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12.14.2010

Huh?: Or Amos Lassen vs. Amazon Reviewers vs. The World

A month or so ago (or maybe it was just a few weeks), I was invited to join the Facebook group "We proudly support Amos Lassen."

Anyone in the queer literary scene will know Amos, or know of him. He reviews books on Amazon. He's just not any reviewer, according to Lambda Literary:

"[H]e is one of the most influential Amazon reviewers in the nation — especially when it comes to the categories for gay romance, gay fiction, gay and lesbian erotica, DVD, and documentary. An Amazon Top 50 Reviewer and a member of the Amazon Vine Program—a highly-coveted, invitation only badge—he has reviewed 3,683 products to date and receives hundreds of review submissions a month. He was kind enough to share a summary of his favorite titles for 2010. From indie publishers to top houses, from romance to poetry to literary fiction, Lassen’s carefully curated list is as diverse as his evolving tastes."

I joined the group because I thought it was just a fan group for Amos. I didn't know he was "under attack." The charge was plagiarism, and Lassen has recently removed all his reviews from Amazon. He's has started a blog where he now reviews books.

If this shows something (anything at all), it shows that the world of Amazon reviewing is cutthroat. This ain't the New York Times. Fuck Michiko Kakutani. Amazon Customer Reviews has Harriet Klausner.

How Harriet Klausner is the shit:
1) Harriet Klausner is the #1 reviewer on Amazon.
2) Harriet Klausner has over 23,000 reviews.
3) Harriet Klausner has 88,978 helpful votes.
4) Harriet Klausner has a Wikipedia page.
5) Harriet Klausner has an Appreciation Society blog
6) Before writing each review, Harriet Klausner eats a bucket of nails and washes it down with Bleach.*
7) Harriet Klausner used to fuck Hemingway without lube. Afterwards, Hemingway cried and then shot himself in the face.*

(* not verifiable facts, but assumed to be true)

And perhaps the most important thing you need to know about Harriet Klausner is that she hates competition. Or at least her fans do. From the Appreciation blog:

Harriet has a competitor? Amazon Top 50 reviewer Amos Lassen
Not that this represents any material threat to our dear Harriet, but the phenomenon is curious in its own right. Apparently plagiarism is rampant on the sacred pages of Amazon. Our correspondent alerts us about another Amazon top reviewer, someone named Amos Lassen. I haven't looked into it in much detail, but upon a cursory perusement it seems interesting. Here's Amos Lassen's reviews page with comments. Many familiar names amongst the critical commenters! Check it out. Oh yeah, there's more: our correspondent points to this Amazon discussion thread for more talk about reviews plagiarism in general and this reviewer in particular (I haven't checked it out, so see for yourselves). 
Well, once more: no one beats Harriet at the sheer absurdity of her good works, but hey... there's enough room for everyone under this sun! Check it out and share your thoughts.
Our thanks to our correspondent for pointing us to this new (or not so new, actually -- but certainly new for us) event.

Lassen has been a threat for Klausner spot. It was a time to end it. Enter the attacks. They started as late as October; as reviewer "Jason Kirkfield" writes on the Amazon message board:

The description is obviously of Lassen, who teaches writing at the University of Central Arkansas. The attacks continued (and continues at this writing), with "evidence" of Lassen's crimes (since the reviews have been deleted, there is no more evidence, everything is hearsay), spying on Lassen's Facebook group, etc.

Authors have chimed in to show their support, including DAC (Daniel Allen Cox), Bryan Borland, and Edmund White. Meanwhile, Lassen leaves Amazon, Harriet Klausner is still number one, Jason Kirkfield can continue writing reviews for baby books:


Don't judge his taste. In the world of Amazon reviews, it's not the words that matter (despite what the message board might hint at). It's about who can put out the most reviews, no matter how vague. As book reviewers at The Onion recently learned:

1. Praise Generically and Effusively.
2. Pad with Easily Discoverable Background.
3. Positive Reviews Are Much Less Likely to Be Challenged by Their Subjects.

