Snide and Demean: Why I’m Trying To Quit

A long time ago, when I was doing my MFA work, a Famous Author came to campus. He wrote popular historical fiction and when somebody in my creative writing class asked what his work was like, I said something snide and demeaning. Snide and demeaning has always been the basic black of bad criticism, and I must have looked like death personified. Then the next afternoon I ended up sitting next to the Famous Author at lunch. To this day, that remains one of the best times I’ve ever had; he was smart, he was funny, he was fast on the comeback, he was kind, he was wise . . . if he hadn’t had an equally fabulous wife, I’d have married him just to be able to talk to him for the rest of my life. And I thought, “Jesus, I’m a schmuck.”

I’d love to tell you that after that, I was Changed. Nah. I went to lunch with another author I admired and trashed a self-help guru I didn’t like. Who was one of the author’s best friends. Which I sort of knew. I have no idea if the self-help guru was a nice guy or not, but as somebody pointed out to me later, the guru had helped a lot of people, he’d made a difference, and the fact that I found his simple analysis of a complex problem ridiculous didn’t change the fact that smart people liked him, and that I had been snide and demeaning. And I thought, “Jesus, I’m a schmuck.”

I was in grad school when Bridges of Madison County came out. I read a couple of pages, thought, “Life is too short,” and put it down. But that sucker stayed on the bestsellers lists for months, it was a legitimate bestseller, the kind of book that sells because real people really like it and get people who are not ordinarily readers to buy it and the word passes and the book just sticks. People in the MFA program were appalled because, in their estimation and mine, the writing in that book was terrible. But this time, I wasn’t a schmuck. I took a step back and thought, “But people like it.” If that many people liked it, there was something there. I still don’t know what it was, although my theory is that Waller believed in that story so much that his passion for it lived on the page for those who could see past the terrible prose. Or maybe they really loved the terrible prose. The point was that those people were not stupid. They read a book and liked it. When the Da Vinci Code came out, I didn’t trash it, either, not because I’m an author and authors should stick together, but because if something is legitimately popular, the best response is not to say, “I hate that, therefore it’s stupid,” but to ask, “Why is that popular?” Because “why is that popular” is interesting, and “I hate that, therefore it’s stupid” is just a prop to my self-esteem: “Thank God I have the taste not to like that.”

This has served me in good stead most of the time, especially since I write romance where I get hit with snide and demeaning all the time. I’d give you some examples here but basically, I think everybody who has ever snided me was probably karmic payback for that Famous Author, and I deserve whatever I get that for that, so no whining. Even so, I still slip. I pretty much have snide and demeaning in my DNA and it’s very easy to slide back down that slope. I’m not proud of that. But I don’t wallow. I’m snide and demeaning and then I move on. I think that only moves me from an F to a D on the basic humanity scale but it’s a start. And it’s important because I don’t like snide and demeaning in others. Snide and demeaning brings out the outraged-sense-of-justice in me. Which I mention here because two things in the past two days have made me look at snide and demeaning again.

One was on a blog that does very good reporting and reviewing, albeit savagely with a strong undercurrent of S&D. This site has one author that it returns to regularly to hold up for ridicule. It’s the only thing about this site that I don’t like, but I’ve never said anything. And that’s where I screwed up. I should have said something. I should not have sat at home with my laptop and watched the repeated humiliation of this author without saying, “What did she do to you guys, run over your dog?” Then they posted comparisons of her work with non-fiction sources, and it appears clear that she lifted her information word-for-word from those sources which is plagiarism. Normally, I’d have said, “She goes down;” plagiarism is serious and rampant in our industry, and any time we can make the point that it’s wrong, we should. But I read it and thought, “Are they ever going to leave this woman alone?” and posted the run-over-your-dog comment, which was taken as a refutation that plagiarism is a serious thing, and which I deserved because I was, once again, going for snide-and-derision instead of making myself clear. So I went back in and said, “Plagiarism is bad, but what you’re doing to his author is a crime, too,” or words to that effect. Then I left the site. Haven’t been back since. Not going back. Because while it’s a great site by smart passionate women who love romance, I don’t like the S&D there. I wish them the best, but I’m not their reader, which I’m sure has been pointed out in the comments by now, several times, loudly.

I think that’s the key to the whole S&D thing: Something may not be your read, and that’s fine, and you can say so in the appropriate venue (like a review site or the comments on a blog you’re criticizing) but then you move on. You don’t like the woman’s books, you review them, and then you go find somebody else to analyze. You don’t like something on a blog, you point that out and then you stop reading it because it’s not your kind of place. If you keep going back and saying, “No, we really hate her books” or “no, really you guys are just mean girls now,” it’s not reviewing any more, it’s not commentary, it’s just bashing. And that’s not helpful, it’s not interesting, it’s not illuminating.

Which brings me to New Hampshire. I’m an independent, I’ll vote for anybody I think will do a good job regardless of party, but I’ve looked at both groups of candidates and for this election, I’m a Democrat because I would be pleased to see any of the top three candidates in the White House. So I probably won’t know who I’m voting for until the night before the election, but if I’d been in New Hampshire yesterday, I’d have voted for Clinton for the same reason that a lot of people evidently voted for Clinton: S&D in the press. The drubbing Clinton took from the press was ridiculous, the glee they took in her “downfall”was obscene. And I think a lot of people went to the polls and essentially voted against S&D because it’s not the way intelligent, insightful political commentary is done. There may have been legitimate issues buried in the vituperation and schadenfreude, but the press’s joy in the harm they were inflicting made sure that their message was lost to a lot of people who drew the line at such targeted bile. And that made me think about the effect of S&D because if backlash against it can change the face of a national election, it has more power than I ever realized.

The thing about snide-and-demean is that it’s a lousy way to communicate. It gets people on your side because everybody loves being in the in-group, and making fun of a scapegoat is a great way to create that in-group. Ann Coulter does it, Chris Matthews does it, and god-help-me-in-my-guilt, I have done it. And once you go the S&D route, your message, the important thing you want to say, gets lost in the joy-in-harm. It isn’t about being nice; nice has no place in communicating ideas. It isn’t even about being polite; that’s a social construct. It’s about figuring out what you want to communicate to other people and saying that, instead of going for the laugh and the superiority. It’s what I screwed up when I posted my snide comment about running over the dog instead of saying, “Any credibility you have on this serious issue is lost for me because of the way you’ve humiliated this woman in the past.” It’s what I screwed up here on this blog when I posted a vituperative letter a friend of mine had gotten from a reader, and then made fun of it instead of addressing what I was really angry about, people who think they can say anything to authors because hey, we’re rich and famous and they’re not. (Note: Most of us are not rich and famous. We’re just published. Trust me, the two are not interchangeable.) I think, maybe, speculating here, it’s what that blog is screwing up because they’re angry that writers they see as criminally bad are making so much money off of readers. I think snide and derision always has at its base real anger about real issues, and people deflect or deny that anger and go for the smartass joke. It’s so much easier to make fun than it is to look at the problem. And God knows, it more fun to read people making fun of other people and things than it is to read smart, tough analysis of a problem.

What snide-and-demean always misses is the real people on the other side of the target. The people who read the scapegoat author’s books and love them are rightly outraged that they’re being called readers-of-no-taste. They have taste. It’s just taste that’s different from the people on that blog. The woman who wrote that letter to my friend was legitimately outraged at the way she felt my friend had demeaned her group in her fiction. However ridiculous I found that, she was entitled to that opinion. I would still argue that she is not entitled to tell my friend that she could never write about that group again, but since the vast majority of people would agree with that, it’s not much of an argument, and she was a cheap shot, the recipient, I think now, of being the last-straw-in-a-long-line-of-straw people who have trashed and derided and snided my fiction and the work of my friends because we weren’t Their Kind. And so, of course, I did exactly the same thing to her.

I’m not arguing that there should be no criticism, or even that there should be no snide and derision. I think, for example, that Stewart and Colbert use snide-and-demean to great effect to communicate their outrage while making insightful commentary on important issues. But I think the way they do it is key. If you’re going to do public commentary, on blogs, on the networks, wherever, then you have a responsibility to actually say something with that S&D. I’m pretty sure Chris Matthews is reaping more S&D than he could have ever imagined, and I’m fine with that as long as it’s used to point out how biased and angry he was and how that skewed his reporting. And then having made the point, move on. It’s when we get gleeful at how awful the other person is, it’s when we take joy in the harm that’s befallen him, it’s when we wallow in the awfulness of whatever long past the time when our point was made, it’s when we stop thinking like intelligent commentators and start acting like pack animals–go look at the press from the days before the election to see what I mean–that we become just bullies in pulpits, throwing rocks instead of entertaining in an intelligent and responsible way.

Hi, I’m Jenny. I’m a snide-and-demeaner. And I’m really trying to quit.

Go, Hillary.

