The only thing necessary for the persistence of evil is for enough good people to do nothing

Another Voice is Silenced

My good friend and inspiration, brownfemipower, has taken down her blog. The reasons are complicated if you haven’t been following. They are simple if you have.

It started with three small words but those words had a whole history behind them that some people chose to ignore or trivialise.

Soon after that, a blogger who should know better chose not to credit bfp for being a source, an inspiration, a catalyst for her article.

Only new, inexperienced bloggers do not link. You only have to have been reading blogs for about five minutes to realise that links are important But this is not just about blogging.

This is about being ignored, marginalised, trivialised and hurt. Again.

Please read this incredible post from Problem Chylde which breaks down the whole issue far better than I could. An amazing work of love and impeccable research. The links in the main body of the post are to bfp’s work which is now down.

Stealing other people’s stuff is not cool from Burning Words

Feminists, too, Steal from Sudy

Intellectual theft is still theft from High on Rebellion

This has not been a good week for woman of color blogging from Feministe

Thank you Kevin. I’m angry too.

Brownfemipower, you are (and you will continue to be) an inspiration to me and to countless numbers of people in the world. I understand your need to step back and take time to reflect. To take care of yourself.

But the blog world is less without you in it.

Much love
DD

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16 Comments

  1. db0
    April 11, 2008    

    I don’t understand.
    How is someone “silenced” when they take down their own site?

    I agree that plagiarizing is wrong but the appropriate response is to criticise the plagiarist and point to the actual article. Given enough people doing it, the person will be stigmatized.

    Furthermore, ok, not getting credit for something is not the best thing but taking down your whole site because of it seems like an overreaction. Unless your whole purpose of writing to become famous I don’t see it as a natural reactin, nor will it solve anything.

    Unless I’m missing something obvious, the whole thing seems alien to me.

    This is why, and many others, promote a free culture. The point being that ideas are not really property and the best thing to do about them is promote them.People doing it unethically will be found out and marginalized as they should.

  2. db0
    April 11, 2008    

    I agree with you that we should marginalise the people who are being unethical. But still, they are making a living off the back of others.

    Then take it one step further. Contact the persons who are paying them and ask them to look into it. Contact the editors of the places they write for (Alternet) and let them know.
    Link-Describe them as they deserve, so that internet searches for their name/brand return the appropriate results.

    Eventually, word will spread. Eventually descriptions will becomes the norm in the internet and people like that will be described appropriately.

    In any case, I was just confused at what shutting down your own blog is going to achieve. It will only help the people that plagiarized you as nobody will be able to give evidence. It will also take your voice away. One less voice of reason.

  3. April 11, 2008    

    I see what you’re saying, db0. In this instance, though, I suspect it was more a result of a few years buildup of bs rather than a reaction to this specific Incident.

  4. April 11, 2008    

    Again, I am being emotional about this because she is a friend (one I have never met but still a friend), so maybe I am not making myself clear.

    The silencing happened long before she took down her blog. The person/people who borrowed, stole, plagiarised, took her words (and others) were criticised extensively. But nothing came of that.

    I personally know that bfp is not trying to become famous (although she is through no fault of her own!)

    We also tend to have our own personal reactions to what goes down on the web. When I was attacked ferociously a while ago, my first reaction was to blow up my own blog. I didn’t do it because of the support from my friends.

    Other bloggers wouldn’t dream of doing such a thing.

    I do believe that there are no new ideas… just better/newer ways of expressing them. In a generous world, we credit those who say it better. Especially if we have had this same debate before.

    I agree with you that we should marginalise the people who are being unethical. But still, they are making a living off the back of others.

  5. April 11, 2008    

    Yeah, I think Kevin said it – I know for me there is a very basic sense of ‘what, we’re surprised?’ (given the extensive track record this writer has of skimming and stealing followed by demonstrably dishonest denial and outrage when confronted), but there’s also accumulating weight attached to that ‘again,’ and each instance has personal consequences to individual people.

    Personally, my general level of disgust with what gets rewarded in the blogosphere and mainstream media (which Alternet is, read the !$%#@ comments over there) has resulted in a point of real disengagement with any of the ‘popular’ bloggers. And while that may not be the most practical response, after repeated incidents of trying to fix it, address, it, contribute toward something else, etc. failing and failing (from a lot of people, not just me), I absolutely understand pulling back from what is apparently an irretrievably corrupt context.

