Cassandra Clare, author and internet-bullying victim, "on hiatuses and hate blogs"

Fantasy author Cassandra Clare, writing about her experience at the receiving end of some fairly serious and organized internet bullying.

These sort of attacks are so shocking/upsetting because they break the social contract we have come to expect decent people to adhere to: that people don’t attack your personal relationships, that they don’t sneer not just at your friends but at the idea that you might have friends, that they don’t attack the way you look or your family or your ethnicity/religion. The thing is, to the hate bloggers, and to the kind of people who send anonymous hateful messages, the object of their hate isn’t a person. To them, I am not a human being. My family are not real people.

Been there. It sucks. (via Maureen Johnson)


  1. The sad truth is there is no social contract. Bullying (i.e. fear of the other) is far more the norm throughout history.

  2. I’m told that the right of hateful, anonymous internet trolls to destroy the lives of others through organized campaigns of bigotry, sexism, threats and other forms of harassment is one of the most important pillars of Freedom we have.

  3. Remember, the trolls are omega personalities, desperate for attention, and since they’re incapable of interacting more reasonably they fall back on “made you look, made you react.”

    If at all possible, filtering them out is the most immediately effective solution. If they can’t get a reaction and can’t get themselves seen, they’ll eventually tire of punching pillows and go elsewhere.

    The long term answer, as with spam, is that it’s long past time to start migrating to non-repudiable protocols, at least in parallel with the existing ones. Then you could decide whether to let folks post anonymously/falsifiably or not… and if not, screening out the abuse would be that much easier.

    1. Filtering out bullies, at least metaphorically (i.e. ‘ignoring’ them), is the same as reacting because it IS a reaction. It Does Not Work. The bullies see that they are bothering you enough to get you to react by trying to ignore them, which makes them try harder.

      Subtly more difficult, but much more effective, isn’t to filter or ignore the bullies, but to laugh at them. They know you know they’re there, so you show them that despite what they are doing to you, it merely amuses you, or simply bores you. Look down on them with a smirk. They want power over you, so there is nothing more effective to stopping them than showing them that you’re above their tactics. If someone calls you a faggot or a dumbass or a loser or whatever, denying it won’t work, and pretending you didn’t hear it won’t work. Both are defenses that signal to a bully that they have found a potential weakness. Best you can do is respond with a yawn and a dismissive, “Yes yes I’m worthless. I have other things to do now, bye.”

      I wish I knew this when I was a kid.

    2. Shunning would be the real world parallel. I’d like to see every platform have an “ignore” button… no need to waste mental space on oxygen thieves.

      Of course people can always shed their troll personas and recreate new identities, either positive or just to troll all over again. But again, no need for discussion platforms to specifically cater to them. Indeed, persistent profile ID across sites is key to the social business model, so the mechanisms for collective shunning of sociopaths are already well in place. 

    3. Yeah. The trouble with the “just ignore them” response, which is the same advice my mom gave me for dealing with the bullies on the school bus way back when, is that it does NOT make them go away. See, they DO want attention. They DO want a reaction. And if they don’t get it?

      They ESCALATE.

      Until they do.

      The bullies on the bus? When they saw me refuse to react to their verbal attacks and bury my nose in a book instead, or pretend to be asleep? They did not go “oh, well, I guess she’s not going to play, I shall move on with my life.” No, they went “How dare that little b**** act like I’m not here” and BEAT ME ABOUT THE HEAD REPEATEDLY WITH A TEXTBOOK.

      Yeah. Eventually get tired of punching pillows? Maybe. But the thing is, I am not a pillow. And they never seemed to get bored with punching me.

      On the internet? I’m not sure what the equivalent escalation would be from flaming; spamming? Hacking? In-person threats or intimidation? 4-chan pizza delivery? But I’m sure it CAN get worse. Because in my experience, bullies do NOT get bored. They are very, very good at finding ways to stay amused.

      1. I could be wrong, but the difference is that in real life you’re quite obviously just ignoring them.  Covering your eyes doesn’t make you invisible.

        But if you were sending hate messages to me everyday and not getting a response how would you even know I’d read them or not?

        It’s not apple’s and pears, but it’s also not quite the same either.

        1. In her post she actually talks a little bit about that:  “Yes, I can block them, but they keep signing up new accounts… I never know if I am writing back to an actual reader or a hate blogger impersonating one. It is tiring.”

          It also sounds like they setup blogs where they write abusive or fake posts about her, which real fans come across, and then confront her about.

          So they were/are definitely finding ways of getting responses, and attention.

