Anne Rice on Bullies-Free Speech
It's no secret Anne Rice has been outspoken about bullies, especially those she considers bully book reviewers on Amazon. According to this article below, she recently signed a petition at Change.org titled, Take a Stand Against Cyber Bullies. The petition seems to have been started by someone named Todd Barselow. So far, there are close to 3,000 signatures at the time of this post.
From what I gather, they are petitioning Amazon and Jeff Bezos to remove anonymity and to require identification with regard to reviews and Amazon forums.
I believe, as do countless others—many who will have signed this petition—that the reason this bullying and harassment is able to take place is because of the allowance of anonymity on Amazon. People have found ways to exploit this flaw in the system and are using it to bully, harass, and generally make life miserable for certain authors on Amazon.
In this article, the bully issues Anne Rice has had to handle are discussed in detail. And why she feels so strongly about this.
"My experience with the gangster bullies in the forum has been very bleak and ugly," Rice writes on the petition to Amazon. "I post there under my own name. They blatantly violate your guidelines with personal insults and harassing posts. If you would only apply your own guidelines this would greatly help. I feel a lot of these people are obsessive abusers who have found some sort of dark home on Amazon tormenting writers. I urge you to take action."
I've posted on the bully topic several times. This link will lead you to multiple posts I've written. With regard to book reviews and bullies I've always remained objective as a blogger. But I've also personally experienced similar situations with bullies that Rice and many other authors have experienced and I've always remained quiet about it. The first time it happened to me was about five or six years ago and it wasn't on Amazon. It was at a vicious book review web site that used authors as bait to get attention and garner hits in a sensationalized way. Since that time that particular blogger has been kicked out of organizations and exposed as a bully, and as a result I doubt the blogger's reputation will ever be the same again. She's trying to rebound. But to most she'll always be that same bully.
The second time I experienced bullying I contacted the police and they handled it. At that point, I decided it was out of my hands and I would let a professional do the work. It was handled quietly and the bullying stopped. What most people don't realize today is that most local police stations have a cyber crime division and they are more than willing to help people involved in bully situations. If I ever feel as if I'm being bullied again, I'll contact the police again. Plain and simple.
However, as much as I despise bullying in any form, from book reviews to those who like to bully on political topics, I didn't sign the petition Rice seems to be promoting. I once posted that I thought the bully issue could be solved by removing anonymity and requiring identification just as the petition I linked to above reads. At the time, I thought it would work. But I received so many e-mails from my readers on that topic I eventually changed my mind. People who read gay fiction, erotic romance, m/m romance, or anything else that might be considered a *discreet* genre feel more comfortable leaving reviews with pen names or anonymously. Most authors in discreet genres use pen names. It's hard enough to get reviews as it is, and I don't want to discourage readers by taking away the right to review with discretion. I have always encouraged anonymous comments here on this blog because I respect that discretion and I don't want to silence anyone's right to free speech. I do moderate to keep things civil, but I've never had to censor more than a handful of comments I didn't think were appropriate. In other words, if you disagree with me I'll post your comment anyway as long as you're civil about it.
This bully issue is a complicated matter and I don't think there's quick fix. I do think that places like Amazon should moderate all reviews with more care, even those reviews that are fake and were paid for by authors to gain higher ratings and ranks. The corruption with book reviews isn't just limited to bullying, and it's NOT just limited to Amazon. It covers a much wider territory, and it all needs to be addressed. If I were Jeff Bezos I would be obsessed about it to the point where I used it to my advantage as a business professional, making Amazon a safe place to read or leave reviews either anonymously or with real names. I would look for the sharpest young tech pros I could get fresh out of college and put them to work. And my goal wouldn't be to censor free speech, but to moderate civil discussion.
So it's easy for Anne Rice to sign a petition that calls for the removal of anonymity and requires identification, without taking free speech into consideration or how important anonymity is for many readers who aren't bullies and who prefer to remain discreet. But it's not that simple for me. As much as I despise anything even remotely connected to bullying, I don't want to take that right away from my readers.
If you are an author who writes in a discreet genre, I urge you to consider all the options before you sign the petition. You might be silencing the free speech of the very readers who would leave you good, honest reviews, too.
Update: The signatures for this petition just keep increasing in number and I'm starting to see this all over social media. Evidently, this issue is very important to people and I'm now starting to wonder if Amazon will actually address it. In spite of my own misgivings, I'm leaning toward signing it more each day just because so many people feel so passionate about it. And I've always believed in doing what's best for the majority, as a rule.
This is an unusual cover preview for me because it's not finalized yet, but I wanted to share because readers tell me they like being involved in the process. I often drive cover artists up the wall with these things, and this is just one example of how I torture those wonderful people to the point of frustration. These are two examples, out of ten others I won't post now :)
When I say I'm having a blast with indie publishing I'm never joking about that. A publisher would never allow me to drive them this crazy.
Log Cabin Gays
For those who may not know this, the Log Cabin organization is a group of all gay Republicans. I don't know why I find this so fascinating, but I do. I don't get political here on the blog, but I have stated I'm a registered Democrat who usually votes independently. I find that on a local level I can't always stick to one party because some local Republicans are often more open-minded about issues I find important. I think if you live in a larger city it's different. But in small towns like New Hope, PA, there really are about 50 shades of gray.
Log Cabin Republicans executive director Gregory T Angelo made the announcement in a column for the Daily Caller in which he decried CPAC organizers the American Conservative Union’s (ACU) failure to allow gay conservatives to participate openly in the conference’s program of events.
You can read more here. If you're open-minded to all things political like I try to be, I think you might find this interesting. There's also a brief history about the Log Cabin Republicans and Abe Lincoln's alleged gay relationship.