"Stop the GR Bullies" aka WTF is Wrong with People?

Posted July 13, 2012 by Holly in Discussions | 17 Comments

(for the record, the title of this post is a rhetorical question..I know there’s no right – or even good – answer to that question)

Warning: The following is going to be a long, rambling rant. Read at your own risk.

I’ve been on the internet a long time now. I started lurking on message boards, forums and chatrooms in the late 90’s. I started posting regularly in the early 2000’s and I’ve been a member of the online blogging community for almost 7 years now. I’ve seen some pretty ridiculous shit in my day*. Especially in the reader communities. Pettiness, jealousy and rudeness. Friendships ruined and backstabbing and immaturity at its worst. From adults. From grown-ass women who should know better.

Readers – myself included – sometimes have a sense of entitlement when it comes to books. Is it because we spend our hard-earned money on them? Maybe. Is it because we invest our time and energy into reading them? Probably. Is it because we become emotionally invested in them as we read and we don’t like to be disappointed if and when? Almost absolutely. Does that make it ok that we feel entitled to say what we want about the book? Eh..I think the answer to that is subjective, but I’m going to say yes.

Yes, I feel like I have the right to criticize a book I read – whether I bought it, rented it, borrowed it or was given it for review – because that’s what it was put out there for. To be read (or not). To be enjoyed (or not). To be shared (or not). To be talked about (or not). When the author wrote that book, did she write it solely for herself? So no one would read it? Talk about it? Share it? If so, why did she publish it? The fact of the matter is, once it’s put out there for public consumption, it’s out there for public consumption. Good or bad.

Relatively speaking, we’re the good girls in the romance review blogging community. We don’t get involved in most of the online drama, we don’t often pick fights with authors or readers, hell, most of the time we don’t even pay attention to the kerflulffles going on around the ‘net. It’s not because we don’t care what happens in our community, and there have been times we’ve gotten involved. But for the most part we’re busy living our lives and don’t feel the need to dedicate what little free time we do have to pursuing the latest dramas.

But sometimes. Man. Sometimes I just can’t not get involved. Sometimes I see something that makes me want to scream and pull my hair out. And sometimes I see shit that makes me sick – absolutely sick – to be part of this online “community”. I’ve reached that point today.

Look, I get that sometimes reviewers grate on the nerves of authors. I get that someone not loving a book stings. Even the most well-adjusted person can FREAK THE FUCK OUT when he or she receives a negative book review. I get that. I really do.

But, as a book reviewer, I don’t think about that when I write a review. I don’t think about the author at all. I think about the book. The book I spent my dollars on. The book I spent hours of my time reading. The book I became emotionally invested in. I don’t know the author. I (probably) haven’t met her. I don’t know what she’s like in real life. I don’t know her favorite color, or what she likes to eat for breakfast in the morning. I don’t know if she has kids or a family. I don’t know if she’s a stone-cold bitch or has a heart of gold. And honestly, I don’t give a fuck. Because I’m not reviewing the author. I’m reviewing the book she wrote. Then published. So I could read it.

Let me repeat: I’m not reviewing the author. I’m reviewing the book.

It used to be that the author vs reader/reviewer thing went down on Amazon. Then it moved to the bloggers as we tried to establish our place here on the web. Then into the young adult community. I saw a new drama go down in YA-land on a weekly basis there for awhile. Now it’s shifted to Goodreads. I don’t know why. I really don’t. The arguments on either side aren’t new. Reviewers are assholes. Authors are assholes. Someone is always behaving badly. Right?

But lately the tone has turned.. vicous. Readers are afraid to post honest reviews on Goodreads because 9 times out of 10 the author will check it out. And comment. And send her cohorts to comment. And pretty soon what started out as a review of the book – whether good, bad, snarky or whatever – has turned into war.

And then it goes too far. Currently, a group of people (or maybe just one person? dare I say author?) has taken it upon themselves to avenge the poor authors who are getting slammed at Goodreads by mean-girl reviewers. How are they doing the avenging? By dedicating a website to “exposing” the reviewers, Stop the GR Bullies. Posting personal information about them, including real names, where they live and pictures of them.

I…I have no words for this kind of behavior. I don’t understand how posting a bad review about A BOOK on the web opens a person up to have their personal information posted or to being attacked on a personal level. As I said, when I write reviews, I’m not thinking about the author. Because I’m not reviewing the author. I’m reviewing her book. If a website popped up reviewing my review, well..that would be one thing. But a website dedicated to “outing” these reviewers makes me sick. Just sick.

But I’ll tell you something. Seeing things like that might sicken me, but they won’t stop me from reviewing. I’m still going to write reviews for books I hate. And for books I love. I really hope the rest of you will do the same.

*I’ve also seen some pretty amazing shit. The community rallying around someone who had a loss, supporting great causes and sharing a mutual love of reading. Just so you don’t think there’s no good in the bloggy world.

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17 responses to “"Stop the GR Bullies" aka WTF is Wrong with People?

  1. Zeek

    Whereas I totally dont agree with ththe tactics of the website- the two reviewers they have the biggest beef with really did always post mean-spirited, non-constructive reviews I rarely agreed with, which seemed like were only posted to show how clever and witty they were.

    But I just knew not to bother following them or look at the reviews anymore- like these psychos should have done. ick. O_o

  2. To be honest, I haven’t read many of the reviews. The few I did read didn’t get me excited, but like you I just ignored them.

    Still..the hypocrisy of the Stop GR Bullies website is just..0_0

  3. I can’t say much more than what has been expressed on numerous blogs and comments to blog posts on this topic over the past week or so. I do have to say that since 1995, when I first started online, I’ve seen a lot, but this particular incident brought the nastiness to a whole new level. Honestly, I don’t regret my decision to retire from active reviewing. I am so disgusted that there simply are no words.

