Okay. If you’re a regular person who isn’t writing for a living, it’s possible that you’ve missed the intense kerfuffle that is Kathleen Hale, author, and her step by step descent into stalking.
The original post is HERE. IEdited to add: I hate posting that link. Kathleen Hale has commented in a horrific way in response to the outrage with THIS. I really hate giving her more traffic.) Boiled down, it’s this. She got a 1-star review, the blogger (she claims) followed her, mocked her, talked a lot of crap online about her. Hale felt powerless and everyone told her DO NOT ENGAGE. You know, this blogger will ruin your career kind of talk.
Well, Hale responded by finding out the blogger’s real name, address, work place and going there to “confront her”. The piece is well written with smatterings of “I knew I was nuts” kind of thing. It’s kind of her thing. So, I’d like to show you my rabbit hole experience.
Starting with the original, (which when she got to STGRB I was like “NO NO NO”.) I was then shown THIS LINK. Kathleen Hale once obsessed and assaulted someone she viewed as a destroyer of her family. In this case, the person she assaulted had “lied”. Again, compelling reading, but scary as shit frankly. Again, the story seemed designed to evoke sympathy while depicting an action that would have been condemned immediately when the bare facts are known. Finally, I read her compelling piece about being raped. So I felt like Kathleen Hale’s voice was clear to me. She seemed disturbed and had experienced some horrific things in her life. Nothing I saw in any of her posts indicated she was seeking help or that she recognized her own dangerous tendency. Though she throws out offhand comments about being crazy or knowing it was wrong, in the end, she doesn’t change her behavior.
Let me say this too: I don’t find these kind of personal reveals appropriate online. Her article on her rape isn’t a rally cry to speak out, to share her experience to help others. It really seems, as much of her writing seems, self serving. Okay, I’m judging. I took myself to task for being insensitive.
Twitter meanwhile exploded.
Dear Author posted this article and I began to see it all unravel.
First of all, I saw that all of my opinions about the book blogger that Hale stalked were formed from her account of their relationship. That there was no way to verify the evidence of Hale’s “being bullied”. That there were no screenshots of the constant tweeting and mocking that caused Hale to depict this blogger of being a troll. (I promise you. If someone was being shitty to me like that? SCREEN SHOTS). No one has really answered this question and there is some who say that authors are too afraid to say anything because then THEY’LL be targeted.
Then, some of Hale’s facts in her article began to be revealed as untrue. Hale’s depiction of how she obtained the blogger’s address was different from the version given by the unfortunate person who gave it to her. The depiction of the blogger seemed to be based on nothing, with only a rather questionable website (STGRB) agreeing with Hale’s characterization. The comments on the Guardian piece seem to show that trolls-people who harass others online-should be outed and confronted.
But I couldn’t help thinking: What if the reviewer had been a sixteen year old girl? And where was the evidence that this blogger was a troll? There were tons of screen shots of Kathleen Hale’s insanity. Where was Kathleen’s evidence of trolling? And why was anyone taking Hale’s word for anything at this point when so many were showing (not just saying) how she was not being truthful?
Then, the day after Hale posted her step by step stalking manifesto, this happened.
To me, it showed that this was the new world. That being “mean online” (whatever your perception of that may be) can and will be punished.
There have been several accounts about the whole thing. There’s the Buzzfeed article which shows some authors applauding Hale’s actions. The Salon did a nice run down despite the rather sensationalized title. One of Hale’s friends posted something in her defense.
The book blogger has stated she’s quitting blogging.
The conclusion that I’ve come to is this: Kathleen Hale obtained, through manipulation and dissemination, information about another person who had an alternate online identity. (I want to point out that Hale’s version of events is all we have regarding what the blogger’s response to her was. That the explanations given were only from Hale’s perspective. And she’s not shown to be truthful) She paid money to find her. She double checked it with her publisher. Then, she rented a car, drove to the woman’s house, and called the woman at work. The blogger’s response to this is truly unknown (unless Hale’s version is to be believed).
