When Shit gets Serious

Lou: Interwebs and drama go hand in hand like peas in a pod. It seems like the first and latter can’t survive without one another. We’ve documented many book kerfuffles online here at the blog. Some kerfuffles are amusing, others can make you angry, and others you simply can’t be arsed with.

Goodreads seems to attract a lot of drama and kerfuffles. Namely between a select few of authors against reviewers. These authors are not happy about the reviews they received and decided to show to their public that they weren’t happy. This ties in from Has’ post of Be Nice which if you so desire, can be recapped here. Things have turned incredibly frightening and have crossed the lines of flamewars into allegedly criminal activity. A group (or alleged person) of vigilante readers or authors have set up a site called Stop the GR bullies. We won’t link to the site because giving them hits only empowers them more. Stop the GR bullies is dedicated to outing and shaming the real life identities of reviewers on Goodreads. One of the reviewers has been threatened. Somebody rang her phone and told the person, “we know where to find you bitch,” and hung up.

What the everloving fuck is happening? Since when does a negative review or being mean about a book ever makes it OK to go down the route of stalking and harassing a person? Has and I have been talking about the reasons why they might go down this route. One: the person(s) could possibly have serious mental health problems; two: they like having the power to scare someone; and three: to silence dissent because if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

I think it’s a little of all three, but the last point sticks out for me. And that’s not having control over someone who doesn’t like your book. I’ve seen some personal views about this situation that has alarmed me. Some coming from authors that whilst disagree with what Stop the GR bullies are doing, they understand and empathise with the reasons behind it.

If I want to be a douchebag about a review, I have that every right. If I want to swear and curse, and say mean fucking things about a book, I have the right to do so. The author in question has every right to disagree with what I’ve said and tell me to fuck right off. But nobody has the right to make me fear for my life because I said your book sucks and decided to shelve you on Goodreads for authors to avoid. And when I say authors to avoid, all that means is not reading your books.

Dear Author and Foz Meadows have written posts about this issue that sums up this ugly situation perfectly.

Has: I think this issue is never ever going to go away, but this year seems to be pretty epic with the huge meltdowns over reviews, especially on how to review and who does the reviewing. I think this is partly due to the changing face of publishing and the growing rise of bloggers, reviewers and social network sites such as Goodreads and Twitter, which adds a more direct interaction with readers, authors and publishers.

There’s this assumption that reviewers have to be respectful and nice, and another term that is thrown out a lot recently is unprofessional. I was once called this for a book I reviewed critically. Most negative reviews are very good about laying out why the book didn’t work for that reader and reviewer, and this won’t guarantee a lost sale for that book. I have bought books due to a bad review because it may have elements that appeal to me.

Nonetheless, if there is a reviewer who does cross the boundary from reviewing the book and attacks the author directly by snarking on their appearance or being personal, they will get called out on that by other readers or reviewers. Places like Goodreads or even review blogs are reader spaces to discuss the merits of a book and not the author. It is hard to make a distinction because there is always an element that will crossover. But haranguing, attacking or trying to change a reviewer’s mark into a better grade because they missed the point of the book, well that’s crossing the line. Any author guilty of doing the above is going to be marked to be avoided at all costs – and this is not due to the book, but the author’s reaction to the reviewer.

We are very tired of this issue that keeps popping its ugly head repeatedly, but I think this past week shows that being silent or ignoring it won’t make this go away. There will always be an incident when an author has a meltdown over a review but we won’t be silent and we won’t be intimidated. I just feel angry, and sorry that a group of reviewers are being targeted, and bullied for having opinions. Having opinions is the lifeblood of a good blogger. This shouldn’t be something that a reviewer has to fear for doing something they love.

MinnChica: After reading the different articles at Dear Author and Foz Meadows and other places, one of the things I want to clarify is one aspect of the warped definition of a “bully.”

I’ve seen people say that the reviewers at Goodreads are acting as bullies by placing an author on a Bratty-Authors-To-Avoid shelf. I have a HUGE problem with this argument. Let’s compare this situation to a regular everyday business. I’ve decided that I will not support Chick-fil-A as a company because of their anti-gay stance. I won’t buy their foods, I won’t support their business, and I am going to ask my friends to do the same. THIS IS NOT BULLYING. This is my boycotting a business because I don’t agree with their business practice, their morals, or their company policies. This is a common practice, and one that I’m sure everyone has done at one point in their life.

