Is Politico a Credible News Outlet?

WHY DOES POLITICO EMPLOY LOBBYIST MOLLY MCKEW?

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FOR THE PAST YEAR Politico has been publishing hysterical articles by Molly McKew of Fianna Strategies. The titles of the articles would make tabloids like the National Enquirer and Weekly World News blush:

“Putin’s Attack on the U.S. Is Our Pearl Harbor”

The articles are accompanied by tweets promoting those articles:

THE PROBLEM is that Molly McKee’s company Fianna Strategies is a registered foreign agent for the President of the Republic of Georgia. McKee is PAID to offer their viewpoint. (By one account, $320,000 over a 16-month period.)

Georgia– once part of the Soviet Union; sitting between Russia and Turkey– wants NATO membership. McKew is paid to expedite this.

THE QUESTION is why Politico presents as a credible journalist an individual paid to be biased?

BEYOND THIS, it’s irresponsible for anyone to casually make analogies to the attack on Pearl Harbor, where 2,403 American sailors and soldiers died in an actual military event. What does Molly McKee advocate? That the United States declare war on Russia? (Listed as co-author of the Pearl Harbor article is a retired U.S. General who was involved in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.) (The last time we witnessed this level of war hysteria was in 2003, about Iraq.)

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Russia has a crumbling economy smaller than California’s. They have a plummeting population, and are desperately trying to hang onto what remains of their shattered empire. BUT they also retain an enormous nuclear arsenal. Thoughtlessly promoting war with that country is insanity.

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WHAT OF Molly McKew’s neoconservative thesis that Russia is promoting a “global imperialist insurgency”?

FACTS contradict this. The USA surrounds Russia with military bases to the immediate west, south, and east– Germany, Bulgaria, Italy, Greece, Kosovo, Turkey, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, UAE, Afghanistan, Indian Ocean, Philippines, S. Korea, Okinawa, Japan, etc. This doesn’t include NATO troops stationed in Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, which are on Russia’s border.

Russia meanwhile has ONE military base outside its immediate vicinity– in Syria. None in the western hemisphere.

WHICH nation is the insurgent global imperialist??

The Politico articles go beyond bias and slant into actual untruth.
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THE PREMISE behind the flood of articles from Politico and other news outlets is that Russia is engaged in some kind of massive propaganda assault. Yet when looking at which countries are more greatly influencing elections– which have the propaganda and cyber ability to influence elections– Russia, for all its machinations and duplicities, ranks far down the list. We’ll cover this with a follow-up sometime next week we’re tentatively calling “Propaganda USA.” Stay tuned.

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(NOTE: We’ve gone outside the lines of our usual topics because we like this planet and don’t wish to see it wiped out because of bouts of war hysteria. We have follow-ups to the Junot Diaz matter, and coverage of other lit-world topics, COMING SOON.)

-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit News.

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View from the Dominican Republic

OUR COVERAGE OF THE JUNOT DIAZ CONTROVERSY CONTINUES

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WE’VE been receiving a certain number of tips and information regarding the Junot Diaz matter and are trying to look into all of them. Several of them come from the Dominican Republic.

One, for instance, about the mysterious @Get_Hip twitter account. This person joined the anti-Junot Diaz bandwagon when news broke, claiming to be from the Dominican Republic. Journalist Anna Silman even encouraged this individual to contact her– but when “Get Hip” was questioned about her claims the twitter account swiftly vanished. One of Monica Byrne’s apocryphal 38 names?

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AMONG other emails we’ve received, I can excerpt these quotes, from individuals who wish to remain anonymous:

One (almost) invisible aspect– at least in the mainstream media–of this saga is the silence of the Dominican artistic community. Why? you might wonder. According to a well respected male Dominican writer and early supporter of Junot –and early means the time he was starving like a dog–there is a climate of fear thanks to the way some people have reclaimed the #MeToo movement or sentiment to advance their own personal, reactionary and individualistic agendas that have nothing to do with fighting for women’s liberation or fighting for a just and better world. So some people are waiting to see how it all ends. No one wants their careers, personal reputations or livelihoods destroyed by a media frenzy. Despues de la tormenta viene la calma.

