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View Full Version : On Not Blaming The Victim (i.e. PA's Authors)



NicoleJLeBoeuf
02-09-2007, 11:08 PM
Some of you might have already noticed my tendency to plug the Slacktivist (http://slacktivist.typepad.com/) blog at the drop of a hat, specifically its ongoing harsh criticism of the Left Behind books from both a writing-quality and Christian-theology point of view. Sorry, I'm gonna do it again. But this time, though, I'm linking it because Fred's latest post (http://slacktivist.typepad.com/slacktivist/2007/02/lb_casting_the_.html) is as just as applicable to the PublishAmerica issue:


"If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin," Jesus said, "it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck." That's angry. But the anger is directed at the proper target -- at the powerful and not the powerless.

LaHaye and Jenkins [PublishAmerica] are fair game. They have grown wealthy and powerful by causing the little ones who believe to sin. They deserve to have a millstone -- or at least a millstone-sized book review -- tied around their necks.

But their readers [PublishAmerica's authors/victims] -- these little ones -- are already suffering enough. They need our pity and our patience, not our scorn.The Christian context for this commentary may or may not be applicable depending on your point of view. But his point about how readers of damagingly bad books should not be written off as an entire class is almost word-for-word analogous to how we need to refrain, no matter how tempting it is, from writing off PA's victims, past-present-and-future, as being (for instance) stupid enough that their falling for the scam was inevitable, or "obviously PA shills," or any of the wonderful epithets that somehow surface here.

Ignorance makes a person vulnerable to a scam, especially ignorance of ignorance. Sometimes arrogance helps, true, but often that arrogance comes from the ignorance. Cure one state, you cure the other. Neither are permanent character flaws. The ignorant should be educated, not ridiculed. It's PA, the ones who take advantage of new writers' ignorance, who deserves our anger.

Click. Read. Pass it on.

CatSlave
02-10-2007, 12:00 AM
Agreed.

But IMO, the scorn is for the obvious PA minions who tout the company and lead the incredulous new authors astray. They MUST know better, but this is the road they choose for whatever reason: glory, adulation, a feeling of power, whatever. THOSE people deserve nothing but contempt, not the majority of the PA authors who are genuinely perplexed by the negative publicity that PA generates, and who feel that they have been given a chance that no one else will give them.

It's not their fault that they don't know any better. PA has had the time and skill to craft their scam carefully, just barely within the law (maybe) which feeds on the dreams and naivety of the new authors. The people that are being duped are in the majority and do not deserve the criticism which is meant for the company itself and the very few minions who act as its cheerleaders.

Most of the people on the PA forum who praise the company, and praise God for their most good fortune are brand new. It's sad to see and painful to hear what they are saying, knowing that most of them will be singing a different tune eventually. The discouragement and shame felt by the PA authors who finally saw the light can break your heart.

I'm all for bashing PA itself, in any way and at every opportunity. But perhaps in doing so, we could all be more careful to exclude the victims, the authors themselves, and focus our wrath where it belongs: Miranda, Larry and Willem.

I don't think anyone on the AW forum would deliberately kick someone when they're down. PA lurkers, we're on your side.

Just my 2 cents.

Jamesaritchie
02-10-2007, 12:27 AM
Some of you might have already noticed my tendency to plug the Slacktivist (http://slacktivist.typepad.com/) blog at the drop of a hat, specifically its ongoing harsh criticism of the Left Behind books from both a writing-quality and Christian-theology point of view. Sorry, I'm gonna do it again. But this time, though, I'm linking it because Fred's latest post (http://slacktivist.typepad.com/slacktivist/2007/02/lb_casting_the_.html) is as just as applicable to the PublishAmerica issue:

The Christian context for this commentary may or may not be applicable depending on your point of view. But his point about how readers of damagingly bad books should not be written off as an entire class is almost word-for-word analogous to how we need to refrain, no matter how tempting it is, from writing off PA's victims, past-present-and-future, as being (for instance) stupid enough that their falling for the scam was inevitable, or "obviously PA shills," or any of the wonderful epithets that somehow surface here.

