In Defense of Katherine Hale??!

Inside Explosion

I feel a sickness in the pit of my stomach as I tap away at the keys. Before you throw me on a Goodreads blacklist, boycott my as yet unpublished book, or unfollow my blog, please read through this post. And keep an open mind. Something I’m afraid very few people have been doing on the internet these days.

I DO NOT SUPPORT THE ACTIONS OF KATHERINE HALE!

But neither do I support Cold Ware-era Red-scare blacklisting going on right now by book bloggers and Goodreads.

I’ll be honest, this is the second time I’ve written this post. And about the fifth time in my head. I had it scheduled to run on Wednesday, but wasn’t happy with it, so made some changes. After careful thought, I decided not to delve too far into this topic, mainly because it’s mostly been done. I have a few thoughts I’ll share and a few blog posts I’ll link to, but beyond that, I’m going to attempt to wash my hands (and my mind) of this whole affair.

For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, you can catch up by reading this article. And check your Twitter and Tumblr feed, and Facebook and blogs everywhere. Because it’s being discussed on every media outlet I use.

For another take, check out this post on the Confessions of a Book Geek blog. The author has clearly done far more investigation into this issue than I (read the comments as well), but I also fear has a bit of a bias being a book blogger herself.

To understand Katherine Hale and what is obviously some kind of obsessive/compulsive disorder, take a look at her article in The Guardian from July.

I’ll be honest, I first read Katherine Hale’s catfish article like a car accident on the side of the road. You can’t look away, but you know it’s going to end badly. There was a part of me that was glad she called out this blogger, but at the same time, I felt it was completely unnecessary. She could have let it go and moved on, but had to create an issue out of it.

But while I believe Hale was wrong, I don’t think she deserves to be crucified for it. And neither do authors who have come to her defense. There is currently a Goodreads blacklist which I will not link to, that calls for a boycott of Hale and all authors who support her. To me, this is the pot calling the kettle black. Hale is vilified for attempting to unmask a blogger and essentially silence her negative criticizing voice, so in turn book bloggers are attempting to silence the voice of Hale and anyone who supports her. Two wrongs don’t make a right. We learned that in grammar school people.

I say, voice your opinion on your blog, Twitter, FB, whatever, if you feel so inclined. Don’t buy or read books by authors if you feel that strongly about it, but really, you’ll never agree with everything an author says or does. Why pick this? You might be against abortion, but are reading books by people who support it, but you don’t know. Banning, boycotting and shunning people because they voice a belief is trying to silence their voice. We don’t want to silence voices in this country. At least I don’t. I’d love to hear all opinions, critically internalize and process, then I go on with my life in the manner I see fit. If Hale committed a crime, then follow that line. If you feel she committed a crime, but legally did not, then try to get legislation changed. Voices are good. That’s how this country moves forward.

And as for what Hale should have done, well take a look at this article on Pub(lishing) Crawl for how to handle criticism.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this situation isn’t black and white. It’s so grey it looks like an Abnegation meeting. What we really need is for everyone to calm down instead of this internet fiasco of polarizing sides and people trying to strong-arm their opinion into the right. Really, everyone is right. Authors should have the right to defend their books, in a business-like and appropriate manner. Book reviewers have the right to their opinions, but they should put it forth in a business-like and appropriate manner. Book reviewers have the right to their privacy, and if they choose anonymity, so be it. But personally, I have never posted a review that I couldn’t and wouldn’t defend to someone’s face. Maybe that’s the key: write your review as if the writer is sitting across from you and reading every word, and they’re someone you know.

The internet has made us too callous to the feelings of others and the use of basic decorum in our conversations. Why is it, we as a society have become so polarized, so quick to judge, and so vehement in our stance of perceived right? Have we lost the ability to see both sides of an issue and grant each person their dues? Where are the moderates in all of this? And every other situation? I’m guessing, like me, they’re afraid to speak out, because the backlash can be too much to bear.

And one final side note. Hale asks if she’s being “catfished” in her article. Several people on Twitter have commented that she doesn’t know what catfishing is. To that I say, you’re wrong. Sort of.

Definition of “catfish” from Urban Dictionary:

catfish
A catfish is someone who pretends to be someone they’re not using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances.

Further investigation showed that the term “catfish” is used for any person creating a false internet persona. While this is usually used for romantic endeavors, it is not restricted to that.

Every person posting, tweeting or talking about this issue has their own agenda and bias (me included), and everyone’s thoughts should be taken with a grain of salt when forming your own. But one thing is abundantly clear: Don’t stalk a book reviewer. You will regret it!

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14 thoughts on “In Defense of Katherine Hale??!

