February 23, 2015

John Green and the Non Apology

I've been pondering what to write about this whole ordeal with the John Green misattributing a quote to himself - for years, mind you - that was actually written by a 14 year old fan.

I wanted to talk about how much plagiarism hurts, how big of a violation it feels like, but when I tried to write that post I was just ranting for about three pages. Hardly conductive to a good exercise in writing. So instead I decided to put my scientific training to use and focus on the facts.

And after reading the multiple accounts and varied opinions on the subject (I recommend reading Bibliodaze's and Cuddlebugery's posts about it), well... there are three things that don't ring quite true. 

Found at reactiongifs.com
1. John Green didn't know he hadn't written the line until recently. 
I don't buy this. How can an author not know what he has written or not? See, I might not be a big, published author but I am a writer and you can bet your ass I remember the stuff I have written.

Particularly the really good stuff that just seems to fit perfectly? yup, those kind of linger with you. I can remember my favorite line or scene of all the stories I've written - about 40 between fanfiction and original stuff - so yeah, I just can't buy that he didn't know.

2. No one noticed before now.
Found at reactiongifs.org
See I'm a fangirl of many fandoms and if fandoms are good at something that is NOTICING STUFF, I can't remember how many times Sarah Dessen has published a book and within hours of publications we had Master Lists of all the easter eggs she dropped for long time fans. 

Libba Bay has commented that continuity errors that escaped her, her copy writer and her editor, have been discovered by fans in a similar fashion. 

So, I don't buy that no one noticed before, I just don't... which ties in with my third point:

3. No one spoke up before, save for the real author and her friend. 
This is really fishy, as I said, fans speak out. In the age of Internet, I can't believe that this went on for close to six years without someone other than the original author of the quote and her close friend speaking out or just looking into it.

Reports said that the author got negative emails about her claiming the quote, so WTF? why no one commented it on a large venue before? Also, she tried to contact DFTBA and John Green several times to no avail!

It seems like John Green's fans were just sweeping it under the rug. 

And, to top it all off, there was never a concrete apology, not a public one which is the type this kind of thing deserves. His video amounts to an Oopsie! like this was something that just happened, not like something that he was actively doing for years. It's not an error of omission, it's negligent. 

And so, my disenchantment with the Nerdfighter community and John Green (of whom I can't say I ever liked 100%) continues.

But that's just me, let me know what you guys think.

Also, thanks to Sandy @ Pirate Penguin Reads for helping me find gifs. All gifs were found with google /bing image search and do not belong to me.

Note: Yup, I'm not liking to John Green's video because I don't think he deserves to get more views out of it, but Cuddlebuggery posted it on their entry, if anyone is interested. 


  1. I agree with you. I may be biased, because I've never liked him, but it just seems very strange that this went on for years. Especially since the quote was used for merchandise. Wouldn't you double check that first? Even just to make sure the quote was exactly right? I like how you described the "non-apology" and an "oopsie" equivalent. You hit the nail on the head.

    1. It's all too strange to me, Small. From the fact he couldn't remember having writing the stuff to that he had to pirate his own book but thats the story he's sticking to.

      It seems too little and kind of late to me, his video.

  2. Well you know that I agree with you. I was never enthralled with John green like other people but I did respect him for always supporting YA and for what he and his brother have done with their educational videos. I find it kind of weird/ironic that he actually plans on doing a video on intellectual property....

    1. I kind of like their educational videos - though I watch less and less of them as time goes on - but the way they handle the fandom has always seem a little iffy to me.

      And yeah, that's what I call irony

  3. So. When I watched that video when it was released, my reaction was to shrug and to be pleased with the way John handled it, to be honest. Reading your thoughts makes me question how I can just write this off so easily, but I find that I just feel genuinely good about his response. I don't need him to apologize to me. The important things to me are that a) he apologized to the girl, which he did, b) he knows that that was wrong, which he does, and c) that he's making sure that the girl is getting all the royalties and also supporting her and commissioning her to do other stuff, which he is absolutely doing. He has handled this far FAR better than other authors have in similar situations, that's for SURE, and none of them have been persecuted. Copyright can get pretty messy and this is just the kind of example of how quotes can be misattributed on the internet SO easily, and sadly it happens all the time. So I say kudos to John for handling this like an upstanding person.
    (Though again, my blasé attitude about this in comparison to yours really DOES make me wonder whether I should be rethinking my beliefs a bit. Am I letting my bias for John get in the way? Probably. And just because he handled things far better than the majority of authors in his position, does that mean he gets a pass in comparison? No, he definitely could have and should have done more and done his research a bit more thoroughly before going ahead with merch. But what can I say, I appreciate people who admit that they are wrong and then do right by it like John is doing... Okay, I'm definitely ranting now and I'm going nowhere with this, so I'll stop here. Ack, copyright! What a messy subject).

    1. I think my problem with it is just how long it passed, that the girl was harassed and that they went ahead and produced merch without ever stopping to check their facts.

      It just seems careless in the extreme considering their merch is often originated by young artists. It seems like they don't follow due process and that troubles me.

      Plus the Nerdfighter community in general and the Vlogbrothers in particular have been very blase about this and other bad stuff that has originated in the community in the past, so I'm less willing to cut them slack when they seem to be cutting themselves all sorts of it.

    2. Yeah, people are shitty on the internet. I would lay the blame more on Tumblr specifically than the Nerdfighters though... Tumblr is often at the root of these bullying attacks.

      Let's just hope John and co. have learned their lesson, that they NEED to do their research before trying to make a profit out of it. I'm just glad he fixed the situation as soon as he found out (and that he actually went public with the whole thing, because you know most authors in that situation wouldn't have). But if he ever finds himself in the same situation again... well then that wouldn't be considered a mistake because he should know better now. And I would be a lot less forgiving then...

  4. I had not heard about this at all! (Of course, I don't read John Green) This is truly egregious, but it's happened before-art history professors still teach that Marcel Duchamp made the R Mutt urinal sculpture when it's a well documented fact that a woman made it and Duchamp just took credit for it. /:

  5. I agree with you on this, he was never a favorite of mine, and I really enjoyed reading what you thought of this. Thanks for sharing hun. Hope you are enjoying your week.


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