Too much internet drama

Oh, man, Abbie Smith just melted down over Jen McCreight, sniping at her fellow grad student in a public display of petty, malicious, and false accusations, among them the ironic claim that Jen was unprofessional, wasting her time in internet drama, and of being immature. Self-awareness is not her strong suit, I guess.

Jen has responded with a calm and thorough takedown.

It’s a shame and it’s all so unnecessary. I don’t even know what triggered the outburst from Abbie — near as I can tell, a recent post about misogynistic messages (which didn’t mention Abbie!) just put her on Abbie’s ever-expanding hate list.

Brace yourself for another exploding comment thread…I’m just hoping it’s on Jen’s blog, not mine.


  1. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says


    My apologies as well for ‘personality’, I am ill equipped with effective terms to engage in this discussion.

    meh. you don’t have to apologize. We’re still making this up as we go along. I don’t like the word b/c I think it has existing connotations that don’t fit well with what we’re trying to express, but I’m not insulted: I realize you’re trying to come up w/ something new much more than you’re trying to attach what we’re doing to something old.

    You are, if I recall, involved in pedagogy and advancing it? So you do writing and lectures then?

    yes. Creating pedagogy is perhaps 1/3 of what I do, but it’s become very much the focus of what I’ve been doing the past year and a half. I also do teaching and some other things, but there’s a lot in which we have good reason to be disappointed in our current school systems, and merely designing curricula is not going to change that: we have to change how teachers from K-PhD think about the material and their students and their status/positions in order to make this better. Although I am certainly working within one discipline, my pedagogy efforts go beyond that discipline.

    When does an idea pass from you to someone else in terms of value? That is, when does something cease to be chargeable and become free to broadcast? I think that is where we are differing and has some resonance I think with CR’s point as well.

    Yes. This is what I’m wondering myself. The whole point of my work is to promote these ideas, but I cannot do that effectively if others can present themselves as **originators** of these ideas. The ideas, or at least most of them, I want out as widely as possible. But without attribution, not only does my livelihood suffer (no one wants to give tenure to someone who doesn’t like the current system, FFS, and, in my more generous moments, I completely understand that) but the ideas themselves suffer. For many reasons, some of them having to do with cognitive bias errors, we assign particular status (including assumed expertise, certain levels of authority, etc.) to an idea’s originator. If an idea’s originator cannot explain why or how an idea is useful, the idea is assumed not to be useful even though what may in fact be happening is that the idea is so powerful that it is difficult to predict how current systems can be changed to accommodate the new knowledge. (How was relativity “useful”? I don’t remember Einstein himself predicting using temporal effects to coordinate artillery fire or air-to-mud ordnance targeting, though that is now routinely done in exercises and warfare, both.) The concepts in which I deal are not so much radically new as radically fundamental: I take insights of 5-6 decades ago and ask, “Have we ever really put these into practice?” We talk as if we do, but very often academia allows curricular concerns, classroom language, and even the extent to which a concept is incorporated into relevant thinking to be determined by popular ways of thinking about an issue, especially in law, political science, psychology, sociology, anthropology, and cultural studies (read: African-American Studies, Latino/a Studies, Meso-American Studies, Arabic Studies, Women’s/Gender & Sexuality Studies, etc.).

    While I don’t specialize in an endless list of disciplines, taking on certain basic ideas, say, how gender and sex are ambiguated and disambiguated in classroom thought, can teach us a lot about how willing we are to follow through our ideas to their conclusions. To follow that example, in the academe, sex and gender are defined differently and exclusively. Sex is of the body and reproduction. Gender is of the mind, behavior, and society. But then instructors will say things in class like, “male pronouns” or “we buy dresses because we’re female.” The quant doesn’t actually mean that the pronoun has genitalia or that prehensile labia snag dresses off the rack without our permission. In fact, quite often there will be a lot of content about socialization within roles, etc. And yet, because (in part) popular culture does not make the same distinction between sex and gender, and because (in part) there are social pressures not to be too “radical” and not to expect too much of students (“helping students succeed” more often means simply passing students who would otherwise fail), and in part because quants are also people who exist outside work more hours a day than inside work, truly separating sex from gender is never done.

    While we assume this makes things easier for students (e.g. not nitpicking language when students use “woman” as if it is a sex or “male” as if it is a gender), in fact we vacillate back forth between giving students a specific definition that separates these things and then teaching using vocabulary that doesn’t separate these things.

