I was a kid, there were three boys who would follow me and my sister as we walked home from school and hurl insults, and then threats, and finally, rocks. That was bullying.

    Voting positive reviews down because you don’t like an author is petty meanness. Being mean and being a bully are NOT the same things.

    There’s a big difference between something that is exasperating and something that gives you real, legitimate fear for your well-being.

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  64. Linda Hilton
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 10:29:45

    @Melody Clark: Regularly ranking an author’s books down — or even ranking their competition up — is mean and petty and juvenile, but it is NOT bullying. It’s not a threat to the author’s or her family members’ personal safety. Is it a threat to her livelihood? Oh, maybe. But there is always this to remember:

    If it’s just one reviewer, and your book is really really good, that bad review isn’t going to matter. And if it’s the only review, or there are a lot of others like it, then maybe the book really does suck.

    Look, I’m an author, I know what it feels like to get the sucky reviews, or no reviews at all. A sucky review NEVER NEVER NEVER justifies personal retaliation against the reviewer and NOTHING justifies personal retaliation against her family, her friends, the restaurant she eats at, the places she shops. NOTHING, NEVER.

    If the reviewer gets personal, then the author has the right to ask the review site to remove it, and from what I’ve seen personal attacks will be removed.

    But again, no matter how painful the review is, it NEVER justifies personal retaliation. NEVER. Just NEVER.

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  65. Melody
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 10:30:44

    Courtney, bullying is bullying. It is defined as:

    Discourage or frighten with threats or a domineering manner; intimidate

    I’d say that petty and mean remarks are definitely contained within the bullies manifest.

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  66. Melody Clark
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 10:31:48

    Linda, I’m not sure what you’re arguing with as I’ve said the same thing. lol

    Do you mean to say that anything a mean reviewer says is acceptable and a writer should just take it without the right to a reasonably polite response? A writer doesn’t get the same right as the reviewer? The reviewer cannot be reviewed?

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  67. Melody Clark
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 10:37:41

    BTW, I’m out of here to the real world and all it entails. I’ll give the writer’s perspective over to somebody else who is brave enough to step in. lol

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  68. Courtney Milan
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 10:42:08

    @Melody: I don’t see the threat or the intimidation in clicking “this review wasn’t helpful.” I don’t see the domineering manner. Calling someone a bully because they dislike a review on Amazon is like calling someone a bully for threatening to pluck a blade of grass from your lawn.

    Implicit in that definition is that the threat is a threat of a serious consequence, and that the threatened action is itself one that is not an exercise of legitimate rights.

    Thus: Not bullying to organize a boycott of BP because you don’t like how they handled the oil spill. Even though there’s a serious potential consequence, it’s an exercise of legitimate rights.

    Thus: Not bullying to threaten to take a blank post-it note from a co-workers desk. Yes, it’s a threat, but it’s a relatively meaningless one.

    But: Posting someone’s place of work with the implication that you might get them fired from their job, or that people should go and harass them there… Definitely bullying.

    If all people who sometimes engage in less-than-kind and petty behavior are bullies, the word “bully” stops having any meaning whatsoever.

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  69. Madame X
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 10:43:45

    @Melody Clark:

    Melody – why don’t you go read some of the readily available reviews by the called-out reviewers? I’m only really familiar with a few of them (The Holy Terror, Kat, Ridley) & they can speak for themselves. Personally, I follow their reviews and take their recommendations because they write about books. Not authors. They’re not nasty; if they were consistently negative, their ratings wouldn’t average on or above 3 stars.

    The point of the infamous shelves is that they’re not attached to ratings or reviews. So the book isn’t “ranked down” at all. If a reviewer ONLY uses shelves to fence off author-tantrum books, the author’s star rating remains completely unaffected.

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  70. Sirius
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 10:49:14

    LG thank you for saying it. I mean i wish the authors would give their readers some credit . I can distinguish somebody launching a personal attack against the person and somebody being harsh against the book. Melody Clark, if you were personally attacked as a person – no somebody saying your wriring is bad, hat is wrong of course,all kinds of wrong. However If you seriously believe that attacking the book is the same as attacking the author , even if review does not say a word about you as a person, well trust me it is more than enough for me to never touch your book . No not because I want do any sort of revenge, but because I have no desire to experience another attack if I end up disliking it. I have seen behaviors in mm world I was disgusted with and I still buy these authors’ books – because I love their writing and feel that I will be the loser there is only one author I do not buy because I see how he abuses reviewers on the regular basis and has no desire to change it. I know this example gets brought up often , but somehow it gets ignored by writers usually. When I buy defective Tv, a washing machine, a dress or any other product and I go on amazon and rant that it broke, has a hole in, whatever the second I got it home, does it mean that I am attacking their creators? I am yet to see any of those people come online and threw a tantrum . They know that their products are not the same as them, I wish more writers would learn that. That really to me is the main problem here – change your mindset or do not read reviews . If you see reviewer who attacks you as a person NOT your book, report it, I think personal nastiness has no business in the reviews, none, but your book is not you.

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  71. Stephanie Scott
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 10:51:14

    Thanks for providing the more recent Goodreads bullying links. I read about The Selection review scandal and read the original review; it wasn’t nearly as scathing as other reviews I’ve seen on GR; that reviewer is usually quite level-headed; I’ve followed her reviews for awhile. I can only imagine how hard it would be if someone didn’t like my book and posted about it, but I agree, this is not bullying. What is bullying is exposing someone’s identity online, personal information etc. with intent to shame or harm them. It doesn’t matter if “anyone could find those details, it’s not hard.” It’s the intent to expose for purposes of shame and retaliation.

    You’re right, we should be better than that. I have Christian beliefs to fall back on that stop me when I’m tempted to fight back with cruel words; even then, I’ve made mistakes. But not everyone has the same framework of beliefs or values. It’s a learned behaviour, and not everyone has learned tact and manners. Hiding behind a screenname and avatar makes it even easier to play a part we might never dream of in Real Life.

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  72. NM
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 10:52:43

    ~sigh~

    Call me old-fashioned, but this all boils down to good manners.

    I distanced myself from Goodreads a long time ago, and from Amazon reviews and various review sites because of the increasingly nasty nature of the rhetoric found even in the “good” reviews/commentary. The sneering, jeering tones, the snark, the sniping and cheap shots, the one-up-manship in who can be the loudest, crudest, meanest “bitch” in the bunch, the filthy, foul language…ugh. Then the petty “in-crowds” and pot-stirring and you-can’t-be-my-friend-if-you’re-her-friend, the queen bees rallying their drones, the sheer nastiness and ugliness of it all…what thoughtful reader wants anything to do with any of that?

    Nothing good has come of all this self-publishing, or the homegrown review industry, the jockeying for publicity, the self-appointed gatekeeping, and so on.

    Maybe I am a Luddite, but all of this only confirms my belief that there is something to be said for the traditional structure of the publishing industry. There is something to be said for authors remaining above the fray, and for society in general to shun the vulgar, shrill, and foul-mouthed among us.

    For all that people think the internet is the great equalizer and an agent of social change and open dialogue, it’s really just a giant free-for-all where the lowest of the low flourishes and mob-rule is the norm.

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  73. Joanne Macgregor
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 11:02:33

    When we threaten, punish, and silence women for stepping outside the line, for succeeding, for daring to disagree, then we have internalised the voice of the oppressor, and are continuing the abuse.
    Bullying others, even those who we think are bullies themselves, does not satisfy our need for real authority and power. By demeaning others, we demean ourselves.

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  74. Lisa (Fic Talk)
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 11:08:12

    Fantastic post.

    I could not agree more.

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  75. Meoskop
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 11:14:11

    @Keishon – I have to disagree with you that this is new. I was part of the same AOL boards you were and an incident very like this occurred. If kandykane13 rings any bells, that person tried to out various members I won’t name. As well, one of NR’s strongest supporters felt very personally threatened during the plagiarism reveal, with her profession and general locale outed. While she and I constantly disagreed, I thought that was completely wrong and said so.

    I reviewed in the 80′s to mid 90′s then stopped for a long period of time because I was tired of dealing with the stalker nutcases and gas lighting of the then self published world. Self publishing has come a very long way and yet. Now that I am reviewing again I only accept self published authors I have a good feel for online. I don’t buy much self published work. Every self published author should feel a strong investment in the silencing of reviewers because a poisoned well yields water to none. When I read a book, I review it three places. When I like a book I handsell it to everyone I know. I’m not reading your self published book, and STGRB is creating more like me.

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  76. Ridley
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 11:18:45

    What a day to start my exile from my house due to renovations. I have much to say, but little desire to type it out on my phone.

    I’ll just glare at Melody and fist-bump Robin.

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  77. Linda Hilton
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 11:24:07

    @Melody Clark: No, Melody, you didn’t say the same thing I did.

    I said bad reviews, down-voting bad reviews for authors you like, up-voting good reviews, retaliatory reviews, all that shit is stupid and petty and juvenile BUT IT IS NOT BULLYING. I’m not sure how much more clear I can make that.

    Does an author have a “right” to respond to a bad review? Yeah, sure she does. Do I personally think she should? No, I don’t. I think authors should read their reviews, but I think they need to step back and realize that they had the FIRST word then they wrote and published the book. Now they need to STFU and allow the readers to have their say.

    If you feel you absolutely have to respond, do it on your blog or website or whatever, but don’t address the individual reader/reviewer directly. I just don’t think it’s a good thing.

    If it’s an issue of “defending” your book, shouldn’t the book be able to defend itself? And if the reviewer is so stupid (in the author’s mind) that she doesn’t “get it,” will arguing with her make any difference?

    No, no, no. I don’t think authors should ever respond directly to reviews/reviewers, no matter how bad, stupid, idiotic, wrong, mean they are.

    And no one ever ever ever has justification to intimidate or threaten over a bad review. If the author sees a personal threat in a review, as I said before, she can go to the review site and ask that it be removed. If the situation escalates, she can go to the police. But replying with bullying tactics is just wrong wrong wrong.

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  78. Melody Clark
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 11:26:55

    Coming back here, amid all the responses, to say, “why glare at Melody?” lol

    All I said is we’re all human — reviewers and writers — we’re the same people. Sometimes we’re wrong — all of us. You would disagree with that? You honestly believe the reviewers are the “good and wronged” against evil writers? If that’s the case, why do you think that? You seem to be arguing with something you think I’m saying rather than what I’ve said.

    I just found the Stop Goodreads Bullying site (I’d suggest everyone read my responses to reviews to see my own opinion). I think it’s a considerable overreach. It displays the same kind of pouting histronics going on in some of the posts here.

    I think I’m going to start a site called STOP READING STUPID REVIEWERS/WRITERS.

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  79. ancientpeas
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 11:26:58

    Some really interesting points of view here (both in the blog posts and comments) and I’m glad I took the time to read through.

    At some point we should all have learned the difference between: “Your writing is poor and you need to work on sentence structure and punctuation.” and “You suck and should throw away your keyboard and never write again.” and if your reader was your editor or teacher you’d be justified in being up in arms over such criticism. But your reader is your reader. She/He may be less educated, less informed, less classy than you. He/She may even been an annoying clod but they still bought your book and they are entitled to their opinion about it. If they want to give you one star and post “This book sucked” then let them do it.

    It isn’t about being nice and polite in my opinion. We can dislike something and still be polite about it. Having worked in customer service (front line, face to face with varying levels of irked people) I’ve been called names because they didn’t like the free toy that was offered, the person aiding them called them Miss when they were “clearly” married or even because their credit card was refused. Some jerk even told me he’d like to punch me. And this wasn’t from behind the safety of a screen. This was right up in my face. And I guess I could have felt bullied or picked on when my intelligence, looks or education were called into question but I didn’t because it was my job. Just like it’s the author’s job to take criticism from readers. If you don’t want criticism don’t publish. Write for your friends and family. As soon as you ask people for money for something they tend to get more critical.

    It’s a job, isn’t it? Don’t you expect to get paid? When I have a job I expect to hear about my performance. If it’s not measuring up then I expect to be called on it. Praise is nice, but shouldn’t praise be earned. Are we all so entitled to praise that we expect a laurel everytime we do what is expected of us?

    The more we call posting negative reviews bullying the less the term actually means. Even great works of literature are hated by some. I loathe Flaubert “Madame Bovery” and Dicken’s “A Tale of Two Cities”. I would very happily give both of those one star reviews. I could even bring up questionable aspects of both author’s personal lives into my review. It’s not bullying. It’s me being a snotty twit and says more about me than it does about either Flaubert or Dickens. There is a difference.

    *long time reader here, first time poster*

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  80. Melody Clark
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 11:28:39

    Linda, this is becoming silly beyond measure. I know what I meant. If you’re defending vicious and mean reviewers who’ve had their Iddow Feewings Huwt because of honest responses from writers, I’m sorry. They need to develop the thick skin everyone tells writers to develop.

    If you’re defending honest reviewers who’ve come up against nasty, snarly writers, then I agree.

    And incidentally, WRITING IN BOLD IS NOT AN ARGUMENT. lol If you have a case to make against what I’ve said, make it, if you wish. I’ve explained why petty and mean remarks constitute bullying. If you wish, tell me why they don’t, don’t just proclaim it, if you want me to address the comment.