93 thoughts on “Snide and Demean: Why I’m Trying To Quit

  1. Hi. My name is Jan. I’m an S&Der. It’s like being an alcoholic. The addiction to slide in that remark that will get people to smile with you is powerful. It’s when you realize the hurt that goes along with those arrows that cause you to want to stop. I work with the brain injured and you know the one form of humor they can’t understand any more is sarcasm. It takes straightforward words and twists them with tone of voice to mean something else. It’s generally, deep down, an anger driven form of humor. It is almost always unkind, tho it may be called for by the situation. It’s cloaked in joke form, when in reality it isn’t any such thing. We are now in a society where unkind remarks and road rage are the norm instead of the exception. How can we expect anyone to be open and honest when they get reamed for the exposure of their vulnerable parts. Thank you Jenny. It’s time for a dialogue about our dialogue.


  2. Jenny – I always enjoy reading your S&D because it generally balances my OOyS(Overly Optimistic yet Sarcastic) – yet, honestly, with all the mudslinging going on this week across the boards, S&D may not necessarily be a bad thing.

    I’d rather see the truth thru S&D than trying to deal with pollyanna communication any day.

    BTW – over on the Diva board, several people have nominated you for Goddess stature due to your recent S&D. I think we all know you’ve already taken on that job 🙂


  3. You’ve made a wonderful point about making a point. We shouldn’t focus on scoring a point, but on making it – getting across our position. If there’s funny to go with it, that’s fine, so long as it underscores your point and doesn’t undermine your credibility.

    As to the S&D blog, while I love some of their posts (their cover “critiques” can be hilarious), sometimes, they’re just mean, and I don’t get where it comes from. So I don’t read them regularly.


  4. In my opinion, it’s not the S & D per say … it is the unwillingness to let another person have their their say with the same courtesy afforded to those with whom we agree.

    There are one or two blogs I continue to read, leaving them in the lovely bloglines account, but I no longer feel comfortable adding my two cents worth in the comments because of the pack mentality. I will either garner courage and try commenting again, or stop reading because the joy of participation is lost.

    Thanks, Jenny. This was a very interesting and thoughful post.

    (Thank heavens Bob is always right, it takes the pressure off of the rest of us! *smile* )


  5. Hi. My name is glee and I don’t always think of the right S&D thing to say until much later, so I guess I’m an aspiring S&D’er. But I am also a Libra (a wishy-washy liberal who sees at least two sides, etc) and a person who was called names. I also try really hard not to make that smart-ass remark because I am aware how hurtful names can be — and yes, my mommy did teach me that words don’t break bones — but they surely can cut nasty-papercut-slices that really injure over time. I hate the plaigarism thing. I think anyone who has tried to make even a few dollars off the fruits of their intellectual labors does and I’m glad to know that the “Jenny Crusie says it’s okay” thread was a misunderstanding of your intent.

    I am not surprised by the press and Hillary. First, it’s relatively easy for word-people (aka writers) to make “fun” using words. Next, unless you have been near a powerful woman I think it’s hard to understand how incredibly they are feared and hated. It’s not just Hillary. It’s Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein and Anna Eshoo and Jane Harmon and Zoe Lofgren and the many others like them. And it matters not which political party they’re from. Have you noticed how the criticisms of Nancy Pelosi are frequently not about the choices she has made but about how she expresses them. And she can’t win — if she mentions family, she’s playing the female card. If she doesn’t she’s a hard-nosed political bitch. These things are seldom said about Sen Carl Levin, for example. These women are hard-working and are successful in a world where mostly men are found. I don’t always agree with the stands these women take but I applaud their bravery in taking them. They are held to ridicule in a much more personal way than men in similar positions, except perhaps for Dan Quayle, a politician that many made fun of in very cruel ways. In another arena, look at what is said about Brittney Spears. Lots of S&D there.

    For me, the hardest part to understand is why so many of the people who use S&D against women in power are women. We should know how hard it is to move forward in a “man’s world”. Are we jealous? Or is it because we can feel superior when we do it? Or is S&D simply a woman’s tool? We use it because we don’t reach out and punch people?

    Right? and my point was? oh yeah: I’ll sign the pledge. Less S&D and more thoughtful criticism. Thank you, Jenny, for making us think about it.



  6. Jenny, I read your comments on the site in question, and I agree with your opinions. I don’t go there precisely because, while I love me some snarky, their brand is a little too….well, it’s not my thing. You tried to make a point in a place that doesn’t want to look at their actions while they’re busy playing kick the can.

    I am in awe of Hillary. That is one strong woman.

    Now go forth and snide no more.


  7. I’m a lot of S and not so much D, (do we get membership badges?) though I lean towards snark as opposed to snide. I’m a woman of strong opinions and am not afraid or inhibited to share them when asked (and sometimes when not). I read the blog in question and frankly, when I saw the posts continuing every day on the same bashing theme, I didn’t even bother reading them, but just left the page and went on to another, more pleasurable, blog (you may have heard of D&G? It’s a catchy little thing.) At one point I even rolled my eyes and thought “aren’t we done with this yet?” Love or hate the author (and I’m not a fan), plagerist or not, such a focused and ongoing attack is just poor form and makes the attacker look bad more than anything else. That said, I wouldn’t want to sacrifice some harmless snarky humor (which this was not) on the altar of too much guilty reformation. I read Bridges of Madison County after months of snorting at the fad, when at school in England (I was desperate for something easy to read), and I didn’t hate it, but I also read the parody Ditches of Edison County and chortled away at the snark – no D included.


  8. Jenny – I saw your comment on the blog-that-shall-not-be-named and was a little disappointed, but I am glad to read your reasoning for it.

    There have been a lot of tense moments in my femme-blogosphere these past couple days, with that earlier blog going after a certain author (who may not have merited the attack, but seems to have done something unethical) and another fave blog of mine calling the women in NH who voted for Hillary a derogatory term.

    Thanks for this quiet and reflective post.


  9. Jenny,

    Thank you for calling out the bulllies on the playground. I hope to grow up to have a backbone like you someday.

    And, on the topic of politics, I was both frustrated and glad the I don’t live in NH and Iowa this week. I get irked by the fact that those two states have so much political clout in the primary process, but was hard place from one day to the next to decide if I would have voted for Clinton, Edwards or Obama.

    But this morning I actually got tears in my eyes when I thought about the fact that maybe one day soon, I might be able to tell my daughters that we have a woman president.


  10. It’s the way of the media today, especially in Britain. They will build a person up only to be able to tear them down later. Happy things don’t make good headlines–scandal, slander, backbiting–that does.

    Not to be pessimistic, but the system won’t change til we as a collective stop feeding the fire. And, so far, we’ve proven that we can’t. No matter how much I hear people say they’re sick of hearing about political backlash or how insane Britney Spears has become, they are the ones still actively reading these stories in the papers, on blogs or watching it on the news.

    I hate to say it, but S&D is the predominant way of things now and I don’t see that changing any time soon.


  11. Good thoughtful post. Thanks for it. As someone who has lived through the Iowa caususes, I have had it up to the eyebrows with S&D journalists — and candidates. Long live independents!

    The only thing I disagreed with in your post was the statement: “I think snide and derision always has at its base real anger about real issues.”

    Sometimes they have real base anger. Sometimes, unfortunately, they’re just snide and demeaning because they can be. Sigh.


  12. I, too, sometimes succumb to the temptation of snideness and derision. I know it’s a cheap shot, but I occasionally can’t resist – I want to be funny or considered clever. But I do try not to be nasty!

    I don’t visit the site-in-question because it does lean towards nastiness (unless someone tells me there’s something really funny on there, in which case I will drop in). And I’ve known nice people who really like the author-in-question’s books, though I don’t care for the sub-genre.

    I like the “move on” part of your prescription. Even if one can’t resist a zinger every so often, it’s the incessant belittling that demeans everyone involved.

    How come no one ever mentions Richardson? I like Richardson! Is it the boring name? Is that a cheap shot? Why was the press writing off candidacies based on a single caucus? And now one caucus + one primary – 99% (or something) of the people in the country haven’t had a chance to vote, yet, people! Yes, the rush to judgment (isn’t there supposed to be another e in that? but the spell check doesn’t like it that way) and to inaugurate a candidate was ugly.

    Was that too political? Sorry. It was intended to be another comment on how the discourse gets oversimplified.


  13. You know what’s funny – I wasn’t going to vote for Clinton because I found her to be a S&Der. Don’t demean hope to me, it’s all I’ve got sometimes.


  14. It is the posts like these that keep me coming back. Not that I don’t love the pictures of the dogs (love those, actually) or dismay over bad cover art or anything else but it’s these serious reflective posts that stick with me. I find myself thinking about them long after I’ve read them. Thanks for sharing–and I mean that in the most non-S&D possible way.


  15. This makes me think about the movie Harvey where Jimmy Stewart’s character says that “you can be oh so smart, or oh so kind. I’ve been smart. I recommend kind.” Or something to that effect. Funny is great (and one of the reasons I love this blog), but funny and mean tends to make me squirm; the mean stands out.

