How should one conduct themselves when claiming to use someone else’s work as reference material? Is there a universally-agreed code of conduct? Is there a set of ethics, so to speak, to govern how we are to use another’s words, especially if we are claiming to use their words as an educational resource?
Does how we make use of someone else’s material change, depending upon whether we are quoting for professional purposes or personal reasons?
The Internet has a tremendous power. It has the power to let us hide behind websites and blogs, and behind pseudonyms and handles. From behind this cover, we can all, if we so wish, say what we want, about whatever we want, and whomever we want, seemingly without consequences or repercussions. This makes it exceptionally easy to troll and demean others, all whilst evading responsibility for our behaviour. A couple of years back, I dropped my handle (farewell Darth Timon!) on my blog, so as to be transparent, and to take more responsibility for my own words. Don’t get me wrong, I believe there are legitimate reasons to operate behind a pseudonym, and I can thoroughly understand why people may wish to protect their identity (though there are plenty of people who do so to avoid personal responsibility for their misdeeds). For me, I could see no reason why I continued to use an Internet nickname, at least here, on my personal blog.
In short, I was (and still am) prepared to be held accountable for what I have to say. I am aware that others can read my blog, and share their thoughts. I cannot prevent people from copying and pasting my words. I am ‘out there’, so to speak, and I am fine with that. What I am not fine with is when people use my words out of context, do not provide credit, and fail to even provide a link to where they got my writing from. I have been guilty of these failures myself, and I now go out of my way to at the very least link to the page or post I’m quoting. That way, people can see for themselves that I am being transparent, and they can judge my arguments with complete context. I believe this is fair for any and all parties in any given discussion or dispute.
People who don’t offer up credit, who refuse to be transparent, and who fail to offer context, aren’t being particularly honest or noble. They aren’t being especially professional. It’s almost as though they are afraid. It’s even worse if they claim to be a professional. It’s one thing to use someone else’s writing for personal purposes as part of a personal disagreement; it is an entirely different matter to claim everything is being quoted as example material, whilst refusing to be truly open about where said material comes from. One could even suggest that fear is a motivator here. There is a fear of being shown to be wrong, or as being deliberately misleading, hence why some people won’t link directly to my site, to give me proper credit for my works.
Thus, I cannot take seriously the claims that my writing is used as reference material or examples, when the parties using my writing are afraid to give proper attribution to me. They are unwilling to even use my name, much less provide their audience with context. This is cowardly behaviour. What’s even more cowardly is the way they cry foul when I correct the record by responding. They are aggrieved by how I do not meekly suffer their dishonesty. They resent how I can back up what I have to say. They rage at how I contradict their deceitful narrative, and they lack the courage and conviction to confront me directly.
It seems these parties cannot comprehend that if you talk about me or my views, or use my material to make their points, I have the right to respond. This clearly upsets them, but it is a fact. If they have the right to use my writing, I have the right to respond. If they do not like this, they are free to stop referencing me, but I will not stop blogging, merely because it offends their delicate sensibilities. They will not silence me, however much they might mislead their audience via taking my words out of context, and by failing to give proper attribution.
I have offered to discuss this matter privately, only to be rebuked. I repeatedly this offer via a third-party site, and was rebuked again. I would urge the author of Theology Archaeology (one David Thiessen) to consider how this makes him look. He may skirt around giving me the proper attribution that he should grant, but I am not afraid to name him. His name is tied to his own site and his own words, via my responses, all of which are archived by Google for eternity. It will be painfully clear to anyone and everyone with even the slightest interest in all this as to who is refusing to be honourable, and who is being open and transparent. I urge him to consider discussing this entire matter like adults. I urge him to be professional.