Likewise, a reader saying “I won’t support this author by buying their books because of their stance on this issue/their comment on this article/their belief in this practice” is the exact same thing. It is a boycott against an organization, not any kind of personal attack. Although in the author’s case, they are an organization of one, THE AUTHOR IS IN CHARGE OF HIS/HER OWN BRAND.

While some authors might not want to hear it, their comments on twitter, their online presence and their actions directly impact the everyday reader. I have plenty of authors who I refuse to purchase their books because of their behavior at conferences, their outlandish Twitter comments, and their general crappy disposition. I’m not saying Author X is a bad person, I’m just saying that my hard earned money will be spent on someone who I want to support, who I want to succeed. That is not bullying, it’s a conscious and personal choice to take my business elsewhere. Plain and simple.

If I stop buying Chick-fil-A and post on the blog about how I don’t want romancelandia to support them either, Chick-fil-A isn’t going to hunt me down and tell its loyal customers where I live and work, what days I go to the grocery store, or my personal telephone number. This “stop the bullies” site is doing exactly that. They are taking offense for another individual’s personal feelings and getting their revenge by purposefully outing who they think the bad guy really is.

THIS MENTALITY HAS NEVER AND WILL NEVER BE OKAY OR RIGHT.

E: In my non-bookpushing job I have raised my right hand and sworn to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. Part of that very document, The Constitution, includes what is known as The Bill of Rights or the first 10 Amendments. The Bill of Rights says in Amendment 1, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” This quote came from Charters of Freedom a .gov site found here. When I read that I see that I am allowed to have an opinion and I am also allowed to voice my opinion. You are allowed to have an opinion of my opinion and to voice that. What I don’t see is that it is OK to post someone’s personal information because you DO NOT agree with their opinion. I see that you are allowed to peaceably gather and to ask the Government to change something. I do not see that posting someone’s personal information is peaceably gathering or asking the Government to change something.

Any product be it food, drink, a book, a poem, a movie, a show, a car, a truck, a recipe, or a piece of furniture that has been released for public consumption will result in different people thinking different things about it. Some might be good and some might be bad, but they will all be based on the individuals experience with that product and their past experiences which have shaped their opinions. Something that I think authors, reviewers and FANS need to remember is that different people will have different opinions about the same thing and based on Amendment 1 as quoted above that is ok.

A review is an opinion; it is not based in fact, it is not written in stone, it is one person’s opinion of a product they have consumed. Not everyone likes the same things. Just like not everyone speaks the same way. I might write a review, my opinion, in one way and a fellow bookpusher might have the same general opinion but their review will be written differently because they are a DIFFERENT person and has a DIFFERENT style. This does not mean that mine is right, better, wrong, or worse just DIFFERENT. I have grown to enjoy being part of the book community and interacting with authors, bloggers, readers and whatever combination of those three people are. If people didn’t have different opinions then we would all be reading the exact same book which would lead to a pretty boring existence.

In my opinion someone who puts another person’s, whose opinion they disagree with, private information out in public while refusing to state who they are is a coward of the worst sort. If you believe so strongly in your opinion then come out and own it. By taking this tactic you are not only acting as a bully, because we all know bullies are cowards at heart, but you are damaging whatever credibility your opinion had to begin with. Not to mention you are potentially putting people’s lives in danger. There are some really sick individuals out there who do some really horrific things to others. Obviously you are not willing to face that same danger you have just put people that you DISAGREE with in because you have not put your information on the same website publicly. What makes you different? Why should you be able to stay safe behind a wall when you purposefully tore one down that was in front of another human being?

Given that I have been put into situations that could have resulted in the loss of my life to defend our FREEDOMS to include the freedom to have an opinion, seeing other people decide that only they deserve that right really makes me sad. It is a shame to see a few individuals decide to taint a wonderful community because they are AFRAID of another person’s opinion. Their actions ARE NOT right and should NOT be accepted. Those freedoms listed in the constitution are for everyone not just those who hold ONE opinion.