This is how Klausner has gotten to top. This is how she stays at the top.

I'm not saying Amazon reviewers have no influence on book sales. Yet their Amazon reviewers. These are the same people who go into a brick-and-mortar bookstore and say "How much is this book? List price? I'm not paying that. [Husband's name] did you know this is like a bookstore? They're selling books at full price." (This was based on a conversation I had with a customer when I worked in a bookstore, no lie).

These are also the customers who write this.

This entire scenario reminds me of those days when I was a little kid and I would spend hours playing Neopets, fighting with people about neopoints and fake food and fake houses. To Jason Kirkfield and others: isn't it time to grow up? You know, spend less time arguing over Amazon reviews (alas, have we replace our own reality so soon)? When was the last time you actually sat down and savored a book? Get giddy at the way the words dance across the page? Smile and cry at instances of recognition? Ponder over ideas traditionally laid out as fact?

In other words...LEAVE AMOS LASSEN ALONE!

25 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for your support but your facts are not totally correct. The people involved in this also have tried to unseat Harriet Klausner and another top ten reviewer. They consider themselves to be “policeman of the net. Whatever their reason for their actions may be, it appears that destroying another person makes them look good in some way. The strange thing is that several of them are not even ready to disclose their true identities and hide behind fake names and profiles. This action was begun by another reviewer, E. Jacobs (whose real name is Erin Elway) and she enlisted a group of “Amazonians” to help her reach gold. She enlisted a Jason Kirkfield, a very bitter and outspoken children’s book reviewer with a poisoned tongue, a Barbara Barclay who revealed herself when she and Elway wrote disgusting self-righteous letters to Lambda Literary about me, two characters under the names of Muzzlehatch and Truthseeker, an African American, John Green, who was enlisted to accuse me of racial slurs (I used the words ape and gorilla in a review and was accused of racism), venomous Timothy Riley, another top ten reviewer, then there are Theo and Terry, the acid tongued “avoraciousreader”, Gary Peterson, Lynn E. Lisa Mims, the recently added two days ago, Ann-Kat, J. Faulk, L. Power, tweekster and several others. You cannot imagine the way they speak. They claim that I have made death threats against them, they are planning to issue restraining orders against me, they have written to authors and publishing houses and have contacted work places claiming to be representatives of Amazon.com and released information that they had to right to know on the internet. Jason Kirkfield sees himself as a Christ figure and he is evil in speech and in deed but he has a great supporting cast.
    While my profile page was posted several years ago, they chose to contact my former employers. What is so interesting is that this seems to be a 24 hour job for them. Kirkfield, for example, posted news of this blog at 1:47 AM and the author put it on the net at just 12:22 AM. They scour the net, etc. looking for news of me. I cannot imagine what a lonely life that must be.

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  2. Okay, I'll bite. I'm someone has has been critical of both Lassen and Klausner. Klausner obviously does not read the books she reviews and so her bland and positive reviews do the potential buyer a great dis-service.

    Now as to Lassen. He makes big of the fact he is gay and Jewish in his Facebook site and suggests that this is driving people to pick on him as part of some anti Jewish or gay thing. Nothing could be further from the truth. I value diversity - it's what makes us more interesting human beings. However, I also value honesty and I think Amazon should be kept as clean as possible. When I see any fraudulent behaviour - I call it.

    So back to Lassen (in an abusive and factually incorrect e-mail he sent me he advised I was not entitled to call him Amos) - a number of people pointed out that many of his reviews were direct lifts from other sources - word for word. And those commentators provided the evidence by putting his review next to the original source. They included product lifts from the IMDB, reviews from other people and even a word for word lift from a New York Times review. I think this is dishonest, plagiarism and pretty disgraceful behaviour. So I commented as such and feel fullty entitled to do so. If you copy someone else's work then you should deal with the consequence when you are found out and not act like a fourteen year old girl.

