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Anne R. Allen's Blog


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Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."

Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Public Shaming, Cyberbullies, and the Hive Mind: Fighting 'Censorship by Troll'

by Anne R. Allen

Lots has been written about the pain caused by online bullying of children and teens—and that stuff is horrific—but we don't hear as much about the cyberbullying that goes on in the adult world.

But cyberbullying can have disastrous consequences, no matter what the victim's age or social status. In fact, some people think it's having a devastating impact on our whole culture.

Welsh journalist Jon Ronson tells us cyberbullying and public shaming in social media are "creating a world where the smartest way to survive is to be bland."

He fears we're heading for a dumbed-down world controlled by Internet trolls and cyberbully gangs.

Unfortunately, the Internet is still the "wild west," and tech companies and individual governments don't yet have the laws in place to combat this behavior.

We need to learn how to keep ourselves safe, avoid being swept up in mob behavior, and report abuse when we see it.

Reporting is the only way to get the necessary laws and rules put in place, even if it seems our individual complaints aren't addressed.

Unfortunately, as I was writing this piece, I heard the news that Reddit has fired Victoria Taylor, its strongest anti-abuse advocate. Reddit has harbored sadistic bullies, pedophiles, and hate groups in the past, and apparently it plans to return to its old ways. I strongly recommend avoiding Reddit unless it does something to address criminal behavior on the site.

Social Media and Public Shaming

Jon Ronson laments "toxic Reddit threads" as well as psychopathic behavior on Twitter in his hair-raising (and funny) book about online bullying and character assassination called So You've Been Publicly ShamedIt was Amazon's "Best Book" of April 2015.

Ronson is a successful, high profile author (his book The Men Who Stare at Goats was made into a major film starring George Clooney).

But his reputation was nearly destroyed by bullies who hijacked his identity and posted bizarre things in his name on Twitter.

As a result, he wrote his now-bestselling book that has been called a "tour through a not-necessarily-brave new world where faceless commenters wield the power to destroy lives and careers, where the punishments often outweigh the crimes, and where there is no self-control and (ironically) no consequences."

You can see an interview with Jon Ronson on the PBS Newshour here, and a review of his book at the New York Times here.

Anonymity, Speed of Communication, and the Power of the Hive Mind

The above blurb blames the anonymity of the Internet for much of the nastiness—and I agree that's a big factor—but I think the most egregious abuses spring from something far more dangerous than the lone anonymous troll: "groupthink" aka the "hive mind."

It is the speed of communication on the Internet—not just the anonymity—that makes it such a dangerous place. Rumors that would have taken weeks to reach the public consciousness in the pre-Internet age can rouse the Twitchfork-wielding rabble in an instant.

There's a quote attributed to psychology pioneer William James that voices the principle at work here: "there's nothing so absurd that if you repeat it often enough, people will believe it." 

That kind of mass-repetition can now happen on social media in a matter of minutes.

I've observed that once people have repeated a lie—especially an outrageous one—they become invested in it. It becomes part of their identity. Members of a "hive" that has perpetrated a falsehood or misinterpretation of facts feel a narcissistic compulsion to keep repeating it—to "prove" their own righteousness.

The same thing is true when someone commits an act of verbal cruelty, the way so many Twitterers did this week to a bestselling author. Once an individual joins in an attack on a designated victim, s/he becomes assimilated into the collective hive mind and seems to lose the ability to behave as an individual.

These real-life cyberbullies mimic Sci-Fi cyborgs like Star Trek's the Borg, or Dr. Who's Daleks and Cybermen.

This means that trying to reason with an individual member of the hive is useless. Otherwise sane people will display a complete lack of empathy—behavior that's usually seen only in a true sociopath.

It's as if people are saying: "I'm not really a sociopath, but I play one on Twitter."

Thing is, social media is real life. Your victims are real people. You are inflicting real pain.

People who say, "this isn't bullying because the target is successful/ naïve, liberal/ conservative, religious/ atheist, feminist/ antifeminist, made a typo, got a fact wrong, used irony, wrote in a genre I disapprove of...and the old faithful, 'Mo-o-o-m, he started it!'" need to grow up.

There is no excuse for doing evil stuff. Stop it.

Of course the hive mind does not always do evil. As Margaret Mead said: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world."

But it needs a corollary: "Never doubt that a small group of misguided citizens can devolve into a mindless, bloodthirsty mob."

Angry Mobs are High on their Own Rage

When you become part of the hive mind, you become as unreasoning as a swarm of bees.

Drunk bees.

Angry people actually get high on their own rage. Anger management specialists tell us that self-righteous rage can trigger brain chemicals that mimic the high of cocaine. And it’s just as addictive.

A hive mind drunk on anger is unable to think or learn. It is intolerant of any divergence from the hive's orthodoxy and outraged by humor, whimsy, irony, or fantasy.

All non-literal speech goes over its buzzy little head.

In fact, the hive mind often feels the need to thwart artistic expression of any kind, as we can see with the religious-fanatic hive destroying ancient art in the Middle East.

Scapegoating and Shaming have always been a Road to Power

The dangers of the hive mind are not unique to the Internet age, of course. Humans have been whipped into cruel frenzies by stupid ideas ever since Zog convinced the tribe that throwing Gog into the smoking volcano would keep it from erupting.

Euripides explored the phenomenon in 405 BC when he wrote the Bacchae —in which a band of women, under the spell of an angry Dionysis, rip their king to pieces with their bare hands, thinking he's a wild beast.

Wily politicians have always known how to use mob behavior to their advantage. Designating a scapegoat/enemy and lying to the masses about the danger they pose is the power-play of choice for most tyrannical regimes.

When I was researching my new Camilla mystery, SO MUCH FOR BUCKINGHAM, I did a lot of reading about Richard III, (who appears as a ghost in the novel.) As you probably know, Richard III was portrayed by Shakespeare as a heinous tyrant who murdered his young nephews.

This is very likely a lie. But it has been repeated for 530 years, so has become accepted as fact—although Richard had little motive. More proof that the William James quote is correct.

The Tudor hive mind needed reassurance that Henry Tudor had a God-given right to the throne, so spreading lies about the godlessness of his dead predecessor was a no-brainer. 

Public Shaming and Online Reviews

It's a quirky coincidence that in my novel, a character named Ronson is publicly shamed and slandered on social media.

I hadn't heard of Jon Ronson when I first created the character of Ronson V. Zolek, but Ronzo could easily have been a subject for Jon Ronson's book. He's a music review blogger who suffers public shaming at the hands of a band he gave a bad review. The stories they spread about him are so horrific, he may have committed suicide. (Sorry: no spoilers.)

At the same time, his girlfriend, etiquette expert and bookstore owner Camilla Randall, suffers swarms of obscene personal-attack "reviews" as well as doxxing, hacking, social media shaming—and eventually rape and death threats and real-life destruction of her business. All because she commits the cardinal sin of responding to a negative fake review on Amazon.

Although I exaggerate my characters' troubles for comic effect, none of what goes on is terribly far-fetched.

It happened to me four years ago when I wrote a blogpost that displeased one of the Queen Bees of the review bully brigade, who Tweeted a call to cyber-jihad against me.

I've taken most of the threats and "reviews" Camilla receives word for word from my own and other real online threats.

Some come from last year's #Gamergate mess—a toxic Twitter storm sparked by a woman's negative review of a videogame. Hordes of male gamers got in touch with their inner cavepersons and screamed a blistering group-howl of misogyny on Twitter and Reddit.

Women responded with nasty behavior of their own.

The battle escalated to threats of rape, torture, and mass murder that were so vicious and terrifying that some reviewers and designers had to go into hiding. Colleges went into lockdown when Columbine-style shootings were threatened.