And this:

When the Junot affair exploded it also had important ramifications in the Dominican Republic where most people adore him except for right wingers because of his political outlook. In social media, right-wingers used Zinzi Clemmons’ words to destroy Junot and demonstrate what a ‘pervert” and “degenerate” he was. For right wingers, Junot should be silenced at all cost for his outspoken support of social justice causes: immigrant rights, abortion, gay liberation, etc. Was Zinzi aware of the damage she was inflicting on Junot or the Dominican community? Did she know that by attacking Junot she was also silencing someone who spoke out against injustice against immigrants and other marginalized groups in society not only in the Dominican Republic but also in the US? Perhaps she never cared about the consequences or she was not aware of the activism Junot was involved. Or better yet, she never cared. The middle class never cares. Clearly, there are class issues at play. 

Zinzi and the others aided far right xenophobic elements in the Dominican Republic who now argue that Junot is a rapist or a sexual predator. Her actions damaged the reputation of one of the most outspoken writers of these last decades in the US and the world, someone who went to picket lines; denounced corrupt politicians here and abroad and expressed solidarity for the best causes. And the end, this is the story of how a media frenzy was able to silence–for the time being– a public intellectual.
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THESE quotes are a mix of information, speculation, and opinion. I’m offering them here for information purposes– our goal to present vantage points not given by the mainstream media. Take them for what you will– Dominican writers can better judge their accuracy than I can.

THOUGH I think in some sense the affair is over– or should be over, given what’s been discovered about the weakness of the accusations against Junot Diaz– I also believe there’s more to find out about the larger picture. Including the full role of media people in creating this controversy on May 4.

If YOU have credible information to add, feel free to send it to us c/o newpoplitATgmailDOTcom.

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-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit News

Unraveling the Monica Byrne Accusation

DELVING DEEPER INTO THE JUNOT DIAZ CONTROVERSY

Peter_Straub_BBF_2010_Shankbone(Best-selling novelist Peter Straub.)

DEFENDERS of the accusers in the Junot Diaz matter have said, “Forget her past history. What of the Monica Byrne accusation itself?”

What of it? Byrne’s date for the evening, Eugene Fischer, backs Monica’s version implicitly. Then again, he also fully backed Carmen Maria Machado’s version of her encounter with Diaz, and that’s been contradicted by the recorded audio.

Noted novelist Peter Straub was present at the Byrne-Diaz encounter, and has given his testimony on Facebook. In a tweet, Monica Byrne has referred to Straub as an “OWM.” Old White Male. Straub is old in at least one sense. While his books may be filled with irrationality, Straub is still living in a world which believes in the quaint notion of objective reality. When he said, in a twitter exchange with Monica, that there was room for different perspectives on a past event, Byrne set him straight.

In the new politicized world of arts and letters there is room for only ONE version of events– that fueled by emotion and ideology.
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A KEY PART of Monica Byrne’s statement on the event, released to the world on Facebook May 4th, this year, is this paragraph referring to Junot Diaz:

His voice had risen to a shout. He literally shouted the word “rape” in my face. This is after knowing me for maybe ten minutes. His response was completely bizarre, disproportionate, and violent. I was speechless and felt sick. I would have, anyway, but this was also only two weeks after I’d been sexually assaulted in Belize.

THIS has been taken to mean by at least one Diaz defender on twitter that Byrne was suffering from a kind of PTSD, and so overreacted when he disagreed with her.

Which raises the question: What WAS Monica Byrne’s state of mind going into her April 4, 2014 encounter with Junot Diaz?

FACT IS we have a kind of recorded narrative of Monica Byrne’s outlook in the month leading up to April 4th, including her vacation in Belize. A series of snapshots– her tweets. I’ve counted 258 tweets made by Monica in the month leading up to April 4, 2014. That is, 3/4 through 4/3.

