New topic this time, and one that veers a little from my previous posts about handling reviews. This one concerns cyber bullying, a scourge on the web, and a crime in my view that has been engaged in by one writer / reviewer according to sources.
A couple of days ago Laura J Mixon posted the results of her investigation into the activities of sci fi writer Benjanun Sriduangkaew who has been posting reviews of other authors' works under a variety of pseudonyms including; Requires Hate, Winterfox, pyrofennec, acrackedmoon and others. Reviews that if she is correct, have amounted to a campaign of cyber bullying, including insults, harassment and exortions of violence.
Now I have no knowledge of this author or any of the avatars mentioned. Nor have I personally been aware of any of these attacks. If you want details I would suggest (strongly) that you go to the source: http://laurajmixon.com/2014/11/a-report-on-damage-done-by-one-individual-under-several-names/
However this post is not about these incidents in particular, disgraceful as they are and shameful to the entire science fiction and fantasy community. It is about the more general issue of bullying, and in particular on line bullying.
Now as published authors we all are subject to receiving reviews that are not particularly flattering of our work. And that can be hurtful. I speak from experience. But it is not bullying and it is simply part and parcel of having put our work out there to be judged. It is the right of everyone who reads your work to have an opinion about it and publish that opinion. And it is the responsibility of authors to develop a thick skin as they say, and deal with it.
However there are lines which should not be crossed, and which when they are crossed should be responded to. And here I do not mean by engaging with the reviewer. That is still a no win situation at best, and in the case where cyber bullying has occurred, probably a lose, lose situation. (A basic rule of bullying of all forms is that the bullies get a kick out of seeing your fear. Ignore them and they usually go away.)
So what are those lines?
First, when the reviewer moves on from the review of the work to attacking the author personally, through insults etc. This may be serious or not. It may be taken to heart by those receiving the review or not. Everyone is different in how they will react to these sorts of things.
My general response will be to remember the golden rule. An insult reflects more upon the person giving it than the one receiving it. And my response to it will vary. Mostly it will be nothing - because lets be honest these things are usually minor and wasting a single second of my time worrying about someone who cannot control their fingers is basically wasting my time. I don't care about such people and I have more important things to waste my time on. But at the other end if the insults are particularly egregious, I may refer them to the moderators of whatever forum it's in and ask for the posts to be removed. I will not engage directly with the reviewer because I have no wish to reward him or her in any way.
For those worried about the effect that such posts / reviews will have on their sales, my thought is that I trust most readers to be unswayed by such things. Readers are not stupid.
However, there comes a point where another line is crossed, and that is where threats are made. And here I cannot say this strongly enough, NO ONE HAS THE RIGHT TO THREATEN YOU!
In this case should it happen, my policy - and I would hope everyone else's policy - will be to report the poster to the police. I am an adult. I assume the poster is an adult. And every adult should know that threats of violence are both unacceptable and a crime. And the number one reason that people get away with crimes is that others don't report them. Bullies on line or in the real world, should not be allowed to get away with their behaviour.
But more than this, bullying is a scourge on society that should be wiped out. If I and everyone else in the on line community, stands behind this simple set of rules, cyber bullying will be if not wiped out then at least cut back.
The one thing I can say with certainty from having read Laura's blog, is that this particular cyber bully would have been stopped long ago if people had acted instead of doing nothing.
Because bullies are capable of learning. And the lesson they should be learning is that their behaviour will not be tolerated. They will get no emotional pay off for their actions. And if they go too far they will find themselves in trouble with the law. No reward, punishment for bad behaviour - this is classical operant conditioning at work. And if pigeons can learn from this sort of conditioning, so can bullies.
One last comment - and I know that some who have received this sort of abuse and threatening behaviour will find it hard to accept. Cyber bullies are toothless for the most part. They can threaten anything. But most of them can do nothing to back up their threats. So though it may be hard to do, stand up for yourselves. Laugh at them - not on line of course - and think of them instead of as being big and scary, as pathetic.
And report them.
In conclusion I'd also like to commend Laura J Mixon for carrying out this investigation and reporting it.