  1. Jennifer, this is the first time I’ve come across your blog, and I just wanted to comment that I think you’re very brave to address this issue in the way you have. A blogger friend of mine wrote a post regarding this incident, and I expressed opinions similar to those of yours in my comment. I’m a (very) small-time short story writer, and comments I leave on other blog posts rarely draw notice. But I found that after posting what I felt was a thoughtful comment–which in no way condoned Hale’s behavior but also took issue with Harris’s deceptions and the bullying atmosphere I’ve personally observed on Goodreads–people began coming out of the woodwork to argue with me. I believe we are all entitled to our own opinions. Plenty of people were visiting my friend’s blog to excoriate Hale and glorify Harris. Not once did I respond to any of their comments. However, these people seemed to target my comment because I happened to have a differing opinion. I made the mistake of replying to numerous comments, because I thought we could have a civil discussion. (My blogger friend and I actually disagree regarding certain aspects of this incident, but we were always civil and respectful to each other.) The conversation devolved to the point where I was called nasty and judgmental, and even equated to people who shame sexual assault and domestic abuse victims. I realized that the very behavior I criticized on Goodreads–a mob mentality with cliques banding together to attack certain authors–was now occurring in the blog discussion. I also realized that the people attacking me were friends on Goodreads. It seemed I angered one wasp, and others quickly followed. And that’s a problem I find very disturbing, and the main reason I’ve left Goodreads. It’s fine to have a differing opinion. It would be nice if the conversation could remain respectful. But these people form gangs; they can’t seem to state their argument without a posse of their cronies appearing and helping them with their attack.

    I apologize for the length of this comment. After seeing the abhorrent behavior on the part of bloggers and book reviewers as of late, I just wanted to commend you. Not many authors are brave enough to tackle this issue. I wish you all the best in your writing endeavors.

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    • Miranda, thank you for your wonderful comment! You have expressed much of what I have been thinking. I don’t know whether to be glad or disappointed I haven’t gotten scathing comments about this subject, because my opinions differ greatly from much of what I’ve been reading, yet I don’t particularly want to argue about it. People who vehemently oppose Hale and her supporters aren’t going to be swayed by mine or any other opinions, so it’s pointless to engage. It’s sad we can’t have educated and civil discussion about this topic without it devolving into name calling and mob mentality. I’m glad you left a long response, and I enjoyed reading it. Thank you again!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Unfortunately, based on my own experience, there appears to be no room for civil discussion with the Harris supporters, because the vast majority of bloggers/reviewers believe that both parties, Hale and Harris, can’t share blame or be guilty of bad behavior. I’ve repeated (until I sounded like a broken record) that I am NOT a Hale supporter, but that didn’t seem to matter. The fact that I refused to rally behind Blythe Harris made me an enemy. These people’s opinions are firmly fixed, and I’ve been told over and over again that this story does not have two sides–Hale is the perpetrator, and Harris is the victim, period.

        I understand that when you craft a well-written, thought provoking post, you hope that it will reach people. But in this case, it might be best not to draw the attention of those who would immediately label you a victim shamer, and then rally their cronies to attack you as well. (And I’m not saying that because I think we should be hindered from voicing our opinions. But you’re rightfully calling for everyone to take a step back and calm down, and these folks aren’t interested in doing that.)

        Personally, I’m very glad I came across your blog and found a voice of reason. I’m certainly not on Team Hale, but I don’t think this is a black and white issue. In any case, if others do decide to comment here, I hope they’ll be respectful and mature in expressing their opinions. To paraphrase one person speaking of this entire fiasco: good manners don’t cost a thing. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  2. Out of all the posts you could have linked to, you chose to link to mine, and I think I take that as a compliment. In terms of being biased, I really tried not to be in that post, but obviously as a book blogger, there may be a certain amount of bias – but I really tried to avoid it. I can’t speak for all book bloggers, as even within the community there are varying levels of disagreement, disapproval and even anger, but I can comment for myself, and on behalf of those who have the same opinion as me –

    I don’t like to rehash the story – but due to a lack of honesty and the nature of the internet, the full story wasn’t pieced together, and even this rendition is likely to have holes. Blythe Harris was a book blogger who ran a successful blog for 2 years, and who regularly left reviews on Goodreads. She left 5* reviews and she left 1* reviews. Blythe Harris was an opinionated blogger, who was often slightly more blunt in her review of books, but she didn’t attack the authors personally. She felt strongly about what we refer to as “trigger issues”- rape, PTSD and domestic violence, all of which feature in Hale’s book, No One Else Can Have You.

