The New York Times details a campaign from a Michael Jackson fan group that sought to bury an unfavorable book on Amazon with promotion of anonymous one-star reviews. While fake reviews are thought to be a widespread problem on Amazon, the Times says that the campaign by "Michael Jackson's Rapid Response Team to Media Attacks" has been the biggest and most successful: the group reportedly submitted dozens of one-star reviews (the lowest rating), worked to promote those ratings, and took credit for the book's temporary removal on Amazon. The Times says two points made by Randall Sullivan in the book (titled "Untouchable: The Strange Life and Tragic Death of Michael Jackson") seem particularly infuriating to fans: that Jackson's extensive plastic surgery decimated his nose, and that despite being married twice, Jackson was a lifelong virgin. "Sullivan does everything he can to dehumanize, dismantle and destroy, against all objective fact," a Rapid Response Team spokesperson told the Times.
To stop the hatred & slanderous attacks against Michael Jackson takes an army. We will need your help in 2013 more than ever.— MJRapid ResponseTeam (@MJRapidResponse) December 27, 2012
Being a fan of Michael Jackson is so much fun.— MJRapid ResponseTeam (@MJRapidResponse) January 11, 2013
While Amazon has worked to crack down on bogus reviews, its focus has reportedly been on fraudulent reviews that promote books — not those intended to sink a product. The Times points out that the book received mixed reviews from professionals, but that doesn't mean the negative reviews didn't have an impact on sales. In an interview with the Times, Sullivan asked: "should people be allowed to make flagrantly false comments about the content of a book or its author? This is suppression of free speech in the name of free speech." As of the time of this writing, several negative reviews still top the Amazon page for "Untouchable;" "skip Randall Sullivan's poorly written, poorly researched, and tabloid focus piece of trash!" tops the list, with Amazon indicating that 53 reviewers made a similar statement. The "most helpful customer reviews," however, are all favorable five-star reviews. Amazon told the Times that the fans' reviews did not violate its guidelines, but declined to comment further.
"People think they know me, but they don't'. ~MJ— MJRapid ResponseTeam (@MJRapidResponse) January 8, 2013