BEGIN TO READ a stream of Monica Byrne tweets and you find yourself swamped in egocentrism. Every feeling, thought, mood, whim; every review or note from her agent; every encounter on the beach on Belize; every pizza slice– sunburn, virus, cave expedition, karaoke– is displayed in that twitter stream.

What does it tell us?

Leading up to her argument with Junot Diaz, Monica Byrne was in an excessively good mood.

On vacation in Belize– who wouldn’t be happy? PLUS, her novel was about to come out. This tweet, from two days before encountering Diaz:

But what of her feelings toward men? Was she fearful or damaged?

PERHAPS the most revealing tweet about her mindset toward men in the days leading up to April 4th is this one.

BUT!? But, but what of the sexual assault in Belize– a key part of her anti-Diaz narrative? Where is that?

Perusal of the tweets reveals two possibilities. First was a young man hitting on Monica.

The other was when a boy on the beach also made a pass at her. This a little better fits her timeline of two weeks before April 4th. (Well, it’s three-and-a-half weeks.) Monica finds this encounter hilarious.

THE BEST barometer is how she felt ON THE VERY DAY that she would later meet Junot Diaz. We have evidence about that as well.

She’d been at a book signing for her new novel the evening before. If she wasn’t quite ready to arm wrestle every man in sight, her confidence, her self-esteem, was hardly lacking. Pulitzer Prize or no Pulitzer Prize, she was scarcely in a state to be intimidated by a moderately well-known author. As she was not at all intimidated by the better known author Peter Straub. Monica Byrne in fact had– and has– a substantial support system. Friends not only with award-winning science fiction writer Eugene Fischer– who was with her at the Diaz dinner– but also with some of the biggest names in the sci-fi game like John Scalzi.

BUT WHAT of the most damaging statement against Junot Diaz in her 2018 statements– that he shouted “RAPE!” at her? If not at all traumatized before going into the 2014 dinner, was she traumatized afterward?

She was perturbed, sure. Disappointed in Junot Diaz? Likely. But there’s no evidence in any of her tweets immediately after the encounter that it was a shattering experience. Also no mention– none– at that point of time of him shouting in her face the word “rape.” Her main complaint, at that time, seems to be that he was disrespectful, dismissive, arrogant.

If every well-known author be dismissed from his-or-her jobs for being arrogant, there might not be anyone left! (Not an all-bad idea, actually.)
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-Karl Wenclas on the New Pop Lit News beat.

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How Does a News Story Go Viral?

PUBLICITY IN THE JUNOT DIAZ CONTROVERSY

epstein in cavern

I ADMIT IT. I’m amazed at how fast the publicity game has changed, thanks to social media. Compared to ten years ago, the creation of buzz moves now at lightning speed.

It’s the difference between military techniques in World Wars One and Two. The speed of blitzkrieg in the latter contest revolutionized the game.

As I’ve said a couple times in this series: Who wins the debate over the sexual harassment allegations about prize-winning author Junot Diaz will be decided by who’s better at PR. Institutions (MIT; Boston Review) cleared Diaz, but it’s out of their hands. In the new media age, static bureaucracies have been left behind.

A key post of ours in this regard is “System versus Zeitgeist.”

The Junot Diaz camp is now fully in the game with their army of twitter fans and trolls. They’ve moved quickly up to speed. Will it be enough?

We have two opinion armies maneuvering against one another online– across twitter, blogs, and media sites.

The accusers’ side has made significant mistakes– but their opening moves in the chess game which began May 4th were breathtaking.

CREATING HYSTERIA

epstein again

THE GREATEST publicity feat of all time was the creation of Beatlemania. Most people believe it was spontaneous. Yeah, yeah, the band was talented and young people liked them. As simple as that? Not really.