    In Harris’ status updates, you can see that she was enjoying the start of the book, but things took a turn for the worse, and she ended up really disliking the book. She gave it a 1* review along with 242 others (at the time). She reviewed the book in 2013, and was sent it by Hale’s publisher, who often sent Harris books to review as a trusted reviewer of ARCs.

    Hale tweeted that she was looking for some new ideas for her next book, and Harris, along with plenty of others, replied to her tweet. Hale clicked through to her profile out of curiosity, and from there through to her Goodreads account, where she spotted the 1* review. For whatever reason, this review struck a chord with Hale, and that was the start of her erratic and obsessive (as she refers to it herself) behaviour. Hale began to obsessively follow Harris’ social media profiles, and when she was taking part in a debut authors book blitz on another blog, she specifically requested that Harris be the blogger to conduct her interview. Hale requested Harris’ address from this blog, to send her a “gift” for agreeing to interview her. And from there, I’m sure we all know the rest of the story.

    Hale tried to argue that this was investigative journalism. That’s not the case, the review was in 2013, Hale acted in an irresponsible and inappropriate manner, and then wrote the article as a reflective opinion piece. Hale uses the term “catfishing”, which if you want to be pedantic about means creating false online personas in order to enter into romantic relationships, usually with malicious intent. If you aren’t being pedantic, Hale’s use of the term still insinuates and attempts to back up her claims that Harris was a false profile, set-up for the purposes of leaving negative reviews and ruining authors’ careers. This is not the case, as two years’ worth of blogging and multiple 5* reviews from Harris can testify to. Harris may or may not have been a pseudonym, and that is not the same thing.

    After 2/3 days of discord, with book bloggers expecting there to be some form of statement, comment or apology from: Harper Teen the publisher, at the very least condemning Hale’s actions and reassuring bloggers on their mailing lists that they do not support stalking of reviwers: The Guardian from being grossly mis-informed and posting an article in which various facts went unchecked, and which also publicly “outed” a blogger for doing nothing except leaving a 1* review: and from Hale herself, at least recognizing that she had caused offense and acted in an inappropriate manner. Instead, we received no comment from Harper Teen, a post was issued by The Guardian a few days later, in Guardian Money, rather than Guardian Books, which was taken to be an indirect statement, but by then of course Hale’s connections to the publication were outed and the damage had been done, and Hale? She continued to bait bloggers online with tweets she deleted after a few minutes (but which we all have screen shots of), and has shown no remorse or understanding of her actions what-so-ever. We were completely dissatisfied with this response, it really was terrible PR crisis management, and so we decided to take action. To spread awareness, but also to provide a means for bloggers to have a voice, when “their” collective side of the story was being ignored, and we’re being portrayed as some sort of evil beings out to ruin careers. We boycott. Some are boycotting Hale only, some are boycotting other authors who have supported her in her irrational actions (and who also have a history of insulting bloggers), and some have boycotted the publisher Harper Teen altogether.

    I completely agree with you that reviewers should be considerate about their reviews, not only because authors are humans at the other end of computer screens, but because as a creative person, I understand how critique of someone’s pride and joy can cause pain and hurt. It was interesting to note how many authors spoke out about Hale’s actions and disagreed with them, and I have to say from reading your post, you aren’t defending Hale or her actions, you are disagreeing with a boycott.

    Hale’s Guardian article – http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/oct/18/am-i-being-catfished-an-author-confronts-her-number-one-online-critic

    Guardian’s seemingly unofficial response – http://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/oct/22/amazon-vine-book-reviews-blogging

    Hale’s unapologetic response – http://dailyegyptian.com/literary-festival-hosts-new-york-author-2/

    Response from the blogger who gave Hale, Harris’ address –
    http://www.yareads.com/my-side-of-the-story/news/13970

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    • Hi Rachel, I found it interesting you felt the need to re-hash the entire episode. I actually had done this myself in the original form (albeit with some holes) but deleted because it wasn’t really what I wanted to say. I know the story. Most other readers know the story. And as I pointed out in my post, we all have bias and present information in a light that supports us. Especially Hale. Her article was definitely biased, and I’m glad others came forth to fill the holes so to speak. But I’m still not in support of an organized blacklist or boycotting, and I’m appalled Goodreads has allowed it on their site. My post was not meant to increase the argument, nor support either side, but encourage readers to see both sides of an issue. Can you look at Hale’s side with any sort of objectivity? She was obviously incapable of doing so in regards to Harris’ unprofessional (though possibly warranted) criticism, but are you able to rise above her mistakes and perform better? I’m not trying to defend Hale’s actions. She obviously needs help and not only crossed a line, but took a running leap over it. I think there are far more constructive ways to handle this than trying to silence Hale and supporters. If stalking laws need to be tougher, address that issue. If publishers gave out personal info, address that issue. Let’s look at helping authors deal with criticism, like in the link I provided. The story of Hale and Harris is out there. I’m tired of sharing and talking about it. Let’s deal with the aftermath and create positive content out of this mess. If we all put our collective minds together, I’m sure we can come up with better solutions.

