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If you spend much time on the internet in writers’ circles, you will no doubt have heard about the Stop The Goodreads Bullies web-site. Set up by anonymous bloggers, it purports to be a site created by concerned readers, readers who are dismayed and outraged by the bullies on Goodreads. These so-called bullies are reviewers. They are generally very snarky reviewers.

In order to stop these bullies, our concerned “readers” have gone through the effort of anonymously outing them in public. They have posted their real names, as most of them write pseudonymously. Not only have they posted their real names, but they have also posted their home addresses, their phone numbers, and (some of) the restaurants and parks they frequent.

This is, in my opinion, sick. It is sick, disturbed, harassment.

First, I want to point out that a pseudonym is not the same as anonymity. A reviewer who does not post under the same internet handle is not an effective reviewer, because most readers need to read a variety of reviews to get a sense of the reviewer's likes and dislikes; they can then compare these to their own.

My husband pointed out that I post nothing on the internet anonymously. He’s right. I don’t. I don’t work at the bookstore anonymously either. My husband--like other men on the internet--was momentarily confused at the level of my disgust and anger. If I don't do anything anonymously or pseudonymously on the internet, is it so very bad that people have been outed?

I pointed out that we don't live in the real world anonymously, and we don't -- but I don’t hand my home address and home phone number to total strangers in the bookstore. I didn’t hand them out to total strangers when I worked in an office either. These people know who I am - but they don’t know where I live. He thought about this for half a second and said, "You're right."

(Upon reading this, my husband said: You're right. It's the male/female divide. If you unmask a man's name in this city, you have his phone number and address in all likelihood. If you out him as an ass, he is not likely to feel that his life is in danger, because in all likelihood it's not. He may be embarrassed. His dignity may suffer. But he is unlikely to feel physically threatened.)

This demonstrates and leads into my second (important) point: men and women live different lives on the internet. Men may get hate mail; women get death threats, rape threats, promises-to-stalk and possibly kill if they show their faces in public. Women get this (it comes with a trigger warning). This is what the site is inviting the disturbed & the dangerous to do.

Putting photographs, home addresses, phone numbers & places which these women - and they are all women - frequent is a threat.

There is no excuse for this.

I am not going to talk about the reviewers who are being stalked and harassed. I am not going to talk about their reviews. I don't care about their words because the words they've written are not relevant. It doesn't matter what they've written: they are people, they are women, some have children at the home addresses which were publicly announced, and they do not deserve to be harassed & threatened in this fashion.

Picking up a gun and shooting someone because they hurt your feelings happens. If the person who is shot dies, we call it murder. It doesn't matter if someone hurt your feelings; you are not legally allowed to pick up a gun and point it at their head. And there are good reasons for that.

This, to me, is the equivalent of pointing a gun. I cannot convey in printable language just how disgusted I am. So this will have to do.
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Michelle Sagara

April 2015

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