Warning, I am about to go on a rant.
An author I am friends with on Facebook posted a link to this article this morning talking about negative reviews of classics. Even though I am not posting much on Amazon any more, I am still reviewing regularly at Epinions. And after all those years reviewing at Amazon, I am still curious about what is said about things over there.
As I expected, the author of the piece picked some truly horrid one star reviews to mock. And I will also admit I don't see much point in some of them. Heck, the read more like rants of people who were forced to read the book than honest reviews by someone trying to point out the good or bad of something.
However, having left some negative reviews of "classics" (both books and movies) and getting some nasty comments in response (I had people joining Epinions to tell me how wrong I was to dislike The Dark Knight), I couldn't help but feel sorry for the people being mocked. And let's admit that was the entire point of the article.
But then I started reading the comments. I was blown away by the snobbery expressed there. Most of the responses were by people saying, "Any idiot can leave a review" (which is true) "and the fact that people are expressing their lack of intelligence shows what is wrong with this country." Heck, some of the commenters I read concluded that all these people must be stupid GOP TeaBaggers.
Which I found ironic considering how at least one person commented on how the Internet has allowed people to say things behind anonymous user names they would never say to someone face to face. Exhibits A-E were on the same page as that post.
Now, in all fairness, there were some people bringing up the point I would have made there if comments were still open. And since comments aren't still open there, I am going to make it here.
Some of the comments read like teens letting off steam after having been forced to read the book for English class. And I read some "classics" that were pretty bad. I also read some books for school I enjoyed. Many people said they reread stuff they hated in school and loved it as an adult. Opinions can change. There's nothing wrong with that.
But the thought the kept entering my mind was, what ever happened to differences of opinion and freedom of speech? Just because a book is a classic doesn't mean that every single person on the planet will love it. It doesn't make the book any less valuable. It doesn't mean that person is an idiot. It just means they didn't like the book. Shrug it off and move on.
But what scared me more was the underlying idea that these people shouldn't be allowed to post at all. No, no one actually came out and said it. But I felt several of them felt they should have just kept their opinion to themselves. That's just wrong.
Now I will sometimes read negative reviews of something I loved (or the other way around). Sometimes they help me shape what I think about the book a little better. And sometimes I just shake my head at how the person missed the point or didn't see how horrid it really was. Yes, there are times when the review just seems stupid to me, and some of the reviews posted are more on the stupid level than the thoughtful review level. But I never feel like a review should be taken down just because they disagree with me. There may be other people out there who will benefit from knowing not every person on Earth liked the item in question.
You know, if you don't like something, give some thoughtful reasons why. Don't just name call or call for them to shut up. Your response shows as much about you as it does the person who left the original comment.