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  81. Amanda
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 11:37:10

    @Melody Actually, reviewers are under no obligation to develop thick skin unless they are paid professionals. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. The reviewers we’re discussing are bloggers, paying customers. They shouldn’t have to censor their opinion about a product they paid for because your authory ‘iddow feewings’ have been hurt (by the way, how snarky of you, you bully, you).

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  82. Lynnd
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 11:38:52

    @Sean Cummings: Thanks Sean and Cheryl McInnis
    for the links. I think that issues like these will be a definite growth area for litigation.

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  83. ancientpeas
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 11:41:15

    But Melody, with all due respect, why should a reviewer be held to the same level of conduct as the writer? A author is selling a product, the reader is the customer. Any customer relations course teaches that they are not equal partners in the arrangement. No the customer isn’t always right and sometimes it’s annoying as heck but that customers is never held to the same standard as the seller.

    *sidenote* I guess since my baby days on the intenet back in 1995 I’ve always thought capitals meant yelling or stating your point emphatically which is what that person was doing. Or am I dating myself?

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  84. KT Grant
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 11:46:48

    Can someone explain to me what makes a reviewer “professional”? Just because someone may get paid, doesn’t necessarily make them that. I might may be wrong, but last time I checked, a reviewer can’t get their Masters or PhD in reviewing, regardless if it’s for books, television or music. Most who review just fall into it. A reviewer who says they’re a professional confuses me because anyone can review.

    Also, I’ve read some review from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, People, NY Times and other “professional” review publications that are much more below the belt and more personal than book review bloggers or those on Goodreads.

    Again, no one is forcing an author to read a review or interact with a reviewer, especially those on Goodreads. Most of the time these conflicts happen when an author will leave a comment on a GRs review going after the review for being wrong with their opinion of what they read. Funny, I thought books are subjective and the author has no right to correct a reviewers opinion about the work. The best thing for authors is either not read reviews, or not comment and forget they exist and just continue writing and create the best possible product they can be proud of.

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  85. Author on Vacation
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 11:48:58

    @Courtney Milan:

    I would say that any action taken by a reader/reviewer (or an alleged reader/reviewer) with the express intent of somehow penalizing an author, editor, or another reader/reviewer constitutes harrassment and that is indeed socially unacceptable and at times qualified for prosecution.

    I would say voting down an author or giving 1-star reviews, labeling an author as “I Don’t Read Because I Dislike the Author (or the Author’s editor, or the Author’s kid/s, pet/s, spouse/s, etc.” is a form of harrassment. It contributes to a hostile work environment for the author and for others active in the creation and promotion of the author’s work.

    Don’t get me wrong, I doubt the “Ban this Author ‘Cause I’m Teed Off by Whatever she/her agent/editor/fan said or did” gets susbstantial clout. I dismiss such “reviews” as pointless rants. But that doesn’t mean I think it’s okay to post it and that I don’t perceive the potential harm such harrassment causes to the reader community and to the artistic community.

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  86. I was waiting for this… « Her Hands, My Hands
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 11:53:46

    [...] Author finally weighs in on the Stop the GoodRead bullies [...]

  87. Mo
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 11:56:49

    @ancientpeas:

    I’m not going to speak for Melody on this one. I just wanted to put in my own 2 cents on the reviewer/author/customer dynamic you ask about. To be clear, this is my own opinion about this dynamic and has no bearing on any other aspect of this post or discussion.

    In my opinion, a reviewer and a customer are not necessarily synonymous. A reviewer might be a customer, but might also not be a customer. An author is selling a product – a story. A reviewer is selling a product – a story. A customer is selling nothing; a customer is consuming.

    Therefore, when I write my thoughts on a book I read, I am writing as a customer, not as a reviewer even if what I write is called a review. That is my opinion and I am entitled to it as a customer. A reviewer is selling their story, even if the dollar amount they sell it for is $0. They are not just writing an opinion about a book; they are informing the consumer about the relative value of the book. In other words, they write with authority.

    As for level of conduct, I would assume that all roles in this exchange – author, reviewer, and consumer – would adhere to, at least, basic decency.

    As to your side note, yes, all caps in internet speak is shouting, and is still considered quite rude in most internet circles I frequent.

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  88. P. Kirby
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 11:59:42

    @Liz Talley. This. “You know how to solve some of this? By authors not going online and reading all their reviews on GR and Amazon and anywhere else readers have free reign to post their beliefs. Yep. That’s the solution. Just. Don’t. Do. It.”

    I don’t see myself as anyway naive; in fact, I’m about as cynical as you can get. But I continue to be amazed by the pearl clutching–”Oh, noes, a snarky, mean review!”–of some authors.

    One of my books hasn’t been that well received. Yeah, the one review I stumbled on made me sad and somewhat perplexed. My beta readers loved it; as did, the editors who pushed for publication. So what’s the problem? Maybe it hasn’t reached the right readers. Maybe the change in tone from my first book threw some readers. Maybe it’s my own review karma biting me in the ass. Or maybe, it just sucks. Who knows?

    But that kiddies, is the nature of [all] business. You put out a product and the market responds. Sometimes negatively. If you absolutely cannot handle criticism, either: don’t published the darned thing, or…as I do, don’t read reviews.

    The bullying we’re seeing seems to be driven by a perverse, obsessive-compulsive belief that you can control EVERYTHING that is said about your product/book. There’s definitely an obsessive component, since the people involved are spending hours, even days pursuing their online nemesis, going so far as to out contact info and engaging in a scorched earth policy. The behavior, frankly, borders on mental illness. Anyone who puts that much effort into destroying someone who disagrees with their opinion might want to consider getting psychiatric help. Or a productive hobby. Or a real J.O.B.

    Honestly, the best response to a bad review is to write another book, then another and so on…

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  89. Spaz
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 12:02:08

    Thank you!! I am still so sick and saddened that the GRB site still exists. At least they’ve removed all the “Anti-bullying” stuff from their side-bar… I guess?

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  90. azteclady
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 12:02:18

    @Christi: Are they breaking the law in their jurisdiction?

    If they are, then by all means, let’s report the bejesus out of the site. But if they aren’t, then a different approach is needed.

    Because while I don’t want people posting personal information and inciting stalking and physical violence against anyone, and I consider what the people at the StGRb site are doing beyond the pale, irresponsible, misogynistic and cruel, I also don’t want to give anyone the means to shut anyone else they don’t like by claiming cyber harassment.

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  91. Las
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 12:04:33

    @Author on Vacation: Harassment? Hostile work environment? Come on, now. Unless I’m calling you, contacting you via your personal email address, spamming your blog with comments about how I won’t read your books because you suck, RELEASING YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION, it’s neither harassment nor creating a hostile work environment. (No, seriously, explain what you think hostile work environment means. I’m baffled.) Readers can say whatever the hell they want in reader spaces. And, while of course writers have the right to respond, it would be stupid of them to do so . Look, I get it. I used to work retail. I know in my bones that costumers suck. But it’s bad business to respond negatively to customers.

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  92. Courtney Milan
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 12:04:33

    @Melody Clark:

    If you’re defending vicious and mean reviewers who’ve had their Iddow Feewings Huwt because of honest responses from writers, I’m sorry.

    …Um, wow. That has nothing to do with any of this.

    I don’t care how vicious or mean a reviewer is (and I’ve had my share of bad reviews but don’t particularly recall any vicious ones). My take on authors dealing with reviewers is: He who troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind.

    This isn’t about my feelings. It’s about the fact that I run a business and it doesn’t make sense for me to antagonize my customers. If I have to choose between getting a paycheck or assuaging the temporary feelings of woe that arise in my breast when some reviewer fails to appropriately hurl rainbows and unicorns my way, I’m choosing the paycheck every time.

    (I don’t normally quote the Bible, since I don’t particularly swing that way, but since I learned the verse in the context of the famous play titled after it–which strikes me as entirely apropos when discussing overblown rhetoric and McCarthy-esque responses–I’m going to do it here.)

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  93. Ros
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 12:05:22

    @NM: I don’t think it’s got anything to do with manners, actually, good or bad. And saying so goes straight back to Robin’s main point, that somehow the most important characteristic for women is always to be ‘nice’, or ‘well-mannered’. Sometimes the most important thing is to be honest. Sometimes the most important thing is to call a bully a bully.

    The STGRB site is attacking reviewers for not being nice. For not showing good manners, if you like. But here’s the point, why do they get to police the manners of the internet? Not being nice is NEVER grounds for harassment and bullying. And the harassment and bullying of the STGRB site is so far beyond any definition of manners, that it’s irrelevant.

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  94. lazaraspaste
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 12:09:05

    I would add to this @ancientpeas: that there is a HUGE difference between “You suck and you should never pick up a keyboard or pen again” and “This person should be raped” or “This person is a horrible human being and here is all their information. Someone should do something about this person.”

    I think, too, saying to a third person. “X is a total dillweed and needs to be punched in the face” is not the same as hunting down X’s email and writing to them and saying, “You should be punched in the face” which I don’t think is the same as yelling at somebody in a moment of anger “I’m going to punch you in the face!” which is certainly not the same as saying, “If you do not stop what you are doing, I’m going to punch you in the face. Here’s a screencap of the Google Earth image of your house. ” And that to me, is not even in the same vicinity as voting down someone’s book by any stretch of the imagination.

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  95. Ros
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 12:10:00

    @Lynne Connolly: I’m afraid that I do not think exposing a misdemeanour of the kind which Cassie Edwards had perpetuated for years constitutes bullying. I also think that the stroke which she suffered had medical grounds which were nothing to do with what happened on the blogs. It’s true that stress can be a contributing factor, but if she had wanted to avoid the stress of being exposed as a plagiarist, she should have refrained from plagiarism.

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  96. Carolyn Crane
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 12:13:43

    This whole push to make the sides equivalent as a way of excusing threatening behavior against readers/reviewer victims, this “both reviewers and authors are at fault” type of assertion disturbs me.

    Not only is it false as people have endlessly pointed out here – the GR Bullies site people have crossed a significant line and are the true bullies in this equation – but, even if the sides were equivalent (which they are not not not), it would still be wrong. If somebody wrongs you, it’s not okay to wrong them back. That’s the kind of behavior that is supposed to be corrected in childhood. “Two wrongs make a right” is not a feature of the kind of society I want to live in.

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  97. Ros
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 12:14:44

    @Author on Vacation: Giving a 1* review is harassment? Um, how?

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  98. Courtney Milan
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 12:16:40

    @Author on Vacation: I would say that any action taken by a reader/reviewer (or an alleged reader/reviewer) with the express intent of somehow penalizing an author, editor, or another reader/reviewer constitutes harrassment and that is indeed socially unacceptable and at times qualified for prosecution.

    This cannot be the case, and I think you can illustrate this by taking the author/personality out of the equation, and replacing “author” with “business.”

    Your statement then becomes: “Any action taken by a reviewer/customer with the express intent of somehow penalizing a business constitutes harassment.”

    And that can’t be true. It’s perfectly legitimate for someone to get online and leave scathing reviews of a product because they don’t like the company that makes it. It’s perfectly legitimate for someone to comment on every article about Amazon that Amazon is destroying publishing. It’s perfectly legitimate for someone to go and write negative reviews of HP products because they don’t like HP’s waste disposal practices. It’s perfectly legitimate for someone to lambast a product because it was tested on animals and they have it in for animal testing.

    Surely, there is a line that can be crossed–for instance, staking out the CEO’s house, posting pictures of his kids and putting them online, calling employees and giving them threats… Those things would be harassment. And I do believe authors can be harassed.

    But as authors, we are businesses. People can have it in for us–and hate us–and review us negatively for it and down vote our reviews because they just don’t like what we stand for. And that’s not harassment.

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  99. Robin/Janet
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 12:17:24

    @Author on Vacation: I would say voting down an author or giving 1-star reviews, labeling an author as “I Don’t Read Because I Dislike the Author (or the Author’s editor, or the Author’s kid/s, pet/s, spouse/s, etc.” is a form of harrassment. It contributes to a hostile work environment for the author and for others active in the creation and promotion of the author’s work.

    Except that neither Goodreads nor Amazon nor any reader or reviewer blog or publication is a “work environment” for the author, and I think characterizing a social site that way has been part of the problem.

    There is absolutely NO commercial product that is immune from criticism. Some airlines, like United, have entire websites dedicated to the people who hate them, and attempts by the companies to shut them down have been famously disallowed. Whether comment or criticism is perceived to be “deserved” or “nice” or “fair” does not invalidate the ability to comment or the process itself. And if negative reviews and interaction with readers were a deterrent to sales, a number of recent book deals for self-pubbed authors would be unthinkable.

    Further, it would be next to impossible to convince me that any of the authors complaining about “nasty” reviews or readers haven’t made a similarly “nasty” public comment about a celebrity or a service provider or a product (or readers/reviewers!), which is one of the things that steams me about what I see as a total double standard regarding the nature of criticism. I have had some nasty shit said about me online, too, and it feels bad and unfair and undeserved, but them’s the breaks. I’ve also been pursued in ways that feel very much like stalking to me, and while I dislike the individuals doing it, I would not ever believe it’s okay for them to be threatened with actual or possible harm. Because once we start believing that’s justified (or even justifiable), we open the door for it to happen to us by making it an acceptable community value and practice.

