From fascist poems to plagiarism, the literary community as of late has been stirred by topics in need of discussion. Although all uncomfortable occurrences, these events were necessary in beginning a community wide conversation.
Beginning with the Ailey O’toole case of plagiarism, it is a very relevant topic that needs to be discussed. Plagiarism manifested in the manner it was in the stolen work is frankly common in primary and secondary school student’s English papers. Why? Because by teachers it is never addressed. Students cut up pre-existing articles online and paste them within the documents without much forethought, and when these teachers review the assignments they do not check for plagiarism, they simply see the paper done and applaud the student for completing the necessary task. These students are rarely told that their cut and paste is a form of plagiarism, This further breeds a generation of students raised on the internet to think this act is ok. These teachers come from an age where they did not have a world of information at their fingertips, so to adjust to this technological age is not only a matter of learning how to teach the younger generation, but a matter of educating themselves on budding technological advancements that now shape our society. Our youth is the most impressionable stage of our development, and if certain things are not taught in these years, they will be harder to learn at later dates.
This is by no means a way to justify O’tooles behavior but to give insight into what caused the action. Of course to some degree she knew what she was doing, but it is likely to say she did not see in hindsight the collosal backlash that could come about from her plagiarism because of how this problem has not been addressed by the educational system. Many kids, not born writers, think this action is perfectly okay. That is a problem. This backlash was absolutely necessary to begin a community wide discussion. Most however have been handling it in an enraged manner controlled by emotions instead of a productive thought. (Those plagiarized of course have every right to be angry, but it is good they are now getting the recognition they deserve.) The only way to stop these behaviors is to educate ourselves, our teachers, our students, and our peers when we begin to see the similarities. You must begin at the root and carry on from there.
When it comes to Toby Martinez de Las Rivas’ work that has strong themes of White Supremacy, Fascism, and Neo-nazism, we must remember as a community that we cannot control what other artists produce no matter how offensive or grotesque the subject matter may be. We do not have to give it a platform, but work by disagreeable and malevolent people will always exist. With the amount of backlash and response this work has received, we have brought him to the limelight. Most would have never known he existed if not for the controversy surrounding his name. As apologetic as he may act, he knew exactly the content and nature of what he was writing and the response it would eventually receive. Controversial artists know this, they profit from the attention and weasel their way into history uncaring of which side they may be on. The literary community gave him the recognition he wanted.
This is exactly how social media works. Many people express distaste towards something and band together to get it abolished, and instead feed into the opposite entirely by giving it a voice. The only way to to stop the show is to never give it the spotlight. Do not comment on it, repost, reply or like if you want something abolished. By reacting, you give it power. Of course we are free to our opinions and speech, that is our right. But if we are to acknowledge our right of speech, we must acknowledge that right as equal. He too has his right to artistic expression, everyone does. Of course it offended and invoked fear in a community of people, but this is unavoidable. These people and their work will always exist. His work was malevolent and unnerving, but it was art. And it gave way to necessary discussion. The response of need to initiate change in the community of what presses do with their OWN publishing is a pointless and futile effort. You can not stop artists from creating, nor stop presses from publishing work you personally disagree with. A utopian society, ESPECIALLY within the art world is impossible. This is why we build our own spaces fit for us, There is no use in trying to change things out of our personal control. It will be an impossible and exhausting effort. But do express your opinion, simply do not expect change others.
These things should be self-explanatory, but because of the collective ego that was conditioned by Internet black holes and personal bias, we do not see the bigger picture that is forming.
Let us go back to the root.
Where did all this conflict begin? The easy answer is the internet on which I am publishing this paper. But the cause is much bigger.
It is the universal and human need to be right. That is the core of drama. Drama is conflict. Conflict is an unnecessary evil. Discussion, neutral and compassionate non-malevolent discussion is the only cure to conflict. But the ego combats this.
We need to shed our human need to be right like a cicada shell. We can survive without it, but our ego doesn’t want us too. This conflict is causing a rift between our family of artists. It is not about picking sides. We all know what is wrong and what is right. There is no need to get into unnecessary backstory and detail to justify what is wrong.
My conclusion; Ailey O’Toole was beyond wrong in her actions, but her actions represent a bigger problem that needs to be addressed. Her mental illness is irrelevant to the act of her plagiarism, it is hard in this day and age to find a single person who does not have a mental illness to some degree, but even then everyday people can and will commit plagiarism if this is not addressed by the system. There is absolutely no point in irrelevant insults and insult of the flesh, more or less bringing her being white into the discussion. These are all irrelevant to her plagiarism and are simply things to put down someone who has committed a crime against the arts to boost our own ego. Do not fall into the cycle of conflict.
Toby Martinez de Las Rivas has a lot of issues and a dangerous romanticization of Nazi’s. Though we MUST remember we cannot erase his work and expect the problem to go away along with it. These things need to be discussed. And in discussing we must fight our urge to be right and simply express our opinions in ways that are not harmful and drain our own and others energies.
Let us remember to be a COMMUNITY and discuss these things as equals, as intellectuals, as the mature artistic beings we are.