    I hope A’s disrespect and theft comes home to roost. I hope bfp continues to find large audience. And, it may be that the blogosphere is simply too juvenile and dysfunctional a place to be the right platform for complex ethical thinkers and writers. I’d like for that to not be true, but my repetitive experience tells me it is.

  6. db0
    April 11, 2008    

    Personally I never really tried to get in the “blogosphere” so much and participate with the A-List bloggers or whatnot . I am very often amazed at the lengths people will go in order to get more popularity, technocrati authority or whatever. I can’t even understand how people can get worked up over stuff like that.

    I can’t ever conceptualize what being “rewarded in the blogosphere” is supposed to mean. Making money? Getting a lot of links?
    Is this the reason why you engage with those so called “pop bloggers” and not because they actually have something interesting to say and/or they are interesting people?

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to insult anyone or trying to be more popular. I just don’t see the point. But that may be because of different priorities.

    And, it may be that the blogosphere is simply too juvenile and dysfunctional a place

    My friend, the whole Internet is juvenile and difunctional. That does not mean that you cannot be a complex ethical thinker and writer. If anything, it does not stop you at all and gives you a greater audience. Being a complex, ethical, famous and rich writer on the other hand, it a much, much more difficult proposition 😉

  7. April 11, 2008    

    Ha. Right you are, db0.

    The glory of the internet is that like minded people can find each other and make complex and ethical niches – but yeah, they aren’t going to be cool.

  8. April 12, 2008    

    Yeah, it was kind of a “last straw” thing all around, both wrt the particular individual in the second instance and just too many similar incidents in general, I believe.

  9. George
    April 12, 2008    

    IN the spirit of dbO’s comments, if I understand them correctly, this reminds me of what Actor William Shatner (Capt Kirk) said to a group of Star Trek fans at a Star Trek convention who were arguing the merits of the Capt Kirk character of TV show.

    He said something to the effect that it (STAR TREK) is not REAL LIFE and told them to go out and have a real life.

    I don’t know if this really applies to blogging but sometimes these blog lives can overtake our regular lives. I even find myself blogging, posting, reading comments from people I probably will never ever meet in real life.

    I don’t know if this makes sense, but blogging and commenting cannot take the place of one-on-one human interaction/communication that takes place in person.

    Am I wrong on this?

  10. Kat
    April 12, 2008    

    Technically, an idea cannot be copyrighted. However, if BFP has a unique opinion and committed that to words, those words become hers as soon as she writes them down.

    A legitimate writer knows and understands that drawing inspiration from someone deserves attribution. Only amateurs and spiteful people steal from others; it doesn’t matter if it’s a blogger, reporter or author of a book. That’s why everyone should look at credibility, i.e. There’s a housewife in Ohio dispensing advice on living abroad and she’s never lived abroad…so where is she getting her “material?”

    It’s weak to make up stories, adopt other’s thoughts or resort to high school antics for a couple of hits. I mean, who cares if someone has 100 Technorati links or made the top 10 of this list? That’s not life, that’s seeking nonsensical popularity to boost self-esteem. If people write well-researched pieces that contribute something or blog for themselves with an agenda to push, I see no problem in that.

    As db0 suggests above, I aggressively report those I believe are plagiarizing. I expose them because I know it isn’t right. Further, people who regurgitate material and do not independently check facts are doing a disservice to readers, as well. The two English-language papers many depend on in Greece are full of errors, and yet I see a lot of people quoting them without second thought. This is a good article: http://www.slate.com/id/2186029

    I also agree with db0 and George that blog/online life is not real life, and some people do not know the difference. The Internet is a hotbed for bad manners and cowards who wouldn’t have the balls to do what they do online to your face. Many hide behind this mask because there is some deficiency in real life. There have been cases when I’ve met people through my site in person, and we continue to meet, communicate by phone or e-mail after that — I consider it real at that point.

    When I decided to put myself out there to help people, I knew that going public would open me to unsavory elements and I haven’t been disappointed a single day since. BFP should consider whether she’d like to end her silence. Many would welcome her back if she does, including me.

