Thursday, April 26, 2012

So Your Favourite Blogger's A Plagiarist

As you may or may not have heard, the book blogosphere exploded of late when it was discovered that a massively popular YA book blogger had plagiarized six posts from a group of style bloggers. I'm not going to recap the situation, since those involved in the situation, Dear Author, and the Smart Bitches have already done pretty excellent jobs at that already.

No, this post comes from reading the comments and arguments that erupted in the comments section of this plagiarist's apology post. I found there were an overwhelming amount of uninformed or else willfully blind opinions on the exact nature of plagiarism and how bad it is, and I realized a little educational session was in order, and that perhaps the super-fans of this blogger need to be invited to my Internet Counsellor's Office for helpful words and pamphlets.

Listen up, my fragile, hurt ducklings:

1. Plagiarism is wrong. I know it sounds like this should be obvious to everybody but clearly a few people need a little more education. It's okay to like or have liked this blogger (you can actually count me in that group), but that doesn't mean you should sugar-coat or ignore the implications of what happened. She willingly plagiarized another person's work and if she had been doing so in any professional field she would have been fired.

I've seen commenters frantically hand-waving it by saying, "Oh, well, she just copied Blog Tips and Tricks - none of those are original to begin with." Um, she didn't just copy tips and tricks - she also copied the format, the page design and also the sentence structure and syntax - things which naturally tend to vary from person to person and are what differentiates one writer's style from another's.

2. Plagiarism is a BIG wrong. Intellectual property is ephemeral and incorporeal, but that doesn't mean it isn't important to those who toiled to create it. It's easy to hand-wave it when it comes to bloggers, who do their writing for free, because it doesn't feel as though you're taking someone's livelihood away - but you would be wrong. From my own personal experiences as a writer, and I'm sure thousands of others' experiences, my writing and my ideas MATTER to me and whether or not I'm getting paid for them is irrelevant.

3. Plagiarism is not less wrong if "everybody does it." Do I really need to bring the "if everyone jumped off a cliff" argument out of my grandmother's handbag? Really?

4. Plagiarism is not less wrong if "it happens to lots of people." I particularly enjoyed the "Well, that's Chinatown" argument, as if Bloggerville was some lawless pioneer town on the unexplored frontier of the internet. You know what happens to a lot of people? Poverty, murder, torture, famine - those happen to millions of people. Does that make these things less wrong? Does the fact that they happen to a lot of people lessen how awful they are?

5. Plagiarism is not less wrong if the blogger apologizes. Don't get me wrong, apologies are great and absolutely necessary when someone has committed an error. And to forgive is divine and all that - but that doesn't mean a person is freed from the consequences of their actions. This wasn't a "victimless crime" (which is one of my LEAST favourite terms, right next to "diet cheese"). Other people were injured in this case. They had their rights infringed upon. They had their content displayed by someone else under that someone else's name. While the blogger may have apologized, that doesn't make the consequences of her actions go away.

While reading the comments section following the blogger's apology, I noticed the argument "not everyone would own up to plagiarism" was tossed around in her defense. Congratulations, you owned up to a mistake you made four months after it happened and only once your actions were publicly outed, instead of continuing to deny the allegations. You're a special snowflake.

6. Plagiarism isn't something that "could happen to anyone." It's not like farting in an elevator, where if you don't clench hard enough or you sneeze, you end up accidentally blowing stolen content onto your blog posts. Plagiarism requires intent and agency. Nothing happens to a plagiarist. In the act of plagiarism, they are not the ones acted upon. They are making an active decision. So really, plagiarism isn't something that strikes you when you aren't paying attention - it's an active decision that requires intent and action.

And let us all remember that not all mistakes are the same. "Mistake" is a pretty convenient umbrella term that some of the commenters are using that allows them to play up idea-theft as if it's no big deal. But consider the word "mistake." Leaving your umbrella at home during a rainstorm is a mistake. Having a few beers too many and deciding to drive is also a mistake. The difference between these two mistakes are the consequences. With one, you get wet. With another, you hurt (or risk hurting) other people.

Not all mistakes are created equal. You forgetting your umbrella does not put you on equal moral terms with someone who steals other blogs' content - and vice versa!

7. Plagiarism is not less wrong than BRINGING UP PLAGIARISM. Clearly, this blogger tried to go the "silent but deadly" route but misjudged the amount of clenching required to pass a bubble of rights-infringing flatulence. But the ones who smelt it are not the ones who dealt it. But tell that to this commenter on the blogger's "Apology" post:
This, dear readers, is what is known as victim blaming. The people who had their CREATIVE CONTENT STOLEN are depicted as being hostile and unreasonable when the plagiarist "gave them what they wanted so they demanded more" - more being the demand to have their rightful creative content, which had been taken without their permission, off the website. What divas!

