Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Plagiarising, Bullying, Equality and Finding Conclusions

When I talk about the current YA drama, I usually keep it on my twitter. If I were to post every time there was drama on the blog, I'd never get to talk about books. And you probably care more about the books, right? Right. But this time, I had a hard time keeping quiet and I couldn't pick a place to vent all my feelings and I wasn't sure where it could even fit.

From a really young age, I've been taught that certain things were wrong either by my parents, my teachers, my religion, T.V., or my older siblings. There's the obvious, like killing people, but it was also important that I learned that intentionally hurting other people is wrong, stealing is wrong, and plagiarism is wrong. I've also been taught that we have democracy for a reason. I can't remember a time when I didn't know these basic things.

Let's start with plagiarism. I don't want to name names and I'm doing my best to avoid the specifics of the case that inspired this post, and I'd appreciate it if you didn't in the comments either. I just wanna talk about the ideas this event is bringing up.

Why is plagiarism wrong? I mean, we all know it's bad, but why? Let's start there.

When you plagiarize something, you're stealing another persons idea, work, layout, concept, words, whatever it may be. You're taking it away from them and claiming it's wholly yours. Not even touching on the legality of it, it's rude. It's mean. It's inconsiderate. It's unprofessional. It's something, as lovers of the written word that is so easily taken and reclaimed, should be entirely against.

Sometimes, we accidentally take things. We get this idea and don't realize we only had it because our subconscious has it stored in memory from when we did see it. Other times we're so inspired by something, we go to make it our own and don't really manage to do it. It might be accidental, but it's still plagiarism.

If you intentionally plagiarized someone's work, then I have no pity for you. None whatsoever. No amount of apologies or begging will fix that. But if you did it accidentally? Then it becomes trickier. Yeah, I still want to see an apology and I want an apology for those you took from and I want an explanation. If you keep the posts up, I definitely want to see you credit those people you took from.

But how do we tell the difference? It's nearly impossible to tell when someone's lying on the computer. There's no body language to read, no voice inflictions to listen for, only words. That's not a question I can answer for you, friends. All I can do is point you in the direction and let you figure it out for yourself.

Recently, there's been a lot of talk about the fact that some of the Big Six colluded about ebooks in order to prevent Amazon from forming a monopoly on ebooks and now the publishers that haven't settled are going to court against the Department of Justice. I asked my teacher, who likes talking about current events, which was worse, forming a collusion or letting a monopoly form. He couldn't answer the question. I still can't.

So, what's worse, being a plagiarist or a bully?

As we've discussed, plagiarism is wrong. No doubt about it. But so is bullying. Does it become okay to bully a plagiarist because they've done something wrong? No, I don't think it is.

It's one thing to discuss what's happened, to be upset and disappointed and confused. It's one thing to say you won't be visiting that blog or reading those author's books. It's another to wage a hate campaign. It's another to attack from all sides. I think we as a technology driven society have become really detached from the idea that there is a person on the other side of that screen. Yes, it's a person who may or may not have done something wrong, but still a person with feelings and thoughts and people who love them. And we're not talking about a murderer here, we're not talking about someone who tortures small animals and babies for fun.

And, to go for the cliche, two wrongs don't make a right. Berating, attacking, and trying to hurt a person who may or may not have plagiarized isn't going to fix things. It isn't going to undo what that person might've done. And maybe this is just me, but it's not going to make you feel better.

I've been bullied, online and in person, as many of us have. I've also been the bully. I've done things that I look back at now and regret, a lot of it because of an accident or a misunderstanding that I didn't take time to look into, but I've done some things on purpose.The two events that stick out in my mind brought me to tears when I realized what I'd done. The first event I was able to fix, but I still feel bad. I don't have a lot of regrets in life, but all three of these things would be on the list of events I wish I could redo.

Many bloggers have commented on what this is going to do to our already pretty poor reputation as bloggers, myself included. At first, I hadn't heard about the attacks that came after, just about a major blogger who plagiarized and I thought "Dear God, if this one can do it, why would publishers trust any of us?" Then I learned about the bullying that came after and my heart sunk. The YA community has always been so anti-bully. What will outsiders think if one of the most well known YA bloggers who's very against plagiarism is caught plagiarized, then a community against bullying starts bullying that blogger? How can we be so hypocritical? How can those observing trust us to be honest with anything?

Someone who represents a community messing up is bad enough. When the rest of the community proceeds to mess up more, that looks worse. A blogger I follow on twitter (terribly sorry I can't remember who, a lot of people have been discussing this) brought up a good point. People may not judge a community based on the actions of one, but when two or three or more act poorly, then that community may be judged on that.

Many of us agree that the plagiarist shouldn't be bullied. Hurrah, an agreement! However, from there we start differing. Maybe we should leave it alone entirely because this blogger's so important, maybe we never should've heard about it at all. Maybe we should make this HUGE because look at how important they are! We can't let this blogger get off easy! Even I'm not totally sure how to handle this

For those of you who haven't noticed, I'm an American. I believe that we should all be equal, even among bloggers. Is this a big deal because of who the blogger is? Yes. But shouldn't it be a big deal every time? Of course it should!

