August 11, 2013 by Renee
Gone are the days of the usual literary shitstorms. We’ve all decided to agree to disagree on the self-publishing vs. traditional debate, or some of us have decided that we like both sides of the fence enough to stop our tirades. So it’s all cooled off. For now…
We don’t seem to care about celebrities publishing books they never wrote, getting buckets of cash for doing nothing but slapping their name on the cover. Meh. They’re celebrities. They could turn their shit into money, right? Who cares? No one anymore.
We’re not too concerned about sex in YA fiction or even video game violence. Those debates got old, but they’ll return. Until then, what does the online world do? How does one become properly and righteously offended? It’s pretty easy apparently. You make your own controversy.
I’m not criticizing the making of controversial shit. I’m not afraid of it and I offend people without even meaning to most of the time. I have the word “Fuck” permanently inked on my body, so I’m used to that holier-than-thou look of the offended. It’s quite amusing, actually. But in general, I avoid the ‘regular’ news feeds and a lot of book-related newsy-type publications because, quite frankly, I can’t resist going to the comments and that’s where the offended people lurk. Offended people annoy me, because they make controversial shit out of articles, events, etc. that shouldn’t really be controversial. If you’re going to make a big deal out of something, let’s make sure it’s actually a big deal.
This morning, for example, I found links to this article all over the Internet. It’s got like 1000 (or close to) comments that range from folks that are offended for to those that are offended at women who breastfeed in public. It’s an old debate and one that will probably never go away because folks have weird reactions to tits. They’re sexualized, which to me is like “Duh,” because of course they’re sexual. They’re boobs! But because of this sexualisation (which in itself offends some people) a woman flopping a nipple out to feed her child sparks debate. Forget about looking away or you know, minding your business. People are all over that pornographic Mama and her sexy breastfeeding ways. Sigh. It is what it is and what it will probably always be. What has me scratching my head is that the writer of the article, while articulate and funny in his point-making, isn’t saying anything new. He’s offering some common sense advice, but it’s not new. Many women have said the same things in defense of public breastfeeding. Why the big-as-fuck reaction now? I don’t know. I guess there aren’t as many bandwagons to jump on these days, so we’re grasping at straws. I’m not criticizing. After all, I’m at least running behind your wagon by mentioning the article. So there’s that.
Maybe some of you think I’m grasping too by saying you’re overreacting. Maybe I am. I shouldn’t be so annoyed at the overreaction of others, but I’m an irritable type of person. Let’s look at another example. Remember murder-abduction suspect James Lee DiMaggio? Yesterday it was reported that he was killed by authorities in Idaho. I said “Fan-fucking-tastic” because I’m all for the quickest, cheapest resolution possible to such problems. He killed people. He wasn’t turning himself in. While I’m glad I didn’t have to be the one to pull the trigger, he wasn’t giving authorities much choice. I believe in the death penalty, which probably offends all kinds of people. They can get in line behind the anti-abortionists and the anti-gay campaigners. I’m in disagreement with them as well.
Anyway, news agencies reported, with much relief, that the teenager he kidnapped (should I write “allegedly” to make everyone happy?) was found safe. I read several articles about this since the initial Amber Alert hoopla (more in a minute on that) because I wanted to know if the kids were safe. When I read the comments attached to the articles announcing DiMaggio’s death, I was disgusted at the number of people actually trying to make further controversy out of it. Whatever happened to you know, not judging and such things? Many commenters accused 16-year-old Hannah Anderson of being part of the murders of her mother and brother, and other equally negative shit. I have to wonder at their lack of productive things to do with their time.
On the whole Amber Alert shitstorm; I must ask why this was even a shitstorm. Comments to a few articles and blog posts about this Amber Alert made me seriously consider whether humanity as a whole isn’t suffering from a serious case of heads-in-our-ass. When I consider the possibility of pissing people off with an Amber Alert they could do nothing about because they’re sleeping/tired/whatever after being jolted awake by an Amber Alert on their phone, I can’t bring myself to give a single fuck about their annoyance. I wish my phone did this. As a parent, I would rather inconvenience thousands of people who can’t help my child than risk missing that one person who is working the night shift at the gas station where my child’s abductor stopped to get gas. I bet if this was a tornado or hurricane alert that woke people up to save their own asses, no one would consider it annoying. But we’re human, right? It’s hard to look beyond our own bubble.