Unfortunately, the gaming world and the book world are closely related. The Amazon forums were originally started for discussions of videogames, and #Gamergate-style misogyny and brutality is rampant there. (Women can be as rabid in their misogyny as men. Most of the rape threats I've seen aimed at women come from women. Go figure.)

Even if you have the sense to stay away from the Amazon fora—which I strongly recommend—the bullying that started there has crept into much of online bookselling.

Reviewers and Authors are Equally Victimized

Unfortunately, online customer reviews have become the "third rail" of the new publishing paradigm. No author is supposed to touch the subject.

But—as I show in SO MUCH FOR BUCKINGHAM—reviewers and authors are equally victims of bullying and we'd be better off banding together to fight it.

Unfortunately, the world of online reviews is mired in corruption. The Guardian reported in 2013 that at least 20% of online reviews are fake. These days I think it's probably more like 30%-40%.

I wrote in May about how Amazon is cracking down on the paid review mills that have grown up around their review system (and all retail and service review sites). But they can't get them all. In many third world countries, writing fake online reviews has become a growth industry.

There are also authors who use fake identities ("sock puppets") to inflate their own review numbers and vote down their "rivals'" books.

And a number of nasty groups use Amazon and Goodreads reviews to carpet-bomb books they haven't read with one-stars and personal attacks to further a political, religious, or social cause. They also do it to punish authors for imagined misdeeds or simply inflict sadistic pain on random strangers for fun.

I will no doubt get some one-star reviews as retaliation for this post. (There's nothing a bully hates more than an appeal for reason and empathy.)

Amazon is making some changes to the review algorithms in order to make the reviews more fair, which I applaud. I've heard rumors that they've started mass-removal of reviews for inscrutable reasons, but the rumors are as yet substantiated, so I reserve judgement on that.

But I fear they still aren't addressing the bully problem. Giving more weight to "verified" reviews doesn't help much because sock puppets, vigilantes and trolls know how to buy an ebook and return it within minutes to get that "verified" stamp of approval.

I'd like to see Amazon limit the number of aliases a reviewer can use. I should think five would be a sufficient number for any legitimate Amazon customer. And it would do a whole lot to cut down on the sock-puppets and one-star public-shaming swarms.

Goodreads has improved their moderation and seem to be quicker to delete toxic threads than they used to be. They have also banished some of their most sadistic Mean Girls. But unfortunately plenty remain—and new ones spring up all the time.

How to Avoid Becoming a Target

I realize that some new authors appear to be "asking for it". Especially if they're naïve and don't realize that getting bad reviews is part of the process of publishing. They can have very public temper tantrums when they get a one-star review, as happened on Goodreads last month.

An author who protests an unkind review (or responds to a negative review in any way) can be the target of toxic verbal abuse, swarms of one-stars, and the ever-popular rape and death threats.

Authors can be bullies too. The ones who feel entitled to all five-stars-all-the-time sometimes call out fans to bully reviewers who don't give them the praise they think they deserve.

I think a lot of naïve newbie authors can be led astray by the over-zealous self- and vanity- publishing industries who tell them that if they pay enough for editing and good design, they won't get one-star reviews.

They've been lied to. Every successful writer gets cruel reviews. Every. Single. One. Go check the Amazon reviews of any bestseller.

New authors need to understand that a few nasty reviews aren't abuse.

However, attacks on the author's character, false accusations of plagiarism or buying fake reviews, carpet-bombing with dozens of one-stars, stalking, hacking, doxxing (making public personal, work, and family contact information), and sending rape and death threats IS.

I've heard from veteran authors who have landed in the hospital with stress-related illnesses, panic attacks, and depression as a result of online persecution by the bullies on Amazon and Goodreads.

Reviewers get stalked, physically assaulted, and suffer public shaming, too. Not always at the hands of authors and their fans, but sometimes as a result of reviewer-on-reviewer bullying, which is a big problem in the Amazon fora—and also plays a part in my novel.

Never Participate in Public Shaming

Public shaming is like torture. If you do it, you're opening the door to have it done to you.

You are also encouraging limits to free speech and artistic expression with what superstar author Anne Rice calls "censorship by troll." This week she said on her Facebook page:

 "I'm fed up with 'Censorship by Troll.' Aren't you? Well, there is a way to stop it. Appeal to websites and internet venues to enforce their existing guidelines against obscenity, abuse, threats and out and out 'hate' attacks. Just about every internet business or venue has guidelines; and if they don't, they can establish some. What is needed is moderation."...Anne Rice

If you hear that an author or reviewer has been accused of piracy, plagiarism, political incorrectness, or other "bad behavior", check the facts before joining the angry mob. 

Even if the accusations are valid—does the punishment really suit the crime? Threatening to rape and mutilate a teenager who overreacts to a nasty review—or writes one—may seem justified to the hive mind, but does it make sense to your own personal brain? Would you be proud of contributing to a fellow human's heart attack, depression or suicide ?

The people who terrorized me with death threats probably thought they were doing good by ridding cyberspace of an uppity old lady. Or, more likely, they didn't think at all.

Next time, instead of grabbing your Twitchfork and joining a frenzied mob, why not take a breath and detach from the hive mind? Ask yourself if you would you like this stuff to happen to you or your child.

So What Can we do About Cyber-Gangs?

Nobody can eliminate Internet bullying entirely—and the tech giants won't do much about it until abuse reports hit critical mass—but you can do your part by learning the rules, refusing to participate and reporting abuse when you see it.

I know the rules are sometimes hard to find, so a couple of years ago I compiled a list of some of the biggies: The Laws of the Amazon Jungle.

The Internet book community is ours to create. We can become a jungle of irrational, violent, anger-addicted brats, or we can behave like literate, civilized adults. If someone is misusing a forum, or you see criminal or bullying activity, leave the group temporarily and contact the appropriate authorities.

Not only do most sites have a "report abuse" button, but you can report false and misleading reviews to the government

If your life or safety are being threatened or you witness a case of cybercrime in the US, you can report to the FBI.

If you believe a review is false and misleading, you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, the Better Business Bureau, or your local state attorney general's office: (Google: Your state + Attorney General Consumer Affairs Division+ file complaint.)

I don't know about reporting cybercrime outside the US, but maybe a reader can provide info in the comments. I know that in progressive countries like Australia, there are already laws in place against cyberbullying and trolling.

And remember that what happens online has real consequences. This is not a videogame.

 Blogger Chuck Wendig said it very well this week (warning, Chuck uses colorful language):

"I question why we have to be mean for the sake of being mean....Ill-made snark and meanness dull the effectiveness of your criticism; they do not often sharpen it. Is it bullying? Maybe not taken individually, but when it becomes a crashing tide like that — I don’t care who you are, that’s not healthy for your mental well-being. Whatever the case, I think it does us well to remember: Online is IRL." (IRL=In Real Life) ...Chuck Wendig

Jay Asher, author of the NYT bestselling anti-bullying YA novel, Thirteen Reasons Why has been the victim of online bullying himself. This week he said on Facebook:

"It shouldn't matter how rich someone is, or whether we like their writing...to say a behavior toward that person is wrong...I see so many of my friends, and myself, get really hurt when people say horrible things online...We're not supposed to defend ourselves. We're not supposed to block people mocking us. We're supposed to sit there and take it. Sorry. There is nothing right about that."...Jay Asher

Jon Ronson's book is a plea for self-control, empathy, and compassion. He says social media is so young, it's like a toddler crawling toward a gun. 

It's up to the grownups to stop the impending disaster. Be a grownup. Don't bully. And report people who do.

There's an old saying that advises us to ask ourselves, "Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?" before speaking.

Kindness is key here. In an op ed piece in the Washington Post this week, former white supremacist Arno Michelis said:

 "Being on the receiving end of violence did not make me less violent. It was the kindness of people who refused to lower themselves to my level that changed the course of my life." ...Arno Michelis

On this weekend when Americans are celebrating freedom and independence, let's declare independence from the tyranny of the hive mind, trolls, and cyberbullies!