Worse, this commenter flogs the plagiarist's victims for being so unclassy as to "create drama." It's bad enough you were so ungrateful as to be angry when a popular blogger stole from you - but you had to make a stink about it, too? Why can't victims just shut up and be quiet? Why do they have to speak up and make us think about bad things when we'd rather be thinking about Hugh Jackman on a unicorn?

I could go on about how the completely heinous victim-blaming is not only RUDE but 100% inaccurate, but the stylish chick at Grit and Glamour gives her own (and far better) explanation.

It's not like I don't get it. I used to be a huge fan of this blog. I don't want to think about her having done something so awful and monumentally wrong. But attacking the people SHE HURT for making YOU realize that someone you admire did something wrong does not make that fact go away. Sending hate e-mails (I wish I was kidding) to people who had the gall to protect their rightful intellectual property doesn't do you or your favourite blogger any favours.

You're all going to have to deal with this in different ways. I can't tell you to not go to her blog or to stop reading her posts, obviously. But the comments section made it pretty clear that people need to be educated on why plagiarism matters, and why it doesn't suddenly not matter when it's perpetrated by someone you admire and care about.

49 comments:

  1. I drew a big heart around this post on my screen. Well, figuratively. You know what I mean. :)

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  2. So much to love about this post (excluding of course the cause of it) but this phrase "victimless crime" (which is one of my LEAST favourite terms, right next to "diet cheese") makes me want to have your babies.

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    1. I actually LOL-ed at that part. Oh and the "special snowflake"...LOVED IT!!

      ♥Isalys / Book Soulmates

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    2. That was the perfect description! I conjures exactly what people need to picture when thinking of plagiarism and its effects on its victims.

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    3. Ah-thank you. I just hated how followers said "not all of YOU would own up to plagiarism" as a point in the Siren's favour, but the only reason she DID was because she was caught.

      If she'd come out in January saying, "I used these posts but I forgot to attribute them to the right people, so sorry, here are the bloggers and their links, I made a mistake" - that WOULD have been a huge mark in the Siren's favour and the outcry would not have been nearly as bad.

      The point was, she kept it quiet for four months and then only apologized when people realized it was her. That doesn't make her special at all.

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  3. Thank you so much for your thoughtful and eloquent evaluation of this situation. I'm still gobsmacked that people would continue to support someone who has been so vigilant about plagiarism...until it applied to her.

    I take comfort knowing that so many of you in the YA blog world have the clarity and integrity to recognize that turning a blind eye to deception and dishonesty in turn makes you deceptive and dishonest.

    Beautifully written, even the flatulent bits. ;)

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    1. I am sorry to see the nasty attitude and approach that some book bloggers took, whether in her defense or not. Unfortunately, those people made a bad situation worse and made the whole community look like hot-headed mob. However, it makes me happy to know that there are a lot others (Gossamer Obsession included) who do have the "clarity and integrity" to be honest about what really happened :)

      ♥Isalys / Book Soulmates

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    2. You are welcome. It is APPALLING that you and your fellow fashion bloggers are getting hate for speaking out.

      And I don't think pardoning a crime has anything inherently to do with blogging. I think it has everything to do with fame. No one wants to believe that someone they like and admire, someone who entertains them, would do something so horrible.

      Look at the excessive "well, he apologized! WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT?" hoopla the media did for Chris Brown, and all the victim-blaming of Rihanna. He makes popular hits, and the media knows if it shuts him down, they lose his money. The fans know if they shut him down, they can't listen to his music anymore. So they pardon him and try to pretend it wasn't as bad.

      The same goes for the followers of the Story Siren (who aren't personal friends - I can understand friends who'll support a friend in crisis, even if it's of her own making). They love her blog and its publicity and how it entertains and supports them - they still want to have that, so they pardon what she did.

      I like to think I can speak from a unique perspective because I AM someone who LOVED the Siren's blog. It was colourful and well designed with regular content that was fun to read. My first instinct that came out with the scandal was, "SHIT, this means I can't read her blog anymore, doesn't it?" But that's what has to be done in this case, I think. As a writer I can't support a plagiarist.

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  4. Found this out two days ago and I was just blown away. I chose to unfollow because I couldn't support what she did and I don't know if I could still trust the integrity of her posts. I love your thoughts on this!

