Friday, December 26, 2008

"The Fish Rots From The Head Down"

I've raised this issue before, but I've usually been met with skepticism as to its likelihood. Reading the Klausner threads and seeing the proliferating number of readers who document her glaring errors, question her actual reading of just about anything she "reviews," doubt her ability in any event to read so much in so short a time, and express wonder at Amazon's benign neglect of her offenses, I'm forced once again to ask whether Amazon itself - or certain of its staff-members - are not in some way active enablers of the Number One Reviewer. The only people who'd stand to lose by such tolerance of fraud would be paying customers, not publishers nor bookseller Amazon. Perhaps my mind has in this matter a malicious bent, but I keep on thinking of the old Italian proverb, "the fish rots from the head down."


Malleus said...

Since there's actually a lot of "reviewers" like Harriet Klausner, and since it'd be very easy to rein them in -- at least as far as the most egregious offences (like Harriet's posting hundreds of reviews every month), one must assume that your guesses are correct, and the malicious bent of your mind is nothing to deplore.

STepper said...

Hello fellow readers. I was just "accepted" to the HKAS. Thanks for the confidence you have reposed in me. (Should I do a two paragraph superficial and inaccurate synopsis of who I am and then a one sentence gush recommending myself?)

I have been an Amazon user for a long time, and rarely gave the reviews much credence. Indeed, I rarely looked at them. And then, last January, I was victimized by a book entitled Debatable Space by Philip Palmer. It was truly one of the worst pieces of trash I had ever tried to read. (Failed after about 15 pages.)

I decided to warn others about this garbage and went to Amazon. I was amazed -- no stunned -- to see a favorable review by the Charlatan. I commented underneath it (not realizing at the time I could post a separate review), and someone else gently nudged me to post separately and made some subtle comments about the Charlatan.

I looked around then, not very interested, but after that I posted a couple of other times for other books, with my comments, clearly not "reviews."

And then last week I fell into the world of Harriet Klausner again. And it is a remarkable cyberplace. And that it includes many other players in addition to the Queen of the fauxreview (as I have so immodestly named her).

On the one hand I can see that railing against the Charlatan and her emulators is just pissing in the wind. But on the other hand, the lawyer in me (37 years come January 5, 2009) sees a massive RICO case against Amazon. While it's true Amazon can't control all of the content of the tens of thousands of people who post, Amazon does have an obligation to curtail massive fraudulent activity, especially when to turn a blind eye financially benefits Amazon.

From what I have read the last few days (when the Charlatan has been very quiet -- only 4 faxureviews on Christas) the Charlatan excretes or sprays sometimes up to a hundred (or more!) reviews at once onto the Amazon site (and elsewhere; but this is about Amazon). I have run a few blogging websites and I can tell you that it would be almost impossible for all those reviews to be published in a short time period on most sites without the tacit approval and cooperation of the website proprietor. In other words, I wonder if the Charlatan has Amazon's cooperation in queueing up her fauxreviews and getting them ready to spray, I mean post, on the Amazon site as the new books they promote come out.

I can see that Harriet excretes her fauxreviews well in advance of publication dates. On a couple of sites that aggregate the Charlatan's defecations, there are fauxreviews for books (or alleged books) that are supposed to come out in January, February and March 2009. So, there already is a stockpile of this trash preserved electronically. Does anyone know if her reviews all appear at once? How complicit is Amazon?

It seems to me, from my recent browsings, that Amazon changed it system and de-notched the Charlatan not so much to restore order or legitimacy, but to give other reviewers and fauxreviewers a chance to claim the top spots.

Since I suspect Amazon continues to benefit from the excrement chruned out by the Charlatan, and they don't stop it, they may be liable for interstate wire fraud. Multiple instances of wire fraud by a company can be. definitionally, racketeering and a RICO violation. If Amazon aids her in the actual postings, then Amazon's culpability is even more apparent.

Malleus said...

Welcome, ST, we're glad to have you. About a three-'graph intro, hell, yeah! Just for fun. :-)

That's a good article you posted, nicely written and eloquent (what a pleasure after HK and Harp prose!). I quite agree with what you say. Now, one thing, you say you're a lawyer and you see some potential legal issues with reviewer fraud. That's very interesting, I think. But at the same time, I would imagine Amazon has a legal department and they must know what they're doing, no? There must be something that makes this safe for them.

STepper said...

Malleus - I'll spare you the 3 graph blurb since my slipcover is getting old, my marketing materials are no longer attached to the volume and I don't have Harriet to fulminate in my behalf. (You have my real e-mail address, so if you Google me you'll know I'm legit and have some interesting hobbies.)

Amazon and other ecommerce sites, like eBay, have lots of lawyers. But their (the sites') prominence and pioneer status have fed their hubris. At some point they'll both get taken down, big time. In eBay's case it's for a different reason, but in both cases it involves solicitude about fraud.

Harriet Klausner as a phenomenon is pretty easy to understand. So, I'm interested in the mechanics of the cozy relationship between the Charlatan and Amazon. How well do they take care of their shill? What special favors does she get? I think they have some kind of an "arrangement" to help her post in bulk. (This would also be true of others who shill for Amazon, too.)

We probably won't be able to get this information about the relationship between the Charlatan and the other fakes directly from Amazon -- at least short of litigation -- but we should be able to infer what happens from circumstantial evidence. I'd like to know if the next 50 or 90 or 105 reviewes all show up at the same time. Unless the Charlatan has an infinite number of computers queued up to post in the Amazon interface at the same time, Amazon is providing technical support.

I am a bit worried, though. Nothing from the Charlatan since Christmas.

Malleus said...

Yes, I think you're right in that we won't find anything definite out, how would we? To infer we may (some things). About batch posting, I'm not sure. It would be hard to catch an event like that even if it did happen (short of constant monitoring of the site). But short of that, she does post large numbers of reviews sometimes, although there's nothing to suggest those have been batch postings: they could have been done one at a time. Why is it important? I mean, to find out if there's a batch capability.

> I am a bit worried, though. Nothing from the Charlatan
> since Christmas.
Eh, don't worry. She's been idle up to a week before. Then, one day, the floodgates open :-)

Stanley H Nemeth said...

RICO!!! The uncorrupted part of the spirit of the 60's is alive and well in you! S Tepper, you are at one and the same time astute and mercilessly witty, the unbeatable combination. I look forward to reading your future contributions both here and on the Klausner threads. In Shakespeare's "Henry VI," there occurs, of course, the famous quotation concerning what's needed for success in a revolution -"Let's kill all the lawyers!" I now see in our present tempest in a teapot the need to add to the quotation -
'Loonies, whatever you do, don't you dare mess with S Tepper!" Welcome aboard.

STepper said...

Here is a website, apparently operated by the Charlatan, with dozens of fauxreviews queued up to be excreted on various websites when the book seller sites will allow. There are dozens of fauxreviews of books to be published in 2009.

So, it is clear that the Charlatan is working well ahead of publication dates with ARCs.

I suspect she has already submitted these fauxreviews to websellers electronically and that batches of this excrement are posted around the publication dates by the websellers themselves. If so, this would demonstrate their complicity in the fraud that is Harriet Klausner. Not requiring her to use the public submission interface goes beyond solicitude and becomes active conduct promoting fraudulent reviews -- which happen to be 4 or 5 star reviews exhorting purchase of the book sellers' products.

(Stanley - Thanks for the welcome. "Let's kill all the lawyers" preceded an attempt to overthrow the government, so it's widely misquoted and misunderstood. Imagine -- lawyers as a bastion ofthe status quo!)