In November, 1961, Liverpool record store manager Brian Epstein saw an unkempt band playing in an underground club in that beaten-down UK working class city and thought, “I can make these guys bigger than Elvis Presley.” A hidden genius behind the scenes, Brian Epstein was in back of every step of the band’s rise. Some of the facts of how he accomplished this are known. For instance, mass hysteria in New York City in February 1964 when the little-known (in America) band landed for the first time. Reluctant Capitol Records was forced by Epstein to spend $70,000 ($570,000 in today’s dollars) to promote their arrival and the concurrent release of their single, “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

The-Beatles-At-JFK-tarmac-530x353

WE ALSO know the mob of kids holding signs at the airport wasn’t a spontaneous happening. Their presence was arranged. The kick-off of Beatlemania was staged.

MAY 4 ANTI-JUNOT DIAZ HYSTERIA

I’m still amazed at how quickly fervor against Junot Diaz took place. Three threads of tweets from Zinzi Clemmons, Monica Byrne, and Carmen Maria Machado taking place in the middle of night, one right after another. By morning they’d gone viral. To such extent that The Cut’s Anna Silman was already contacting Monica Byrne for a statement.

Spontaneous? Byrne said to Silman, “The network was activated”– which might be clue enough for an explanation.

Monica Byrne’s unsupported rumors about Melania Trump in June 2017, which went viral, albeit on a smaller scale, served as trial run for this situation. This time out Byrne had at least a smattering of substance to the story, and other women on her side. Enough substance that even the mighty and respectable New York Times joined the generated hysteria.

QUESTION: Was the hysteria against Junot Diaz generated or spontaneous?

Another tweet from Monica:

AIDING buzz creation was dramatic language used by the accusers in the tweeted narratives.

BYRNE: “I’ve never faced such virulent misogyny in my adult life.”

MACHADO: “–a blast of misogynist rage.”

Promotional blitzkrieg on May 4th worked masterfully– on that very same day the accusations were news across the globe. The feat deserves a chapter of its own in the history of publicity. The planning and coordination worked– but not well enough to claim quick victory. No knockout. Junot Diaz apologized, but he and his institutional backers held firm. By now, today, the controversy has settled into trench warfare– both sides sniping at each other from steady lines, World War One-style.

For the time being, the controversy is at a stalemate.

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WILL the stalemate continue? More to come from:

-New Pop Lit News-
https://newpoplitnews.wordpress.com/

-Karl Wenclas on the literary news beat.

 

Assumptions and Allegations

PIECING TOGETHER THE JUNOT DIAZ CONTROVERSY

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REMEMBER, the Junot Diaz alleged sexual harassment controversy has been based on assumptions and allegations from the beginning. A score of press outlets, beginning May 4th, swallowed the allegations entirely. They assumed the stories were correct– hyperbolic language and all. In the media’s mind they had to be. They did no research into the matter. To this day they’ve done little-to-no research. Discoveries which have come to light since have been made by citizen journalists, concerned individuals, and upstart literary sites like this one.

For my part, I’ve sifted the available evidence, examining each piece to see if it fit, and will continue to examine them. An occasional piece of the puzzle has to be thrown out. The overall picture for me remains delineated.
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Puzzle3

MY OWN assumptions were based in part on two documented facts:

1.)  Dara Levy of Buzzfeed News emailed Zinzi Clemmons on December 18, 2017, asking Clemmons to phone Levy about rumors concerning a writer later identified by Clemmons as Junot Diaz.

2.)  Dara Levy co-authored the Buzzfeed News article of May 4, 2018.

What conversations took place in the interim? Was Dara Levy privy to information about Zinzi Clemmon’s upcoming confrontation with Diaz in Sydney, Australia?
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STIPULATE if you wish that the breaking news of May 4th created itself, an act of spontaneous combustion, with no one’s aid, intent, or participation. Tweets in the middle of the night from three obscure writers went viral on their own, no reporters or buzz creators notified. Twitter works that quickly. A host of respectable news outlets ran with the story and its unchecked allegations almost immediately.

Stampede-by-W.-R.-Leigh-1915

IF THIS is how it actually happened, things become more scary. Caught up in an electronic frenzy, major media outlets decided to destroy the reputation of one of America’s leading writers. Just like that. Behaving like a blind, unthinking herd. Run the story! Journalists climbed over one another in haste to deliver the narrative.
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I DO have some new information I’ll be posting shortly. First though, soon, I plan to do a short post on the question of how stories go viral. The Junot Diaz story may be the quickest in literary history– but we are dealing with new technologies.