    As I’m sure you are aware, there have been numerous comments by people who believe that you should be more “accountable” for your opinions by using your name. That you won’t, and that you are still commenting here knowing that you alone have control over that information, should be a basic right for everyone, no matter how disrespectful or out of line others have deemed your (or anyone else’s) comments. Having someone post your personal information is an implied threat of harm and the cultivation of hostility in a way no negative review or one-star drive-by could ever be. It’s a line across which IMO there is no arguable reason, understanding, or “context,” as another commenter called it.

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  100. Jennifer @ The Bawdy Book Blog
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 12:22:53

    @Melody Clark:
    Petty and mean remarks do not constitute bullying. I’ve called people idiots in the past and that’s pretty petty and mean, but that doesn’t mean I was a bully. It just means I had an opinion of them and I decided to share it.
    Exerting power or forcefulness over another individual….that is bullying.

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  101. Robin/Janet
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 12:26:55

    @Melody Clark: I just found the Stop Goodreads Bullying site (I’d suggest everyone read my responses to reviews to see my own opinion). I think it’s a considerable overreach. It displays the same kind of pouting histronics going on in some of the posts here.

    I think it’s statements like that last one that are getting you in trouble here.

    On the one hand you say you agree with those of us who think that the STGRB site is beyond the pale, then you seem to undermine that assertion with statements like this, which seem to make the whole thing equivalent, somehow, to precisely what the STGRB site premises its “outings” on. And the entire point of my post, and many of the comments here, is that there is NO equivalency. There is no “context” in which any of this makes any kind of logical sense or constitutes any kind of understandable justice. It’s a level of conduct that, IMO, should be totally beyond our comprehension, especially under the given circumstances. So every time you agree with someone who takes this position, and then say something that makes it seem like you totally understand what ‘drove’ STGRB to such lengths, it makes it more difficult to believe you on the first count. And I think that’s what people are responding to in your comments, whether you mean the mixed messages or not.

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  102. Gillyweed
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 12:27:42

    I would say voting down an author or giving 1-star reviews, labeling an author as “I Don’t Read Because I Dislike the Author (or the Author’s editor, or the Author’s kid/s, pet/s, spouse/s, etc.” is a form of harrassment. It contributes to a hostile work environment for the author and for others active in the creation and promotion of the author’s work.

    Seriously? It’s perfectly acceptable for me, as a consumer, to reject any number of products and companies for what others might see as arbitrary reasons. I don’t support X organization because they withdrew their funding for Planned Parenthood. I don’t purchase products from Y company because they don’t promote women in upper management. I don’t read Z author because I was offended by his comments on homosexuality. How is that harassment?

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  103. azteclady
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 12:27:58

    @Melody Clark:

    If you’re defending vicious and mean reviewers who’ve had their Iddow Feewings Huwt because of honest responses from writers, I’m sorry. They need to develop the thick skin everyone tells writers to develop.

    So, what? If these women are foul mouthed they deserve to have their personal information and names and place of employment posted online for everyone to see, along with vicious summaries of their uppity behaviour and the exhortation that ‘they deserve what’s coming to them’?

    Are you blind to the real life consequences of the actions of the people behind the StoptheGoodReadbullies site?

    Can’t you see the difference between being foulmouthed, outspoken, harsh and snarky, and endangering someone for behaving in a way you don’t like?

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  104. Linda Hilton
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 12:28:04

    @Melody Clark:

    Mean and nasty reviews are not bullying because the author asked for them. By putting her work out there in the public sphere she said, “Here is my book. I want you to buy it.” Buying it gives the purchaser the right to review it, to express an opinion of it, to like it, to hate it, to think it’s the very worst piece of garbage ever written. It even gives the purchaser the right to say “This writer should be ashamed of herself for putting this crap out there.” It even gives the purchaser the right to say, “This writer can’t write her way out of a wet paper bag.” It even gives the purchaser the right to say, “This person should never write anything ever again as long as she lives, and maybe even after that.” And yes, it even gives the purchaser the right to say, “This person must be evil and corrupt and condemned to everlasting hellfire for writing this kind of bad book.”

    None of those comments constitutes a direct threat to the author’s safety or to anyone else’s safety. None of those comments constitute an ultimatum to the author along the lines of, “If you don’t stop writing, I’m going to do something to you.” None of those comments constitute a threat to other reviewers who express differing opinions. None of those comments constitute an effort to incite anyone else to inflict bodily harm.

    A bad review is not a threat. It’s not bullying. Providing a person’s personal information and suggesting that they should be personally retaliated against is a threat. That is bullying.

    See, no capital letters except where they belong. Seeing as how I’ve been online since about 1991, through Prodigy and AOL and the GEnie RomEx, I think I know at least a little online etiquette.

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  105. NM
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 12:28:08

    @Ros

    I disagree. Expecting all people, men and women, to maintain a certain level of discourse is not oppressive to anyone. Allowing any piggery imaginable to flourish ultimately oppresses us all.

    Here’s the thing — the kind of snarky, petty, vulgar rhetoric I’m talking about always feels like a personal attack. Frankly, I think people who use that kind of aggressive, demeaning rhetoric have a big old chip on their shoulder and are looking to take it out in any way they can, and these reviewer sites are the perfect set up for them. They can hide behind the notion they’re really just offering critique of the material, while their language and tone speak to something quite disturbing beneath the words on the page.

    People can be honest without being cruel or vulgar or rude.

    Bullying from ANYONE is wrong. I’ve read both sides of this now and there are offenders on each side. The anti-bullying site is as bad as some of the nastier characters at Goodreads or elsewhere.

    When we had standards, when society in general shunned a certain sort of rhetoric, we were better for it. If review sites maintained their TOS and put the kebosh on vulgarity and ad hominems from the very beginning, none of this would be an issue.

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  106. Janine
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 12:29:09

    There’s no excuse for outing people on the internet. None.

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  107. Ros
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 12:34:50

    @NM: Goodreads are very clear on their TOS and there is nothing in it which requires good manners. If you would prefer not to visit a site where bad manners are permitted, that is entirely your choice, as it is theirs not to monitor such a thing.

    The anti-bullying site is as bad as some of the nastier characters at Goodreads or elsewhere.

    I… what?

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  108. Author on Vacation
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 12:35:18

    @Las:

    Readers can say whatever the hell they want

    Anybody can say whatever they want, but they need to accept the consequences of that freedom.

    Examples of workplace harrassment can include:

    Abusing a person/s loudly, usually when others are present.

    Repeated threats of dismissal or other severe punishment for no reason.

    Constant ridicule, put down, or insult.

    Leaving offensive messages on email or the telephone.

    Sabotaging a person’s work, for example, by deliberately withholding or supplying incorrect information; hiding documents or equipment; not passing on messages; and getting a person into trouble in other ways.

    Persistent and unjustified criticisms, often about petty, irrelevant or insignificant matters.
    Humiliating a person/s through gestures, sarcasm, criticism and insults, often in front of customers, management or other workers.

    If the harrassment affects the victim in negative ways (ie, their productivity or their mental/physical/emotional health suffers) the responsible parties can and should be held accountable for their actions.

    If every reviewer who ever set fingers to a keyboard took a few minutes to read their own words and ask himself, “Would I be cool with someone writing and posting the same stuff about me (or another loved one)” I’m sure we’d see fewer “cyberbully reviews” and fewer of these dramatic e-fights.

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  109. CC Denham
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 12:35:36

    So glad to see Dear Author weighing in with their usual intelligence. Thank you.

    As a (so-far) self-published author, this StGRB debacle is just embarrassing. And infuriating. More idiots making the rest of us look bad, when we’re already swimming upstream in an effort to be taken seriously. But worse than that is the actual bullying and stalking going on. I’m glad that at least a couple of the reviewers they’re targeting seem to be taking it in stride, but they shouldn’t have to. How is this ever, EVER okay? I’m just mystified, aggravated, and sad.

    And I’m also jealous of the free time these people obviously have, that they can waste it on this kind of bizarre crusade over BOOKS. Contrary to what some more esoteric-types like to spew, books are not “babies.” They’re product. Yes, we put heart and soul and sweat and tears into them. But when they’re done, we release them to the world. After that, no one – NO ONE, is ever obligated to “be nice” about or to our books (or our public authorial persona, for that matter). If you’re not ready for the worst, then you should probably stick to your day job. *edit to add* – before anyone tries to say something to the extent of, ‘these reviewers should follow that same rule,’ there’s a huge difference between mean-spirited reviews and outing someone’s offline life. Not okay. Not okay at all.

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  110. ancientpeas
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 12:36:06

    Hi Mo,
    Okay, I read through what you wrote and I’m not sure I agree. A reviewer does not get paid for their reviews unless they are a professional reviewer, correct? When, and if, I write a Goodreads or Amazon review and I say “The writing was unpleasant and made me want to throw the book against the wall” I’m writing that as a customer, aren’t I? I’m not being compensated for my opinion so it still falls in the realm of customer. It would never occur to me that the opinion of a customer or reviewer would be different based on the fact they are being paid or not paid. An opinion is an opinion. (brings up that famous joke about what opinions are like). The only time I question if the opinioner opinion is real is if they are being paid by the person whose book they are giving an opinion on. But it’s still just that, paid or not paid, one opinion on one book. I do not believe that I’m telling a story or speaking with authority on a book when I give it 3 stars or 5. I am giving my opinion. What you do with my opinion is up to you.

    I will give you an example which will probably rankle some people. I won’t read Rachel Gibson anymore. I read three of them. I liked the first one but the other two made me angry (not a common reaction for me). I left the last one (which had a romance novelist heroine) thinking “This author doesn’t like people who write romance, read romance or in fact women much at all.” That’s an opinion I have. It’s a feeling. If I was writing a review on the book I would probably phrase it differently but that was my opinion. Am I bullying Rachel Gibson? Would/should Ms. Gibson care I hated her last two books? The only part of my opinion I would expect her to give two hoots about is the fact that I won’t be spending money on her books again.

    I do not see a customer/reviewer as having the same need to be curtious as the author. If the customer comes up to me says “This kitchenaid mixer sucks. The Cuisinart is so much better. Kitchenaid needs to be more like Cuisinart” and I reply with what I want to reply with “You bought the Kitchenaid because it’s 100$ cheaper than the Cuisinart. Sorry you get what you pay for” I’d be fired or at least told to not be rude. No one holds the customer to that standard because that’s not the way the relationship works and I believe the same thing goes for reviewers/customers and authors.

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  111. Gillyweed
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 12:40:08

    Anybody can say whatever they want, but they need to accept the consequences of that freedom.

    And the consequence for exercising that freedom is being publicly outed by people who don’t agree with you?

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  112. Robin/Janet
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 12:40:53

    @Merrian: That will be the ultimate outcome of this unfettered behaviour – the silencing of voices and difference and self-censoring and chilling of conversation. We will be left with cover reveals and puff pieces only, due to this misogyny.

    I definitely think this will be part of the fallout. But I also think there will be another aspect that a lot of people haven’t considered, namely a narrower and narrower margin for authors who are online. I can guarantee you that authors who have no clue they’ve alienated readers with some of their comments about this issue have been crossed off TBB/TBR lists. And beyond that, authors who have no connection with the site or its workings will suffer for the actions of that site. Readers are going to be more on alert for what they perceive to be author aggression or interference online at sites like Goodreads, and I think a lot more hostility between authors and readers will likely emerge from this. Which is sadly ironic, because it’s pretty much the opposite of what I’d think any author would want to be accomplished by the STGRB site.

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  113. Madame X
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 12:42:55

    The biggest problem in this discussion, in my mind, is generalization. Lumping groups of authors and groups of readers into a vague “they” and then discussing the groups as though all the individuals within are alike.

    Yes, there are some authors out there who have really, really behaved badly. And then there are some authors out there who blunder around and get themselves in trouble more or less by accident, because they don’t understand or know how to engage with the culture of reviewers. But as author tantrums become a thing, all the little spats are lumped into this group that’s defined, straw-man-like, by its worst members.

    Same with reviewers. Part of the problem with the GR Bullies site is that it treats all the reviewers on GR as a kind of cumulative entity. One person’s shelf, another person’s snarky comment, a third person’s ranty review…add them all together, cast an ever-wider net to include more and more individuals, and yeah, it looks bad.

    But these reviewers aren’t a united group, they are not a “they” – they are individuals. Saying that any one reviewer should be scapegoated on behalf of the entire community of reviewers is clearly wrong, and yet even the people who defend the called-out reviewers against the bully site often talk about the reviewers as a “they”.

    Especially the people who support the GR Bullies site seem to be mad *in general* and very rarely *in specific*. But the people HURT by the site are individuals, and they shouldn’t be soaking up this generalized anger.

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  114. Courtney Milan
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 12:44:16

    @Author on Vacation:

    I don’t think anyone is questioning whether some level of hostility or dislike is at play. It’s the “work environment” that’s making me scratch my head.

    The entire internet is not the environment in which an author works. And there aren’t the complicated power questions that arise when an employer abuses his power or tacitly approves of other employees doing the same.

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  115. Meoskop
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 12:45:14

    Wow. Under AoV’s description of harassment, he/she has been harassing Dear Author. Excuse me while I refuse to be surprised.

    @NM This mythical time of civility you refer to has never existed. It is a canard people cling to when the speech they wish to suppress has failed to yield to other methods of suppression. Any historian can debunk the good old days in moments.

    @ MelodyClark first rule of holes, stop digging. When you say this is wrong but… you are defending what you claim you find wrong.

