Jennifer Margulis tries to manipulate Amazon reviews of her book

Margulis Amazon

What’s the difference between a journalist and a hack?

A journalist tries to address substantive criticism of her claims. A hack tries to silence her critics.

You see this over and over again in the world of natural childbirth advocacy. Virtually every natural childbirth website deletes posts that question the received wisdom and bans people who dare to offer scientific evidence that contradicts NCB claims. Partly it is because NCB advocates have an insatiable need for validation of both their personal choices and their preferred view of themselves as incisive thinkers who can’t be fooled by corporate conspiracies. Partly because they recognize that they aren’t equipped to address criticism; they have absolutely no idea of what the scientific evidence shows since they never read it.

Jennifer Margulis wrote an astoundingly crappy and irresponsible book, and she’s being called on it.

As Annie Murphy Paul wrote in the NYTimes:

Inaccurate or inflammatory statements are repeatedly reproduced without adequate substantiation or comment from the other side… Margulis’s treatment of scientific evidence is similarly unbalanced… [U]ltrasound exams of pregnant women may be responsible for rising rates of autism among their children, according to “a commentator in an online article.” This anonymous individual has “used ultrasonic cleaners to clean surgical instruments (and jewelry),” which apparently qualifies him or her to offer an opinion on how the vibration of ultrasound waves may be causing the developmental disorder: “Perhaps this vibration could knock little weak spots in myelin sheeting of nerves or such, I don’t know.”

Amy Wong of the Oregonian offered an equally cutting review:

…Margulis builds her argument mostly on individual parents’ anecdotes, without providing context for whether they represent common experiences. Many of the anecdotes seem to have been selected purely for their shock value. And she frequently describes in detail how mothers suffered at the hands of doctors or nurses apparently without having sought out the doctors or nurses for verification, comment or context. This is not journalism.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Margulis were stung by these reviews, but the appropriate response is to provide the scientific evidence to support her claims, something which she has not done (and possibly believes that she cannot do).

Margulis responds on her Facebook page with this bit of self-serving drivel:

Margulis Silent Spring

Comparing her book to Rachel Carson’s classic Silent Spring? Now that’s funny!

But Margulis has gone further, advising her supporters to manipulate Amazon reviews of her book as demonstrated by the Facebook post at the top of this piece. Margulis is asking her supporters to bury unfavorable reviews so that people browsing Amazon will not be able to find them. I can’t imagine that Amazon would be happy with this attempt at manipulation. Morever, I suspect that the folks at Brandeis’ Shuster Center for Investigative Journalism would take a dim view anyone on its staff responding to substantive criticism in this way.

I’m surprised. Anyone who writes a book as misleading and irresponsible as Margulis’ book isn’t likely to be able to defend her claims against those who present actual scientific evidence, but this response puts her journalistic integrity into question. I would have thought she knew better.

  • This comment is one that I have copied and pasted from my own blog (http://jessicaabruno.blogspot) regarding something else.

    Back again with another example of the never ending Mommies Wars. In which I for one never read every single thing, but from here and to there. Will be the same in the future as well.

    I’m wondering if it would be easier for all involve to have professional writers to have a some kind of combination advance degrees instead of having one or a degree or none or etc. This includes the ones that are parents themselves as well.

  • The Computer Ate My Nym

    “I’ve been tuteured”? Have you become a meme, Dr. Tuteur?

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      Apparently, to be “tuteured” is to have your work held to the mean, mean standards of science.

      • Squillo

        Don’t you mean “Tutuered?”

        Which you’d think means being forced to wear short ballet costumes or being boycotted for supporting apartheid–I can’t decide which.

  • Lena

    OT: Didn’t Dr. Amy write about this?

    http://io9.com/dolphin-assisted-births-yeah-lets-not-go-there-509991026

    When satire becomes reality…

  • An Actual Attorney

    Best Amazon reviews, regardless of whether posters actually bought the product: http://goo.gl/J22Ye

    • KarenJJ

      I had to look it up to see if it was a real product!
      Hilarious reviews 🙂

      • An Actual Attorney

        I don’t understand why they haven’t been shamed enough to pull it off the market. I guess they have to sell the ones they have?

        • auntbea

          I think it must be great for business! I would laugh really hard if my husband got these for me for Christmas.

          • KumquatWriter

            I saw one in the wild once, took a picture and sent it to hubby.

          • KarenJJ

            Heh, my husband would worry that I’d stab him with one. The kids would love them though.

