because this is what happened when Krip Yuson apologized for his act of plagiarism: he opened a can of worms about writing in this country, about the hubris of the editor, about the question of writer versus editor, etc. etc. and you know I’m all for letting it all hang out, but given the gravity of an awarded Filipino writer plagiarizing, it just seems like the wrong time for invoking other worms.
Worm #1: Yuson talks about being the editor of the original piece, forgetting that it wasn’t his work pala, mea culpa, honest mistake naman. but where did this statement even come from, when is it acceptable for an editor to invoke his ownership of a text, one that isn’t his at all?
I imagine it comes from what still is the amorphous title of editor at least in these Pinoy shores, one that I learned from mentor(-beyond-death) Luisa Mallari who thought it was an immature profession in this country (addendum: at least in the late 90s, given the ones lording it over as editors versus what Tita K reminds me are the great editors like Joaquin, Locsin, Roces). this is not so much a judgement of current editorship as it is an assessment of its smallness, a smallness that editors themselves impose on the title, on the job, on the profession. because while it is a valid profession, separate from the writer, distinct from being co-author, it rarely seems like such.
Yuson’s apology doesn’t help the cause of the editor any. when he said he had “re-written” the original essay, he was in fact talking about something an editor isn’t expected to do. when he said he thought he was “at the very least part-author” of the piece, he was in fact crossing the line between being editor and being co-writer of the piece. and all these regardless of what the writer Rey Joble thought, or would’ve thought, about his editor claiming his original work?
in fact in the ideal world, no editor would claim a writer’s work as his own. in the world where editors respect writers, and respect themselves, an editor wouldn’t re-write a text so much that he would begin to imagine it as his. instead the editor would comment on the work and ask the writer to do the major revision. if/when the editor does the major revision himself — in Yuson’s case he calls this revision a re-write — then the editor must know as well to let his work go, and give it to the writer, whose work it still is, whose name should still be on that byline, who will take credit for whatever work the editor puts in, regardless. in fact, once the editor wields his power over a text, the writer has a right to say no, that’s not the way I want to say it, no, this is mine, you can’t touch it that way. the editor respects the writer enough to let this happen as well.*
but the only thing we know about Yuson’s relationship with Rey Joble is what Yuson himself talks about in the apology: Joble understands me, we’re still friends. well yes, but what of everything else this silences? I’d love to see Rey Joble’s original work, and look at Yuson’s editing as an exercise in seeing what editing in the form of a re-write means. I would love to hear Rey Joble speak, about his original work, about his original work being plagiarized. I’d love to look into the struggle that necessarily exists between Rey Joble and Yuson, the writer and the editor, and how this is changed by the act of plagiarism that Yuson committed against Joble.
ah, but I don’t know that any of that will ever be possible. and in the meantime there is:
Worm #2: the notion of deadlines, being pressed for time, in the act of writing (and editing) which Yuson invokes. which to me is the strangest — strangest! — excuse he could give, used as it is by college students who fail to beat the deadline for a major paper submission, unacceptable as that is in the world of adults in general, and adults who write for a living in particular.
I’m not saying I’ve never been pressured by a deadline; I’m saying that the pressure is part of this enterprise of writing, deadlines are necessary in this creative life (and I use creativity loosely here, or as broadly as possible). it was most disheartening to read Yuson invoking deadlines as an excuse for plagiarism, for now any student can say: maam, ang dami kong ibang deadline eh, i was forced to copy and paste na lang from the internet. i agree naman with this site’s opinions eh.
imagine the repercussions for creative writing classes.
but maybe the more dismaying thing about Yuson’s use of the deadline excuse is that it begs this question: why did he say yes to so much, why couldn’t he have said no to one of those deadlines? and maybe the better question, why didn’t he just ask Rey Joble to help him with that Rogue article? why couldn’t it be passed on to Rey Joble altogether? Yuson’s got enough power to anoint someone as worthy of taking his place, especially since he is saddled with so many other deadlines, especially since it’s just one essay after all.
but maybe these questions don’t matter anymore, really. it looks like we’re out to forgive Yuson, complete with but the most chipipay comments thread on facebook (and I say that with love), that only the usual suspects are part of. otherwise, Yuson’s plagiarism seems to be spoken of in whispers, or maybe with heads shaking, or with a dismissal: if the Supreme Court can do it, anyone can.
but even with that we fail to acknowledge the value of the writer, even then it seems like we are wrongly forgiving of Yuson, failing to see that he is famed multi-awarded writer, and that this in itself is important to our cultural identity. as such it would seem right that we don’t forget, that we don’t make excuses for him, seeing as he’s done a pretty bad job at apologizing.
I imagine we’re a wee bit embarrassed for Yuson, maybe because we owe him in some form? maybe because we don’t like seeing one member of the writing and literati community, one so visible and famed, to go down in ashes such as this one? maybe because we know of the deadlines that he speaks of?
yet we also know that in the face of deadlines, the choice is easy: will you plagiarize in the midst of deadlines? or will you admit to being human, tao lang sorry, and say you need an extension? or maybe you’ll just miss the deadline, do a darn good job at the submission anyway, that you’ll be forgiven for being late?
at the very least, I’d like to think that none of us will do a list of excuses for misdemeanors, be they minor or plagiarism, the way Yuson has done. because if we are to learn our lessons here we must see that what this apology inadvertently does, other than opening this can of worms, is to highlight the writer’s / editor’s / literati’s hubris. and given all the stereotyping we already suffer, given our apparent removal from the hoi polloi, this portrayal of ourselves is the last thing we need, a misrepresentation really, that just means too many steps back in the task of demolishing the writer’s ivory tower and everything it represents. sayang naman.
that last bit seems to apply all around.
* this is the kind of relationship I have with Howie Severino on gmanewsonline as well, this the kind of respect we accord each other, where a word, a phrase, a sentence, a thought in an article of mine, can be passed back and forth between the two of us until we both agree on a major change.
Tagged: editor and revisionism, editor as co-writer, gmanewsonline, Krip Yuson, plagiarism, Rey Joble, rights of writer, Rogue Magazine, role of editor, sport journalism, sports writing, Yuson commits plagiarism