Politics & Policy

The “Sacking” of O’Beirne

The "Unhinged" cyber-Left gone wild.

What’s this we have here?

Well, naturally, it’s a book review from Amazon.com!

Back in late December, when we put together our annual New Year’s prognostications, National Review’s John J. Miller predicted “a student group called the Womyn’s Liberation Front will sponsor a ceremonial burning of our friend and colleague Kate O’Beirne’s best-selling book Women Who Make the World Worse: and How Their Radical Feminist Assault Is Ruining Our Schools, Families, Military, and Sports .”

John was kidding (sort of). We all knew the moment we heard the deliberately provocative title of Kate’s book that it would get some colorful responses. After all, it comes complete with Roman Genn caricatures of Gloria Steinem and Hillary Clinton, among others, on the cover. And yet, we underestimated how “unhinged” some on the Left can be.

Conservative Pundit’s Sordid Kennedy Connection–Revealed!

Besides a little book-cover graffiti that comes and goes, at a quick glance, you might think that Kate O’Beirne should be pretty pleased. It would appear that, as of Thursday morning, not only had at least 500 people read her new book, but it had made enough of an impression on them that they were compelled to review it on Amazon.com. After all, she’s packed a lot of damning research and arguments between those book covers, and wanted to get something worthwhile started.

But, of course, that’s not quite how it works. There are no truth tests to make sure you actually read a book you claim to be reviewing. And, as anti-Women Who Make the World Worse Internet efforts make clear, the Amazon customer-review and ratings system appears to be easily susceptible to juvenile ideological manipulation.

Kate’s book has been an Amazon bestseller–including, memorably, a “women’s studies” bestseller–since its December 31 release. For the last two weeks, it has lingered among the top 100 sellers on Amazon, and among the top ten in non-fiction. It remains in the top 50 among non-fiction books, despite being inundated with attacks in the customer-review section. It is dramatically beating its most natural competitor, abortion-rights icon Kate Michelman’s memoir, despite left-wing rallies for Michelman’s book. Kate Michelman’s sales rank was 86,239 on Thursday morning. Reading Kate O’Beirne’s Amazon page on that same morning (or Wednesday, or Tuesday…), you might think she deserved a sales rank in the 86,000s as well. Hundreds of Amazon.com visitors have either trashed or applauded the trashing of Women Who Make the World Worse.

To give you an idea of what the comments look like, here’s what I saw when I checked Thursday morning: 124 of 143 people found the review noting Women Who Make the World Worse’s revelation that Kate “slept with Ted Kennedy” helpful. The Ted Kennedy thing does not, as you might have guessed, appear in the book. (And, uh, didn’t happen. National Enquirer, don’t come knocking at NR for your next “love child” story.)

These haven’t been 500 random people taking it upon themselves to do the trashing of Kate’s Amazon page. It’s been a little more coordinated than that. Taking a quick Google tour of the Women Who Make the World Worse mentions, we see that one blogger gives kudos for faux reviewers’ work: “I want to thank everyone who aided in the sacking of Kate O’Beirne’s book Women Who Make the World Worse over at Amazon.”

Here’s how another blogger gave his marching orders:

Go on over there. Get yourself an Amazon account if you don’t have one and write yourself a review of Ms. O’Beirne’s book. You can sign your review with an Amazon ‘pen name’ if you don’t want to be spammed with conservative hate-dreck. The goal is to ensure that Ms. O’Beirne’s book has a one star rating so no one will go out and buy it who would not have already done so.

But, hey, it could be worse, I suppose. At least the majority of the Amazon spammers (maybe that’s the word to apply here? They’re not who I’d invite to my book party.) haven’t told Kate to drop dead, as a poster on the popular Daily Kos site did.

And don’t get me wrong. Her critics have every right to hate a book they haven’t read. It’s a free country. And some who disagree with her actually have taken the time to read the book, as did this Salon writer, who noted after lunch with Kate that she is “the kind of woman you wish you had on your team.” But, elsewhere in cyberspace, the angry campaign to discourage others from reading WWMTWW often doesn’t even pretend to make an effort to respond to the quotes, facts, and arguments Kate effectively marshals. As Craig Matteson, an independent reviewer–one of Amazon’s top 100–wrote in a prescient review that managed to get taken down from the O’Beirne page (long before the she-slept-with-Ted-Kennedy one and hundreds of other silly ones): “I am afraid that Kate O’Beirne will suffer many personal attacks because of this book. Her opponents will simply try to shout her down because they are unable to debate her careful research and clear thinking. Of course, you should read this book and decide for yourself.”

…What the Meaning of “Review” Is…

The whole “sacking” is a shame. Women Who Make the World Worse should incite a constructive debate. That’s not what we’re watching happen on the Net at the moment, however. It’s pretty evident that the most unhinged and motivated of Kate’s detractors have neither read her book nor intend to. Back on DailyKos, “Drop Dead” makes clear: “I haven’t read her book. I wouldn’t read her book. “

Of course, we didn’t really need the admission; the lead customer review on Amazon for a few days now–besides citing “her frequent attacks against the television show, ‘Sex in the City,’” (good luck finding them in the book–they aren’t in there)–says:

As much as I enjoyed this book, I can’t give it more than a single star because it has a fatal flaw. It promotes the most destructive myth of all, the existence of lesbianism. Mrs. O’Beirne discusses it throughout the book as if it is something that is real. She doesn’t seem to be able to understand that women can’t have sex with each other.

There’s not a single mention of lesbians in the book. That reviewer’s got his own vast-right-wing-conspiracy book fantasy going on.

To quote “one sick gook” Michelle Malkin, it would appear the Left, if it is in any way represented by these efforts, has “serious issues”–and not only because Kate O’Beirne just wrote the definitive book on the failure of the Ms. Revolution. Much of the WWMTWW debate on Amazon.com is simply juvenile and speaks for itself. I’d just ignore it, but in the interest of making the world better (that’s the kinda woman I try to be) I’d like to get some of this on record. Maybe it will help the Left admit it has a problem.

“I’ve never seen such a cynical attempt by liberals to torpedo a book’s Amazon ratings,” Kate’s editor at Sentinel, Bernadette Malone, told National Review Online earlier this week. “It’s particularly galling since hardly any of the reviewers seem to have even bought or read the book.” Unfortunately, it may be a trend in the making, however. By late Thursday, I had received book-smearing reports involving Mark Levin’s Men in Black on activist judges and Fred Barnes’s upcoming Rebel-in-Chief on President George W. Bush, too.

Meanwhile, while Kate’s Amazon page is living La Vida Loca, feel free to buy Women Who Make the World Worse at the NR Book Service. Credit to Amazon.com, though, for doing some massive clean-up work on her page Thursday afternoon

And just a final word to the subjects of our intervention attempt here. Don’t worry: Reading Women Who Make the World Worse is Step 2–right after admitting you have a problem. You’ll be helped yet. Just lay off the “reviews,” and get reading.

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