            I like how they are more expensive then normal pens. So ladies, not only do you earn less, you get to pay more for your ‘lady pens’.

            They should come out with a male pen.

            Short and stubby?
            Long and thin?
            Show your pen off to the world with our new ‘pen for him’. Available in many shapes, sizes and colours.

          • auntbea

            Alas, beauty always comes at a price.

    • Susan

      Oh gosh that’s hysterical thanks for the link!

    • Not My Normal Nym

      George Takei reviewed a Three Wolf T-shirt on Amazon. Can’t link but here is the review:

      This shirt has changed my life! Before, I couldn’t walk through the aisles at Wal-Mart, graze on the buffet at Sizzler, or even take in a round at my local miniature golf course, without people pointing and saying, “Hey, you’re that Zulu guy from Star Wars, aren’t you?” Even if I wore sunglasses, I’d still get mistaken for Yoko Ono.
      But with The Mountain Three Wolf Moon Short Sleeve Tee, the SHIRT now draws the eye. One young teen even shyly approached me, and instead of asking for a picture or an autograph, simply smiled conspiratorially and whispered, “Team Jacob, right? Me, too. He’s sooooooo dreamy.”

      Yes he is, young lady. Yes. He. Is.

      • LibrarianSarah

        George Takei is my favorite gay Asian (gaysian?) man ever. Love you Sulu!

        • Squillo

          I take it you saw this.

          • Box of Salt

            Thank you Squillo!

          • EB1

            That is possibly the best thing that has ever been produced by the Internet.

      • Durango

        On The Office, Dwight wore that shirt once.

  • PollyPocket

    Here is part of the NYT review:

    ” Margulis interviews Larry Palevsky, a pediatrician from Long Island, who tells her that he was taught in medical school that the hepatitis B vaccine is given to infants to protect them against the disease in case any of them grow up to be prostitutes or IV drug users. “If I’m a rational person and I listen to what you’ve said, the recommendation that we vaccinate a newborn against hepatitis B sounds absolutely insane,” Margulis says. “Asinine,” Palevsky agrees.”

    But, it has come to my attention that there is another profession (or group of professions) that is so at risk, hep b vaccination is now required for entry…health care workers. You know, like DR. PALEVSKY.

    And lest anyone think I am quite as good a journalist as Ms. Margulis, here is some supporting evidence: http://cmr.asm.org/content/13/3/385.long

    • Dr Kitty

      You can get Hep B from IV drugs, unsafe sex, needle stick injuries, unsafe tattooing or sharing body fluids with an infected person. The virus also stays active on surfaces.

      It is ENDEMIC in much of the developing world.

      Never mind being a prostitute, can you be sure your child will NEVER be exposed to the blood, sweat, saliva or tears of someone from an endemic area?
      Never share a sandwich or a juice box at school?
      Never decide to become “blood brothers” at Summer camp?
      Never put an uncovered abrasion or cut on a contaminated surface?

      The CDC has decided that the background risk in the USA is high enough to recommend universal infant vaccination. In the Uk and Ireland the population is different and only patients in at risk categories are vaccinated.

      • In the Netherlands, they used to vaccinate only children from “unsafe” countries (such as Poland), but now they vaccinate all children against Hep B. And I am glad, because that way I don’t feel like I am from some worse “dirty” country!

        • Antigonos CNM

          Infants in israel are all vaccinated against Hep B, btw.

          • Yes, many countries routinely vaccinate against it, and I’m glad. And now I am mad because my girl has the chicken pox. With my first I thought “Oh it’s not too bad if they don’t vac because it’s better to get it naturally”, and she didn’t have problems, no fever, she was just a little bit fussy”. This time I am dealing with screams of pain, high fever, scratching and a very very very unhappy child. At daycare, they tell me 14 children are at home with the chicken pox. Now I wish I the NL would vaccinate children, daycares and parents wouldn’t have the problem of children having to stay at home. But that wouldn’t be natural enough, right? So I am left to deal with a sick child, and they tell me to be glad because then she wouldn’t get it again…Seriously, if she was vaccinated, she wouldn’t get it either and wouldn’t have to suffer. End of rant.

          • deafgimp

            People who get chicken pox while unvaccinated can and do get it again! Something to look forward to! I’ve been told I’m at risk because my case was very mild, but I know people who had terribly bad cases who got it again.

          • Yes, I also heard that…I simply don’t understand why they wouldn’t vaccinate against chicken pox.

          • Jessica Atchison

            I wasn’t vaccinated for chicken pox and I got it twice.

