05 November 2014
For those who don’t know, Requires Hate was a book reviewer—of sorts. And so much more. Laura J. Mixon analyzes.
In many other situations book reviewers are simply and only book reviewers, e.g., this review and set of progress comments from Blythe that led to Kathleen Hale’s self-admitted stalking, leading to the #HaleNo backlash.
Here’s RHB’s MO:
Using one of her pseudonyms, RHB begins chatter about a writer or a social-justice topic on her blog, a forum such as LiveJournal, or on Twitter. She uses increasingly obscene and insulting language against her target(s). This is done to goad the target (or their supporters, or a particular community) into responding sharply. In their responses RHB finds words or phrases she can re-cast as misogynistic, homophobic, racist, or colonialist (sometimes they actually are those things, but for her purposes it doesn’t matter).
For instance, rachelmanija, a commenter on the Livejournal community 50 Books POC, told Requires Hate (as Winterfox) that it was inappropriate to call Chinese-American author Cindy Pon a “stupid fuck.” Rachelmanija added that the standards at 50 Books POC were different from those of 4chan (a community where anything goes). In response, Requires Hate accused rachelmanija of being racist and implying that Winterfox was a Nazi, because 4chan was a cesspit of Nazis and white supremacists.
Often RHB will then begin to pursue the person she has decided to target, issuing multiple vituperative posts or death threats on blogs they frequent, and/or on Twitter, and/or in the online forum where she first targeted them. She then erases—at the very least—the most violent and abusive comments and posts, leaving the target reeling but with no visible proof that the threat occurred. Often, she deletes everything. Therefore not many screencaps of her worst abuses exist.
However, I received numerous screencaps that had been recovered by her targets or witnesses, and I was also able to obtain copies of a portion of RHB’s now-deleted content via The Wayback Machine. In addition, I received independent emails from both targets and witnesses confirming the substance of the death, rape, maiming, and dismemberment threats RHB has been accused of.
I believe reviews are sacrosanct. However, I believe stalking and threats are not.
Much like Kathleen Hale, Requires Hate is a case where she was doing the stalking, then ironically accusing the other party of doing so.
As Mixon documents, her targets have been largely of color and women, two groups that are already under-represented.
Therefore, as far as award consideration goes, Benjanun Sriduangkaew unfortunately goes in the Sin Bin along with a handful of others. I won’t nominate for awards, and the Sin Binners will be the last I read for award consideration (and not just in that category; on the entire ballot). I still believe the work stands alone, so if I genuinely think it ranks first, that’s where I’ll vote it. That’s never happened so far, though.
Our genre has always had a soft spot for sharp-tongued souls. The person who speaks embarrassing truths has an honored—if discomfiting—place at the dinner table, in our SFF Island of Misfit Toys.
I honor such people (and in fact am one of them)—but only up to a point.
At one point, I read a post about the Requires Hate controversy from the perspective of a writer or reader of color, and it was interesting, and, after reading it, I felt guilty linking to the above without also amplifying a voice of color’s perspective on it. I was traveling at the time, and I appear not to have saved the link. (I remember it being tweeted by Naamen Tilahun, but attempts to look at his Twitter stream don’t go back far enough.)
However, I found this thoughtful post from K. Tempest Bradford, so I’m linking to that, as it brings up one of the points I’d been feeling guilty about with respect to this specific controversy.
In general, I have not been receipt gathering. I value the people who do that work, it’s just not something I think to do. But I shouldn’t have piled on without digging deeper, either. I try to do my own research, and when I can’t, I try to limit my commentary to the part of a controversy I actually understand. This is a case where I exceeded that. I think it’s valuable for me to preserve what I originally wrote, but also valuable for me to fess up.