    I also love the way you make me think and think again. So thanks, Jenny.


  16. I’m a regular visitor of the site in question, but have felt that in recent months they’ve gotten away from the things that attracted me there in the first place. I’ll continue to visit in hopes they return to what worked for me originally. I suppose I have a soft place in my heart for them – they led me to your books and websites, and by extension, some really wonderful people in my life.

    I, too, thought the sheer number of posts about the matter in question seemed like overkill. There’s a line between being rightfully upset and just being mean. I’m not a fan of the author, and I believe she crossed an ethical line, but I found myself scanning the posts saying “Move on, already.” I didn’t realize how much it rubbed me the wrong way until your comment. Thanks for helping me realize what was bothering me. I respect you all the more for it.

    As for the political stuff, since I’m from Iowa I already had my say. I like my state’s winner better than Hillary, but I also didn’t approve of the way the media savaged her. These 24 hour news networks have left a lot of empty air time to fill, and I believe a lot of it gets filled with things we might be better not seeing.

    Sorry for the long comment, but thanks for this post, it’s appreciated.


  17. You know life is too short to sit around flaming some romance author. Geez. I say if we all got rid of the toxicity that comes from bad-mouthing others and did some good for ourselves and our loved ones we’d positively impact the lives of those around us.

    And on Hilary, she wasn’t my first choice until yesterday. She was professional and caring, willing to let her guard down and show her sensitive side during a time when many others would have resorted to name-calling and S&D. That’s a mature leader.


  18. First, I disagree with you, Jenny, but we went over that. I see your position and fully appreciate it, but meet that with the condition under which we harsh on Said Author. Said Author, much to our consternation as romance readers, is already shorthand for romance, available everywhere I look. And because as readers our site looks at romance good and bad, we take a repeated look at the bad according to our opinion because that particular bad makes such an almighty frequent appearance. Our way of looking at everything? Heavily steeped in snark, so the good, the bad, gets equal treatment.

    What pisses me the heck off is when people ascribe motivations to our site and to me that simply do not exist. Cate said, “You tried to make a point in a place that doesn’t want to look at their actions while they’re busy playing kick the can.” How do you know? You know me personally, and you know therefore that I’m allegedly gleeful about lining up evidence that a 71 year old woman committed a heaping metric ton of questionable use of material without citation? I’m looking at my actions clearly and I defend them without compunction. But for you to assume you know my motivations?

    What absolute unmitigated crapola. Take that can and kick it.

    What pisses me off even more is the attitude that in some way I am responsible for the commentary on our site and that the combined attitude of the entire commentary is in some way a justification for calling me names. I am not responsible for the comments left on our site by anyone other than myself. I take full responsibility for what I write. I am not responsible for someone else’s asshattery except to respond and say, ‘You’re being an asshat in my opinion.’ So the pile on, that is my fault? I’m not buying that. I’m rather proud of the community of discussion at SBTB because there are very ballsy women (Jenny included, obviously) who state their opinions. Directly, with or without snark. But am I to be held responsible for rabid nuttery? I don’t accept that, and I surely do not want to have to put a policy up in our comment window that says, ‘Yo. You are responsible for what you say here. No, really. You are.’ It should be obvious. Clearly it’s not.

    Bottom line: I am not moving on from evidence of uncredited sources used without proper attribution. You may not like our site or what we have to say, but what we just said about this issue is important, and to dismiss it merely because you don’t like the messenger demeans the importance of an ethical question that does not attract enough attention.


  19. Sarcastic humor has so many gradations and differing perceptions by the giver and receiver(s). Particularly in public. And yet the humor that leads to sarcasm, snide comments, and demeaning comments is almost required for the conversation to be entertaining. That fine line of too much is hard to find. It moves too easily, and it’s invisible.


  20. Sorry, I’m not adding to the chorus of applause.

    I was really disappointed by your original run-over-your-dog comment and even more disappointed by your follow-up. I don’t understand the mixing of “Snide=bad!” and “Plagiarism, something something!” arguments. If you feel strongly about the former, fine, but a plagiarism post is not the moment to beat that particular drum, particularly not when the end result is some weird mix of self-righteousness and the implication that plagiarism just isn’t as bad as girls being mean.

    I don’t read your blog much, but I’ve read several of your books, and enjoyed them as pretty smart, pretty funny romances. Your attitude on the blog you’re refusing to name struck me as not what I would have expected from you.

    You’ve lost a reader.


  21. Thanks for a very insightful post. I tend not to visit many blogs or fansites of any kind, because, sooner or later, most of them devolve into Snide & Derision full-time. So I don’t know anything about the site in question, but we are an S&D nation, so I can only imagine. I blame the 24 hour “news” channels and their inclination to fill air-time with “talk” shows, which are rarely ever about intelligent conversation, but about the host or hostess loving the sound of their own voice, who can talk loudest and say the most outrageous things.

    Stewart and Colbert, the “fake” news guys tend to be the least snide and demeaning, because they are actually trying to make a point, rather than just trying to put somebody down.

    Nonetheless, the lure of S&D is powerful. You illuminated all of the reasons much better than I ever could, so I won’t restate them. I myself am just plain sarcastic-pretty much all the time. And I am a big fan of snark, which I like to think of as a less vituperative form of S&D. There will always be someone who will take snark-and sarcasm, for that matter-the wrong way, but I think that the intent behind snark is much less vicious. S&D has its moments, but, more often than not, it gets taken too far.

    At any rate, I’m with you on Hillary-I was so relieved to get the paper this morning and see that she won NH. S&D should be banned from all “news” and serious reporting relating to the election. It clouds the issues-in fact, it makes us stop talking about the REAL issues, until we devolve into discussions of haircuts and inhaling.



  22. I should have mentioned that I read the blog that shall apparently not be named with equal rarity: once or twice a year. I’m no more a fan of that blog than I am of yours, and I took both the plagiarism posts (an issue I take seriously, sorry!) and your comments at face value.


  23. Thanks for this post, Jenny. I also have a tendency towards S&D inside me, but as I grow older, I try to resist it. I can’t always resist the snark, but nowadays I try to explain point by point why I don’t like a book/film/TV show and I try to do it without belittling the authors/creators who put a lot of work into bringing this thing to life and the fans who really like it.

    I saw the discussion on that other blog, but didn’t really follow it, since I wasn’t familiar with the work of the author in question. I agree that it went on much too long, though. What that author did was wrong, but there was no need to flog that point post after post after post.

    Though if you think the romance community is bad in the S&D department, you should see the SF & fantasy community. Certain more vocal members of that community will not simply call a book/movie/TV show they don’t like trash, they will also call everyone who likes this thing they dislike a subliterate idiot who is probably a developmentally challenged loser living with his parents and smelling of urine, they will say that the author of the thing they don’t like deserves to have his genitals removed and that the only reason the thing they dislike was published/broadcast is nepotism, because no one can actually like that thing. At the same time, they get very touchy if you criticize something they deem good. The initial reason I began hanging out with the romance crowd, even though I didn’t read the books at that time, was because the community seemed so friendly.


  24. good post. i am trying to stay away from sarcasm, because for me it tends to slip to the S&D (i try to stay on the S side, i swear!) *sigh* it’s hard

    not touching the politics because i’ll never leave if i do that. i will say though that having a woman president doesn’t mean as much to me as having a president who cares about “women’s” issues. if i do end up voting for Clinton, it will be for her politics, not the fact she has a vagina. i like that there are more women in politics and i hope the number keeps growing, but if i vote for them for anything other than their political record and/or promises, what use do they serve? it would be just as stupid as saying i’d vote for Obama because he was black, rather than because i agree with certain stances he takes.

    also (what, you really believed that first line?), i find the S&D devoted to Obama harsher, mostly because it’s more subtle than Clinton’s. like when he first came on and all the newsies talked about how “articulate” he was- the first part of that attitude is that it’s suprising to find a black man that is articulate, and the second considering how the masculine is protrayed for black men (re: thug) it suggests he is less than a man…

    ok, backing away from the soap box. i have homework, after all


  25. Jenny, I do love you, and I agree with a lot of what you’re saying about S&D. Some people are so brilliant at it, though, that it’s a pleasure just to to watch them S&D — Gore Vidal, for instance. (Vidal can also do wonderful writing about writers he likes, though. That’s one thing to watch for.)

    S&D is easy to do, but hard to do well, which is why we have Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and much of the liberal blogosphere too. Which is where I part company with you. Yes, the corporate media have been vicious about Hillary, but that’s not a reason to vote for her. If it were, I’d have voted for Bush in 2004, because so many liberals were more bothered by his inability to pronounce “nuclear” than by his politics. I imagine you, too, saw the fake Nostradamus quatrain that circulated after the 2000 elections, supposedly predicting that the “village idiot” would rise to power.

    So, I don’t rely on the corporate media for the information on which I base my vote. Nor do I go by the amount of snark thrown in a given candidate’s direction, though I may deplore it and even throw some snark at the snark-throwers. But for those of you who think that things are worse than they used to be in American politics, have you ever seen 19th century political cartoons?