Ignorance makes a person vulnerable to a scam, especially ignorance of ignorance. Sometimes arrogance helps, true, but often that arrogance comes from the ignorance. Cure one state, you cure the other. Neither are permanent character flaws. The ignorant should be educated, not ridiculed. It's PA, the ones who take advantage of new writers' ignorance, who deserves our anger.

Click. Read. Pass it on.

How the heck have LaHaye and Jenkins done this? That's got to be the silliest thing I've heard in my fifty-three years. I can't possibly imagine how they have caused anyone to sin? That's just stupid. Moronic. Imbecilic.

What Jesus says is But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

I can't imagine how they've offended the little ones, either? Pretty stupid.

All LaHaye and Jenkins have done is tell the truth about the Bible as they, and literally hundreds of millions of others see it. Razor blade theology is always the mark of an idiot, and that's exactly what taking this one passage out of context is. Idiotic.

Every last thing they've written about is spelled out in the Bible, and in pretty plain language. But I guess only that one statement Jesus made, with the one truly ignorant interpretation, matters.

And most of the 50,000,000+ who have bought and loved the Left Behind books believe exactly the same thing. Because someone else doesn't believe it is a foolish, foolish reason to make these comparisons.

SC Harrison
02-10-2007, 12:52 AM
Every last thing they've written about is spelled out in the Bible, and in pretty plain language.

I don't know how anyone could accurately stretch a few pages of Revelations into several hundred thousand words, but I really wouldn't know. I can't get three pages into any of their books before the clunky and/or over-dramatic prose makes my eyes bleed.

But that's just me. ;)

VGrossack
02-10-2007, 01:01 AM
Hmm. I will say that I think this thread is a bit odd. I can't tell whether the first poster is for or against these books - but I think bringing up "Jesus" is too emotionally-laden for many people to handle. And - no matter how much one dislikes PA, they're not the antichrist. This sort of hyperbole tends to turn people off, rather than persuade them.

KCathy
02-10-2007, 01:08 AM
Oh, geez, it's embarrassing when Christians argue in public, especially about issues that must leave people who aren't Christians scratching their heads about what the big deal is. It's got to be how a Native American would feel if he/she were to see a drunk sibling at a town hall meeting. Do you have to feed the negative stereotypes I'm constantly fighting? I feel like when I admit that I'm a Christian I have to include a half-hour explanation of all the negative things I don't believe, like that I'm better than anyone else or that I have any right or reason to bash other Christians' beliefs when surely there are more important things to talk about, like how to show Christ's love to others or get my own messy act together. Furthermore, I don't like arguing about prophecy when I'm still trying to follow the BASICS of Christ's teachings, like how to be less selfish about driving past a woman walking in the rain.

To address what the post was originally intended to address:

Writers, especially new ones who haven't had time to learn their way around, are so full of self-doubt and hope. It's the easiest thing in the world for them to be suckered in by a group like PA that sounds so respectable and actually wants THEM to write a book.

It must be heartbreaking to find people in the know who tell them their dream-come-true is a kick in the groin. I completely agree that we need to bring the abusers to light and not ask the abused why the heck they didn't see this coming. It seems cruel to tell them, "Oh, by the way, you're a moron for falling for this in the first place." Yeah, it's tempting when they argue with you because they don't want to let their dream go, but even undeserved mercy can only make you a better person for offering it. They're only going to argue more loudly if called names.

How many of us have been fooled, at least temporarily, by something that sounded good? I even showed up, dressed in a suit, for a couple of those interviews advertised in the classifieds as "Make a jillion dollars a week! No experience necessary!" only to find out that they wanted me to make money by selling my friends kitchen knives or fire extinguishers.

CatSlave
02-10-2007, 02:15 AM
Hmm. I will say that I think this thread is a bit odd. I can't tell whether the first poster is for or against these books - but I think bringing up "Jesus" is too emotionally-laden for many people to handle. And - no matter how much one dislikes PA, they're not the antichrist. This sort of hyperbole tends to turn people off, rather than persuade them.