I do get both sides, I do! And if anything, I tend to lean towards making it bigger than normal. When the average Joe messes up, some people notice. When the president messes up, a lot of people notice and, theoretically, we keep the president from being president again. And while none of this is THAT huge of a deal, I kind of look at it the same kind of way. Like a president, YA bloggers have certain figure heads to the rest of the world. So shouldn't this be the same? Shouldn't we also notice, say something, and try to keep the blogger from being as prominent as they were before? Is it that simple? 

This then leads me to feel this would be a lot better if we didn't have certain bloggers that represent us to the outside world. This whole mess would be a lot easier and less complicated if all bloggers really were equal and there wasn't this hierarchy decided by followers and page views and how long we've been around. If we took turns representing the community and numbers and how long you've been blogging stopped being so important. But, that's just a silly dream, isn't it?

So, what's the moral of the story? It might be that I can be highly idealistic.

Really, I'm not sure there is a moral or a conclusion that we can come to. But, I needed to get this off my chest and try to explain how I felt. And I hoped that maybe I could reach other people who are watching this mess, or maybe even involved, so we could all try to find the bottom. And maybe I'm kind of hoping that those that have bullied will stop and think. Maybe.

If you know what's going on, I hope you can figure out how you feel, because I sure can't. If you do or don't, I hope you can think about all of this and find a conclusion. And I really hope we can all stop plagiarizing, stop bullying, and try to be equal.

--Julie

7 comments:

  1. *claps* Thank you, Julie. Beautiful post.

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  2. I'm definitely not on the equality bandwagon simply because people, by nature, are not equals (in intelligence, physical strength, etc.). I don't want to get treated equally to someone who does have the work I do, you know? I get what you mean and in this case there is definitely some favoritism going on and it makes us look like total crap. We Hulk-Smash other plagiarists but when someone super popular and big does it, it's tempered, people kind of look the other way. Or they go the total opposite and try to slide the person into example-dom. Both are equally destructive to the community as a whole because we either look hypocritical or rabid bullies. Neither are good.

    I have a post going up tomorrow about all of this. I needed time to formulate my thoughts, let it simmer, but I touch on the same point you do regarding community and our perception as a result. My opinion differs a bit and my approach isn't the same but it is something I focus on simply because this issue has now traveled beyond the offending blogger and is affecting all of us.

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  3. This is a fantastic post, Julie! Very thought provoking...I've tried to stay out of the drama, but it's hard not to notice it..

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  4. Julie, it's post like this that remind me why I'm glad you're my co-blogger. =P

    But anyway, to comment on some of the things you said:

    The intentional/unintentional thing: "But how do we tell the difference? It's nearly impossible to tell when someone's lying on the computer."

    To be honest, I think it's pretty easy to tell when it was intentionally done. I'll use stories as an example (to avoid naming names):

    If I post a story and then someone shows signs of having read it (by reviewing or adding it to their favourites or alert list) and then the very next day they post up their own plagiarised version then I think it's pretty obvious that it wasn't accidental. If a considerable amount of time had passed between them reading the story and the story being posted, it may be different.

    Also, if it happens more than once - accidental plagiarism of one story could happen, I guess, but not two or three or four stories. And also the extent of the plagiarism is a big indicator; is it just plot similarities, is it phrases copied, names, is it word for word copying or basically just paraphrased?

    One of the girls that plagiarised my story (the one who actually had the nerve to not only post it online but to hand it in as her English assignment and claim it as hers), there's no way in hell that could have been unintentional - she copied it almost word for word and only really changed the names. If it was the same plot, just written entirely in her own words and different from mine then I'd have bought that it was accidental.

    But enough about that. Onto the bullying thing: I completely concur.

    I'm ranty, I get annoyed and angry pretty easily - you know this, because you're one of the unfortunate people that ends up being MSN spammed with my ranting. But I don't often aim my anger at the people who - inspired it.

    The people who have plagiarised me in the past? I was actually probably way nicer to them than I should have been. I politely messaged them and asked them to take my story down and to not do it again (or in one case, I just reported the story and let the site deal with it).

    I don't think the person should be bullied for it, there's other ways to punish someone - like by not reading their stuff anymore. I think a totally trashed reputation and the fact they have to carry around the label of plagiarist with them is punishment enough - the fact that people will now question everything they read by that person, wondering if it's their own thoughts and words or if it's just copying someone elses (which would suck, imagine working hard on a post, maybe being proud of it...then having people not even believe it's yours).

    And I'll stop rambling, but tl;dr version: Plagiarism bad, bullying also bad. And it's easy to tell the intentional plagiarists from the maybe accidental (only in the cases of maybe accidental plagiarisms is it difficult to tell if someone is lying or not).

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  5. This is a fabulous post. <3 Julie.

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  6. Thanks for putting into words what I am feeling! Great post! I love it!

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  7. Great post Julie! I try to stay out of the drama and I've not talked much about it other than tonight's tweets with you and a few others, and aside from my comment here, I've only commented on one other blog about this and my comment was similar to this in saying the hate has gotten totally out of hand on all sides of this issue.

    My whole stance on this is plagiarism is plagiarism and bullying is bullying, and both need to stop. The hate that's going on with those involved in this whole mess and as well those on both sides of the issue is sad. I don't agree with plagiarism, it's not okay, at all. I've had it happen to me and it's not fun. I also don't agree with the personal attacks that are happening with both sides of this issue and all involved.

    Kuddos to those who have risen above all this and have been level headed about it. I think those the blogs that will stand out.

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