    Outing people and tracking their physical movements in an attempt to silence them is wrong. Full stop. No justification. Lord knows DA lets AoV blather on with full free speech, there is no site devoted to tracking him/her or calling her a drunken unfit parent. Assuming she/he has kids.

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  116. EMoon
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 12:45:20

    Bullying is wrong, period. I see little awareness that some readers and some reader groups do bully writers. (Note the “some”–this is not a blanket accusation.) The perceived power of a writer (that writers are all celebrities and thus powerful) is actually a projected myth…most writers have little power. They do not consider themselves celebrities; they weren’t warned, before considering becoming a writer, that they would no longer be allowed any privacy the moment some anonymous reader decided to look them up on Google. That they would have to endure abuse and threats, including death threats, from all over the world if they displeased the wrong subgroup.

    The internet gives the formerly powerless power…not that readers ever were powerless. Readers have always, of course, had the power to not buy what writers write, and to badmouth books & writers to their friends. But now that power to influence others against a writer is much, much greater–negative comments are copied from blog to blog, from website to Twitter and from Twitter to website, at least as much as positive ones. One really angry reader can influence thousands….and readers are not unaware of their power. Increasingly, online readers have made it clear–have said explicitly to writers both online and in direct communication–that they do have power, that they “made” the writer and and unmake the writer–that without them the writer is nothing. That the writer “owes” them not only the exact books they want, when they want them, for whatever price they’re willing to pay–but also the writer owes them access, time, and the attitude and opinions they want a writer to have. Meanwhile publishers urge writers to be ever more vulnerable, by being visible and accessible online. Writers are told that writing good stories is not enough–they must “have a platform” and “sell their brand.” Writers used to be thought of as private people (who else would spend day after day alone writing?) but now the fact of having published a book–even a story–creates the assumption that the writer is a public person, a celebrity, a person in power. Writers who have never dissed a reviewer or a reader, online or elsewhere, have still been subject to vicious personal attacks, including death threats.

    This is a new situation for writers. These are new demands on writers. Writers always had to deal with rejections and bad reviews and poor sales figures. But they did not always have to deal with the kind of public pressure they face now. Most readers never interacted with a writer. Most writers met very few of their readers. It was easy for those who just wanted to write, to do that, un-invaded by the public. They were celebrities only if they chose (and were bestsellers as well.) They did not have to deal with hostility directed at them for any “infraction” of rules made by people they’d never met and whose rules they could not anticipate. Nobody thought they were arrogant, stuck-up, difficult if they didn’t “engage” on demand. Everyone’s opinion of them didn’t show up in their face every morning when they started a day’s work–as it does to any writer working on a computer connected to the internet. (If a writer has a bad review, bad comments on a writing/book venue, anything negative, it will be instantly forwarded to the writer, usually multiple times. ) The internet has enabled a world-wide mob mentality that shows up repeatedly in one area after another.

    The older “rule” for writers was “Never answer reviewers. ” When reviews lived in print media, and didn’t include comments from those who read the reviews, that was easy to do. But when a negative review directs attention to a writer’s website, blog, Twitter account–and it’s easy from that to find a way to contact a writer by email–it’s not. Readers may want the writer to stand there in noble silence while being pounded–to be powerless before the power of a mob, to live in fear of the next attack–but how is that fair? If silencing is wrong–and I think it is–then silencing a writer is just as wrong as silencing a reader. Not accepting a writer’s right to disagree is just as wrong as not accepting a reader’s right to disagree. Dogpiling a writer is just as wrong as dogpiling a reader.

    How, then, can we do better?

    The beginning of fair, ethical conversation about anything is honest recognition of one’s own level of power. Pretending to be powerless when you aren’t is like hiding a gun behind your back and pretending to be unarmed. Having the power readers have–the power to ruin a writer’s career–is not compatible with claiming powerlessness. People would not dogpile if they did not feel powerful doing it. People would not use insulting, rude language if they didn’t feel powerful doing it. People would not threaten physical violence or death if they didn’t feel powerful doing it. The internet encourages anonymity and thus lack of accountability–and in such circumstances bad behavior thrives because it gives the bully a feeling of power and power feels good. Admit it. Own it. Then make the choice to use that power responsibly, not abusively.

    This is not an argument against disagreement and it is not an attempt to silence criticism. It is instead an argument against verbal abuse from *anyone* online. Verbal abuse, name-calling, character attacks, threats–none of these are necessary to express disagreement or to criticize a book you don’t like. I like this book; you don’t. Fine. We don’t have to like the same books. I can tell you what I liked about it; you can tell me why Chapter 17 squicked you so bad you can’t stand the book…and then we drop it. Nobody had to be abusive or suffer abuse. But if one of us is abusive–if I say you’re an ignorant wuss and stupid besides for your reaction to Chapter 17–then the verbally abusive one is a bully. It doesn’t matter what our relative power elsewhere is—in this conversation, at this time, my being verbally abusive means I’m the bully. Same goes for you, if you were verbally abusive.

    I’ll bet there’s not a person on this venue who can honestly say they never, ever, in their whole life reacted to someone else’s actions and words with ill-considered angry words and/or actions of their own. We all are prodded and poked and taunted and teased at some time in our lives, and eventually we break and lash out. Should we have? No. But should the persons who prodded, poked, taunted, and teased–who are often determined to get a reaction out of their victim–have done that? Also no. It can be entertaining for bystanders (many a fight has been prolonged by the circle around the combatants, cheering them on)–and that, too, is an unworthy substitute for honest discussion.

    It might be helpful to imagine, before criticizing someone else’s book, what you would think of the criticism you’re about to give if it were directed at you. Is it fair? Is it helpful? Would it improve your/the writer’s next book? Was this just that the writer didn’t write the book you wanted to read (from the cover, you thought it was a romantic thriller, but it turned out to be a cozy mystery with recipes and you hate cozy mysteries with recipes)? Or do you find factual errors (the Battle of Bannockburn wasn’t fought in 1413, but in 1314) or contradictions within the book, or you can’t stand the main character because he/she kicked a dog, or…what? Keep it factual. Keep it impersonal–no name-calling the writer, no accusations of character flaws (“only a lazy, greedy, self-serving idiot would have written this.”) Ask questions, rather than make accusations. “Why did you let a cat be killed in this book?” “Why did you break the story here, and not farther on/farther back?” If something’s confusing say so–don’t assume you know the writer was stupid/lazy/rushed. (An amazing number of people aren’t really good readers. I’m sure that doesn’t apply to anyone here, but every writer has horror stories about the interpretations some readers–including professional readers like editors and reviewers–get from a passage that no one else mis-reads.) If someone else is being rude, don’t jump in to agree in equally lurid terms, even if you didn’t like the book either. Let that one rude post be balanced by your sensible, factual one. Valid, factual criticism can also sting (“You do realize that castle wasn’t built for 200 years after the time of your story…” “You killed Boris in Chapter 5, and here he is in Chapter 18, clearly the same Boris because he’s continuing a conversation with Alex about events in Chapter 4″) but it’s very different from being called names or threatened. If anyone–writer or reader–drops a steaming pile in the middle of the discourse…don’t feel compelled to start a mob pyre for the guilty party. You can prove by your continued rational discussions that you aren’t silenced and you aren’t going to play that game. Or, if you just have to be abusive because it’s such fun (and don’t we all know in our secret hearts that it’s both easier and more fun to trash a book than to think about and write a careful negative review?) then set up a locked group–a listserv, for instance, or a site with locked comments access–that bars all writers completely. Do all the abusive stuff there.

    I realize this is pie in the sky wishful thinking, but it’s worth at least thinking about. We cannot get rid of bullying by deciding that one group is entitled to use verbal abuse or raise a mob to support their position and another isn’t. That one group must not be silenced, but the other group should be quiet. The rules have to hold for all. Everyone has a right to have their say…but everyone needs to say it without verbal abuse, especially in the more open forums as on mixed book review/reader/writer sites.

    Ritual admissions and disclaimers. Yes, I’m a published writer. Yes, I’ve been slammed around, but no, I don’t respond to reviews, online comments, or dogpiles etc. unless they’re on spaces I control (be rude on my own space and you are so not there anymore.) I have not incited a dogpile on someone and will not do so. I was told to get on GoodReads, but I’m not there more than a few times a year (too many online commitments, and the book deadlines just keep coming; it’s been months. ) So I have no knowledge of who said what or how they said it relevant to the initiating comments…but I have considerable knowledge of what’s been said and how on other venues where writers and readers commingle and others where writers bind up their wounds out of sight. I am 100% against silencing but also 100% for non-abusive speaking.

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  117. Las
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 12:47:45

    @Author on Vacation:

    Anybody can say whatever they want, but they need to accept the consequences of that freedom.

    Yes, because having their personally information made public with the implication that people should physically attack them is a valid consequence.

    Like that thing I said that you didn’t quote, writers also have the right to say what they want, it doesn’t mean it’s not stupid for them do so.

    And there is nothing about negative reviews and online criticism of authors that fits with the definition workplace harassment.

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  118. Author on Vacation
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 12:49:45

    @Janine:

    There’s no excuse for outing people on the internet. None.

    I agree people’s privacy should be respected. However, there’s a weird double standard to this attitude in the reading community. A lot of the same people who dun an author for “outing” a reviewer will express scorn or contempt for authors or others electing to post under a pseudonym or anonymity.

    If people expect others to have the guts (or whatever) to reveal themselves and express disrespect if they do not, why should they be offended when someone is revealed?

    I personally have no problem with people posting anonymously. I don’t think they’re bad or gutless or anything besides protective of their privacy, very prudent trait in these times.

    It just seems to me there’s a lot of openly expressed separatism in the reading community where authors are expected to accept second-class citizen status while the reviewer/reader should receive all manner of deference and respect, even when they exhibit insupportable behavior.

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  119. NM
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 12:49:52

    @Ros, I meant that “stop the GR bullies” site. Which is appalling.

    The GR TOS includes this clause: “You agree not to post User Content that contains any information or content that we deem to be unlawful, harmful, abusive, racially or ethnically offensive, defamatory, infringing, invasive of personal privacy or publicity rights, harassing, humiliating to other people (publicly or otherwise), libelous, threatening, profane, or otherwise objectionable”.

    That should imply a tone of respect and general good manners.

    Unfortunately, in this day and age, I suppose it does not. That’s a shame, IMO, and I mean that quite literally. It’s shameful that people are more concerned with their technical right to be rude and vulgar than they are with being the best people they can be.

    Like I said, I’m sure I’m quite old-fashioned on this matter.

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  120. Linda Hilton
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 12:50:57

    @Author on Vacation:

    Anybody can say whatever they want, but they need to accept the consequences of that freedom.

    That applies to the author, too. She’s had her say when she publishes that book, and now she has to accept the responses of readers, good, bad, snarky, polite, rude, WTFever.

    It’s a two way street.

    @NM — I don’t want to go back to the days of forced politeness. Those in power always seem to find ways of silencing the more “uppity” elements.

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  121. Ros
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 12:53:37

    @NM: Just so I’m really clear what you’re saying, you think the Stop the GR Bullies site is “as bad as” some of what you’ve seen on Goodreads itself?

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  122. Meoskop
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 12:55:18

    @EMoon your reviewer / reader is not your editor. They are not obligated to improve your product. If they don’t care for the cat dying, they can say so however they like. If it’s “OMFG why did she kill the only likable character in this godforsaken book” then suck it up. Your beta readers and your editors say “Well, I think the cat is the emotional vehicle for the reader to engage with unsympathetic characters, killing it at this point has an emotional impact but reduces the ease of identification…” because you pay them. Stop confusing the two groups and everyone will live longer.

    I would also like to retire the concepts that any of the actions taken by the alleged bullies are even extreme. They are outspoken and opinionated women. One must live in an incredibly tiny corner of the Internet to see them as otherwise. I, for one, am kinder on the Internet than I am in real life. Trust me, anything I say to anyone online I would say twice as strongly in person. So let’s retire the myth of “wouldn’t say it to their face”.

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  123. Courtney Milan
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 12:57:04

    @Author on Vacation: If people expect others to have the guts (or whatever) to reveal themselves and express disrespect if they do not, why should they be offended when someone is revealed?

    Consent.

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  124. Keishon
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 12:57:15

    I don’t know what it is about books in that they are perceived as anything other than what they are: a product we pay our hard earned dollars for. Gone are the days when people were actually happy to be read. I’m sure there are thousands of obscure writers out there that wished someone would read their book and share their opinion on it – good or bad. Real life does call and unlike Melody lol I am done with this topic.

    @Meoskop: no, I can’t recall that incident. But will concede that maybe the game hasn’t changed but has become more fierce? (from The Wire.)

    Ditto what Janine said, too. My fellow readers, keep doing what you’re doing. We need your voices no matter what anyone says.

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  125. Jennifer Leeland
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 13:02:11

    I agree with Janine. There is NO excuse for “outing” personal information about anyone online. Period.

    Like Azteclady said, aren’t they breaking the law? It seems to me that there’s been some laws passed to stop just this kind of behavior.

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  126. NM
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 13:04:53

    @NM This mythical time of civility you refer to has never existed. It is a canard people cling to when the speech they wish to suppress has failed to yield to other methods of suppression. Any historian can debunk the good old days in moments.

    Perhaps. I still maintain that we should strive for the ideal rather than give up and devolve to small, mean, petty people just because we can.