Comments

  1. says

    If it was nothing but bullying to criticize the product of a business, nobody would ever talk about McDonald’s.

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  2. says

    Y’all are great. I reported the site to the FBI for cyberbullying (probably could’ve thrown the endangering of minors in there too, huh?) but who knows how long it will take before they can stop her. I found her information, which is why I knew she was from the US and the FBI had jurisdiction. Unlike her, you don’t see me posting her address, email, and phone number where creeps can find it.

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  3. says

    Well put everyone.

    This whole things drives me insane. And honestly so what if someone calls me unprofessional, cos I am not a professional, I do this for fun.

    If I tell a friend on twitter that #This movie# sucks ass, then you wont see Mr Big Shot Actor hunting me down.

    So why do authors go insane? No you can’t tell us how to review, no you can’t say that I must change a 3 because the book is worth more. I will tell my opinion however I feel like. And my negative reviews, truth be told they can be more professional than my silly reviews where I squee over a book paragraph after paragraph.

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  4. Katarina says

    I have heard from one of those reviewers that was attacked that the particular person they are assuming started that website is the same person that has been harassing them for years. I heard that the drama began almost a year and a half ago and has gotten to this point.
    I am glad that you have all seen the different angles to this story. It won’t stop as long as the page views and the attention is being sought after. This cannot in any way be beneficial..at all…to anybody.

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  5. says

    Thanks for this enlightening post. I do try to stay far away from stuff like this, and I really hope I will never get assaulted for a negative review. But you are right, my review is my opinion, and nothing more. And if you don’t agree with me, so be it. We might possibly agree on the next bookreview.

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  6. Readsalot81 says

    Here, here. You are all so much more eloquent than I could ever be. Ironically, I won a free book today through Goodreads only to go Yay!!.. followed by ehhh *deflated sigh*. And that reaction simultaneously pisses me off & ashamed me because I’ve never once shied away from giving my opinion on anything let alone a book. So to that, I say NO Goddammit. I’ll write freely (and SHELVE) about any book I choose.. because that’s exactly the way it SHOULD be.

    Kudos to you ladies! Seriously.. you all do a marvelous job, and if I haven’t said so before, I certainly am doing so now! Thanks a million.

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  7. Lillie says

    Well said! I love you ladies.

    As for being called “unprofessional” I’m okay with that. You know where I’m professional? At my job, where I’m paid. Not when I’m giving my opinion about the books I read as a hobby. An expensive and time consuming hobby I love, but still a hobby.

    I’ve seen speculation that the SGRB site will end up silencing many readers and I know that will be that case for some but I’m hoping that others will speak up more (and louder) and see that “being nice” isn’t a requirement.

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  8. Lou says

    @Shiloh Walker:@Darlene Marshall: @Janine Ballard: Thanks! This is definitely not the time to stay silent. I’m so angry that this vile person is allowed to stalk and make people fear for their safety all over a book review.

    @Jody W.: I don’t think the GR bullies understand or even comprehend about what they are doing. I hope soon enough the authorities come knocking on their door. @Emmy Neal: I don’t know about the laws in the US, but over here in the UK there are now stricter laws against cyber bullying and stalking. I really hope this site gets taken down soon.

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  9. Lou says

    @blodeuedd: Again, it comes down to the, be nice or stay silent. Some authors and some readers believe that there’s no place for negative reviews. And to repeat what Has said above, the medium of social media means that authors and reviewers are closer than ever before. Communicating is within a click’s reach, and there are things called google alerts which allows authors to track links and reviews about their books on the interwebs.

    @Katarina: That’s scary that this started over a year ago. This shows that whoever is behind the site is either mentally unwell or knows full well what they are doing and doesn’t care. Either case makes it very scary.

    @aurian: Yes! Everyone has an opinion. Be it positive, negative or neutral, everyone will be different. When expressing these opinions, some people may go about it in a not so polite way. The GR bullies don’t understand that being ‘mean’ doesn’t give them the right to make a person fear for their life.

    @Readsalot81: That’s why we decided to write this post. No way are those GR bullies people going to silence us by intimidation.