-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit News
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(Painting: “Stampede” by W.R. Leigh.)

Media Malfeasance?

QUESTIONS IN THE JUNOT DIAZ CONTROVERSY CONTINUE TO MULTIPLY

buzzfeed twitter dara levy

(Is this Dara Levy?)
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THE QUESTION TODAY is: To what extent does major media manufacture news stories?

The Related Question: Was the Junot Diaz controversy created by media– in coordination with the three main accusers?

Start examining the timelines of the quick reaction to the encounter between Zinzi Clemmons and Junot Diaz  which occurred May 4th at the Sydney Writers Festival, and it begins to look that way.

OUR STORY properly begins, however, with an email sent 12/18/2017 by Buzzfeed‘s Dara Levy to author Zinzi Clemmons. (Clemmons tweeted out a copy of the email several days ago, July 1.) In the email, Levy says,

I’m a reporter at Buzzfeed News and wanted to reach out regarding this Facebook post . . . particularly, your comments about a Pulitzer-prize winning, supposedly woke writer of color. We’ve been looking into a number of tips . . . One of the tips we received sounds very similar to the ‘Pulitzer-prize winning’ person you mentioned, so I wanted to see if you might be comfortable sharing a little bit more information with me on the phone.

In April, after the Junot Diaz New Yorker magazine memoir came out, there began a series of rumors and inferences on twitter which may have been aimed at Diaz.

Then: Friday, May 4th at the Sydney Writers Festival. A 3 p.m. panel discussion. From the audience, Zinzi Clemmons asks Junot Diaz a question which others in the audience take as embarrassing. She drops the microphone and stalks away.

Almost immediately afterward, 5:05 pm Sydney time (3:05 am Eastern Time), Zinzi tweeted her accusation about an event from several years ago.

Monica Byrne appears to have tweeted out her own thread of detailed accusations against Junot Diaz a mere nine minutes later–

The third main accuser, Carmen Maria Machado, followed with her own detailed thread shortly after that–

Coordinated? It sure looks that way. Especially when you realize that Machado and Byrne discussed on twitter taking Junot Diaz down as far back as 2015.
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dara levy linked-in

(Buzzfeed journalist Dara Levy from her Linked-In page.)

THE CURIOUS person in all this is Dara Levy– the reporter who’d contacted Zinzi Clemmons about Junot Diaz back in December. After the Clemmons-Diaz exchange in Sydney, and the follow-up tweets, Buzzfeed was one of the first news outlets to cover the story, with an article penned by Amber Jamieson and Dara Levy, here.

Buzzfeed is the only news outlet I can find which has quotes from actual attendees, as if they had a reporter on the scene. (Why would they?) In their article, they cite four attendees spoken to. (Other outlets, like Vulture, cribbed from Buzzfeed’s reportage, using the same quotes and linking to their article.)

Curious, curious. Also curious is the way so many news outlets around the world– Vanity Fair, New York Times, CBS News, ABC News, The Guardian, The Independent— quickly ran stories on the exchange, though they had a short time frame to do so– even given the time difference between Sydney and cities like London and New York.

WERE these media outlets prepped in advance?

The Sydney Morning Herald ran an article the day after the Diaz-Clemmons exchange which was penned by two writers from the New York Times, Alexandra Alter and Jonah Bromwich– as if the New York-based writers and their publication were more ready for the event than were Sydney’s journalists.

A set up?

KEEP IN MIND that the exchange between Diaz and Clemmons was the kind of rushed, hectic encounter which onlookers couldn’t hear clearly, and which they had little-to-no idea what it was about. On its own, it would have caused scarcely a ripple. Only that what appeared to be a series of prearranged tweets– and possibly prearranged notifications to press outlets– turned a short dialogue into a controversy covered across the globe, which has yet to end.
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More to come?

