I’ve long hated the ideology of “Be Nice.” My first introduction to it was a post by author Becca Fitzpatrick way back in February 2011. In essence, she’s saying reviewers who hope to become published authors one day should be nice when reviewing books or they won’t get anywhere. It was a bit scandalous back in the day and reviewers took offense to its implicit threat to anyone who wanted to become an author one day but chose to be honest and open about books they hated instead of only talking about what they loved.
In the years since that post, I’ve realized Be Nice isn’t just a blogging community thing. It’s everywhere in all walks of life. Shia LeBeouf plagiarizes and makes a fool out of himself in the aftermath of it being discovered? We should all be nice. My brother’s girlfriend offends me with something she said? I should be nice. One of my roommates made something explode all over our countertop and doesn’t clean it up? BE NICE. Variations I’ve seen on the question of “why couldn’t they be nice about it?” include:
“Why did they have to take this public instead of handling it privately?”
“Shouldn’t they be reporting this person instead of tearing them down?”
“Why are they being so rude about this?”
Typically–not always, but typically–the people who ask these questions have no idea what they’re talking about, don’t have all the facts they should, and would rather tone police than add anything meaningful to the conversation. They also have the chance of become hypocritical by making asses out of themselves in the process of telling others to be nice. Depending on who the conversation involves, sexism might get involved to because God forbid a woman be visibly angry when wronged by someone else, but that’s a different discussion entirely.
In our community, whether it’s about a plagiarist who is clearly stealing others’ words and has continued to do so despite being contacted privately multiple times (and trust me, I saw “be nice” so many damn times during the Story Siren plagiarism scandal this post nearly happened way back when), someone who is trying to make others give them eARCs and make their “friends” accomplices to piracy, or someone being an all-around offensive ass who never listens when people tell them they are being offensive, there is always someone who says we should be nice and aren’t doing things the way we should.
You know what? Nice doesn’t always work. Private communication fails, the authorities the offending person is reported to take time to handle the issue, staying quiet will let the problem keep happening or rob the argument of a new voice that could have helped, and the offender may be so far up their own ass that being nice is as useless as trying to make your cat be a ferret. Those are just a few ways people tell others to Be Nice.
Nice and rude are subjective to begin with! One person’s level-headed, firm comment telling someone they are walking a thin line between inspiration and plagiarism is another’s screaming and baseless accusations. Someone is always going to think we’re not being nice enough, so why worry about it? That’s not to say I comment entirely in capital letters when I see someone doing something that makes me really angry or I go out of my way to be a jerk, but when I find words I believe effectively communicate my point, I stop worrying about rude and nice. The words are simply right for me.
Most communities are good, welcoming places. The book blogging community certainly is. We can have civil discussions about all sorts of touchy topics and when we see someone get a little out of line, we can call them out and the person will usually learn from it. For instance, I was on Twitter talking about what I saw in a scene in a book before two people in that conversation had even gotten to the scene in question yet. One of my friends called me out on that, I shut up, and all was well because my friend was right to call me out. I retreated for a bit because OH GOD, I’M SO AWKWARD, but I do that for ninety percent of everything.
The thing is that when a single person in a community takes something and tries to ruin it for everyone else or make everyone else look bad, there will be backlash from the community. The person may have screwed up massively, shown no intent to learn from their mistakes, and started playing the victim instead of trying to listen to what other people are telling them. When someone reacts like this, being nice will not do any good because they are too far up their own asses. If we are only ever supportive and refuse to call out problematic members, we are not a healthy community to be part of.
That’s why I don’t worry about being nice anymore. I want to be justified whether it means I stay quiet, gather evidence to send to whoever needs it when necessary, deal with a problem privately, or take it public with whatever words my point and intent across most accurately.
Or maybe I’m just rude and think I’m right when I’m not. Who is to say?