Wednesday, April 25, 2012

SERE* is Not a Blogging Technique

You are quite possibly a luddite if you haven't heard about The Story Siren issue going on. Cuddlebuggery released the news with Smart Bitches spreading it with a post about an accusation of plagiarism on Kristi's part of a few fashion blogs, Beautifully Invisible and Grit and Glamour.

WTF? <-- My initial response. No way. You mean to tell me that Kristi, of The Story Siren, she who lectures on the woes of plagiarism, she who herself has been plagiarized, ripped off someone else's posts? Is it April 1st? So I began reading the posts on the fashion blogs, complete with screen caps, IP address and stats far too sophisticated for me to find on my own blog. But I knew what I was looking at. Then Kristi's initial evasive, half-hearted apology** without it being an apology. WTF?

The more I read the more my heart sank. Kristi's blog was the first I came across in my pre-blogging ventures. I read nearly all of her archives (at the time there wasn't too much). We chatted in her comments. She was the nudge I needed to start book blogging. She was a great support when I was a young blogger and was never anything short of nice to me. I met her at a couple of BEAs and again, absolutely lovely. People have said otherwise but I always disregarded it. That was never my experience.

As the years carried on and my style formed a life of its own and Kristi grew exponentially, a distance grew. I'm not going to lament on it or anything. Life happens. I still sleep at night. So while I wouldn't call her a friend now there was still some level of acquaintanceship there and I always provided her with an obligatory respect. I may not have read her blog regularly anymore but I still kept it in my sidebar and in my RSS reader. She was YA book blogging. Mention book blogging at BEA and her name would be right at the top of the list, if not the first name. You can't ignore that. And I respected it for the work she did to make it what it is; to be, in my opinion, the epitome of YA book blogging. Sure our styles differed greatly but . . . respect.

Until Monday.

This whole issue has affected me in ways that it rightly shouldn't do. Destroyed would be a good word. Don't get me wrong; I didn't put Kristi on a pedestal or anything. But the helping hand she offered to so many people, me included, completely came crashing down. All the work, the posts, the help, a lie. The closer I read into the proof the heavier my heart got.

No, I'm not angry. I couldn't muster up that emotion if I tried. I'm disappointed beyond words and ashamed of the hypocrite Kristi's made of herself. Even before reading the comparisons and setting my thoughts in stone, this was my initial scope of the situation -

  • Kristi went outside of the usual book blogging community to rip posts with the presumed idea of not getting caught. 
  • Kristi was caught, presented with evidence by the accusers and denied the plagiarism occurred.
  • Accusers persisted and Kristi caved, sort of. With neither a confirmation nor a denial she apologized for something that was wrong but may have been unintentional and asked to keep it all private, presumably to preserve her reputation. 
  • The book blogging world exploded and Kristi's reputation shattered. 
  • Kristi issued an evasive "apology," appearing to be more concerned with her standing with publishers and authors than readers and then corrected herself. 
  • Shock ensued as people tried to wrap their heads around their feelings about this. 
  • Kristi issued a second "apology" stating she never denied the original accusation of plagiarism months before. 
  • My opinion solidified.

This wasn't a post I wanted to jump into. I needed to read everything again and let it simmer. It needed to process. And I'm still processing it. I'm still shocked that someone who knows what it's like to be plagiarized actually plagiarized someone. It hurts my heart and makes me so incredibly sad.

And her reaction to it all makes me even sadder. In my personal run-in with plagiarism, in every single case the plagiarist came out publicly and immediately admitted their wrong-doing. I don't really believe in accidental plagiarism in most cases but I'm not above believing things settling in subconsciously, forgetting where they came from and then marveling at your own genius for thinking it up (just not WHOLE posts worth of information). But there are ways to avoid that so let's not alleviate personal responsibility. It's still there. But they admitted it, apologized and it was done.

That's not what Kristi did. It wasn't one post but a pile of posts with eerily similar qualities (in set-up, style, relayed information, timing) to a bunch of other posts not belonging to her. She didn't come out and admit what she did. She denied it and then tried to cover it up. For months. Until she no longer could. Actions speak louder than words and her actions lead me to believe she was sorry she got caught. She was forced into apologizing and didn't do it of her own accord. And that really sucks.

What sucks even more is the pandering at her feet. I am disgusted to the point of nausea at comments in the manner of "Thank you for apologizing! Smile! Now we can move on!" or "You are so brave to apologize!  Stay strong!"  Do you have any idea what this makes the book blogging community, especially the YA community, look like? How many other plagiarists were afforded the same kindness and understanding? BE HONEST!