    I don’t wish to suppress anyone’s “speech”. I would like people to use respectful, dignified rhetoric when expressing their opinions.

    Rude, snarky, vulgar people ultimately suppress their own speech by limiting their own audience. Sooner or later, no one hears anything but the vulgarity and nastiness, and they quietly distance themselves from that sort of thing.

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  127. Las
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 13:05:15

    @EMoon:

    It might be helpful to imagine, before criticizing someone else’s book, what you would think of the criticism you’re about to give if it were directed at you. Is it fair? Is it helpful? Would it improve your/the writer’s next book?

    How is that anyone’s responsibility? If I read a book, and feel inclined to right a review on goodreads, that review is going to be my thoughts on that book. I’m not writing to the author. I’m not an editor who’s getting paid to help improve an author’s work. It’s not some kind of moral failing on readers’ parts that their reviews aren’t as “constructive” as some authors would like. If authors want to read reviews with the sincere intentions of learning from them, well, good for them for making that effort (and I mean that, because if it were me I wouldn’t read reveiws of my work in places like goodreads and amazon); but it’s their job to learn to read those reviews in a way that might be helpful. When I read reviews trying to find something I want to read, I know what I’m looking for. It’s pretty easy sort out. I can’t count that number of glowing reviews that made me NOT read a book because I knew I wouldn’t like it; and how many negative reviews, even DNF reviews, that had me seeking out those books because they sounded exactly like what I wanted to read. If I can figure that out as a reader, why is it so difficult for authors who claim to read reviews so they can learn how to write better?

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  128. Jennifer Armintrout
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 13:07:38

    I keep trying to find some correlation between “doesn’t review things the way I like,” and “post where she works on the internet, presumably so we can get her fired.” Is that really the next step here? Not, “I’ll avoid reading her reviews in the future,” or “I won’t engage her in a public forum?” It just goes straight from “I disagree with you/think you’re rude/etc.” to “ruin her life?”

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  129. NM
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 13:07:58

    @Ros

    I think that site is awful. I think some of the reviews, including ones they’ve highlighted, are awful. I’ve noticed an increase in vulgar and snarky rhetoric among these review sites, especially among romance, YA and fantasy genre review sites. It’s ALL bad. Equally so.

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  130. Moriah Jovan
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 13:14:08

    I see three things going on here with you Stop the Goodreads Bullies people (yes, I’m talking to you directly because I know you’re reading this):

    1) You have no home training and no common sense. Didn’t your mothers teach you any better or did they think everything you did was precious?

    2) What the fuck do you think, the world owes you something? It doesn’t. Life is not fair. You’re adults. Get over it. Stop acting like you should get a trophy for showing up for the tournament. Late.

    3) Get a job, get a life, get a hobby. Something. You have way too much time on your hands and apparently way too much money to have to support yourselves. Better yet, contribute something to society.

    Battered women’s shelters (you know, where women go who are really being abused, not just bullied or stalked) need volunteers.

    Habitat for Humanity (I suspect a little hard physical labor will do you a whole lot of good) can always use a helping hand.

    Homeless shelters (so you can find out what it’s like too have too much month at the end of the money) aren’t just there on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

    Harvesters (because clearly if you have time for this you don’t need money so spend it on people who are going hungry).

    Stop acting like a bored ADHD 6-year-old who isn’t getting his way and start contributing to society in significant, productive, helpful ways. God help us all if this country is populated by people like you.

    Go ahead. Come after me for telling you what your parents should have. I’m not that hard to find. See what happens.

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  131. Gillyweed
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 13:15:27

    @Meoskop:

    I would also like to retire the concepts that any of the actions taken by the alleged bullies are even extreme. They are outspoken and opinionated women.

    Yes, thank you! The only outed person that I’m familiar with is Ridley, since she comments regularly here at DA. She never struck me as anything more than outspoken and I appreciate the fact that she calls out idiots who, for example, express the belief that a woman in a short skirt is asking for it. The irony of all of this is that STGB is doing precisely what it’s accusing Ridley et al of doing: bullying.

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  132. ancientpeas
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 13:17:29

    Is being rude, snarky, vulgar, mean or crude really the same as revealing personal information about someone on the internet for the mass consumption of others?

    My brain just refuses to see those two things as equal I guess.

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  133. Mo
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 13:17:37

    @ancientpeas:

    I think we are mostly saying the same thing, just a bit differently.

    Your example of you buying a book and writing your thoughts about it on Amazon is the equivalent of me reading a book I bought and then writing my opinion about it on GoodReads. I am not a reviewer; I am a consumer writing down my opinions about the book I read. They are just that, our thoughts. An opinion for an opinion. I totally agree with you. Additionally, I agree that such a personal opinion does not need to meet any professional standard of any sort. It is much the same as shouting something at the top of your lungs in the middle of a busy intersection.

    The book reviewer in the NY Times gets paid to write reviews. He or she is not necessarily a regular purchaser of said author or genre, hence not a customer. A book is handed out, read, and reviewed. The authority of the reviewer is assumed there. That he gets paid is less important than the clout he wields by virtue of being a reviewer for the NY Times. But, he also gets paid to render a professional opinion about literary works. His opinion matters more in the author/publisher/literary world than my opinion from the first example. I *think* that we would agree on that.

    The grey area in all that are sites like Dear Author. Dear Author is a corporation (LLC). The people who review books here at Dear Author may not get paid to write reviews of books. They do, however, have clout because we as consumers give them that clout. Consumers come here to get Dear Author reviewers’ opinions about which books are quality and which are not. This sets them apart from both consumers who write opinions and the “professional” reviewers for magazines and newspapers. (I put professional in quotations because I do not think it is the best term to use, but I lack any other word at the moment.) It is in this gray area then, that we might disagree. I see Dear Author reviewers as much closer to the NY Times reviewer and accord them the rights and responsibilities I would give that NY Times reviewer. Others might see Dear Author reviewers as closer to consumers with opinions. Additionally, I see reviews posted to GoodReads by Dear Author reviewers as an extension of the reviews posted here on DA. In short, I make no distinction between a Jane as DA reviewer and a Jane as private consumer review when looking at her reviews on GoodReads. This is something that I have given thought to recently and I think that is one place where I have to be more careful. What Jane, for example, writes as a review on GoodReads may have no bearing whatsoever on her reviews or her job as a reviewer here. It is one of the dangers of the public/private persona dynamic and something we have to be aware of.

    Please be aware that I use DA and Jane as examples only.

    In your example of Rachel Gibson, I do not see your opinion or your choice to not buy her books as bullying in any way shape or form.

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  134. Ros
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 13:19:59

    @NM: That’s what I thought you were saying. And that’s where I think you’re quite wrong. Writing mean, snarky, bitchy reviews is one thing. Publishing private details of someone’s real life name, address, family situation, workplace and other habits is another. The first may not be nice, but the second is bullying and harassment. Those two things are NOT equally bad.

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  135. Expy
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 13:20:17

    @EMoon

    Having the power readers have–the power to ruin a writer’s career–is not compatible with claiming powerlessness.

    We have the power to ruin a writer’s career? Since when? Can you backup that claim with some anecdotes? Anecdotes that doesn’t have the writer ruin the career herself, i.e. argued against reviewers, wrote shitty books, didn’t hire an editor or listen to the editor, etc.

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  136. azteclady
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 13:21:33

    @Jennifer Armintrout: This, this!

    The disconnect is…appalling to say the least.

    And s Courtney Milan says in response to AoV–the difference is consent.

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  137. Jane
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 13:21:48

    A) Goodreads and the internet is not the work environment for an author.

    B) The IRONY (and yes, I put that in all caps intentionally) of Author on Vacation blathering about how freedom of speech leads to repercussions that must be accepted by the speaker, no matter they may be, is astonishing. If there is any doubt about how we feel about the importance of persevering anonymity it would be the existence of Author on Vacation and her ability to comment here without fear of exposure, particularly when so many of her comments depend upon a certain level of acceptance of her expertise as an author and bloviator on all sorts of topics without ANY verifiable credentials.

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  138. azteclady
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 13:23:03

    @NM: For the love of!! it’s all equally bad?

    Being foulmouthed and snarky is the same as risking the physical well-being of someone because the wrote foulmouthed and snarky things about your book?

    What in the every loving hell?

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  139. Kaigou
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 13:26:08

    Ahhh… reading through, and I think it’s an important point that “bullying” incorporates a power dynamic. In this situation of readers, reviewers, big-name authors and indie-authors and self-published authors, it’s really hard to tease out who has the power, and who doesn’t. Seems like a lot of these replies see that power dynamic from different angles, and a few attempt to identify extenuating circumstances that are quite ambiguous or at least fuzzy, to me. (“The author is new/indie/self, doesn’t have a major fanbase” means less-power, but to me, one author with three really vociferous and malicious fans is going to offset the reader with twenty friends who are lassez-faire.)

    Bullying, itself, is becoming a loaded political term, and given the fuzziness, can we step back to use the broader term that incorporates bullying (as one type) — harassment. That doesn’t require we have, or define, or qualify, a power dynamic. It’s one person (or a group of people) attacking another person (or group of people) in an escalated manner beyond what would be a reasonable response to any objective bystander. Clearly, that’s what’s going on in a lot of the examples given, and then we can bypass the get-out-of-jail card that someone’s behavior is somehow acceptable or condonable because the power dynamic should be seen in this light and that exception and therefore not the up/down required for bullying. It’s still harassment.

    Frex, readers ganging up on an author for delivery dates… who has the power, here? You can skip that messy question and just go for the simplest: the author is being harassed. Even if it’s a horde of otherwise-powerless players (aka the piranha effect someone mentioned above), it’s still harassment, and bullying’s power dynamics are beside the point.

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  140. NM
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 13:28:13

    @EMoon, excellent post!

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  141. Jane
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 13:31:23

    I can hardly believe that Elizabeth Moon is here lecturing us on civility when she is the one who said these things about Muslims. Read it.

    I know–I do not dispute–that many Muslims had nothing to do with the attacks, did not approve of them, would have stopped them if they could. I do not dispute that there are moderate, even liberal, Muslims, that many Muslims have all the virtues of civilized persons and are admirable in all those ways. I am totally, 100%, appalled at those who want to burn the Koran (which, by the way, I have read in English translation, with the same attention I’ve given to other holy books) or throw paint on mosques or beat up Muslims. But Muslims fail to recognize how much forbearance they’ve had. ….

    I feel that I personally (and many others) lean over backwards to put up with these things, to let Muslims believe stuff that unfits them for citizenship, on the grounds of their personal freedom. It would be helpful to have them understand what they’re demanding of me and others–how much more they’re asking than giving. It would be helpful for them to show more understanding of the responsibilities of citizenship in a non-Muslim country.

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  142. Las
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 13:36:46

    @Jane: Well, that certainly explains it. Looks like a chronic lack of critical thinking skills.

    And FYI to all those claiming that authors get bullied: that thing that Jane just did? That’s what you have to do. Provide links, because otherwise I’m calling bullshit.

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  143. NM
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 13:40:26

    @Ros

    The one begets the other. It is wrong and quite possibly illegal to post personal information that has the potential to lead to harm (I believe this is the case in California, at any rate). However, this is the road you go down when you claim that rudeness and vulgarity, cruel verbal attacks and ad hominems are some how “empowerment” and ought to be the norm. The behavior gets ramped up and ramped up until the next step is this sort of outing, is a situation that’s gotten so out of hand that physical harm is right around the corner. You open the door for nastiness, allow it to flourish, this is what happens. Physical violence is the logical next step.

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  144. Christi
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 13:45:45

    @NM:

    Perhaps. I still maintain that we should strive for the ideal rather than give up and devolve to small, mean, petty people just because we can.

    I don’t wish to suppress anyone’s “speech”. I would like people to use respectful, dignified rhetoric when expressing their opinions.

    We should still strive for an ideal that was conceived for the express purpose of suppressing the voice of a marginalized group? Well… ooookay (spoiler alert: it’s not).

    And by whose definition exactly?

    This is the problem. Everyone thinks their ideal is The Right Way. That’s BS. The way to getting along isn’t to conform to one unified avenue of discussion and behavior. What a miserable society that would be.

    Perhaps, rather than disregard the safety of people who strive for a slightly different ideal than you, you (general you) can condition yourself for the EXTREMELY COMMONPLACE OCCURRENCE that some people strive for a slightly different ideal than you. A lot of what you call snarky and mean spirited, I call levity on what would be an otherwise grim reaction.

    And the only thing you can control are your own reactions. Wishing for a society in which everyone is nice and pleasant by your own standard (because let’s face it, subjective-city) is absolutely ridiculous. It’s like being poor and playing the lottery instead of looking for a job. Yeah, could happen, but you’d be better off focusing on what you CAN control.

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  145. ancientpeas
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 13:49:58

    @Mo:

    I think, too, we are close to agreeing except for the fact that I don’t see clout as being the dividing line between being constructive in your reviews and being “overly” critical (if there is such a thing). For example, we all read the same book, you, this site and me and then we all had to write a review about it, you and I can get away with “The writing was poor, the plot was bad and I’m sorry I wasted 10$ on it” (Canadian, we pay more) whereas on this site that would not be considered a review they would want to publish. So therefore while you and I can couch our dislike of the book in berevity this site (and others like it) cannot. If a book was really bad and you have to review it how can you write 300 words about only the good parts and 50 about the bad. It’s dishonest reviewing. It is a lie. I’d rather read cruel, mean even nasty review than lies. I’ve bought books that this site has hated, made fun of, torn to pieces. I’ve ignored books they loved. I think the NYTimes book reviews are often petentious claptrap. I often read reviews merely to figure out content. If I like the sound of the book I read it.

