Where’s the Evidence?

LATEST NEWS FROM THE JUNOT DIAZ CONTROVERSY

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The latest news from the Junot Diaz controversy is there is no news.

FROM THE MOMENT the Junot Diaz alleged harassment controversy broke big-time on May 4th, two of the three original accusers, Monica Byrne and Zinzi Clemmons, have made numerous tweets promising everyone that more stories would be forthcoming. Zinzi Clemmons has said she has “receipts”– emails from Junot Diaz documenting the fact he’d harassed her. Monica Byrne has mentioned time and again “39” other accusers waiting in the wings. Those who’ve been covering the story, including ourselves, have been waiting, and waiting, and waiting. (Alisa Rivera came immediately afterward with an incident from a date gone awry 15 years ago, as did ex-girlfriend Alisa Valdes with her experiences.)

THE ASSUMPTION– in my opinion the wager by the original three– was that Diaz was unquestionably an abuser and that many more accusers would come forward after the coordinated presentation on May 4th made international headlines. Monica Byrne had been through this twice before (see this), and based on those experiences, believed enough other women would come forward to remove Junot Diaz from his positions at Boston Review and MIT. As we now know, both institutions held the line.

HOW LONG had the planned revelations been under consideration?

Here is their genesis, in a few of the tweets exchanged between Monica Byrne and an initially reluctant Carmen Maria Machado– dating from 2015:

THE THIRD member of the trio was brought on board beginning in December of 2017, at the same time MeToo stories were breaking everyplace. See this, and this, and this.

MEDIA BLITZKRIEG

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GIVEN the intensity of the criticism, Junot Diaz should’ve been completely destroyed. The calculation with any such maneuver is that the target will be. It’s analogous to Germany’s “Operation Barbarossa” invasion of the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941. After a string of easy victories, Hitler believed the rotting structure of the world’s first Communist regime would collapse in on itself, as a result of a strong push. Didn’t happen. He didn’t count on the enormous fortitude of the Russian people.  What followed was a long, slow slog. Which is what’s been happening the last several months between both sides of the Junot Diaz controversy.

Bora Zivkovic and Raphael Martin, obsequious liberals unprepared for their personal idiosyncrasies to be exposed to the world, immediately apologized and resigned in the face of accusations. What happened in the Junot Diaz matter was that a recording of his verbal exchange with Carmen Maria Machado was produced– and completely changed the dynamic of the controversy. This led us, and others, to look further into the matter.

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WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? We’ll see.
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-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit NEWS

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The Andre-Zinzi Combine

A COMBUSTIBLE MIXTURE

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Objective observers ask about the Junot Diaz accusations: How could they happen without being real? Did all these women lie or exaggerate?

I’ve been looking specifically into the three chief accusers– one of whom we know for sure, Carmen Maria Machado, did lie or exaggerate, based on the audio recording of her exchange with Diaz. We also know one of the others, Monica Byrne, has a well-documented history of spreading rumors and making allegations.

I BELIEVE the entire matter– leading up to and culminating in the explosion of press attention on May 4th– was like a classic reaction of combustible chemicals, placed in a laboratory “perfect storm” of pressure which resulted in the public denunciations of Junot Diaz, and the press nuclear reaction to those claims the very same day.

An outlandish theory?

KEY to it was the addition of Andre Naffis-Sahely, husband of Zinzi Clemmons, to the mix. A mild exterior, but his tweets reveal him to be quite the volatile personality.

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I’VE BEEN TRYING to look at the matter from their perspective. Zinzi, Andre, and Monica Byrne are true believers in their cause. All of them fully believed the gossip and rumors– as well as their own experiences– revolving around Junot Diaz and Donald Futers. They became convinced that all were full and true instances of sexual harassment. Around them at this time were daily news stories of harassers being outed– Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer. Every day filled with more revelations. Completely logical to believe such malignant creeps existed in the publishing scene.

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At the same time, members of the media found themselves under increasing pressure to participate in the breaking of news stories. Study the tweets of journalists Dara Levy, Anna Silman, Lili Loofbourow, and others who’ve covered the Junot Diaz issue. You find true believers in the cause of toppling the male patriarchy– by any means necessary. So we had Buzzfeed‘s Dara Levy contacting Zinzi Clemmons this past December. A tiger cub reporter eager for a story.

