Like many evanescent stars, the 16-year-old Canadian pop sensation and tween heartthrob Justin Bieber is a ripe target for jokes. But when Gawker and The Guardian both took the bait, it touched off a slightly more serious conflict. Gawker's Adrian Chen gently accused Guardian writer Marina Hyde of aping, if not ripping off, the jokes in the March 19 Gawker post "The Justin Bieber Guide for Old People." On March 26, Hyde ran a piece in The Guardian entitled "Justin Bieber: an Old Person's Guide." A sampling of the similarities alluded to by Chen:
OUR JOKEWhile Chen's post started off politely, he pulls no punches at the end:
Bieber is in fact the first real YouTube sensation to cross over to the mainstream, and much of his appeal comes from this grassroots creation myth. (No, Susan Boyle doesn't count since the only people who enjoy her sincerely are you Old People.)
Put briefly, Justin's story is this: he is Canadian, comes from good Christian stock, and he's the first genuine YouTube sensation to cross over into mainstream pop stardom. (Unless you think Susan Boyle is a popstar, in which case, how old are you?)
Now, we believe that jokes are not really "owned" by anyone. They exist in the cultural ether—small nuggets of funny truth that writers can only hope to grasp long enough to make a reader laugh. This is why we do not use the "P" word. But, seriously, Hyde: Write your own damn material. They weren't even very good jokes!Hyde responded in an email to Chen, swearing that she hadn't read the original post. She claimed she came up with the same jokes by sheer coincidence. After lauding Chen for his "much funnier" comments, she chided him for poor journalistic etiquette:
Or if you insist on ripping other writers off, please consult our new guide:
The Marina Hyde Guide to Not Getting Caught Stealing People's Jokes
DON'T: Make the headline of your piece almost exactly the same as the one you're ripping off.
DO: Go fuck yourself.
In the end, your post appeared before mine and in my view is much funnier than what I wrote. In fact, the bits I found far funnier were the many things I didn't think of, and were I in the business of nicking jokes I would have taken other ones entirely. So I can also see how you might think I had ripped you off, but I can honestly tell you I didn't, and I hope the above points have gone some way to convincing you of that. If they haven't, feel free to call me and I will gladly continue to try do so.
I think it might have been reasonable to ask me to respond before you posted inviting me to fuck myself, but perhaps you might now consider appending my response to your original post?
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
Jared Keller is a journalist based in New York. He has written for Bloomberg Businessweek, Pacific Standard, and Al Jazeera America, and is a former associate editor for The Atlantic.