  4. Rowena

    Two wrongs, don’t make a right.

    Even if the reviews were mean-girly, I don’t think the reviewers deserved to be outed the way that they were. Whoever is behind the Stop the GR bullies look like the assholes here, not the reviewers. That whole website is disgusting.

  5. This latest development is extremely disturbing. We always knew that there were crazies on the net but it used to be that the book community was relatively safe. I am not sure that is true anymore!

  6. Kim

    I agree that there’s no excuse for posting a reviewer’s real name, address and employment. That’s asking for trouble and totally out of bounds. However, it does appear that both authors and readers are out of control on these sites. When I read some of the posted comments on these reviews, I couldn’t believe the anger that was generated. No one backs off and it gets pretty ugly.

  7. @Kim: Honestly, I don’t find it much worse than certain flame wars in the good old IRC days or in newgroups (both predate the internet as we now know it). However, it never ended up with the level of stalking, harassment and bullying that it has now reached thanks to that disgusting web page.


  8. Nothing can explain away the actual physical endangerment of people over online kerfuffles.

    Personally, I don’t much care for Ridley’s style. She’s free to use it and I’m free to ignore her.

    What concerns me is the misogyny involved–not only because the targets are all women, but the tenor of the posts and the criticism leveled at them, it’s all about how they fail as women.

    We must have this conversation, over and over if need be. Women must defend the right of other women to express themselves in any way they want–regardless of whether such style is repellent to us.

    Because we don’t want our right to express ourselves curtailed by someone else with an agenda, do we?

  9. Well said Holly. I just don’t see how a person shelving a book on a “do not read” shelf which really only means something to that person and his/her friends is in any way remotely acquainted with bullying.

    Stop the GR bullies? The best way to do that would be shutting down the stupid site – they’re the bullies and they’re attacking GR people – so the title surely refers to themselves yes?

  10. Wow, I sometimes think I must live on another planet. I haven’t seen any of this! But bottom line – reviewers can say more or less what they like. Everyone is entitled to an opinion. Reviews aren’t for the author’s benefit. Though to be honest, they aren’t always of much benefit to a reader. One I had reads – I hated this.
    That was all. LOL but that’s life. Not everyone likes my stuff. That’s fine. I’m the pickiest person ever – it’s a miracle I got married!
    Unfortunately I can see this slanging scenario repeating itself time after time. Best to ignore it if you can.

  11. Ms Elsborg, I beg to disagree.

    Loudly and strenuously.

    Ignore when people are rude/meanie/snarky–by all means.

    Ignore it when people decrying what they perceive as bullying are endangering people they don’t like, by posting their pictures, address, real names (behind a link that says, “click for real name” wow so considerate), habits, frequent hangouts and portraying them as criminals who should be beaten up?

    Not only not, but HELL NOT.

    This is not just the asshats at the StGRb being hypocrites. It’s about their being irresponsible with the safety and well being of people who only used their words about books to “bully” the poor assholes.

  12. I don’t even know what to say about this but Oh my god…really people? I don’t think this nonsense will ever end because it just seems to be getting worse. Both sides are bullying each other at this point. I get that they are pissed, but come on…what intelligent person reads “my dog’s poops are better than this book” and immediately thinks it to be true. Intelligent people figure things out for themselves.

    I stopped doing all out reviews on Goodreads a while back because I didn’t have the time and I also found out my words get lifted and used from there. So now I just track stuff on there, check on on friends that’s it. This makes me want to not use it at all.

  13. Anonymous

    I think the general consensus is that STGRB is Melissa Douthit’s creation. Given her history of outing the personal information of reviewers and posting it online for all and sundry + getting herself kicked off Goodreads for being a jerk, I think it’s a good bet.

  14. Now this sickening blog is supporting a male self published author in his 30’s or 40’s who has sent harassing emails, and may have stalked one or two teen bloggers, who has asked to review his books but never did. Allegedly he began a relationship with one of these teen bloggers, again an adult male communicating with a teenage girl, and traveled to meet her, which freaked her out.

    I’m beyond appalled because like you Holly, in my five years of blogging and almost ten years of reviewing, I’ve never seen such WTFckery. People are being harassed both on-line and through phone calls because of negative reviews where this blog is twisting it to say reviewers are bullying authors. Most of these situations pointed out are ones I’ve witnessed from the beginning and it starts when an author leaves a comment telling the reviewer they’re wrong and going as far to call the reviewer derogatory names.

    Hypocrisy is the perfect word in this situation.

    I’m really afraid of what’s next because it’s becoming more dangerous and going way beyond what’s acceptable.

  15. I was talking to author Jill Sorenson and some others (Lynn and Blythe from AAR, among others) about this over the weekend at RWA. Jill asked “how can we get rid of them?” and honestly, I don’t know. I don’t know where to go from here.

    Now they’ve taken down the personal information and lied about having ever put it up (don’t they know the internet is forever?), there isn’t any legal action that can be taken (that I’m aware of – no TOS have been violated, etc). So what do we do?

    I suggested we ignore them. If they don’t have any traffic the hope is that eventually they’ll fade away. Unfortunately, as Rowena pointed out, that probably isn’t going to happen. They’ve gained a voice now, and legitimacy, through sites like Huffington Post (and don’t get me started on that).

    Plus, there are enough authors who aren’t necessarily supporting the site, but aren’t necessarily opposing it, that it probably isn’t going away.

    So..now what? I guess the only thing we can do is keep talking about it. Keep reminding people how they got their start and that they’re wrong to bully those they claim bullied them.

    Aside from that, I’m open to suggestions.

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