That might has well have been the headline for this Daily Mail article about the problems with anonymous reviews over at Amazon. Essentially, the story is:
Alongside details of a book for sale, the [Amazon] website offers supposedly independent verdicts from customers, including a rating of from one to five stars.
However, rival publishers are accused of hijacking the system to praise their own volumes and disparage the opposition.
Authors are turning on each other, agencies are charging up to £5,000 to place favourable fake reviews and Amazon has recruited a team of amateur critics to restore the balance.
Which, you know, what-the-hell-ever. Writing malicious reviews about a competitor under cover of an anonymous pseudonym isn’t new. Recruiting other people to do so for a fee quite likely isn’t new either. Neither is recruiting yet more people to provide positive reviews in the name of “balancing the books”. (Although, the hefty price tags attached to these services might very well be!) Whichever side of the fence you’re on, it’s a tawdry business, and if you get caught, you will deservedly look like a scoundrel and a cad.
What really got under my skin, however, was the headline:
Women writers at war over fake book reviews on Amazon
Excuse me, but who now? As we all know, men are just as likely to make dicks of themselves over in the Amazon review pages, and in fact the article specifically mentions a male author — Simon Winder, who even garners a photo — along with two female writers, Rosie Alison and Polly Samson, who has had trouble with malicious and anonymous reviews.
To be fair, the text of the article itself doesn’t seek to make any mileage from the gender thing and I wouldn’t have given it a second thought if not for the headline which primes us to read the piece as one about catty, vindictive “women writers” from the very outset. It’s not “writers at war” — it’s “women writers at war”. Yeah, it’s probably just an overenthusiastic sub-editor with a penchant for alliteration. But that’s kinda the point, isn’t it? That these sorts of inappropriate headlines are still being written? After all, if the authors in question were all male, I very much doubt that the headline have read: “Male writers at war . . .”
Grrr. Cross now.