    And about Rachel Gibson, I’m not just saying I didn’t like her books. I’m saying I walked way seriously disliking her tone and themes. I did what most readers do. I voted with my pocketbook.

    Ultimately it’s all about the all mighty dollar. If I found out an author I liked was part of the site we are discussing I would stop buying their books. If I found out an author I liked was harassing a reviewer I would stop buying them. It’s the author who is trying seperate me from my money, not the reviewer.

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  146. NM
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 13:54:08

    @Christi, actually, I don’t know anyone who thinks the inclusion of four letter words in a book review is The Right Way. Well, I do, but as I said, I avoid those sites.

    Asking people to behave like adults and refrain from what is commonly recognized as vulgar and foul rhetoric is not forcing everyone down one avenue of discussion. One avenue of behavior? Not even that.

    Right now I’m engaged in an intense, passionate theological discussion. We’ve got pagans, Christians, some clergy, deeply religious people, “spiritual but not religious” people, et al., and we’re using all kinds of rhetorical styles, including the irreverent, the scholarly, the brusque and the meandering. Not one of us has used foul or vulgar language, nor have we used language that demeans or makes the other person feel devalued or uncomfortable.

    It’s possible to have standards and foster diversity of opinion and expression at the same time.

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  147. Shiloh Walker
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 13:56:28

    I heart @Moriah Jovan… and I agree. Completely.

    My two cents about the people who think the STOPGR site is actually kosher? They’ve never actually dealt with true abusive relationships and/or have never actually been bullied.

    There’s a school of hard knocks around. Attend it. Learn from it.

    ETA: this doesn’t mean get bullied or abused…but try volunteering or working with abuse victims or kids who’ve actually dealt with hard bullying.

    You’ll pick up on the difference pretty quickly. After all, there’s a far cry from… ‘this reviewer HATED my book and told everybody NOT to read it blah blah blah to the girl who hides in her room every morning because people send threatening messages to her cellphone, telling her she should just kill herself.

    A far cry from… THIS REVIEWER MADE A BRATTY AUTHORS TO AVOID LIST to a woman who deals with physical abuse daily. Yeah.

    DEFCON ONE situations there alright.

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  148. Janine
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 14:02:23

    @Author on Vacation: I’m in the process of moving so I don’t have time to respond at length. I’ll be brief and say that I see a world of difference between telling someone they are hiding behind a pseudonym and making someone’s identity and address known publicly.

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  149. Lisa
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 14:05:42

    All this is crazy out of control BUT I will say a while back I saw some stuff on Goodreads that broke my heart. I wish like heck I remembered the name of the book –author — maybe someone else will? She was 16 when she wrote her first book?

    Book 2 was up for pre-order and she had hundreds and hundreds of people bashing her. At this point she was maybe 18? They attacked her. Used words like stupid and I’ll never read this book and just wow– mean mean stuff– and it was the personal attacks that got me. Granted she hit a list and success was her comfort I’m sure — but she was a kid at the time. These people stopped short of nothing but calling her a stupid fat pig.

    I was just baffled. WHAT sparks that kind of anger?

    I don’t think these kinds of attacks should be allowed.

    Hate a book you’ve read. That’s fine!
    Speak up about it.
    That’s fine!

    But yikes. Are there no limits?

    And I think when people see things like this they get raw and respond to other things more defensively.

    Posting people’s pictures and inferring they are drunks is no different from what these people were doing to this kid?

    I swear I told my kids that high school ended the meanness. I sometimes feel like I lied.

    If anyone remembers who I’m talking about — the young author please post! To read those comments is pretty disheartening.

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  150. Meoskop
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 14:08:51

    Ah yes, NM. But whose 4letter words? As others have said, these are subjective measurements. And yet you use Red Dress defense by saying the uttering of profanity or unkind words is a step down the road to potential violence.

    To that I say “The hell it is.” or perhaps “You’re fucking kidding me.” maybe even “Cut the crap.” Two of those three sentences contain a vulgarity of four letters. Only one would generally be collectively agreed to be inappropriate.

    Standards are imperfect things most often invoked to hide deeper and darker beliefs.

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  151. Lisas
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 14:11:44

    I’m horrible at the highlight and comment thing but referring to the below I do agree cursing and such should not be allowed. We can’t stop the not nice– you got to be kidding me — but the you got to be FING kidding me. Not right.
    *******

    Comment:

    Ah yes, NM. But whose 4letter words? As others have said, these are subjective measurements. And yet you use Red Dress defense by saying the uttering of profanity or unkind words is a step down the road to potential violence.

    To that I say “The hell it is.” or perhaps “You’re fucking kidding me.” maybe even “Cut the crap.” Two of those three sentences contain a vulgarity of four letters. Only one would generally be collectively agreed to be inappropriate.

    Standards are imperfect things most often invoked to hide deeper and darker beliefs.

    From Meoskop

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  152. Las
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 14:14:43

    @NM: Using profanity is not an example of not behaving like an adult, and claiming that it is is just an excuse to ignore any arguments you don’t want acknowledge. Cursing serves a purpose, it’s a verbal shorthand. How you can claim that using the word “fuck” is worse than stating that physical violence is a natural consequence to anything is beyond me.

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  153. Ros
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 14:16:14

    @Lisas: Who do you mean when you say ‘we’ have to stop cursing? Who gets to police the internet to that level? Some review sites don’t allow certain words, others do. That’s up to them.

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  154. Jane
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 14:17:19

    @Lisas: I disagree. Cursing does not make a statement “not right”. As in “I cannot fucking believe Elizabeth Moon wrote those things about Muslims” does not make my sentence or sentiment “not right.” The only reason a person should avoid cursing is because it diminishes the statement made. In other words, using curse words may make people automatically discount what I’ve said so I try to refrain but I don’t refrain because someone says it’s not nice or because it’s “not right.”

    Telling reviewers that using curse words in their reviews or in their commentary somehow opens them up to having their personal information hunted down, to being called an alcoholic neglectful mother, or to suggest that you’ve driven someone to suicide (my own personal stalker fred) is actually what is “not right.”

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  155. NM
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 14:18:05

    @Meoskop, yes, and the kind of rhetoric we see all over the internet and, unfortunately, hear out on the street and at the table next to us in restaurants, and so forth, is testimony to your anything goes attitude. Because it’s all subjective! If I want to show up at someone’s wedding and shout “Let’s #$%&ING hear it for the bride!” as soon as the nuptials are complete, why should anyone be upset — it’s all subjective, it’s just their opinion of what’s proper v. mine, and it’s a free country, I have a right to be vulgar and obscene! How dare the bride’s father show me the door? He’s oppressing me! It’s censorship! Why, my rhetoric speaks to my empowerment, my liberation from the patriarchy!

    No, standards are not something that hides deeper and darker things. I mean, you’ve just set a standard in that post. Does that hide something deep and dark?

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  156. Lisa
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 14:23:48

    On cursing — for me its about a general forum where some people are very offending by curse words. I guess it’s my corporate roots but I think free speech and opinion are great, but I still cringe at the curse words. HR for many years! It’s build into my blood I guess. I still cringe when I go to a store here in Colorado and see the sidewalks with ice. I had an employee slip on ice and die. So cursing in the public forum tends to bring that out in me I think.

    It also makes me appalled seeing what that site is doing to reviewers. Move on and write another book!

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  157. Amanda
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 14:24:42

    For some reason I CAN’T QUITE figure out, @NM’s comments make me think of Footloose.

    (edited for the totally wrong 80′s movie)

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  158. Author on Vacation
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 14:25:49

    @ancientpeas:

    Is being rude, snarky, vulgar, mean or crude really the same as revealing personal information about someone on the internet for the mass consumption of others?

    My brain just refuses to see those two things as equal I guess.

    I find both behaviors objectionable. Verbal abuse is socially harmful behavior and civilized people should not support it, even if they think it is funny, harmless, or “no big deal, just fooling around on the internet.”

    I’ve seen many instances where people encourage e-abuse even if they themselves don’t actively participate. Even if they personally like or approve of the attacker and dislike or disapprove of the victim, supporting verbal abuse is socially deviant behavior and is not indicative of a stable, healthy community. People behaving this way should not expect to be treated with the same credibility and respect due adults behaving more appropriately.

    The violation of privacy is also socially harmful. It particularly concerns me when the “outer” releases details about the “outee’s” family members, including minor children. While I don’t believe the “outee” and/or his/her family members are in any serious danger from the “outing,” it’s still unpleasant and disturbing.

    I’m also intrigued by some of the individuals who’ve been “outed.” It’s never occurred to me to identify the RL ID’s of people on the internet, especially when I harbor unfavorable impressions of them. No one posting on the internet is important enough to merit that kind of curiosity on my part. There IS the occassional person I wish I knew so I could buy them a cup of coffee, but that’s about it.

    I’ve been “outed” myself and once I got over the “outer’s” neener-neener attitude, I really just sort of shrugged it off and chalked it up to the person’s own defects. My “outer” admitted to suffering serious mental illness and I believe her – what sane, mentally and emotionally sound person cares about pulling a stunt like that? I am unintimidated by the “outer” and I am more than capable and willing to defend myself and my property should the “outing” somehow contribute to a RL confrontation. I’m not good victim material.

    It’s pointless to argue one offense is somehow less offensive. Both are equally harmful and the intent behind the actions is to harm others, perhaps embarrass or frighten them, “run them out of e-town,” so to speak.

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  159. karlynp
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 14:27:20

    Sadly, not surprised by this. I’ve been posting/chatting online about books for years, and have seen authors and readers butt heads so many times. Initially, it was mostly because the excessive spamming, schilling and fake reviews being posted on reader-to-reader communities. Readers had little resources at their disposal: they could report the post(s) which may or may not get removed, reply harshly with a stern message to the author/poster, or try their best to ignore the offensive author/poster. Some readers created blog posts on their site, if they had one. But when GR became popular, many authors soon realized that readers now have more power to communicate their dislike about an author’s behavior or book, and that they have more control over building and managing their online communities.

    Today, we can create bookshelves titled ‘bitch authors to avoid’ as well as ‘bests books evah!’, and post crazy photos of psychotic characters or sexy photos that represent a hot hero. We can express our love, hate, joy, surprise…etc. of books and authors unlike ever before. We are also able to build a much tighter community of online friends, and control who sees our profiles. There is no doubt in my mind that the GR reader-to-reader communities have been a HUGE blessing for many, many, many authors. Unfortunately, the amount of control a reader now has online greatly upsets some authors, so I am not surprised that a few delusional people are taking desperate steps to try and gain a bit more control for themselves.

    Goodreads is clear about what they allow us to post and not post, so authors do have the ability to get author-bashing reviews removed. But profanity, graphics, the names of our shelves…etc. are allowed. Some authors might not agree with their policies, but it clearly represents the future of online book clubs. For me, being a member of GR is no different than if I joined a library book club that took place in library basement, we should have the same freedom to say what we want without the INTERFERANCE of the author.

    The authors behind that crazy website will not stop the growth of online book clubs, nor will they ever stop freedom of expression. That website is laughable in so many ways, but it angers me that they are trying to hurt some great people who have been amazing contributors and advocates for the romance book genre. Their delusional and myopic view of this situation sickens me, but their efforts will never stop me from posting reviews and commenting as I see it.

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  160. Meoskop
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 14:28:21

    @NM your deeper and darker truth is that you consider physical endangerment the natural and defensible outcome of disliked speech.

    I used profanity deliberately to convey that appropriate speech differs. In your completely not at all like situation the appropriateness of the bride’s father’s response depends on the eternal forces. Is this common speech for the Bride and her friends? Does her father own the venue? Is the person speaking perhaps the groom? Context matters. Blanket enforcement of subjective and personal standards are suppression.

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  161. Meljean
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 14:28:36

    @NM: You open the door for nastiness, allow it to flourish, this is what happens. Physical violence is the logical next step.

    But I think that for most reasonable people, violence is not the next logical step. If my husband and I got into a nasty, personal screaming match, according to you the next logical step is: he’s going to punch me in the face.

    That’s not what reasonable people do, though. For us, the next logical step is walking away from each other. We cool off. And if worse comes to worst, we divorce. We never see each other again. But no matter how awful the argument becomes, no matter how many personal, nasty, petty, bitter arrows we throw in there, throwing that punch is a line we would never cross.

    It’s the same online. Everyone has the ability to walk away, no matter how nasty the comments become. You have the ability to block people, to filter out e-mails. That is what reasonable people do — that’s the next logical step. Sure, you might want to punch the other person in the face, but you never cross the line and actually do it. You might actually say it in the comments, too — and for the most part, I think people understand that you just want to do it, that you never really would.

    Obviously, that type of comment would be a really dumb thing to say, it would deserve a backlash from other commenters, would escalate any argument, and it would all probably just become even nastier — but unless you do something like creating a game where you could virtually punch someone (actually following through on the act) and put bruises on the physical representation of the person, I doubt the person on the receiving end of the comment would feel genuinely threatened.

