Thursday, February 12, 2009

Punish the Victim, Once More (S.Tepper's Untimely Demise)

Have you noticed that the prolific Amazon poster S.Tepper has apparently been banished and all his comments wiped out ('deleted-by-Amazon')? On Amazon.com, whenever it comes to a shill vs a guy with enough civic spirit to complain about it, it's the guy who will lose.

Another telling nuance is that when such a total-wipeout event happens, all posts marked as 'deleted by Amazon' show different dates, usually the date of original posting of the deleted comment — despite the fact that they have all been deleted in one shot on a date that has nothing to do with the original posting date; in fact it can be years later. Obviously this is incorrect, but let's speculate why Amazon would be doing it this way?

Perhaps to create an impression that every post was deleted individually, upon a human inspection, for something being legitimately wrong with it? Maybe the idea was to hide the fact that a lot of such deletions are a gigantic one-blow event, maybe even faceless, triggered automatically, say, by gangs of shills in cahoots clicking with gleeful abandon on the 'report this' button or something similar? Or by one of them operating a bunch of sock-puppet accounts (once more: setting up a voting account is exceptionally easy (amazing that it is so, no?) — all you need is to type a bit of text (any text: gibberish, anything) into a couple of fields on the login page — you won't be able to comment or review (gotta buy something for that), but you will for some reason be given the right to vote).
Unrelately — or rather only somewhat on topic: check out this new post about Amazon reviews system: Amazon: Customers Fight Back Over Fake Amazon Reviews.

20 comments:

Stanley H Nemeth said...

Malleus:
The wiped out STepper is already sorely missed.It might be of use to specify just how banished truth speakers of his ilk, should they so desire, can return to full posting privileges in the notoriously brazen, corrupt kingdom of Amazon. Jeff Bezos' realm, it's now clear, makes tyrannical Lear's Britain seem by comparison the model of a free and open society.

Mark said...

And you don't think that his stalking behavior and over the top comments might have led to his demise?

Stanley H Nemeth said...

Mark:
Not necessarily, since I've seen too many wipeouts occur to those posting comments directed against the top shills, yet in the absence of what you stigmatize as "stalking" or "over the top comments." Clearly, Amazon privileges the freedom for shills to operate without being called to account over any concern for the exposure of fraud or the desire to take action against it.

Malleus said...

Mark said:
> And you don't think that his stalking behavior
> and over the top comments might have led to his demise?
This question cannot be answered: first and foremost because it is improper, and then, as a distant second, because we don't know what lead to ST's demise.

Btw, Mark, have you stopped beating your wife yet? ;-)

Mark said...

>>Btw, Mark, have you stopped beating your wife yet? ;-)

No, but thanks for asking. :)

(Who is single, just for the record.)

Malleus said...

Malleus said:
>>Btw, Mark, have you stopped beating your wife yet? ;-)

Mark said:
>No, but thanks for asking. :)
No? Haven't stopped then, still beating wife. OK! :-) (You're welcome.)

Sea Foam said...

In Mark's defense, and with all due respect to STepper, I did see the writing on the wall for this deletion.

Yes, it could have resulted from shill fans hitting the "abuse" button feature, and that certainly happens. I have no argument with that valid point, however, one can't ignore that the coincidence that those who protest against a shill writer get deleted often because they make the same point constantly. If one checks the Amazon comment guidelines, noted on the bottom right of the comment box, it does state that making the same point excessively is a violation of their standards.

I can't imagine anyone, STepper or others here, not seeing that in anger and frustration over shill reviewers that they aren't making the same comment over and over again and surely STepper's comments of "another faux review" isn't a form of spamming --correct or not.

We can label it what we all like, but constantly going after someone, no matter how deserving or right the cause, IS a form of stalking. Yes, we are attempting to right a wrong, but that doesn't change the definition of stalking and STepper, right or wrong, made it clear over and over again that he thinks HK is a fraud and commented as such endlessly and did so at times, in an over-the-top manner (but we can debate that until the cows come home with no winner emerging).