    If Lassen wants to provide honest and self penned reviews on any subject he chooses, then good luck to him and he will not hear a word from me. Gay, Jewish - I don't care, and if he helps generate interest in minority writing then that's a good thing. But he needs to keep his work honest which he has not done to date. It is a little sad that he is hiding behind, and generating, a "they are picking on me because I am gay or Jewish, or both" theme - this was not true and there is no evidence to that effect. Kind of strangee that he has chosen to delete all the evidence isn't it?

    I am also happy to post the rather offensive and childish e-mail he sent me.

    Nick Brett

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  3. I'm not gonna say much. My only point is: Amazon reviews don't and shouldn't matter.

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  4. Eric,
    I think they do. If people use reviews as part of their purchasing choice then it does. If you fancied a book and it had 20 four star reviews you might be more inclined to buy it - so those reviews become quite powerful. If they don't matter, why would publishers flood Klausner with books? They think her 4/5 star reviews matter!!!!

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  5. I am one of the "Amazonians" to whom Mr. Lassen refers. I would invite anyone interested, particularly the author of this blog, to read the Top Reviewers discussion on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/tag/top%20reviewers/forum/ref=cm_cd_tfp_ef_tft_tp?_encoding=UTF8&cdForum=Fx2Z5LRXMSUDQH2&cdThread=Tx3G2K48RKN2YEP&displayType=tagsDetail
    You will find a very different picture than the one Mr. Lassen is painting. You might also look at the We Proudly Support Amos Lassen Facebook page. http://www.facebook.com/pages/We-proudly-support-Amos-Lassen/172416366117381?v=wall&viewas=0 I believe that reading both will make clear the situation.

    Mr. Lassen has alternately claimed that he removed all of his reviews, and that Amazon removed his reviews. I have no idea which is true. I only know that the bulk of those reviews were not his at all. The proof was undeniable and available for anyone to discover. This was no evil vendetta against Mr. Lassen. Indeed, the true victims were the reviewers who had their work stolen by Mr. Lassen and posted as his own, and the unknowing authors of the books that Mr. Lassen posted plagiarized reviews of. Mr. Lassen's claim that Amazon was manipulated into deleting plagiarized reviews is ludicrous. The terms of use that every reviewer agrees to on Amazon before being able to post a review states clearly that the work must be your own. Mr. Lassen failed to adhere to the terms of use that he agreed to - that all Amazon reviewers agree to.

    To those that claim a voice in LGBT film and literature has been silenced, I submit that it has not at all. The true authors of the reviews lifted by Mr. Lassen are still there. And I sincerely hope that this shameful incident will encourage others to write original reviews of these books so that the authors need not suffer because of Mr. Lassen's actions.

    Terry

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  6. @Nick

    As a person, Amazon reviews don't matter. I don't go to work thinking about it, neither do I think about it when I'm eating or having sex. As a reader, it doesn't matter. I don't like crowdsourced books. I don't like to read what other people are reading. Also, I buy books based on their covers or first page more often than by what other strangers are saying. As a writer, I'm an artist and no one else's opinion matter; in my book, I am God: I think this is nearly the same for many writers. Amazon review sometimes matters, but in the long run, it doesn't.

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  7. I'm a little confused. If, in your omnipotent opinion, Amazon reviews don't matter, then what are you bothering with this for? Clearly it matters to the parties involved, as well as they authors reviewed,so why are you trumpeting a cause you're so dismissive of?

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  8. This just in and about a review that the Amazonians claimed that I plagiarized. Surely the director would know if I had indeed copies his review from somewhere else:

    From:
    Patrick McGuinn
    ...
    Add to Contacts
    To: Alassenamos@yahoo.com
    Hello Amos,

    I am reaching out to you directly to ask a kind favor from you, if you would please post your review for my film, "Eulogy for a Vampire" on the film's Netflix page.

    http://www.netflix.com/WiMovie/Eulogy-for-a-Vampire/70123594

    Also, if you wouldn't mind, please rate it and save it to your queue. You can always remove it later.

