Not a second glance do you bestow on me as I hurry by, unassuming, heading for my lair.
Wrapped in darkness, encumbered by hate I sit fingers tapping oh so busily tapping, on keyboard spewing hate. I care not for you, my pleasure is your pain. Hatred like a stench fills the air, I am a troll ensconced in his lair.
Of course for any authors (or, indeed anyone who has been subjected to trolling) it is no laughing matter. Trolls lurk on Goodreads among other places and goad authors by posting deliberately inflammatory reviews and comments so as to provoke a reaction from the unfortunate author. Don’t respond, treat the trolls with the contempt they deserve, They are sad people with no life who, with a little luck will crawl back under which ever rock they have emerged from.
In my experience internet trolls are rarely (if ever) interested in promoting genuine debate whether about books or other topics. They are frequently people with a variety of problems who rather than confronting their own inadequacies choose rather to spew bile on the internet while hiding behind false identities. In the article linked to above the writer contends that different rules apply in the virtual as opposed to the real world. I can’t agree. Good manners should not cease merely because one is hiding behind the anonymity of a keyboard.
Many trolls exhibit behaviour which if demonstrated by children would result in those concerned being reprimanded. Indeed we expect children to exhibit childish traits but it is profoundly sad when grown men and women behave like kids in the playground.
Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. The old saying seems particularly apt when discussing the issue of trolling and, more specifically it’s relationship to book reviews. For anyone unfamiliar with the term, a troll is an individual who makes comments in order to provoke conflict. Here we are not talking about a reader who provides a 1 or 2 star review and furnishes a reasoned explanation for his/her perspective on the work. Authors may not like such reviews (although one can learn from constructive criticism), however they can not be considered as constituting trolling. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and the taking of offence at the expression of opinions with which authors (or anyone else) may disagree is not a valid reason for labelling such expressions as trolling.
Genuine trolling is, however sadly alive and well on the internet. Take, for example the following review and the comments generated by it, https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/499148682. The reviewer takes a positive delight in ripping the author’s work apart. It is, to the reviewer a source of considerable hilarity to point out grammatical errors (real or imagined). He appears to revel in making his followers laugh and laugh they do in response to the reviewer’s tearing apart of the author’s work. What should be a serious forum for discussing literature degenerates into an arena in which the reviewer and his/her followers rip their quarry apart. Blood sports are banned or curtailed in many countries but they remain alive and well on the internet.
As a libertarian (with a small l) I am wary of banning activities. There is a thin line between a person expressing their strong objection to a book and an individual deliberately looking to stir up conflict for the sake of so doing. However it strikes me that forums such as Goodreads need to look at whether they have strong enough measures in place to prevent, so far as is possible, unproductive and often vicious attacks on authors.
(Disclaimer: I have not read the book in question nor am I acquainted with it’s author).
I have read a number of articles dealing with personal attacks on authors. However I had not, until recently been subjected to such an attack. Before proceeding further I want to define clearly what I mean by the term “personal attack”. By personal attack I do not mean someone saying that they do not like my work when such views are expressed in a reasoned and measured manner. I don’t like all the books which pass through my hands. I have, however never criticised and/or insulted the author. The comments accompanying the below post do, in my view cross a line, http://newauthoronline.com/2013/10/12/bemused/#comments.
What I find particularly galling about the views expressed is the implied criticism of my books by a person who has not bothered to read them. If a reader dislikes my work after having read it then I must, of course respect their opinion even if I disagree with the assessment of the reviewer. The reviewer has taken the trouble to read my work rather than making sweeping statements about my “pretentsions to literary merit” without having opened my books.
Freedom of expression is vitally important, however I can not respect the views of a commenter who comments on my ability as a writer without having read any of the books written by me.