I hate the phonies on Amazon as much as anyone. I hate the HK's shill reviewers, the Grady Harps who abuse the system to vote for themselves, The Matt Sherwins and their voting circles, the many with endless links to their profiles all over the internet but claim they aren't attention whores like the infamous whiner, C. Scanlon (AKA CW Briggs, and a host of other identities), but two wrongs don't make a right.

I like STepper and thought he made a lot of sense, but, to me, he went overboard in what he said at times and how often he said it, which is what I think was Amazon's reason for the deletion. They aren't big on any form of SPAM (same comment over and over again, even if slightly changed). I share his anger and frustration and all that, but ya gotta reign that in a bit and that would be my suggestion should he come back on as a new identity.

Stanley H Nemeth said...

Sea Foam:
With due respect, it strikes me you're falling into our "non-judging" age's ubiquitous trap, that of the argument from moral equivalence. Your claim ultimately is that "two wrongs don't make a right." But in this instance are they wrongs of equal gravity? Further, isn't there a third wrong here which you ignore, one of far greater seriousness, I'd argue, than STepper's or even Grady's and Harriet's? I refer to the glaring imbalance of Amazon's own moral compass when it chooses which guidelines to enforce and which violations of them to give a free pass. Are you saying Amazon's action in enforcing an anti- spamming guideline, if it was in fact solely Amazon's action, is justifiable because of the company's position against such postings, but that its inaction against the far greater evil, given its guidelines against "self-voting" or posting "faux-reviews" should in this instance be taken in stride? Why pillory STepper at all when his actions are the much, much lesser of two -or, non-grammatically, three - evils? Amazon in its absurd, self-serving, often random enforcement of its own rules is the principal culprit here, and deserves the lion's share of criticism. As the old Italian proverb has it, "the fish rots from the head down."

Malleus said...

Well, Sea Foam: if it's not wrong for Harriet Klausner to fart out megatons for five-star reviews of books she couldn't have possibly read (and therefore surely didn't); and if it's not wrong for Amazon to enable and protect this ripoff racket, surely there's noting wrong with bringing these regrettable facts to the public's attention, at least in order to forewarn people who otherwise may be taken in by the massive phoney praise from the house shills on Amazon and start wasting their hard-earned cash.

Like Barry Goldwater said, extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue. I feel that both of you, Mark and Sea Foam, need to reconsider and refresh this idea -- especially, it appears, the second part of it.

Sea Foam said...

Stan,

I clearly pointed out that Amazon DOES allow the Harps and company free reign as it were and that IS wrong. Also, I was NOT comparing the damage or wrong inflicted, but responding to the notion that STepper was somehow deleted for no reason, or just due to abuse button abusers, or because he took a stance against shill writers and pissed off Amazon by doing so.

Amazon IS wrong in their conduct and yes, Malleus, they are rotting from the top down, but, again, the issue here was presented as to why STepper got deleted and I posted what I believe Amazon's reasons were based upon their guidelines, whether inconsistently applied or not, and whether they allow "greater evils" to occur or not.

In addition, in response to Malleus, I NEVER suggested that what HK was doing wasn't wrong as you opening response to me seems to indicate. Please reread my comments as I clearly condemn her and a host of other cheats and pests on Amazon. I also don't blindly support Amazon either. In addition, I NEVER implied that STepper and any one else didn't have the right to point out a wrong on Amazon (another assumption I think Malleus read into my comments).

My position was and still is that two wrongs don't make a right and that STepper was NOT so innocently just informing us of a fraud, but engaged in spamming, at times harassment with some comments (admittedly open for debate), and stalking. He admitted much of this himself which may have also done him in. Like it or not, his actions DID violate Amazon's rules (fortunately it does not here where we are free to criticize others and I'll take my lumps for my position in light of that freedom, but Amazon's site IS there's).

I am sorry that you look down on my "two wrongs don't make a right" morality and feel it's somehow overly simplistic or that I'm being duped, but that is just my view of things. I don't tell others to live that way or to accept my morals in any fashion. I was simply giving my view on this issue with STepper which questioned why he got deleted.