          • AmyM

            I sort of got it twice—I had a few pox, which faded, my sister had a full blown case, and two weeks after my first few pox faded, I had a full blown case. So I think it wasn’t really twice, it was probably just hanging around that whole time. But this was long before the vaccine was available (I am 36)…pretty much everyone in my first grade class had chicken pox at the same time. Not because of a “pox party” but simply because of normal exposure through school (and brownie troop).

      • The Bofa on the Sofa

        Add in that there is basically no down side of doing it, it is a no-brainer, at least one would think.

      • Alenushka

        Years ago I asked my pedi about it. I wanted to wait and not do it at birth. He was fine with it but he told me we should do it by 6 months because we live in the area with high immigrant population from area with endemic Hep B. I had my shot because I work in medical setting. Yes, the background risk is high and many people who were never sex workers, do not have parents with Hep B or used ID drugs, nevertheless became infected.

      • anne

        I’m a bad parent because I know that one day my kid will do something I wouldn’t approve of or think is dangerous. I’m pretty sure my son will one day engage in risky behaviors, knowingly or not, and I will give him what protection I can through vaccines.

        I guess because I fed my son formula along with breast milk he won’t be perfectly protected from everything in the world . . . *head slam on desk*

      • Certified Hamster Midwife

        I was a child during the most panicky part of the HIV panic — have they not thoroughly stamped the “blood brothers” thing out?

    • Susan

      I’d feel sorry for her, and I would, if she wasn’t throwing around ideas that are flat out dangerous.

    • Box of Salt

      I refer anyone with questions about the HepB vaccine to a 2009 Science Based Medicine post by Joe Albietz:
      http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/why-universal-hepatitis-b-vaccination-isnt-quite-universal/

      Besides healthcare workers with direct patient contact, what other professions require Hep B vaccination? Any which require handling of human blood or tissue, which means a lot of pre-clinical drug research. Trust me, they’re not getting those samples fresh off the patient, but they still require protection from it. Think about it.

      • mimi

        I was constantly bit and scratched in a job where I earned almost minimum wage caring for the dev. disabled as a “teacher”. I can’t get into details, but some of the people had very dangerous blood born diseases.

    • Eddie

      I first ran into this prejudice when my now adult daughter was due for the HPV vaccine. I was confused at how carefully they asked if I wanted her to be vaccinated or not. I asked what was different about this vaccine, and the doctor explained that many parents object to vaccinating a teenage daughter against a venereal disease. For some strange reason, I found that shocking. (I should have known to expect stupidity from a subset of parents.) I guess these parents either think their kid deserves an increased risk of cervical cancer if they are “bad” and have premarital sex, or they have their head in the sand and refuse to think about it. My reaction to the HepB vaccine is similar, except you don’t even need sexual contact to transmit it.

      If some parent wants to delay a certain vaccine, and their kids genuinely won’t be exposed to the illness during that delay, then OK. That’s a calculation for the parent to make. I do object to “head in the sand” stupidity though, and to the thinking of, “I am only responsible for my kids safety, not for others.” With that kind of thinking, drunk driving becomes less dangerous because the driver often survives. A big reason drunk driving is bad is because they often kill others. Maybe we should require parents whose kids are not vaccinated to carry a special insurance to pay for the other families they infect, except that this would probably not work in reality. But something like this would make those parents more aware of the actual risk they are creating for others, and its actual cost in dollars.

      • Amazed

        I don’t get the reaction about the children not being exposed to hepatitis B. When I was a young child, I was constantly scraped, cut, in bandages or not – it comes with sharing the playground or when I was older – the street in front of our flat. I was a blood brother to half the neighbourhood (the ritual was for brothers, even if you were a girl). I drank from my friends’ bottles of whatever they had. And that’s only since I was old enough to remember, Where did these parents live when they were children?

        • Eddie

          Completely agreed. Except for “blood brothers” I did all the same things in the various neighborhoods where I grew up. I stepped on more nails than I can count, playing in an area along a creek where there were many tree forts that had fallen apart. I had many, many, many tetanus boosters as a child.

          I think it’s a head-in-the-sand approach.

      • Squillo

        I guess these parents either think their kid deserves an increased risk of cervical cancer if they are “bad” and have premarital sex.,

        It also ignores the sad fact that a significant amount of sex isn’t consensual. But, of course, good girls never get raped, either.

      • auntbea

        Eh. Easier just to regulate it. This is exactly the sort of free-rider problem government is intended to solve.

