Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Will Amazon stop the nutcase(s) spamming Freedom w 1-star reviews?

Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom had close to a 5-star Amazon customer rating this weekend, but it’s been driven down to 3 stars in the past few days by a barrage of short, extremely similar reviews, essentially critiquing the title, and Oprah.

They were coming in about one every minute yesterday. The gist was: How dare you call Freedom a bad thing. A few samples:

  • "Brain washing stuff about saying freedom is a bad thing, when this is what American's have fought for for many years .”
  • “ It seems like the author is trying to say that freedom is bad. What happened to our Constitution? “
  • “ No Freedom = Slave."

Quite a few of them trounced Oprah specifically, often for heading a "globalist" conspiracy. A few choice quotes on that:
  • "Everything about her is about how we need to die for the earth for earth based religions which is Luciferian."
  • “Oprah picked this book for her book club pick? This is a United Nations brainwashing trash book. Oprah is a member and donor of the United Nations. No wonder that this book is her pick.”

When I started writing this post a few hours ago, the book had 48 1-star reviews. Now it’s up to 52.
It sure looks like one person is writing all of these. Another possibility is that some group has organized an attack, writing from a standard set of (whacko) talking points.

Either way, these are clearly not indicative of the public response to the book. The ranking is not doing readers a service: it is misconstruing how most Amazon readers seem to assess the book.

I’ve seen these ridiculous attacks before, and they undermine the usually very-useful service the ratings provide. I’m sure Franzen can weather the attack, but I hate to see any work of art maligned this way. (BTW, I’m only 30 pages into the book, but I’m kind of in awe of his talent so far.)

Amazon should start screening better, and/or exert some leadership in this case.


  1. Thank you for bringing this up - it is so infuriating! The book, by just about any objective measure, is brilliant. Contrarians and whiners should not be given equal voice to those who provide thoughtful reviews evaluating the merits of the novel. Cheers to you!

  2. Thanks, Greg.

    I think everyone has a right to be heard, and a right to a vote, but this person or small group is trying to game the system with a wildly inordinate number of votes.

    And it doesn't appear that many of them have even bothered to read the book.

  3. "Mr. Franzen doesn't believe in God." Hallelujah! Neither did/do a number of the world's most brilliant writers.

    The book doesn't really have much of a political message. It does reference environmentalism, population control, and conservative think tanks, but it's not really a book with a solid suggestive political idea.

  4. They don't even know whether it's political. They would have to actually read it.