In addition, I reject that notion, Stan, that to you we can't judge in any way someone's action as being wrong simply because others do it and get away with it or do something far worse, which your comment suggests when you noted "Further, isn't there a third wrong here which you ignore, one of far greater seriousness, I'd argue, than STepper's or even Grady's and Harriet's? "

I believe I VERY clearly stated how wrong those shills, pests, and trolls are when I said how much I hated their actions, so I DID NOT "ignore" the issue of Amazon inconsistently applying their guidelines at all. However, we simply can't look the other way on any infractions simply because others do it too, or do something far worse. Do we not give out speeding tickets to someone going 10 miles over the speed limit simply because there are so many doing 20 more miles over the speed limit? To me, your comment, "Why pillory STepper at all when his actions are the much, much lesser of two -or, non-grammatically, three - evils? " is the same argument.

I don't know how to make it any clearer when I say that I totally believe STepper was RIGHT in making many of his comments and that HK and many others on Amazon are frauds that Amazon continues to inappropriately look the other way with them, but I was not comparing the "sins" here, only adding to the discussion on the ideas of why Amazon deleted STepper's comments. I do believe he went overboard at times and kept making the same assertions over and over again and that leads me to believe why Amazon acted as it did. I NEVER implied that I believe Amazon is innocent or protective of its shill writers or any other such assertion and nor did I imply in any way that STepper's comments were more or less against Amazon's guidelines than the violations of HK, Harp, C. Scanlon, Sherwin and a host of others.

However, in the real world we can't always catch the really really really bad guys or stop corruption and a long host of other bad things, but that doesn't mean we should just look the other way for those that violate lesser laws or guidelines. That's just my stance, folks, be it right or wrong or, as Stan suggests, that I'm somehow being suckered by today's "traps" regarding judgment issues.

Malleus said...

Sea Foam says:
> he issue here was presented as to why STepper got deleted
You're hallucinating, my man. We know very well why STepper got deleted.

>or just due to abuse button abusers,
What do you mean "just"? That's how Amazon enables their shills to censor the site. "Just"? Blowing stuff away via mass clicking on 'report this' -- if it in fact how it works, of course -- is not something that Amazon has nothing to do with: they designed this system and it works they way they wanted it to work.

>or because he took a stance against shill writers
>and pissed off Amazon by doing so.
You don't think this is the case? Hmm... well, what else could it then be?

Deborah Hern said...

I'm going to side - at least partially - with Sea Foam on this one.

Yes, HK is a shill and a fraud. Yes, we definitely need to keep pointing that out to everyone. But I have to admit, when I saw STepper at the top of every HK review comment section, I KNEW that Amazon would use that as an excuse to zap him into the ether.

Is what they did right? Of course not. They're supporting a corrupt system. BUT.... and here's the thing... they have the power. That means that those on the front lines, who post on every single HK faux-review are making targets of themselves. Fair? No. Real? Yes. Because being first and "repetitive" gives Amazon the excuse they need to nuke him, according to their so-called guidelines.

So, what I would propose is a slight change in tactics. Don't always be the first one in there. Don't copy/paste comments. Yeah, it'll take more time to make the point (probably more time than HK takes to churn out her next "review") but if someone uses copy/paste, it's so very easy for Amazon to label that as spam and delete it. Don't make it easy for them!!

If there are several people commenting... not always the same person... and the comments are different... it's much, much more difficult for Amazon to label the complaints as spam. My personal method is to check reviews of books I've read and point out the stupid plot-line mistakes. Probably not as effective, really, but it lets me off the hook as far as 'spam' goes.

We all know she doesn't make any sense. Some people are pointing out that she's plagarizing reviews or slightly rewording backcover or marketing copy. More participation along these lines will show Amazon (and random customers) that there are a LOT of people out there with the same complaints. It'll be harder for them to write it off as 'one guy with a grudge.'

Allow me to be clear: I do NOT think that STepper was a spammer or some nut with a grudge. I just think that particular method didn't work, since he got deleted.

Malleus said...

Yes, that's about right, I'd say. I'm not sure what in your message constitutes agreement with Sea Foam though :-) But OK.

Btw, STepper did not cut-and-paste. He did post under every (or near every) "review" of Harriet's, but he took pains actually to write every single comment. So what you suggest probably wouldn't work either -- because it's about what ST did and they blew him away.