      • EB1

        Yeah, in the past year? I have called the pediatrician when: my kids rolled naked in a dirt pile from a chicken coop. When one of my kids took care of a dying field mouse for an hour and it bit her, twice. When my toddler decided to re-chew a piece of gum she found under a table. When my older child decided to ignore the cut on her foot and walk around outside with it because she was busy building a fort with reclaimed wood. Ped’s answer to every event: “Yay for vaccines! Yay for Mommies who vaccinate!” Yay for kids that get to wander the world wild and free because of the hard work of scientists who made vaccines available to them. (P.S. 10 year-old got the HPV series as soon as she was eligible. A cancer vaccine? WOW way to go, science! Keep it up!)

        • auntbea

          Rolling in chicken poop? Sounds fun! Diseased field mouse? Poor mousie! Rechewing gum? Oh God, that’s horrifying.

          • EB1

            Yeah. The gum thing was a nightmare. The ped just laughed and laughed at me …

    • Naima Van Swol

      This is why I hate that Hep and other diseases are considered sexually transmitted. Or that there is ANY stigma associated with them at all. As a healthcare worker who has been stuck by a dirty needle, I didn’t appreciate that at all. Lets just call them bloodbourne pathogens and leave it at that. And also, why is it so hard to imagine that your child will grow up to have sex?

      • Geoff Offermann

        Your point taken, but just to clarify, Hep B is not solely blood borne.

  • Squillo

    The fact that there’s only one editorial review (which may actually be only a jacket blurb–there’s no publication reference given) excerpted on the book’s Amazon page is, at this point, a more useful indicator of the book’s reception than the Amazon reviews.

    • Susan

      It’s sort of interesting. I linked to another sort of obscure natural childbirth book and it had a lot of natural birth junkie five star reviews too. Then I thought, hmmm, what do they hate more than the Skepical OB, well, maybe “What to Expect When Your Expecting”… and low and behold I suspect it may be the recipient of an organized campaign to give poor reviews. I think the author laughed all the way to the bank, and it’s not even a book I like that much, but I think this is yet another NCB phenom the book and review thing. Maybe this is just the first one blogged about by Dr. Amy, not the first nutty book that the author felt self righteous enough to ask facebook friends to try to hide a poor review.

      • Susan

        And this review of Henci Goer’s book is just fascinating!
        “This is not the best book to read straight through unless you’re already a birth
        junkie. However, it is a GREAT reference resource. Each chapter covers a
        different choice/option during birth, taking a detailed look at why you might
        not want to make the current “standard” choices. What I really love is that
        every single fact is cited with a medical study listed in the appendices. ”

        She could have said, don’t read until you’ve had more Kool Aid!

        • Squillo

          And I’m sure the reviewer looked at the cited studies rather than just being impressed by Ms. Goer’s ability to cut and paste.

  • suchende

    Prediction: as her star rating continues to plummet, she’ll complain about people “abusing” Amazon’s rating system (of course without a hint of irony).

    • Squillo

      Which is an object lesson on why it’s a bad idea for authors to discuss Amazon reviews. The author’s flying monkeys descend, the critics’ flying monkeys decend, and it becomes a poo-throwing fest that helps no one.

      Congratulations, Author: your Amazon reviews, good and bad, are now, officially, monkey poo.

  • Antigonos CNM

    Guess what, folks?! You can review the book without having even read it! I just went to the Amazon site and it offered to let me review the book! Now, on Audible, for example, I can’t submit a review for any audiobook I don’t own [that still lets me review a book I haven’t yet listened to, but there’s no way I can think of to keep that from happening. Amazon ought to be able to check my purchase status by requiring me to login, or some such!

    • Eddie

      I imagine they want people to be able to review items they bought elsewhere, so that people think of Amazon as a central place to look for reviews, as a way of driving business.

    • Squillo

      Yes, you can. And that would be dishonest and unethical, and I’d urge everyone here not to do it.

      After some healthy criticism about its review polices, Amazon instituted a “verified purchase reviews” system that allows reviewers who purchased a product via Amazon to mark their reviews as such. It’s helpful in that you know that folks who received comped copies aren’t going to be verified that way, and it’s more likely (though not guaranteed, of course) that an actual purchaser has read it.

      • suchende

        I am sure lots of people saw at least a representative portion of the book from sources other than Amazon (myself included).

        • Squillo

          Sure. Then it’s reasonable to comment on those sections, noting that.