  26. In my opinion, it’s not the S & D per say … it is the unwillingness to let another person have their their say with the same courtesy afforded to those with whom we agree.

    Lynn, I think that is what turned me off with the comments. Anyone who didn’t wholeheartedly agree were egged horribly. (Me, rebel by nature I guess) And common sense and logic no longer flew. That’s when I left it alone.

    But to this post. Very thoughtful, because I’m an S and D’er. I love snark, sarcasm, and the like, but there is a point where it crosses a line. With maturity you learn to know when you’ve crossed the line. I guess it’s the church girl in me who believes you don’t kick around someone who is already bad off. (Anyone who is desperate enough to plagerize is bad off. To me that says they don’t believe in their own writing to do it themselves. Contact the right people and move on. If the right people don’t do what they are supposed to then take action. Don’t beat the dead horse.)

    As for Hilary…I am African American. I’m sure I will be chastised by the simple minded individuals for not wanting to vote for Obama. But I want someone who’s seen the Oval office before and not because they took a tour of it. I want someone who is going to get this country out of the hole our current president has put us in. I believe Hilary can do it. So…I’m sure you guys know who I’m going to vote for now.


  27. Just in case there’s some confusion in the order of the posts, this is a moderated site, so new posters have to be approved by me (thus making sure spam doesn’t get out here). There were five posts when I checked the filter this time, so some of these weren’t up when the posts following them were written.

    Or in other words, you can’t assume cause and effect between posts here because some were delayed due to moderating.


  28. When I read that comment, I didn’t get it. Even with the clarification, I didn’t really get it.

    So, thank you for posting this because I totally get it now.

    I am also a recovering S&Der. I think we’re all responsible for what we say and, for me personally, I don’t want to hurt anyone. If something I say hurts someone, and I was going for the easy or the witty or I just wanted to be right–then I suck. If I hurt someone because of what I believe, and not how I said it, then I’m sorry, but I can still stand by what I believe.

    Words matter. You can’t be a writer or a reader and not know that words are real and that words have weight.


  29. I am definitely NOT into S&D. I am the Way Too Nice to Everyone kind of person… which can be a raw deal, but I try to deal fairly 100% of the time. This means I get walked over 🙂 its not an easy line to tread! It comes ffrom a lifetime of being the one who gets picked on.

    I am glad that so many of you have remembered how hurtful and disappointing snarking on someone is. Its a bitch to be on the end of, and its depressing and unnecessary. Then you feel bad, and everyone feels bad.

    On the other hand, I agree with Veronica’s comment. However honorable it is to ditch the S&D, on a post dealing with plagiarism may not be the time and place. I am definitely a lurker and am only commenting because I have been reading the blog in question and following the whole thing closely, and I think that honest assessment of the facts is quite different to Snark.

    Many of the comments made on the site were very snarky, which I didn’t like or appreciate. However, drawing attention to the issue is not snark, thats reader responsibility. Plagiarism is the kind of issue that hits both readers and writers in the belly, and although people were freely expressing their hurt, betrayal and anger on the site, I know it was being done not because they were being mean – they were being honest. Plagiarism is an issue BECAUSE it hits people this way. Its betrayal.

    I’ve seen you snark at so many things in the past, and I haven’t agreed with all of them (although they’ve always made me laugh). But this one I’m standing up for. So many things do not deserve the bitchiness the internet throws at them. Plagiarism is not one of them. It deserves whatever it gets – whoever the plagiarist may be.

    And Jenny, you have NOT lost a reader or a fan, I love your books and your blogs and your comments and your dogs 🙂

    See? I feel passionate about an issue but I’m not being snide or demeaning anybody.


  30. Normally I reserve my S&D comments to friends, but I was on the phone with an author friend one day and made a snide comment about another author being ‘campy.’ And my friend quietly said to me, “But that’s their taste. And their readers taste.” The light bulb went off. I felt horrible at being mean to her readers, and for insulting them, along with her. I would never insult anyone like that outright, but here I was passing judgement on them because of who they read. How superior, right? Not. I was pretty ashamed of myself and learned why some writers don’t bash other writers. Because it’s not just them you pass judgement on.

    Excellent post. Thank you.


  31. Sadly, this snide & demeaning stuff is not limited to literary areas.

    Below is a link to a blog post that displays various health and fitness ads that sneer at people. Like the gym that has a slogan “no chubbies” — the one group that they should be encouraging to hit a gym, for heaven’s sake!

    The ad by Pearl Izumi is so snidely demeaning that I’m thinking of disfiguring my running shoes so I don’t display their logo any more.

    Note: I am a writer on this blog, though I didn’t write this post. I don’t usually pimp my own blog, but in this case I’m hoping at least one or two people will go over to the site, read the ads, and get so irked that they will rise up and write pointed letters to Pearl Izumi about how they need to re-think their strategy. In an age where obesity is on the rise, it is almost criminal — it is certainly stupid — for any company to sneer at people who are trying to exercise and lose weight, even if they don’t look cool while they’re doing it.

    My, but this soap box is getting rickety. I’d better climb down before I fall off.


  32. Well done, Jenny, on your commentary. I’m very proud of you for stating your facts, how you felt about them and how you were going to change your behaviour. That comes from a strong woman with her head on straight.

    I too have gone the S&D route, and learned the hard way what it’s like to be on the receiving end. Not very nice. The difficult part is making sure one does not return to those attitudes and behaviour patterns. But, once one makes an effort to change and keeps at it, then it will be accomplished.


  33. Three points of special interest that I want to address! (Exclamation points in the first sentence make everything look festive!)

    From Jenny’s post:

    The point was that those people were not stupid. They read a book and liked it. When the Da Vinci Code came out, I didn’t trash it, either, not because I’m an author and authors should stick together, but because if something is legitimately popular, the best response is not to say, “I hate that, therefore it’s stupid,” but to ask, “Why is that popular?” Because “why is that popular” is interesting, and “I hate that, therefore it’s stupid” is just a prop to my self-esteem: “Thank God I have the taste not to like that.”


    The people who read the scapegoat author’s books and love them are rightly outraged that they’re being called readers-of-no-taste. They have taste. It’s just taste that’s different from the people on that blog.

    And this comment from Diane:

    And I’ve known nice people who really like the author-in-question’s books, though I don’t care for the sub-genre.

    It’s funny that you posted this just now, because I’ve been ruminating about a lot of things lately and planning a blog post about how we really, really need to stop conflating “you have no taste,” or even “you have bad taste” with “I hate your steeeeenking guts” or “I think you’re stupid” or “I think you’re a bad person.” Those of you who still occasionally frequent Smart Bitches, please forgive any repetition that will appear tomorrow, but since Jenny won’t be reading our blog any more, I figured I’d post this here, too, because I wanted her take on it. Because I value her opinion, even when I don’t agree with it.

    So here’s the thing about taste: Many of my best friends have appalling taste in some things. I have appalling taste in some things. I mean, there’s the thorny issue of bad taste vs. taste that’s markedly different from mine, but that I can still acknowledge as good, and that’s something I’ve hashed to death before so I won’t repeat it here. But when it comes to certain things, what I enjoy is markedly bad. And that’s OK. I own my bad taste. I sometimes even revel in it. And I’m not a bad person, or a stupid person, and neither is anyone out there who loves bad writing, or bad music, or bad art. A poor aesthetic sense is not a judgment on your intelligence, nor is it a moral failing.

    I’d also like to think that our site goes beyond “I hate it, therefore it’s stupid.” We go into detail–excruciating detail, oftentimes–about why we dislike a particular book. Our conclusion IS sometimes “it’s stupid,” but we provide reasons for why we think so. And you’re right, trying to figure out why people enjoy something we think is bad is more interesting than making declarations and dissecting WHY it’s bad, but it’s also, I think, more difficult to get at (as interesting things tend to be), and sometimes, it’s pretty goddamn inscrutable, and you just got to throw your hands up and say “People have bad taste.” And that’s OK, too. There’s no “therefore they’re stupid” after that.

    But beyond that, I want to see where I’ve ever, in any way, said somebody was stupid for enjoying Cassie Edwards. I’m even curious to see where I’ve ever, in any way, even come right out and said that people who enjoy Cassie Edwards have appalling taste. That latter can certainly be deduced by the fact that her books were kind of a running joke on the site, but people who have had different opinions in books and want to discuss substantive issues have, by and large, been treated by Sarah and I with respect, or at least, I’d like to think so. Our commenters haven’t always been kind, but like Sarah said, we don’t control our commenters. (And you know what? I don’t want to. I tried one time and it was wayyyyy too much work. I’m one of those “the best medicine for bad (or stupid) speech is more speech” people, so moderation isn’t my bag, and really, most of the time, people like Robin take care of the incendiary idiots in the comments if I don’t have the time to.)

