Bloodthirsty marauders are now roaming the Internet in droves, looking for opportunities to vent their frustration in angry tirades against others. With each click of their mouse, they spew venom toward people whose opinions they don’t want to hear, or whose success they are jealous of, as a way of trying to make themselves feel less disenfranchised and powerless.
As our world spins out of control, more people, demoralized and frightened by a struggling economy, terrorist attacks, and gloomy predictions about 2012, sit behind their computers lashing out against society. Just like real world bullies, cyberbullies are insecure cowards who terrorize their victims in a pathetic attempt to prove they are big and strong. Still, people get hurt. And, just like companies are held liable when someone gets attacked on their premises, company-owned websites should be held liable when people are attacked by cyberbullies on their online “premises.” At some point, free speech becomes libel.
Ever heard of “Amazon-bombing”? If not, you are not alone. It’s the new and virulent cyberbullying that occurs when “gangs” of vengeful marauders target an author by posting a barrage of scathing reviews, despite not having read the book. I had never heard of it until now, when the five-star reviews for my latest book, “Bad Girls: Why Men Love Them and How Good Girls Can Learn Their Secrets,” were eclipsed by more than 100 one-star vicious reviews overnight, literally. Why? Because my recent quotes about violent video games causing desensitization to violence and increased aggression hit a nerve with the large gaming community, which retaliated by maliciously using this new cyberbullying tool.
“Bad Girls” is a self-help relationship book, combining psychological theory with reader-friendly prose, to help those trying to survive in the dating jungle. It has nothing to do with video games; but this doesn’t matter to the gamers intent on damaging my reputation and book sales. Needless to say, their brutally aggressive reviews confirm the psychological impact of video games that I, and others, have been warning people about for years.
Whether you agree with my opinions about video games (based on clinical research and other anti-media violence advocacy work) isn’t the point. The point is that Amazon’s policy must be changed to allow people to write a review only if they have a record of the person purchasing a book — and only one review per customer. Even this system isn’t foolproof, since someone with malicious intent could buy the book and post a damaging review. But it would help.
Other authors, such as Cooper Lawrence, Diane Diamond and Jack Thompson, have also been “Amazon-bombed” for various reasons. But it’s not just authors who are damaged. It’s the public at large, which is deprived of the contents of such books if they permit themselves to be fooled by these fallacious reviews.
Growing up in New York City, I, like other little girls, would get pelted by snowballs from little boys who — we were told — had crushes on us. This was small solace as we tried to dodge the painful chunks of snow and ice walking home from school. Now, all grown up, I am having to face more ruthless bullies, who can’t be tossed off as “boys will be boys.” I dedicated “Bad Girls” to helping men and women find the love they deserve — something that is apparently needed more than ever in our cynical and disheartened society. Instead of using cyberspace to target others with negative reviews, comments, or blogs, because we’re scared about the problems we face and misdirecting our anger, we each need to contribute positive messages to heal our virtual and real worlds.
Dr. Carole Lieberman is a three-time Emmy-winning media psychiatrist, relationship expert and bestselling author who appears on top TV shows and hosts “Dr. Carole’s Couch.” www.drcarole.com