I have recently become fascinated by the issue of trolls. Not the Peter Beardsley kind or the big hairy creatures featured in Lord of the Rings, but the people who haunt the internet and all too often (but not often enough) end up in court for saying things they really shouldn’t say.
However, I have a confession to make. I am also a troll. Or at least I am if you use the definition of a troll as being someone who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument. Because I’ve been doing exactly that.
But my target hasn’t been some poor kid, sensitive woman or celebrity sort, oh no. My target has been people who are clearly trolls themselves. And boy, do they get the arsehole when you give them a taste of their own medicine.
I won’t go into the reasons how I became involved in all this but suffice to say, I became a ‘victim’ a few weeks ago shortly after I posted something on a forum relating to writing and in particular the issue of self published authors. Naively, I assumed that as an author who has enjoyed a bit of success, some experience might be welcomed. Oh no.
Within a few hours I’d had everything from my ‘claim’ to have been at #1 on the Amazon sports charts for ever with The Crew to my role on Green Street dissected and dismissed. Not just as irrelevant, but by one individual as downright lies. Yes, that’s right, I made it all up. It’s all a dream.
And this continued, for days.
Now I’ve had to put up with some crap in my time from lousy reviews to death threats from extremist nutters and so a few idiots hiding behind ‘tags’ on a message board don’t bother me at all. I actually found it all quite amusing and so being me, I had a dig or to back.
This of course wound them up even more not least because they quickly realised that as someone who was already established, didn’t care, took everything with a pinch of salt and wasn’t adverse to saying what I thought, they were powerless.
Then, out of the blue, I began to receive emails from people talking about these people who were trying to have a dig at me. And the more I read, the more it became clear that these people weren’t just acting like dicks, they were up to no good.
In short, they are a small group of people who using numerous fake identities and hiding behind some spurious ideal of ‘policing’ the quality of self published books, get their kicks from ripping apart the confidence of amateur and particularly first-time authors. They do this by various means including posting bogus and extremely critical 1 star reviews of their books on websites such as Amazon. These being backed up by other members of the clique as well of course, by themselves using their numerous fake ID’s.
And some of these reviews are vicious, personal even. The very definition of trolling.
The more I dug into what they were and are up to, the more uncomfortable reading it became and so I made an allegation that there was some kind of review mafia operating on Amazon.
They were at me like a pack of hounds with more attacks. I was anti-woman, anti-American, sexist, racist, a bigot, etc, etc, but when this didn’t work they began to employ diversionary tactics. Every time a legitimate discussion would begin or a sensible question asked, it would be hijacked by debates about biscuits, sea monkeys… anything. A typical bullying tactic.
So from that point on, with the help of a few other people who they’ve also had a go at, I began digging into the background to some of these people and what I uncovered staggered me.
In a sense it’s no different from the hooligan world. I’m often asked about the type of people who become involved in football violence and people are always shocked to discover that very few are the knuckle dragging right-wingers they expect them to be. They are instead, relatively normal members of society who simply get off on what goes on at games.
The same thing applies to the reviewing trolls. Amongst the people I’ve traced are kindergarten teachers, lawyers, engineers, IT professionals, you name it. Some are even authors themselves and indeed, are acting in the very manner they are so quick to condemn in others.
But what they all are, are people who you would normally regard as respectable. And here they are for all to see acting in a way which is as far from respectable as it’s possible to get. That is quite scary.
Now I don’t like bullies and I’m certainly not fazed by them. I’m also of the belief that the best way to deal with a bully is to not simply stand up to them, but to name and shame them. This time is no different and in the fullness of time, these people will be exposed.
I already have the real names of some as well as the list of identities they use on various forums but I will only make that public once I am absolutely certain that the evidence I put forward is indisputable.
Not that it matters of course. After all, as I tell everyone who wants to write, if you can’t take criticism, don’t do it. Because sooner or later someone somewhere is going to rip you to shreds and that is often extremely difficult to handle especially when it is based on things which are fundamentally wrong.
The trolls who have infected Amazon and Goodreads will experience how that feels very soon and I hope they’re ready for it.
Then again, I don’t really care if they’re not because it’s coming anyway.
I never get bored of saying this, truly, I don’t. A huge thanks to everyone who is keeping The Crew at #1 on the Amazon and iTunes sports charts. We’re now into out 9th month at the top of the tree which however you look at it, is quite something.
Top Dog is also sitting pretty in the top 3 which proves what I said years ago, that if you give people what they want as opposed to what you hope they might like, they’ll buy it.
My next book, Wings of a Sparrow, is almost finished and then, thanks to the success of The Crew and Top Dog, I’ll be starting work on the third book in the Billy Evans trilogy.
Trust me, it’s going to be the best one yet!