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  5. What bothers me more about this is that I remember two specific things posted on The Story Siren: a post angry and upset upon learning that some of her content had been plagiarized (all completely understandable) and also a mostly-forgotten-by-now kerfluffle about TSS's very popular In My Mailbox feature which was remarkably similar to the (not-YA) book blogging meme Mailbox Mondays (though I forget from which site).

    At the time, Kristi insisted she didn't read any adult book blogs and that the idea/meme was arrived at independently (despite its significant popularity among 'adult' book blogs)- which struck me as a bit unlikely at the time, but I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. But now, here we are again, with a remarkably similar story, and I just don't believe it anymore. Once maybe. Twice? I think it's intentional. And I'm tired of being lied to.

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    1. "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me!" I think the whole community is tired of being fooled!

      ♥Isalys / Book Soulmates

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    2. She use to say Imm was inspired by pop culture junkie Yeah she no longer says that makes me wonder how much is real on her blog.

      The only good thing to come out of this is I' ve found so many. Ew blogs and I look forward to new friendships
      Lily
      So say we all

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    3. That's why plagiarism so utterly destroys a writer's career - because it permanently destroys any possible trust they could inspire in people with their writing. Writers operate on a trust with readers that they're providing original content. If they fail at that, nothing they ever write again can ever be trusted.

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  6. Well said. I agree that the blame the victims stance is possibly the most hateful and destructive aspect of the whole thing.

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    1. Yes - it's appalling. I can't believe people are getting angry at Beautifully Invisible and Grit and Glamour. They're not even the ones who called out the Story Siren!

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  7. You stated it perfectly.

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  8. You are awesomesauce!!

    I am completely blown away by the fact that the victims had to actually defend themselves for having the balls to call her out. We all know that if Kristi had been the one STOLEN from, the YA cheerleaders would have fought to see who would bring the rope for the hanging.

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  9. great post, I know I was blown away by this whole scandal. I don't believe TSS's apology or clarification posts were enough at all. She has lost all respect from me, and this entire situation is sad and disturbing on multiple levels... Book Savvy Babe

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  10. I hadn't even heard about the original issue, just saw this blog on twitter. It's a great post and makes a lot of good points very clearly.
    However, I am still thinking about Hugh Jackman riding a unicorn... :-S
    emma woodcock

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  11. I just need a little stamp that says "awesome post, like always" for your blog.

    I'm thinking a lot about things I've been reading in sex blogs, about people being abused at parties and then the victims being shunned and blamed while the abusers go scot free. Seems like no community is free of this kind of bullshit.

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  12. Yes. Exactly. All of it. *Thank you.*

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  13. Great post, great writing and great posts. Thank you for writing this, apelling out the moral issue here and doing so with humor.

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    1. one of the post should read point. Great points. Great writing. Great post.

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  14. I am still trying to get my head around the vile backlash against the victims: so, if she had gone around to their houses and stabbed them, should they stay quiet? But then, I am still amazed that she hasn't actually had the decency to make a proper apology. This all says a huge amount about her morals and sense of self-importance.

    This whole debacle is a blot on the integrity of the book blogging community, especially that of YA. The only way to remove that blot is for the community to show that plagiarism is not tolerable, no matter who or what is involved.

    I would hope that all reasonable bloggers in our community would be outraged by TSS' behavior and hold her accountable for it. I read somewhere that she is so important to the publishers that they will turn a blind eye to the incident: I really hope not, because she has shown that she cannot be trusted.

    Now, back to thinking about Hugh Jackman on that unicorn . . . mmmmm . . .

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    1. Ugh. A lot of it is denial out of guilt, though - people don't want to consider that they've supported a plagiarist, so they try to stick their heads in the sand and unintentionally continue to support a plagiarist.

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  15. Great post, and thank you for weighing in so articulately. I agree with everything you said.

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  16. This is the best post I've read on the issue. Thank you so much for taking the time and thought to put it together and share it. It clearly needs to be understood, shared, and discussed.

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  17. I arrived here through Angie's link (thanks, Angie!), and I have to say that I agree with her assessment. Your post is THE BEST. Thank you for taking your time and space for this.

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  18. This is my first time visiting your blog so I don't know you but I kinda wanna hug you now ;) This was BRILLIANT!

    I will be honest and say that I was not a fan of that blogger to begin with. I had this weird, gut-feeling about her, maybe it was her superiority or the fact that her fans were almost cult-like but regardless, I'm glad I stuck to my gut because this whole situation proved that she didn't deserve to be put on that blogger pedestal.

    Her poor judgement and mismanaging of the situation sealed the deal for me. I can now only hope that all her little minions see the truth for what it is and then make a RATIONAL decision about who the real victim here is!

