Friday, July 3, 2009

Is Alice Hoffman a Cyberbully?

Alice Hoffman is a writer of some standing, having authored some bestsellers including "Practical Magic," which was made into a film with Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock. Her new book received a less than glowing review from an author named Roberta Silman, writing in the Boston Globe.

Alice Hoffman did not like getting a negative review. She took to twitter and posted some very mean things about Ms. Silman, who is a respected writer in her own right and "recipient of both a Guggenheim Fellowship (1979-80) and an NEA Fellowship (1983)".

Hoffman's twitter account has been deleted, but Gawker has some screenshots of some of the nasty things that she posted about Silman. Among the things she posted:

“Roberta Silman in the Boston Globe is a moron. How do some people get to review books? And give the plot away.”

“Now any idiot can be a critic. Writers used to review writers. My second novel was reviewed by Ann Tyler. So who is Roberta Silman?”

She also posted Silman's email address and phone number, and encouraged her twitter followers to call and harass Silman. For being a moron who just didn't get Hoffman's book.

According to the Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act, introduced in the House of Representatives on April 2, 2009, that makes Hoffman a cyberbully.

Sec. 881. Cyberbullying

`(a) Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person, using electronic means to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

`(b) As used in this section--

`(1) the term `communication' means the electronic transmission, between or among points specified by the user, of information of the user's choosing, without change in the form or content of the information as sent and received; and

`(2) the term `electronic means' means any equipment dependent on electrical power to access an information service, including email, instant messaging, blogs, websites, telephones, and text messages.'.

I'd say that calling someone a "moron" on twitter, and posting their email address and phone number and encouraging your followers to harass her, certainly qualifies as "cyberbullying" under the murky language of this proposed bill.

If only it had been passed back in April, some enterprising prosecutor could be making a name for himself, hauling Alice Hoffman off in handcuffs tonight.

Alice Hoffman, cyberbully.

Pic source.


A.Jaye said...


A writer who's prepared the protect the art of the written word from corporate hacks who have an agenda.

I'd fully support this woman if she was hot. As it is I'll only approve my blog address to be posted on Twitter.

Ricky Sprague said...

Maybe we could get a couple of "Charm School" contestants, Marcia and Brittanya, to re-enact the review in question, the ensuing tweets and "apology," and then debate the issues raised vis a vis reviewer vs. author and appropriate response.

It could draw a whole new audience to both VH1 and to popular literature.

Anonymous said...

Marcia and farrah would be funny too. that would be an awesome idea! hahaha

I thought it was internet law that you absolutely had to be cursed out and called a "f--ktard" or get "pwnd" and whatnot. I have been online for a long time so I may have been called "an ignorant strumpet with no logical (sic) about your argument whatsoever! or if you're a guy you are a sissy and no man whatsoever nor will you ever be should you also be a child." or something like that. haha

it kind of really sucks. but ... I would think cyberbulling would be a little more hardcore than that.

Ricky Sprague said...

Unfortunately, under the proposed law, Alice Hoffman could have been arrested, if a prosecutor had wanted to go after her. Say, he or she didn't like her characterization in "Practical Magic," and had held a grudge? Well, here would have been his opening.

But, if you delete your cyberbullying later in the day, does it still count? And if another website like Gawker takes screenshots of it, can they be held accountable, too?

I have had some really mean and vituperative things written about me online. It goes with the territory.

On the other hand, if anyone asks me, I have nothing but positive comments for you, Anonymous.

AJaye, too!

A.Jaye said...

"an ignorant strumpet with no logical (sic) about your argument whatsoever! or if you're a guy you are a sissy and no man whatsoever nor will you ever be should you also be a child." - anon

I'm jealous. No one has ever taken me to task online yet and one day I'm going to tell my family about this site.