What about you, Scriveners? Have you been the victim of cyberbullying? Have you witnessed it? Have you participated in a public shaming? How did it make you feel? Do you report abuse when you see it? Do you have info on how to report abuse outside the USA? Do keep comments civil. Bullies will be deleted.


SO MUCH FOR BUCKINGHAM: The Camilla Randall Mysteries #5 is now available for preorder on Amazon. Only 99c if you order before July 8th

It's a comedy-mystery about cyberbullying, the gangs of new media, and the ghost of Richard III. Plus a cat named Buckingham.

Camilla's best friend Plant is in the English Midlands accused of murdering a historical reenactor dressed as the Duke of Buckingham. The only witness seems to be the ghost of Richard III. Meanwhile, Camilla's etiquette books are mysteriously attacked by obscene one-star review swarms...and she has no idea what happened to her boyfriend Ronzo. Did he really murder those kittens and then jump into the Passaic River?

And don't forget Ruth Harris's million-seller Husbands and Lovers is FREE for a limited time


BARTLEBY SNOPES CONTEST   $10 FOR UNLIMITED ENTRIES. Compose a short story entirely of dialogue. Must be under 2,000 words. Your entry cannot use any narration (this includes tag lines such as he said, she said, etc.). These are the only rules. 5 finalists will also appear in Issue 15 of the magazine. Last year they awarded $2,380 in prize money. Deadline September 15, 2015.

CRAZYHORSE SHORT-SHORT FICTION AWARD $15 Entry fee.  $1,000 and publication. Three runners-up. All entries considered for publication. Submit one to three short-shorts of up to 500 words each. Deadline July 31, 2015.

Rattle Poetry Prize The annual Rattle Poetry Prize offers $10,000 for a single poem to be published in the winter issue of the magazine. Each entry can contain up to 4 poems. 10 finalists will also receive $200 each and publication, and be eligible for the $2,000 Readers’ Choice Award, to be selected by subscriber and entrant vote. Entry fee $20 (includes subscription) Deadline July 15th.

Golden Quill Awards Writing Contest: Flash, Poetry, and Short fiction categories. Entry fee $20 for stories and poetry, $15 for flash fiction. The theme is TRANSFORMATION. Deadline July 15.

Glamour Magazine Essay contest.  FREE! Theme: "My Real Life Story". Prize is $5,000 and possible publication in Glamour Magazine for personal essays by women, between 2,500-3,500 words. Enter online or by mail. Open to US residents aged 18+.Deadline July 15th

MARK TWAIN HUMOR CONTEST  Entry fees: $12 Young Author or $22 Adult. 7,000 words (or fewer) of any original work of humor writing. Submissions must be in English. Submissions are not required to be in the style of Mark Twain or about Mark Twain. 1st Prize: $1,000 (Adult), $600 (Young Author). Other cash prizes! Deadline July 10, 2015

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Blogger Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Good post. Even after reading all of the above, I don't know what motivates people to be deliberately mean to others. It's sad that with all the positives of the Internet age, meanness has also been enabled. But all the advice above is good advice. Life has enough worthy challenges without letting oneself get sucked into bad interactions.

July 5, 2015 at 10:12 AM  
Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I caught that mess on Goodreads last month after the author who responded had been banned and no longer contributed to the thread - which still went on for several pages. While his reactions and accusations aimed at the reviewer and those who commented were really wrong, the end result was also wrong - dozens of people posted a one star rating of the book in question.
Being nice is the answer. In lieu of other recent events, our pastor talked this morning about responding with love. And that applies to all things.

July 5, 2015 at 10:16 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Anne—Shame, slander, humiliation, free-range fury—where would fiction (and fiction writers) be without them?

IRL? Pathetic, ugly, destructive, toxic.

Thanks for an excellent post.

July 5, 2015 at 10:22 AM  
Blogger Carol Hedges said...

Read and enjoyed..if that is the right word. A lot of common sense here. Developing a carapce and not respondiong to bullies/trolls is the best way to go, as you say. And blocking them.

July 5, 2015 at 10:27 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Elizabeth--I don't know why people are so mean on the Internet, but I think it has to do with the instinct to join the "winning" side. Plus there's that high people get from self-righteous anger. We can fight this stuff, but only if we make enough noise. Obviously places like Reddit feel that cruelty is paying off, so they won't change.

July 5, 2015 at 10:34 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Alex--Wasn't that awful? The poor guy stepped in it, that's for sure. But people wouldn't let it go even after he was gone.

And using reviews for anything but helping a reader buy a book is WRONG. Those people are polluting the very system they say they want to defend.

The guiding principle of all religions is the same: be kind. Nothing else will make things better. Your pastor is very wise.

July 5, 2015 at 10:37 AM  
Blogger D.G. Hudson said...

When it's easy to be bad and not be punished, there will always be a certain percentage of humanity that bullies others. It happens everywhere, in the armed forces, in education, at work locations, etc. It's a genetic deficiency that needs to be phased out. . .one of my daughters suffered bullying in high school and I learned at that time how inefficient our 'control' systems are.

July 5, 2015 at 10:37 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Ruth--"Free range fury" is a great phrase. That's what's going on in these frenzies. They seem to think it's a videogame where there will be no consequences. But it is, as Chuck said, in real life. Real people. Real pain.

July 5, 2015 at 10:39 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Carol--Developing a carapace is definitely required. But we need to band together to fight the abuse rather than accept it as the norm. The more we report abuse and make noise, the more likely governments will pass laws against this stuff.

July 5, 2015 at 10:41 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

D. G--William Goldman certainly showed us that with Lord of the Flies. Civilization can't survive when bullies are in charge.

It's so awful when it happens to kids who don't have the skills to bounce back. Anybody can be a target. Whether they're just new or different or smarter or differently abled, the bullies and gangs will target any kind of innovation or non-bland behavior. They want to pull us back into the primordial ooze. So sorry your daughter was targeted.

July 5, 2015 at 10:45 AM  
Blogger Ann Bennett said...

Very sobering post, I truly believe that anonymity needs to be removed from the internet.
I read comments because they can be as interesting as stupid at times for a local paper. What disturbs me is there is a group of individuals who bully anything that does not fit their particular political beliefs. They use fake names on Facebook. I have reported them to Facebook and the paper but they were not flagged. They could still be active. You give up.
"Hive mind" is a shallow thing. It is a good point to remind people to not get caught in the frenzy.

July 5, 2015 at 11:09 AM  
Blogger Roland D. Yeomans said...

That poor man on Goodreads. There is a reason we are taught to turn the cheek ... but then again, we only have 4 of them.

I do not participate on Goodreads (too snarky/insufficient egos feel stronger by being cruel.)

I made the error of praising what I found good about America on the 4th and was chastised for not thinking globally.

It seems many are only as good as their options. Give a human a mask and they will tell you the truth ... of themselves.

Like D.G.'s daughter, I was constantly bullied (being part Lakota made me different and the signs saying "No dogs or Indians Allowed" in stores didn't help either.)

It is so sad that those bullied are the ones least able to defend themselves.

Great post as always.

July 5, 2015 at 11:17 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Ann--Anonymity is certainly a contributor to the problem. But some of these people do this stuff using their real names. They have no shame because they're so sure of their own righteousness.

I was not aware of the FB sock puppets. That's bad news, since FB has a better bully-abuse reporting system than most sites. Also, they've been cracking down on the use of fake names. They're not even allowing legit names that aren't on your birth certificate, like for trans people.

Hive minds are shallow indeed. And they can't think. Large, angry things with no reasoning powers are very dangerous.

July 5, 2015 at 11:40 AM  
Blogger Linda Maye Adams said...

