There’s an old cartoon starring Bugs Bunny called, ‘A Hare Grows in Manhattan.’ If you’ve never seen a Bugs Bunny cartoon, then you are probably significantly younger than me or were very sheltered as a child. I am going to lean toward younger than me. Either way, you need to look him up.
In this particular cartoon, Bugs tells a story of his younger days and how he got cornered by a bunch of dogs. Early in the cartoon the dogs decide they want to bully Bugs. They play a game called ‘Dog Pile on the Rabbit.’ The activity is just as it sounds: the dogs pile on the rabbit in an attempt to hurt him.
Can you see that? Can you see Bugs in his nice little blue blazer (he had a hat, as well) being pounded on by one, two, three, four, five, six, seven dogs, all of them wearing heavy sweaters and derbies? All of them on top of him, trying to crush him under their weight?
Do you have that image? It’s kind of mean, isn’t it? It’s the typical bully mentality: see someone you believe is weaker than you and push them around. If that’s not bad enough, have all your buddies push them around, as well.
Dog. Pile. On. The. Rabbit.
This morning I was perusing Facebook just before heading to work. I came across a post in a group I was a member of. I use the word WAS on purpose here. This group was a book review group. As a writer, these are the types of groups I like. At some point last night someone took exception to another person asking them to review the individual’s book. From what I gather, based on the person’s post, the person downloaded the samples of two books and…
…went off on the requesting individual. When I say ‘went off’ I’m talking ballistic here. The individual asked for an honest review of his self-published book. Apparently, the reviewer decided to give an honest review, but also post it to Facebook because…because…honestly, I don’t know why. Maybe the reviewer was a little pissed off because of the quality of the writing. Fine. If you’re mad about that, then tell the requestor, don’t tell the rest of the world.
I’m not going to mention the reviewer’s name, but here are a few little tidbits from the post in the group on Facebook. Are you ready for this? Here goes:
You reek of amateurism. (That’s not too bad, right? There’s a chance the reviewer is right.)
You’re a deluded narcissist… (Not very nice. Name calling.)
Either way, you will never get read by anyone who matters. (EVERY reader MATTERS. Every single one of them.)
You’re an embarrassment who deserves to fail. (WTH? Really? Deserves to fail?)
Okay, I have to stop here. A lot of the comments made in this post bothered me, but this one lingered on my mind long after I read this. No one deserves to fail. No one. I don’t care how bad the book (oh, wait, I mean, the sample of the book) was, but to say someone deserves to fail is totally wrong. The person did something many others didn’t do: he tried.
Let me throw out a thought: What if this person, the requestor who wrote the book that reeks of amateurism, is a special needs person? What if this is the best he could do, based on being a special needs person? What if this is someone who always wanted to try to write, but never did because he thought people would laugh at him. Or worse yet, bash him? What if this is a person who lacked the confidence to try anything like this? And what if this person worried and struggled to even ask anyone to read it? We don’t know these things, but what if? Just throwing it out there.
How dare you think you’re good enough? What dues have you paid? What makes you think for one minute you deserve to be called a writer…? (Ummm…Stephanie Meyers anyone? My point? She’s not the greatest writer, but millions have bought her books and millions have watched her movies. Why? Because she connected with the readers. No, she’s not that great at it, but she succeeded where most of us want to, and the fact that she didn’t give up is what made her a writer, at least for a while. Was she good enough? What dues did she pay? Does it matter to the millions who love Twilight? I doubt it.)
There was a lot more, but most of it was general mouth running, though I still think it was aimed at the individual.
Here’s the problem with this whole post: this is NOT how you review someone’s book. If you think someone wasted your time, fine. If you think someone can’t write, fine. If you think that the book should be burned in a ceremony in a temple, fine. But—BUT!—you don’t attack the individual. The moment you attack the individual you have lost all credibility. You have become a bully.
There are tactful ways to leave negative reviews, be it privately or publicly. This…this is not the way to do it. Zero encouragement. Zero positivity. Don’t say that sometimes you can’t say something good about something or someone. That’s a lie. If you can’t, then you don’t want to.
This was mean-spirited. This was hurtful, and I feel bad for the person it was directed at. It’s public shaming, even if the reviewer didn’t post the requestor’s name or title of the book. I’m certain that individual saw it. I wonder how crushed he may have felt after reading it.
But wait. Remember the first few paragraphs about Bugs Bunny? Did you see the title of this piece? That’s right. Dog Pile on the Rabbit.
The public humiliation was one thing, but the comments that followed were worse. People piled it on, echoing the reviewer’s thoughts and words (even though they didn’t know who the writer was or read his book). That individual who wrote a book or two was the rabbit and the reviewer was Butch, the leader of the dog gang, and all those that got in line and jumped on top were the other dogs piling it on. Just piling it on.
Now, before you think I’m a sensitive, whiny individual, I’m not. I’ve never read anything by the reviewer (who may or may not be a writer, as well. I don’t know). But, I do know he’s not Stephen King. He’s not James Patterson. He’s not Dean Koontz. He’s not Clive Barker. He’s not J.K. Rowling. He’s not Dan Simmons. He’s not even Stephanie Meyer.
I also know that he was wrong. Period. He was wrong. I don’t care who you are, your efforts should never be bashed by anyone. Yes, the person asked for an honest review, and yes, this is about as honest as one can get in expressing how bad the reviewer thought the book was. But this was the wrong way to do it.
Maybe I wouldn’t have taken exception to it, if it hadn’t been made public for anyone in that group to read. I wouldn’t have known about it, so I’m certain I wouldn’t be writing this now. Maybe, if he had just kept it between himself and the writer…No. Who am I kidding? It’s still wrong. There is this thing called tact. I have, on more than a lot of occasions, been told I lack it. However, I’ve never bashed anyone like this reviewer did to this individual.
But really, this isn’t just about the ranting review. It’s about the public pile on. Why do we, as people, do this? Why don’t we stop and think, ‘hey, that could be me?’ Why don’t we, instead of bashing and jumping on the bandwagon, try and put ourselves in others’ shoes. Maybe then we wouldn’t be so quick to pile on, to jump right into the fray, to judge.
I do have one question about this. Would the reviewer, if standing face to face with the writer, still say the things he said? Would he be a little more cautious? Would he suddenly change his tune because, guess what, the person is right there in front of him? I don’t know, but I can take a guess.
Let me tell you a little story. Back when I first started writing, an editor sent me an e-mail asking me about a story I had written that had appeared on a website. I sent him the story, excited that someone wanted my work. Not long after, I received an e-mail back from him. In that e-mail he ranted and blasted me, personally, and my writing—much like the reviewer did to the requestor. I was told I should never write anything ever again.
That was very early in my writing ‘career.’ It could have been damaging. At first, I was hurt and angry and I wanted to just wring the editor’s neck. If he had been standing in front of me when he said those things, well, I just may have done that. Instead, I chose to prove him wrong. But most people aren’t going to do that. Most people who get smacked like that give up. That’s never a good thing.
So, people, before you pile on the rabbit, put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Not just in the writing world, but in life. Just remember, we don’t know what someone else is going through, or even anything about them. This may be the best a person can do, based on circumstances. You just never know.
Until we meet again, my friends, be kind to one another.