Anonymity and the Internet

Having little else to do last night (besides the obvious weekend reading splurge), I indulged in reading about authors who freak the hell out over getting bad reviews, and freak the hell out in public, all over the internet.

Some of them are harmless, or only really harm the reputation of the offended author. Examples include Ayelet Waldman’s Twitter meltdown because the NYT failed to put her book on their 100 Notable Books of 2014 List. They reviewed it positively, but that wasn’t good enough for Waldman. Then there was the time Anne Rice ranted all over Amazon about how people who didn’t like her Blood Canticle (including a lot of her faithful fans) were just too stupid to understand it. Then we have MR Matthias, a minor self-published Fantasy author who blatantly announced that his work was better than that of Tolkien, and the title of “self-published” demeans the enormity of his literary achievements.

But others aren’t so trivial nor so funny. When writer Alice Hoffman read a review by Roberta Silman that she didn’t like (it was lukewarm, not a trash party), she blew up Twitter calling her a “moron” and an “idiot” – then tried to dox her. Luckily for Silman, Hoffman got her number wrong, but it’s still concerning (to say the least) that there are authors who think that siccing their fanbase onto critics they don’t like is an acceptable way of expressing hurt feelings over a review.

But Hoffman isn’t the only one who needs a bit of perspective. Kathleen Hale, on receiving a less-than-favourable review from one “Blythe Harris”, stalked her at her workplace, paid money for a background check on her, and eventually ended up in front of a house she’d tentatively identified as that of Harris. She wrote a Guardian article about it, apparently not understanding when there was a backlash to the effect of “you do not stalk people over a shitty review, ever. No, I don’t care if she was using a pseudonym/fake identity, you never do that!”

It gets worse. When Richard Brittain got a book review he didn’t like, he allegedly went to the reviewer’s Facebook page, found out where she worked, stalked her there, and assaulted her by hitting her over the head with a bottle of wine.

Holy shit.

I blog and tweet under my real name. My pictures of me really are pictures of me. If a person wanted to find me, they probably could. I’m loath to go anonymous because of cases like Richard Brittain, but neither do I want someone unhinged to assault me in public over a review.

Has anyone else felt threatened in real life over a review given online?


10 thoughts on “Anonymity and the Internet

  1. “Has anyone else felt threatened in real life over a review given online?”


    I’ve occasionally felt like retaliating to critique on my work, but what’s the point? Internet Trolls, whether they are in the guise of reviewers or just anonymous twats, are cowards pure and simple, whom I suspect wouldn’t stand up to a genuine face-off.

    Most do not have viable lives away from the keyboard, live in a world of fantasy all the time but don’t have the talent of gumption to be creative themselves, so all they can do is bemoan the efforts of others, and paint their own limitations on the canvas of other people’s lives.

    As for the authors (and presumably other artists) who retaliate, well… by doing so they merely reinforce the opinions of the already crazy people who criticised them in the first place; plus they effectively become those people themselves.

    Reminds me of professional sportsmen/women. I expect everybody has witnessed instances where a footballer (or whatever) who has been fouled lashes out at the perpetrator. What happens? Not infrequently the originally wronged party gets sent off with the original offender! I won’t argue if that is justice or not, but it does show how stupid it is to react to provocation. Let the other team go one man down – why penalise your own team at the same time?

    So I’ve never prosecuted anyone for having an alternative view or opinion to myself, no matter how idiotic that person may be. I just put up with it.

    Now, if they were in the same room as me, that might be different… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Anonymity and the Internet | Nigel Edwards

  3. I’d strongly suggest not reviewing any authors from the same country or have book tours that are going to be in your fav book shop up the road from your workplace. And then hope they are so obsessed and organised that they book flights and do their research.
    I honestly don’t think you have anything to worry about at this stage. You will be well known and possibly even mainstream at some point… worry about it when that happens.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Holy guacamole!! That for real?! I don’t even know who Richard Brittain is. Better google him up soon or get hit by a bottle. Haha :)) This is a very interesting post 😀

    Liked by 2 people

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