Writers really need to change their attitudes about reviews and also stop reading them! I'm on a writer FB page, and almost daily someone posts that they got a one-star review. And they're usually not looking for sympathy--they want that Group-Think that reassures them that the reviewer was wrong.

Unfortunately, this is the result of what Dean Wesley Smith calls, "a book as an event." Writers are treating a book like it was a one time event, like a high school graduation ceremony. Then that one star review becomes, "How dare you ruin my event!" not what it is, which is a person's opinion, Suddenly that photograph of the moment is marred, and the person feels like the perfect day is ruined.

July 5, 2015 at 11:59 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Roland--Thanks for weighing in. I didn't know you're part Lakota. Signs like that must have been so galling.

We need to stand up for the bullied--not necessarily by engaging with the bully--but by reporting the behavior and helping remove the target from the situation.

If that poor guy on Goodreads had a friend who could have quietly DMd him and said "get out of there and let's go get a beer" it would have saved a world of grief.

I agree that there's too much snark on GR. I left my last group when a troll stomped in looking for a fight and I've never gone back.

How stupid is it that you can't say something patriotic on July 4th? Some people will pick a fight over anything.

July 5, 2015 at 12:02 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Linda--I see those posts a lot. Sometimes I click through and see an amateurish buy page with an incomprehensible product description and a bad cover and think...maybe that review was right.

Other times, it's obvious the writer has encountered a troll. The biggie these days is "I did not receive a copy of this book"--and there's no verified purchase, so obviously they didn't get it because they didn't buy it. They're trying to extort a free book. That's when sharing with other writer is useful. They can help report abuse.

There's no doubt authors encounter a lot of troll behavior in the reviews, but a negative review is usually just somebody who didn't like it. Nobody can please all the people all of the time.

DWS has some good insight there!

July 5, 2015 at 12:22 PM  
Blogger BooksAndPals said...

Anonymity can be a contributor to the problem since it makes it easier for trolls and bullies to hide. However, it is also one of the ways to protect yourself from having internet issues slop over into the physical world. (Notice that I'm not claiming the internet isn't real life. :) )

Consider for example the reasons an author might decide to use a pen name. Would it make sense to not allow that?

July 5, 2015 at 12:25 PM  
OpenID writerchick said...

Hi Anne,
First let me applaud you for your bravery because by virtue of writing this post you make yourself a target of the hives.

Yeah, I've encountered trolls and bullies. A few occasions on my blog in the past, though it never got to the level of violence, it was still frightening and made me a nervous wreck for a while.

And of course, who hasn't been swarmed in threads where one dares to express their opinion of a political issue or hot current event?

By and large, I avoid debating anything publicly these days because I don't want to get into some never ending black hole of snarks and snipes. And on social media channels I try only to pass on positive, good things that will have a positive effect. Though occasionally I still find myself in the fray.

A few days ago, I wrote a comment on Hulu (of all places) about an episode of Hannibal. It was negative but not cruel by any means and clearly my opinion. But a commenter who didn't agree with me not only took it upon herself to tell me how very wrong I was but also how ignorant, stupid and how lacking in an attention span I was. Clearly I was a Neanderthal who had no concept whatever of true art.

I did respond to her, only to set straight (slightly) and haven't gone back to look at any of the responses. Still, part of me wished I never made the comment in the first place because clearly you're an idiot if you don't agree with someone else.

I do agree with you whole-heartedly about the troll universe and the hive mentality. It is dangerous and there are those who live to keep it whipped up into a frenzy. And fighting back using avenues available to us is the right step to take. Additionally, I think that we can un-follow those people, un-friend them and un - whatever them to show that we are not part of the hive as well. Sometimes that quiet and subtle approach can make a person stop and think about what they're doing. Or at least it can't hoit.

Great post.


July 5, 2015 at 12:34 PM  
Blogger Maria D'Marco said...

Thank you, Ann, for waving this flag...

I have edited 4 YA books in the past year with the theme of bullying. These were authors from the UK, AU, and the States. The issue is global, the recognition is global, and the solution will have to be global.

Personally, I attribute two things to bullying: tolerance and validation.

We are hard-wired to utilize tolerance in our existence to determine survival and sustainability. We test. We probe. We question. And we are always pushing the envelope of tolerance to see how a thing works - what its bursting point is.

Fire produces heat. How close can we get to it before there is damage? What is our tolerance and what do we learn from it? Some heat warms us and keeps us from freezing to death. Other heat cooks some foods and makes them safe to eat. Still other heat burns and creates fear - we learn to use it as a weapon against things that might eat us (warmed up or not). Fire pushed past bursting burns our home down, destroys environments and things we need to survive (like crops or milk cows). You get the drift...

So...the bully seeks - perhaps you could even say is driven - to find the point of bursting. And they only see the process, not the result...because they are cushioned from that result. Like experimenting with fire in an asbestos suit, they have no reality connected with their actions.

Then, we have validation. Every single human on earth must validate their beliefs, thoughts, findings, tolerance testings. This is usually only done through other humans. If we cannot validate our existence, actions, thoughts, ideas with others...we can only produce circular paths within our own existences.

Not meaning to be all boo-ee-ooo or searing here, but I believe that cyber-bullying will be stopped when everyone refuses to tolerate it or validate it.

Bullying cannot support itself without the tolerance of others and the validation of others. I've seen it work in the 'real world'. The bullying person gets no support, no feedback - only silence - and the environment dies, the bullying stops. There is no fuel.

So -- my approach to bullying is: no tolerance! no validation!

I'd get a tattoo, but -- well, I'm 65 and the skin just ain't what it used to be.... :D

Wonderful post, Ann - thanks for all the links!


July 5, 2015 at 12:41 PM  
OpenID fornow said...

To me, the issue begins with the sites who allow them to post. Computer viruses would never have become the issue there are today if Internet providers and OS providers had blocked them early on. They eventually began doing so but started with the approach that it was the end users responsibility. Not mine! By creating an open field for exploitation, they opened the doors.

It's not that hard to implement word flags in forums that require a post be moderated. Yes, it does require staff to look at but look at the mess now. Amazon, Youtube and other such sites have to pay programmers to try and fix an issue thats gone way out of hand they could have managed for much less early on.

It's a plague of "not my responsibility". But if those that create the space take no responsibility, who comes to dominate? Think of any school classroom. If the teacher refused to take any responsibility for behaviour in that space, what does it become?

Some people have poor self-control. Some people follow the most noisy. You have to nip that in the bud. Or we all experience the consequences.

July 5, 2015 at 12:42 PM  
Blogger sue mcginty said...

Boy, is this ever timely. I'm so glad the League of Women Voters has started a campaign to encourage civil discourse. Yikes if you don't like a book, just don't finish it. How hard is that?

July 5, 2015 at 1:13 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Al--I agree that banning anonymity is not the answer. I do think that limiting the number of aliases on certain sites would help with the sock puppet problem.

Most authors who use pen names can be reached through their pen name persona and they will have a website with contact info for the pen name, so it's not the same thing as being a Violentacrez type troll who is unreachable, and therefore can terrorize people.

July 5, 2015 at 1:30 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Annie--Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I, too have found that politics and religion are best not discussed at table or on the Internet. :-)

I try not to voice my opinions when I'm obviously not going to change anybody's mind. But we can't be expected to have no opinions whatsoever. In a GR BoomerLit group, I welcomed somebody to the group with a friendly remark about how I like to read BoomerLit. A troll stomped in and asked me how I dared say I liked BoomerLit, when obviously all old people were useless and should be forced to read books about young people. I said nothing and got about 10 similar messages from the troll, continuing to escalate the rhetoric. I appealed to admin, in a DM, but he appeared to be AWOL. 8 hours later, I left the group. I suppose that troll may still be there, saying nasty things about me although I never responded to her at all.. What a pathetic little life she must have. I do hope she will have her wish fulfilled and she'll never have to be an old person. :-)

Leaving the group of forum, unfriending and unfollowing is definitely a smart idea. Killing off those people in books is good, too.