    If these GR Bullies had started a blog and said “We really want to punch Ridley in the face” — and, heck, maybe someone actually has said it to her online? — that would be bad enough. There would be a backlash, no doubt. There would be rants and blog posts and gnashing of teeth. There would be another round of Authors vs. Reviewers. But basically, the GR Bullies would be doing the equivalent of screaming back. They’d be meeting ‘bad behavior’ with some real bad behavior of their own.

    But that’s not what they did. They could have screamed back. They could have walked away. They could have tried for civil discussion. They could have tried to appeal to Goodreads to change their TOS. They could have taken many, many logical next steps — but instead, they crossed the line.

    Maybe they didn’t physically punch those reviewers, but they certainly made the suggestion by posting their real information with a message like “We have to stop these people.” What other possible reason could someone have to post another person’s place of residence? None, except to make them afraid for their physical, personal safety, in the the hopes that they’d just shut the hell up.

    Those reviewers can’t walk away from that. You can say they can just move, but really — that’s not easy. The GR Bullies have taken away the reviewers’ choices, made it impossible to disengage because the GR Bullies have brought the argument to their doorstep in real life. And all the while the GR Bullies are suggesting to other people: “Hey, look, that’s where they live. Let’s stop them!” And we all know that the only way to stop them is by physically stopping them. By putting their real face, not their online face, in a position that’s really handy to punch.

    That’s not a logical step. It’s simply not. No matter the context, it’s not.

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  162. Lynnd
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 14:28:37

    @Moriah Jovan: BRAVO! Standing up and clapping.

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  163. ancientpeas
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 14:28:50

    Whiie I might feel badly for that 16 year old on a personal level, I can’t help my internal “If you can’t stand the heat…”

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  164. Meoskop
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 14:34:56

    @Lisa thank you for proving my point. Only one of the three profanities outraged you.

    @Meljean – absolutely

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  165. NM
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 14:40:59

    @NM: Using profanity is not an example of not behaving like an adult, and claiming that it is is just an excuse to ignore any arguments you don’t want acknowledge. Cursing serves a purpose, it’s a verbal shorthand. How you can claim that using the word “fuck” is worse than stating that physical violence is a natural consequence to anything is beyond me.

    @Las, but your claiming that my aversion to profanity is an excuse to ignore arguments I want to ignore is really just your excuse to ignore my argument that there ought to be standards when it comes to our rhetoric. :D

    I haven’t said that using an obscene word is worse than actual violence, nor have I claimed that violence is the right natural consequence to profane and abusive rhetoric. Violence is wrong. However, it would be foolish not to acknowledge that physical violence can and often does begin with verbal abuse. Look at the average bar fight. Things begin innocently enough. A couple of guys begin a friendly argument about their favorite sports team. The rhetoric gets amped up to profanity, raised tones, personal attacks, and next thing you know someone is throwing a punch. In that example, liquor is the fuel that feeds the fire. In these internet brouhahas, the immediacy and anonymity of the internet fuel the fire.

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  166. Lisa
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 14:44:18

    Snort. The F word doesn’t offend me. I lived in NY two years lol!

    But now I am in Colorado Springs the bible capital of the US and they will hang me by my toes.

    So the HR person in me — DAMN IT — why won’t that part go way because I hated that world — thinks of the diverse audience and all being able to share views of books without being offended.

    They say it takes you half the years you were married to get over a divorce. I’m thinking I was married to the corporate world and still a recovering HR addict

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  167. ancientpeas
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 14:45:16

    Author on Vacation,
    But our whole legal system is based on the notion that two wrongs are not equal. Murder is not the same as theft which is not the same as arson and nor do they illict the same response from the law. All are harmful but they aren’t equal. I think bashing someone online with personal insults is wrong. It goes against my personal moral beliefs. Putting up the address and real names of someone online is also wrong and I wouldn’t never do it. But they aren’t equal. And they aren’t equal because of the harm that they could potentially do. You may not feel the need to do any harm to the person who outed you or a person who wrote bad reviews of your book but others might. Even if the outers had no malious intent (which I don’t believe) they have zero control over the actions of others.

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  168. azteclady
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 14:49:31

    @Christi: (are you the Christi commenting over at Passive Guy’s? If so: thank you, I agreed with all you said there) This, all of it.

    @NM: Except for one tiny, teensie, little thing.

    No one is forcing anyone to read those meanie, foulmouthed reviews, are they? No one is forcing authors or readers or other reviewers to suffer the indignity of snark, four letter expletives and the like. A person would have to go out of their way to read those–witness the fact that though I read Dear Author frequently, I avoid everything Ridley has to say any and every where else. Gee, how hard was that?

    By saying that Ridley or I cannot use language that offends you but are not forced to read/hear, you are trying to enforce specific behaviour and chill our freedom to speak in any way we like.

    And if you still think that the consequence for women using language you don’t approve of is to expose them to physical danger in their homes…well, words fail me here.

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  169. NM
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 14:51:21

    @NM your deeper and darker truth is that you consider physical endangerment the natural and defensible outcome of disliked speech.

    Except that I never defended the sad, but often real, outcome of physical harm. I’ve said none of this is ever acceptable, beginning with abusive and vulgar rhetoric. Acknowledging that physical violence is often the natural progression from verbal violence is not defending it by any means.

    I’m not defending any kind of violence, including verbal violence, even verbal vulgarity. You seem to want to defend everything up until the first punch is thrown. My point is that it’s better not to let it escalate in the first place.

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  170. NM
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 14:56:16

    No, I’m not the “christi” who’s posting anywhere. The theological discussion is taking place on a Catholic blog that has nothing to do with romance novels, lol! It has to do with a particular papal encyclical, however, that has a lot to do with romance. ;~)

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  171. Las
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 14:56:31

    @NM: But is saying, “This book is a fucking piece of shit” really worse than, “I think you’re opinion is ignorant, you obviously lack reading comprehension skills, and you have no business reviewing IKEA instructions, let alone books.”

    That’s the problem with calls to police rhetoric–the focus is always on individual words that are considered profane, which completely misses the point.* I’m no writer, but I can easily spend the next 500 words insulting you without using a single profanity, and by your own definition, that would be acceptable. But if you were to say to me in response, “Are you fucking kidding me?” you automatically lose the argument because of some arbitrary language rules established long before any of us were born? That’s–forgive me for distracting you from this discussion with my use of profanity–bullshit.

    *That’s not to say I’m okay with policing either type of argument, but it’s nonsensical to draw the line at four letter words.

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  172. Jane
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 14:56:33

    @NM: But you are wrong. In the law, words alone can almost never justify an act of physical violence. If physical violence escalated from a verbal altercation, the assault is pinned on the person who threw the first punch. The person being punched is the one who could use the defense of self defense.

    When you say ‘it’s better not to let it escalate” you are placing the blame on the reviewers. Let’s review what these reviewers have done. They’ve been critical of books. They’ve placed books on a “do not read” list. They’ve commented on how they don’t want authors haunting their reviews, taking issue with every little thing they’ve written. They’ve expressed displeasure at having authors sic their Facebook fans on them. They’ve used gifs and curse words in reviews. This is not “allowing things to escalate.”

    Edited to add a link to an actual code provision:

    http://www.justia.com/criminal/docs/calcrim/800/917.html

    917. Insulting Words Are Not a Defense
    Words, no matter how offensive, and acts that are not threatening, are not enough to justify an assault or battery.

    [However, if you conclude that spoke or acted in a way that threatened with immediate harm [or an unlawful touching]/ [or] great bodily injury/ [or] trespass on land/ [or] trespass against goods], you may consider that evidence in deciding whether acted in (self-defense/ [or] defense of others).]

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  173. azteclady
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 14:58:40

    @NM: I had posted the links to the comments in the wrong order to my responses.

    Fixed now.

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  174. Jane
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 15:01:31

    @azteclady – done I think.

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  175. Las
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 15:04:00

    @Lisa:

    So the HR person in me — DAMN IT — why won’t that part go way because I hated that world — thinks of the diverse audience and all being able to share views of books without being offended.

    Because not everyone wants that, and in the age of the internet with all kind of niche markets, it makes no sense to copy network television and be as boring as possible to attract the widest audience. Not to mention the fact that most people writing reviews on goodreads aren’t trying to gain a large audience, anyway.

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  176. Courtney Milan
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 15:07:49

    @Las: …you automatically lose the argument because of some arbitrary language rules established long before any of us were born?

    Oh, they weren’t arbitrary. Language rules most often start as shibboleths that served to distinguish between the upper classes and the lower classes. Most of the so-called polite language rules we have stem from class bias. “Polite” and “vulgar” are nice-speak for “aristocratic” and “poor.”

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  177. azteclady
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 15:09:01

    On a related matter and for circumstances such as this: via Popehat, I found a way of linking that doesn’t increase the Google relevance of sites, by using something called the Coral Cache.

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  178. Meoskop
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 15:11:47

    @lisa, my apology I mixed up tags and meant to cite @ lisas.

    @NM “Acknowledging that physical violence is often the natural progression from verbal violence is not defending it by any means”

    Yes, it is. It is the Red Dress Defense. You are victim blaming. I refuse to accept your flawed hypothesis that the natural outcome of disliked speech, which you choose to classify as verbal violence, is physical harm or the threat of same. . You are defending while emotional distancing yourself from your defense. If only those bloggers had adhered to the mythical standard you hold then none of this would have happened. Except it would have, because suppression is not about standards.

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  179. Author On Vacation
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 15:20:25

    @ancientpeas:

    I appreciate what you’re saying, I really do. To my mind, though, both offenses are more or less the same thing, hostile behaviors perpetrated with the intent of harming another person (or people.)

    Calling somone horrible names or maliciously mocking them subjects that person to stress. So does revealing the RL name and other ID info of an online personality. Stress can lead to a variety of problems with mental, emotional, and/or physical health.

    Both activities promote hostility and can negatively affect an individual’s personal happiness and productivity.

    Both actions are socially deviant and inappropriate among healthy, well-adjusted adults.

    So… how is one somehow different or more intense or “worse” than the other?

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  180. Jennifer Armintrout
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 15:25:21

    AoV, revealing someone’s personal information on the internet doesn’t just cause them “stress.” It could cause them to lose their job, it could cause them to be physically attacked… I know this is purely anecdotal, but I’ve had a review of my book, no matter how snarky, come out of the computer and physically attack me.

    So yes, one is worse than the other. I think a person would have to be deranged or being deliberately obtuse not to see the difference.

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  181. azteclady
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 15:26:01

    @Author On Vacation: Telling you that you are a willfully blind idiot online allows you to click away and read something else, somewhere else, where your tender sensibilities are not offended.

    No one is keeping a gun to your head or a knife to your back forcing you to search the internet for negative, hostile, offensive language about your oeuvre.

    Posting real life personal information about people you don’t like can–and has–lead to actual, physical harm to them.

    If you can’t see the difference, you have confirmed–and not only to me–that you are a willfully blind idiot.

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  182. Linda Hilton
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 15:27:43

    @Meoskop: Yes. Exactly.

    If physical violence is the “natural progression” from bad language, then it would logically follow that anyone who uses bad language (spoken, written, or even just heard???) will eventually resort to physical violence. Uh, I don’t think so. In fact, bad words (sic) are not necessarily even used as a stand-in for violence. “Man, that game was fucking awesome!” “I can’t believe how much shit you packed into the truck of that little car.” “She buys that cheap crap at the flea market and turns it into absolute works of art.”

    Or, as George Carlin told us, there are no bad words; only bad thoughts.

    And bad thoughts (and bad deeds) can be expressed without ever resorting to “bad words.”

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  183. Meoskop
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 15:30:14

    @Author On Vacation – Why haven’t you asked to have your ‘defense’ by STGRB ended? Do you feel exchanges between your and Ridley are appropriately answered in this way? If you see ‘no difference’ then how do you defend not demanding your own information be placed on the site as you are often a “source of stress” to many here?

    Forgive us if we fail to take your words seriously. If I were being “defended” on that site I would be with the anti-bullying site in asking to be removed.

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  184. Courtney Milan
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 15:34:55

    @Meoskop: They mentioned an exchange I had with Ridley, too, and my thought was that I didn’t want to touch that shit with a fifty-thousand foot pole. I haven’t asked them to take it off, and I hope nobody expects me to do so. I would rather be mauled by lions and dumped in a vat of vinegar.

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  185. Alicia
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 15:36:55

    It absolutely blows my mind that people have to have their hands held through why stoptheGRbullies.com is wrong. Or how offensive it is to refer to reviews of a product as bullying. I truly can’t imagine anyone who has ever actually gone through being bullied agreeing with that ridiculous sentiment.

    I loved every part of this post. Thank you, Robin. I also really love the comments from those arguing against those in any way defending this atrocious behavior.

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  186. Brie
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 15:42:53

    I don’t think that those saying that negative reviews/marking down reviews equals bullying paid attention to Robin’s post. Had they paid close attention, they would have seen the link to this heartbreaking post about bullying. You can choose not to read negative reviews and you can block people on Twitter. You can’t block this: http://themotherflippinblog.wordpress.com/2012/07/13/bullies-are-stupid-i-love-the-way-you-walk/ (Thanks Robin for linking to the post)

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  187. Meoskop
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 15:43:30

    @Courtney Milan fair enough, but you aren’t advocating for them. I think it is a bit Elephant In The Room for AoV to discuss the site without acknowledging that. Since the site went up I’ve assumed it is inevitable that more of us will find ourselves upon it, that’s how intimidation and silencing works.

