Earlier in the month I posted “Review Wars: Why Be Caught in the Drama?” Little did I know that just days later a brand new drama would unfold as I learned about Stop the Goodreads Bullies, a site aiming to “out” “bully reviewers” in the most cowardly – and dangerous – of ways. I’m incensed by their approach, not least of all because it could endanger reviewers, but also because their actions make it even more difficult to have a frank and open discussion about bad behavior – from authors and reviewers. Today, Indie Reader posted “Stop the GR Bullies: Retaliation & Backlash”. Here’s an extract from the piece.
Stop the Goodreads Bullies: Retaliation & Backlash
Although the Pollyanna in me wishes otherwise, the Internet is by nature an unfiltered virtual gathering place for all types of personalities. By supporting and even encouraging their users to post anonymously, review sites like Goodreads foster incivility. Foz Meadows puts it far more eloquently:
In keeping with the universally applicable logic of John Gabriel’s Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory, every online community of sufficient size will inevitably attract trolls, harassment, bullying and all manner of accordant awfulness, with the level of active moderation being literally the only bulwark against anarchy.
To date, there seems no ‘active moderation,’ thus giving way to the current anarchy. As long they abide by the liberal Goodreads TOS, users are free to do as they wish.
Now, fed up with ‘bully’ reviewers, a group of authors has decided to fight back by creating a website to ‘out’ malicious reviewers. On the Huffington Post, they write:
A community of writers and readers has been slowly gathering to address what is happening on the popular user-submitted book review website Goodreads . . .
. . . if they [certain reviewers] are given any reason to target an author, they will attempt to destroy that author’s reputation and career for either their own personal amusement or for vengeance. We are not talking about honest book reviews giving their opinion on a book. (Emphasis mine.) What we’re talking about is them trying to create negative hype around an author regarding the author’s sanity, or posting malicious reviews that have nothing to do with the novel or were only posted to join the latest petition against an author.
Stop the GR Bullies urges followers to report ‘bully reviewers’; these reviewers are then ‘outed’ on the site. Although it appears they’ve removed it, the site administrators have reportedly posted personal information about their targets, including physical locations, telephone numbers and the names of their children.
First, any author who bullies readers or reviewers in any way, shape or form deserves to be tossed head-first into the coldest, deepest, dampest, loneliest of publishing dungeons-and left to rot. As other writers have pointed out already, ‘outing’ reviewers on the site is not only an appalling way to handle the problem, it is downright dangerous. At least one target claims to have received threatening calls and says she’s afraid for her safety. What’s to stop some lunatic from confronting a target in person? And what if the aggressor is armed? Then what? Even if, as we all hope, the worst never comes to fruition, bullying is ugly and morally reprehensible.
If supporters are not dissuaded by ethics, they might consider their self interests. This site has created a backlash against authors, indie authors in particular-though indies are hardly the only thin-skinned authors. Alice Hoffman, Alain de Botton, and Anne Rice have all been guilty of public outbursts. Still, if bloggers, disheartened by a perceived threat to silence negative reviews, decide to stop reviewing indie books, as some suggest, the offending authors will have only themselves to blame.
The fact is, the vast majority of reviewers are good decent people who wish only to share their views on books and help others find and select their next great read. Other than free ARCs or an occasional signed paperback, these people get nothing out of writing reviews. If not for their generosity, it would be infinitely harder to reach readers and share news of our books. And we want to silence them-why?
- Pretentious Title: It is a truth universally acknowledged that people are jerks on the internet
- Whatever: Bad Reviews: I Can Handle Them, and So Should You
- The Guardian: Literary feuding sinks to new low