There was a point, a couple years ago, where I gave a young plagiarist the benefit of the doubt. She was being crucified even after apologizing publicly. She was a kid, I don't even think old enough to drive. I felt bad. So I tried to help her rebuild herself. Stupid me. She went right back to doing it again. It only takes once. Never again.

We as a community are rabid when it comes to plagiarists. They suck. Hard. If you've ever been plagiarized you know how it feels. It fucking blows. So when plagiarism erupts we pounce, lambasting and shunning the plagiarist into nothing. Because that's what they deserve. It's not like you can accidentally cut and paste entire posts onto your blog, with or without tweaks. So they deserve it. And Kristi deserves support and glowing puppy dog eyes because . . .  Are we going to start treating all plagiarists this way?  Are we trying to make plagiarism okay?

Don't get me wrong. Kristi is a different case. She's not some noob or a lesser known blogger that we can easily beat into submission. She's huge, popular, nice, well-connected. Do you know what this says?

WE HATE PLAGIARISTS! THEY'RE EVUL AND DESERVE TO FADE AWAY!!! unless you're big and popular and influential and then we'll just slap you on the wrist, shame people for saying mean things about you, give you squishy bear hugs and carry on with our lives.

Double standard much? For someone that tried to hide the transgression? That preached ethics while blogging a lie? That half-heartedly apologized only when forced to?  So is this the spooge on the blue dress or the undercover cop in the next bathroom stall? Yeah, we all make mistakes but the bigger people own them from the beginning. They don't lie about it, hide it, lie some more and then only when backed into a corner nominally admit to anything.

Kristi's actions have far greater repercussions then just fucking herself. It affects all of us. If the epitome of YA book blogging, the metaphorical leader of our roost, can't even live up to her own ethical standards, what's expected of the rest of us? People already sneer in our general direction. Do you think this helps? Do you think sucking up to a plagiarist just because she is who she is makes us look BETTER? Plagiarism sucks! Most of the time.

We look like assholes, guys. Giant, unwiped assholes. And I really, REALLY don't like having my reputation fucked by association. Not a fan. Which is why I'm distancing myself from Kristi. I'm removing her link from my blog roll and RSS feed and I will no longer connect her to my Added to the Pile posts. I can't in good conscience support or promote a hypocrite and a plagiarist. And I say this with an immensely heavy heart.  It makes me sad to do it but doing otherwise would force me to compromise my integrity. That's not something even on my radar of consideration. I've discussed all of this at length with my fellow lady YAckers. We've hemmed and hawed over it. Looked at it, or tried to, from a bunch of different angles. We ended up pretty much in the same boat and this was my decision as a result. It took evaluating, thinking, conversing, knowledge. I don't feel I'm doing this in haste but after careful thought.

This decision is mine and mine alone. I'm not asking anyone to take any kind of action. Please, for the love of god, don't bully Kristi. I'm sure there's very little anyone else can do to her that she hasn't already don't to herself. Plus you look like a total douche and don't do us any favors. Not to mention it only victimizes her ("oh poor Kristi for getting harassed!"  Srsly?  So it wasn't harassing when it was done to the other, lesser, plagiarists?) when she is the LAST person that can be called a victim here.  I'm just asking you all to think about what it means to rally behind someone that's broken quite possibly the only steadfast law we have amongst book bloggers. What this makes the community look like.

It's not about forgiveness or moving on. It's about sticking to our laurels. A friend can help her through this but a real friend will tell her, "you fucked up, BAD," and will remind her that she now needs to sleep in the bed she made for herself. This is not a place for ego-boosting. She SHOULD feel like a fraud because that's exactly what she's presented herself as.  Instead we've gotten a dividing line of those that think Kristi is exempt from being wrong and those of us that believe plagiarism is plagiarism and should be treated as such regardless of the offender.  It's not like this is just hearsay.  It's not like there isn't any evidence.  And the fashion blogs are the ones getting the hate mail for deigning to smear Kristi's "good" name.  Disgusting.

You don't have to agree with me. Just THINK. This has now gone beyond Kristi and we need to contemplate the greater repercussions of her, and our subsequent, actions. Our reputation as a whole is shit and this certainly isn't helping it. So just think about what it means to rally for someone so obviously guilty of plagiarism because she's not lesser or unknown or too new to matter. Let's not make ourselves hypocrites too.

*Acronym for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, military, see link.
**Originally I was going to link to both of her "apology" posts but quite frankly, at the end of the day I don't want to afford her website hits.
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