July 5, 2015 at 1:46 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Ciao Maria--Very helpful analysis. I like the analogy of playing with fire in an asbestos suit. That's what trolls are doing on many of these sites where they are protected and encouraged, but their targets are treated as fair game.

Reddit provides asbestos suits for perpetrators. The notorious troll Violentacrez was actually a moderator there. With their new policy, I think we can expect to see much more criminal behavior like his. I guess they'll keep doing it until some government shuts them down. And we'll need new laws to do that.

Reporting abuse and leaving the site is the only answer. If you stand by and watch someone be victimized, you're part of the problem--like somebody watching child porn. We all have to show a little backbone.

July 5, 2015 at 1:56 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

David--I didn't know that about computer viruses. What a great analogy! Trolls are like viruses. Get yourself some antiviral drugs right away and you're only sick a day or two. Otherwise you can be sick for months.

People who use "free speech" as an excuse don't think about the personal freedom of the people who are targeted. That's like saying "I have a right to shoot bullets wherever I want and if your head happens to get in the way of my bullet, that's your problem."

The people who are refusing to stop the shooting are as much to blame as the shooters. We need laws and rules and boundaries to protect us from the sociopaths..

The Lord of the Flies organization plan didn't work very well for those kids on that island, and it's not working now.

July 5, 2015 at 2:05 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Sue--I saw an article about the League of Women Voters campaign this morning and wanted to add it to the post, but it was already too long. But I support their campaign 100%!

July 5, 2015 at 2:06 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Here's a comment from Sally Ember, which for some reason Blogger wouldn't post Grrr.

Hi, Anne,

Great insight, ideas and clarity; exactly what I've grown to expect from you and Ruth, here. Thanks for writing and posting.

Regarding one point: I agree that we shouldn't "feed the trolls," but I disagree that no author, ever, should respond to a reviewer or a review. Some reviews I've received had errors in facts or content which the reviewer and I emailed about and they were glad to correct. A few were inconsistent or had questions and, again, our email "discussions" were fruitful for us all.

I also think some "bad" reviews deserve to be responded to, just for fun. I actually post ALL reviews on my blog, since some of the worst ones are hilarious and I don't let them get to me at all, either way. Someone loves what I write, someone hates what I write, someone doesn't finish and has no opinion, someone doesn't even read it and has many opinions: all the same to me. I keep writing.

I suggest you all do the same: keep writing; take in the critiques that help you; ignore the rest or laugh them off.

Best to you all,


July 5, 2015 at 2:12 PM  
OpenID writerchick said...

"Killing off those people in books is good too." Excellent point, I'll add that to my list of resources.

July 5, 2015 at 2:16 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Sally--Thanks for the comment! Sorry about Blogger. I have no idea why it's so temperamental, especially with people who have commented before.

The rule about not responding to reviews is a safety issue. Responding can bring on a poopstorm of one-stars and hate mail and death threats. Definitely not worth it. I had it happen to my fictional heroine, but that's all based on real incidents. like what happened on Goodreads last week.

If you've responded to negative reviews and not had a hive-attack from the vigilantes, you're lucky. But don't assume it will never happen. They can hit you with swarms of one-stars and also report you to Amazon for non-existent mistakes in your book, which gets it automatically taken down. They can also claim you have fake reviews, which may get all your real reviews removed. You have to prove your innocence, not the other way around. And sometimes you're not allowed to defend yourself at all..

Be careful! These people do not fool around. If you get on their radar, your career could be over.

July 5, 2015 at 2:21 PM  
Blogger Dr John Yeoman said...

Alas, Anne, the lynch mob mentality is forever with us. Maybe the fear of the outlander is engrained in our DNA? Burn, witch, burn! A disturbing example erupted in the UK just last week. A highly distinguished scientist, Sir Tim Hunt, winner of a Nobel prize, was forced to resign from his London university UCL because he joked at a South Korean conference that women scientists had just one drawback. They tended to fall in love with their professors! He quickly qualified that remark by saying he was joking, of course, and went on to generously laud the work done by women scientists. His audience found his speech very funny.

All except for one bigot, Connie St Louis, who lodged an official complaint, without apparently even reading the full text of his speech. She launched a Twitter storm. Burn witch, burn! The trolls had their day. And next day, Hunt was fired.

Now UCl itself is under investigation. Most its fellows, male and female, have condemned it for its witch trial imbecility. How can a top place of learning behave like a cyber-jihad? And there are calls for the resignation of its Dean - the politically correct jihad who sent Hunt a dismissal notice, without even consulting his colleagues.

Hunt's reputation will survive. The UCL's wont. Already, there are media reports of wealthy supporters withdrawing their donations.

But if lynch mob cretinism can infect even the groves of academia, which exist to foster rational debate, it's no surprise to find it festers in the street.

Solution? Walk away. Don't engage with trolls. They're not sane. Instead, engage with the organisations or web sites that condone troll behaviour. When I was trolled recently at a well-known writing forum, I told the moderator he was complicit in serious defamation, as legally defined, and that my lawyer would instigate charges accordingly. (Which was true.) The moderator deleted the offending thread.

July 5, 2015 at 2:34 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

John--I saw some stuff about this on various sites like the Daily Beast. Awful. Stalinism is thriving on college campuses. I'm glad there's a backlash, although I fear it may go to the other extreme.

I think academia has been so totally infected with political correctness that it's almost impossible to make a joke around academics these days. It's like the entire academic world has been taken over by Miss Gulch from the Wizard of Oz.

I remember the days when places like UC Berkeley were hotbeds of "free speech."

Chris Rock refuses to perform on college campuses any more because students have become so humor-impaired.

Good for you to call the law on that troll-harboring forum! And yes. Never engage. When somebody tosses a pile of verbal poo, leave the building and call maintenance. It does you no good to step in it.

July 5, 2015 at 3:00 PM  
Blogger M. A. McRae said...

Dead right.

July 5, 2015 at 3:38 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

D.G. Sorry. I meant William Golding, of course. He's the guy who wrote Lord of the Flies. William Goldman wrote one of the sweetest books ever, The Princess Bride.

July 5, 2015 at 3:47 PM  
Blogger Diana Wilder said...

Thank you for another excellent post. I never post something I would not want to be blared across the airwaves/internet/my mother's living room/ the Vatican. I passed the information you link to, to friends who are as concerned as I am about privacy, security, and commonsense.

...and I also pre-ordered your latest. I am looking forward to reading it. Please feel free to comment on my review, if you wish, when it is posted.

July 5, 2015 at 4:30 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...


July 5, 2015 at 4:42 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Diana--I think that's a very good rule. Thanks for sharing the post. And also for ordering Buckingham! I hope you enjoy it.

Sweet of you to invite me to comment. I've never commented on a review before so that will be a first. Thanks!

July 5, 2015 at 4:43 PM  
Blogger Diana Wilder said...

I'm sorry - I left out the second half of my last sentence:

Feel free to comment on my review, if you wish, when it is posted ...Since I never take offense at such things.

July 5, 2015 at 5:34 PM  
Blogger Christine Ahern said...

This is all just so sad. That sane, decent people are being forced into silence by bullies. Hive mind is one of the scariest and most dangerous things that has happened through out time. Can't we ever learn? Thank you for being willing to be so honest about it all.

And...on a MUCH lighter note...I love your new cover!

July 5, 2015 at 6:03 PM  
Blogger Wm. L. Hahn said...

Great post as always Anne- worth waiting to get to even on a vacation weekend.

Twitchforks, good one.