          • Amazed

            But in this case, it’s also reasonable to comment noting that you didn’t read the book but you read about the author manipulating the reviews. It isn’t a novel where liking or not liking it is a matter of taste. Margulis pretends to have written a book in her investigating journalist capacity. The content of such book depends not only on the writer’s talent but also on her intergrity. I find it fair to warn potential purchasers that Margulis’ integrity is questionable.

          • Squillo

            I agree. As long as you’re up front about not having read the book. Although Amazon may frown upon that.

          • Amazed

            Well, they did accept Dr Margulis comment when she wrote that she was the author’s aunt. And I’ve seen quite a few reviews of people explaining that they were an author’s friend but the book was great, for real. Usually about books I longed to close as soon as possible which meant making it to the half, at least. That’s the minimum I have set for me before I can wholeheartedly recommend against publishing a book here.

    • LibrarianSarah

      As someone who gets all their books at the library (duh), I would be kind of pissed if amazon refused to let me review a book just because I didn’t buy it from them.

    • Kalacirya

      Well Amazon wants you to review the book if you’ve read it, even if you didn’t buy it from Amazon. So that’s why they let you do it. Obviously opens up a route for potential abuse.

  • I don’t have a creative name

    OT: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10101223677392724&set=a.10101223666554444.2736071.23304012&type=1&theater

    Look at the little girl’s face and how she’s leaning away from her mother. This is a little girl who KNOWS her mother places her at the bottom of the family totem pole. (yes, I know, kids who are happy and know they are loved can still look angry in photos… but since Kate disdains this kid so much she felt the need to write an article about it to tell the whole world, I don’t think the look on her face is coincidental). Heartbreaking.

    • auntbea

      Backstory?

      • I don’t have a creative name

        http://www.babble.com/pregnancy/mom-confession-i-think-i-love-my-son-a-little-bit-more/

        This, but it’s been HEAVILY edited from the original, including the title which was “I think I love my daughter less than my son”. The original one said things like “it wouldn’t be so bad if I lost my daughter as long as I never had to lose my son”. It was horrifying, but she toned it down after there was a backlash, but the fact that it’s still up in ANY form is disgusting and I feel so sorry for that girl. You can find excerpts of the original online. The internet never forgets!

        • suchende

          I am never having a second baby, that was terrifying.

          • LynnetteHafkenIBCLC

            I know it’s hard to imagine loving anyone as much as you love your first baby, but believe me, you almost certainly will. You will love them differently because they are different people, but with the same heart-bursting intensity.

          • LibrarianSarah

            My mom always said “You know you’ve done right as a parent when both of your kids think that the other one is the favorite.”

          • Amazed

            “You love him,” I used to say.
            “You love her,” my brother claimed.
            “She loved Dad,” we chorused then.

            Ah, good times.

        • auntbea

          Granted, I am only reading the edited version, but I actually don’t think having a favorite child is terrible, or even avoidable. Particularly since “the” favorite might switch based on the age and circumstance. The problem, as far as I can tell, is when you DO something about it that would let your child know that he/she is not the favorite. Like, say, blogging about it.

          • Box of Salt

            auntbea, I’m going to quote the cleaned up version (which I am not sure has not been edited again since when I read it the first time)

            “I want to start over with a little girl now that I’m healthy and an experienced parent.”

            IMO, this is not OK.

            I can relate to her circumstances, but I found the attitude towards her first daughter expressed her words (in the version I read) heartless and hurtful.

          • I don’t have a creative name

            Precisely. Thoughts and feelings are one thing. What we do with them is quite another. If at the end of your life, each child feels like THEY were your favorite, you did an excellent job. If you were very hard on one of them, always letting them know they were less in your eyes while favoring the others, you did a crappy job. If you are very hard on one and favor the others and publish an article that can be read by anyone in the world about how much you can’t stand that kid, you’re a psychopath and don’t deserve any children at all.

        • Roze of the Valley

          That is horrifying, she is an ultimate handmaiden of the patriarchy as we radical feminists call them.

        • SkepticalGuest

          Inappropriate to go public with this. But really…mom was suffering in the early days (sounds like she was having a hard time physically) with a difficult sick baby who now has a more challenging temperament. Her feelings, in this regard, seem NORMAL. I shutter to think her daughter will some day find this article, but I wish she had written it under a pseduonym. Other moms must certainly be going through something similar, and it is good for them to know they are not alone.

  • Anj Fabian

    “jennifer margulis amazon” google pulled the SOB article up on the first page….

    Go google!

