Thursday, March 28, 2013

Give me everything you have

In Give Me Everything You Have, James Lasdun describes a sustained attack by an obsessed former student. The book is subtitled On Being Stalked.

Lasdun, a novelist and poet, met “Nasreen” in a writing workshop he was leading. He thought her budding novel was good, and he encouraged her. When she emailed him a few years later, asking him to help her find an agent, he agreed.

The friendly email relationship that developed seems to have been perceived as a romance by Nasreen. That
lasted until Lasdun asked her opinion of the middle-eastern custom of veils (Nasreen was of Iranian descent), and she replied with a suggestive, “Would you like to see me in a veil, sir?” Belatedly awakening to the impropriety of the relationship, Lasdun tried to end it.

What followed was a torrent: several emails a day, every day, for years, filled with accusations, delusions, and death-wishes, occasionally interspersed with invitations and supplications.

Nasreen also used the Internet to smear Lasdun's reputation, accusing him of plagiarism and rape in Amazon and Goodreads reviews, editing his Wikipedia page, and sending letters filled with blood-curdling accusations to his employers and colleagues.  Nasreen found a way to use online forms to impersonate Lasdun online, a further assault on his image.

Lasdun’s memoir tells how this sustained and constant stream of abuse transformed his life. He also describes his completely fruitless attempts to stop it. As with other cases of extreme and hateful cyberbullying, there are generally few laws to describe this crime, and few legal methods for stopping it. At the time Lasdun finished his memoir, Nasreen’s unreasoning campaign of hate was still continuing.
It is probably going on even now.

 This book is beautifully-written and completely of the moment: right now, when Internet makes stalking and bullying easy, but the legal infrastructure hasn't found a way to deal with such crimes. Lasdun shows, chillingly, how easily it could happen to anyone.

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