Stop the GR Bullies: Consequences

Posted: July 11, 2012 in Critical Hit
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

OK, so a deeply problematic thing just happened on Twitter.

Here’s the basic jist:

Evidently riled up by information on the Stop the GR Bullies website (which I’ve blogged about here), author James Austen took to Twitter to call blogger Kat Kennedy a loser and a retard. Not unsurprisingly, Kat and several other Twitter users, myself included, confronted Austen about his ableist language, throughout which exchange he repeatedly stated that not only had Kat called him a headcase on Goodreads, but had attacked him on a blog post where he’d revealed his own childhood sexual abuse. Kat, meanwhile, was baffled, having no idea at all who Austen was.

When asked to show evidence of the incidents in question, Austen linked first to the Stop the GR Bullies main page, and then to this Goodreads thread – neither of which show any connection whatever between himself and Kat Kennedy. It then became apparent that Austen had confused Kat with two other Goodreads users, Ridley and The Holy Terror – an extremely bizarre mistake to make, not only because even the STGRB website states clearly that these are three completely different women, but because Austen has actually been in Twitter contact with Ridley before. By this point, he’d called Kat a retard or retarded eight times by my count, including a comment where, even AFTER his error had been pointed out, he claimed to be applying the term with “laser-like precision”.

Austen then made some motions towards apology (though not for his ableist language), but also added that Kat “could win good pr now by playing this right” – meaning, presumably, that it was in her best interests not to tell people about his mistake. Now, even though we’d established that Kat wasn’t at fault, I was still concerned about Austen’s claim that someone – whoever they were – had attacked him on Goodreads for talking about his own childhood sexual abuse, because, dude, that is NOT COOL, and if someone has actually done that, they deserve to be called to account. With this in mind, I asked if he could link to that incident; he told me it had happened on one of three Goodreads blogs.

Now: possibly, this attack did take place, and for whatever reason, evidence of it has been removed from the site. But having checked the comments for every single one of Austen’s Goodreads blogposts – and further checked the comment threads attached to all the reviews/discussions about his novels – I can’t find anything which even vaguely resembles such an attack. What I can see is that in January this year, Austen blogged about his abuse, and in March, Ridley left a status update (the one linked above) mentioning that Austen had sent her an abusive private message, and that the two were arguing on Twitter. Whatever occurred in the body of that argument, I can’t find any record of it, but at this point, it does seem fairly clear that, at the very least, nobody – least of all Kat Kennedy – has attacked Austen in the comments section of his GR blogs.

As soon as this was pointed out, Austen not only quit the conversation, but locked his Twitter account. The progression of the argument as detailed below is as correct as I could manage by reconstructed it from screengrabs, though doubtless some tweets and responses are out of immediate chronological order (it being extremely difficult to follow the exact chronology of a multi-branching Twitter conversation, even after the fact). Given the length of the conversation, I’ve tried to include only relevant tweets, but for those who are interested in seeing a wider range of responses, they can be found by looking at the individual steams of the other participants, including mine. I’m aware that one tweet of Austen’s appears twice, which is unfortunate, but I couldn’t figure out how to easily remove it, and so it’s still there as a duplicate: any other errors are my fault, but hopefully don’t detract from the overall coherence (such as it is).

I’m posting this for three reasons:

  1. To establish on record that Kat Kennedy didn’t start the exchange with Austen, and has in fact never spoken to him before today;
  2. To point out that information posted on Stop the GR Bullies has directly contributed to a public instance of vile and abusive behaviour; and
  3. To stand as an example of exactly how fucked up ableism is, and why using the word retard as a pejorative is never, ever acceptable.

As for Austen: I’d ask of readers to please refrain from contacting him on Goodreads, messaging him on Twitter, or otherwise sending him negative, aggressive or abusive messages that detail his mistakes. Yes, he’s behaved appallingly, and that should definitely be noted, but further aggro isn’t going to help anyone – and if another Goodreads user really did attack him for sharing his own experiences of sexual abuse, then that needs to be brought to light and dealt with separately. Otherwise, let’s just acknowledge and learn from the fail, and move on with our lives.

  1. kenya wright says:

    WOW! I’m doing a blog post on Kat and was just researching her. Alicia Brewster and I find her to be one of the funniest reviewers out there. Apparently, others don’t find her reviews as funny… we are sick inidviduals. Either way thanks for clearing this up!

  2. I know I should know better than to drop the word headcase like that, but Austen is very clearly not on the same wavelength as most people. I have no idea what prompted the nasty PM he sent me months ago, nor the hate he spewed at me on Twitter. Apart from listing his book on my avoid list months before that, I’d had no contact with him at all. When it became obvious that the person harassing me on Twitter wasn’t quite all there, I left it alone. I’m a troll, not a bully. I enjoy provoking people, not beating up on people who can’t hit back.

    Really, this whole brouhaha has just been bizarre. Thanks to Diablo III, I haven’t really been on Goodreads since mid-May. Why lash out at me now?

    • fozmeadows says:

      I really want to figure out if anyone actually attacked him about his abuse post, or if that’s just something else he’s managed to get mixed up about. I mean, he really thought that you, Kat and Holy Terror were the same person, completely missed that there’s no link between Kat’s reviews and his work on the STGRB site despite linking to it multiple times, and seemed genuinely baffled when it was pointed out that none of us could find any record of the alleged attack on his GR blogs. Maybe someone attacked him and he got confused about who was responsible, and then the comment was deleted; maybe nobody attacked him, and he somehow managed to construe your negative shelving of his book as a reaction to his blog; maybe he was attacked on a completely different site and he’s confused it with GR; maybe he thought your headcase comment was in response to his blog, despite the fact that it clearly isn’t, and then freaked out when he realised he’d made another mistake; or maybe he actively exaggerated or lied about the incident to try and get sympathy. Who knows? But one thing’s for sure: he seems to be very, very bad at identifying what’s actually going on and who’s responsible for it, even in cases where he initiates the conversation – and given how aggressively he responds to any perceived slights, that’s definitely a problem.