I keep slowing down my ambitions! Now I want my own rise to fame to wait until this horrid problem has been resolved, before my work gets known enough to draw fire. The problem, as I see it, is that the internet simply isn't monetized: generations of service providers and content owners have drawn eyeballs, but failed to get a return. So there's this awful delicacy about stepping in to cut someone off, or block them, until we know where the money's coming from. And as you pointed out, anonymity is also an accelerant here: if every internet communication was a live video chat with the speaker's address and phone number hovering above their face, the problem would vanish in an hour. Yeah, me neither.

But I must say I hate something so passive as "don't feed the trolls". Forums can and should take a stand- I hear some block trolls without even telling them! So they keep on posting and only slowly start to wonder why they're not getting a rise out of folks. How about more of that? Make sure the trolls can't get food!

July 5, 2015 at 6:30 PM  
Blogger Patricia Lynne said...

I saw the mess on Goodreads and commented a few times, choosing my words carefully. Most people talking in that review were discussing the topic and being civil, but I did noticed the slew one 1 stars that resulted and didn't think it was right. GR worked to remove some of the one stars that were only because of the author's meltdown.

Since I started writing, I have seen quite a few explosions happen and seen enough cruelty. It's why I don't go to Amazon's forums and don't do much on Goodreads. Basically, the people scare me.

I think people feel invincible online so it's easy to forget to be nice and that words have consequences. I would hesitate before quoting Anne Rice (not saying you shouldn't have, just if it was me writing this, I wouldn't have her as my go to for a quote. Didn't want you think I was being critical of you.) She seems very quick to jump on the "this is bullying" bandwagon. Online, it can turn into bullying fast, but there are also many things that get called bullying that aren't, but get lumped in with the bullying. Stopping bullying is good, but we don't want to stop constructive criticism with it.

July 5, 2015 at 6:39 PM  
Blogger Tahlia said...

Good post. I think it's something we have to jump on as soon as we see it happening, report it before it escalates. A friend of mine was badly bullied by the Amazon/Goodreads gangs and did end up in hospital from the stress. And as a reviewer, I've received my share of abuse, though I think I handled it pretty well. When I wrote Prunella Smith: World Within Worlds, which takes reviewer/author bullying as its theme and looks at ways to handle it, I thought my ending was a little extreme, but just before I published it, something frighteningly similar actually happened to a reviewer. I can't say what it was without blowing part of my story should anyone want to read it, but the degree to which bullies will go to hurt people is horrifying. It's a subject that concerns me greatly. We can't stop the bullies, but we can strengthen ourselves so that it doesn't hurt as much. In an attempt to help victims of bullying feel better about themselves, I wrote a YA novel, You Can't Shatter Me, that models a positive way to handle bullying. Sounds liked a contradiction in terms, doesn't it? But it can be done. It's all in the way you look at the situation. Tibetan Buddhist monks, tortured for years by the Chinese kept their sanity and even came out of their experience better people due to their outlook.
Bullying is never acceptable, but we have no control over the bullies whereas we do have control over ourselves.

July 5, 2015 at 7:19 PM  
Blogger D.G. Hudson said...

No problem. . .

July 5, 2015 at 7:49 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Christine--You're right that the hive mind is one of the most terrifying entities in the Universe. Euripides warned us about it in 400 BC. Why can't we learn?

I'm so glad you like the cover of Buckingham. Keri even found a cat that looks just like Buckingham.

July 5, 2015 at 8:10 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Will--That's a fascinating insight: websites that don't yet know where the money comes from are loathe to alienate the sociopaths who draw traffic. I'm sure the pedophiles and revenge porn wannabe rapists bring a lot of eyeballs to a site like Reddit and since these sites are still all about the numbers instead of the real bottom line, they don't get it that driving away all the sane people will not pay off in the long run.

Jay Asher's comment about how hard it is to just sit there and take it is a plea for something beyond "don't feed the trolls". How about putting them in jail? We do it to people who have child porn on their computers. How about people who make rape and death threats? These people are breaking the law.

July 5, 2015 at 8:17 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Patricia--I was impressed with the way Goodreads dealt with that problem. It could have been a lot worse. They have also removed a lot of the one-stars I got after I witnessed rape and death threats on the site and was stupid enough to mention it on a major blog. (I had no idea the degree of denial these sociopaths live with. 1000s of people saw the threats, including Goodreads admin.)

Amazon's fora and GR are still full of mean people, so I do advise authors to stay way.

Anne Rice was once responsible for some bullying of a reviewer by her fans. Something she didn't know was going to happen. (She's 73 and comes from a different world.) But she learned her lesson and that's why she stands up to bullies of all stripes. She and I have had some long discussions on the subject. She has nothing to gain from advocating civil discourse. These people can't influence her sales. She's trying to help both reviewers and authors. If she's ever called constructive criticism "bullying" I'm not aware of it.

July 5, 2015 at 8:26 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Tahlia--I'll have to check out your books. Good for you for writing about this and standing up to bullying!

I think there ARE positive ways to handle bullying. Reporting abuse is one of the ways. Making the public aware is another. It sounds as if you're doing both.

I'm sorry to hear about your friend. I've heard from dozens of authors who have suffered the same fate. The Zon/GR vigilantes have no empathy and no ability to think. They will destroy anything set in their path, whether the people are guilty of any wrongdoing or not. They really are like Daleks or the Borg. (Or ISIS or Stalin.) Amazon should NOT give them so much power.

July 5, 2015 at 8:32 PM  
Blogger Anna Karenina said...

>>If that poor guy on Goodreads had a friend who could have quietly DMd him and said "get out of there and let's go get a beer" it would have saved a world of grief.<<

I'm unclear on why you're referring to that author as "that poor guy on Goodreads."

He made vile comments to the reviewer who had written a very mild review. He is one of the people you wrote about in your article.

And many people did try to politely tell him that he should stop posting. It did no good. He continued to verbally assault other people until he was finally banned from GRs.

July 5, 2015 at 11:47 PM  
Blogger Katarina West said...

What a brave post. Thanks for writing about this, Anne!

July 6, 2015 at 12:52 AM  
Blogger Dr John Yeoman said...

'Academia has been so totally infected with political correctness that it's almost impossible to make a joke around academics these days.' Absolutely, Anne. When I began my PhD at Southampton Univ I sat in on some postgrad committees. A serious issue had arisen. Girl students were being assaulted in the woodland lane leading to the university and the police response was apathetic. Jocularly, I suggested to the Chair (of course, the female convenor was called the Chair) that the university karate club hide guards behind the trees. Let the campus police itself! My joke was met with stone-faced silence. Citizen action? To run the risk of assaulting a mugger? Think of the scandal! The one student who supported me robustly - a father who had a daughter of his own - was frozen into silence. And the hive mind prevailed. I've since found it true even of college lecturers. What we'd whisper to each other behind cupped hands, we'd never dare explore in faculty meetings. The Salem witch trials are with us still.

July 6, 2015 at 1:03 AM  
Blogger Rosalind Minett said...

Worthwhile post, Anne. Takes a bit of bravery. Am about to tweet it.

July 6, 2015 at 3:28 AM  
Blogger G. B. Miller said...

In the chat rooms, I was subjected to some cyber-bullying and threats of physical violence. However, 99% of the time I did not respond to it. Only on the 1% I did, and I was actually able to eventually figure out who my last cyberbully was. They stopped once I vacated the chat rooms and unfriended them on FB.

But it wasn't so much me being forced out of the chat rooms as more of getting tired of the selective censorship/enforcement of the T.o.S rules by the website that got me to vacate the premises for the blog world.

Right now, I keep to myself on Facebook (for the most part) and the blog world. I haven't done Reddit sice '08, closed my account on Goodreads about a month after I had opened it in '13 and only leave thoughtful reviews ranging from 2 to 4 1/2 stars on Amazon.

