There's trolls and trolls
I am quite experienced with trolls. I have faced down some, I have become friends with others, I have failed with yet others, and have generally survived OK (and with some new friends).
It is funny that some of those it is hardest to deal with are on the Amazon site.
I realise that there have been a number of crises over Amazon comments, especially -- in my neck of the woods -- the revelation that one famous historian had been trashing others in the reviews, incognito. I have to say that I have a glimmer of sympathy for the perpetrator here (only a glimmer). I can imagine how someone might come home late at night, well tanked, and have a go at a few others that they (err) disagreed with, online. I'm a generous soul on this: never done it myself, but I have sent emails half a bottle of wine down, that I later regretted. But what I really can't imagine is why, on this generous interpretation, you wouldn't delete the offending comments in the cold light of day. You would look at what you had written and thought a lot better of it; delete before (hopefully) damage done.
For months now, I have been at the receiving end of this on Amazon, and haven't blogged about it because I suspect any responses in Beard's defence would be counter productive. So please dont defend me!
Someone (going under the nom-de-comment of 'Horoscopy', occasionally backed up by 'Paul') has been claiming underneath every favourable Amazon.com review of SPQR that it has been paid for by me. I started out by engaging, offering a discussion, and pointing out that (happily) different people like different books etc. but it made not a blind bit of difference. Amazon.com have been notified of the problem and deleted the allegations (which have occasionally spread to Amazon.co.uk), but they were simply reposted.
OK you might say, just ignore. And I try to. But there are some things that make it difficult. First, there is the baiting ("Mary, you know what we are talking about...." <vel sim>). But second, and worse, are the charges of corruption against totally innocent commenters who simply say they have enjoyed the book -- and who, I promise, haven't taken a backhander from yours truly.
As I said, please don't go to Amazon to defend me (it will only stir them up), but it is worth thinking about how we get some standards 'below the line' and how we effectively 'police' it. It's not usually a worry on this blog (thanks all), but Tripadvisor is obviously another problem area. I'm not wanting to make a big thing of this. There's no death threats or vile sexism, so live with it... but it is drip drip, damn irritating ... as the trolls know.