    For some reason, I noticed that your review, once on the film's Amazon page, is now missing? Did you remove it?

    http://www.amazon.com/Eulogy-Vampire-Wilson-Hand/dp/B0042837LK

    Thanks for your reviews of my films,

    Patrick McGuinn

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  9. of course the Amazonians will defend themselves---their lives have been built on destroying me for the last two months. They have nothing better to do, Now let's talk about Amazon guidelines--do those include Nick's snotty remarks? Do those include being badgered daily by a group of people who hide behind false names?....going to employers? I do not think they do. These are ruthless people who have banded together as their leader Jason Kirkfield has said, to get rid of Amos Lassen--sick sick people who have no lives and have to take someone else's--they should get a job or a hobby. No job allows them 24/7 computer access especially to do what they have done.

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  10. Lassen,
    You fail to mention that I use my real name and have always done so. My 'snotty' remarks relate to you using other people's work. I said you are a disgrace and you are. You got caught out and you are now bleating about some dark conspiracy to destroy you. If you write genuine reviews then you have the right to have them treated at face value - if you copy someone's work then you deserve the backlash. Your review of Eulogy for a Vampire might well be genuine - but lots of them aren't as you well know and continue to comment on.

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  11. By the way, here is Lassen's e-mail to me...

    "every comment you have ever made about me has been forwarded to amazon--I do not know you and you do not know me--you do not have the right to call me by first name. Do you not have a life? Worry about yourself because you come across as a really nasty old disgusting person and there is nothing cute about your remarks. There is a lot of crap in this world and you seem to be leading a really undesirable group of pieces of it.. You are not entertaining and you are not even worth my wasting my time replying to you. It is people like you that make mutes seem so desirable. Worry about yourself and get a life,

    TO QUOTE YOU----you are a disgrace and your mother should have either kept her legs closed or have had an abortion. You will get yours but in the meantime read your remarks back and see how stupid you sound--but then you don't look too good either. :-"

    In Lassen's "to quote me" I did use the words "you are a disgrace". The rest of the stuff is rather nasty and certainly nothing I would say and never have. I would not support any comment that was that personal and offensive.

    Like I said, bleating like a 14 year old girl who can't get basic facts right.

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  12. I would love to post all of Nick Brett's abusive remarks to me--he wrote to me daily and always had something nasty to say. However those remarks are gone with all of my reviews. "Bleating", I am not bleating. You made sure I had no face left to save, you are the bleater here. Your posts here sure take a different tone than the things you said to me--suddenly you have become authoritarian instead of a name caller. You are what you are and you have to live with yourself. I love that.

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  13. Lassen,
    As you well know - your post above is utter bollocks. In your rather strange e-mail to me you state "every comment you have ever made about me has been forwarded to amazon" - well great so you have a copy of the e-mail. Post them here then and let people see the truth of the matter. I suspect that mysteriously you will be unable to.

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  14. I am going to say this--I have not a thing to be afraid of . An Amazon third party was presented the evidence by this group therefore neutrality was not there. They contacted them, they presented what they had. Amazon never exchanged one word with me from the very beginning. The day all of this started, I notified Amazon and continued to do so every day as many as 15 times a day--not one email or phone call was answered or returned. I suffered abuse after abuse from these people. They did everything in their power to make me feel small, Finally it reached a point that I lashed back. They had been calling me Amos asif we were friends and I know none of these people. I was forwarded emails they sent out. I heard from writers they contacted, I was informed that Kirkfield discussed me with the president of the college where I taught--they overstepped every boundary and kept going. Kirkfield publicly stated that he would have a good holiday only after I was gone. Truthseeker ranted, Muzzlehatch gloated and "avoracius reader" spoke with the most evil tongue I have ever heard. It was obvious they were out for blood and would stop at nothing until they got it and so they went to a neutral party, Amazon legal and gave them the evidence they prepared. Did Amazon ever include me in anything? NO! The only thing I ever heard from Amazon is that my reviews were deleted and I could no longer post. Was I asked for a statement? NEVER. I reported Kirkfield when he called me a "cretin" publicly in the forum, when Nick Brett called me a "disgrace", when E. Jacobs had a few choice words and when John Green decided the use of the word "ape" was a racial slur. Who are these people and why are they holier than God? They overstepped everything to get what they want and guess what? They are still gloating. Sure neutral--there was nothing neutral here nor were there two sides. They not only wrote with forked tongues, they showed us how small and petty they are. there was no justice here, there was no trial and like I said before they had decided how they were going to handle this entire affair. And now they gloat. Believe them if you want, let's see how they handle their next one---read the forum, they have already discussed who it is to be. Since when to we live in a world that is controlled by vigilantes? This may be your world but it sure is not mine.