  • Amazed

    Such a lovely lady, Jennifer. For those who, like me, has missed her personal stance on the whole vaccine debacle, that’s her answer to the question how does she feel about endangering other kids by not immunizing her brood.

    It’s my responsibility as a parent to
    keep my child safe, I think, and I don’t think it’s your responsibility
    to take a vaccine because I might be at the same party with you and you
    might cough on her. Honestly. I think your job is to protect
    your own health. And I mean, maybe I sound — I really don’t mean to be
    sounding selfish in that way.

    http://blogs.plos.org/thepanicvirus/2011/05/06/evidence-herd-immunity-and-total-assholes/

    • Anj Fabian

      Oh, that’s a lovely post and Gorski and Jay Gordon in the comments?
      Good times.

    • Susan

      Again, every link to these quotes makes me think her whole stance is simple projection of her lack of normal values onto the medical profession.

    • Antigonos CNM

      well, if she hasn’t vaccinated her own children, then she has endangered them as well as other kids.

      • Amazed

        Yes. I guess I should have elaborated that she was asked this particular question because of the recent death of a child too young to be vaccinated. She asked, “If vaccines are so effective, why would my unvaccinated kids be a danger to someone vaccinated?”

        I hereby suggest (not really) that any medical services be withdrawn for unvaccinated children who cannot have the doctor visiting at home. Sure, children will suffer, but it will be their unedicated, paranoid parents’ fault.

        Well, I don’t really suggest it but how can we protect those who are vulnerable?

        • GiddyUpGo123

          We should have towns established for unvaccinated people. They can go to their own schools, buy their own organic non-GMO food and breathe all over each other to their hearts’ content.

          • Amazed

            I’ll stand guard at the entrance and whenever someone dares to show their head in a mile’s distance, I’ll shoot them immediately from afar, as not to be infected by any disease, be it chickenpox or woo.

  • Eddie

    I roll my eyes at her silly belief that anyone who disagrees with her must be Dr Amy in disguise or someone associated with her. I didn’t realize that Dr Amy was so powerful that she organized all forces of NCB dissent. I find Margulis’ willingness to manipulate the rating system (even if only the “helpfulness” part of it) appalling and unbecoming of any professional.

    Her lack of professionalism — evident both by her clear bias in the book and by this attempt to manipulate the book’s ratings — reflects not only poorly on her but on Brandeis. I hope this comes to their attention in a productive fashion that causes them to take a look.

    • Susan

      I swear these people are projecting their own greed and lack of ethics on to doctors….

    • Antigonos CNM

      I didn’t realize that Dr Amy was so powerful that she organized all forces of NCB dissent.

      Halevai [it should only be so].

    • Squillo

      In the various book and writers’ groups I’ve been in, the question of dealing with Amazon reviews has invariably arisen. The consensus is that authors should leave them well alone unless something is very obviously abusive or otherwise a violation of Amazon’s TOS. In which case, they should be reported to Amazon.

      Google Anne Rice and Deborah MacGillivray for cautionary tales.

      • Eddie

        Yow, I had not read those stories before. I know that in most cases, when I see an author (or relative of an author) respond to reviews, my respect drops measurably. Even if there was none to begin with.

        Reminds me of when I was a physics TA and there were some homework or lab assignments I wanted to give a negative score to. (I never did, though.) My level of respect for someone can go below zero.

        • Box of Salt

          Someone who identifies herself as Margulis’s aunt is among her reviewers and defenders on Amazon.

          I’m also intrigued by how Margulis’s fans responded to Dr Amy’s review by calling Dr Amy a “well known internet troll” as if that were appropriate comment for book reviews.

  • Rebecca

    The sole purpose of the “helpfulness” rating should be to help reviewers learn to write more effective reviews.

  • Chelsea Frost

    Perhaps if her book doesn’t sell well, Jennifer Margulis will sue Dr. Amy.

    • Susan

      And how will they “out” the troll…?

      • Susan

        mole… I need to start signing in so I can edit….

  • Squillo

    “Downvoting” negative reviews is a well-known ploy, second only to sock-puppeting reviews of one’s own book in terms of shady things authors do.

    Ms. Margulis could have asked her Facebook fans to actually rebut the bad reviews. Or she could do this.

    • Amazed

      Poor Jen. Now she has 13 1-star reviews, more than half of her 25 glowing ones. It has already started backfiring spectacularly.

      • Dr Kitty

        It is now 17-25.
        And all the one star reviews come first when you click on “most helpful”.

        • Amazed

          Great.

          My professional boundaries would not let me vote a book without reading it first. Congratulations, Ms Margulis. You have me tempted.