Then, she writes and article for the Guardian in which she gives a step by step “How To” on finding out who someone is on the internet.
I’m an erotic romance author. I write books that might offend some. That picture in my header and on my profile? Isn’t me. My real name is not Jennifer Leeland. Am I catfishing people? If I say something offensive and make someone angry, do we now live in a world where the consequences are people can stalk me?
Several commenters were adamant that there should be “repercussions for trolling”. Meaning that people who spew vitriol online should be hunted down and confronted. That “outing” them is justified.
Authors have a bad habit of viewing social media as their platform-their outlet to pimp their shit-their audience. We do. How many of us know other authors who spam us with “BUY MY BOOK”? How many of us know authors who fill up our feed with excerpts and reviews? Of course, that’s our JOB!
But social media is SOCIAL. Goodreads is a reader’s site. It’s not a reviewers site. It’s not an author site. It’s for readers. Book bloggers are hobbyists who love to read. Authors are small businesses who are creating a brand. Book bloggers are your customers. Goodreads is your Yelp/Angie’s List. It’s not equivalent to Consumer Reports.
I have yet to see any evidence that shows the blogger “harassed” Hale. In fact, to my knowledge, none of Hale’s supporters have said they saw it happen. Wouldn’t someone say “Yes! I saw the blogger mocking my favorite author! It was disgusting!” Especially in view of the doubt being cast on Hale’s veracity.
Now, don’t get me wrong. It irritates the hell out of me when people give ratings to a book they’ve never read based on online kerfuffles. It also pisses me off that some publishers are purchasing good ratings. It makes me grind my teeth when reviewers post incorrect information about a book in their reviews. (Sidenote: I once participated in debate over something in a review that was incorrect. It didn’t go well, but I don’t regret it. For that author, I would do it again. I might add that my career did not end and neither did the author’s whom I defended.)
But it is vastly different to get into an online twitter war and finding out someone has two children, lives in suburbia and has a sweatshirt with pink lips on it in their car. Kathleen Hale wanted this blogger to pay. She wanted to “out” her and show her to be a fake. She called the woman’s online identity “catfishing”. Definition: lure (someone) into a relationship by means of a fictional online persona. The blogger didn’t lure Kathleen Hale into a relationship. She didn’t create an online persona for Hale. The blogger hid her identity because it’s the internet. Because someone can label you a troll and publish your personal information.
Because someone can call you at work to discuss a bad review you gave.
I understand that there are mean people online-people who drive others to rash actions like suicide and depression. I understand that we must all be accountable for what we say.
But this is not accountability. To say that the book blogger “had it coming” is the same as saying that a drunk girl at a Frat party deserves to be raped.
Kathleen Hale has no remorse for her actions. She’s convinced (and others have supported her in this) that she is a superhero who outed a horrible monster. To me, she’s the rapist who points at her victim’s whore status and says “She asked for it”. Which is a horrible thing to say about someone who has been a victim. But if she has been a victim, why would she do this to someone? Why would she not only confront them in this manner, but then publicly out them on a website like The Guardian? Why, as a victim of rape, would she EVER think this was okay?
The whole thing is just…insane to me. What’s sad is that Hale’s writing voice and style is compelling. She’s TALENTED. And yet, I can’t do anything but hope no one will read her books and that she will find therapy in her obscurity. That people will stop cosigning her sickness. That she will recognize how much she needs help.
But with so many people patting her on the back and saying “they understand how she feels”, I don’t think she ever will. Worse? The book blogger has walked away and Hale has “won”. With no evidence at all, the blogger is convicted of being a troll. The blogger is gone.
I’m sure she counts it as a victory and I wonder if she can see how hollow that win is.
EDITED TO ADD: And my question is answered. She doesn’t see how hollow it is at all. Her interpretation of the criticism is here.
How disappointing. And how depressingly typical.