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In which Michelle has an opinion

If you spend much time on the internet in writers’ circles, you will no doubt have heard about the Stop The Goodreads Bullies web-site. Set up by anonymous bloggers, it purports to be a site created by concerned readers, readers who are dismayed and outraged by the bullies on Goodreads. These so-called bullies are reviewers. They are generally very snarky reviewers.

In order to stop these bullies, our concerned “readers” have gone through the effort of anonymously outing them in public. They have posted their real names, as most of them write pseudonymously. Not only have they posted their real names, but they have also posted their home addresses, their phone numbers, and (some of) the restaurants and parks they frequent.

This is, in my opinion, sick. It is sick, disturbed, harassment.

First, I want to point out that a pseudonym is not the same as anonymity. A reviewer who does not post under the same internet handle is not an effective reviewer, because most readers need to read a variety of reviews to get a sense of the reviewer's likes and dislikes; they can then compare these to their own.

My husband pointed out that I post nothing on the internet anonymously. He’s right. I don’t. I don’t work at the bookstore anonymously either. My husband--like other men on the internet--was momentarily confused at the level of my disgust and anger. If I don't do anything anonymously or pseudonymously on the internet, is it so very bad that people have been outed?

I pointed out that we don't live in the real world anonymously, and we don't -- but I don’t hand my home address and home phone number to total strangers in the bookstore. I didn’t hand them out to total strangers when I worked in an office either. These people know who I am - but they don’t know where I live. He thought about this for half a second and said, "You're right."

(Upon reading this, my husband said: You're right. It's the male/female divide. If you unmask a man's name in this city, you have his phone number and address in all likelihood. If you out him as an ass, he is not likely to feel that his life is in danger, because in all likelihood it's not. He may be embarrassed. His dignity may suffer. But he is unlikely to feel physically threatened.)

This demonstrates and leads into my second (important) point: men and women live different lives on the internet. Men may get hate mail; women get death threats, rape threats, promises-to-stalk and possibly kill if they show their faces in public. Women get this (it comes with a trigger warning). This is what the site is inviting the disturbed & the dangerous to do.

Putting photographs, home addresses, phone numbers & places which these women - and they are all women - frequent is a threat.

There is no excuse for this.

I am not going to talk about the reviewers who are being stalked and harassed. I am not going to talk about their reviews. I don't care about their words because the words they've written are not relevant. It doesn't matter what they've written: they are people, they are women, some have children at the home addresses which were publicly announced, and they do not deserve to be harassed & threatened in this fashion.

Picking up a gun and shooting someone because they hurt your feelings happens. If the person who is shot dies, we call it murder. It doesn't matter if someone hurt your feelings; you are not legally allowed to pick up a gun and point it at their head. And there are good reasons for that.

This, to me, is the equivalent of pointing a gun. I cannot convey in printable language just how disgusted I am. So this will have to do.


( 27 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 19th, 2012 05:26 am (UTC)
OMG, what is WRONG with people?!! All this over book reviews?! I confess I rarely even check my goodreads account, so I had no idea this was going on. Why do people behave in such a reprehensible fashion? And do these idiots not realize that by their actions they are perpetrating a very disturbing type of 'bullying' of their own?
Jul. 19th, 2012 06:19 am (UTC)
And do these idiots not realize that by their actions they are perpetrating a very disturbing type of 'bullying' of their own?

Clearly they don't. Idiots is, in my opinion, a kind way of describing them.
Jul. 19th, 2012 06:35 am (UTC)
WTF. Fucked up.