          • Anj Fabian

            I’m on the library reserve list.

        • Dr Kitty

          Oh I haven’t read it, don’t intend to, and so wouldn’t write or vote on the reviews, I just wanted to see what the score is.

  • Squillo

    Know what’s funny? Age of Autism reprinted the Scribner press release in toto.

  • mollyb

    The NYT reviews was not “vitriolic” by any means. It was critical, certainly but there was nothing unfair or unbalanced about it. Either she can support using “evidence” from anonymous internet comments or she can’t. But challenging that kind of garbage is absolutely the job of a reviewer.

    • Susan

      The illustration of the leering doctor with that review is perfect summation. I suspect Margolis would not have seen anything wrong with it on the book jacket. But the photo similar to Business of Being Born probably looked more like dollar signs.

  • Amazed

    Oh my, this is so, so… immature. Unprofessional. Stupid (because Facebook isn’t exactly a private forum). She just lost all integrity with me. And… did I mention immature?

    Good thing you took screenshots, Dr Amy, otherwise the Facebook appeal would have been mysteriously disappeared. The use of the phrase “would have been disappeared” intentionally, I assure you,. Delete evidence and all, you know.

  • Epidural fan

    Tee hee

    Just went to amazon and tagged all the 5 star reviews as unhelpful and all the 1 star reviews as helpful

    • Guesteleh

      Streisand Effect

    • BeatlesFan

      So did I. I got a childish pleasure from doing it, too.

    • Chelsea Frost

      Yep, me as well, and added a 1 star of my own.

    • Something From Nothing

      Wait a minute… How is that any different than jennifer manipulating amazon reviews?

      • FormerPhysicist

        The only difference is that most of “us” wouldn’t have bothered if the wasn’t trying to bury the bad reviews. It’s trying to rebalance. I find a difference, but it’s okay if you don’t.

      • Amazed

        It’s getting the balance back.

        • Something From Nothing

          Getting the balance back? I can see your point, but, really, if on the one hand, we mock the NCB movement for manipulating amazon reviews, and then on this site, we “tee hee” about manipulating amazon reviews, it minimizes the point. If manipulating reviews is wrong, then it is wrong. If you want to get the balance back, wouldn’t it make more sense to do what dr Amy has done? Point out the manipulation and let the fools that think its ok to manipulate amazon reviews go ahead. They are digging their own hole. Doesn’t mean we have to jump in with them to “get the balance back”. I don’t see how stooping to use their tactics does anything to further this cause.

          • Eddie

            I’m with you. I am comfortable reading existing reviews and voting my true belief of their helpfulness. But my conscience won’t let me review a book I haven’t read, no matter how awful I know it is from reviewers who I trust.

          • Amazed

            It is getting the balance back, though. Read my previous comments. It will help foreign publishing houses to think twice before deciding that well, this book is so well liked that it’s a must publish here.

            I didn’t leave a vote, though. Professional integrity and so on. It’s a point in your favor, I suppose.

      • Squillo

        I agree. I don’t care if someone else is doing for “the other side.” It’s unfair to the reviewers that have taken the time to give an honest and considered opinion and to whom their “trusted reviewer” status may be important. A more ethical way to approach it, IMHO, would be to downvote any review that isn’t specific in its praise or criticism.

        • suchende

          It’s an interesting question.

          On the one hand, I don’t see that it’s “not any different.” An author calling for manipulation is different than the fine people of the Internet punishing her for that unethical behavior, and is very much in line with the ethos of the Internet.

          On the other hand, it’s still abusing Amazon’s system.

          • Squillo

            Whether or not it’s the ethos of the Internet, the purpose of this specific system isn’t to reward or punish anyone for their behavior; it’s to provide something useful to the end-user by ensuring reviews that are the most helpful are the most easily seen.

            If you simply downvote all positive reviews, you’re making the experience worse for the innocent user and punishing those who gave honest positive reviews for someone else’s bad behavior.

          • suchende

            I agree that it does both of those things. I am just not sure that I also think it’s wrong. By which I mean I am sincerely undecided.

      • Ashley Wilson

        The downvote/upvote system, while definitely easy to manipulate and abuse, I view as a system that you rate how much that review had a factor of whether you buy/read that product/book. While asking for up/down votes IS wrong, I don’t see anything actually wrong in voting on a review if you have not bought/read that item. The review was helpful in making your decision on that product. Example: a review mentions that the company uses an ingredient that I am allergic to that the description does not mention. That review was helpful.

