Why you cannot always trust social media: a practical example

Portrait of Nikita S. Khrushchev
Portrait of Nikita S. Khrushchev (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Reading more about the excellent Red Plenty – I came across this discussion on the US blog “Crooked Timber”.

There are some very odd contributions there – one commentator in particular, Louis Proyect, waxes on and on and in ignorance of the book’s real content (he has not read it, he says), about its flaws… ignore that and read a copy, it’s brilliant.

But the discussion also contains something worse than the at-length views of a loud-mouthed know-it-all –  a link to an Amazon.com page for ‘Khrushchev Lied: The Evidence That Every “Revelation” of Stalin’s (and Beria’s) Crimes in Nikita Khrushchev’s Infamous “Secret Speech” to the 20th Party Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union on February 25, 1956, is Provably False’.

My interest here is not in the likely psychotic state of the author (I am assuming that Grover Furr did not write such a ludicrous book as a way of making fun of Stalinists) – but that on Amazon.com it has 6 five star reviews – the first of which has been found “helpful by 26 out of 29 readers” (it was out of 28 before I got there), and all of which are rated positively.

In other words a cult of Stalin freaks, people who lust for the GuLags and Nazi-Soviet pacts, revel in anti-Semitism and mass deportations, famine and slaughter, have been able to fix up the Amazon social media recommendation system without many people spotting what they were up to.

So … (a) remember this when you next rely on nothing but a social media recommendation to make a purchase and (b) go there and vote these reviews as unhelpful. That is the least any of us can do to honour the many millions of victims of Stalinism.

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