Monday, September 6, 2010

Excuse me, there's something in my craw.

I don't know why this bugs me. Maybe being accused of plagiarism just isn't my thing. But then again, why did I say hardly anything for over a year, but now wish to speak up? Maybe it's because the same person unfairly dissed my online friend, Joshua Stanton, perhaps for no other reason than Mr Stanton getting a lot more props and having a lot more peeps.

Anyway, the facts were these. On July 13, 2009, I posted a piece ("My misanthropic views...") condemning Laura Ling and Euna Lee, who were then being held in Pyongyang, along with their colleague Mitch Koss, who was by then safely back in the US. It was clearly described as a "recap" or "rehash" of two posts I'd earlier written, one on March 22 ("Pack your bags, Governor Richardson! ...") and the other on March 26 ("Useless useful idiots...").

Both of the March 2009 posts were very critical of those three, expressing a likelihood that they knowingly and foolishly ventured into North Korean territory, and blaming them for likely causing hardship for North Koreans who would have used that region to cross over but now couldn't because DPRK authorities would likely have plugged up that part of the somewhat porous border. (At the time I was unaware they also had tapes and notes of their interviews on their persons when they were captured, which would only have bolstered my beliefs.) And for good measure, I wrote similar sentiments over at One Free Korea.

But in response to the "recap," one commenter wrote on my blog that GlobalPost North Korea columnist Bradley Martin "beat you to infamy." When The Marmot highlighted my July 13 "Misanthropic Views" post with his own post, commenter sperwer linked to the same Martin article and wrote that TMH readers should "Skip Kushibo and go directly to the opnion-maker whose work he badly cribbed." He added that, compared to mine, Martin's article was "less filling; more (intellectually) nutritious," apparently a reference to a beer commercial from the 1950s.

While the commenter on my blog was simply stating that a prominent writer had beaten me to the punch on my claims about Ms Ling, Ms Lee, and Mr Koss, the TMH commenter was accusing me of plagiarism. Never mind that I had written those same unpopular opinions — in not too different a format — nearly three months earlier than Mr Martin. I wasn't even aware of the Martin article until it was pointed out to me like this.

If anything, I think I could make the case that sperwer might have it backwards: That is, that Mr Martin may have cribbed from me, since I prominently posted links to the March posts and reiterated their contents numerous times at One Free Korea, where they were not exactly well received (many people were incredulous about my claims).

As a North Korea columnist, Mr Martin no doubt has run across OFK, and may even be a regular reader. Now I'm not saying Mr Martin actually did crib from my work; rather, I'm saying that if any plagiarizing or cribbing of ideas was done by Mr Martin or myself, it couldn't have been done by me. Of course, it's entirely possible we both came up with the same idea, me in March 2009 in the days following their capture, and he in June 2009 in the weeks following me plastering my opinion all over One Free Korea.

It wouldn't be the first time a prominent Korea-connected writer had borrowed from my ideas without citation. Wink. And for good measure: Another wink.

And that made me wonder: What gives? Why do people who don't even bother to do their homework (e.g., reading what the July 13 post clearly was described as "recapping") need to go out of their way to bash me and my work? I guess some people just see the name kushibo and go into some sort of derangement. I s'pose the 'roids will do that.

But why do the same to Joshua Stanton? Sure, I don't agree with everything he says (I think at times he can be a bit quick to dismiss those who do or did believe engaging with North Korea was worth a try), but his Plan B is a brilliant bit of work and he deserves kudos for that and his painstaking research into North Korea's archipelago of prisons and his dedication to documenting abuse and palace intrigue in North Korea, as well as the reaction to it in South Korea, the US, the UN, and elsewhere. He has a well-researched, timely, and important blog with fresh ideas that policymakers ignore at their peril.

Okay, so the two things — a knee-jerk attack on me and an unwarranted attack on Joshua Stanton — aren't related except for the source, but it just got in my craw. The commenter in question is not the only one who attacks based on name alone, and I guess that makes me all the more curious why people do such things. I certainly try not to; I'll be danged if I can't say I haven't found at least something informative and/or intellectually challenging from nearly all of (what I think are) the worst of the K-bloggers.

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