>But I have to admit, when I saw STepper at the top of every HK review
>comment section, I KNEW that Amazon would use that as an excuse to zap
>him into the ether.
Yes, but this is not in any way controversial. Anyone familiar with the situation would expect that much. I think ST knew too, didn't we warn him that he may be blown away any moment?

One thing you said is real imporant to realise though: "Amazon would use that as an excuse to zap him" -- precisely. It is an excuse. That's why I don't really think you and SF are in any sort of agreement. You definitely are not in agreement with Mark, who apparently has no doubts that ST got his deserts. No. You are correct, there aren't any deserts here. It's been a pretext, an excuse.

Deborah Hern said...

Malleus,
You're right that STepper didn't just cut/paste comments. My point, badly made, was that anyone who does cut/paste is pretty much going to be instantly vaporized under the excuse of spam. I do know that STepper made separate, coherent points each time.

I do think my point is fairly valid about always being the first to post a comment on every HK review, though. That kind of thing gives them the ammunition (or 'excuse') they want.

Is there a clear-cut answer? Clearly not. And I doubt that Amazon will ever admit that the shills run the asylum. But I'm going to continue my silly little plot-point stuff. It's the principle of the thing, you know.

Malleus said...

>And I doubt that Amazon will ever admit
>that the shills run the asylum.
Precisely. The highlighted part is, in essence, all I wanted to say in this posting. If nothing else, ST provided yet another umistakable testimony of this fact -- a valuable service in its own right.

Sea Foam said...

Spamming does NOT need to be "cut and paste", but rather making the same point over and over again.

I'm not going to get into an in-depth examination of every word I or anyone said. We'll go around and around for days that way. However . . .


Sea Foam says:
> he issue here was presented as to why STepper got deleted
Malleus: You're hallucinating, my man. We know very well why STepper got deleted.


Excuse me, you don't and it doesn't change the fact that this original post was set up for discussion about his deletion. You can ASSUME and you may even be right, but you don't "know" a damn thing for sure and neither do I. AGAIN, I offered several reasons why he might have gotten deleted having seen numerous similar situations

Sea Foam:
>or just due to abuse button abusers,
Malleus: What do you mean "just"? That's how Amazon enables their shills to censor the site. "Just"? Blowing stuff away via mass clicking on 'report this' -- if it in fact how it works, of course -- is not something that Amazon has nothing to do with: they designed this system and it works they way they wanted it to work.

I said "just" has you folks were trying to make STepper look as innocent as the white driven snow and was "attacked" without any cause. Are we really going to get into examining EVERY word here? Yes, I admitted that people CAN abuse the abuse button system. Where is the argument here with me? I was only pointing out that that isn't the ONLY possible reason for his deletions.

Sea Foam: >or because he took a stance against shill writers
>and pissed off Amazon by doing so.
Malleus: You don't think this is the case? Hmm... well, what else could it then be?

Did I say I was clueless or there were no other possibilities. I clearly labeled several, including the theory that he got bumped off by abuse button shill supporters. What more do you want? I simply didn't think he was so innocent or some martyr for us anti-HK folks. Do I HAVE to agree with you 100% to avoid having my every word torn apart here? Does STepper HAVE to an absolute saint here? You seem to be okay with Deb pointing out how STepper may have overstepped boundaries, but not when I say. Heck, you can't even take note when she does agree with me:


Malleus: Yes, that's about right, I'd say. I'm not sure what in your message constitutes agreement with Sea Foam though :-) But OK.

--God forbid that Deb sees my point at all. She clearly pointed out that HK is a shill (which I agree). She clearly pointed out that STepper posted constantly on her reviews and was nearly the first one too (something I noted and could be viewed as harassment). Deb also noted the spamming issue, which I mentioned earlier and does NOT have to be "cut and paste" comments, but rather the same POINT made excessively.

Well, I'm sure my latest comments will get fully examined again, but I think I've exhausted myself here on this issue,

Malleus said...

Sea Foam, it was me who posted the original post: do you think I might know what it was about and don't need much exegetical help ? :-) Especially since the post is right here, a few inches up from here.

