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Day: March 20, 2019

#GetSilent: The Anatomy of an Ignored Issue; Part One: “MAGA Martha”

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If you missed the prologue to this story, you need to read it before delving into this part; there’s simply too much to sum up to get us to this next point. All of the information in this post has come from people involved, either directly or peripherally. If they’ve asked me to obscure their identities, I have.

Also, please note: the information here is presented without screenshots. The reason for this is that there are so many, the posts will become too image heavy and frankly, difficult to read. These screenshots can be produced at a moment’s notice via email or social media if any of the “Sassies” or their supporters feel they are being slandered and need to take any of the legal action they’ve baselessly threatened others with.

In January of 2019, a reader known as Nikki was temporarily suspended from Twitter as a result of an argument with some of the “Sassies” (now consisting of M.R. Rutter, Paula M. Hunter, Gloria Geiger, and K.N. Blackburn). Nikki, it should be noted, was an early critic of Santino Hassel. As a result, she had changed her Twitter display name to “Nikki C. Fisher,” a play on “catfisher,” the popular term for someone who lies about their identity for personal gain on the internet. When Lissa Gromley blogged about her experience with the Sassies, she handed over three-thousand pages of the Sassies’ private chat to Fisher, who posted details about the Sassies’ treatment of Gromley on Twitter. As support for Gromley grew among the readers and bloggers associated with Fisher (and as another, unrelated author scandal unfolded), the Sassies employed a tactic they had congratulated themselves about in their private chat: they “discovered” information about Fisher and exposed her true identity: author Nikki Fisher.

Blackburn attacked Fisher, accusing her of “lying, and looking for notoriety.” Fisher denied lying about anyone; she’d recently unfollowed a large number of people due to their association with another author and tweeted about it, but she genuinely had no idea about Gromley or the Sassies. Still, they piled on, with Geiger boasting:

“One should use their names investigative skills when going after someone especially for they claim to be a writer. As we do investigate and research EVERYTHING! The targeting was not only inappropriate it was truly immature and deserving of the loss that followed. Meg we got you!”

Fisher responded:

“What targeting? Everyone is talking about it but no one wants to tell me where this targeting is?”

Geiger insisted that Fisher had deleted a tweet slandering Rutter, demanded an apology, and warned that her actions would harm her career. Blackburn also alleged that Fisher had deleted a tweet and also demanded an apology, going so far as to say that the people who unfollowed Fisher did so because they knew she was spreading misinformation. Yet, Fisher still insisted she had no idea what was going on.

Because she didn’t. Because Nikki Fisher, author, and Nikki C. Fisher, blogger, weren’t the same people, despite Geiger’s crowing about their extensive research. Their shoddy detective work had caused an innocent author to lose followers and readers, and they refused to back down, fully convinced that Nikki C. Fisher and Nikki Fisher were the same person.

Later that month, Gromley wrote her blog post about her experiences with the Sassies, and conflict ensued between (the real) Nikki C. Fisher and the group. Blackburn referenced her alleged career success and swollen bank account several times to imply that the “trolls” were jealous (a quick check of her Amazon profile on March 18, 2019, showed her as being the author of one book, currently ranked lower than #25,000 in each of its categories and #996,984 overall) and threatened that Gromley would be served with a lawsuit the next week (she was not, and has not been, to date). As the Twitter spat went on, a suspicious account popped up in defense of Blackburn.

Reader Angela says:

“One morning Nikki told us in a chat that she was in twitter jail for something involving all those authors. I don’t remember what tweet was reported though. So we starting being funny on twitter and doing this #FreeNikki stuff. I decided to check the mentions of the people involved and saw some random person tweeted KN and said she was looking for a series to read and found her on twitter and sorry she has all these trolls. I clicked on her and it’s just all maga. She supports the maga hat kids and said the elder was guilty of “stolen valor” and just all the crap maga people say. There’s no way this person is a romance reader in my mind. There’s also no damn way you could use any general search terms on amazon and have KN’s book show up. So I know this is all set up. So you can see what happened after that.”

“MAGA Martha” had created her account in January of 2019, very close to the time that Nikki Fisher, author, had been incorrectly doxed. Her bio claimed that she’d been locked out of her past account and that was why her current account was so new. Martha rushed to Blackburn’s defense, stating that she should block trolls and that Martha, a new account who’d only ever tweeted vitriolic conservative talking points before and nothing at all about books, was excited to buy Blackburn’s novel. When blogger Darien Moya saw Martha’s “stolen valor” remarks about Nathan Phillips, she tweeted her objections; Martha fired back, accusing Moya, a black woman, of racism against white people (though at one point, Martha, whose user pic was of a white woman with blonde hair, accuses Moya of incorrectly assuming that Martha was white).

Meanwhile, Blackburn received a one-star review on her book, a review which she blamed on the blogger Fisher, calling it fake and telling another Twitter user that she had contacted Amazon to take it down. They did not take it down, likely because the review was highly detailed, including plot points that one couldn’t know without at least skimming the book. Blackburn bragged on Twitter that she had only positive reviews and therefore this one must have been fake. One of those reviews came from “Phil.” Shortly after Gromley’s break with the Sassies, Phil posted five reviews on the same day: two five-stars for Geiger, one apiece for Hunter and Blackburn, and a one-star for Gromley that read only “badly researched. DNF.” Before that, the Phil account was occasionally reviewing the odd electronic item or books about horticulture. Phil’s passion for indie romance appeared to spring up just in time to one-star bomb Gromley and praise the other Sassies.

Except for Rutter. Because according to Gromley and others, Phil is her husband. Rutter allegedly used her husband’s account to five star her friends’ books and one-star Gromley. These actions are consistent with the Sassies’ policy of “when we do it, it’s okay.” Though they screamed down a valid, if critical, review as fake, they’re fine with fake reviews tilted in their favor.

Blackburn also accused Angela and Moya of “going after” MAGA Martha simply because Martha had stated she would buy Blackburn’s book. In Blackburn’s world, it was inconceivable that someone would be more concerned with white supremacy than with Blackburn’s books and career. She continued to insist that a personal vendetta was the only reason anyone cared about the contents of MAGA Martha’s racist tweets. Blackburn piled on Moya, mocking her for using African-American Vernacular English and demanding that Moya “use proper English” when speaking to her. When several people pointed out the racism in her tweet, Blackburn doubled down:

“Asking someone to speak proper English isn’t bigoted. If I went to Spain, I would speak Spanish. If I was speaking to a Frenchman, I would speak French. I speak proper English. I would like the same courtesy, please. 🙂 “

She goes on to taunt Moya by asking if Moya dropped out of high school and advising her to get a GED. As her racist insults escalated, Blackburn accused Moya of hiding her identity to “[…]smear others without fallout[…].”

Again, this group of authors privately bragged about bringing their sockpuppet accounts into Twitter arguments to fight on their side. When they do it, it’s “sassy.” When others tweet from their actual accounts, they’re dishonest and probably tweeting under an assumed identity.

Despite MAGA Martha’s continued abuse of Moya, Blackburn didn’t step in to shut it down, even when other readers appealed to her to do so. Nor did Geiger, who stepped in to defend MAGA Martha in a series of Tweets from her author account:

“As an author I DO NOT control the views, be it political, religious, or otherwise of my followers or readers. And I do not care it’s their right to those things. If they want to read my books then good I’m glad. But if someone else has a problem with these things, too damn bad!

“I will not follow the hypocrites and be rude or nasty to someone just because they like a politician who everyone else despises. Or because their religion is one where they worship in Mosk or are Wiccan. I will not put MY own personal views on anyone who wants to read my work

“And neither should anyone else. I watched as 2 people trashed an author and a new reader because the reader supports a politician that is EXTREMELY unpopular. Neither deserved the attack at all. And furthermore this reader is actually a very nice per who, after reading my

“Friends book posted it to HER Facebook page and told all her friends, also book readers, to get my friends books. As authors we do not want to put our feelings/views upon others shutting out those who don’t fit in our little cookie cutter life. To this reader I want to say,

“Thank you for being an awesome person and reader! You didn’t deserve that attack and neither did my friend. But I am glad you stood your ground and defended your right to be an individual. Authors do not control their audience.”

To Geiger and Blackburn, white supremacy was simply a difference of opinion that should be lauded. MAGA Martha was a brave, noble figure. Meanwhile, Martha began assembling photoshop collages of Moya’s tweets to “prove” that Moya was the real racist. These tweets included telling Blackburn that no one cared about who read her books, that nobody needed to create sockpuppet accounts, and calling Martha “Becky” and telling her to watch Fox and Friends. The strongest racial statement Moya makes in any of the screenshots is to say “AMEN!” in a quoted tweet about white people needing to assimilate into the human race, a tweet that had nothing to do with any of the Sassies.

Since I started trying to piece together this story, I’ve had several people theorize to me that MAGA Martha is Blackburn’s own alt-account. Some claim it’s Rutter’s or Geiger’s sockpuppet. But it’s generally agreed that MAGA Martha is the outlet for one of the Sassies to air her white supremacist grievances. Why else would they rally around MAGA Martha? Why else would they risk their careers by standing up for a proud white supremacist?

In a tweet, Blackburn says:

“Woke up to record-breaking sales! [star eyes, mind-blown emojis] I sold the most copies I’ve ever sold in one day yesterday, including release day. Considering yesterday’s events, I’m super grateful to everyone who voiced support or gave HMH a shot. [heart emoji] Thank you all! [heart emoji].”

Perhaps they view vocal white supremacists a crucial part of their reader base? In any case, the Sassies now sought to spin themselves as victims of a vicious attack, frequently implying that Blackburn couldn’t have committed any degree of racism due to Blackburn being “more native than not” (she is a self-proclaimed descendant of Pocahontas.) In a February Tweet, Blackburn stated:

“[…] I have an oddly large bone structure for a woman too, courtesy of the cross breed between my German/Irish father and my very Native mother (Apache, Algonquin, Cherokee, Creek, Pueblo, Blackfoot, Comanche, as far as we know).”

Some Twitter users doubted this claim, as in the past she’d talked about the love story between her Nazi-with-a-heart-of-gold grandfather and her Jewish grandmother who fell for each other in a concentration camp. Her use of the term “cross breed” and insistence that there was no racial component to telling someone not to use the language of their culture also raised eyebrows among a few Native readers; at one point in the conversation, Blackburn says:

“LOL, how dare I ask someone to speak my language!”

Later, she tries to deflect another Twitter user’s accusation of racism by claiming that English isn’t her native language at all.

People also became concerned over an unearthed tweet in which Blackburn stated that the Vikings were the original inhabitants of North America. As the latter is an oft-repeated white supremacist talking point, it led some to believe that MAGA Martha was Blackburn’s account, after all. This rumor gained traction the more Blackburn tweeted to defend her anti-black racist attacks on Moya’s speech:

“The act of speaking the language most spoken and taunt in our country is not racist. Can people use the language to say racist things? Sure. Your friends here have done it plenty. [shrug emoji]”

Blackburn now cast herself as the true victim of racism, despite continuing to argue that mocking AAVE had no racial connotations.

“Proper English is that derived from William Shakespeare, responsible for most of the modern words that we use. No, it isn’t a racial concept. It’s a literary one. Like there isn’t a big enough racial issue, let’s make words one too!”

When other Twitter users continued to point out that there absolutely is a racial component to language, especially in the United States, Blackburn leaped to a new tactic: accuse anyone who mocked Geiger’s spelling of “mosque” as “mosk” of being ableist due to Geiger’s history of traumatic brain injury.

Mocking spelling errors can arguably be deemed ableist depending on context; namely, whether or not the misspelling is intentional or a mistake. But there was no context for Geiger’s brain injury. Geiger had explained her “mosk” tweet as being the result of using speech-to-text. After people pointed out that they were unable to elicit “mosk” in place of “mosque” with their own speech-to-text programs (and because the word was used in a series of tweets defending and praising a white supremacist), they assumed Geiger’s typo was a satirical misspelling aimed to the eye dialect of the alt-right. When Geiger’s condition came to light, several of those mocking her acknowledged their mistake and called for others to stop pointing out the misspelling. But now, Blackburn and her defenders felt her anti-AAVE screed against Moya (which began before Geiger’s tweet was mocked) was somehow justified:

“Doesn’t matter. You all took place. Silence is compliance. When you don’t speak out against it, you are guilty of it. You posted it with the intent to have her mocked for having a traumatic brain injury. Seriously, think about how that makes you all look.”

Blackburn felt that Angela, who had tweeted screenshots of Geiger’s rant in defense of MAGA Martha, had done so with the sole purpose of creating an ableist dogpile. Blackburn also began tweeting that those calling her out for her racist campaign against Moya would be sued for deliberately and maliciously harming Blackburn’s business, a claim that seemed difficult to prove after all her public gloating over her success and the great sales the controversy had earned her. To date, no one has been served, though several sockpuppet accounts have emerged threatening to investigate parties involved in order to file suits.

Considering the Sassie’s previous attempts, it won’t be surprising if their stellar detective work leads to Blackburn suing the wrong individual.

In February, a screenshot of a 2016 rant from Blackburn’s public Facebook account cast more doubt on Blackburn’s motivations for mocking Moya’s speech:

“I have kept silent for the most part, but I’ve had it up to my eyebrows hearing about how the Oscars are too white and that black kids don’t have enough role models to look up to. This is my question: why are you teaching your children that in order for someone to be a role model, they have to share your skin color or heritage? My husband and I watch UFC. We still haven’t missed a fight in over two years. It’s likely that [redacted] is going to grow up watching the sport, liking it, maybe even wanting to participate in it himself. I would never limit my son by only pointing out the white fighters, or the only Irish title holder in the UFC’s history, just because we’re white and have a lot of Irish ancestry. There are some seriously gifted fighters who are black. If my son came home and said that he wanted to be like Demetrius Johnson or Jon Jones, I would tell him to go for it; work hard like they do, put your heart and soul into what you love, and one day, you’ll be as good as they are. Because when I look at people, I don’t see the color of their skin. I see their personality, their drive and devotion, their work ethic and their accomplishments. That’s what makes someone a role model, not the color of skin they were born with.”


Come back for Part Two: Down The Toilet