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  188. Jill Sorenson
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 15:44:39

    @Las: Are you calling my example bullshit? I’d love to provide a link but the post was deleted by the reviewer after I tweeted about it. I have no proof, just my word.

    @Lisa: I think you’re talking about the same thing I was, Hades by Alexandra Ardonetto.

    If someone threatened to punch *me* in the face, I’d probably ignore it. I’m an adult. I don’t need vigilante “readers” to protect me. If bullying is an issue (I’m not convinced that it is), reviewers should call it out and deal with it amongst themselves.

    I want to make it clear that I don’t consider any of the other behavior mentioned bullying. I have no issues with bad language, downvoting, snark, bratty-author GR shelves, etc. None of that concerns me; it’s part of being a public figure. I like the fact that GR values readers over authors. If authors don’t appreciate the dynamic, they can avoid the site.

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  189. NM
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 15:49:09

    @Las

    @NM: But is saying, “This book is a fucking piece of shit” really worse than, “I think you’re opinion is ignorant, you obviously lack reading comprehension skills, and you have no business reviewing IKEA instructions, let alone books.”

    Oh, I by no means draw the line at four letter words. If you read my earlier posts, I’m very much against snark and ad hominems and that sort of thing. It may be easier to police four letter words because they can be filtered out by software, however. The other kinds of inappropriate rhetoric would require a real, live moderator, which becomes more difficult, certainly for a site as large as Goodreads.

    @Meljean

    But I think that for most reasonable people, violence is not the next logical step. If my husband and I got into a nasty, personal screaming match, according to you the next logical step is: he’s going to punch me in the face.

    Obviously these are rare situations. The problem with the internet is that you don’t know who you’re speaking to. In real life, we can gauge tone and threat levels to some degree. On the internet, you never know. But that’s beside the point. In the context of this situation, we’re talking about a case where things have gotten out of control, where the rhetoric has lead to threats, or implied threats, of physical violence. My point is that some expectation and enforcement of decorum may have stopped this before it started.

    @Meoskop

    Yes, it is. It is the Red Dress Defense. You are victim blaming. I refuse to accept your flawed hypothesis that the natural outcome of disliked speech, which you choose to classify as verbal violence, is physical harm or the threat of same. . You are defending while emotional distancing yourself from your defense. If only those bloggers had adhered to the mythical standard you hold then none of this would have happened. Except it would have, because suppression is not about standards.

    I’m not victim blaming. Anyway, which is it? Empowerment or victimhood? On the one hand, engaging in violent and vulgar rhetoric is a right, it’s empowerment. On the other, suffering the more extreme consequences of one’s supposedly empowering actions makes you a victim? Empowered people don’t play the victim card.

    Also, you’re arguing another strawman. Not all “disliked” language is violent, abusive, rude, vulgar, or obscene. I am speaking to a certain level of ugly rhetoric that intends to stir up negative emotions, and to deliberate vulgarity and profanity. Vulgar language and profanity are just obnoxious and tedious and create a disharmonious atmosphere. Demeaning, dehumanizing and violent rhetoric intend to cause harm and sometimes that harm instigates greater levels of violence. I’m not calling to suppress negative reviews. I’m saying that I’m not surprised things have devolved to the point they have in this particular situation given the really nasty nature of some of the rhetoric.

    @Jane

    Again, I am not defending bad behavior, nor providing excuses for it. I’m saying that, in general, it’s better for everyone on these sites to maintain a certain level of decorum. When you can’t see people’s facial expressions or read their body language, all we have left are our words. Best to use them to present our best selves, best to use them to uplift, to raise the dialogue to a higher level than to just wallow in crude, vulgar, nasty and even violent rhetoric just because we can. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

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  190. Author on Vacation
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 15:50:35

    @Jennifer Armintrout:

    Harmful, hateful, malicious verbal abuse is also conducive to RL harm. If an author is perceived as being too defensive or too uppity, his/her career may be impacted by that. This behavior can directly affect the author’s ability to earn income from a writing career.

    Verbal abuse can induce stress that either exacerbates or leads to several conditions that either negatively affect or outright threaten human life, such as depression, mismanaged anger, and numerous physical ailments including pulmonary problems and heart disease. It can exacerbate symptoms of chronic conditions, such as asthma or diabetes. It can cost someone their job because stressed people don’t usually work as productively as non-stressed people and they tend to be more easily distracted, prone to forgetfulness, etc..

    I appreciate your viewpoint, but I do think you should research the topic a bit more.

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  191. Lynne Connolly
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 15:52:29

    One result – I use Web of Trust with Firefox – it tells you when a website is unreliable or dangerous before you get there. The STGRB site has a red warning. So a lot of people have complained and activated the WOT warning.
    All I wanted to say earlier was that I’ve been bullied, and I’ve done it myself, much to my shame. I will try never to do it again. I’m ashamed of what I did. It doesn’t mean everybody has to be.

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  192. ancientpeas
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 15:57:54

    Author on Vacation,
    I don’t agree with you that the stress of being called names is the same as the stress of having your personal information revealed. One rises above the level of stress and into the level of threat. They seem very apples and oranges to me. I can see how hurtful it would be to have your hard work criticized and I’m sorry if you felt abused by the conduct of others. But I refuse to see the two acts as equal. As I said, my brain just won’t allow me to.

    Other than seeing a few comments on this site I don’t think I know who Ridley is but if you are allowing these people to use his or her treatment of you to justify their behaviour I urge you to take yourself out of the equation. If you want the dignified level of interaction you say you want surely you can see how being apart of any of it, even periforaly, would be wrong? You could use it as an opportunity to model good internet behaviour to others.

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  193. Jill Sorenson
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 16:06:15

    Too late to edit! I just wanted to clarify that I meant bullying BY reviewers, not bullying OF reviewers. I know the second happens with alarming frequency. By my definition, the first is rare.

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  194. Meoskop
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 16:11:28

    @NM “On the other, suffering the more extreme consequences of one’s supposedly empowering actions makes you a victim?”

    ” I’m saying that I’m not surprised things have devolved to the point they have in this particular situation given the really nasty nature of some of the rhetoric.”

    Well that’s illuminating, isn’t it? You can continue to defend STGRB while pretending you aren’t defending them, but I think we’ve both left a clear record of our beliefs at this point. Common ground is impossible, and I’m happy I live on mine.

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  195. NM
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 16:18:13

    @Meoskop

    I’m not defending them. I think what they’re doing is childish at best and possibly illegal at worst. It’s appalling all around. No matter how many times you insist I’m defending them, I’m not, and your saying so doesn’t make it true.

    What common ground did we ever have? I clearly find obscenity, vulgarity and ugly, hurtful rhetoric intolerable. You do not. You choose to frequent the sorts of places where that kind of behavior and language is fine, I choose to avoid those venues. We have nothing in common, never did, never will. You can continue to use whatever rhetoric you choose, and I can continue to ignore rhetoric I find distasteful.

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  196. Author on Vacation
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 16:19:07

    @Meoskop:

    @Author On Vacation – Why haven’t you asked to have your ‘defense’ by STGRB ended?

    Uh … What are you talking about?

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  197. Ann Somerville
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 16:29:50

    Excellent post, Robin. Very clear and strong. I went to bed and there were 6 comments, woke up to 183 :) I wondered how AoV would manage to distort the argument and turn herself again into the world’s most abused poor little petal. Nice to see no one’s buying her BS.

    Jane @ 14 said “one can attack Seanan Maguire for being an awful writing. For being a slow writer. For trying to price gouge (none of things are true as far as I know). Those are not personal attacks. ”

    If someone’s threatening to rape you or calling you a stupid cunt for those things, yes, it is. And if they’re emailing you, then it rises to the level of bullying. It matter very little *what* the ostensible incitment for abuse is – once you cross over to threats or wishes of physical violence, or use violent misogynistic abuse, then you’ve become a harasser and a bully. An author can and should walk away from GR and Amazon if the comments get too much. You can’t walk away from email. Taking it to your space – persistently and viciously – is where the author can say ‘no, this is wrong’. No reader has the right to do that.

    Nikki @17 “The mob mentality is terrifying and develops far too easily.” God yes. And it’s at the heart of most of this garbage.

    Sirius @ 25 – “I don’t want to anymore. Just for the fear of stumbling upon the author who treats their readers like this. ”

    Um, Robin gave several examples of *pro* published authors losing their shit, and I could give you several more (AoV claims to be pro published, and it’s clear she’s as loonytunes as the others). I wish people would stop lumping all us self-published authors together.

    Lynne Connolly @ 26 – “A few years ago, some of the major romance blogs ganged up against an author who had done something wrong”.

    Oh bullshit. Cassie Edwards was exposed rightfully and righteously. You’ve bought uncritically into the utter lie that this caused her to have a stroke. While I’m sorry Mrs Edwards is now disabled, strokes are caused by long-term factors and disease, not by periods of stress. Any sorrow she felt she brought on herself by years and years of wilful misdeeds. If anyone was bullied, it was Candy and Sarah at SBs for being the whistleblower – they endured months of abuse over this, and I believe still get hate mail. I’m genuinely disgusted at you over bringing this up. Talk about false equivalency.

    Linda @77 “ad reviews, down-voting bad reviews for authors you like, up-voting good reviews, retaliatory reviews, all that shit is stupid and petty and juvenile BUT IT IS NOT BULLYING.”

    THANK YOU!

    Robin @ 99 and Jane @ 137 THANK YOU TOO! AoV is full of it. It can’t be said too often.

    Jane @ 157 ““I cannot fucking believe Elizabeth Moon wrote those things about Muslims” Me either. I had a feeling that this post would bring badly behaving authors crawling out of the woodwork to claim victimhood, but Moon’s chutzpah takes some beating.

    Oh you were making a point about swearing too? Well carrying the fuck on ;)

    NM @ 172 “Call me old-fashioned, but this all boils down to good manners. ”
    Oy. No. It really, really doesn’t. It ‘boils down to’ respecting boundaries and rights and personal privacy. You can be mannerly as all hell while you expose someone’s life on line, or write them hundreds of emails chastising them or blaming them for existing.

    I didn’t know I could be crankier at the ‘wouldn’t it be nice if everyone was nice’ crowd, but now I have a headache.

    I’m not going to respond to AoV’s crap or agree with those calling her out. She’s a troll and unlike Ridley’s trolling, there’s no point to anything she ever says but to derail the conversation. She’s a perfect example of how one can be an utter arsehole on line to other people, without it becoming bullying. Offensive as hell, yes. Bully no. (not yet at least)

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  198. Courtney Milan
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 16:34:20

    @Author on Vacation:

    That’s so sloppy it’s not even logic. To say that stress is part of the slippery slope to a bad outcome does not mean that causing stress is morally equivalent to causing those bad outcomes.

    There’s a moral difference between causing someone stress, which could someday be a contributing factor in heart failure, and giving someone an injection of potassium chloride, causing heart failure directly.

    What you’re saying is: A -> C, B -> C, therefore, A ~ B.

    Or, filling in some potential blanks: “Smoking causes cancer. Genetics cause cancer. Since we’ve banned smoking in public places, we should also ban people with bad cancer genetics from reproducing.”

    You know what else can cause heart failure? Winning the lottery. Seriously, let’s stop that shit now before someone gets hurt.

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  199. NM
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 16:36:24

    NM @ 172 “Call me old-fashioned, but this all boils down to good manners. ”
    Oy. No. It really, really doesn’t. It ‘boils down to’ respecting boundaries and rights and personal privacy. You can be mannerly as all hell while you expose someone’s life on line, or write them hundreds of emails chastising them or blaming them for existing.

    I didn’t know I could be crankier at the ‘wouldn’t it be nice if everyone was nice’ crowd, but now I have a headache.

    Well, I’d say that respecting boundaries and rights and personal privacy IS good manners. I’m not talking about cultivating a veneer of good mannerISMS. I’m talking about manners as part of who you are as a person. Words and actions should match. If you’re exposing someone’s private information, or if you’re sending nasty emails, no amount of “please” and “thank you” changes who you are as a person.

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  200. Sirius
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 16:42:38

    @Ann Somerville: “Sirius @ 25 – “I don’t want to anymore. Just for the fear of stumbling upon the author who treats their readers like this. ”

    Um, Robin gave several examples of *pro* published authors losing their shit, and I could give you several more (AoV claims to be pro published, and it’s clear she’s as loonytunes as the others). I wish people would stop lumping all us self-published authors together.”

    Sirius:

    Oh I know. And I *still* feel safer (safer only in a sense that I am not expecting to be attacked as much) posting a review of propublished author’s work,than self published one, IF such author is totally unknown entity to me.

    I love some self published works, I am however not interested in searching for them myself anymore, since I am usually bad in finding good ones anyway.

    I mostly review mm stories anyway and they are either small pubs or self published, as you know. I am not refusing to read self published works of course, but I do refuse to go look for them and even if I will enjoy the book by self published author, if I never heard of her before, I will think twice before leaving a review.

    For me this recent bruhahah just crosses all the possible boundaries, but Dear author is my main source of online dramas anyway, so I am sure I missed a lot of other craziness (and thank goodness for that).

    As to Author on Vacation, I refuse

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