    • Oh, James Austen.

      He wrote a book and somebody gave it funny or bad review because there was some sex in it that she felt she had no warning about. He went ballistic, both there—-on Amazon—-and in the Amazon forums, and on his GR site, where he attacked people in a kind of a frenzy. He also describes himself as the victim when he attacks people for giving him less than perfect glowing reviews, and his attacks are truly vile. This was months ago. His version of events almost never bears any resemblance to reality. He’ll attack people for bigotry, but he’s pretty sexist, if I recall correctly, and now it’s apparent he’s ablelist as well. Holy shit. Most of the stuff was deleted, but then he deletes comments off his GR blog if anybody dares point out anything at all that he doesn’t care for.

  3. diremommy says:

    I remember a while back, someone left a review of his book. She was very nice about it, but posted about him using fruit in a sex way. She wanted to warn people what they were getting into, but she wasn’t rude at ALL. And the guy went freaking nuts on her. I’ll see if I can find the review.

  4. For somebody who complains about being the victim he sure flings words like ‘twat’ and ‘retard’ at women an awful lot.

  5. Austen is…special. And very prone to using the bully accusation the *second* he is crossed. I’ve documented my first and unpleasant encounter with him here:

    The review Ginmar refers to is here:

    He viciously attacks Janet and accuses of things she has equivocally never done (she’s actually a sweet lady and not at all someone who ‘revenge’ reviews people.) Note he accused me of giving him a 1 star rating on GR when I had done no such thing and never had. (*After* his responses to Janet on that review I did leave an unrated comment on his book quoting his remarks and linking to the review – he managed to convince GR to have the comment removed because it was ‘slanderising’ him, though all it did was quote him!)

    Note also his accusation of bullying over the Amazon exchanges (where he was the one dishing out the abuse):

    If he’s not involved with the ‘anti’ bullying site, he’s obviously a big fan of whoever is behind it.

  6. Rachel says:

    Wow….This is really getting out of hand.

  7. Jennifer @ The Bawdy Book Blog says:

    Have her not tell anyone? WTF? IT WAS ON TWITTER, JAMES AUSTEN. Like, you know, that space that’s public where once you say something, it’s out in the world forever and ever. Way to go. I was watching the thread happen live, and I’ll be honest, I chuckled a bit, because it was just so OUTRAGEOUS.

  8. […] 7/12/2012 12:45pm After a quick google on my lunch break, I stumbled across Foz Meadows’ site, and coverage of the James Austen/Kat Kennedy twitter debacle yesterday, where Austen mistakes […]

  9. Wow. I just stumbled onto this blog. I didn’t realize all of this was going on. It seems to be getting nasty. What is considered bullying on GR? I’ve had plenty of bad reviews on GR and Amazon and I never thought it was bullying. Some of the reviews have been mean spirited but I didnt feel bullied. (Heck, I think Kat might have given me a poor review recently, but I’d have to go look to be sure.) Maybe me and my books are being trashed in the forums and I don’t even know it. Im afraid to look. As far as reviews, I make it a point to not respond to them whether they are negative or positive and I don’t think authors should at all. Nothing good can come from it. This sounds like the author that is the subject in this blog was very inappropriate and will probably feel some sort of repercussions whether in sales or just negative press. I also think it is bad policy to use name-calling in any disagreement and especially in a public forum.

  10. […] links on the matter and I suggest you pay particular attention to Foz Meadow’s post on the consequences of the site. Me, I’m returning to my abode under the rock to remove this bitter taste from my […]

  11. […] the meantime, Foz Meadows points out one instance wherein an author, misled by the content on the StGRb’s sites, attacked one of […]

  12. Cee says:

    I think the general consensus is that STGRB is Melissa Douthit’s creation. Given her history of outing the personal information of reviewers and posting it online for all and sundry + getting herself kicked off Goodreads for being a jerk, I think it’s a good bet.

  13. amiebee says:

    I’m just going to leave this here:

    • fozmeadows says:

      Oh, lord. No. Just… no. This doesn’t help at all: it only makes things worse. You can’t decry someone’s tactics by adopting them yourself – all it does is add to the hypocrisy and drama. I would ask that you please, please reconsider doing this. The whole point at issue here is that naming and shaming is a bad thing to do, and that hate sites are toxic no matter who’s running them. This will only serve to inflame a situation that emphatically needs to cool down. I cannot and will not support this.

  14. […] Meadows: “Evidently riled up by information on the Stop the GR Bullies website (which I’ve blogged ab…here), author James Austen took to Twitter to call blogger Kat Kennedy a loser and a retard. […]

  15. […] onto their heads. Some of these authors have made their way to the site on their own (such as James Austen, Dougie Brimson and Carroll Bryant). Others (eg Michael Dismuke) are incited by G. Faso/Goronwy at […]

  16. […] exploring a closely related topic Readers Don’t Owe Authors Shit + A similar incident between book reviewer Kat Kennedy and author James Austen (cw: repeated ableist slurs, discussion of sexual […]

  17. […] exploring a closely related topic Readers Don’t Owe Authors Shit + A similar incident between book reviewer Kat Kennedy and author James Austen (cw: repeated ableist slurs, discussion of sexual […]

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