    When you posted your running-over-our-dog comment, notice how I didn’t jump all over your ass. I laughed, and agreed that yeah, Edwards has been our pinata for a while, and I even felt kind of bad about it. See, if people point out something about me, I’ll cop to it if I think they have a point–otherwise I’ll argue the crap out of it, because you can take a girl out of Debate Team, but you can’t take the Debate Team out of the girl. You and Rich and all the other people who’ve felt oogy about the way we’ve treated Edwards have every right to feel oogy and every right to tell us we’re being cruel. You’re right. I’ve been a stone-cold mean-ass bitch about the Cassie Edwards novels. Do I think I’m justified in saying what I’ve said about them in the past? To be honest: Yes. (I don’t think people who haven’t read them can understand. Which sounds obnoxious, like we’re some sort of sorority with some kind of hazing requirement, but I don’t know how else to put it.) Will I stop now? Yes, but not because I’m a penitent stone-cold mean-ass bitch, but because once it became clear to me just how pervasive the unattributed usage issue was, it stopped being funny. It stopped being about bad taste and it started becoming a ethical issue. Bad taste = funny. Ethics? Not so much.

    What really pushed my buttons, and pushed them HARD, was when people started ascribing motivations to our actions. The inappropriateness of evil glee was one of the first made, and the one I could best understand; I could see how my initial post made it seem as if I was actually HAPPY this was happening–it’s hard to separate horrified amusement from glee, especially in text. As my good friend Schwern says, text lacks empathy.

    But the ones in which I was accused of having some sort of Cassie Edwards obsession, or some sort of vendetta, and the comments that made it seem as if Sarah and I sit around Googling random phrases from Edwards novels? That, as the kids say nowadays, chapped my ass. First of all, Sarah and I didn’t discover this. Somebody completely new to the genre did. She didn’t know Edwards from a hole in the ground. Second of all, she investigated what she did not because she was bowled over by the bad prose, but because she found a suspicious tone shift–something she would’ve investigated regardless of how much she’d liked the book. Third of all, if this had been an author whose works I love, Sarah and I would’ve done exactly the same thing, and been every bit as thorough.

    But then this would’ve been obvious if people had actually read what was written, instead of coming over faint at how mean we are. Well, not the third point, because that’s a hypothetical.

    Beyond all the factual nitpicks I have, claiming that we were obsessed was what really got to me. You don’t know me. I don’t know you. When I write something people disagree with, I want them to disagree with the substance (even if they’re being silly, or sarcastic, or even stone-cold mean-ass bitches) and leave out the “I think you’re doing this because you’re part of a secret Stonecutter plot to bring a cuddly old lady DOWN.” (And because text lacks empathy, and because this discussion has been very charged, let me just say this: I don’t think you really think we’re part of a plot, secret or otherwise, Stonecutter or otherwise, to bring Edwards down. That was a bit of comic hyperbole and Simpsons nerd humor.) And now that I’ve sucked all the humor out of THAT reference…. I wish you would’ve left your comments at “you were downright mean about Cassie Edwards in the past, and really, it’s getting out of hand, and it really wasn’t appropriate to make fun of her while posting about the unattributed usage, because DAMN, wench, have ye no sense of propriety?” and lo, I would’ve felt chastened, and would’ve conceded the point. As it is, I dug my heels in, and went “They seriously think I’m obsessed with Edwards, and that’s why we found the passages, and that’s why we’re running the story? And that our mean-ness to her novels in the past somehow makes our findings more invalid HOW?”

    My tolerance for S&D is higher than most; my tolerance for people second-guessing what I’m thinking or what my hidden motives are when I’m consistently up-front with my opinions and my agenda? Not so much.

    Two other comments caught my eye, and I’ll address them then quit, because holy shit, this is getting way too long:

    ksquard wrote: I read the blog in question and frankly, when I saw the posts continuing every day on the same bashing theme, I didn’t even bother reading them, but just left the page and went on to another, more pleasurable, blog (you may have heard of D&G? It’s a catchy little thing.)

    I will cop to the fact that my initial post was mean in tone. I am, in fact, heartily sorry for it, now that I think back on it. It was unnecessary, and given the gravity of the situation, inappropriate. But the rest of the posts? I don’t detect a mean tone at all–Sarah is matter-of-fact, and I sound cussy and goofy.

    I, too, thought the sheer number of posts about the matter in question seemed like overkill. There’s a line between being rightfully upset and just being mean.

    The flurry of posts happened because we posted as we found things. Well, one post was because I was a dumbass and forgot to include Savage Longings in my initial findings. We could’ve consolidated our results into one big post, I suppose, and told people to scroll to the bottom or whatever, but we discussed that, but we did what we did so that the posts were more readable. It didn’t even occur to me that it would’ve appeared as we were attempting to be mean.

    OK, let’s see if there’s a wordcount limit on this baby, and whether I violate it. Woot!


  34. Oh, one thing I should clear up. The reason I said I wasn’t going back to the blog was that I’m just not that blog’s reader; I come off like the Church Lady over there, just one big massive buzzkill at a party where everybody else is having a really good time. Polonius by the punchbowl. That doesn’t do any of us any good.


  35. I happen to have seen your original comment on the blog shortly after it appeared and “got it” immediately – and laughed. I did not take it to mean that you were defending plagiarism in any way.

    *Of course* I am a S&D-er as well.

    The problem with snide on the internet is so much of what you say is interpreted by others through tone of voice and body language – sadly lacking on the internet. Also, you probably had to know both the author of the comment and the history of the blog to fully get the intent – much back story needed. I didn’t need your later explanation to understand that you were not in fact defending plagiarism.

    The sad truth is that no matter what you say, someone will take it too seriously.


  36. My lord, if I said most of the things that go through my head, oy! I think in snark a lot, but I tone it down when I speak. I have only one friend who I can just let it all come out in front of. I’m paranoid about being mean. In retrospect, I kind of wish I hadn’t said what I did on one of the posts in question, although I was being critical of the poor writing practices more than the writer. But there it is, and I can’t take it back, even if I wanted to.

    On my own blog, I frequently use real examples from real books to show how something was done wrong when I’m writing about writing, but I don’t ever name either the book or the author. Is it because I hope some day to be in their shoes, i.e., published, and don’t want them to be mean to me? ;+))) Could be. But it’s more that I don’t think anything is served by ridiculing the person for a mistake. Although there was that one time on HW/SW, the first…

    This is not to imply that I am all that is bright and wonderful in the world, ’cause if you think it, you’ve snarked even if no one heard you. Uh, like the tree falling in the forest??? Heh, probably not.


  37. OMG, this made yahoo news!

    Names are mentioned. Websites are mentioned. But then the website name says it all.

    It seems that lately it is “fashionable” to be b*tchy these days. In fact, it’s admired. It’s kind of the “wow, you’re brave!” syndrome. I hear about it in all professions, not just writing. It’s easier to tear someone down than to be constructive. Alas, a lot of times it’s not backed up with any intelligence, or second thoughts. Nobody learns from it.

    I’m wondering if it’s a sign of the times that we (that is, most people and me sometimes — though I try to catch myself and try to consider the bigger picture) are so removed from acting in a compassionate, caring way. Could it be because times are so hard (gas prices, unstable economy, war, bad politics) that it’s the atmosphere that we live in. Could it be a domino effect? My boss is a jerk and takes it out on me — I snap at the cashier in the grocery store on the way home for ring up something wrong — She yells at the checking clerk — and so on. We all end up going home and feeling terrible. And the next day we start all over again.

    Is there a solution?

    BTW… LOVE Tiger Woods concentrating on what’s important. Intelligence and common sense — a very attractive combination.


  38. “Is there a solution?” asked Inge.

    Yes, Inge, move to the South, where people don’t bash cashiers and where women are strong but polite–always.


  39. SB Sarah, here’s what ticks *me* off. (Well, not really, more of a mild head shaking what-can-you-do irritation) Let’s attack to deflect attention from what we don’t want to address. Ongoing bashing of a writer vs. uncovering possible evidence of criminal activity. Two topics. I said nothing about you – I don’t know you or consciously pick out your posts enough to form any kind of opinion about you – my can kicking statement was *my opinion* of a *group* discussion. I didn’t say ‘how dare she find possible evidence of a crime and make it known’. On the contrary, good catch. But really. Two topics.


  40. This may come across as S&D, but I’m curious as to what you think they should have done.
    If it had been your books – if they’d found a paragraph of Bet Me in the middle of Savage Whatever, and a few lines from Getting Rid of Bradley, would you really not have wanted them to mention it?
    You’re arguing for having a duty of courtesy towards people, and I can respect that, but there is more than one person involved – as well as Cassie Edwards, there are the people she copied from. And to be courteous to Cassie Edwards in this instance, to refrain from mentioning the plagiarism, would be unfair to those others.


  41. I think Sherry phrased it very well for me: “I like this blog a lot. I also like the SBs’ blog a lot. On this issue, I’m one hundred percent with the SBs.”