We know very well why ST got banished; he hasn't been the first, and I suspect he's not the last... this was not at question. Also, his posts were not spam because spam is either canned meat or a commercial advert of some sort (and -- although this is beside the point -- it usually is cut and paste because the main characteristic of spam is that it's sent out massively, literally to millions of addressees, and you can be sure no spammer sits there composing a personal message to every recipient of the promo). Spam is a commercial promo.

The surgeon general warning on cigarettes, otoh, is not spam (though it is, like you say, "making the same point over and over again.") And neither were ST's posts spam, but Amazon owns the site and they do not allow anyone to bother their shills too much, and they will come up with a pretext when they want one, for example declare anything spam. In fact, they don't explain anything, did you know that? They don't tell you, well, dear sir, you're a goner because you have spammed. What happens is one day you discover your messages are gone (with a phony deletion date! amazing) and you can post no longer, and that's that. No explanation. So you kinda have to guess (or ask: then they'll tell you something, not shying away from outright BS, btw). So it's hard to know formally why one gets bumped off. But we don't need this formality, since no one ever got bumped off for posting megatons of cut-and-paste "great review!" notes: otherwise guys like JP Pix wouldn't last there at all. So, when "making same point repeatedly", it's the point you're making that'll get you in trouble, not the repetition. Just like Stan said, you can get disappeared w/o commenting, like Tep, on every review. Only some would do fine! (happened many times in the past). Where's the difference between "spam" and "not spam" then? It is, as always, in the eye of The Beholder, and what The Beholder seems to care about is not repetition anything, but that the shills be left unmolested.

A little may be OK though, may be tacitly let be, just to keep some supreficial semblance of fairness -- and it's not too expensive either, 'cause Klausner posts so much that even if one or two of these "reviews" do get somewhat spoiled by discussion, it's insignificant in the overall scheme of things, where the customer doesn't read all her reviews, but sees only one, and since it's unlikely to be the one commented upon, all is good: he won't know any better and will buy that "suburb historical", kaching! thanks, Harriet, next please. That's precisely why it makes perfect sense to attach a warning to every single one of her reviews: then this warning will be effective 'cause it will be seen by everyone reading her reviews -- and it is precisely this that Amazon won't allow to take place. Though they really should not just allow this, but be doing it themselves, w/o relying on a memeber of the general public willing to waste half his life on posting these warnings. It's their customers, not ST's, and if the customer is king, then it's up to them to warn him of the shills. Of course, they could then get rid of the shills to begin with.

All of this also bears on your "you folks were trying to make STepper look as innocent as the white driven snow". Jeez. STepper is better than innocent! He was actually doing something, and what he was doing was a Good Thing. Perhaps you disagree, but then... you know, I read very carefully your notes above, and I can't quite understand what it is you're arguing? On one hand you say you don't like Amazon shills and Amazon's stance towards them, but otoh, you then continue "you folks were trying to make STepper look innocent", so STepper is guilty of something in your view. But it can't be both, can it?

Stanley H Nemeth said...

This discussion has raised a serious question in my mind: could a contemporary audience recognize actual sacrifice, much less tragedy, when it occurs? Granted we're dealing in Klauzner/Amazon/Tepper with a tempest in a teapot, still I'm astonished at the eagerness of some folks to get hung up on the contribution of the rule-violating "victim" to his own demise. Sophocles' Antigone, for instance, clearly violated Creon's "rule" forbidding anyone to bury her brother. A solid sense of justice led her to defy the rule in order to do the more important right thing. It is her clueless sister Ismene who tells Antigone in so many words, "You've violated Creon's rule and thus brought expected retribution upon yourself. No surprise in that." To Ismene, burying the brother - a noble action - takes a back seat to Antigone's "ill-advised" violation of the rules. Shakespeare's Cordelia in "Lear" similarly breaks worldly decorum by refusing to flatter her father as he's demanded, and she is banished as a consequence. Her malicious sisters are the ones who harp - though insincerely - that she has "scanted obedience" and thus brought hardly surprising punishment upon herself - i.e. "No victim she, despite bravado!' Presumably, she should have known better. Much closer to our time, Rosa Parks defied the law by not obediently sitting in the back of that infamous bus. Were hers a current action and had she, say, suffered dire consequences for it, I'm curious whether some of our commentators would emphasize first of all that she was hardly a victim for she knowingly broke a law that had been clearly articulated. From where does this odd readiness spring to implicate a noble actor in his or her own downfall? My suspicion is that it comes from the unrecognized wish in many cases to deny the inevitability of tragedy. If Antigone had only let her brother's corpse molder on that dungheap, the dire events of the rest of the play might have been avoided. Similarly, if Cordelia had not been "proud" and had flattered the old king instead, much tsuras could have been sidestepped, with happy faces donned at the finish, and all of us still enabled to believe that we live in an ultimately rational world, one in which every person is in control not only of his actions but more importantly of their outcomes. A much less scary vision than the notion that one can be far "more sinned against than sinning" or that sometimes irrational "shit happens."

