Perhaps you have heard that Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly has written a memoir. Called Settle for More, it chronicles her 12-year ascent through the company ranks—including her alleged harassment at the hands of Fox Chairman Roger Ailes and her high-profile feud with American horror story Donald Trump. The book came out this past Tuesday, whereupon the press immediately mined it for revelations about the trolls who threatened Kelly’s life, the campaign lawyers who incited the trolls, and the Uber driver who may have poisoned her coffee before the first debate. But on the book’s Amazon page, its treatment has been particularly strange.
As of Friday morning, Settle for More had amassed almost 400 reader reviews, more than half of which were one-star (the lowest rating). “This woman is not a journalist,” grumbled a representative blurb. “She is an attention seeker … She is also paid by the DNC to report fake stories that have no truth to them whatsoever.”
Another review addresses the owner of the world’s most famous bleeding wherever directly: “Wow get over yourself. Your not that good! … Your treatment of Newt and Trump was inexcusable.”
These are just a few of the submissions that Amazon did not delete on Wednesday (it has apparently since deleted even more) after Kelly’s publicist at HarperCollins—a biased source, to be sure, but still making a reasonable point—noted that the deluge of pans “has the hallmarks of an orchestrated effort to discredit the book and our author.” (Before Amazon’s first purge, a whopping 76 percent of the reports were one-star.) Many comments arrived via a Reddit forum called The_Donald, which linked to Kelly’s Amazon page and hinted, in tones redolent of a Sicilian mobster, “It would be a shame if her biased reporting was reflected in the customer reviews!”
Behold the full force of the one-star Amazon audit, in which negative “reader” blurbs are weaponized for political aims. We now live in a world in which citizens, honoring a very American confusion of consumerism with activism, regularly take their gripes to online retailing platforms. They cast their single stars like shuriken, targeting memoirs by Amy Schumer (“This is the worst book I have ever wasted my time reading”), Hillary Clinton (“if you ever wanted a book that said how wonderful you are then just write it yourself”), and even God (“main character is too full of himself, not relatable” … okay, that one might be a joke.) In March, Brigham Young University campus leaders urged students to write glowing reviews for The Book of Mormon, prompting a backlash among atheist Redditors, who sowed their insults across the text’s Amazon page with an almost religious fervor. Their “activism” resembles the work of the men who blitzed the new Ghostbusters IMDB page with denunciations, rigged a Taylor Swift fan contest to force her on a date with a creep, and highjacked the nomination process for the Hugo Awards two years in a row.
This scary phenomenon essentially means that a small, angry, vocal group can flood a space with fringe views that masquerade as majority opinion. As Arthur Chu explains, such reactionary gamesmanship has a name: freeping. Freeping is a sleight-of-hand that depends on brute force. It originated on the right, which makes sense given its most prominent uses so far: howling about diversity in science fiction, mutinying against lady Ghostbusters, rallying around Trump. In a blog post urging followers to spam the Hugos with votes for space porn, author Vox Day wrote: “Let’s face it, there are just three words to describe the only event that might happen in 2016 that I can imagine would be more spectacularly awesome than Space Raptor Butt Invasion winning a Hugo Award this year, and those three words are “President-elect Donald Trump.” Congratulations, space raptor butt sex guy, you got your wish. Unfortunately for the Megyn Kelly one-star mafia, at least, it doesn’t look like she is going away anytime soon.