The other day, I posted a comment from the writer Karen Brown, author of Prejudice in Harry Potter. I had originally seen the comment on Kristin Devoe's Daily Prophet blog, and I posted it Here in a discussion of Tim Wu's New Yorker Article.
I did not know Ms. Brown, but I wrote an e-mail to her inviting her to comment further, which she did. I never meant to drag her into a huge controversy or cause problems for her in any way, and I am so sorry. I have quoted dozens of bloggers in the past few months to show different views, and several of them have decided to comment here with no drama.
I was just trying to give a balanced view of the case, since I have been criticized for my own bias. I felt that Ms. Brown had a refreshing view, since she is a fan and supporter of J. K. Rowling, but was wishing that fandom would tone down their criticism of Steve Vander Ark and let the legal system decide the fate of his book.
But due to unfortunate things that have been said in the past few days, Ms. Brown has been drawn into some accusations and threats, both public and private. She feels her statement is being misconstrued and her views distorted. This has caused her a great deal of distress, and she decided to state her own view in a public setting. Therefore Karen has put out a Press Release:
Caught on the Wrong Side of Harry Potter Fandom
United Kingdom of Great Britain & N. Ireland (Press Release) May 11, 2008 --
by Karen Brown
In response to the discussions provoked by Professor Wu’s article in the New Yorker last week, I made some remarks that I believe were taken totally out of context and blown way out of proportion. In some rather disturbing private exchanges, legal action has been repeatedly threatened by the Chief moderator of a popular fan site, and aspersions have been cast on my character that I feel I cannot tolerate and will not take lightly. I consider the message which ended said correspondence to be too much of a provocation; and so I am making a final declaration on the subject. The young lady in question seems to want to impress two things upon me:
1. That my actions and words have put me at litigation risk and that I would be liable in a court of law for saying that I had been edited and that I felt her site was biased and did not easily tolerate my somewhat oppositional viewpoint.
2. That I made my remarks elsewhere without even opening the notification letter which informed me that my post had been edited. She claims that she has proof of this that would incriminate me in a court of law.
In my complaint, I made one remark along the lines of “Basically, if it doesn’t 100% concur with the popular view, then it is not allowed. This disturbs me.” This was NOT a statement on behalf of every contributor who has ever felt slighted, or against all moderators on the site. However, it seems to have been interpreted that way. In truth, I was merely referring to my own post, which I felt was unnecessarily edited that day—for whatever reason. I was also referring to the fact that I felt somewhat picked on because my views were not in league with what I perceived to be the dominant mood on the site at that time. I have tried to assure the young lady that there was no mal-intent on my part when I made the remarks. I was annoyed at being edited for something I perceived as A). harmless and B). the truth. I stand by my assertion that the editing decision in this case was somewhat harsh.
I also do not understand why she feels I would make such a comment without reason (without even reading the notification from the moderator who informed me that I had been edited). She has insinuated on several occasions during our correspondence that I am a liar and that I purposefully made “pernicious” remarks about her site and all her moderators. And she seems intent on insisting that I did not read the notification beforehand; so apparently I made my remarks without cause. It’s as though I set out on some inexplicable mission to vilify her team. This, I find intolerable.
I have always maintained that many of us pro-Rowling fans are trying to say in the same breath that A). we completely denounce Vander Ark, who apparently deserves “no sympathy” and has no right to claim that he's being vilified, and B). we are perfectly fair and impartial where the case is concerned. I’m sorry to put it so bluntly, but we cannot have it both ways. Personally, I am not on Mr. Vander Ark's side (how could I be when I haven't seen his manuscript and I don't even know him?) I have simply given JK Rowling the benefit of the doubt because I love her books and (though I can't boast the privilege of knowing her personally) I have imagined her to be a nice lady. She says she appreciates legitimate scholarly work on the Harry Potter books and that Vander Ark’s work does not qualify as such. As a fan of her work, I feel I must give her the benefit of the doubt. Also, having myself written a book that I consider to be scholarly, obviously I crave her approval. So, clearly, I am not impartial to the case and would not qualify to sit on the jury. And so, reason dictates that I must leave the matter to the judge and his staff to decide if Mr. Vander Ark’s manuscript breaches Ms. Rowling’s copyright. There is no need for me to come out and denounce Vander Ark because I do not know him and I have not seen his work. After all, if this were a clear-cut crime, he would be in jail and the case would not be in court.
