Mob Mentality

mobkitI’m very grateful to Alrah Ashe, who pointed out an article written by Janice Harper, highlighting the disturbing concept of ‘One Star Revenge‘.

For a self-published author, or indeed any author, the one star review is, perhaps, the most damning feedback you can possibly get. Many potential customers base their purchasing decisions on reviews from previous customers. If someone takes exception to an author personally, or to a viewpoint they may hold, or their colour, religion, background, gender or career, they should not have the power, or freedom, to trash that author’s career in public. Giving one star reviews and then vilifying the writer personally should be seen as vicitmisation, plain and simple.  The further outrage is that others are willing to be drawn into such arguments, whether they know the author, or their adversary, or not, and consequently condone and support this behaviour by joining in with the online damnation.

As Janice Harper says in her article, it’s the mob mentality.

In effect, it’s people, who know nothing of the personal conflict between two individuals, jumping to conclusions and grabbing their pixelated torches and virtual pitchforks and setting out to lengthen a total stranger’s neck. In this case, it is all done under the eye of one of the largest companies in the world – Amazon.

Janice is right when she says Amazon is more than willing to check on and censor 5* reviews, just in case the author has in some way influenced the reviewer, but it does nothing to monitor the 1* reviews, which affect sales in an even more drastic way.  In fairness, there must be millions of reviews being published each day, but as you will know if you’ve ever posted a review on the site, your comments are checked for inappropriate content before going live.  So why don’t these ‘checks’ go so far as to also check whether an individual author is being targeted by spiteful reviewers?  Amazon is responsible for everything that goes up on their site, from the content of the books they sell to the blurb on the back cover.  Why is this area being overlooked?  All it takes is for whoever is monitoring these reviews to not approve it, surely?  And it ought to be a ‘someone’, or several someones, not a robot programmed to check for rude words.

These negative reviews, apparently, are allowed so that a purchaser can make up their own mind about a product. Really?  When the reviews it’s getting might be skewed by the prejudice or spite stemming from and spread by one person?

judgement-tarot-cardJanice found herself the victim of ill-informed haters who struck out against her views by leaving negative reviews on Amazon for one of her books.  As she says herself, the book was a decade-old academic piece which was not likely to receive many more sales anyway, but that doesn’t detract from the impact such vicimisation has on someone, herself in this case, on a personal level.  Alrah received similar treatment from an individual, who took exception to some of the points she made in her book, Aleister Crowley’s Secret Temple.  In this case, the victimisation and its knock-on effect has affected her sales. For every 1* review it gets, the ranking of a book goes down, until those who are genuinely interested in it find it hard to locate.

This mob mentality is bullying, pure and simple.  It should not be tolerated, either by individuals or by organisations. At present, though, Amazon seem unwilling to police it.  Amazon is not the only site, and books are not the only medium where such bullying takes place, but it is one of those which could and should be policed.

Chella, a co-writer on this group, recently pointed out to me another instance of similar cyber-bullying, this time by highly-educated, professional individuals who took exception to a female games designer having the audacity to want more games for girls.  These experienced so-called grown-ups resorted to vile, personal and outrageous comments, in public and on a professional forum. As one person, their behaviour could have been dealt with, but in concert they proved to be a formidable and intimidating force.  It’s baffling to think that educated, intelligent people can debase themselves by ganging up on one person, and even enjoy it, like it’s some medieval blood-sport!

Nobody should be victimised. Not on social media, not on forums and certainly not on commercial sites like Amazon.

It’s the responsibility of the owner of any site to monitor, police and eradicate bullying, and they should support anyone who uses it fairly and justly – not just customers, but sellers too.  The deliberate sabotage of someone’s career, views or self esteem by a group of mindless haters is unacceptable.  If colleges are within their rights to inform the police, and expel students from their campus for posting defamatory comments on a social media site, then surely the owners of that or any other site should have the power, and the courage, to do the same?

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