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      • I guess I’m conscious that I’ve found lots of people who have polarised opinions have ended up realising that they don’t know huge chunks of the story, and I think providing links to articles such as YA Reads response, lets people see a little deeper into it if they choose to. That, and as I was directly linked in this post, I thought it was only fair for those who maybe haven’t read it, to get a feel for where I was coming from. It is the only way I can provide a logical explanation for why I’ve decided to boycott – by explaining where I’m coming from with it. I’m not sure why you would be appalled by a boycott – when you disagree with someone or something and want to take a personal stance on it, you vote with your feet. Goodreads have also removed Hale as a Goodreads author.

        I can of course see Hale’s perspective, in relation to the curiosity surrounding a negative review, and the fact that as humans, we all make mistakes, but I honestly struggle to find empathy or understanding with her decision to actually track this person down in real life. I can’t fathom that and the lengths that she went to, to do so. I certainly don’t wish to silence Hale or her supporters, and think it would have been interesting if Hale had have written a further response. However, by boycotting them we aren’t silencing them. I’m just choosing to show my disagreement with Hale and her actions by not reading her book(s) and not supporting her work.

        From reading a lot of articles from both sides, there have been some great ideas floating around the web to help both authors and bloggers deal with the aftermath of this, and to help both sides with this whole new arena of author/reader interaction, and I do think that is beneficial going forward.

        Thank you for your kind words below in relation to my post, I was very aware that as a book blogger, I’m directly associated with one camp but I really wanted to try and step outside of that. Unfortunately, not all of the interactions I’ve seen have been the nicest, and I was also conscious that I didn’t want the community to develop a mob-mentality, because then of course, we’d become as bad as Hale. I can’t pass judgement on her mental health, but I know that has been raised as a possibility, and I thought it would be very unfortunate for this event to negatively impact upon her life in any great capacity – people can do some very unpredictable things in stressful situations.

        I sometimes just wonder how it ended up like this in the first place – what happened to sharing a love of reading, including critiques, in a respectful manner? It really isn’t rocket science.

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      • I think it was a lot of “line crossing”. The review crossed lines of decorum, in my opinion. I would never leave a review that was that unprofessional. Hale crossed all kinds of lines that shouldn’t be breached. And everyone in defense of one side or another just went far beyond the necessary. I think Hale’s mental state is at the core of the situation. Did you read the other article written by her that I linked? It demonstrates a degree of instability that is not healthy and exhibits sure signs of obsessive behavior. All of this will calm down soon, I’m sure. We only beat a story until it’s dead in this country. ๐Ÿ™‚ But I do feel something positive may yet come: greater security for book bloggers, whether from publishers providing ARC’s or the website provider; greater awareness of internet safety for all involved; and authors learning how to deal with criticism. An author friend posted on AW that she had received her first 1 star review, and she didn’t mention Hale. I wonder if she knew the story. She said it didn’t hurt as bad as she thought it would. I think if I am ever published I just won’t look at reviews. I have an obsessive nature, and while I wouldn’t hunt down my critiquer or even internet stalk them, I might brood about it an unhealthy manner. Hale is the sort of person who shouldn’t look at reviews. Regardless, I do hope reviewers (and I count myself among them) learn that authors are actually people with feelings, and their reviews can hurt. I don’t mind if you don’t like my book, but please be professional in how you talk about it. Not that anyone can control that, but I know I would appreciate it.

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      • Yes, I would agree with that – that Harris’ review was pretty blunt and harsh. But I’m also conscious that many people were keen to show that the harshness of the review didn’t justify the stalking. And I have to say, when I first read it, I was expecting it to be worse, I’ve seen much worse. In fact, there have been times where a review has made ME feel uncomfortable – that’s a sure sign that it has gone too far. I try my best to write reviews and imagine that the author is reading it. It can be tough to be critical then, but I don’t want to offend an author, within reason. Obviously, if I don’t like their book there will be a certain amount of offense, but I’m not going to labour the point.

        I’ve read quite a few of Hale’s previous pieces, and it’s hard not to see a common thread there and question her mental health, but it’s a difficult thing to say isn’t it? Because we could be completely barking up the wrong tree, that and I know she is quite a “quirky” writer, and that “persona” could be intentional. But honestly, to me, it seems like there are some issues there.