I do understand the hive mentality (which is why I stopped following George Takei's FB page because the hive mentality about gay rights and gay marriage was so vitriolic that it bordered on the obscene, and IMO, George Takei adds fuel to the fire because he's just as narrow minded as the people who oppose gay marriage he claims are), but it's very tough to get others to see your rational point of view.

Father Nature's Corner

July 6, 2015 at 4:21 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Anna--You don't think it would have been better if he'd stepped away from the computer and not had a public meltdown? I do. I pity him the way I pity anybody who has humiliated themselves in public. I think that kind of behavior is sad.

July 6, 2015 at 9:18 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Dr. John. I'm afraid that's typical. I grew up in academia and the politics were always creepy, especially at Ivy League schools, but they are 1000 times worse now. The political correctness police are like the East German Stasi of the Cold War. Nobody is safe. Any professor can have a career terminated for making a joke or assigning a book the students don't understand. These people are responsible for the rise of the ultra right in the US. The ultra left is so evil and repressive that people would rather vote for bigoted clowns.

July 6, 2015 at 9:27 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Katarina--I decided it had to be written. Some people are giving me grief of course, but I don't think sociopathic behavior is something to condone or brag about.

July 6, 2015 at 9:29 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

G.B.--Chat rooms in general are dangerous if the aren't carefully monitored. I prefer FB and G+ groups that are run by one person who keeps things under control.

The groups I visit have owners who delete nasty threads whenever they happen. Ditto blogs. Blogs reflect on the owner, so most bloggers are quick to stop fights from escalating.

I regularly delete comments that are incendiary or rude. I don't comment at all. I just hit the delete button. I think that's the best way.

But anybody who goes to a political site in order to argue the opposite view is going to run into disagreement. That's a given. If you dislike a certain demographic, then don't engage with them. You're not going to convince anybody of your righteousness by hurling insults. The former white supremacist's quote at the end of my post has a lot of wisdom in it.

July 6, 2015 at 9:39 AM  
Blogger Chris Syme said...

Read Ronson's book and concur. I do a lot of PR work w/social media and have seen clients destroyed by the angry Reddit and Upworthy swarms. It's sad that people are crucified online for things most people do everyday at some level. Anonymity is a dangerous drug. the book made me sad on many levels. Thanks for continuing the conversation.

July 6, 2015 at 10:47 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Chris--I like Ronson's down to earth style. I think he may actually be influencing people. But the problem is monumental. Reddit seems to exist only for public shaming, racism and sexual creepiness.

In a way, we are living in an Andy Warhol world where everybody is a celebrity. But because we're all celebrities, we are all fair game for cruelty. Unfortunately, we don't have celebrity lawyers and big bux to fight it.

July 6, 2015 at 11:25 AM  
Blogger Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I saw the terrible attacks last week on Twitter against an author. I would never join in one of those shaming things. We've all received bad reviews and even some personal attacks. The Gamergate thing was really ugly and spilled over into the scifi writers forums and blogs.
Susan Says

July 6, 2015 at 11:32 AM  
Blogger Barry Knister said...

I would say you've outdone yourself with this post, although that's a tough call: you get things right almost all the time.
I guess what we're seeing is chickens coming home to roost. By this I mean the old world of commercial publishing, supported by lots of outlets that published professional reviews, having to move over to make room for self-publishing authors dependent on non-professional reader-reviewers. Sometimes, the old system saw lots of nudge-and-wink arrangements between reviewers and publishing houses. Now, though, the wild-west atmosphere admits and even encourages losers and malcontents who take pleasure in seeing their words in print. I have no idea how such people can be successfully thwarted. But the righteous cause needs champions, and one of them is you.

July 6, 2015 at 11:35 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Susan--Those awful "Twitchforks" were what got Jay Asher and Chuck Wendig upset and I thought they were absolutely right. If you don't like a genre, don't read it. But attacking the author personally is nasty and stupid.

Obviously none of those people expects to be famous or successful, so they can't empathise with people who are. But acting like a sociopath isn't good for anybody's image. They should all be ashamed of themselves. Ditto the Gamergaters. Science says 4% of the population are sociopaths, but on social media, it can look more like 50%. Amazing these people are so proud of acting as if they have personality disorders.

July 6, 2015 at 11:42 AM  
Blogger Anna Karenina said...

Yes, I do think he should have stepped away from the keyboard and I do think that kind of behavior is sad, but he made he made the choice to do what he did so I wouldn't characterize him as a "poor guy."

July 6, 2015 at 11:49 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Barry--Thanks! You're right that there has always been corruption in the publishing and review process. Famous authors often never even wrote those quotations you'd see on book jackets. Their publishers would write something in their name to promote a new up and comer in the genre. And of course the NYT bestseller lists have been manipulated since they began.

But in the indie world, everything is weighted toward the troll. One sociopath with an agenda can destroy careers and stomp out free speech and artistic expression. Everybody jumps in the dogpile of crazy and cheers.

I sure hope enough sane people will speak up to get something done.

July 6, 2015 at 11:51 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Anna--I reserve the right to pity fools. Me and Mr. T :-) .

July 6, 2015 at 11:56 AM  
Blogger CS Perryess said...

Well, I guess keeping a low profile may have some pros along with its cons. Thanks for another fine post.

July 6, 2015 at 5:43 PM  
Blogger Heather M. Gardner said...

Great post, Anne. So important.

July 7, 2015 at 12:41 AM  
Blogger Florence Cronin said...

Well, Anne ... it's all your fault I did not get to you on Sunday. I have been busy getting a short story out to one of the resources you list every week. So thanks a bunch. This is the second one flying through cyber space.

Okay, people often suck and they have always been mean or the world wouldn't be so messed up. But the instant world of the internet and the fact that the bully now has anonymity makes this a very real issue.

But the best way to defuse the internet bully is to ignore them. You know that many failing celebrities actually want a scandal to get them back in the light. Many politicians now think that scandal no longer ruins their chances to get elected.

But young authors deserve better. They don't make big bucks getting trashed and they might give up what could be a thriving career. It's a shame that we never rid ourselves of those who use up their life by ruining someone else's. I am always proud that you speak for all of us and put yourself out to make others aware :)

Thanks as always :)

July 7, 2015 at 8:59 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

CS--Keeping a low profile helps, but some victims were under the radar until some troll singled them out. If a loved one dies, for instance, even if you don't have a FB page, the trolls may start saying horrible things about you and your loved one on FB, just to be evil, and friends and bosses can see it. Nobody is totally safe.

July 7, 2015 at 9:07 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Heather--Thanks for stopping by and making a comment!

July 7, 2015 at 9:08 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Florence--It's true that the best immediate response to bully behavior is to ignore it. Like a pile of poo, step around it than in it. But it's also important to call maintenance and get some clean-up. That's why I say it's so important to report abuse. Especially if you see it happening to somebody else.

It's especially important to warn young and inexperienced authors (some of whom aren't so young) which is why I write posts like this. Thanks!

And congrats on getting those stories off to contests. Best of luck!

July 7, 2015 at 9:18 AM  
Blogger Claude Forthomme said...

Wow, Anne, I'm appalled: you got death threats? But that's stuff for the police to investigate! At least it would be here in Italy: I'd go straight to the Carabinieri with a "denuncia" - they had a sort of cyber police here (I don't know how effective but I know it exists and the process is started with a simple "denuncia", a statement of what happened).

July 7, 2015 at 10:39 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Claude--I sure did get death threats. They emailed me a photo of my house and said they had guns and were "watching" me. But when I went to law enforcement, they said it wasn't a "credible threat" and the photo had been taken off Google maps, so there was no proof they were in the sheriff's local jurisdiction.