-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit News

System versus Zeitgeist

TWO SIDES OF THE JUNOT DIAZ BOOK WORLD CONTROVERSY

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I SAID at the outset of this examination the conflict was taking place within the established, New York-centered literary world. A narrowly exclusive yet still-powerful tower of connections, money, and power. The conflict has little effect on writers outside that world.

The impact, however, on those writers existing within the established system, and those who aspire to be there, is potentially enormous. The questions become, “How politicized is the literary world?” and, “What is the correct stance to take?”

SYSTEM

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Junot Diaz made his way as a writer as a creature of the established system, with all that entails. Compromises and rewards. Involvements with long-time flagships of status quo American literature like the Pulitzer Prize committee and The New Yorker magazine. When accusations against him arose, he looked for resolution and support from the institutions which sustained him. Chiefly, Boston Review, where he’s Fiction Editor, and MIT, which employs him as a professor. That those two substantial entities cleared him should have been enough. But wasn’t.

The matter was never going to be resolved by institutions, but within the court of public opinion and by media. It’s not an institutional struggle, but a PR battle.

The maneuvering continues– Julius Caesar and Pompey the Great attempting to overlap the other’s lines.

ZEITGEIST

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Junot Diaz’s main accusers placed their faith in the ongoing zeitgeist animating today’s established intellectual community– the political spirit and emotion existing inside institutions but also outside them. The #MeToo wave energizing journalists and writers across the nation. The Junot Diaz defense is static. His opposition, dynamic. Which puts him at a disadvantage. That he has long been himself a key part of the ongoing cultural revolution– the zeitgeist– only served to tie his hands when the rules of ideological judgement changed and the winds of correct thought and behavior shifted.

IDEOLOGUE AND APPARATCHIK

mbandlililoof(Monica Byrne and Lili Loofbourow.)

EVEN THOUGH her history of making shaky allegations was quickly exposed, accuser Monica Byrne didn’t flinch, confident in being on the correct side of the issue. Her instinct has been to follow the larger intellectual herd– more, to get in front of it, as she’s capably done the past several years, with hardly a misstep. The idea being that emotional outrage is a stronger force than evidence, facts, and truth.

So, also, is having the right politics. Interesting that Byrne’s baseless allegations one year ago about Melania Trump– about which she cannot give the slightest detail about how she was in a position to receive such information– has protected her from the scrutiny of the press. Not even the Boston Globe, which Byrne has accused of enablement, will discuss those unsupported allegations, or the rest of Byrne’s history.

Byrne’s chief technique in the Junot Diaz matter, as one year ago, has been the spread of gossip and rumor.

It creates hysteria for your side.

Reading this, who would not be worked up into a frenzy against Junot Diaz?

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Monica Byrne finds supporters everyplace.

One of them is Lili Loofbourow, whose Slate article I examined in my last two posts. If Monica is the full-bore ideologue, Lili is the media apparatchik whose ability to write articles for a variety of establishment publications depends on her knowing the zeitgeist.

That the commissioned article carries a slant is a given. Objective journalism is an extinct species in the realm of establishment media. Everything from a person’s writings and life can be thrown into the mix to paint the picture of villain. The emotion becomes so strong, readers don’t notice or care about the absurdities in the piece.  Notably when Loofbourow concludes it with, “Everyone is guilty.”

Everyone? Are we talking about collective guilt– or a secular version of original sin?

What, then, is the solution to the stated problem of collective patriarchy? Destroy society from top to bottom? Eliminate men? A matriarchal society with test-tube babies? Loofbourow never says.

But does she really mean what she says and implies? Or is it posturing? Following the zeitgeist? Loofbourow herself, by all accounts, is in a happy monogamous relationship with (gasp!) a man.

ANOTHER BUREAUCRAT

adam morgan
ANOTHER typical example of herd follower is Adam Morgan of the Chicago Review of Books, who has announced on Twitter his support of the accusers of Junot Diaz. Just so everyone knows. “Chicago’s premier literary critic,” Morgan, like Loofbourow, knows which side to be on in order to sustain his career. He has the bureaucrat’s talent for spotting the ascendant power, and accommodating himself to it.

