A year or so ago when I was researching the possibility of self-publishing, I heard through social media and ran across some articles about these mobs of readers and sometimes writers who do a lot of unpleasant bandwagon commenting on some Indie writers’ new releases. This happened quite a lot on GoodReads, and unfortunately it also happened on other social media platforms.
It kind of works like this: if a new indie author happens to make an offhand comment or do something to otherwise tick off the readers, fans, writers, BFFs of writers, or writers by sometimes just the act of posting their intended release– the bullies will jump on and make belittling comments, rate you before even reading your work, place your work on these shelves that are often derogatory, and sometimes make veiled and unveiled threats. This is an act of cyber bullying that they dress up as freedom of speech.
When I told some author friends I wanted to write about this on my blog back then, most of them said “no you don’t want to do that, they could target you, too.” So, I didn’t write about it then, but I coined the phrase Literary McCarthyism to describe what was happening on social media platforms all over the net. McCarthyism defined is a political ploy that wields accusations and shame without significant evidence. In the literary world, it is wielding hateful, slanderous accusation against an author or their person, often without having even read their work. These occurrences became so frequent, they were being written about in well-known e-zines like Huffington Post, Salon, and many others. However, we Indies were being advised not to speak on it. Ever.
This past week, an Indie author made the decision to pull her story before it released due to such bullying on GoodReads. This seemed like the straw that broke the camel’s back because so many authors came to her defense, she finally got a response from GoodReads. They seemed to acknowledge that some of their members’ responses were inappropriate and would look into it, particularly where it pertained to some of the site’s own librarians either inciting or participating in such activities.
In my case and many other Indies who have been unfairly taunted by folks on GoodReads or other social media, this may seem like it’s too little too late. However, for those coming after us, I certainly hope the social media sites will make better attempts to control the unruly behavior of some of their members. Some people are a lot more fragile than others and can’t take being told “you suck,” or “you need to die in a fire,” or “you should be raped in a prison erected by your bad writing,” or such similar things.
During a not so wonderful time in our history, there was a U.S. Senator named Joseph McCarthy who made a public accusation that more than 200 “card-carrying communists” had infiltrated the United States government. Although his accusations were eventually proven to be untrue, his zealous campaigning ushered in one of the most repressive times in Twentieth Century American politics. In the final analysis, he was censured by the Senate for unbecoming conduct, however, he had by that time ruined the lives and destroyed the livelihoods of many people. Most of them were writers, artists and entertainers.
Who’s going to censure the Literary McCarthyism occurring today? This senseless, hurtful practice of mobbing unsuspecting authors, whose only crime was to write and self-publish a book, has to stop. Authors can expect that not everyone will love what they write, no matter who they are. However, authors should not expect to be personally humiliated or bullied into pulling their work. It’s time to stop the cyber bullying that’s just another form of Literary McCarthyism and let Indie writers do what they love without fear of repercussions or reprisals for absolutely no reason at all.