Yes, it’s a bold post title, but at least I have your attention now. 😉 Ready to see what this post is actually about? There is a TL:DR version below, feel free to skip on to that if you want.
Yesterday at 6pm GMT a terrifying example of the cruel nature of human beings hit the internet and spread like a cancerous growth. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I refer to the Live Q&A Twitter Session for ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ and ‘Grey’ author, E. L. James.
Before I begin in earnest let me clarify two points. 1) There is a GREAT DEAL to talk about here. Most of it I’ve no intention of covering – not in this post anyway, as I want to focus on what irks me the most. But I do want to acknowledge that this is only part of the whole conversation that could be had on both #AskELJames and the FSoG franchise in general. 2) My opinions on the books haven’t changed. I haven’t read ‘Grey’, nor do I intend to, but the initial trilogy is still on my Kindle and I have read the lot. Bits of them several times over. I maintain what I’ve said in numerous posts across this blog and state that in my opinion the books are terribly written, lacking in driving character arcs or plot, and are a poor example of any sort of healthy BDSM relationship. Despite that, what I found on the #AskELJames hashtag last night and this morning terrifies me.
I love Twitter. Hell, I love the internet. Through a couple of wires and a keyboard (to dumb it right down) I’m able to talk to people all over the world at any time of the day I want. I remember a world in which computers were a source of fascination for me, let alone something through which I could sit at my desk in Leicester and chat to someone, 140 characters at a time, in Australia.
But when did this incredible advancement in technology give us license to be savage bullies? Because now that I’ve given it some thought, that’s exactly what happened on Twitter last night. A bunch of people who do not know this woman swept online to poke, prod and publicly lambaste her. And not just her work. Very many of the tweets I read were personal and, no matter how I feel about the books, I can’t stand behind comments like that. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t laugh at some of them. I did and while there’s a part of me still chuckling, there’s a larger part of me that’s ashamed for enabling this level of bullying through inaction. Even if only for a a short while.
Nobody would put up with this sort of vitriol in the workplace. Children submitting a peer to this level of concentrated hate would be disciplined severely. So why is it okay on the internet? From supposedly mature and sensible adults?
I’m not going to post examples. Frankly there are enough news articles and remnants of the #AskELJames hashtag floating around to give you all the information you need, but I do want you to think about this: everyone is entitled to an opinion. Everyone is entitled to voice said opinion if they wish. But it is possible to do both things without attacking another person by way of following the crowd/being ‘funny’/’proving’ a point/’letting off steam’.
I can only dream of seeing the level of success E. L. James has discovered with her FSoG franchise (today is the re-release of Sugar Dust, for example!). I’d give a lot for even a fraction of what she’s achieved. But to think that such success opens me up to this level of hate, derision and bullying (which it appears people feel is their right!) makes me feel happy to be tiny, unknown and insignificant in the large scheme of the literary world.
It would be unfair for me to say this much so far without mentioning that some people used the tag the way it was intended. This is reported knowledge as I had trouble finding examples myself – but I’m aware that Ms James was able to answer at least some questions fired her way, while (sensibly) ignoring the others. There were also people who leapt to her defence, for the books (which we’ll have to agree to disagree on) and for her as a person (which I fully stand behind). This small fragment of Twitter users last night reminds me that not everyone is ‘dickish’ – for want of a better word – and that there are those out there who feel as I do . . . always a pleasant discovery! 😉
Anyway, to these people, well done. Good for you, standing up to bullies the same way we’d tell everyone to in any other situation. May you forever showered with snuggly kisses . . . y’know . . . if that’s your thing.
TL:DR Version: The bullying E. L. James was subjected to last night was horrifying and wrong. Nobody should feel it is acceptable to personally attack a person on the internet where they are ‘safe’ and ‘anonymous’ behind a screen. When making a comment out there on social media or an article comment stream, try thinking about it this way: ‘If you wouldn’t say it to their face, don’t say it on the internet.’