Tim Tate

Author, Film-Maker & Investigative Journalist


The Truth Shall Make You Free Fret


David Aaronovitch has taken issue with my previous blog piece (“Dear Amazon: We Need To Talk About David”). In a series of messages on Twitter today he argued that I had misrepresented the truth about his critical reviews of his 2009 book, Voodoo History, on Amazon.


In the interest of fairness, and as a right of reply, this update sets out Mr. Aaronovitch’s Tweet-based complaints.


Yesterday’s blog was in response to a story that Amazon was seeking to take action against those who post bogus reviews of products on its site. I drew attention to the fact that on April 21, 2014, Mr. Aaronovitch had used his column in The Times to admit that upon publication of his book he had asked “every friend and family member to go onsite PDQ and 5-star [his] baby”, [ “onsite” referring to Amazon]; and that, in his words, such positive reviews were “frauds”.


Mr. Aaronovitch’s column explained that the reason he had suborned such “frauds” was that:


Something like half of all book sales are now made through Amazon, and when you find a book on Amazon it is accompanied by reviews from “readers” who give it a 1 (lowest) to 5 star rating. 

 So, almost before my book was published, the first 1-star reviews started to appear, from people who had never read it. After a week, even I wouldn’t have bought it.


His solution, he said, was to get equally bogus counterbalancing 5-star reviews submitted by his friends and family.


You get your frauds to balance off their frauds. Ce n’est pas magnifique, mais (grâce à Amazon) c’est la guerre.


Leaving aside, for a moment, the dishonesty involved in this process, my blog piece drew attention to the fact that none of the one-star reviews for his book currently viewable on Amazon were posted until one month after publication. By contrast, the first five-star review currently viewable on the site was posted on the day of publication.


Mr. Aaronovitch first tweeted to say:


You’re Wrong. The simple answer is that Amazon subsequently took down a number of those too-early reviews. You can apologise.


I responded as follows:


If you can provide poof of this I will happily make it clear. Can you justify your willingness to commit fraud ?


To which Mr. Aaronovitch replied:


I don’t feel an obligation either morally or legally to ‘prove’ anything to u. U didn’t check before you made the allegation.


Under the circumstances I would say it was incumbent upon you to check. Both morally and legally. But you didn’t, did you?


Well, no, I didn’t.   Because Mr. Aaronovitch’s column gave no indication that he had requested any such removal by Amazon.


There is no way for me, independently, to verify Mr. Aaronovitch’s claims that the near-instantaneous bogus negative reviews to which he referred were removed by Amazon. I therefore simply report his statement as a matter of fairness.


I did, however, ask him whether he had also sought the removal of the similarly bogus instant 5-star reviews of his book – reviews which, lest we forget, he described as “frauds”. Looking at the Twitter feed, I don’t believe he answered that question. He did however state:


None of those reviews were fraudulent but I did request them. Yr account is clearly libellous [sic] but more important, it’s wrong.


On the wider moral question of whether he felt it was right to suborn fraudulent reviews in the first place [“You get your frauds to balance off their frauds”], Mr. Aaronovitch was also silent – despite questions I asked him about this.   Instead he accused me of “malice” because he had “shown clearly” that I was “the willing victim of a hoax”.


This relates to two programmes he made for BBC Radio earlier this year on the subject of satanic ritual abuse. I was one of the interviewees. I and five others (both interviewees and those referred to in the programmes) subsequently made complaints to the BBC. Those complaints were rejected at first instance by the BBC Editorial Complaints Unit: at our joint request, as is perfectly normal, they are now being considered by the BBC Trust.


I have explained to Mr. Aaronovitch that despite his attempts at baiting me on this subject, I and the other complainants feel we should not discuss the matter publicly while the BBC Trust is investigating.


I have also explained that I hold absolutely no malice towards Mr. Aaronovitch. This post, which sets out his arguments, in his own words, bears that out.

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