          1. I did think of that after I posted actually – you could probably filter out most direct communication with a few clever filters, but if it’s public then you’ll be exposed to it regardless.

            Either way it must be horrible, and I wouldn’t like to insinuate that it’s no big deal just because it’s virtual.

          2. I think what we’re all dealing with is the fact that there’s no easy solution to bullying, either in the real world or the virtual one. I even know some people who see the difficulty as an excuse to ignore the problem. (I could be wrong but I often get the feeling that people who either don’t see bullying as a problem of dismiss it as impossible to prevent are either bullies themselves or the parents of bullies).

            The only real solution, I think, is for the bullies themselves to think about their actions and take responsibility. But no one can really be forced to change their attitudes. It has to be done voluntarily.

            But I also don’t want to fall in the trap myself of excusing or downplaying bullying of any type. Yes, it’s complicated and difficult to solve and ultimately not preventable, but that’s not a reason to excuse it. I think dealing with bullying requires a broad societal shift in our attitudes, but I can’t make anyone else change their attitudes. I can take responsibility for my own, but it’s a start.

          3. I agree, you could never ‘solve’ bullying – it would be like ‘solving’ jealousy, or ‘curing’ murderers.

            It’s just an unfortunate and ugly facet of being a human being – really we just need systems in place to deal with it. Support/mitigation for the victims and rehabilitation (for want of a better word) for the bullies. I think this mostly applies to more extreme cases though – the smaller scale stuff just chalks up to having basic respect for each other, so as you describe, more of a societal shift.

            I certainly don’t have the answers though.

          4. The only real solution, I think, is for the bullies themselves to think about their actions and take responsibility. But no one can really be forced to change their attitudes. It has to be done voluntarily.

            In the absence of any motivation (other than an impossibly unlikely philosophical epiphany or existential crisis), I can’t see any reason why they would examine themselves or make any changes.

  4. They don’t just sneer at your friends, they sneer that you have friends? This has nothing to do with the internet. This has been around for much longer. Throughout K-12 public school there were always dozens of other students who bullied me and would do the same thing. Tell me I have no friends, ridicule people who got near me BECAUSE they got near me. I even had teachers tell some students, in secret, that they shouldn’t be my friend.

    Of course, school administrators considered me the problem because I was the center of attention of the bullies, so they did nothing.

    This is not new to the internet.

    1. What’s new to the Internet is that (a) they can do it semi-anonymously and with very little risk to themselves, and (b) they’re more likely to find like-minded twits they can show off to.

      Difference in degree, whether or not difference in kind.

      1. Both valid points.

        Though I’m somewhat playing devil’s advocate with this reply… Back in RL, at least in my personal experience in a public school environment, bullies despite not being anonymous still could (and recent news suggests still can) bully with little risk to themselves (the bullies are known, but how often do they actually get punished?), and clearly could and can find like-minded twits to show off to, despite a lack of either anonymity or internet.

        But we’re arguing past each other I suspect. RL or quasinymous internet situations, this is a serious societal problem that needs proper addressing.

        I’m just skeptical that the internet has made it easier to bully, or worse of a problem.

        1. It definitely makes it different, though. A telling example is that most people compare this to schoolyard bullying, something that happens to kids who can’t avoid one another. Because that’s where you ran into it.

          And yet Cassandra Clare isn’t in school, she’s an adult. Now there’s hordes of adult bullying – bigots going after minorities, abusive bosses or spouses, and so on. But have sustained, personally directed attacks from strangers really been so pervasive?

          All I know for sure is that it’s not my experience, though seeing how often K-12 is the parallel, I suspect it’s not quite so common. But it sure seems to happen to a lot of adults, particularly women, on-line.

          Sorry to hear your awful experience in school, by the way. :(

          1. Interesting observation – but lets be honest, I think the reason it’s compared to school yard bullying is because most of the perpetrators are 14 year old boys.

          2. I think chenille may be on to something here. I only have my own experience to go on, but while was bullied in school, in at at least my corner of the adult world being bullied by strangers in any sustained way is unusual. (It DOES get better.) I don’t have any mental frame of reference or vocabulary to talk about this kind of behavior among adults. The comparison to childhood bullying is probably all most people have to go on (especially non-minorities).

          3. most of the perpetrators are 14 year old boys.

            And yet, so many of them turn out to be middle-aged professionals when exposed.

          4. Totally – I must have been sleepy or drunk when I wrote that to be honest, because women can be pretty nasty bullies. I don’t even think I’d say men are worse than women, it’s a pretty gender-blind affliction.

