There’s been many blogs with varying ideas on what should happen now in regards to the plagiarized posts by book blogging behemoth, The Story Siren. Forgive and forget? Move on? Vilify? Suggest nothing wrong has been done to begin with?
But what happens now? How does this scandal affect our community and the way we continue blogging and why has it unfolded this way? Because, like it or not, this has marked the book blogging world. It is now an indelible part of our collective history and community identity. Unlike other scandals, Sirengate is unlikely to exit the memories community of bloggers any time soon. Whenever there is a discussion on plagiarism, or scandal, it will only be a matter of time before Sirengate is referenced.
When the story broke, it was 11:50pm for me and I had 10 minutes to finish that week’s Buzz Worthy News. Then I was told via Twitter that I might want to hold on for a last-minute story. My response was. Of course, once I saw the story that had landed on my plate, I knew I wouldn’t be getting to bed soon. With no time for anything but the briefest scan of the posts provided, I had to put together the main details and go live. This meant the following:
a) We did not name the blogger – because she was not named in the links and we were unsure if we should or were legally able to without fear of recourse.
b) I did not have time to verify the information and charges against the Story Siren and thus had to use language in our post that reflected our lack of conviction over whether Kristi was guilty. For this we apologize to the bloggers affected.
c) Were unable to give all the details and present the story as we would have liked to.
Having posted one of the biggest stories in the blogger community, we sat back and waited to see what happened. Like a match to a flame, Twitter – already discussing the news – took off. A more comprehensive, accurate and detailed reporting of the story was then blogged by Smart Bitches and Dear Author.
But this was not the usual case of plagiarizer being discovered and condemned. For starters, such a condemning would usually be supported, if not championed, by The Story Siren. But there were other subtle differences that have impacted how the drama has played out and how it will likely proceed.
–The plagiarizer was, in this case, a beloved and very powerful blogger. The Story Siren is, at this point, somewhat irreplaceable. There are few YA bloggers who could realistically take her place and provide authors and publishing houses with anywhere near comparable exposure, who runs such a popular meme and who connects the community like the Story Siren does. There are even fewer who want to.
–The victims are not part of our community. They are largely unknown to Book Bloggers. Thus they are viewed with suspicion and, without connections in our community, have a difficult time gaining empathy and support from us.
–We are not the victims. We are the perpetrators. Nobody likes to be the bad guys. Nobody likes to think of themselves like that. It would be easier to find a way to excuse it, to make out like what was done wasn’t such a big deal. Then the narrative of the Big Bad Book Blogger blatantly thieving from the hardworking fashion blogs would become the Misunderstood Book Blogger who made a little mistake and was burned as a witch. That’s a much easier narrative to accept because, in that telling, at least we are still the good guys. This is why the victims in all of this, the fashion blogs affected, have received hate mail. But every story needs a villain, and if it can’t be The Story Siren then, logically, the only one left are those rallying for justice. Therefor their anger becomes bullying, their demand for justice becomes vilifying and their personal outrage becomes petty, jealous attacks.
–There is nothing to be gained by standing up to The Story Siren. Authors and Publishers will miss out on the exposure if they do. Many, many book bloggers are standing behind her – in some part because they benefit in their own exposure, industry contacts etc, in doing so. Those that do stand up to her, are not well-organized or being led by any party in particular and so have no focal crusade. By standing up for what’s right you lose: blogging contacts, publishing contacts, alienate audiences, miss out on the benefits of some blog hops and memes and any other benefits a powerful blogging ally might give you.
-Nobody wants to turn on a friend. A lot of people are genuinely supporting The Story Siren because she is a close friend. Nobody wants to think their friend would purposely do something like this. It is a decision every person must make for themselves – to support what’s right or to support a friend who is wrong. Unfortunately, when you choose a friend, you also chose to turn your back on those who truly deserve our support, our sympathy and condolences.
But the evidence is quite clear. The Story Siren stole content from other bloggers and benefited greatly from that content. We are the bad guys because we are supporting theft of content, and enabling a blogger who, rightly, should be condemned – because we will benefit from that. When Cassandra Clare plagiarized and was not only supported by a large portion of the Harry Potter Fan Fiction community, but given a home on the popular site Fictionally, where she prospered, the community had to accept that as part of their identity. They had that reputation as hypocrites who enabled a plagiarizer. That drama is very reminiscent of how Sirengate is playing out now.
It is very likely that Kristi of The Story Siren will never truly receive any comeuppance for her theft. I would probably bet that, ultimately, she will continue to grow and prosper. The moral high ground is not as high as it was before this scandal. Whilst the majority of bloggers will continue to agree that plagiarism is wrong, the severity of the social stigma has officially waned for us.
So where does that leave us? Most likely with our reputation in shatters and something of a blight to deal with. It is most likely that when others are discussing our community – they won’t collectively see us as good or righteous or just. We all read stories, we know how they’re supposed to go. Good triumphs over evil, characters are tested and the protagonists prevail. Unfortunately, this narrative will have no such ending. The perpetrator goes free, the book blogging world must pull itself back together and the true victims in this tale will continue to receive some hate mail and frustration but no real justice.