I am not familiar with the books mentioned in the first post, so my comments have nothing to do with them or with the Bible. My concern is that we, myself included, could have been more specific that our criticisms were aimed at PA and a very few staunch PAvidians, not at the majority of PA authors who honestly believe they have gotten a fair deal.

James D. Macdonald
02-10-2007, 02:22 AM
The Left Behind books are badly written and theologically bogus.

Pointing this out isn't an insult to believing Christians.

In the same way, PublishAmerica is a vanity press that uses false and misleading advertising.

Pointing this out isn't an insult to PA's authors.

NicoleJLeBoeuf
02-10-2007, 02:22 AM
Agreed.

But IMO, the scorn is for the obvious PA minions who tout the company and lead the incredulous new authors astray. They MUST know better, but this is the road they choose for whatever reason: glory, adulation, a feeling of power, whatever. THOSE people deserve nothing but contempt....There's one problem here: What's "obvious"?

A person who believes that only idiots fall prey to scams, will be in deep denial when they begin to discover they've been scammed. They don't want to believe themselves idiots, you see. That kind of denial can look a lot like "obvious shill... they MUST know better..." and yet it isn't.

I try to view the word "obvious," when I catch myself thinking it, as a clue that I need to try on the other guy's shoes. Or stop giving myself excuses not to.


AS FOR THE ANALOGY... I'm sorry if I was unclear, but it was only an analogy. I'm not trying to conflate PA with the antichrist or start a conversation about Left Behind. Those interested in Fred's article as it stands should probably follow the link and join the comments thread there. But what I am interested in is the logic of the post: Just as we need to resist the temptation to write off, say, a very bad book series's reading public as all being too stupid for consideration, we need to resist the same temptation to write off everyone who signed a PA contract as too stupid for consideration.

NicoleJLeBoeuf
02-10-2007, 02:38 AM
I chose the original quote not because I intended to confuse the issue with Jesus and end-times prophecies, but because it seemed more on point: Where should the anger be aimed? At the powerful who have led others astray, not at the powerless who have been duped.

However, given the way this thread has turned, it occurs to me that it might have been less flammable to instead have quoted a different part of the article (http://slacktivist.typepad.com/slacktivist/2007/02/lb_casting_the_.html). Again, I've inserted bold text to make the analogy clearer.


This Sandy Huffaker cartoon (http://cagle.msnbc.com/politicalcartoons/PCcartoons/huffaker.asp) is, at best, a case of collateral damage.

At first glance, it seems to take aim at Hollywood [read: PublishAmerica]and the vapidity of so many movie releases, but the sub-Mad Magazine level film titles on the marquee don't pack much of a punch. ("Laffs About Nothing" -- is that supposed to be bad?) So the real target here seems to be the audience [read: PA's authors], represented by the cruelly drawn figures in the corner. The cartoon's most vicious contempt isn't directed at the purveyors of dreck, but at the consumers on whom they inflict this stuff.

There. Now if I've still screwed up and managed to put too much emphasis on the analogy and not enough on my actual point, we can argue over political cartoons and Sandy H. instead of religious propaganda and Jesus. That's probably safer.

CaoPaux
02-10-2007, 02:53 AM
FYI, this the specific cartoon referenced: http://www.cagle.com/working/070101/huffaker.gif

platedlizard
02-10-2007, 11:26 AM
I gotta say, having been the victim of an ebay scam, absolutely anyone can be scammed if you are caught off guard. Many of the PA 'faithful' are intelligent people, and as a result probably don't believe that they are being scammed. Being scammed (and admitting it) is a blow to your self-image. In my case I got pissed off, but didn't take action soon enough to do anything about it. Now I know better, not only do I do my research (always check feedback on ebay, even if the overall percentage is high), but I also know that I could be scammed again, and since I know that I am faster to take action if I think something smelly is going on.

Some people haven't learned that lesson yet, and as a result they don't pick up on the fact that they are being scammed, or get pissed off at the messenger. That's human nature. Because that was me a year ago, I can't possibly blame them. It could happen to anyone.

