Is Meanness Ever Justified?

Barbara Vey -- November 9th, 2010

I just don’t understand meanness in any form, but I’m especially appalled by what I see happening on line.  The buzz word lately is bullying and it just isn’t happening to kids.

I try to keep my blog upbeat and make it a pleasant experience for all who read it.  On the whole I’ve been very happy with the positive responses posted.  Even when someone has disagreed with my opinion, their  comments have mostly been well thought out and the reasoning valid.  I have no problem with that.

I also have a YouTube account where I post all the Drive By Videos and interviews I do for the blog.  The goal has always been to be entertaining and have fun.  I did get dinged for a video I did on Ready to Eat military meals when I was stranded in the New Orleans airport during hurricane Gustav.  A viewer questioned my patriotism (I have long supported our troops btw) and my commentary.  Although I was only trying to explain what I was experiencing when I opened the container, I did let the comment remain because (s)he correct something I said that was inaccurate (I thought I saw a mini-marshamallow, but it was apparently a Chicklet).

Moral compass

Moral compass

My concern today is an interview I did with an author about her book.  She is a delightful , articulate young woman and I was horrified by the comments left.  They were extremely negative, but not one person had read the book.  No, the comments were all personal attacks on the author to include her looks, intelligence and morals.    Where did all this venom come from?

The interview was about the book.  How could anyone, in good conscience attack the author personally?  I know this goes on all the time at Amazon and that bothers me too, but I can’t control that.

Although I do make my YouTube site public, I have ended up closing the comments section of the video.  I wouldn’t have minded valid conerns about the book if the commentators would have taken the time to bother reading it, but I couldn’t allow my videoes to become an area where cowardly, anonymous, vicious attacks are unleased on people who have trusted me to do a good job.

What are your feelings on the subject?  Should all comments be posted, no matter what?  Is the moral compass broke on the internet?  How would you have handled it?  And what if it happened to you?

Bottom Line: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” ~  My mom.

150 thoughts on “Is Meanness Ever Justified?

  1. Kerrie Hollihan

    Barb, this happened to me on LinkedIn, of all places. I had posted a comment that I didn’t like the general term “Boomer” to describe all of us at a certain age, and two individuals, both men, had some vicious comebacks. It was bizarre, especially one guy who I then googled to discover that he’s a businessman in Vancouver. Go figure.

  2. SonomaLass

    One problem is that there’s no universal definition of “mean.” Barbara, you write specifically about comments about an author’s looks or personal life — which, I agree, have no place in a book review. But others here talk about actual reviews being mean, and I think that’s really tough to define, and definitely in the eye of the beholder. Snarky isn’t necessarily mean, in my book; humor is often a way we soften criticism. And some people can take a joke better than others, just as some can handle straight-faced criticism better. A blogger who is writing for an audience primarily of other readers, rather than authors, may have a different sense of what’s appropriate to say about a book than a blogger who is also an author may have. So while I agree that there are some pretty clear lines, such as attacks on someone’s appearance or personal life, I don’t think every review that hurts an author’s feelings is necessarily “mean” by some objective standard.

    My favorite blog post on this recently is from Jessica at Read, React Review. I hope she doesn’t mind me referring folks over to where she says it so well:

  3. ka

    Regarding the “mean” girls at the “mean” sites, been there, done that. I’ve been roasted for suggesting readers can act with civility. As I responded to Jessica’s post, it’s not the “negative” reviews that are offensive, but the mayhem that follows from commenters who feel that they can write almost anything without any consequence. They then bully others who express a conflicting opinion. We worry about bullies in school – we should worry about the bullies on the internet, too.

    Two men who I respect recently spoke out about this:

    - Tim Gunn encouraged civility even as people offer conflicting opinions.

    - Elton John remarked that America was “meaner”.

    I take what Tim and Elton said to heart because I believe we could all take a step back and consider if we could be more civilized in sharing opinions with each other.

  4. old and grumpy

    Personal attacks like those described in the post suck and are just plain wrong. If it was on youtube, it unfortunately seems to be the way of things on there from what I have seen, and I have now started ignoring all comments and just watching vids.

    But I have to say I really hate the “If you have nothing nice to say..” Which seems to come out a lot in the rom community.
    Quite frankly just because someone put six months or more into a book doesn’t mean that it is any good. I would rather have open discussion, and honest recommendations, than meaningless five cups for every book, and everything is sunshine and kittens all the time squees.

  5. FireWriter

    I have been horrified by some of what appears on the Net. Simply put, people need to keep to the subject at hand; not attack someone for baseless reasons (except for their personal dislikes or agendas); and learn what the word “Etiquette” means (and then apply it in all things they do).

    Thank you for getting this out there for all to see, and hopefully, for some of them, a lesson to learn! Oh, and my mother said the same thing about saying nothing at all. :)

  6. Missy Taylor

    There is no reason ever to be mean. And unless it is a review site, a site that asks for reviews such as Amazon, or your own blog or site then if you don’t have something nice to say don’t say anything at all. There is a time and a place for everything and an interview on someone elses blog is not a free for all for others to voice their negativity. Personal attacks are never okay. Good for you Barbara!

  7. Dianna Love

    It’s a sad sign of how our society has changed. I think the internet has opened a venue for those who would take pot shots at others from behind the safety of cover. I was raised to say nothing unless I had something good to say about another person. A simple rule from a mother who expected her children to respect others. Wish I heard that rule stated more often today.

    Glad you took down the comments. No one should have a venue to attack someone in anonymity.

  8. Debbie Kaufman

    Book reviews that veer into personal attacks are just plain wrong. It’s one thing to dispassionately state specific flaws you see in a book, and entirely another to point out personal flaws you believe you see in its author. That whole story about the mote versus the beam in the eye should apply here.

  9. Dianna Love

    I posted the other day and it disappeared. I agree with so many on here – there is NEVER a reason to be mean. Honest feedback and mean are two different things. You set a standard for the industry it would be nice to see followed, Barbara. Sorry that author was attacked (see that a lot these days) and like Lori Foster said – anyone in the business for any length of time will get their share of nasty reviews, but that doesn’t make it right.

    Huge thank you to all of your readers who support a positive blog.

  10. Ronda Pauley

    Barbara Vey,
    I think you are right to be offended. I’ve watched as a sense of decorum has rapidly faded away from our culture. Remarks these days (look at politics) are often blunt and insensitive. Looking beyond that, looking instead at the passion with which these rude remarks are lashed out on a person, I suspect anger at something intangible, something the critic cannot control. I suspect members of our society are feeling more and more out of control. As an American culture, I’m hoping to see this trend turned around, replaced by more tolerance and an attempt at considerate understanding. If anyone can do that, it will be writers. We just need to get our words out there persistently and turn a deaf ear when necessary.

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