    @BarklessWagmore: When Has told me at first I thought she was joking. Then it suddenly became clear that it was no joke. I don’t know what person at HuffingtonPost Book was smoking, but to give these people web space and to not include an author byline on the op-ed means that there is no distinction between the bullies and HuffPost. Lets just hope that by their actions in hosting the stalkers, the reviewers in question are not put into anymore danger.

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  10. Lou says

    @Lillie: I’ve already seen some comments by people that they’re scared to comment in case they are targeted. It’s oh so maddening. I hope that other bloggers and authors speak out about this to show those vile people that their possibly criminal actions won’t stop people from expressing their opinions.

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  11. says

    Thank you for this. You have stated it so eloquently. It bothers me immensely that a few authors are attacking book bloggers for the negative reviews – book bloggers/reviewers are a HUGE help to authors. You help get the word out about our product. Like you said, not everyone will like our product – but that’s the way the world goes.

    In this day and age, it’s my belief that book reviewers/bloggers are an author’s best friend. So thank you for all that you do!

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  12. Bobbie B (@mamaboo7907) says

    I seen the site and yes, I am afraid to comment there bc I am afraid of them hunting me down like others. I don’t use GR for personal reasons, however, I don’t tell anyone else they can’t because of them. Reviews are opinions and to cross the lines these people have over an opinion is frightening.

    I have shared this post via FB and Twitter and Thank you again for writing it.

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  13. Lou says

    @Christine Ashworth: I think it’s amazing to see so many authors and readers come together in unity over this sick site. When it comes down to people’s personal safety, I think the majority of all us realise that there can be no sides on which to fall on in this affair. I also hate that these GR bullies make a bad name for authors, because the majority of authors I interact with are wonderful and very professional.

    @Bobbie B (@mamaboo7907): You know what, it’s perfectly understandable why you’re scared to comment there. This is the chilling effect of what the site is doing, and to make a person be afraid for their safety…well, they’re pond scum. A lot of people won’t comment at the site because the owner(s) won’t allow any comments that are critical of them. They’re a bunch of faceless cowards.

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  14. Alana says

    I can’t believe adults are acting like this. When I first heard about it I had to warn my mom and fix what information Goodreads has for both of us. I was getting ready to write some reviews, but I don’t think I will.

    I do love your post and have reposted it on my facebook to warn friends.

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  15. Sharon Brooks says

    Well stated, Book Pushers. I am proud that you have stood up against those cowardly bullies who hide behind Anonymous. They obviously need to grow a “Pair” (be it balls or ovaries) and be forth right about their names as well as their opinions. We are not yet a police state. Curtailing the rights of one is curtailing the rights of all. We all have the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness whether that be as author, blogger, reader, or reviewer.

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  16. Merrian says

    Thanks for this eloquent summary of events and issues of this dreadful situation. I am so impressed by the many good women across blogs and on twitter doing their best to both make sense of this ugliness and to be voices of passionate reason.

    I am also deeply saddened that a key legacy of these events is women being silenced. This is not only about the targeted reviewers but those like people in the comments above who are now having second thoughts and fearing for their safety if they actively engage in the world of books online.

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  17. erinf1 says

    excellent post. I’m so glad to see all the “leaders” of the blogging community coming together to bring to light this horrendous behavior. The blogoverse is a blessing and a curse and unfortunately this situation brings to light all the dangers and wrongness that people can be capable of. This is definitely crossing a line and this is one of the very few times that I fervently hope that karma steps in (if not the authorities).

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  18. Lou says

    @Estella: Thanks, Estella.

    @Alana: I’m so sorry that you’ve decided to not write reviews, and I can understand why. These GR bullies are vile people!

    @Sharon Brooks: Thanks, Sharon :). What’s so frustrating and maddening is that people are now frightened to comment and review in-case these people come after them next.

    @Merrian: It’s saddening and what’s made everyone so angry is HuffingtonPost Books soliciting the GR bullies and allowing their site to be part of the platform of their hate and stalking campaign.

    @erinf1: It’s fantastic seeing so many people coming together and speaking out. Like I said in a comment above, I don’t think there are any sides you can fall into. This isn’t about being an author or a reviewer; it’s about not staying silent in our own community when people’s lives and their privacy are being invaded.