As for the Left Behind series... my sister loves those things. She's not that brand of Christian, I think she just likes a modern-day Christian Fantasy. I, personally, couldn't get through the first book without at least a couple of wallbangs. Too...preachy. Still, a bit better then Robert Jordan (I couldn't even finish A Wheel of Time), but not by much.

Sean D. Schaffer
02-14-2007, 11:20 AM
I chose the original quote not because I intended to confuse the issue with Jesus and end-times prophecies, but because it seemed more on point: Where should the anger be aimed? At the powerful who have led others astray, not at the powerless who have been duped.

However, given the way this thread has turned, it occurs to me that it might have been less flammable to instead have quoted a different part of the article (http://slacktivist.typepad.com/slacktivist/2007/02/lb_casting_the_.html). Again, I've inserted bold text to make the analogy clearer.



There. Now if I've still screwed up and managed to put too much emphasis on the analogy and not enough on my actual point, we can argue over political cartoons and Sandy H. instead of religious propaganda and Jesus. That's probably safer.


I don't think you've screwed up. I just think people aren't getting the message you intended by the OP. Personally, I saw the message quite clearly.

When I used to cheerlead PA, it was because I honestly thought they were an underdog publisher not being given a chance. I believed their junk about the Publishing Inudstry being against new authors, because it was easy to believe something that spoke more to my emotions than to my ability to reason.

It's kind of like a preacher, in a way, who takes a verse that has nothing to do whatsoever with alcohol or its consumption, and bases a sermon about the evils of alcohol and its consumption upon that verse. When I sat listening to just such a sermon, my first thought was, "What does this verse have to do with alcohol?" But then, as he continued to preach, I began saying, "Amen, brother! Amen!" because he spoke to my emotions.

The same thing can be said for those who've been scammed by PA. Many of them do not know they're being led astray, because their emotions are running the show for them. Like Uncle Jim has pointed out in the past, all they know early on is "Rah, rah, rah! My book is published! Hooray!"

Then, when reality sets in, a lot of people refuse to believe it, because it's depressing to believe the truth. People do not like to feel bad, and in some cases, are willing to believe a lie in order to feel good. Such is the case with many of PublishAmerica's authors. We want to feel good, and many of us are willing to continue pumping out lies to continue feeling good about ourselves.

I honestly believe the majority of PA's cheerleaders either don't know they're doing wrong, or don't want to feel like complete idiots because of how they've been scammed. It's not their fault they got scammed, but there is a large number of people who believe they should have known better, even though they might not have researched the Industry.

spike
02-14-2007, 05:17 PM
Ian,

Very well put. I think you touched on an important point. No should feel shame or embarrassment because you fell for a scam. It's like being embarrassed because you were fooled by a magician.

Con men (and women) know how to play on your needs and your ignorance. In fact, they depend upon it. They are professionals. They know what they are doing.

Should the PA authors have "known better"? Yes there is information on the web. But PA offers a siren's song that says exactly what the author wants to hear. It's hard to fight that.

I almost fell for it, and I have the background that should protect me. First, I'm paranoid and I really don't trust people; second, I've worked the carnival circuit and in casinos. I've seen so many scams.

But still, they almost got me. With their conspiracy stories and that they are the new way of publishing. It's so much easier to believe that there is a conspiracy against new authors when the alternative is that my writing isn't good enough.

Oh, they know exactly what they are doing. Most PA authors made a mistake going with PA and are misinformed. I think we need to keep that in mind.

However, I think it is important that we counter any misinformation that PAMB preaches. It is important to have an opposing voice, that would be victims can see.

If this makes the PA cheerleaders uncomfortable, then I'm sorry, but saving a potential victim out weighs hurting someones feelings.

Julia

Sean D. Schaffer
02-14-2007, 06:51 PM
I know what you're saying, Spike. However, I don't think there's an issue here with giving out information. It's when people start blaming the victims, things get out of hand. It has nothing to do with providing good, solid information. It rather has to do with things like the name-calling we dealt with not long ago, as well as some people sliming guestbooks (I seem to remember a couple bannings here a few months ago for that very reason).