An example is this article on “5 Books That Changed My Life.” For Adam Morgan, all five life-changing books were written by women. After he tweeted out a link to the article, his next tweet gave the game away: “Honestly, these were the first 5 that came to mind.”

Honestly. Adam Morgan didn’t expect anyone to believe his selections, because he didn’t believe them himself. (Glancing sideways as he sends the tweet to see if he’s fooled anybody.) He knows how the game is played. Jane Austen said, “In every power, of which taste is the foundation, excellence is pretty fairly divided between the sexes.”  Not in 2018!

THE MOB
Have we reached the point of what this old movie trailer calls “vigilante bloodlust”? Or a better question might be, “Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys?”

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NEXT: Conclusions.

Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit News

Slate’s Junot Diaz Show Trial

MORE ON THE JUNOT DIAZ LIT-WORLD CONTROVERSY

junot-diazontrial

YOU THOUGHT the Junot Diaz Controversy was over when two of his three main accusers were discredited? When Boston Review and MIT kept Diaz on the job? We did. Think again.

CHARGING IN on her white horse to right the perceived wrong rode Slate’s Lili Loofbourow, with an essay which addressed everything but the specific accusations. This tells us something else is going on.
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NOTE from the outset the way a photo of Junot Diaz is book-ended between two other accused harassers, Jeffrey Tambor and Bill Clinton. We’re in the realm not of objective reportage, but propaganda. (In case anyone misses Slate‘s analogy, Loofbourow throws in a fast mention of Donald Trump.)

WHAT is Loofbourow’s essay chiefly about?

The Slate essay is about what she calls “displays of contrition”; what accuser Zinzi Clemmons calls “the confession spectrum.” The problem isn’t that Junot Diaz didn’t apologize for crimes real and apocryphal in the 04/16/2018 New Yorker essay by him. It’s that he didn’t apologize enough.

show trial

We’re dealing with ritualized denunciations followed by a public confession– what was infamously known in totalitarian regimes of the last century as a show trial. It wasn’t enough, for instance, that accused harasser Bora Zivkovic later apologized personally to Monica Byrne for perceived sexual harassment, when he had discussed with her, in a private conversation between two adults, his sex life with his wife. He was required to be publicly denounced– with accompanying resignation of important positions and destruction of his reputation. Carcass nailed to a wall as warning.

Now it’s the turn of Junot Diaz. The in-house investigations of Diaz by Boston Review and MIT are irrelevant. That was never what this was about. His crime isn’t that he is or isn’t privately misogynist (though he might be, who knows?), but that he’s written about misogynists in his fiction, and has tried to understand such men.

Loofbourow looks for evidence against him not just in his New Yorker memoir, but in his book of short stories, This Is How You Lose Her. Which is curious, because according to Alyssa Rosenberg in a 10/4/2016 Opinion piece in the Washington Post about novelist Elena Ferrante, Lili Loofbourow came out strongly against attempts to identify a fictional character with the author.

Loofbourow said then in her tweets about Ferrante,

-She hacked the system. She made the WORK the point. She sidestepped every dumb reductive tendency we have by making herself unreachable.

-Did Ferrante *really* make all that up? Is she really that brilliant & META? Or is it just thinly-veiled MEMOIR? This last is key.

In her Slate article, Lili Loofbourow does exactly what she says one should not do– take fiction as “thinly-veiled MEMOIR.”

(Better had Junot Diaz done a J.D. Salinger– or Elena Ferrante– and made himself unreachable, rather than address the issue of misogyny head-on?)

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A large part of Loofbourow’s argument against Diaz are portions of the New Yorker essay in which he discusses personal (i.e., private) relationships. If the skewed-by-emotion perspectives of ex-girlfriends or boyfriends become material for determining these issues, we’re all in trouble. Men and women both.
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In examining the infamous Carmen Maria Machado recorded conversation with Junot Diaz at a literary event, Loofbourow says, “–we can learn something from the way Díaz talks about his manipulative characters–” Diaz’s crime in the exchange is insisting on his version of what he’s doing with his characters in his fiction. This very defense is used against him.