    @Kaetrin: Thanks Kaetrin!

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  19. says

    Very nice post. Thank you for writing it. I will still review and speak my mind. I buy the goods and feel I have the right to talk about them! I don’t think I have the flair that some of those targeted have, but let me tell you, I aspire to it! I find those reviews funny, daring and ridiculous and actually call my attention to a book I might not have known about. Maybe they don’t kindly convey information, but that is their style. Read it or leave it.

    The true bully is the person throwing personal information out there and calling people up and leaving threats and trying to bring change through fear! HOLY SMOKES! Talk about crossing, or stomping over lines! I had a guy stalk me for a little while, phone calls and driving by, he was obsessive compulsive and spiraling into drugs. It was very scary. While totally different it is similar enought that I can’t believe another lady, for whatever reason , would ever feel that this behavior is warranted and righteous!?! For me, that has ruined their argument and I can no longer feel much empathy for their side of the issue – and I did at first!

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  20. says

    Word. The past few weeks have given me heartburn. The word “bully” is being thrown around as if a negative review is a personal attack, when it’s not.

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  21. says

    Excellent post, indeed. @blodeuedd asks why authors go crazy about reviews – I think it’s important to remember only a few do. It’s just that they spew their crazy in such spectacularly horrible ways. I suspect most authors have a little crazy, just to do the thing we do. Before the internet, the crazier ones just didn’t show up so obviously. This is a heinous situation and it should be stopped. Being able to say what we didn’t like about a book is just as critical as saying what we do like. Hopefully the community coming together over this will have a lasting effect!

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  22. Lou says

    @OCDReader: I’m so sorry to hear about the horror you went through :(. Yes, a huge line has been crossed when an opinion over a book justifies stalking and threatening behaviour. The GR bullies may think that they’re clever in deleting the posts with that information, but they don’t realise that a lot of people took screen caps.

    @Jill Sorenson: Thanks, Jill!

    @KT Grant: It’s definitely been a shitty week for bloggers, and the Huff Post article just made things so much worse.

    @Jeffe Kennedy: It sucks that the minority of bad apples can cause such a wave like this. I don’t know why this site is still able to run, and why they haven’t been visited by the authorities. The book community has come together over this which is heartening.

    @Barbara: Aw, thanks Barbara.

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  23. Merrian says

    I am afraid that I have to report another couple of authors who seems to despise the ground book review bloggers walk on. I read this comment by Cassandra Duffy today that was pretty much supported by Rachel Thompson the author whose blog post it responded too:

    http://sanfranciscobookreview.com/2012/07/bad-reviews-suck-and-why-i-dont-care/#comment-4786

    So Cassandra thinks scathing, i.e. negative reviews are made by “…are just bitter twats who should probably find a hobby that doesn’t involve tearing down artists who actually contribute something to the world.” and Rachel thinks her blogger hate is just great great.

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  24. says

    Wow, I read that, and now I am mad. So as I am not a paid reviewer, my opinion is worthless and I have no paid job either? Too much time on my hands?
    “There are professional book reviewers out there who are paid for their opinions since their opinions are learned and valuable–if they tear down a book as unworthy, it is typically in agreement with most people who have read the book. Sadly, so many people with blogs, too much time on their hands, and no other outlet for their opinions will post ranting nonsense about books that runs counter to everyone else, including professional reviewers, who has read the book. For the most part, unpaid book reviewers who write scathing reviews to try to tear down authors on the internet don’t have paying gigs because their opinions aren’t worth money.”

    If they tear down a book …in agreement with most people who have read the book. Most people? You mean the not-paid-for-their-reviews but just readers?
    And if the book made no sense, I am too stupid to understand the big words the author has used? Wow.

    Well, if I ever write a scathing review, it is because the book is bad, and not because I dislike an author.

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  25. Lou says

    @Merrian: *head splodes*

    Oye. This is where I get the almighty urge to just tell these stuck up and pretentious people to fuck right off.

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  26. says

    Wow! But then I don’t really give a toss on what she thinks and many bloggers and reviewers who didn’t get paid for reviewing have gone onto to being paid ones in respected blogs and sites. So her argument is an oxymoron.

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