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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

What authors can learn from my childhood bullying experiences


The following is a continuation of the post When authors should respond to negative reviews. Also, we've been accused priavtely and publically of supporting author bullying and encouraging authors to gag themselves if they know what is good for them. 

DeeJay and I both feel we've been bullied by this person who although professes to have supported our website in the past and says they liked the work we do for authors, has made scathing remarks about some of our posts (both in private and in public). 

Neither I or DeeJay will link to the public comment, for it is not our goal to defame or slander this person. But when a public statement was made, DeeJay and I both felt it our right to defend ourselves and to make our stance on bullying quite clear.

Read DeeJay's response to this issue here.


When I was in 2nd grade, an older kid picked on me. I went to my mother for help, and she had two options for me: either ignore him (which makes me think the bullying wasn't all that bad) or approach him and introduce myself.

According to my mother, I decided to approach him because I thought the bullying would continue. My mother helped me approached him, though she did stay in the car for the actual exchange.

Turned out his problem was a case of mistaken identity. A friend of his was being picked on (not sure how), and he thought I was the one doing it. When he found out I didn't even know the kid in question, he apologized, and although we did not become friends, at least the situation was resolved.

Two years later a similar situation took place, but being the hard-headed kid I was, I hadn't learned from the first situation. After a rumor was spread around about me, I retaliated by spreading a rumor myself.

The kid in question didn't like that, so he decided to ramp things up a bit. While we were walking home from school one afternoon, he and some of his friends ambushed me, pushed me to the ground, and punched me several times. I specifically remember being hit in the ear.

My parents went to the principal who informed them of the exchanging rumors. They didn't believe that their little angel was capable of that, but I did admit to it. Lying to my parents, especially when confronted, has never been a real issue.

Later my parents went to the mother of the ring leader (at her house). She defended her son, saying she wasn't going to punish him because he did nothing wrong. In fact, he had every right to defend himself, though any sane person knows that what he did was not defense but revenge—not even simple retaliation such as I had done.

The only consolation I have from all of this is that it wasn't all my fault. This kid later went to jail, after all, and I would not be surprised if the cycle of violence that his mother did nothing to stop resulted in his early death, for gang violence was an issue in our city. Not that I wish it, but that's the kind of kid he was, and it's sad that both his mother and the principal indirectly encouraged it, or at least excused it.

What can authors learn from these experiences?


In some situations, an author might be able to resolve an online bullying situation, and how they approach the bully makes all the difference.

One big reason why the Masquerade Crew will never take sides as we've been encouraged to do is once that snowball is thrown, an avalanche is too often the result—mudslinging and the exchange of insults a common side effect. That fact alone does not mean we condone bullying.

The fact that we encourage authors to refrain from fighting with reviewers also does not mean we condone bullying or suggest authors gag themselves when bullied. Most people should know that when we say don't fight with a reviewer, we mean in reference to a legitimate review. Questioning a reviewer in that situation is usually not a good idea.

Dealing with cyber attacks, online trolls (generally nasty people in other words) is a whole other situation. The movement against authors being bullied may have very well helped raise awareness, which in turn resulted in Goodreads changing their policy (or at least taking steps to enforce it more).

I acknowledge the issue and even support the spirit of what they are trying to do, but it doesn't mean I agree with all of their tactics want to get as involved. Yes, these posts are getting really close to the same tactics with one major difference: we did not start this. We are defending ourselves against someone who doesn't seem to understand our stance. (Italics added later since after some thought, I don't have as much of a problem with their tactics. I simply don't want to get as involved.)

Let me state it plainly: if you are attacked online, I do not suggest cowering in a closet somewhere, but I also caution you. Our choices have consequences, and sometimes the best choice is to walk away. Retaliation will rarely have the desired results, so don't feed the trolls, in other words.

These posts are perhaps slightly hypocritical, but we are taking reasonable steps to keep the identity of this person a secret, which means these posts are not retaliation—simply a defense of our stance on bullying.

We have chosen not to join the picketers outside city hall. The joy of helping authors and connecting with readers and bloggers could easily be sucked dry if we got too involved, but that doesn't mean we haven't taken up the fight in our own way and at our own pace.

For example, back in May of this year, I campaigned against a one-star review I thought was a lousy excuse for a review. That campaign resulted in many unhelpful votes on Amazon.

True, it wasn't the same as going after a troll or cyber bully the way some people want us to, but it does show that I'm willing to fight author abuse when I see fit.

So, report trolls, flag content, but be wary of the side effects of retaliation. Maintain your sense of morality. Don't attack back, in other words.



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