      2. But the advantage is that they’re easier to filter out and genuinely ignore.

        You can’t ignore someone beating on you in real life.  You can ignore emails with slurs in capital letters as the subject line.

        Pro’s and cons.

        1. You can ignore emails with slurs in capital letters as the subject line.

          You shouldn’t have to. That’s the second rule of Bully Club: The victim just needs to toughen up.

          1.  Exactly. It’s your fault it bothers you when they bully you. You’re weak when you let them get to you. Just ignore them. Why can’t you ignore them? Is there something wrong with you? It’s just a joke, why are you over-reacting?

            Telling the victim to just ignore it is telling the victim they deserve it. It’s telling the victim they’re flawed. It’s telling the victim that the situation is RIGHT, not WRONG.

            And that’s bullshit.

    2. The anonymity and the scale of potential impact are different even though the root sociopathy is timeless. Ted Kaczynski versus a local thug.

    1. I don’t think anyone wanted “unfettered internet” so much as “unfettered commons”. And this is a main point of the article: in a real-life commons, such bullies would be shouted down themselves — they would have to temper their attacks or risk real repercussions. (Or the bullies take over the commons, in which case you have no choice but to invoke Godwin’s Law and move to Switzerland.) There has never been any such thing as absolute “free speech” and no one really wants it. There are always limits.

    1. I have never been to that site, but I can already tell it’s probably nothing more than some high-school level gossip.  I mean come on, people.  This right here is part of the fucking point.  Way to promote obvious bullying and childish gossip.  Grow up.

  5. She was a well-known plagiarist in the fan fiction world before she went pro.  In other words, there are two sides to this story.

  6. It’s scary when people call you out on your bullshit, but it’s totally fine when you’re bullying other people!

    Do your homework. This woman does not deserve your sympathy. I have read the so called hate blogs, and while the spelling is shitty and the anonymous submitters occasionally dumb, there is NOTHING scary/threatening/anti-Semitic about them. She just doesn’t like it when people call her out on her slut shaming and perpetuation of rape culture and past life as a known plagiarist. No one mocked her body or threatened to pay her a little visit, as she claims. As for her legal name, it’s out there, it’s not like these little bloggers had do to much work to find it. Hell, she links to an article with her name in it.

    Disappointing when boing boing doesn’t perform a simple google search and conduct some basic due diligence.

    1. Some thoughts on this criticism from a former wanka.

      1) A simple Google search of Cassandra Clare does not turn up all sorts of leads to the things you’re talking about. 

      2) If Xeni were to run across any of those stories, they’re generally told in such a way as to be totally incomprehensible to anyone who didn’t already know all about them AND tend to make the people complaining about Cassandra Clare look a little crazy (or, at least, not like the world’s most trustworthy sources)

      3) Although she was caught plagiarizing fan fiction (in 2005?), I don’t recall ever hearing that she did that again. And, besides that, the vast majority of the Cassie Claire Mythos really honestly can be summed up as “We don’t like this chick so we will find things we do not like about her.” 

      Basically, I don’t understand how you could expect Xeni to reasonably come to the conclusion that Cassandra Clare is wrong and the people who don’t like her are right. 

      1. 3) she was caught plagiarizing in the summer of 2001 (I witnessed it all unfold, it was amazing to watch). She was booted off that same summer. The next thing she did was create a website, along with her lawyer friend, that would support her and other authors, called (later Fiction Alley) and she continued her plagiarism on that website unabated before she went pro in 2006 (ALL her fanfic was taken down etc).

        I think she is trying to scrub her HP Fandom past- dropping the “i” from her name so initial Google searches don’t bring up her Fandom past and the Plagiarism debacle. Barely any mention of HP on her Wiki page, and in an interview with her dad, she is described as an “occasional” fanfic writer, really demeaning what she did in the years of 2000-2006 (she wrote a MASSIVE triology based on the Harry Potter Books, it was probably over a thousand pages by the time she finished and it basically launched her career).

        It’s a shame that she’s trying to whitewash what she did in the past and trying to garner sympathy with this post. Some people are just gullible enough to believe her.

  7. When I read her blog post, I laughed so hard. She was one of the biggest cyberbullies in the Harry Potter fandom. She stalked her critics, tried to push out people from the fandom, tried to make her plagiarism not a big deal (just “because Pamela Dean said it was okay to use her material” not a word from Dean herself on the matter). I was one of the people she bullied big time and I’ve been affected by what she did to me. For me to read that she was complaining about being bullied and omitting the fact that she did the bullying herself. Her personality in that post is not sincere and rings hollow for me.

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