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  15. Out of curiosity, was my previous comment held in moderation or was it deleted?

    To remain on topic, since Mr. Lassen posted the same comment on another comment thread, I'll post my response here as well:

    Mr. Lassen,
    Why should Amazon be required to contact you before taking action when it was clear to them, when presented with evidence they could easily have ignored, that you violated their terms of use?

    Also, Amazon, regardless of who brought the evidence forward, did examine it clearly before making their decision. Why do I believe this? Look how long people have been reporting Harriet Klausner and she is still there chugging happily away.

    The difference, in your case, is that you borrowed the writings from different copyrighted sources without credit or permission in order to pad your own reviews.

    As I said in a comment on my blog, I'm not glad to see you fall even if it was your own fault. I don't know you from Adam, and you may well be a very nice man in real life, and those people who reported you may be wolves in sheep's clothing, but it would have been best for everyone had you just said mea culpa, apologized, and righted your wrongs.

    It truly saddens me that the GLBT and Jewish communities are included in the string of your unfortunate victims, even if they don't yet know it.

    P.S. I'll give it to you that being called a racist (when it's not true) does sting and was uncalled for. Even being called a "cretin" crossed the line, but it pales in comparison to calling someone an "evil", "disgusting", "reprehensible piece of sh*t" and wanting to spit on her grave. As far as "disgrace" goes, I believe it perfectly reflects your actions--disgraceful. That's just my opinion of course, feel free to disagree.

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  16. what saddens me is that you have no idea of what you are talking about and of course I disagree--you are a late comer and your information was fed to you by these people and then you went and did your research.
    And Ann-Kat, the review of "I Spit On Your Grave" came two months of constant harassment from these people and it was the way I lashed back. I do not believe that you would have taken the abuse and taunts that I took as many as 20 times on a daily basis and it was ok for Kirkfield to go to my employer as a representative of Amazon and post his findings? I wonder how you would have reacted. I doubt you would have reacted the way Lambda Literary reacted (ignoring and wondering who these people were) when Erin Elway and Barbara Barclay overstepped all bounds by writing letters and saying how much they respected the organization. Give me a break--these are cutthroat and ruthless people who wanted a crucifixion and would do whatever it took to get it. Sure I lashed out bit how much is one person to take? Mea culpa? No way. And what about the letters they wrote to universities and publishing houses? And what about the smear campaign? You weren't there, you came in three or four days ago with your self-righteousness and as you say, you don't know me--you only know what these people have presented you with. They gave you the leads and you followed. I would love to see how you would have reacted. They overstepped every boundary of humanity. And have you noticed, Jason Kirkfield has nothing to say nor does E. Jacobs who admitted herself that this has gone too far. Since you mean to keep it going, so do I--just not here. You have new friends now--watch how they play ball and be careful, do not cross them.

    This is my final comment--the show is all yours now.

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  17. And still you fail to address the key issue that you presented other people's work as your own....

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  18. Why are my comments being deleted?

    Every time I reference and ask people to visit my blog, the review disappears. Could it be because I've posted actual screen captures and links to Lassen's transgressions?

    So much for allowing both sides of the argument to be presented.