    I just think the timing of the objection is what was questionable. I mean if all SBTB did was trash CE multiple times, day in day out, year in year out why not object then? By making a big deal now it detracts from the main issue-that of plagerism.

    This is a serious issue, and since I don’t think there really is any defense, I think people are trying to shift the focus by saying look at the mean girls/bullies.

    I will also say as long as I have followed their blog they do welcome debate and alternative viewpoints. I don’t see just slavering syncophants.


  42. Marianne, I was going to stay out of the comments, but looking at my e-mail today (oy), I think it’s a good question.

    First of all, I think the site in question should do whatever it wants. The two women who write it are friends of mine and we’ve been e-mailing back and forth, and that’s where the interesting stuff is (no, I’m not going to post it here) and we’re fine with the discussion. We have the kind of relationship where you can disagree passionately about something and still agree on 99% of the rest of the world, and then go out for drinks. So any perceived war going on behind the scenes is just not happening. Sarah and I are swapping dog and baby pictures. Milton is cute, but her kids are cuter.

    If you’re asking me what I would have done, which is NOT what they should have done because in case you haven’t noticed, their site is completely different from mine–regular posts, an over-all plan, a hundred times as many visitors, you know, professional–I’d have gotten the news, said, “Oh, sweet Christ,” and done exactly what they did, just off the net. Checked the sources, checked the other books, called the publisher, called Edwards, gotten the stonewall or the denials, and put together a tight, reasoned blog on the issue that began with, “I know my credibility isn’t the greatest on this because I’ve used her as a figure of fun in the past, but this is serious.” And then I’d have done a serious blog on it.

    I think they did do serious blogs on it, in the sense that they’re deadly serious that plagiarism is wrong, it’s a crime, it’s a violation of another author’s work, and it’s unforgivable. I just would have presented in differently IF it had been on Argh and IF I were writing it. Except, I’d never have found the story. I just meander around here, talking about whatever comes to mind. There is no plan. Nobody would ever send me news of plagiarism because I’m not a news/review blog. I’m just over here in the corner, talking to my friends, showing them pictures of my dogs.

    And just for the record, as I answer the e-mails in my in-box, yes, I think plagiarism is bad. I think it’s really bad, I’ve been plagiarized, it wasn’t fun, I’m against it, if she’s done which she certainly seems to have, she should go down.

    I just figured that was being covered elsewhere and what struck me was this perfect storm of Hillary Clinton, Cassie Edwards, and a couple of my non-fans taking another shot at me in the comments of the other site about that letter blog I did awhile back. They all converged together and I had a Thought. So I expressed it.

    And then I had another Thought because the fabulous Mara Lubell gave us the Dogs and Goddesses logo and I expressed it. And sometime in the near future I’m gonna have a thought about sock creatures. Because that’s the kind of place this is.

    While I was writing this, Michelle posted, and since she’s said what some of my e-mail is saying, I want to respond to that here.

    If you look at the post above, it was not about Cassie Edwards. The idea I was interested in used her as one example among many, and many of those examples were things I’ve done that I’m ashamed of. So I’m puzzled by the people who think I’m confusing the issue and who fault my timing since the topic is happening right now in two different public areas which is what makes it interesting. You think I should have blogged about the plagiarism instead? That’s covered. You think I shouldn’t have used Cassie Edwards as an example because she did something really wrong and therefore she’s off limits? Why? She’s one of the reasons I had this Thought. You think I should have waited until the Cassie Edwards hoo-ra was over? You’re kidding, right? I’m supposed to refrain from discussing a subject I’m interested in because it takes attention from her alleged crime? Her crime is all over the internet. This blog has 5000 readers, which in the world of the blog is bupkis. If anything, more of them have learned about the plagiarism because of the comments here; I’m probably inadvertently calling attention to the plagiarism even though that’s not what I’m blogging about.

    I really fail to see the logic in the argument that I’m supporting plagiarism or trivializing the crime by blogging about something else. As for those of you who’ve written to call me sanctimonious . . . oh, never mind. I have some lovely pictures on the next post. Let’s go there.

    And we’re walking, we’re walking, we’re moving on . . .


  43. Jenny, yet another reason I admire you. Everyone has faults, that’s a given. But the better and bigger person admits their faults and tries to overcome them. That’s you.


  44. Ah. Your recent comment was not yet there when I left my comment. I was commenting re your blog post, not commenting on your comment.


  45. I was recently the victim of something that goes far beyond S&D. When I defended myself against the attacks I was accused of having a victim’s complex. That’s when I gave up, knowing that I was damned if I did and damned if I didn’t. No matter what I said, there was someone to counter to it it with lies. Not only was my professional life attacked, but my private life as well. They attacked my husband (calling him a delivery man with no education). This was perfectly acceptable and extremely humorous to nearly everyone who commented on the blog.

    I couldn’t fight back against the bloodthirsty crowd slinging mud at me and my husband for for fear of being held up for even more ridicule and humiliation (I’m still afraid that any day they’ll come at me again). When I wrote that nothing I’ve ever done warranted this sort of personal attack, I was basically told to take it because I brought it on myself. I never attacked anyone’s private life and I damn sure never attacked a person’s family. But this was done to me and a lot of people got a good laugh over it.

    This sort of “let’s get ’em” atmosphere in blogland is disgusting and has entered a dangerous zone. Everyone is up for grabs, especially if you don’t agree with the “bullies”.


  46. It was welcome reading of your struggles with communication. These are key to everyone’s growth.

    “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” ~~ Plato

    Truly, I was heartened by your thoughtful comments which, whether you are aware of it or not, constitute steps towards a practical spirituality.

    Kudos in spades!!!

    Gayle, Black Cherry Kisser


  47. Jenny–I don’t think Michelle’s intent was to say you were intentionally downplaying plagiarism with your comment, though god knows I shouldn’t try to speak for someone else, especially someone I don’t even know. Just that mentioning the SB bashing of C.E. at that time on that thread made it seem that way to people who obviously don’t know you.

    I have to say I agree with Sherry and Michelle’s sentiments though. Especially after reading Candy’s response here, I am with the SBs on this one. The SBs, not the commenters on their blog. I appreciate Candy’s statement that she was wrong to bash C.E. in the first plagiarism post. But the findings of one of their readers was important to post and I’m glad they did.

    I do have a question for you though–had Candy left out the snark in that first posted and just stated their findings, would you have had the same response?

    Lord knows you’ve taken way too much flack for this and too much time and energy has been expended by all of us on this, so do feel free to ignore me. I remain one of your readers regardless.

    Take care.


  48. I don’t know, Christina. It’s too easy to say, “Oh, yeah, that would have made a difference” now. Maybe not. I know if it had been anybody but C.E., I wouldn’t have commented at all. And we would have been spared this blog post (g).


  49. Sorry if I wasn’t clear. I wasn’t admonishing you, just giving my opinion as to why you were getting such flack. I wasn’t trying to presume to tell you what you should do or shouldn’t do. I was just giving my opinion as to why you seemed to have touched a nerve. Since you had posted that you weren’t going to visit the SB board I posted on Argh. I am usually a lurker but I have posted a couple times before. (I had posted earlier about my feral cat). But I do agree that anymore it doesn’t take much to start a big to do in blog land. Also I didn’t mean you were trying to shift the focus, but others are, and there are several posts that say CE didn’t do anything wrong. I think that is where a lot of the frustration lies.


  50. Beautifully said, Jenny.

    I’ve actually been thinking about this since seeing Ratatouille (art affects me that way). Anton Ego’s confessional review about being a critic seems appropriate here:

    In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face is that, in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.

    I suffer from SD, too. It’s fun. It’s clever. It’s easy. Lately, though, (thanks in part to Ego’s writer) I’ve chosen to share this guilty pleasure with only my closest friends. Ones I know will challenge my opinions with their own.

    Finally, everyone’s palate is distinct. I don’t think there is an objective “good” taste or “appalling” taste.

    So many acknowledged “great” artists were derided by their contemporaries, only to be deified by later generations.

    It seems to me that people who pretend there is an objective, measurable good or bad taste are not confident enough in their own to simply state “I don’t like it.” They want to claim an objective measure that everyone will accept. I don’t think there is one.


  51. A good deal of all this wrangling has to do, I’m sure, with one of the biggest stumbling blocks in human communication: sense of humor. The blocks’ level of stumble-worthiness is determined in large part by the level of impersonality in any given mode of communication (as the “no empathy in text” commentary pointed out). Blog posting is about as impersonal as communication gets, short of telegraphy. Small wonder, then, that posters rely so heavily on Smilies (give me an ARGH!) But Smilies, body language, vocal tone, and facial expressions aside, some people are simply not wired to understand and/or appreciate a sense of humor that differs from theirs or violates their sense of propriety.