        I do think soliciting for votes is wrong but adding reviews when not having used that product (with SOME exceptions) is a much worse offence. So while the system can be- and in this case kind of IS- abused, the system is in place specifically to keep the greater abuse, writing reviews without use of product, from happening.

  • suchende

    How pathetic and unprofessional. I am embarrassed for her.

  • Kalacirya

    God this woman is so pathetic. Lady, your book sucks. If you wrote a book about petunias, that book would also suck, because in the end you are a terrible writer. The writing in the bit of the book I read was awful, and her paranoid assertions and obvious bias didn’t help.

    • auntbea

      This appears to have caused an ad for petunias to appear on my sidebar.

    • Anj Fabian

      Hey! Don’t give her any ideas about branching out into horticulture.

  • I don’t have a creative name

    That’s pathetic. If her book stood on its own merits, she wouldn’t need to do this.

  • Tsabhira

    Doesn’t Amazon take action against people who try to manipulate their reviews? Can this be forwarded this to the Amazon fraud group?

    • suchende

      Amazon specifically prohibits reviews by interested parties, but as far as I know there is no policy on the “helpfulness” voting.

      • Squillo

        Situations like this are exactly why the “helpfulness” feature is supremely unhelpful.

        • Antigonos CNM

          The whole concept of reviews is really very dicey. Re another author who has a massive fan following — her fans absolutely packed a recent, very mediocre release with glowing reviews and ratings and the average person reading them would have had no idea. I did, because [1] I am acquainted with many of the reviewers who are known to me from an internet list which discusses this author’s work, and [2] they bragged on the list that that was exactly what they were going to do.

          A book like this will have a hard core of “believers” who already were sure that all her allegations are correct, and won’t be swayed by anyone who disagrees with them, no matter how well-researched or documented the rebuttals of the nonsense in the book.

          • Lisa from NY

            So true. When things go wrong in a HB, they will quote her book and say it must have been a fluke.

          • Amazed

            Amazon reviews. The bane of my existence. I have to read books in English and explain why I think they should be translated and published or not. The Reviews section is honestly dreadful. In the beginning, I really couldn’t understand why my opinion was so different. Was the book really this good as reviewers wrote, or was it as average as I thought? Now the reviews I find most helpful, generally, are the critical ones.

            Jen. You mess up not only with the people’s heads but with their work, honey. Keep your deceitful tactics for yourself.

          • Durango

            I agree: negative reviews are way more helpful than positive ones most of the time. They tend to be specific about the faults, and the reader can decide if those faults are likely to be a deal-breaker (one of the negative reviews for a Bill Bryson book was because the cover has a picture of a coffee stain on it and the reviewer was mighty ticked off that her copy had come stained and gave the book a low rating).

            Anyway, to stay on more topic, I do love the idea that if a person’s book is completely panned, it’s because The Man is trying to silence their message. That must be why the Hangover III was universally reviled by critics–there are things in it *They* don’t want us to know.

          • AmyP

            There are still poor ninnies at Amazon who don’t understand that the review is for the PRODUCT, not Amazon’s delivery speed. I still occasionally see those reviews in 2013.

          • Amazed

            I am staying on topic. In the form I have to fill there is a section named “Reviews” and I have to report to the publishing house how readers perceive a book. Had I been given this book to read and dis/approve just yesterday, I should have included all the glowing reviews and the fact that readers found 1-star reviews unhelpful. And voila! more chance of this lunacy being spread abroad.

          • An Actual Attorney

            Do any uninterested parties ever review on Amazon? I order tons of books and products, and I can’t think of anything I’ve ever reviewed. Who has the time?

            Now, why I post here — that’s more an addiction. A sick addiction.

            But seriously, I do have to wonder at most of the reviews. Most people just aren’t that moved.

          • Amazed

            The problem is, people rarely review anywhere else, either. And I have to find reviews, so I inevitably head for Amazon. I really hope no one here gets wind of this Business Baby nonsense.

            I am waiting for the NCb counter-strike. Dr Amy, you should post it here.

          • C T

            Goodreads is a helpful place for book reviews.

          • Amazed

            Thanks, I’ll have a look at it.

          • Anj Fabian

            Controversial books are easily revealed by the ‘reverse bell curve’ of the reviews. Usually there are high numbers of 5 star and 1 star reviews and few in the middle.

  • Dr Amy is meeeen to meeee!!!!!

    • Amazed

      You poor thing *pats on the head* Now, where should I downvote this meenie?