People think that because it's just words on, "teh internetz" that there aren't real consequences and nightmares from their actions. It's horrible and invasive.
Jul. 19th, 2012 05:37 am (UTC)
Thank you Michelle
Most of these people have never been taught how to function in a polite society, and thoughtful commentary and downright outrage is sometimes necessary for any kind of discourse. The internet is an infant, clearly, as are most of these trolls.
Jul. 19th, 2012 06:36 am (UTC)
Re: Thank you Michelle
Unfortunately, these are infants with terrible powers beyond their understanding.
Jul. 19th, 2012 05:48 am (UTC)
I went on a twitter rant about this just the other day. I'm not afraid of being targeted myself (not because I'm always super nice, cuz I'm not, but because I'm not a big enough fish to attract their attention). I am, however, sick on behalf of the reviewers who have been targeted. At least one of them has been threatened in real life through the personal information released on the GR Bullies site.

I realize different people can have very different definitions of harrassment, but as far as the author/reviewer connection goes, it's very easy for an author to disengage. Just don't read the reviews. Don't comment on the reviews. Don't head into what is essentially the reviewer's territory at all. None of the reviewers in question were chasing the authors down in real life or over the internet. All engagement was two-sided.
Jul. 19th, 2012 06:18 am (UTC)
I realize different people can have very different definitions of harrassment, but as far as the author/reviewer connection goes, it's very easy for an author to disengage.

The reason I haven't talked about the reviews and the ways authors can avoid them is because, in the end, people focus too much on the reviews themselves. I've seen various people say they're mean or etc., etc., etc., as if this excuses the site. Oh, they were mean? They were mean girls so they deserve this? Really? I mean, seriously?

It's why I said it's irrelevant. I don't actually care what the reviewers read or say to each other. I don't need to evaluate the reviews. I don't need to read them.

They don't deserve to be exposed, to have their home addresses posted on the internet, period.
Jul. 19th, 2012 09:59 am (UTC)
Exactly. No matter how much you disagree with them, there is no reason for violence or the threat of it. Ever.

"Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent." - Isaac Asimov

I'm aware that in terms of international issues, etc., they go deeper and are more complicated, but these are supposed to be Internet discussions and opinions, not political games or human disaster catastrophes.

Your daily life should not be a minefield.
Jul. 19th, 2012 10:09 am (UTC)
I don’t hand my home address and home phone number to total strangers in the bookstore

You could say that 'Michelle the bookshop clerk' is a form of pseudonymity - you can't avoid putting your real face to it, but people don't know anything other than what you choose to share with them, and most likely it doesn't get more personal than 'I'm tired' or 'my kid was teething last night', and even the latter is something that you would share with very, very few customers. Most of the time strangers don't know _and can't find out_ whether you're single, married, gay, disabled... they just see a role and see whether you do your job or not.

The internet doesn't allow for that compartamentalisation of life, so we need a different mechanism.

Jul. 19th, 2012 11:09 am (UTC)
Yes, absolutely. This whole thing is shameful.
Jul. 19th, 2012 01:21 pm (UTC)
Absolutely shameful. Sad thing is, too many of these people are starting to get practice in doing this horrendous stuff when they cyberbully their peers in middle school.
Jul. 19th, 2012 02:08 pm (UTC)
That's horrible. (As is the stuff chronicled in that link.)

If someone makes snarky remarks in person in public, usually they'll only possibly get that level of venom from 1 person, the one described. Other people may disapprove of the snarky remarks and weigh in, but they're not going to have that same level of venom. This is part of the internet making data more powerful I guess. It's interesting the different ways free speech becomes bullying/threats.
Jul. 19th, 2012 03:39 pm (UTC)
My first reaction was "what's good for the goose is good for the gander", but as you pointed out that's not the case.

Makes me wonder what would make the harassers take notice.
Jul. 19th, 2012 05:29 pm (UTC)
My first reaction was "what's good for the goose is good for the gander", but as you pointed out that's not the case.

It seems to be a lot of people's first reaction - which is in part why I posted, fwiw. The question of safety, of threat, of physical danger seems to get lost - and it's the defining one for me.
Aug. 16th, 2012 09:29 pm (UTC)
Goodreads Reviewer Outing
Is Goodreads doing anything about this? At the very least the users that are placing peoples names and personal info should be banned. I don't know if there is any legal recourse- a cease and desist letter from Goodreads? Unfortunately, the reviewer's that were victimized are already out on a limb that these horrible people sawed off!
Jul. 19th, 2012 05:54 pm (UTC)
I totally agree. It's stalking, threatening, and harassment.

