Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What The Story Siren Can Teach The Story Siren About Plagiarism & the Blogging Hierarchy.

I’m sure you’re all sick of me going on about this but there are still questions that need to be answered, real apologies to be made and a serious discussion about the blogging hierarchy that needs to be had in the wake of this story.

For those of you who unaware of the events, Kristi Diehm, a.k.a. The Story Siren, was caught plagiarising content from other blogs. There is no ‘apparently’ about this, nor ‘accused’ or ‘possibly’ about what happened here. The facts are clear and the evidence is present in this post. I emphasise this because last night I saw a lot of people being deliberately obtuse with the facts in Diehm’s defence. IP loggings idenfity Diehm as a visitor to these blogs for long periods of time on the days where her own blog posts were made. That’s pretty damning evidence in my book.

Of course, twitter exploded, even more so after Sarah and Jane from Smart Bitches Trashy Books and Dear Author posted their entries which named Diehm, something the plagiarised bloggers never did. To anyone familiar with The Story Siren, it was evident straightaway from their post that Diehm was the plagiariser from her photograph. It took a while for Diehm to post her apology, which you can find here. The bolded part was not in the original entry. That was added after being e-mailed to and posted on Dear Author. I said it on twitter and I’ll say it again – I call bullshit on that apology, and here’s why.

The Story Siren is the biggest name in YA blogging. She’s had over 1.6million visitors to her site in her 5 years of blogging. Her In My Mailbox weekly feature is extremely popular and links book bloggers globally. She receives a large number of ARCs a week from publishers as well as author/editor/publisher exclusives. Regardless of what you think of the content of her site, she has a large number of followers and fans. If she is plagiarising content, in posts that have been known to receive a lot of web coverage, then what does that say to publishers and the YA industry about the rest of us? The past year that The Book Lantern has been blogging has seen some turbulent times for YA bloggers, many of which are documented on this site. Whether we like it or not, or deserve it, we’ve been saddled with a reputation. Diehm’s actions exacerbate that.

Of course, nobody wants to be the shining beacon role model of YA blogging, if such a thing exists, but for the biggest name in YA to be caught doing this, and for her to make such a non-apology in response that’s far more concerned with her publisher and author connections than her readers is very revealing to me. If you’ll notice Diehm’s ‘explanation and apology’ once again, you’ll see that she doesn’t explain herself, nor does she apologise. She also locked the comments, a move of sheer cowardice in my opinion. A passer-by coming to her site with no knowledge of what happened may look at this entry and have no idea what she’s talking about. The sheer about of double-speak in that ‘apology’ is dizzying. She continually asserts that she is not the sort of person who plagiarises, and yet she did. The evidence suggests she knowingly spent time on those fashion blogs looking at their entries and doing her own ones. She doesn’t ‘expect you to understand’, which reeks of pushing the blame around, something further emphasised by her still refusing to admit her wrongdoing. As she puts it,I was accused of doing something that I am vehemently against, and intentionally or not, I know that there will be consequences’. It wasn’t until later on that she even apologised to the bloggers who’s trust she has lost. She’s far more concerned with free stuff.

I have a serious question to ask those who continually defended Diehm’s actions last night. Actually, I have a few, one of which being, do you seriously think calling a plagiarist a plagiarist is in any way comparable to a lynch mob? Grow up. Diehm is a blogger who frequently rallied against blog plagiarism, and also admitted her own tearful heartbreak over having been plagiarised herself. I ask you this: Did you feel any sympathy for those who Diehm plagiarised? I saw no offers of hand holding and support for those women on twitter last night, only abuse. If this had been any other lesser known blogger, would you have been so kind? If Diehm had been an author (and she says she’s a wannabe writer on her twitter profile), would the level of professionalism expected be higher or lower than what you’re judging Diehm by? This is a blogger who knew exactly what she was doing. The IP address logs back that up. This is a blogger who should know better, one who wrote several pieces on blog plagiarism, one with a reputation that she has smashed to pieces. I saw many cries of bullying and ‘bitch’ from people defending Diehm against those calling her out. Here’s a brand new piece of information; it is not bullying to want Diehm to be held accountable for her actions. She plagiarised, and she knew it. She stole other bloggers’ work, passed it off as her own, and when caught by the bloggers to whom she caused a lot of upset and pain, she wanted them to keep it quiet, which speaks volumes about her guilt. Why are you defending her when the evidence proves her guilt? I have seen much smaller YA blogs receive much larger amounts of criticism and anger for doing exactly what Diehm did. What makes The Story Siren untouchable?

If I had done what she had done, I know for a fact that I’d be run out of blogging, and justifiably so. There is nothing lesser about blog plagiarism in comparison to what someone like Cassie Edwards or Cassandra Claire did, especially when Diehm is receiving a lot of publisher support and ARCs for her site. Yes, there are some people online taking it too far, but there is nothing bullying about demanding accountability on this issue. I’ve been bullied, both online and off, and what the Story Siren is receiving from the vast majority of the criticism being levelled at her is incomparable to that. She lost the trust of many of her readers and they are justifiably angry.

One does not treat the popular differently from the lesser known. Blogging’s not a democracy but there’s absolutely no reason why Diehm should receive such mollycoddling treatment while those she plagiarised get called bitches. The Be Nice culture shouldn’t apply here, not that it should ever really apply anywhere in YA. We shouldn’t change our standards for people who give away a lot of free stuff. You want to know why people are still mad at Cassandra Claire for her mass plagiarism in her fan-fiction writing days? Because she never apologised for her wrongdoings, and that paid off well for her because post-Draco Trilogy she retained a mass internet following who defended her every word even when the evidence presented showed otherwise. Diehm may have offered some form of apology, one which you are free to accept, although I don’t, but she refuses to take full responsibility for her actions, and the mass of defenders on her side shows she can get away with it. Only time will tell what the long term impact is of Diem’s plagiarism on her blog, but Diehm is a grown woman who should be treated as one, and we bloggers should strive to hold one another accountable because the last thing YA blogging needs is more controversy. The queen bees and wannabes live to blog another day, as do we. The Story Siren, her hypocrisy and that of her defenders make me embarrassed to be associated with her as a YA blogger.

EDIT: Diehm offers further clarification here, comments now open and being moderated by a third party, so I suggest you screen-cap any replies you leave. If she'd done this right off the bat then things would be much more different.

EDIT #2: So, defenders of Diehm. Do you condemn her going after an 11 year old blogger?

EDIT #3: If this is indeed an 'established author' making these comments, including trying to downplay the extent of Diehm's proven actions and turn the blame onto those demanding accountability, he or she is an idiot

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