Malleus said...

>From where does this odd readiness spring to implicate a noble actor in his or her own downfall?
>My suspicion is that it comes from the unrecognized wish in many cases to deny the inevitability of tragedy.

This is a very interesting question. There's one 'however' I'd like to add, perhaps redundantly: asking this question assumes good faith on the part of those "ready to implicate". Which, being a crude cynic that I am, in most cases is giving them far too much credence, I believe.

Iow, when I see someone someone doing his utmost not understanding something simple and obvious, what I immediately suspect is fraud, not deep psychology. Most people concentrating on Amazon rules -- as if they were The Moral Rules of the Universe, rather than a pile of self-serving, hypocritical, and evasive shit from a two-faced commercial organisation -- are likely to be one of those belonging on the other side, along with the rest of shill. If you look at the guys spewing this, you'll discover they're themselves not so different from Klausner, except perhaps they don't do their thing with the same schizophrenic abandon as Our Lady of Fauxreview here.

But that aside, you raise a very curious question. I think that when a weak person faces inavoidable oppression, he will be motivated psychologically to justify the oppressor and re-imagine the situation so that the error would be his, the victim's -- and therefore retain an illusion of being in control of the cituation (the world isn't terrible, it's I who is wrong, so I'll change my ways (unlike changing the world, this I can do) and all'll be well again, whew). In our case though, great stupidity would be required to overlook the smallness of the oppression. It's just a god-forsaken site by some book-selling company, c'mon. Why engage in such mental self-mutilation, it's not bad enough for that -- at the very least, one can simply leave there. Unless they're professional shills there and don't want to leave, which is probably what it is, so I'm drifting towards my initial cynical interpretation. :-)

Is that what you were saying or did I misunderstand your theory?

> much tsuras could have been sidestepped,
Much what could be sidestepped? :-)

STepper said...

Hello, eveyrone. Thanks for your kind comments. I haven't been here for a while, trying to recover from my Internet extirpation by Amazon.com.

I have heard that people are warned before Amazon extirpates them. That did not happen in my case.

I had just ordered the Kindle2 and went to the website to read Harriet's latest bullsh!t when I noticed that I no longer existed. Or, that I had been paralyzed and was able to view my non-exoistence, but do nothing about it. When I tried to post something new I was told that I was not a member in good standing of Amazon's "community." (Community of fraudsters and dupes?)

I was able to get into my order account, so I canceled the Kindle2. I'm not going to be buying from a shill-fueled site any more.

I was unable to get into my personal profile, so WYSIWYG. STepper's account will be there forever, along with the Frog Princess photo of HK.

A couple of days ago I tried to sign in as a new persona, Stepson. But, sadly, I was required to buy something from Amazon before I could post. (I doubt HK has had that problem.)

There is no question that in a way I was stalking HK. More correctly, I was stalking her reviews and her fraud. I had seen Ghost wiped out, and heard of others. And I saw with amazement that many people were finding my reviews as not contributing to the discussion. So I always knew it was only a matter of time before I was wiped out.

One final thing. I wrote 3 detailed e-mails to Jeff Bezos (and his handlers) and got 3 non-form but still unsatisfactory replies about HK's shilling. They promised me they would read every review and then take appropriate action.

Apparently their idea of taking appropriate action is to protect their fraud.