    Me? I like a sharp wit. Not a shaved-balls viciously hurtful wit, but a sharp one. And irreverence. Love irreverence. I laughed at Jenny’s dog comment. I often laugh at the SB’s comments. I laugh at Mrs. Giggles’ comments. I laugh like hell at Lewis Black. And you know what? Some of the snarkiest people are also some of the most intelligent, gracious, and genuinely sensitive…if you bother to dig past the snap, crackle, and pop. SB Sarah is, I believe, one of these people.

    I realize there are many other, and thornier, issues at play here, but far be it for me to monopolize somebody else’s blog.

    Just a final word. Bridges of Madison County DOES suck. Unequivocally. This has nothing to do with the subjectivity of aesthetic judgment blahdeblahblah. It has everything to do with what is right and holy about the written word. So I shall step forward and own my loathing for this book, and venture to say that people who revered it suffered from a definite shortage of good drugs and/or available interventionists.

    If somebody snipes at you for having strong and justifiable opinions, just sneer like Joe Mantegna at the end of House of Games and say, “I’ll have another one, sir.”

    So there.


  52. Hey, you have strong opinions, you have to expect people to come after you. I’m good with that. The ones that annoy are the people who say, “I’m so disappointed, I expected better of her.” Yeah, well, get in line, you have plenty of company. Say hi to my mother.


  53. Oh, wow. Kudos to you Jenny, for this post and all that you do. I like SBTB, too; I’ve read one Cassie Edwards book and swore ‘Nevermore’; but I’ve been lucky enough so far to not have a comment explode quite like this. I respect you more than ever for standing by an unpopular opinion and doing so gracefully.


  54. Ok so now I’m curious because my mind’s always going off on a tangent.

    In Australia/UK, the verb is plagiarise and the noun is plagiarism.

    So in the U.S, if the verb is plagiarize, why isn’t the verb plagiarizm?


  55. I’m a little on the fence about this one. Not because I disapprove, per se, of snide, derisive people, because I can definitely be one of those. Although I think I’m growing out of it.

    Snark has become a form of expression and there’s just no way of changing that.

    I also don’t really see the blog in question as being ‘angry’ that a woman they think sucks is making huge amounts of money. Flabbergasted, maybe I wouldn’t say angry.

    I’m putting my own spin on things here, but if they are angry about anything, maybe it’s that they see justifiable concerns over plagiarism, so maybe they are wondering just how much of that money made came from books where similar instances happened?

    If I’m reading a fiction book, I expect an original work. Doesn’t mean I don’t think the writer shouldn’t research, but giving credit to said research isn’t asking that much. So if I read a book and find out that credit wasn’t given where it should have been and there are substantial similarities, I’m going to feel ripped off.

    So what I see on the blog is question is outrage on behalf of readers in general.

    I’d rather see the truth thru S&D than trying to deal with pollyanna communication any day.

    I didn’t read all the comments posted here, but this is one that caught my eye and I have to add a huge amen to that one.

    I’ll take an ugly truth over a pretty lie any day.


  56. Diane, I think it’s because we Americans are determined to have our own language, but…but…well, hell, it just proved too much work, so we quit trying. Some bits got overlooked.

    (By the way, great blog, Jenny. It yanked me out of lurk.)


  57. Yeah, “angry” is probably me making assumptions. I’ve been talking to Sarah and Candy, and they say they’re not angry, and they’d know.

    As for that z, no idea. Never even noticed it before.


  58. And that made me think about the effect of S&D because if backlash against it can change the face of a national election, it has more power than I ever realized.

    I read this and just wanted to shout “Yes!” And was instantly reminded of Elizabeth Edwards facing off with Ann Coulter last year, after Coulter had debased the level of political debate to below a streetyard level. Ms. Edwards called for Coulter and others to stop the S&D and start talking issues, because what’s at stake in these elections goes far beyond snark (though I would say Coulter goes to the extreme of S&D).

    Thank you for writing such a thoughtful and thought-provoking piece.


  59. Is there any word with ‘izm’ at the end at all??

    It’s widely known that there are many verbs that end on ‘ise’ in BE and turn to ‘ize’ in AE, but it doesn’t seem to affect the noun.

    Any linguizt out there willing to comment?


  60. Wonderful essay. I’m always last to the party, because I am new to your site. Funny thing is, SB led me here. I was reading their rabid comments and all of the sudden, your name popped up. “How could that very amusing and snarky woman I saw at RWA be in trouble with Bitches?” Once I back tracked and read your two postings (and Lani’s) I decided to check out your site for the first time.

    While I live on Mt. Oly with the Goddess Blogs, I will gladly visit again.

    And as a very snide and sometimes demeaning bitch, I want everyone to know “pack mentality” disgusts me as does any form of cruelty.

    Me thinks the bitches need to smarten up a bit more.


  61. Hmmm.
    I just got two comments from somebody named Blurgle who told me what a miserable human being I am, and I posted them, but when I checked her website, it was a public URL, so I think it was spam, and deliberately provocative so people would get upset and click on the link.

    Which annoys me. So if Blurgle turns out to be a real human being, let me know. Otherwise, I’m going to assume it’s spam to get people to the website.


  62. When you’re going through the spam filter and find this, please read & delete. I’m one of those you’re mad at, and if I had done what you thought I’d done, you’d be right, and I’d be somebody else. You are never going to be my political guru, that’s true enough.

    But, gee whillikers, I love your writing. Just wanted to say thanks again for writing BET ME, which is the book I’m reading today. My bursitis is killing me, I have no idea how we’re going to live within our means the next few years, and the gray is overcoming the blonde all over the front of my head.

    But for several hours, I can watch (and listen to) these adorable 30-somethings falling into True Love, and once I am sure (again) they’re getting their HEA, I can tie on my apron and get back into the struggle with a little grin in the back of my mind.

    Thanks, Jennifer Crusie.


  63. I’m not mad at anybody. Well, yeah, I am, at the trolls who spam me with public websites and porn, them I don’t like. Right now I’m really happy. We just finished rewriting the first draft of Dogs and Goddesses and I have the whole day off. I have to clean house and answer about 500 e-mails I put on hold and find a Fed Ex envelope with contracts in it that Milton kept trying to eat and get caught up on the laundry and find out why the dishwashe is making that grinding noise, but we finished that draft, by god, so I am happy as a clam.


  64. I’m glad to hear that you’re happy. That’s good for you personally, it’s good for your writer mojo, which is good for readers like me, and it raises the Total Happiness Quotient of the Universe. No clue about the dishwasher, though. ‘Night.


  65. I’m not keeping up with my blogs this year, and I just saw this.

    I think snide and demeaning can be an important tool in the humor repertoire. Look at Swift and Mark Twain. They used snide and demeaning very skillfully to make important points that probably wouldn’t have gotten past their readers radar if it had been cloaked in Rational Discussion.

    I think if you use snide and demeaning, you have to be ready to get it flung back to you. And if you get suave wittiness and forgiveness flung back at you instead, then you need to take the point, apologize and move on.

    I wrote an anonymous humor column when I was in my early 20s, and made fun of Albanians. Not because I actually know any Albanians, but just because they have a mysterious country, and I’d seen some other authors making fun of Albanians. And someone wrote back to me, and told me I shouldn’t make fun of Albanians, they are people too.

    If a tree falls in a forest, does it make a noise? If I make fun of Albanians, but no Albanians are around to hear it, is it still discrimination?

    It’s a very tough point to make. (And I wasn’t actually writing about Albanians — I was writing a pseudo-advice column for foreigners in Japan.) Where does humor cross the line? Some snide humor can last for 100s of years — other fades so quickly one wonders how the author could have thought it was funny in the first place. Is a laugh worth making fun of other people?

    I think it’s very much up to the author. You (and this is a general you, like all my yous) have to go with your conscience.


  66. Sigh. I make the “forest koan” reference, then I boogie over to Smart Bitches this afternoon, and find that one of the ladies has made a “forest koan” reference too.

    Plagiarism issues really make my head hurt. I’ve *never* seen a footnote in a romance novel — and I may have seen an acknowlegement or two, but I may be hallucinating them. What’s word for word? Three words in a row makes a case for plagiarism? The later examples were pretty obvious borrowed, I admit, but some of the earlier ones were . . . well, I could imagine myself doing it, maybe. If I wrote about poison arrow venom. Possibly.

    And what happens if it’s zeitgeist in action, like me and the Smart Bitches being on the same brainwave today?

    I swear, the whole thing makes me want to put away my keyboard and never write another word again. Which may possibly be a blessing to all humanity . . . .

    I’m so late writing this, I bet nobody reads it anyway. (-: Vent my insecurities on an outdated blog comment — cheaper than psychotherapy.


  67. I’m reading it, Micki.

    I think snide and demeaning with a message can be effective, but once you open that door it’s hard to close it.

    One of the things I love about the people who comment on this blog is that they disagree all the time but nobody flames. (I do watch the comments pretty closely but I don’t think I’ve ever pulled anything that wasn’t spam.) People get pretty upset sometimes, but I can’t remember any attacks. Of course my next post is going to be on sock creatures so the opportunity for flame wars is, uh, not great.


