I'm not sure how many people here care at all about Harry Potter or online fandoms but I've been reading through some very lengthy accounts of craziness inside the fandom of Harry Potter. Though it is somewhat specific, I think the take away is that the Internet is full of people who greatly need some help yet refuse to get any. Some of these stories are both infuriating and sad.
The first account I read was of a person by the screen name of “msscribe” (which has also been covered by Analee from io9 before she was at io9). A wonderful little investigator known as “charolettelennox” wrote this amazing account of what this woman had done to many people within the Harry Potter fandom. The basics of the entire ordeal are that this woman wrote some basic Harry Potter fanfiction and almost immediately also invented fans of said works. She then continued to keep up these fake people while creating a life in which she was hospitalized, a back up singer, and worked for a senator while also being stalked and attacked by homophobes and racists.
Yet none of it, at least it seems, was real. While she did become Internet famous within the Harry Potter Internet community, she kept up all of her fake fans and made sure to invent plenty of fake nemeses to keep her as a victim that needed attention. Every person calling her names was a racist. People who didn’t like her slash stories were homophobes. Anyone who ever questioned her was wrong. It was almost the perfect “crime” seeing as how her fake assailants often caused enough people to come to her rescue that legitimate people who tried to criticize her were shut down.
Though step back and imagine the scenario. A woman one day just decides she wants attention and thus creates not only a fake life for herself online (though bits seem to be inspired by her real life) but she also had to create and manage snippets of fake lives for the people she invented. A student who became her live-in nanny (maybe), a religious zealot who sent her books on Christianity, and more all came right from her own noggin. To think that someone would do this maliciously is almost insane and yet we won’t ever know if that was her goal. Quite frankly the woman, at least from what I can see, needs mental help. Those levels of narcissism are not healthy.
But is this something that is a product of the Internet or is it just that the Internet makes it so easy to do? There was another tale in which a fanfiction “writer” Cassandra Claire (she now has published novels as Cassandra Clare) was happily plagiarizing from books, TV, and movies and yet had become so Internet famous and so well entrenched in the good faith of the community that she has been let off with almost zero repercussions. The account about her was compiled by someone going by the name of “Avocado” and goes into moderate levels of detail with quotations and correspondence to show just how much this woman lifted for her own stories.
While maybe not as mind numbingly crazy as the “msscribe” tale was, it still shows that it is incredibly easy to get away with fraud on the Internet. This “Cassandra Claire” was able to pass off quoted works as her own, thinking simple and inaccurate disclaimers would save her from any lawsuits. Then by essentially claiming “fanfiction” as her defense she would be able to wiggle out of anything anyone accused her of. Again, it’s sad.
The two tales are also related as people involved overlap but I think the true connection point is the matter of how both women see themselves as having done nothing wrong (or having done anything at all). In their minds those fake fans and friends existed. Those people saying they plagiarized are wrong. No one lied, no one stole someone else’s work, and everything is okay now because the Internet forgets.
Again, I wonder: is this caused by the Internet where things are anonymous and easily manipulated or has this always been a problem and we’re just making it easier due to the Internet? I can’t really fathom people doing this in real life with this much ease. I know it’s happened, but on such a scale that no one was every caught? That no one was ever even held accountable for falsifying claims of abuse? It’s greatly puzzling and immensely fascinating. At least to me it’s fascinating.