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  19. Another note: At least Jesse Wave & Rick Reed were courteous enough to allow the comments/links to outside sources so people could read both sides and decide for themselves whom to believe.

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  20. Amos, the fact that Amazon looked at the plagiarized reviews and in short order deleted your entire collection of circa 4000 reviews and kicked you out of the Vine program is plenty of evidence for anyone to go on. Amazon has always been notoriously reluctant to take action against reviewers. If they bust you, you must act egregiously indeed.

    There is no excuse for the content of the "I Spit on your Grave" rant under any circumstances. Not only is it legally libelous and possibly criminally threatening, it is just low class trash. Written low class trash derives from individuals who are low class trash ... always.

    Of course, from every word I've read from your fingers, you are NEVER responsible for your own actions. They are accidents that happen as you are victimized by this cold, cruel world.

    Face it. You faked it for years. You got caught. You experienced that "Oh Crap!!!" moment and started to delete a few of your most recent transgressions. Amazon deleted the rest of them. You antagonized and insulted a group of perfect normal, nice people, instigating their continued investigation of your violation of the standards of both Amazon.com, the literary community at large, and the academic community in particular.

    Your constant spews of slanted accusations, attempts to slide away from the actual problem, and your attacks and insults are not only morally reprehensible, but sadly pathetic.

    I can understand why you don't want to live in the bed you made, because it stinks. But at this point, its a done deal. You are history.

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  21. To note: I am not deleting any comments (the last time I visited the blog was two days ago). If your comments are getting deleted, I don't know what's happening.

    Peace! :p

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  22. Thank you, Eric, for weighing in and I will take it on good faith that you have not deleted my previous comments and I'll republish them with a note about their original dates.

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  23. This comment was originally posted on 12/14/10:

    As far as I can tell (having read through all 33 pages of the forum thread and the FB fan page), this is a one-sided story.

    The reviewers weren't attacking Lassen because of his religious views, sexual orientation, or to clear the pathway for Klausner to remain a top reviewer--they did it because Lassen "borrowed" the words of others to help pad his own reviews, also known as plagiary.

    I don't know whether my comment will remain, but I've blogged about the other side of events: Amos Lassen Falls From Grace, When Reviewers Attack.

    And to be perfectly clear, I do not personally know Lassen--he very well may be a great guy IRL--or any of the reviewers in the thread--and they may be wolves in sheep's clothing--but I do know what I've seen with my own two eyes. When looked at objectively, it's pretty damning.

    One more thing: The evidence hasn't been completely expunged. Plenty of his offending reviews remain because they have one or more comments, so others can see in black and white for themselves.

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  24. (Part 3 & final)
    I may be a late comer, but that means I'm able to gauge the situation without bias, removed from both you and your Amazon detractors. I have nothing to gain or lose from your undoing or your vindication. Consider that.

    I'm not being self-righteous, just pointing out the situation as I see it. This entire mess could have been avoided had you not copied those other reviews in the first place (or even properly edited them after the fact).

    By the way, I invite you and your supporters to visit my blog on the subject and point out anything you believe I got wrong in the write up. I do allow comments from both sides of this argument as long as they're cordial, non-threatening, and the language is kept clean.

    Good night, Mr. Lassen.

    I do apologize for needing to break this final comment into three parts, but Blogger decided to impose restrictions which weren't set prior.

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  25. It looks as though Part 2 vanished. Trying one final time:

    (Part 2)
    Sure they may have badgered you for months (I'll admit, I've seen some not-nice comments made about you and on some of your reviews thanks to Google cache) and you have every right to stand up for yourself, but you had opportunities to rise above it rather than stoop to their level (actually, in my opinion, far below it by some of the insults I've seen you throw around, and in such a public medium no less).

    And the issue was not whether these people harassed you or whether you harassed them, the issue was whether or not you plagiarised some of your reviews.

    This is your online legacy, Mr. Lassen, this is the statement you're making about yourself and your integrity. Only one question remains: Are you proud of this legacy?

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