Amazon reviews are easy to poke fun at. Like Yelp reviews and other crowd-sourced assessments, they tend to focus on some element of the book that’s irrelevant to most shoppers, but a sore spot for the reviewer himself. The texture of the cover is waxy! The margins are too wide! One star!
But, recently, a noxious habit of reviewers on Amazon and Goodreads has been revealed. For several titles, including YA author Laura Silverman’s Girl Out of Water and Fox News journalist and commentator Megyn Kelly’s Settle for More, Trump supporters have turned out en masse to influence the books’ ratings, leaving a trail of salacious comments in their wake.
The Los Angeles Times wrote that the one-star reviews racking up for Kelly’s book appear to have been spurred on by a call to action on a Reddit thread called “The_Donald,” which encouraged users to “trash” Settle for More, regardless of whether they read the book or not. Many of the dubious reviews have since been deleted by Amazon. (Before Amazon took action, 76 percent of the reports were one-star, Slate reported.)
It seems possible that several of the remaining commenters still have not purchased or read the book, but are instead using Amazon as a platform to attack Kelly’s character. One reviewer, Jan Phelan, writes, “This seemed like a vindictive story written to demoralize powerful men in order to elevate her status as a ‘powerful Woman.’”
Another, SamaZon, writes:
The victimization “poor me” card isn’t working. It was “poor Megyn” when Trump allegedly went after her. Professionalism had nothing to do with Megyn’s rudeness to Governor Mike Pence just before the now infamous verbal tangle with former Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Another, Cody, simply protests too much:
As someone who bought the book, it sucks plain and simple. I’m not a republican or a democrat, I hate that the two are fighting and it is spilling over to our review section. This is a self serving pile of trash, she is nothing but a opportunist and a vulture. I forced myself to read the whole thing and I felt like I was going to puke while doing so.
Slate rightly points out that Kelly isn’t the first author who’s been targeted by a small but loud group of provocateurs; Amy Schumer’s book also has a curiously disproportionate number of one-star reviews.
Earlier this year, the Hugo Awards, which rely on fan votes, were co-opted by a group of white men demanding a return to the good ol’ days. Which all raises the question: is crowd-sourced reviewing really democratic? If only the angry, the indignant, turn out to weigh in, platforms like Amazon’s reviews can easily spiral into nesting grounds for hate.
Better, then, to complement your weedy forays into user reviews with more rigorous analysis.