It would be wildly inappropriate under any circumstances. But it's especially over the top given that the reviewers' crime was to review books on a book review site.
Jul. 19th, 2012 06:00 pm (UTC)
I totally agree with you, Michelle. That the reviewers are all women is really frightening.

BTW, I recently read a lot of reviews of Deverry books on amazon and goodreads. A number of characteristics of the books came up over and over -- split time scheme, amount of detail are the 2 I remember. These characteristics were the reasons that some reviewers loved the books and others hated the books. The same things!

My conclusion : reading one's reader reviews is a waste of time and adrenaline. :-)
Jul. 19th, 2012 09:06 pm (UTC)
These characteristics were the reasons that some reviewers loved the books and others hated the books. The same things!

This was the first, best lesson I got from reviews: that there is no thing I can put in a book that won't be one reader's Best Thing Ever and another reader's Thing That Ruined The Book Entirely.

So I might as well just keep writing my own weird books and not worry so much.

Except to be glad ... love or hate the words ... that readers are at least engaging.

The bile I see about negative reviews is disturbing and a little terrifying. And seems mostly to afflict newish writers who are still feeling very fragile.

I sometimes wish we could tell writers (not that we know these folks in particular) are writers to just Stay Quiet for the first three years, and only react in public once they've had time to chill and mellow a little. (Except, of course, it's also not a universal response.)

Edited at 2012-07-19 09:08 pm (UTC)
Jul. 19th, 2012 06:04 pm (UTC)
People are free to post snarky reviews of my books if they want to. They are *not* free to post my address and phone number.
Jul. 19th, 2012 06:52 pm (UTC)
Exactly. The two are not the same thing at all.
Jul. 19th, 2012 09:09 pm (UTC)
Yes. Hate my books, keep me out of it. Me and my books, they're not the same thing. Writers need to understand this.
Jul. 19th, 2012 08:47 pm (UTC)
We chatted briefly about this on twitter and I am firmly in agreement with you. It is completely reprehensible to hand out another's personal home address and phone number without permission. You wouldn't hand out the personal address and phone number of a good friend without that friend's permission, why would you hand out a stranger's information? As you said, it's like pointing a gun at the reviewers' heads. Not only unacceptable from a security and safety standpoint of the reviewers, but completely hypocritical of their stance against bullying. I'm just outraged and I've run out of good words to express it.
Jul. 19th, 2012 09:58 pm (UTC)
This sort of thing has been happening over political issues here in California over the last few years too. In no case is it acceptable. You can disagree with someone all you like, but harassing them and trying to intimidate them is not an acceptable method of arguement.
Jul. 20th, 2012 01:30 am (UTC)
I've been flabbergasted about the whole thing.

Thank you.
Jul. 20th, 2012 02:41 am (UTC)
I find it a sad, sad comment on evolving social norms that the response to someone saying something your don't like it... to bully them in the name of them being bullies.

Can someone serve a cease and desist to the site? Soliciting harassment has got to be illegal.
Jul. 20th, 2012 07:23 am (UTC)
Ugh. Ugh ugh ugh. This is so completely not okay. It's...I don't understand, I don't. Human beings can be so ugly.

Though I will say one of the reasons that you're my favorite author was (aside from the obvious) years ago, on the yahoo group, somebody posted something about not liking one of your books, and the reasons behind the dislike/etc. And your response was...to thank them, and then to suggest things that they might like more. It was such a classy moment. The people behind the website in question should really...there's way, way better ways of handling these things. Way, way, way. All of them include NOT POSTING PEOPLE'S PERSONAL INFO. Argh.
Jul. 25th, 2012 01:13 pm (UTC)
Ms. Sagara,

A well thought out piece. If I didn't already buy your work, I would now.
( 27 comments — Leave a comment )