If you follow me outside of these pages, you know that this website is pretty much the only politics-free zone I have on the Internet. My philosophy is that most fans don’t really care what writers, singers, actors think about politics. And why should they? That God gave me the ability to occasionally write a decent scary story doesn’t mean you should care what I think about the corporate tax code.
But if you friend me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter, then you are going to hear what I think. I try to be respectful of everyone, but I am also honest about my views. That has never come back to haunt me.
A couple days ago, a fellow author—and at the time Facebook friend—advocated for the death of a politician he disagreed with. The extent of that conversation is as follows:
Him: Death to [politician he doesn’t like]
Him: Yeah let’s give him their favorite execution cocktail.
Me: That seems…extreme. And possibly criminal.
Him: Not nearly as criminal as the man’s career.
Me: Which includes murder?
Him: Read up on him.
That was it. I shrugged my shoulders and went to bed. The next morning I noticed that my rating on Goodreads had dropped precipitously. The reason? My fellow writer had one-starred everything I’d ever been involved with—every anthology, every magazine, every book. And just to be safe, he also one-starred everything by anyone named Talley, hitting a sports writer and a mystery writer, both of whom are utterly unrelated to me. All this to punish me for my “support” of said politician.
It was a crazy and pointless thing to do. Other writers rallied to my cause, and eventually the ratings went away. But that’s not what I want to talk about here. The question I have is when, if ever, is it appropriate to take action against an artist with whom you have a disagreement? I think the answer is both never and whenever you feel like it.
First the never. It is never appropriate to rate or review a book you haven’t read. Period. A rating is a message to the people who see it. You are saying, “I read this, and I felt this way about it.” So when you rate a book you haven’t read, you are lying, betraying the trust of the person who sees your review, undermining the entire system of reviews on which the industry relies, and committing literary slander. Honestly, there is little you can do as a reader that is worse than abusing the rating system to make a political point.
But that’s not to say you have to support people you disagree with. Just as life is too short to read bad books, there are plenty of wonderful works out there by people whose political views don’t drive you up the wall.
Having said that, I personally have never employed that approach. I like to be challenged, and reading people who think the same was as I do on everything gets, well, boring. Very boring. And it will make you an insular, narrow minded person to boot. The kind of person that thinks anyone who disagrees with you is evil.
And that, my friends, is nothing short of tragic.