Ahoy bloggites! If you’re reading this you’re probably already familiar with the Hale vs Blythe debacle (or the HaleStorm as I’m calling it – see what I did there?). Things have gone positively nuclear since author Kathleen Hale published a piece on the Guardian detailing her adventure in wanting to confront someone who gave her a one star review. Reactions have ranged from praise for Hale for standing up to internet trolls, to others asking what sort of unhinged nutbar gets so hurt by a review they obsess to the point of hunting the reviewer down and going to their house in order to confront them. It’s fair to say whoever you find yourself siding with, you’re not likely to be turned round by the other side’s argument. So, what happens next? How do we de-escalate the tension?
Hale needs to make a statement, preferably in the form on an apology.
Her PR team and publisher have failed her. This whole thing has been a PR disaster. The article (bragging about stalking), not good. Her twitter response since (or lack of), not good. The fake profiles that keep popping up on twitter to defend her, not good. Someone (presumably publisher) responding by INCREASING the price of her book, shameless. That people are so incensed by Hale’s actions they are threatening to boycott other authors on her imprint and have a book blogger blackout, not good. It’s not so much a catalogue of errors as an encyclopaedia of cock-ups. It doesn’t matter how bad the troll, or how bad the review given – authors have to accept the old adage of ‘publish and be damned’. When your work is released, it’s free for the world to treat it like Martmite, they can love it or hate it, and all you can do is move on and write something new.
But (according to Hale) the reviewer used a fake name, lied about themselves, made a whole fake identity and wasn’t very nice. Hale is surely justified, right?
If you believe it’s ok to seek out and confront someone for having a difference of opinion, you don’t value freedom of speech. You want to censor. And that’s something no self-respecting writer should want. That Hale wanted to find who is hiding behind the curtain is to some extent understandable, human curiosity is a powerful thing but left unchecked it can run away and become obsession as it did in this case.
Books can take years to write, and in a few mean keystrokes they can be destroyed with a bad review. That can hurt. It can even burn. But that doesn’t justify seeking someone out to confront them. If their review contained slanderous personal accusations, defamatory statements or blatant personal salacious fibs – I believe there’s laws and bodies that can defend you, and you are within your right to act through the proper channels and report the abusive user/commentor. You’re not entitled to take matters into your own hands and act like Liam Neeson in Taken.
Everyone needs to calm down
I’ve seen some people on Twitter talking about white privilege and bringing up Hale’s past behaviours – she’s a grown woman, I’m not interested in her background or her past – good or bad – those are things she can’t change, all that matters is what happens next and how she chooses to conduct herself. Hopefully she’ll see that whilst she was hurt by the reviewer, her behaviour wasn’t acceptable, and publishing an article in the Guardian crowing about it (and yeah, there was no contrition in the piece, or remorse, so it does come across as crowing) was exceptionally poor judgement.
So what next?
Who knows? I guess it’s up to us, the readers, writers, bloggers and book lovers to decide what we want from all this and behave accordingly. The situation has always been that an author acts and the audience reacts. If Hale is looking for a different reaction, she should start acting differently, an apology would be a good start, and hiring Thomas Pynchon’s PR manager would be a good second.
But that’s just my opinion.
For further reading, please check out these blogs – they’ve been excellent in giving some background to the story.