The point of the internet is that it gives everyone a voice. Much like a family barbecue, however, there’s always the odd person you shouldn’t look in the eye.
Nowhere is this more evident than in Amazon.com’s infamous Customer Reviews. Founded as a bookselling website in 1994, Amazon now sells almost anything to anyone, with more than $17 billion in net sales in the quarter ending September 2013.
Part of the site’s power lies in its customer reviews, which allow anyone to rate products between one and five stars and leave comments. It’s a powerful aspect of online shopping – everyone can put their heads together and share the truth about items shoppers won’t hold in their hands until after purchase.
As a highly-visible site of digital democracy, the forum has unsurprisingly grown into a place of protest. One-star reviews – that is, bad reviews – have become a way of making points beyond ‘buyer beware’, all in the spirit of re-appropriation that has launched a thousand memes. Of course, some one star reviews are worth noting for the hilarity alone.
When right-wing Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi used his book The Conservative Revolution to attack ‘non-traditional’ families and supporters of abortion last month, it sparked a nationwide debate. Hundreds took to Amazon to express their disagreement through the unlikely lens of a book review whether they’d read it or not.
“After catching me reading this, my dog divorced me. These are views that would be right at home in the Deep South of the USA or the Southern Baptists. They are not even Conservative views.” -Sandra M.
BIC released a line of pens “for her” in 2010. The softly coloured writing implements featured a thin, diamond engraved barrel “designed to fit a woman’s hand”. Judging from the online reaction, though, women had been doing just fine with existing pens, and bristled at a marketing ploy that implied otherwise.
“I didn’t even have my illicit writing implements for an hour before they were discovered and confiscated by my husband.” -EveryGirlEver
Humans of New York is an internet sensation, especially on Facebook. where it has upwards of three million fans. Photographer Brandon Stanton takes great photos of people he meets in the streets of New York and uploads them alongside anecdotes from his subjects that are funny, heartfelt and revealing.
The sum total of all this is an unvarnished look at one of the planet’s most vibrant cities through the lens of its disparate population and a reminder that, despite our differences, were all humans. Of course, you can’t please everyone.
“This book is awful. The man simply took pictures of random people and makes money from it. It is completely shallow and has no value to it whatsoever. I am completely dissapointed (sic) by this purchase and the new york times for suggesting something so awful. This is a horrible author and this book should be burned by the fires of hell.” -BookLover1
During a 2012 presidential debate, Republican candidate Mitt Romney answered a question on pay equality by attempting a display of feminism, saying he had actively sought out qualified ladies and returned with “binders full of women”.
As the unfortunate turn of phrase elicits an image of Romney leafing through pages of tiny women held securely in a folder, it failed to have the desired effect. Reviews for binders started popping up across Amazon as people poked fun at the whole thing.
“My binder failed to contain even one woman even though I was told I could fill it with women. The test woman had no trouble slipping free of the rings and fleeing my basement. Do not recommend.” – Kid Kyoto
The “Petraeus Scandal” broke in November 2012 when the public learned that CIA Director and retired Four Star General David Petraeus and Paula Broadwell – an intelligence officer and his official biographer – were having an extramarital affair.
The scandal, involving as it did clandestine emails, sex, code names and the cloak-and-dagger players of a Hollywood film, captured public attention before ultimately leading to the director’s resignation. Of course, it also called into question Petraeus’ biography, written by Broadwell, which provided fertile ground for pun-laden commentary.
“Wow!! Great book written by an “embedded” reporter. Appropriate title about the general being “all in”. Great little story about his nickname “peaches”. Also, a plethora of information regarding his “surge”. Nothing like pure, untainted journalism.” – PG Pug
In June 2013, Democratic Texas Senator Wendy Davis stood for 13 hours during a marathon filibuster to stop a bill aimed at restricting abortions. Support for her cause came from an unlikely corner – a flood of reviews for the colourful running shoes she had worn. Many skewered the issue of reproductive rights with a single star.
“I tried on a pair at the local mall and suddenly Texas Republicans started telling me what to do with my genitals. They started explaining reproduction to me like I was a seventh grader. Unfortunately, being male, I had no way to shut the whole thing down. I’m so confused…” – Joshua Jones
“I purchased this product about a week ago and when it arrived, the seal had already been cut (very cleanly I might add). I used the lotion anyway and it was definitely not the real stuff. I believe it was transplanted with something cheap and watered down. Avoid buying from Green Web Inc.” – RedHairedTrev
There’s no greater point being made here. Someone received lotion in the mail, decided it had been tampered with, and rubbed it all over their body.
People have to know.