AT THE TIME this happened, Zinzi Clemmons was riding high from the extensive media attention she’d received a few weeks prior as a result of her break with Lena Dunham and Dunham’s band of what Zinzi called “hipster racists.”

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INTERESTING that Zinzi’s husband Andre Naffis-Sahely cited (in a tweet) December 3rd as the time he became interested in the allegations about his then-editor, Donald Futers. Rumors swirling everyplace.

IF Dara Levy put Zinzi in touch with Monica Byrne, which seems likely, adding volatile Monica to the Andre-Zinzi combine took their own Volatility Index off the charts.

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Again, a conjunction of forces. The opportunity to receive massive publicity, which they’d had a taste of, at the same time outing misogynist miscreants. Doing good and helping career at the same time– the best of everything.

This explains the near-hysteria all three have maintained right up to the present time.

Think I’m joking? Here’s Andre Naffis-Sahely going after a journalist after both stories broke:

Or this tweet:

On May 4th he sent a series of tweets to Boston Review and its editors encouraging them to fire Junot Diaz. Such as this one:

MORE REVEALING are a series of tweets sent out by Naffis-Sahely and Clemmons at two UK poets who’d apparently discussed the rumors about Donald Futers, but wished to remain uninvolved and anonymous. Here’s a quote from one of them to Naffis-Sahely:

This isn’t public knowledge. Any action I took was in support of Amy and conducted deliberately in private so as to let her dictate what becomes public knowledge. I’d appreciate it if you remove me from this list.

And a follow-up from the same person:

There have been lots of private conversations on the phone, via email as we both know. But it has always been understood the survivor did not want to go public. Your own statement didn’t name names.

Was Amy K. Blakemore pressured, by Naffis-Sahely, into coming forward with her accusation against Donald Futers? Sure seems that way.

One can understand Andre and Zinzi’s viewpoint. They’d put themselves out there in accusing two important literary personages, Diaz and Futers. Now that they had, others they’d been counting on– rightly or wrongly– to join in had seemingly backed-out. It’s like walking into a fight with a tough gang and discovering most of your buddies have fled. Not a pleasant feeling.

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AS RECENTLY as June 28th, Zinzi Clemmons was attempting to bully the other anonymous poet:

You call yourself a feminist but you are nothing but an opportunist protecting a monster (Donald Futers) in hopes that he’ll help your career. Would you like me to share those emails you sent to ?

On May 6th, Zinzi had tweeted the following to the same poet, in response to the person’s book being released:

Yeah, it’s too bad you had to trample all over other women in order to get it published. I know everything.

To what does this refer? Regardless, it’s literary infighting at its dirtiest. (And you thought the book world was all sweetness and light?)

On July 19th, Amy Blakemore herself felt forced to tweet out this statement:

also i have no fucking time for anyone creating drama ostensibly at my behest. you do not have my blessing. you are un-blessed. i have nothing but respect & admiration for

–then Blakemore proceeds to name the second of the two anonymous poets, the bullied one, along with another, better-known poet who apparently is being dragged against his will– by Andre and Zinzi?– into the controversy as well.

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I’ll have a follow-up to this post by early next week, possibly sooner, attempting to tie together the threads of the two controversies and give a bigger overall picture. (Before that, we’ll have a post about more New Pop Lit happenings.) Click on the upper right hand corner drop down to follow this News site– that way you won’t miss a thing.

-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit NEWS

Questions and More Questions

QUESTIONS ABOUT THE ZINZI CLEMMONS ACCUSATIONS

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THE MATTER discussed in our previous post, about A.K. Blakemore’s May accusation against Penguin UK editor Donald Futers, only raises more questions.

WHO wrote the first statement Andre Naffis-Sahely tweeted out?

WHY a confidentiality agreement? (Did money change hands?)

WHY would Andre Naffis-Sahely go after his own editor? Merely because said editor, Donald Futers, ignored Naffis-Sahely’s wife, Zinzi Clemmons, at a dinner? (IS it a case, as journalist Jedidajah Otte suggested, simply of bruised egos?)

(A lesson in both Diaz and Futers cases: Avoid literary dinners!)

HOW precarious is Donald Futers’ position as Penguin UK Poetry Editor? He seems to have obtained that prestigious job right out of Cambridge. How does one explain that one? A Very Important patron?

DID UK reporters ask or find answers for these questions?
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MORE QUESTIONS upcoming.