    Kudos to you for this post!
    ♥Isalys / Book Soulmates

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    1. I used to really, really like her blog. I remember asking her about Book Expo and she was so helpful! I honestly don't know what I'd advise her to do other than maybe a blog hiatus? I think she needs to back away, at least for a little while, to show people she understands the gravity ofh er actions, and then maybe come back and start over again.

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  19. Hi, its my first time here but I now have you in my feed reader. I am partial to liking the posts that are talking about the issue and you did so eloquently. I will now go back to thinking of Hugh Jackman on a unicorn.

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  20. Thank you so much for writing one of the most, if not the most intelligent reactions to the whole situation. It's nice to see an unbiased opinion of the situation and just a statement of fact.

    Having previously been the victim of some serious plagiarism myself (by a "friend" no less), it was tough to sit back and watch everyone make the girls who were plagiarized be "hung out to dry" so to speak. For them it's a personal thing and having been there before, I give them every right to speak out.

    What us as bystanders need to do though is weigh the truth against the lies...either she plagiarized or she didn't. If she did there really isn't much gray area is there?

    Great post! Intelligent, truthful and a voice of reason in the midst of this chaos.

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    1. People will grasp at straws in any situation. In this case, it's the "everyone unintentionally steals from everybody" which is bullshit. She didn't just have similar ideas - she had similar sentence structure - that's something that just doesn't happen unless you're outright copying.

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    2. I completely agree. Which is why there is no gray area at all. Sad that some people can't see that and will continue to bicker over those non-existent straws. :(

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  21. Fantastic post. It was clear and to the point. You did such a great job with educating bloggers with what plagiarism is.

    Thank you for helping make it clear as to the gravity of this situation. I really do think some people are clueless about this sort of thing and posts like this help inform people.

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  22. Excellent post--well said.

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  23. I'm right there with KMont, drawing a great big happy heart around my screen because this post said it all. Great post.

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  24. I <3 this. And the use of "special snowflake".

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  25. I have never been to your blog that I can recall but sweetie y'all just got a new follower. I agree with his post so much! I loved the special snowflake comment you made and the unicorn and diet cheese! I want to hug you for that!!!

    I no longer go to her blog I've taken my links to her down taken the Dac button down and now call Imm my week in books and post it on Fridays.


    Lily

    So say we all!

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  26. Your post made me lol. You are so right. +1 to everything you said!

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  27. I just love this post. ALL SO TRUE. And thank you for bringing out that blog comment in particular because it irked me BEYOND BELIEF.

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  28. Well said! And a nice antidote to seeing so much commentary from people who so clearly don't understand intellectual property at all, which is depressing and kinda scary. She did the digital equivalent of going into somebody's place of business, shoplifting, then putting the items up for sale in her own store. Not once, but at least six times over a period of months. What's more, she left her cyber-fingerprints all over the place.

    And lest anyone thing this analogy too dramatic - let's not forget that her site features at least three different types of advertising (I don't follow her, this was just evident from a quick glance at her sidebar). She's hosting blogads from authors, she's running google ad server ads or similar, and she's using bookstore affiliate links. Every set of eyeballs and/or click on those ads means money in her pocket. She used somebody else's content to draw those eyeballs on multiple occasions, intentionally, not because she was tired/distracted/mistaken (those may be true, but are irrelevant) but because she wanted to profit. More readers, more profit. Readership drops off because she doesn't have new content that day? Less profit. It's a pretty simple equation. There's nothing wrong with blog advertising - but there's a lot wrong with the unauthorized use of other people's intellectual property to generate revenue that way.

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  29. Excellent post! And I love your sense of humor while still discussing an important topic! It's disheartening that so many people are giving her a pass just because she's so popular. Someone told me that I was cutting my nose off to spite my face by unfollowing her and her IMM meme, but I feel that there has to be zero tolerance for plagiarism. It's a shame that she probably won't suffer any of the repercussions she should.

    You've got another new follower! Hugh Jackman on a unicorn.....*sigh*

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  30. I arrived from Smart Bitches. Excellent post! Well thought out and put.

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  31. I just fell in love with you. o.o

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  32. This is one of the best posts I've seen on this out there. Thank you for writing this and I hope many more people read it!

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  33. So brilliant that I had to give you a follow!

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  34. AMEN! Thank you for putting the image of Hugh Jackman on a unicorn in my mind. You've made my day :)

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  35. I found this post via "My Friend Amy." You've summed it all up very nicely. I'm continually surprised by the lengths that people will go to in trying to mentally deny or downplay something that threatens them (like having their favorite blogger turn out to be a plagiarist).

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