    Either the idea has value or it doesn’t. So what if we really did separate the two concepts? What would happen?

    More importantly, what would happen if we required quants to be actually competent at *speaking in a manner consistent with what they teach*? Not that we fired a gender studies quant for screwing up a pronoun, but that this was actually one of a number of things on evaluative criteria rubrics?

    The results turn out to be much more fundamentally surprising and useful than would be easily predicted – even by me. Yet those who pick up on these ideas and debate them typically fail to project the actual consequences of doing what I call “taking our own ideas seriously”. The most frequently imagined barriers are not barriers that typically materialize. Benefits are more profound and more easily realized than expected.

    So when people take ideas of mine, including that teaching should be held to a higher standard and that part of demonstrating competence in teaching a subject is the ability to speak off the cuff in response to questions or discussion without screwing up the concepts and vocabulary of the lesson, and speak as if those ideas are their own, what typically happens is that the ideas do not get the airing they deserve, and because of other cognitive biases, when the ideas are presented with proper support and evidence, too many people are unwilling to listen to evidence. They already spoke to an “expert” and determined that the ideas are not valuable.

    This is a long winded example, but I didn’t know how to make my point more succinctly (a weakness of mine, I know, is assuming that people need more context and explanation than is sometimes true).

    I don’t believe that we are in conflict, Dhorvath, since I don’t think **I** know where I want that line to be drawn between the idea and me. However it’s clear from my experience that “free” exchange of ideas in which the ideas get stripped of their connection to an originator harms not only idea originators but also the ideas themselves…and thus society.

    What protections, then, are most useful?

    Upthread it was argued (or seemed to be argued, my memory may be failing me) that it is piracy and not plagiarism that does the real harm. But given that I get money for lecturing when my ideas are circulated with my name and the original content distributors to which I legally assign circulation rights never pay me anything worth notice anyway,

    1) Piracy does not harm me
    2) Plagiarism most certainly does.

    Moreover, piracy does not harm society, but plagiarism does. The ideas having a full airing – no matter which print shop or ISP gets paid for their work – requires the originator of an idea to be included as part of the context of the work, but doesn’t require that the idea be encountered through a specific product.

    Therefore, the assertion that plagiarism is an ethical good and piracy is an ethical evil is, in my experience, backwards.

    I don’t expect what’s true for me to be true of everyone. Music is different, I believe, than arguments over teaching, pedagogy, and the structure of education. How different, I am not sure.

    But I do want to leave on the note that began this post section: I don’t think we’re in conflict (yet), because I don’t think that either of us have spelled out a very specific position on where the line should be drawn between an idea and an originator. I am arguing for protecting a relationship, but I haven’t put forward a cogent theory on how that protection should occur. You seem to be arguing for limiting the relationship, but you haven’t put forward a cogent theory on what current protections should be removed.

    We might find that the protections with which I am happy still remain after the limitations you favor are imposed. I spoke up because at the beginning of this, it seemed that those arguing for limiting protections would be perfectly happy with dispensing of them altogether. I don’t think that’s where we’re at now.

    But if you put forward more specific ideas on how & when people are able to represent someone else’s words as their own, I might be happy to disagree in the future. So there’s that.

  2. ChasCPeterson says

    My bad on the Lenny’s-dead thing.
    I don’t know where that came from.

    I’m just going to shut up in general for a while.

  3. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    I don’t have the time to read the entire plagiarism / piracy thread within a thread so I won’t comment risking repeating what someone else has already said, but as a photographer who has had his work used without his permission multiple times and the person using it making money off of it, you can probably figure out where I stand on this.

  4. Umulie says

    I think this copyright discussion has been interesting to follow, being a lawyer who also studied copyright law in law school. A couple of points that might contribute to the discussion – if anyone still wants to have at it:

    1) Maybe some of the problem is that people seem to be discussing two concepts of intellectual property rights (IPR)simultaneously, and not always specifying which concept in the arguments. Most copyright law as far as I know separates between a) the moral rights of the autor and b) the economic rights of the author. For instance – in Norwegian copyright law, the moral rights include the right to be properly cited as the athor, which is a right that can not be sold/renounced by the author. In that manner it might be seen as sort of an inaliable right, but as many have said – even this concept is a fairly new and “western” concept culturally speaking. The economic rights secure the author against other people selling his/her books and making money off the authors work wothout consent. Of course, the author can sell or give the these rights to someone else, but will still have the right to be named/cited. Full on plagiarism as in selling someone elses work in your own name would go against both the a) and b) type copyrights. However, at least in Norwegian law, the legal concept of “plagiarism” only covers taking someone else’s work and presenting it as you own w/o regards to earning money from it: it’s a part of the concept of moral rights.

