Last week I stumbled upon a site called Stop the GR Bullies. I didn’t have any context at the time, but as I read their website, I was appalled. These anonymous people were complaining about readers/reviewers and publishing their real name, phone number and addresses online. I hoped it was a tasteless joke, a bit of performance art about hypocrisy. Unfortunately it’s true, and already one of the readers in question has been threatened.
Earlier today Huffington Post ran an “op-ed” piece by the owners of Stop the GR Bullies… which was again, anonymous. After HuffPost was handed their asses by the online community, Andrew Losowsky posted a response and apology that was about as polite as it could be, even as it missed the primary issue altogether.
This is the letter I wrote to him:
I appreciate the relatively quick response and apology to what I consider a big ethical mistake. There was also one glaring lapse in your apology note, where you state “The accusations are serious, but we have been unable to corroborate them. In an email to me, one of the people who runs the site categorically denied stalking, threatening or telephoning any of the people who have been featured on Stop the GR Bullies.” This is self-evident in the Stop GR Bullies site, where they spell out their own actions in ferreting out information about readers and then sharing it publicly… for what purpose?
There is a good use for flowery language, but this is not one of them. The only reason it would be useful to have “Lucy”‘s real name, phone number and address online is so that people may harass her. That is stalking. That is threatening. And the most ridiculous thing about this situation is that the Stop the GR Bullies people ADMIT to doing this right there on their website. It doesn’t matter if the owner of that site never picked up a phone to call her. This person started a website with all sorts of claims, ones that are provably untrue, then he/she identified and shared that information on the very same website. Did he/she think someone was going to send Lucy flowers? I don’t think so.
I would hope that most people can figure out right from wrong simply by reading the Stop GR Bullies’ posts carefully. It is not okay to make false accusations about a person in the same breath as you post their personal information. Whether or not it is legal, let’s agree it’s not okay. Most authors I know and talk to have spoken out against this. The Anti-Bullying logos that Stop GR Bullies website were taken down, presumably by request of those same organizations. Did it not seem relevant to you that a group who makes it their purpose to share personal information about anonymous online entities refuse to sign their own names? But if you were unsure, it still would have behooved you to reach out to…. well, ANYONE prominent in the community of books and reading, who could have told you like it was and provided, not even an opinion piece, but a plain statement of facts.
Please consider reaching out to Jane Litte of Dear Author and Sarah of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books who are both authorities in the romance community (which is where at least one of the victims of Stop the GR Bullies, Ridley, is a part of). They have consistently advocated for readers AND authors, and have already spoken out against Stop the GR Bullies. I’m sure they could provide a balanced view, and possibly one a bit more of a reader’s perspective than Scalzi’s. The point isn’t whether authors (I am one, by the way) should cry over bad reviews. The point is that online stalking and threatening and yes, ironically, bullying are not okay.
And I signed it with my real name, which is Amber Shah.
It hurt me to type that part, because there are people out there who have already proven they don’t care if violence happens. They want it to happen. That is only conceivable reason for posting these reviewers names and contact information.
This isn’t new. In 2007, Kathy Sierra, a UI designer and blogger, received death threats at her home. These reviewers are talking about whether or not they liked a book they read. Kathy Sierra was talking about the most efficient use of space on a website. WHY IS IT OKAY TO THREATEN THEM WITH RAPE AND DEATH?
But the anonymous people behind Stop the GR Bullies didn’t threaten them, or so Andrew Losowsky claims. That’s not the point either. They incited the threats, that’s their entire purpose with the site. I have no idea whether their actions have legal ramifications, but they sure as hell have moral ones.
God, I’m so tired. What was I talking about, 2007? Women have been threatened with rape forever. They’ve been raped forever. Why is this okay?
Recently, comedian Daniel Tosh suggested that a woman in his audience who objected to his rape jokes should be gang raped and wouldn’t that be oh-so-funny. The sad thing is that part of the story didn’t shock me. What shocked me is that when the women felt offended and frightened and got up to leave, NO ONE ELSE DID EITHER. No one else stood up to say that no, this woman beside me getting gang raped wouldn’t be very funny at all. No one stormed out beside her, except the friend she came with.
I’m tired. I’m tired of being hurt, except I’m not really hurt here in the present. Because I live in a nice, safe town and lead a quiet life, where I mostly try very hard not to stand out or bother anyone. But why should that really matter? If I go online and say I don’t like your book and that I think that particular design is too top-heavy, I STILL DON’T DESERVE TO BE RAPED. Why is this okay?
Sometimes when men make obtuse comments about these issues, as if they truly believe rape culture isn’t real, I have to wonder… they love their mothers, they love their wives and sisters and daughters. Surely they just don’t quite get it. They’ve never experienced it, they don’t know. I try to make these excuses because that’s the only thing I can do in the face of their utter denial.
But I am fairly confident that at least some of the people behind Stop the GR Bullies are women. Certainly they have some supporters who are women. And it’s this quote that keeps playing in my head, over and over, but it’s not even angry, when I hear it. It’s just sad. Is this what we’ve come to?
“There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” – Madeleine Albright
Why are we still here?