To me it's a matter of showing fellow writers the respect due them. I think there's a saying that goes, "The end doesn't justify the means". If hurting PA authors through our remarks eventually destroys PA, we've hurt the authors nonetheless, which is still very much wrong. I'm certain there has to be a way of hurting PA without hurting its authors.

This has less to do with hurt feelings than it does with our own standards of conduct. If we set a standard for ourselves, but then we don't keep it, people like Clopper, Meiners and Prather, can rightly accuse us of things we know we've done, and in the process take several of their authors with them as they go to the bottom.

Therefore, the point Nicole was making, about offending the little ones and causing them to sin, I think has a good meaning here. If we act out against PA authors to the point they're more willing to bash us and at the same time keep putting PA up, it is, in effect, our fault they're doing it because we would not show them the respect due other writers in the first place.

If we can't hold to our own standards when we talk about PA authors, then they will rightly call us hypocrites, and the scam that is PublishAmerica will continue to fester and grow within their own lives, possibly doing more damage to their careers than it already has done. That is what I'm worried about. It's not that it isn't tempting to call someone a name or to blame them for their ignorance; but rather it's that those things lower our standard of conduct and in essence causes some of the very things to happen, that we are trying to prevent.

I know it's been said that we should focus on keeping more people away from PA. But I would like to point out those people here who have been with PA--myself included--and have learned to go beyond it. In my own case, had I listened to my pride (and I have a pretty strong sense of it) I would never have come here, because I myself was once ridiculed on these boards--albeit anonymously, for which I am thankful. I would never have known anything about the publishing industry that I know now had it not been for AW. But I almost didn't come here at all, because of pride and because of one post where I was told to get a reality check.

So the point I'm making is, hurting a PA author's pride can hurt our cause as well. Getting information out to the average person is of the utmost importance; hurting feelings, however, can literally make it all the more difficult to get that information out to the people who need it the most. Whether they be PA authors now or potential PA authors, pride can go a heck of a long way toward destroying the very work we're trying to accomplish. The ultimate goal, IMO, is not so much the destruction of PublishAmerica, as it is the furtherance of PA authors' literary careers. I do not like the idea of destroying someone's career to bring down a publishing house. The thing is, though, if we hurt the PA authors' feelings, such as their pride, building up their knowledge and their ability to be the writer they really want to be, will be that much more difficult.

That, I think, is the real issue here. Sorry for the extremely long post.

spike
02-14-2007, 07:42 PM
Ian,

I'll assume that my post was unclear. I agree with you. We should not blame the victims.

Can we (I) be more sensitive to people's feelings? Probably. It's a fine line. I can see that you want to help current PA authors and that is a noble goal. I wish you luck with that. I've tried in the past, by emailing people about publishing facts and was met with a resounding, "Who the hell are you and why don't you mind your own business?"

Are there some jerks on AW who elevate their own low self esteem by knocking down others? Yeah, they are bullies. Eventually their behavior becomes so aggrevious (guest book sliming and such) that they get banned. And we are better off without them.

I'm not disagreeing with you.

Sean D. Schaffer
02-15-2007, 03:52 AM
My apologies Spike. I didn't mean to offend you. I guess I didn't understand what you were saying.

I do have that problem; I'm working on it, though. :)

spike
02-15-2007, 10:48 PM
My apologies Spike. I didn't mean to offend you. I guess I didn't understand what you were saying.

I do have that problem; I'm working on it, though. :)

No appologies necessary! Sometimes when I post, my fingers get ahead of my brain. That's why so many of my posts have to be edited!

Ken Schneider
02-16-2007, 02:45 AM
No one blames those who are following a dream. Misguided as it may be.
They will find out the truth, and then the sad realization of being fooled sets in.

It's easy to say that those of us at AW are slammers when PA'ers are in the honeymoon phase.

Many of those same people, myself included, will come here. Apologies accepted pre-visit.