I think I should have reported it to the FBI, although they wouldn't have been able to help me much. But it might have helped by adding info to the database.

The US is very backward in protecting citizens from cybercrime--well any kind of crime. The gun lobby is much more powerful than the legal system. We have more gun deaths every week than most countries have in a decade.

July 7, 2015 at 10:55 AM  
Blogger Caitlin Lane said...

This was a long but well-written and (in my opinion) very necessary post. I suppose that the perceived anonymity of the Internet could be blame, but just as the victims are real people, so too are the trolls. I look forward to possible research in the future that could help point to solutions for the hive mind when it creates dangerous or harmful environments.

July 7, 2015 at 2:00 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Caitlin--Yeah, I think I broke all the rules of blogging with this epic. I didn't even count the words, but I'll bet it's close to 3000. But more things kept happening as I wrote it, so I had to add them.

You make a very good point. Trolls are people too. What motivates them? Who are they? I read recently that a woman game designer who was getting a lot of scary rape threats traced down her attackers. They were all adolescent boys! So she wrote to their moms. A lot of boys got their phones and computers taken away.

So the solution may simply be: more grownups. Grownups who take responsibility instead of throwing up their hands and saying "free speech"! I believe in freedom, but I don't believe in letting children freely play in traffic. We need rules to protect all parties.

July 7, 2015 at 2:54 PM  
Blogger Anne Gallagher said...

I wanted to respond to this on Sunday, but BOTH of my computers crashed. Thankfully, they've both been resuscitated.

I dealt with a bully all of last year in real life. It was a nightmare. I ignored her but that only seemed to drive her more insane. The only thing that finally got her to back off was a threat that my lawyer would be sending her a letter. I was going to sue her for slander, libel, and defamation of character. Finally, she relented. (But is still trying to figure out a way to make my life a living hell.)

As for cyber bullies, I just don't go anywhere they are. I'm not on any forums, I'm not in any clubs, I don't join groups. Of course, this limits me to pretty much my own blog and commenting on friends' blogs, but at least I know I'm safe. And sometimes being safe is all you need.

July 8, 2015 at 12:43 PM  
Blogger Tyrean Martinson said...

I'm thankful that so far my experience with trolls has been limited, and although I've had a fairly public persona on facebook, I've been thinking about changing some things up.
I actually took my first two star review as a sign that I'm a regular author now, a kind of growing into the reality of authorship, like a stepping stone or a graduation of sorts.

July 8, 2015 at 1:09 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Anne--I'm so sorry about your computers! Yikes. Both in one day.

And how horrible to deal with IRL bullies. I've had to deal with some, too. I have a friend who's being so horribly bullied by a neo-Nazi neighbor that he's selling his house and moving to a different city. His neighbor murdered all three of his dogs, but he can't prove this guy administered the poison. He does have a video of the guy shouting insults and throwing rocks. It's given him good evidence for a lawsuit. But not all bullies are that obvious. I hope you don't have to sue, but it's good to let them know you're thinking about it.

Staying out of forums helps keep yourself off their radar, but I got bullied just for a post on this blog, so they can get you no matter what if you express any kind of opinion at all. Or sometimes just because they hate your genre. I stayed off Twitter for about a month when they worst Twitstorm against me was going on, but they sent hate stuff by email.

July 8, 2015 at 1:48 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Tyrean--Congrats on the two-star! It's true that a 1- or 2-star review is a badge of honor these days It also proves that your reviews aren't fake. I get a lot that say "this is well written but I didn't get the humor" I figure that's an endorsement for readers who do like dry humor.

Negative reviews aren't bullying by any means. But 10 one stars that say "this ather is a be-atch who should be raped with a garden implement" IS bullying. The trouble is the bullies equate the two. A review should not be a personal attack. It should address the contents of the book. Unfortunately. Amazon and Goodreads do not require that you read the contents of the book to review it.

July 8, 2015 at 1:56 PM  
Blogger Sally Trueblood said...

Fabulous post. I'm glad this issue is getting addressed. My first novel will be out soon and the subject does worry me being a sensitive-type. I'll need to toughen up. I must say, I'm shocked at how "personal" these reviews and comments can be. I especially notice this with conversation threads...they keep coming at each other in such a personal manner. Can't help wonder if they'd say that to the person's face. Perhaps hiding behind the computer curtain brings out the beast. Anyway, awesome post!

July 8, 2015 at 9:37 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Sally--Thanks! "hiding behind the computer curtain brings out the beast" You're so right. We need a Toto to pull away the curtain and show the Great and Terrible Troll is just regular person with very bad manners.

I have no idea why people are so mean on the Internet. Let's hope talking about it will help the tech companies do something.

Best of luck with your book launch! And remember that bad reviews are part of the process.

July 8, 2015 at 9:57 PM  
Blogger Gigi Wolf said...

Hi Anne-
I enjoyed this post. It has more depth than others I've read, and some good solutions. This issue has become like the saying people use about the weather. Everyone talks about it, but no one can do anything about it. Only with the weather, it was, 'No one does anything about it'.

My experiences haven't been as extreme, but I've been harassed on FBook a couple of times. Intimidating messages sent and cyber stalking by a professor of all things. I tried to bow out of a discussion gracefully, but this woman would have none of it. A blog can be a powerful thing; when they wouldn't leave me alone, I posted their comments on my blog. They backed off in a hurry and a half.

The nutty professor tried to tell me her comments to me on FBook were copyrighted, and even got her attorney to send me a letter. I did my homework, and her comments were as public as if she had shouted them from the courthouse steps. If she'd sent me a snail mail hate letter, would she have believed that I didn't now own that letter, and could do what I wanted with it? It was alright for them to behave outrageously, but turn it around, and they scurried away from the light.

Law enforcement will rarely be of help. A man accosted me in my car one night at a drive thru ATM, and I had to drive off without my card while he pounded on the machine and tried to rob my account. The detective who came to see me next day implied he must have wanted the time. They can't protect abused women with restraining orders, and threats don't seem to be serious to them, if there's no accompanying action. Well, 'scuse me. I don't want to wait around and see what happens.

These people hate other people with talent and courage. They have none, so they attack the ones who do have them. It's been going on since anonymous hate letters, bricks with notes thrown through windows, men with sheets over their heads burning crosses on lawns. Makes you love your dog even more.

July 10, 2015 at 5:44 PM  
Blogger Gigi Wolf said...

How horrendous to have to sell your house and move because of a bully. That kind of thing has led to murder more than once. And, what if he wasn't able to sell his house, or move? This is a good case for neighbors treating their blocks like small towns. If it can happen to one, it happen to all.

July 10, 2015 at 5:58 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Gigi--You're right that it's horrific that a bully can do that to a homeowner. That Nazi is a murderer as far as I'm concerned. A family dog is a member of the family. My friend is wealthy and could afford to move, but not everybody can. And the bullies always seem to have the upper hand, because they are so good at lying.

July 10, 2015 at 6:35 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Gigi--Thanks for your in-depth comments. I'm glad you were able to get through, even though the Blogger elves sometimes thwart comments.

Your nutty professor sounds like a true sociopath. Unfortunately, academia provides a haven for sociopaths as well as free thinking (well the free thinking may be a thing of the past). Luckily, pretty much everything posted on social media belongs to the tech company, not the poster, so you sure were within your rights.

I'm really sorry to hear you didn't get help from law enforcement for that robbery. That was the fault of your local PD. That is not how they are trained to behave. Mostly I've found law enforcement tries to help when the laws allow them to.

And thanks for pointing out that the targets of bullies are the brave and successful, not "born victims". I hate it when I read that if you appear weak, you'll be a target. No. They don't care about weak people. They're looking for the biggest target they can find, which is why they go for top bloggers and bestselling authors.

Great comment. Thanks!

July 10, 2015 at 6:43 PM  

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