    2) On this background – one can agree or disagree about the actual merit of IPR and more strictly speaking copyright law. Some may think that the moral rights are justified, while the economic rights are not, some may think that none of them should be regulated by law. But when arguing about what the law should be (de lege ferenda), what the law actually says (de lege lata) will never be a valid argument. you cannot say “it should be illigal becaise it is illegal”.

  5. ildi says


    This argument rests on a false empirical basis and is very silly (and very Ayn Rand). It’s one thing to point out that in the current cotext people having to work within the existing system can be harmed by having their work copied or distributed without attribution or payment. It’s quite another to argue that intellectual property is a transhuman notion, a positive concept, or a human right.

    You’ve only asserted that my argument is based on a false empirical basis.

    I have the information in books on the anthropology and history of art, which are not currently at my disposal but are available to you via the internet.

    Well, isn’t that special?

    The challenge to you given the evidence of many cultures that don’t have comparable notions of personal artistic property (it is the majority historically, but that isn’t necessary to show) is to demonstrate that these cultures violate the human rights of people who create artistic or intellectual things.

    The challenge to you is to provide the evidence of these many cultures, rather than just ‘I have books! It’s on the internet!’ In any event, the point is that prior to nifty things like the printing press and the internet, it wasn’t easy to violate people’s human rights through stealing the fruit of their wellspring of creation.


    when a shaman gives another person advice on how to combat a witchcraft attack, this person is not permitted to share that advice with a third person who is also troubled by witchcraft

    Except they don’t give them advice, they use spells, incantations, herbal concoctions, the contents of which are guarded and only passed on to shamans-in-training. Sort of like guilds.


    I’m sorry, but that’s a deranged and harmful notion; body-rights and property-rights are qualitatively different and should never be combined like that. It weakens the usefulness of both to link them like that.

    Except that we’re not talking about general property, we’re talking about intellectual property or better put, creations of the mind. It’s not just a matter of the chair one makes, it’s the ability to design and fashion that chair. It was much easier to protect the creations of one’s mind prior to the development of technology.

    seems to be an extension of ‘it’s only the internets, why u mad?’
    your simplistic strawman has been duly noted and laughed at.

    Laugh away, but you failed to address why you think it’s simplistic. Creations of the mind are not the same as tangible property like land or a chair. People identify themselves through the creations of their mind. “I am an artist” “I am a scientist” “I am a writer” My point with the analogy is that just because technology allows the ease of taking and distancing oneself from the taker doesn’t make it right to violate someone’s autonomy.

  6. Pteryxx says

    @ Jadehawk:

    a number of my most talented “co-workers” have had their work rejected because the reviewers wouldn’t believe them that they were as talented as that, and insisted on seeing source-material for their illustrations that simply didn’t exist.

    as a (very) rookie artmaker, I’d like to hear more about this situation if possible, maybe not in this thread though.

  7. ahs ॐ says


    Except they don’t give them advice

    You are just plain wrong. Where are you getting your information, the local New Age bookstore?

    “When the offended [ancestor] spirit has been revealed, the [Buryat] shaman commonly orders the client to go out to the mountain (tree, etc.) residence of the spirit and perform the ritual called alban, which means duty, service or tribute. Alban is a sacrifice, usually conducted by another country shaman, with the aim of giving acknowledgement and respect to the neglected spirit.”

    Bolded emphasis mine. The client may find a shaman in the area to perform the ceremony, or the client may perform the alban ceremony themself. If the latter, then we may infer the client must somehow be taught how to perform the ceremony (for it is a “ceremony” after all, a ritual of some kind, not just an open-ended prayer.)

    So, for example, you could try to show that it is not permitted for one non-shaman to instruct another non-shaman in how to perform alban.

    Well, isn’t that special?

    Ahem. You haven’t yet demonstrated that you’ve earned your affect of enlightened superiority, ildi.

  8. Dhorvath, OM says

    Crip Dyke,

    But if you put forward more specific ideas on how & when people are able to represent someone else’s words as their own, I might be happy to disagree in the future. So there’s that.