Either way, the whole thing should have been trending on Twitter because folks were sharing the information, not because folks were all “OMG! Why am I getting this alert?! How do I stop it? It’s so fucking inconvenient and annoying.”
And just when I thought we’d reached the end of our grasping at offensive straws rope, the book review/author bullying shit started again. Originally this was a huge shitstorm in mid- to late 2012, but folks, I’ve noticed it seems to be coming back.
Bullying on review sites like Goodreads and Amazon has apparently never stopped, as proven by the wonderfully retarded and unproductive campaigns that are ongoing for a number of groups. Why do I call it unproductive and retarded? Because no one is getting anywhere. Instead they’re all looking like assholes. No one is changing anything for the better. Most of these groups are using the same tactics they’re speaking out against. This site was set up by so-called “readers, bloggers, and Goodreads members (not authors)”who want to “take a stand” against the bullying they’ve seen on Goodreads and other review sites. Their mission is to “expose the outrageous behaviour of those commonly known as the GR bullies.”
Listen, I’m not going to say that readers or groups of readers don’t target authors in smear campaigns. There are authors and groups of authors who target reviewers too. Authors target each other. It’s a big messy Internet stew of immaturity and insanity. I’m far from naïve and I know it happens, but holy shit you guys, is this the answer? I don’t think so, because there are also groups of authors and fans that attack reviewers in the same manner. It’s a no-win situation that just repeats round and round in a vicious little circle. Attacking in response to an attack doesn’t change a single action, thought or belief. Trust me. I have a volatile enough temper to know this firsthand. The site I linked to outs these alleged bullies by posting online public information, screen-captures, and the bully’s personal information (real name, etc.) This is really a shit-tastic way of dealing with bullying. Seriously. If you’re out to make changes, let’s not engage in the very activities you’re working against. And can we agree not to hide behind anonymity when we do so?
As The Guardian’s Alison Flood wrote when this crap first made the Interweb gossip mill:
Good god. It’s mirrors within mirrors, worlds within worlds, the (outed) bullies (anonymously) bullied. I’m not sure any more who is doing the bullying – authors bullying reviewers, reviewers bullying authors, readers bullying reviewers – but it’s certainly leaving a bad taste in my mouth.
I could go on and on about this one because the term “bullying” is one I take seriously and I’m not sure the folks on either side are entirely accurate in their application of the term. However, I won’t. This post is long enough and I’m getting dangerously close to the very mountain-making I so hate.
Some of these headlines and debates may be close to your heart, and maybe it’s offensive to you that I consider them unworthy of the time and attention they’ve been given. You have the right to be pissed at me or whatever floats your boat. I understand. But the fact remains that we as a society—or maybe as a species in general—take far too much pleasure in being offended or angry at perceived wrongs. We make too many mountains. Mountains require a lot of time and energy, and they’re so big we can’t see other, more interesting stuff. I’m anti-mountain. Mole hills are neat and tidy and you can step on them when you’re tired of looking at them. Also, moles seem happy. They’re here in my garage and they’re quite well-adjusted and calm. True, they eat the garbage, but they’re animals.
But seriously, I’ve even seen heated debates (by heated I mean profanity-slinging and name calling) start in the comment threads of articles discussing the evils/merits of gluten. Gluten! I mean, what the fuck? I’ve seen threats made over discussions of genre and gender in fiction. Are you people for real?
I guess issues like climate change, poverty, war, or the Russian Olympic shitstorm are too hot for some of our delicate sensibilities?
Let’s be upset about things like this. The level of stupidity involved in getting one’s penis stuck in a wrench is worthy of discussion. I mean, when and how did we become this dumb? Is it the water? Pollution? Genetic anomalies? Could be a government conspiracy designed to make us all into obedient sheep. This is serious. We should be offended that people read mediocre erotica and are inspired to put things in their whatnots. Boobs in public? Pfft. If I had the boobs I had after my kids were born, I’d offend you all by showing them off whenever I could. And I wouldn’t be breastfeeding.