See updates at end
Many of my readers are aware of the
batshit crazy irrationality that exploded over the weekend. For those who are not, here’s the summary: on Saturday October 18th, 2014, The Guardian published a…something–essay? a confessional? a self-congratulatory account of insanity irrationality? a proud confession of criminal activity?–by a debut author by the name Kathleen Hale.
In the piece, KH recounts how she stalked a reviewer online for a period of time.
KH admits that she was told not to do this by several different people, but continued, because oh gee, she couldn’t help herself. (What is she, three?)
After an undetermined interval, and by actively lying, KH got what appeared to be the reviewer’s legal name and address.
The obvious next step–from the
batshit crazy irrational perspective where KH resides–was to pay for a background check on the reviewer. Yes, you read that right: by her own admission, KH paid for a background check on the reviewer.
Then, because this is not creepy enough for the likes of KH–and, as per KH’s writing, is also not creepy enough for her friends–she rented a car with the express purpose to go to the reviewer’s house to “confront her.”
Everyone with some human decency breathed a sigh of relief when KH confessed to chickening out.
And those same people got the “what in the actual fuck?” expression back on when KH continued her confession of criminal activity (i.e., stalking), by telling her readership that she actually called the reviewer at her work.
Take a minute.
Try, if you will, to put yourself in the reviewer’s shoes for a moment.
Let’s say–and this example has been used elsewhere in discussing this same topic–that you are a sports commentator and one of the NFL players about whom you’ve said something uncomplimentary stalks you online, digs until he has your legal name and address, runs a background check on you, shows up at your house, then calls you at work.
Would you be all down with that, or would you be freaking the fuck out?
Gee, such a difficult question, yes?
One would think that everyone, or at least the majority of those reading this confession of criminal behaviour (i.e., stalking)¹ would react with horror at KH’s actions. The woman, after all, not only confesses to stalking–and she herself uses that word gleefully throughout her confession–but is clearly proud of her behaviour and convinced she’s justified in. stalking. a. reviewer.
In reality, there were plenty of assholes of different genders who applauded KH’s actions.
Some called her brave (insert cursing here).
Some called her confession “fascinating” (I’m looking at you, Neil Gaiman).
Some said that KH did “what all authors long to do” (to which I say, bullshit, because plenty of authors are decent people who are fully horrified both by KH’s actions and by the assholes defending said actions).
Not that it makes any difference here–KH stalked a reviewer because KH didn’t like what the reviewer had to say about KH’s book. There is no amount of explaining or justification that makes KH’s actions anything other than criminal.
But hey, let’s address the apologists’ arguments.
But, some of KH’s defenders exclaim, the reviewer was mean!!!!!!
Where’s the proof of that meanness?
Well, the apologists answer, KH says so in her confession of a criminal activity.
And, does KH provide screenshots or even links to support her assertions about the reviewer?
Um, say KH apologists, no, she doesn’t.
This is me, utterly not surprised.
But, but! continue the stalker’s apologists, KH consulted the STGRB site and fake person Athena Parker for background information on the meanie reviewer, so she had proof of meanness!
Take another minute to process that.
KH’s fount of wisdom and common sense when it comes to whether or not stalk a reviewer are the people who run a website that, at best, is criminally negligent in endangering the people they deem “bullies.”
The same website, I might add, that legitimate anti-bullying organizations disavow.
The same website that–the universe, it be small, yo!–Ellora’s Cave thanked in a tweet a few days ago.
But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the reviewer was indeed mean to poor little KH and hurt her weedle feelings with her review.
Guess what, cupcake?
That still does not mean that it i’s okay–or legal, or fucking SANE–to stalk the reviewer, to lie to get the reviewer’s legal name and address, to pay for a background check, to drive to her house, and to call her at work. Or to do any one of those things.
If you are an author and have praised that piece of written shit, its author and/or the actions it describes, you are likely to go as
batshit crazy irrational as her sooner or later, and I don’t want to read anything you’ve written.
If you are an author and believe without question everything KH writes in that account and come to the conclusion that the reviewer is in any way responsible for KH’s irrational,
crazy, criminal behaviour, you have no filter, and I don’t want to read anything you’ve written.
If you are an author, and read what KH wrote and try to find ways to blame the reviewer for KH’s obsession, you have no perspective, and I don’t want to read anything you’ve written.
If you are an author and genuinely believe that one–or three or a dozen, or however many–negative reviews can tank your career, you have little to no common sense, and I don’t want to read anything you’ve written.
If you are an author, and believe that you have the right to dictate how readers react to your book, you lack understanding of what writing and reading are, and I don’t want to read anything you’ve written.
There are many, many authors out there who are sane, who can filter through what they read, who have perspective and empathy, who have common sense, who understand that different relationships authors and readers have with the books. I will always prefer their work to yours.
Also, if you were in doubt: all this noise? It is still not about reviews.
Plenty of people have written measured reaction pieces to this blatant example of entitlement. See The Choices of Kathleen Hale at SmartBitches; see On the Importance of Pseudonymous Activity at Dear Author; see Victim or Perpetrator by Jim C Hines on his blog; see the detailed Storify of the shitstorm curated by Kat Mayo, as well as her Shenanigans in Social Media at The Book Thingo, and see How Not to Respond to Negative Reviews, the KH edition by Nate Hoffelder over at the Digital Reader.
There are, obviously, many more, which you’ll find easily following the previous links.
But set your alarm if you have to be anywhere for the next oh, three hours or so.
Robin Reader aka Janet at Dear Author has an important essay on this topic: Poisoning the Well.
Another excellent piece posted at The Dead Writer Society: When Manipulation Masquerades as Memoir: the #HaleNo edition, written by Christine.
Yet another update: I’ve crossed off “crazy” above and substituted irrational instead.
Several people I respect–and some who I believe are hypocritical asswipes–have pointed out how insulting it is to people who suffer from any of many types of mental illnesses to be lumped with the likes of KH.
I shall endeavor to be more thoughtful about this issue in future.
¹ I’m repeating that link on purpose, but for the assholes who. still. don’t. fucking. get. it: stalking is a crime.