I am writing this post in support of the Book Blogger Blackout also known as HaleNo. A quick TL;DR for my readers who are not part of the online book community is that a few weeks ago The Guardian newspaper published author Kathleen Hale’s account of her obsession and consequent harassment and stalking of a reader reviewer who gave her a one star review on Goodreads. For those of you who would like more detail I direct you to Sunita’s Blogger Blackout post as well as Dear Author and BookThingo for longer explanations.
Like Ms Bates, I too am small potatoes in the book blogger world. Not only that, but I do not post on a regular basis at all so any claim that I will not blog for a week would be superfluous. However, I do occasionally post thoughts on my reading of books both here and on Goodreads (something that I feel ambivalent about but continue due to laziness and a lack of a better alternative). In all the years that I have been making my reading accessible online I have accepted a handful of ARCs, each time making me feel awkward so I ceased accepting them. For a long time now I have only reviewed books that I have either bought for myself or borrowed from the library or from a friend. This is now my official policy.
As for Kathleen Hale’s stalker behaviour towards readers and the support that she has received, I am sad to say that this does not surprise me. People feel confronted when their work is criticised, they tend to get on the defensive. That Hale was given a platform from which to boast about her abuse of a reader and used defending her work as her excuse for her illegal behaviour is reprehensible. Every person who wittingly assisted Hale in her stalking of a reader is complicit in bullying. They are enablers. I was not going to weigh in on what I saw as a serious issue but one that I needed to steer clear of due to other pressing issues. But this kept niggling at me and I needed to exorcise it from my head to be able to move on with other work. (And yes, dammit! Any time that readers are attacked by the media I get angry – that is what makes me a readers’ advocate).
Bullying is, sadly, a discussion that crosses my family’s dining table on a regular basis. I will not go into details except to say that only one person in my family has been fortunate enough to not have experienced toxic, systemic bullying. To add to that one of us having been part of a successful group court case but the years leading up to that and immediately after it were harrowing. All three of us recognise the signs and behaviours of not only bullies but also the people that surround and support them (they are termed “Chicken shit followers” in my home). We also recognise the behaviour of those who should be able to stand up to the bullies but don’t either because they do not see a problem and consider complaints to be irrational and bothersome or because they are exhausted and defeated as the same battles keep occurring or because they are scared that they will be picked on next (we are somewhat forgiving of the last group). But what my family has learnt from our own personal experiences is that nothing gets resolved by keeping quiet. Be loud. Be heard. Report abuse and if the person you reported it to does not believe you, report it elsewhere. And importantly, if you see someone being abused, do not sit around and ignore it. I do believe in picking your battles and choosing to move on and protect yourself rather than fight. Life has too many opportunities to explore for anyone to waste their time trying to stick it to every toxic environment. This “move on” protects those who get bullied but our societies are less vibrant, less creative when their voices are silenced. To date (and to my knowledge), the reviewer in question has not spoken out. If she has moved on, I understand. How does one person who has a hobby they used to like fight a system as strong as a Big 5 publisher and news corporations like The Guardian?
We all know that it is scary to stand up to a bully but one loud voice at a time, we reader advocates can add our support. That is why I support HaleNo.