Ms. Rowling is perfectly capable of fighting her own battles. I don’t think she wants legions of fans to unite under her banner against one man (a man who is not even named as one of the defendants in the trial). And I don’t believe she wants us, her fans, to be cruel (intentionally or not) to anyone. At least, I hope not.
My initial remarks were made on Kristin Devoe’s “The Daily Prophet” blog, and they were later copied and pasted onto the “Illuminated Dungeon” blog by its moderator. In my remarks I stated that my posts on the site in question were being edited. In reality, only one post had been edited that day, and I corrected this statement on the site yesterday, after I realized that my comments had caused a stir. No part of the edited post contained expletives or attacked anyone personally. I simply called for the general tone to be modified. I took issue particularly with comparisons that were jokingly made between JK Rowling and God. They may or may not have been in response to Mr. Vander’s outburst about Ms. Rowling being God and Melissa Anelli being her prophet, a remark which was catalogued in Mr. Wu’s article. I felt that several God-related jokes which were made afterward were inappropriate and that it might be “misconstrued by casual observers.” I simply commented that, as fans of JK Rowling, we want to give the impression that we are fair and rational people; but remarks like those will make us look like cult-like fanatics, even if we are just joking. I felt that we should guard against portraying such an image of ourselves at this delicate time.
Furthermore, I have always felt that Mr. Vander Ark’s outburst were merely the words of a man who feels cornered and very much ostracized: He has the right to feel this way, because he is. Whether or not we believe he deserves it is totally irrelevant. This is why I recently praised MuggleNet for not making much of the remarks or extensively commenting on it on their site. Rather than dwelling on his remarks, ridiculing him for them, or taking swipes at him in return for the accusations he levied against them, they made a mature decision and largely ignored the statements. We should be inclined to feel a degree of pity for Mr. Vander Ark, regardless of whether or not we feel he “brought this onto himself.” Those of us who knew him personally have their right to feel “betrayed.” But I don’t see why it needs to lead to others who do not know him joining the bandwagon and waving banners. As I have said time and time again, there are too many of “us” and only one Steve Vander Ark; and those of us who are not personally involved should show some restraint and not join in with cries of denunciation or the jibes. We should stick to discussing the legal issues and leave the personal statements out of it.
Otherwise, we risk appearing like the tag-alongs from our high school days who simply aligned themselves with the numerous, the powerful or the popular and picked on the “outcasts.” After all, I am being told that my comment was edited because it broke Rule #1 (Be nice); but much of what I was seeing at that time was far from nice; though, as I have also said many times before, the site in question is usually one of the most objective and fair “pro-JKR” websites. But I don’t believe poking even mild fun at a lone outsider, even if he has done something wrong, qualifies as nice. Besides, this whole notion of being nice…it is highly subjective, is it not?
The young lady is perfectly within her rights to be annoyed at me for making the criticisms that were made, especially since I took my grievance elsewhere and did not display complete loyalty to her site (But why should I have to? I was under the impression it was a media outlet, just like any other. I make no apologies for shunning or disparaging any behaviour that seems cliquish). She is also perfectly within her rights to defend her moderators. In fact, I commend her for that, and I agreed to beg to differ on the notion that my post was abusive and deserved to be cut out. She has every right to insist that her moderators are usually fair because I do believe that most of the times they are. Like I said, this is a very subjective business that we are involved in. I apologized for hurting her feelings and for saying anything that she feels might have damaged her site’s reputation. But much of what she has done in return is to make adamant accusations and threaten legal action against me over a matter that I can only regard as self-evident, at best, and trite, at worst. Is she really going to take me to court for simply pointing out that the mood on her site was not impartial at that time (even though I detected a great degree of desperation to be acknowledged as such)? As for her having “proof” that I commented on Ms. Devoe’s blog before even receiving the notification that I had been edited (therefore intentionally “slandered” her site without cause) then all I can say is that I cannot wait to see this proof. I await the court summons with baited breath.
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