I generally save posts on this subject for my dedicated blog at http://jaq-d-hawkins.bravesites.com/ but things have turned serious with the suicide of a new Zealand author and anti-cyberbullying advocate called Charlotte Dawson. She was also a model and television presenter, apparently popular in Australia.
While I had never heard of this poor woman, the headline might easily have been for someone I regard as a friend, who I know through a couple of author support groups. This isn’t speculation or generalisation, someone I know personally was talking about suicide when she was distraught over attacks online, spearheaded by a couple of toxic women called Angela and Miranda. Both of these women have had accounts deleted from book related social networking sites for their activities, but their sock puppets thrive despite repeated reports and positive identification. They also have an active hate group that operates openly on the Booklikes site, which has prevented the site from developing into the sort of community it had probably intended. I know quite a few people who have given the site a miss due to the hate group always appearing at the top of the discussion groups.
The group was once much larger before the toxic pair started throwing people out who disagreed with them. Since then a lot of people who were misled into harassing authors, with whom they had no personal argument, have seen for themselves that what started as a backlash against a few immature authors who couldn’t take criticism of their books had developed into a hate campaign. Most of the people on the list now have never said a word to a reviewer or done anything to merit inclusion. Angela even started adding people for having ‘the wrong person’ on a social network friends list, although the authors were only networking with other authors and had no idea that anyone on their list might be a target. Angela also effectively blackmailed new authors to prevent them from doing interviews for blogs. The blog in question belongs to an author who never did anything other than to encourage people who had come under attack to keep a positive attitude.
It’s easy to sit back and say that it’s all childish antics. It’s very ‘high school’ and most of the time, gets nothing from me but contempt for the sort of people who would harass someone they don’t know just because someone else they don’t know put their name on a list. However, when people start talking about suicide, it becomes an issue.
One of the group members who developed a reputation for reading books from her “shitlist” for the sole purpose of picking apart things she could put in a scathing one-star review recently walked away after being ousted from Angela’s hate group. I actually felt some sympathy for her as both Angela and the infamous STGRB site simultaneously dumped on her. I’ve always maintained a neutral stance where STGRB is concerned, as they have provided a first point of support for many attacked authors, but I do not agree with everything they post. What I would say to SB is the same that I say to people in the support groups; if you don’t read the blogs, they can’t hurt you. There has been name calling and personal remarks from both Angela and some posters on the other site. While I can appreciate the anger from attacked authors, having been targeted by SB myself, I do not condone public commentary on things like what a person looks like. Their behaviour is the only thing that is up for judgement.
I figure a person who chooses to stop indulging in toxic behaviour deserves a break. Two people from the carpetbombing crowd have subsequently removed their one-stars from books they’ll never read. Intelligence and sanity may well be contagious. The ‘cool kids’ don’t lash out at strangers because Angela behind the curtain says to. One of SB’s supporters who expressed sympathy on her post about Angela’s attacks also mentioned that she had a history of suicidal behaviour. Her one-star ratings are still in place.
What I would say to S****y is hey, guess what. I put a load of one-stars on Angela’s books one day when my friend was talking about suicide. I understand about projecting anger or pain. But you know what? The other day I went and removed her books from my shelves, except for the one I did force myself to read as far as I could stand. I posted an honest review on Amazon UK, but I didn’t copy it to Amazon US or anywhere else. I’m not the sort of person who would sling mud far and wide over something that bad, but the one star on GR represents my honest opinion. I won’t be reading any of her other books, so they don’t belong on my shelves.
Why did I remove them? Not to be magnanimous or even to take the higher ground. I removed them because doing so releases me from the negativity that is generated by expressing hate or disgust in that way.
Who do you want to be?
I ask this question of everyone, from every side of this soap opera. Do you want to be a person who wallows in hate, or someone who can walk away and just enjoy reading books? Do you want to be the person who drives a harried author to suicide? Or do you want to be the person who lends emotional support when someone you know is feeling pain?
For the record, the majority of posts in the author support group, including mine, are supportive messages. Angela likes to plant moles and take selective screenshots, take them out of context and try to portray anyone who crosses her as the sort of person who does what she does herself. Apparently she didn’t like my review and has made me a favourite target ever since. Hypocrisy anyone?
The point of this post is that suicide is not an answer. It must not be allowed to happen again through cyber harassment. I will be part of the campaign to make site owners take responsibility for their content, but I’ll say to anyone from any of the camps who has a history of suicidal thoughts what I say to my close friends who suffer from Depression: Suicide robs you of finding out what happens in the next chapter. There is no problem that cannot be solved, no matter how heavy it seems at the time.
I do not suffer from Depression myself, but I’ve dealt with real life problems that are beyond your worst nightmares. I’ve taken guns out of the hands of attackers and I’ve won a child custody case after a parental kidnapping when I couldn’t afford a lawyer. Compare that to Angela’s spewings and you can see why her false rhetoric rolls off so easily.
I choose to be the person who gives support to those who are feeling weighed down by all the negativity, as I’m effectively immune to it. Who do you choose to be?
Do you want to be like Angela or Miranda?
In the 1960′s there was a saying: “What if they gave a war and nobody came?”
It’s not that hard to walk away. Get on with the things that bring you joy in life. Release yourself from the need to lash out, or to retaliate. Just think what it would be like to be the man in this story.
You can be free. You can be the person who released themselves from the negativity and lived happily ever after. You can write the next chapter of your life and make it what you want it to be.
Even Angela could have that power. It’s only a choice of who you want to be.