        Yes – I suppose we should look at this differently, what can we take from it. Excellent idea. And as I’ve seen some harsh reviews from bloggers I usually agree with and respect, it’s possibly a great thing to post about as it had impacted on me.. Excellent idea… *cogs are turning*. In fact, would you like to do a joint piece? POV of blogger and author, who have had two different opinions, coming together to take the positives out of this moving forward? Learning points for bloggers and authors??

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  3. Since there appears to be a civil discourse occurring here, I’ll add a few more thoughts, which are only my opinions, and folks are welcome to disagree. As I’ve thought more about this incident and my own observations of the goings-on at Goodreads (as well as my unpleasant interactions with some top Goodreads users during the discussion on the blog I mentioned in my first comment here), I’ve become more convinced than ever that the inherent structure of the Goodreads site is troubling and leaves the door wide open for nasty escalations such as that between Hale and Harris to occur. I checked out Hale’s books on Goodreads yesterday. Her next book to be released, due out in 2015, has been flooded with one-star reviews and an array of nasty comments. As far as I can tell, no one commenting has read this to-be-released book. (I’ve never received an ARC of a book, as I’m not a reviewer, so I’m not sure how far in advance those are sent out to reviewers.) Instead, the Goodreads users (I’m not going to honor them with the title of “reviewer”) are attacking the author for her part in the incident with Harris. Yet another case of mob mentality here, where the author–not her work–is being attacked. Goodreads is set up so that users can do this, and I have a real issue with that, which is why I would never list a book there (if I ever get around to revising and publishing said book). Heaven forbid my book contain something controversial that rubs a top user the wrong way. Then he/she will rally her Goodreads posse to flood it with one-star ratings, when they’ve never even read it. Now I’m not calling for a boycott of Goodreads; if writers choose to use the site and risk becoming targets for a swarming mob, as Hale certainly has, then that’s their prerogative. But what author wouldn’t be extremely frustrated to see one-star reviews flooding a book of theirs that hasn’t even been released yet?

    The problem is, authors are urged to use that site, because the ratings and reviews on the site mean something in the industry. If there’s a lesson to be learned from this mess, I think it’s that reviews/ratings on Goodreads should be taken with a huge grain of salt, at least with the way it’s currently set up. I’m aware that there are fake reviews on Amazon as well, but I’m going to give a lot more credence to a review that has the words “verified purchase” accompanying it than those on Goodreads that state the user never read the book and never will because the author offended them in some way. I think it says volumes about the site when I see users who previously gave Hale’s first book four or five stars because they enjoyed it, but then went back and dropped their review to one star once they learned of her interaction with Harris. How could anyone take a site seriously with behavior like that permitted (and encouraged by the mobs roaming around there)?

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    • Miranda, I use Pinterest to share YA books, both coming out and already out there. I post a portion of the blurb and a starred review number, but I never, never use the Goodreads stars. I don’t like that just anybody can leave a review with stars before the book has even been released. I usually use B&N to determine stars.I want to give my followers an accurate estimate of a book and Goodreads does not provide that. If it were restricted to ARC readers, that would be great, but I’ve seen so many 5-star OMG I can’t wait for this book to come out reviews that I don’t trust GR. I like to use Goodreads for a variety of reasons, but I am definitely not pleased with some things happening right now.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s one thing to not like a book. I read the review back when it was posted. It wasn’t just blunt and harsh, it was hateful and mean. It is one thing to say you don’t care for a book and another to say what Harris said. Sadly, there were more than a few other bloggers who said they would downgrade their review. For the record, I have read the book and I loved the book. I assume Harris’s issue is with statutory rape because there isn’t explicit, violent rape in the book. I didn’t find it to be slut-shaming either and I was extremely surprised when I read that. If that is how Harris read the book, fine. But there are plenty of people out there who didn’t read it that way and I don’t think Hale meant it to be read that way. Hale’s actions were crazy, wrong, and a bit scary. I find all of the talk of blacklisting very upsetting and I’ve seen it everywhere. I want book bloggers to feel safe and free to review books whether they like them or not. I thought Harris crossed a line with her review but Hale more than crossed a line. I am not trying to defend either one necessarily. I don’t think either one of them look very good at this point. Thank you for this post!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re welcome. And I think we both pretty much feel the same way. I didn’t want to get into victim shaming by criticizing Harris, because no matter what, she didn’t deserve to get stalked, but the fact that her review was so awful and she perpetrates a false identity online (purportedly) leaves me little room for sympathy. I get protecting your identity, but not creating a fake life. Still, no excuse for stalking. Thanks for your comment.

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