-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit NEWS

 

The Other Harassment Case

THE ACCUSATIONS AGAINST DONALD FUTERS

futers3(Donald Futers in 2011.)

MORE COORDINATION BY ACCUSERS?

Curious or coincidence? On May 4, the very day his wife confronted Junot Diaz at the Sydney Writers Festival, her husband, Andre Naffis-Sahely, confronted Penguin UK poetry editor Donald Futers on twitter, referencing Junot Diaz in so doing:

TO WHAT did these inferences apply? Two days later he added this:

THE NEWS was breaking as he tweeted this. The person making the accusations: A.K. Blakemore:

Among the many articles in the United Kingdom about this controversy, most prominent may have been this one which appeared in The Times.

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(Poet A.K. Blakemore.)

At least one journalist in England was skeptical about the accusation:

WE at New Pop Lit NEWS haven’t looked deeply into the Donald Futers/Amy Blakemore issue. We’re unable to offer a judgement, or even an opinion, either way. What’s interesting as regards the Junot Diaz issue is that one of the principals there, Zinzi Clemmons, along with her husband, Mr. Naffis-Sahely, were instrumental in bringing Futers/Blakemore matter also to light. (For what it’s worth, Naffis-Sahely, like Ms. Blakemore, is published by Penguin UK.) More coordination? At the least, many conversations behind the scenes.

The following three tweets show Clemmons to be very much the activist on sexual harassment:

What’s the back story to this particular part of the expanding story? Far be it from us to say. What Futers is accused of doing (which he denies) remains vague. All we know for sure is that he and one of the writers he edits, A.K. Blakemore, went on a date in 2015. We also know that– as with Junot Diaz– his employer has not fired him. We know Zinzi Clemmons has been actively involved in both controversies.

andre naffis-sahely(Andre Naffis-Sahely.)

Keep in mind that both controversies are battles within the established literary scene, in the U.S. and the U.K. Donald Futers, like Junot Diaz, has been vocally and vociferously progressive. Which makes us think our second post on the Junot Diaz affair may have been on the money.

THERE IS YET another personality apparently involved in some way in the Futers/Blakemore issue. More, perhaps, about that upcoming.

-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit NEWS

Questions About Zinzi Clemmons

OUR COVERAGE OF THE JUNOT DIAZ CONTROVERSY CONTINUES

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We note that Zinzi Clemmons, one of the three initial accusers in the Junot Diaz matter, has been staying off twitter since her exchange with noted novelist Roxane Gay– which didn’t go well. Which brings up the question: Why have so many leading feminist literary personalities– Margaret Atwood and Joyce Carol Oates foremost among them– declined to sign the VIDA petition about the matter, or in any other way publicly support the accusers?

THE “POWER OF INSTITUTIONS” side would insist these women fear to oppose established entities which continue to back Junot Diaz– MIT and Boston Review among them. That viewpoint gives those places more influence than they may have in reality. Besides, if anyone can afford to oppose those mid-level bureaucracies, it’s Atwood, Oates, Gay, and Company.

COULD the reason for their lack of support be the perceived volatility of Zinzi Clemmons? From the start of the controversy, Clemmons’ combativeness has matched that of fellow accuser Monica Byrne:

Or–

In another tweet, Zinzi Clemmons gave Monica Byrne all credit for organizing the anti-Junot Diaz posse–

Like Monica Byrne, Zinzi Clemmons also said their accusations were the tip of the iceberg–

IN AN interview with the Johannesburg Review of Books on May 10th, Clemmons said “it’s worse than most people think,” and affirmed that many more women would come forward with allegations against Junot Diaz. Those women have yet to materialize.
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WHATEVER Monica Byrne’s contributions to breaking the story– with media encouragement behind the scenes– the most pressure among the accusers was put on Zinzi Clemmons. Handed the task of confronting Diaz at the Sydney Writers Festival. (Remember, the accusations were planned and coordinated in advance.) Zinzi Clemmons did confront him. It could not have been easy. Did she drop off of twitter because the pressure of being at the forefront of the story has become too much?

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REGARDLESS, this commentator is discovering the more he digs into the story, the more complicated it becomes. Which includes Zinzi’s volatile, score-settling spouse, and another, different sexual harassment accusation in the book world, which I’ll discuss in a future New Pop Lit NEWS post.

-Karl Wenclas