    I still don’t think that anyone should represent someone else’s words as their own, the only good that does is harm in disguise. I am puzzled about where ideas fit into that, how long and how tightly does an idea belong to someone? It is certainly easier to trace a service or good, which is certainly contributing to my tendency to revert to that style of thinking.

    I don’t like inheritance for example, giving an idea to a family in perpetuity is something I would oppose. On the other hand, if it disappears into public use the instant you share it once, how to insentivize people to work at these things? Which is why I am leaning to the doing, not the development, at least within our current climate of rewards.

    Development implies a level of mastery, or at least I think it does, and sharing an idea is seldom easy for someone who understands it but poorly. So the act of sharing is an easy one to say has some attached value and I should think also an easy one to bolster via attribution. That is not to say that someone who thinks of an idea is going to be the best at sharing it, for instance CR may be a better writer than performer, and that surely shows my thinking as incomplete.

    The truth is, purchased media as a method for encouraging creation is at the heart of what troubles me. If you wrote a book and sold ten (no, I would not wish that on you, but it’s an easy number to type, which I have lost now by qualifying, but hey) copies, you are getting paid based on those books, and not on the number of people who have been exposed to them. Those ten books could represent ten readers none of whom understand your ideas, or they could be shared around to a hundred all of whom understand well enough to spread the idea further. I would not turn this around and say that since ideas will spread they should have no value, I don’t think I understand this well enough to have that deep a conviction.

  9. ildi says

    Hmmm, my last comment seemed to have disappeared in the ether… maybe try with no link?

    From the same article (apparently the first article you came across in google scholar, ahs):

    Both Nadya and Zoya were consecrated as shamans in rituals at their parents’ villages, where their own ancestral spirits have residence. But relations here are quite tense and ambiguous, as we saw when Nadya’s mother tried to cut off the link. When the citified shamans go uninvited and without a special tie to worship, say, at a famous sacred mountain, they are bound to fall foul of one of the innumerable rules for correct ritual behavior. This is pounced upon by the local shamans, who say the city shamans are not quite genuine and blame them for all sorts of misfortunes. For example, a three-year drought in the distant Tunka Valley is said to have been caused by the dreadful ritual mistake of a self-declared Buryat shaman, formerly a professor of Marxist-Leninist philosophy, who being a woman, climbed up a sacred mountain prohibited to women.

    Further, if you had scrolled down just a bit, you would have come across this article in the Columbia Law Review from 1989 by Mark Suchman titled Invention and Ritual: Notes on the Interrelation of Magic and Intellectual Property in Preliterate Societies. Some interesting snippets:

    Failing to distinguish intellectual property, in itself, from the document-intensive, governmentally administered, dynamic regime of the West, legal scholars have often assumed that more static, “primitive” cultures lack analogous mechanisms for the protection of ideas.

    In seeking such an understanding, this Article straddles three distinct areas of scholarship: (1) the economics of intellectual property, (2) the anthropology of law, and (3) the ethnography of magic. Because these literatures have, for the most part, developed independently, no previous work explicitly examines the interrelation of magic and intellectual property in preliterate society. Economic analysis of intellectual property has generated a copious literature; however, economists generally address their arguments to the contemporary Western regime, and most of their assertions presuppose the existence of formal government and written records – items that preliterate societies lack. Legal anthropologists, on the other hand, have studies the preliterate world extensively; yet their research focuses primarily on conflict resolution and social control, rather than on underlying property rights. Further, when legal anthropologists do discuss property rights, they almost invariably concentrate on tangible property, not on the protection of ideas. Finally, the extensive ethnographic literature on magic is largely descriptive, making little use of intellectual property theory and rarely detailing the legal or economic significance of magical beliefs.

    So, counter to SC’s evidence-free claim that the concept of intellectual property is a fairly new one, the more important question is, what is the cost/benefit analysis for individuals vs. society in protecting intellectual property rights (or property rights in particular)? SC claims that a basic human right is the right to enjoy the artistic and intellectual products of our culture. How different is this from saying that a basic human right is to protect those things/ideas that protect one’s personal autonomy, the things that allow one to feel safe, protected, fed, nurtured, provide for the future? This is why I’m a centrist; zero property rights is just as delusional a concept as the idea of total ownership internalizing all costs is what will result in an ideal society.