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I didn’t pay much attention when Ann Rice went off on a high profile rant about anonymous reviewers. That’s been done, and I’m kind of tired of it.
But Rice gets big press and the Change.org petition she signed suddenly became high profile.
The gist of it is this: Authors get hurt by people who post reviews that are mean, personal, not about the book, threatening, and/or vile.
The solution requested by the signatories is that Amazon require reviewers to post under their real names. And now there are authors who are continuing the campaign.
Part of me wants to go off on a rant about this, and maybe that will be another post. But actually, this is a serious matter.
I am appalled that authors would suggest this is an appropriate solution.
Here’s the Rant after all
We cannot carve out spaces that look like this:
Novel writing space: Write whatever you want, however distasteful to some sensibilities. Pen names OK! Registration of copyright under a corporation OK!
Review writing space: [Rules defined by authors.] Must review under your real name.
Let’s try an experiment.
Jane Doe has a full time job teaching 4th grade. She also writes erotic novels in her spare time. She writes under a pen name because she feels it’s important for her day job and her writing to stay separate. She might lose her job, otherwise. Her students might Google her, find out what she writes, see covers inappropriate for their age, and perhaps even find an excerpt, and that would not be good. At all. For any reason.
Jane Doe has a full time job teaching 4th grade. She also reads and reviews erotic novels in her spare time. She posts her reviews under a pen name because she feels it’s important for her day job and her writing to stay separate. She might lose her job, otherwise. Her students might Google her, find out what she reads, see covers inappropriate for their age, and perhaps even find an excerpt, and that would not be good. At all. For any reason.
Explain to me why Jane Doe author can be anonymous but not Jane Doe reviewer?
Anonymous speech makes it easy for an asshole to be an asshole.
Anonymous speech makes it possible for people to speak out against moral wrongs.
Anonymous speech exposed criminal wrong-doing by a sitting President of the United States of America.
To argue that we should do away with anonymous speech is to argue that it’s better for wrongdoers to get a pass than it is to allow speech that some may find offensive.
If reviews must be accompanied by a real name, then there are reviewers who will no longer be able to post reviews for reasons that have nothing to do with mean, hateful, or threatening content in a review.
Perhaps the reviewer has a sensitive job but enjoys reading and reviewing sexually explicit books.
Perhaps the reviewer has a violent ex and is attempting to establish an online presence that her ex does not know about.
Perhaps the reviewer used to read and review Dino-Porn but now feels that she must leave Dino Porn behind because she has undergone a moral change and wishes to live a life free of Dino-Porn.
Perhaps the reviewer’s home address, phone number, and names of her children were posted to a website by an author.
Perhaps the reviewer has been threatened by an author.
That Solution is Not the Problem You Were Looking for
Every one of these arguments has a corresponding flip side.
Taking away anonymity of reviews would have far more devastating consequences than seeking a solution that deals with reviews that are out of bounds — supposing we can or should arrive at such a definition. I don’t believe we should, by the way.
It’s far harder to seek a targeted solution that deals with the actual problem– assuming there is such a problem– than it is to seek a solution that affects 100 percent of reviewers.
If you go around proposing jackbooted solutions to speech you don’t like, you run the risk of some wag inventing the phrase Author Fascism.