  68. I think the problem comes in that the line between editorial and informational gets blurry when you editorialize. Snark and gush have the common ground of being editorial. The site is known for being editorial, that’s part of its branding. One of the occupational hazards of editorializing is that when put in the position of delivering news, you take the risk of your audience remembering your editorial positions and the news then being colored by them.

    We live in a world where more and more news is becoming more obviously editorialized in a bid for ratings, and people are noticing. It’s part of critical thinking to consider your sources and their motivations, because there’s a real problem with biased news sources.

    When you’re an editorial site, you have to expect questions to arise on your motivation in reporting news items. It then falls on you to do the best you can keeping the editorializing out of the news items.

    Now onto Jenny’s blog post. We’ve all stepped in it a few times, and it’s big to admit it on the internutz and try to learn from it and move on.


  69. Here’s the thing: Cassie Edwards is impossible to defend. It may not be fun to watch the snide and demeaning evisceration in the town square, I turned my own head, but just because I didn’t like the way the news was delivered doesn’t mean that this behavior is in any way defensible. I hope appropriate action is taken. I’m still pissed that anyone’s publishing Janet Dailey, but that’s another discussion.

    That said, while I myself have been guilty of S&D behavior more often than I’d like to recall, I have never seen Nora, on the site in question or any other, conduct herself with anything but great decorum and respect for all, even those who disagree with her.

    I take issue with the idea that because she’s visible, she shouldn’t speak her mind. Nothing I’ve read from her on it has been anything but appropriate and respectful. If I had had Nora’s personal experience with this issue, I wouldn’t have handled it as well. I get pissy.

    I don’t think Jenny has done anything wrong, either. This post wasn’t about Cassie Edwards, it was an open question about a tone it’s so easy to take on the internet, and a tone which created a splinter issue when this news was delivered. I like the SBs, always have, but liking them doesn’t mean I’m gonna automatically like everything they do, any more than not liking the way the news was delivered is a defense of plagiarism. Two separate issues.

    I am glad the issue of plagiarism did come up, and if Nora’s spotlight gives her the forum to bring that issue to the forefront, then more power to her. Theft is still theft whether you can hold the stolen material in your hand or not.

    I’m also glad that Jenny talked about the way the news was delivered, because I think it’s an important issue to discuss, and because so many people have taken it as a defense of Cassie Edwards and plagiarism, which it is not.

    As far as whether Deb’s post should have been allowed to stand, Jenny, you came right in and re-set the tone without flaming anyone. I think in the context of the free speech vs. policed blog, you made the best call. It was a compromise, but I think it’s important for a site owner to set the tone and maintain it, which you did. After that, the only person answerable for Deb’s statements is Deb.


  70. (-: Thanks for reading. And I really enjoyed the sock creatures, although it’s on the edge of something there.

    I can’t help but think the Cassie Edwards story would make a great Russian novel. You do something pretty stupid while young (? not fact checking here), and then your chickens get discovered and pushed back on your roost by new technology. You didn’t murder your landlady, but you did something that is reprehensible to most people in your profession. And what happens next? Agentless, friendless, left to live alone and be eaten by Aslatians? (Oh, wait, that’s British literature there.)

    Sorry about the black humor — but I think the story illustrates a very basic human conflict, and maybe that’s why it affects me so deeply. Do you do nothing, in the hope that nothing does unto you? Or do you go out there, make mistakes — make horrible mistakes — and maybe do some good stuff, and just brush off the slings and arrows and keep on trucking, because the although the punishments are great, the rewards are great too?

    Well, anyway, I don’t know what will happen to the author. I hope the punishment fits the crime — it’d be sad if this discouraged young writers from even taking a shot at the buiness. It’s easy to say, “if they don’t plagiarize, they won’t have a problem.” But how many romance novelists get formal schooling in the legal tangles of their profession? How many English teachers are teaching their kids the difference between fair use and stealing? How many English teachers really understand the difference themselves?

    Oh dear. A lot of general “yous” and way too many rhetorical questions. At the very least, the storm has made some people think.


  71. In my case, I’ll be eaten by dachshunds, but otherwise, you’ve pretty well got it, Micki.

    There was a comment up here, and someone suggested that it was a personal attack. I pulled both posts and sent the post in question to the Forums moderators to make a judgment call. If they say it’s not a personal attack, both comments go back up. If they say it is, I’ll apologize for my poor judgment and for any distress I may have caused. I’m the one responsible for what goes up on this site, and I do take that seriously.

    Well, that was interesting.
    The mods, who are aces at this, pretty much agreed on the following:
    The comment in question made a valid point.
    The comment in question was not a personal attack.
    The comment in question was couched in such S&D that the point it made was obscured and the criticism of actions sounded like a personal attack.
    In other words, the tone of comment made it inflammatory and obscured its communication.

    Yes, the irony kind of gets me, too.

    Since I don’t want a flame war here, and since the mods are agreed that they’d pull it because of the S&D, it’s staying down, along with the reply to it and my lame attempts to find middle ground. I apologize to both commenters for pulling their comments and for the distress this has caused them.

    This is the first time I’ve ever pulled comments that weren’t spam. Still not sure it’s the right thing, but the mods are never wrong, so I have to go with their call.


  72. I caught up on the SB blog last night and was saddened beyond belief. While I understand the findings had to be exposed and brought to the attention of the publishing industry and writers everywhere, the blog makes me feel queasy. The commenters on the SB blog are still swooping down like vultures and picking at the roadkill.
    I’ve never read a C.E. novel and I don’t care to do so, it’s not the type of story I enjoy. While I understand the crime, and agree from the comparitive passages displayed on the blog that it appears C.E. is guilty of plagiarizing beyond what is considered fair use, I have to ask myself, do I have the right to accuse? The answer of course, is no. Expose or question what I think is plagiarism, yes, by all means, but accuse?

    It’s time to step back and let the subject matter be investigated by the proper authorities. Let them state what the crime is and punish the author as per the laws of our country.

    The interesting question for me is, why are so many continuing to sit in judgment? I have my own theories on that but I’ll keep them to myself.


  73. I really enjoyed your original post, Jenny, as well as the spirited discussion it engendered.

    I would like to bring back attention to what I thought of as Jenny’s main point in the original post. Snide and demeaning is easy and falling into that style of discourse creates more negativity all around us. Jenny finds this a generally bad thing for a list of well supported reasons and she personally is trying to stop doing that.

    I find that profound and a pretty good idea, myself.

    But nowhere do I get her saying anyone else has to follow her lead or that free speech needs to be in anyway limited.(Other than this blog, which is her personal problem)

    As far as the dishwasher goes, if I am complemented on my cooking, I tend to grind my teeth less.


  74. I wrote about this on my blog as well. I have to confess being pretty addicted to S&D myself, and some days, it’s the only thing that makes me feel like there’s justice. There, I said it.

    In the meantime, Jenny, thank you for such a thoughtful post. I’ll do my best to join you and the rest on the S&D wagon. Whomever noted above that sometimes, it’s better to be kind than smart is right.


  75. Awesome post and thought-provoking comments, both about politics and the CE/SB thing. Now, about these sock creatures… LOL.



  76. When someone resorts to S&D they are essentially name-calling. There’s nothing morally superior about that. Something about two wrongs not making a right.


  77. Jenny,

    I’m also registered as independent, and was lamenting not getting a say in the primary, when someone clued me in to changing my registration to democrat for the primary, then back to independent. In CT, only independents can change so late because they’re considered ‘unaffiliated’.

    I’ve also been lamenting the ever-increasing tendency of people to choose being funny over being kind. S&D for the sake of S&D, not even S&D to make or emphasize a legitimate point. Don’t get me started on S&D in place of truth (Ann Coulter, et al.) While sarcasm is a long-standing family tradition, we work hard to cull out meanness. Still and despite, we’ve all committed Famous Artist error. It’s like a right of passage; you know you’re reasonably close to maturity when you can recognize (and acknowledge) you’ve been a schmuck. And, barring the invention of a schmuck filter (expensive version installed in brain, cheap version installed in mouth) most of us will stray back into schmuck world on occasion. It’s like the tetanus vaccine; periodic booster shot required. Or, maybe rabies is a better example . . .

    As handy as a schmuck filter would be, though, if there are any research dollars left after we deal with global warming, maybe it’s time we developed a replacement conscience for insertion (forcibly, if necessary) into the heads of those individuals who’ve lost–or never had–their own. Because, plagiarism is a kind of theft that takes planning, forethought, and afterthought, and anyone with even a minimally active conscience has plenty of opportunity to step back from the brink of commission. It’s also a wide-scale con perpetrated on every individual who bought the tainted work.

    On second thought, replacement consciences would have put the brakes on global warming years ago. Maybe, along with honors courses, our schools should be offering courses on honor. Mandatory courses. Every year. Starting in preschool. Mandatory refresher courses every six months for anyone holding public office.


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