  11. April 12, 2008    

    I agree with you DD and Kevin, this is not a reaction to one incident but an accumulation of vitriol over the years. I believe that those of us who have benefited from the words of BFP understand why DD uses the phrase “being silenced”. I dont for one minute think BFP would do this lightly. Like DD I consider her not just a friend but a good friend – I had the privilege of meeting her at the USSF last summer where we talked and had laughs together with Vegan Kid and Fabulous Mujer – She is a beautiful and inspirational writer and human being and I am damn upset and angry about the way she has been disrespected by certain individuals.

    Reading the post on Problem Chylde I am outraged!

  12. db0
    April 12, 2008    

    if I understand them correctly, this reminds me of what Actor William Shatner (Capt Kirk) said to a group of Star Trek fans at a Star Trek convention who were arguing the merits of the Capt Kirk character of TV show.

    Not exactly. Saying something like that would be insulting to tell the truth. I’m not the one to judge what people want to do with their time, whatever that may be.

    In fewer words, what I am saying is that I don’t understand this reaction. While this might be just from my different perspective on things, I get the impression that it doesn’t match up with their apparent purpose for blogging.

  13. April 12, 2008    

    dbO @ I fail to see why you cannot understand BFP’s decision. Maybe you could try to put it in the historical context of her years of writing and the responses from some sections of the blogoshpere?

    George / Kat “I also agree with db0 and George that blog/online life is not real life, and some people do not know the difference.”

    I disagree strongly with this statement. I am real, you are real, BFP is real, her thoughts are real and this is REAL life. Words written in these spaces can cause pain, distress, happiness, joy – those are real feelings that tell us we are alive.

    It is true that cowards and bad mannered people take advantage of being anonymous to abuse others but just because the abuser is not sitting in front of me does not mean it does not hurt!

    I have had some comments on my blog which have made me feel physically sick and left me with dread every morning in case there is yet another bunch of vitriol waiting for me as I open my email! Thats real life to me.

  14. Kat
    April 12, 2008    

    sokari – Right, I’m not disputing the realness of our existence or feelings. All I meant, for example, is that just because I read someone’s blog and they read mine, it doesn’t mean we’re friends and will add each other on Facebook or a professional networking site like LinkedIn, where I have a list of close friends, classmates and professional colleagues built over several years. I meant that people take popularity and hits too seriously if they’re stealing from each other.

    I don’t list my e-mail on purpose as a way to discourage vitriol. Further, people who leave these types of comments don’t know you, so what’s the point of allowing it to make you sick? I think it’s only as real as you let it be (and I mean “you” in the general sense, not you specifically). If it really made me that sick and left me with dread, I’d just stop writing publicly. It’s not worth spending time on if it’s that bad, when there are so many great things to focus on.

    I can understand BFP’s decision to take a break if it’s been going on for years. I don’t pretend to know her as I’ve only read her writings for the past year, but I certainly sympathize because sometimes enough is enough. I totally respect that.

    db0 – I understand what you’re saying.

  15. zardoz
    April 18, 2008    

    ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,=?=

  16. AM
    April 25, 2008    

    I agree with most comments on here, especially those of db0.

    While I can understand being very upset and making it public that plagiarism has occurred, it’s tough for me to comprehend removing the blog from public viewing. As a relative newbie to reading feminist blogs with a renewed interest in learning from other women, particularly those women who are oftentimes underrepresented, and connecting on issues, this saddens me deeply.

    The problems bfp is experiencing within the “blogosphere” are real, but in my opinion, that shouldn’t be the most important focus. Those of us out here seeking information, guidance, and a deeper understanding of the conditions women like (or even unlike) ourselves face are now deprived of a valuable resource, and that seems terribly unfair and unfortunate. While I understand that there are people on here that feel a sense of community as bloggers, the readers aren’t necessarily a part of that inner circle and yet we now are affected too. Erasing information and knowledge is such a sad state of affairs. Think of those that could stand to benefit from her insight, especially outside of this blogging community, and specifically those that are marginalized as well.

    So…now I’m bummed. Silence ought not be considered an option for those filled with passion as they have the power to influence the minds of so many others.

    In reading her final posting, I wanted to email her to express my thoughts and opinions and to let her know that some of us unknowns out here do appreciate her work and would like it to continue, but alas, no email address was found. Perhaps bfp will read the comments and encouragement here and on so many other blogs and reconsider removing her writings, even if she still feels it’s best to take time for herself to think and read and reflect.

    AMs last blog post..The Repeated Disappearance of Feminism Throughout History

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