Throughout the Slate essay, Diaz’s assumed guilt is front and center:

–that you did heinous things, things you wouldn’t have done to people you truly respected as equals. 

Maybe you’re trying to figure out how to understand this moment without thinking of yourself as a monster, which you have never felt you were. Maybe you long for redemption and feel it’s no longer available.

How condescending! How assumptive.

By the end of the essay, Lili Loofbourow has reached her conclusion: “Everyone is guilty.”

Yep, everyone– but Junot Diaz is the person being targeted. Loofbourow again uses his own words against him:

The only way this thing that’s called patriarchy can be cured in me is collectively.

The hallmark of the show trial is that the person on trial agrees with his prosecutors and judges. The accused was revolutionary and correct in his attitude– just not revolutionary enough. See Nikolai Bukharin, Grigory Zinoviev, and other examples from the past.

bukharinzinoviev(Bukharin and Zinoviev caught in the spotlight.)

Lili Loofbourow’s gripe, you see, isn’t with Junot Diaz the individual, but with relations between men and women since the beginning of recorded time. Junot Diaz is merely the designated sacrificial victim.
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NEXT: System versus Zeitgeist: The Larger Context.

Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit News

 

 

 

 

 

How to Write a Hatchet Job

PRELUDE TO EXAMINING SLATE’S JUNOT DIAZ ARTICLE

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THE TRUTH is that a character assassination can be written on anyone– especially when you delve into the person’s long history of writings and cherry pick from them to bolster your argument.

Did Slate‘s Lili Loofbourow do this in her examination of the Junot Diaz sexual harassment controversy now dividing the literary world?

THE TRICK is that the same treatment could be performed on Ms. Loofbourow. For instance, two minutes of google searching found this article:

“In Praise of Fleabag and the Unapologetically Flawed Female Antihero.”

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The television show Loofbourow acclaims is, in her own words, “–a tremendous, oddly nourishing show about a liar and thief.” “It’s the story . . . of a woman who reads people too well and takes advantage of them,” “somehow desperate,” “a lean, amoral Matilda with no impulse control.”

(Anyone we know. . . ?)

Reading the article, one would think Lili Loofbourow doesn’t care, really, about apologies– nor about ethical behavior and truth. One could readily believe that Lili Loofbourow is simply a media gun-for-hire, fixing her opinions to fit the needs of her editors– or those of the greater conglomerate media herd.

That would be unfair.

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THE SLATE article is interesting to me, because it reminds me of a long essay that was written fifteen years ago for a major literary publication, about an activist writers group. A writers group coincidentally devoted to exposing blatant corruption in the established literary world. That long-ago essay was a well-written hatchet job, filled with half-truths, distortions, and omissions. It defined us, creating a narrative which became “the truth” about us in everyone’s heads, so much so that any journalist afterward covering the organization read that essay as part of their research on it, viewing it through the same prism of misconceptions.
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I’m not complaining. I’m stating how the game is played. Those who rise to a position where they crank out articles for a variety of publications play the game very, very well.

The solution? To create an alternative literary world, and alternative lit-media, not based in the shark tank of New York– one devoted to facts, talent, and truth.

COMING SOON: A more direct look at the Slate article.

-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit News.

Mischievous Monica

FRESH REVELATIONS IN THE JUNOT DIAZ CONTROVERSY

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MY LAST blog post (here) ended with Duke professor Jaybird O’Berski appearing to have engaged in sexual harassment of Junot Diaz-accuser Monica Byrne via twitter. At least, Monica charged him with such, providing an example.

But what if the sexual language he engaged in had also been engaged in by her– even encouraged by her? Apparently they had quite a few lusty conversations– on twitter and by email.

Below, a sampling of O’Berski’s twitter feed, taken from exchanges with Monica.

(Does this throw light on the other incidents– those outlined in my previous post? Judge for yourself.)

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Is there much more to say?

-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit News