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Orlando Figes admits writing anonymous Amazon reviews

Earlier this week, Quillblog reported on a British contretemps about an academic’s wife who apparently posted a series of vitriolic reviews of her husband’s rivals on Amazon using the moniker “Historian.” As we noted this morning, The Guardian is now reporting that the reviews were actually written by Orlando Figes, the academic himself, who misled his lawyer and allowed his wife to take the blame for the scandal. The Globe and Mail has also picked up on the story:

I take full responsibility for posting anonymous reviews on Amazon, he said in a statement released Friday. I have made some foolish errors and apologize wholeheartedly to all concerned.

Figes specifically apologized to his wife, his lawyer ” who was misled about the source of the reviews ” and to the authors he trashed on Amazon, including Rachel Polonsky, Robert Service and Kate Summerscale.

Figes goes on to state that his behaviour might have been tied into unspecified health problems:

I am ashamed of my behavior, and don’t entirely understand why I acted as I did, he said. It was stupid ” some of the reviews I now see were small-minded and ungenerous but they were not intended to harm. This crisis has exposed some health problems, though I offer that more as explanation than excuse. I need some time now to reflect on what I have done and the consequences of my actions with medical help.

The old saw about reaping and sowing comes to mind, but Quillblog would like to point out that this whole farrago is yet another nail in the coffin of anonymous online reviews. Surely it’s time for Amazon to change its policy and require that reviewers to identify themselves by name.