I don’t want to make this comment into a whole post but this has turned into another really fascinating facet of online and modern human communication culture. Also, I got blocked on Twitter!
I get it, blocking is damage control for a person who is clearly still dealing with trauma and has found herself being (in my opinion unfairly) slammed in the court of public opinion. I didn’t stand up in support enough, and agreed with her critics, so by all means, block me.
What am I talking about?
An author, Lauren Hough, just had her first book published. By all (fair and unbiased) reports it is excellent, although maybe a little harrowing for my tastes. Her life has been extraordinary and challenging, from a cultist beginning through a lot of other ups and downs. The essays are a testament to her experience.
So then she stoned-tweeted a bunch of complaints about people giving her 4-star reviews because they’re shitty nerds. And to prove her wrong and put her in her place, a massive online dogpile of shitty nerds bombed her Goodreads page with 1-star and Do Not Read blacklist reviews, putting her Goodreads score in the toilet.
Full disclosure, I think 4 stars is good. And I told her so. This is probably what got me blocked.
Fun side-fact, there is a really interesting conversation going on about whether reviews are for other readers or for authors. Now naturally I think they can be both, but of course when I look at reviews of my own books I see them as a message to me. And when I write reviews, I often pitch them in the same way, as though I am sending a fan letter to the author. But obviously other readers should be an implied audience too.
Also full disclosure, the way she was treated was bullshit. But she was not tagged in this conversation so I get that it didn’t reach her. Which is a shame.
Not mad, just disappointed. I think everyone lost in this case.
Now, though, Hough has quintupled down and linked her treatment to rape culture by saying the victim-blaming tone of her critics is similar to those cases where people say “she wouldn’t have been raped if she’d worn different clothes.” Which, okay, I get the comparison. Women are still disproportionately bullied and mistreated online, as offline. It’s a fact. I’ve seen male authors who do dumb things get dogpiled too (Goodkind anyone?), but not on their first publication and their first day as an author. And not this cruelly.
I also get the anger and frustration she must be feeling, although I can’t know it first hand. Her railing against trigger- and content-warning tags, her objectively amusing response to a millennial telling her to “touch grass”, all of it is coming from a place of reflexive rage – but the online mob is not easily pointed in the direction of the Old Mill to go get some cider, if I may create a rather dated metaphor.
 This is another amazing one, by the way. It means “get offline, go outside, get some fresh air and a bit of perspective.” I was vaguely aware of it but I hadn’t really appreciated it before. This is human interaction in the digital age, exemplified.
Hough, from what I have read about her, has been controlled and mistreated a lot in her life, that’s what the essays are about. She will recognise more of the same when she sees it. She may recognise more of the same when it isn’t there, either, but I think in this case it was there.
Anyway, long story short, if you filter out the “she was obnoxious on twitter so I bombed this review” crap, you end up with … well, you end up with her Amazon rating, which is holding nicely at 4.5 stars. Which she would probably not be happy with, but should be. Goodreads is kind of bullshit for a few reasons, as much as I like the place for other reasons. Goodreads plus twitter is … not ideal.
Still, it’s been an interesting journey. I wish Hough well, it doesn’t look like she needs my support but that’s fine. A little more goodwill and a little less hate is healthy, I think. Like touching grass.