And I feel very conflicted about it.
Only about two hours ago, I was going through submissions on Invisible Illness, read a piece that was one of the most well-written and heart-wrenching I’d read in a while, published it, and then commented with praise to the author.
Kitty Hannah Eden then replied to my comment about half an hour later to tell me that it was plagiarized, linking the original piece by Jessica Wildfire. I immediately removed the post from the publication, as well as every other piece of the plagiarist author from Invisible Illness.
I reported the author, but then I went through the rabbit hole of looking at a lot of other stories under the author’s profile — and there it was: more plagiarism. Simply highlighting the first paragraph and putting it into Google usually yielded an established Medium writer’s work.
I commented on original pieces to the link to the plagiarized work to let the writers who were being plagiarized. I discussed the issue with my fellow editors and some fellow writers, and I talked to some of the writers who had their work plagiarized.
Through all this, I felt this sense of rage and injustice that someone would plagiarize like that, but it wasn’t a rage I’ve felt in a long time. I don’t like it. I took on a vigilante task of alerting authors that their work was being plagiarized when I knew Medium would handle it in due time.
And I don’t know how to describe it, but that rage felt, well, good. It felt too good to be the good guy, and that’s the problem. Here I was, a fighter for writer intellectual property taking justice into my own hands, and I’m not going to deny that it felt like a was a moral and self-righteous person for seeking justice against this person plagiarizing work.
That feeling is, well, dangerous. It’s not me on most days. And it’s not about the cause as much as I know what it’s like to have people rush to judgment against you — and I endeavored a long time ago to hit the pause button whenever I had that rush to judgment against someone else. The outrage, left unchecked, is the exact outrage that the justice system was meant to protect against.
Let it be clear that it’s not about the act, but when I decided to play vigilante, I made it about me — look at me, look at what a good person I am to bring justice to other writers. It’s Medium’s job to handle, not mine, so why did I feel such an urge to try to handle it?
I talked to Anu Anniah, who had one of her pieces plagiarized. We discussed how the author hadn’t even done a great job of plagiarizing, copy and pasting entire articles verbatim and sometimes barely even changing the title.
And she, as well as a couple of other people, took one positive takeaway that at least the plagiarist author thought her work was good enough to post under her name.
What if it were me? What if someone took my work, and was so lazy plagiarizing that all they did was change a few words in the title? What if they stole my writing for financial gain?
I would have similarly conflicting emotions of anger, yet simultaneous flattery that someone thought my writing was good enough to plagiarize.
But it wasn’t my job to try to bring the justice and ire of a significant portion of the writing community, and yet that’s what I did. A lot of people might say I did the right thing, and yet it doesn’t feel right, for some reason.
Maybe this goes to show that justice doesn’t always feel right, and that it’s hard. But it also goes to say that justice wasn’t mine to bring. I reported the author, and as an editor, I might have to run everything through a plagiarism checker because you don’t expect anyone to submit a plagiarized draft. I investigated, and told a couple of the authors I found had their work plagiarized.
That’s all I should have done — Medium has already suspended the author and has taken care of the situation. I shouldn’t have made it a huge deal and stirred the brunt of the writer community’s rage. The episode the past two hours has taught me that, in tough situations like those, you do your duty, and then let go instead of obsessing as a judge, jury, and executioner.
Well, I should go back to my actual job of grading, calling parents, and posting assignments. I hope these things are rare occurrences in the future, and yet I won’t be surprised to see it happen again as soon as next week.