How to Create Media Frenzy

THE JAY ASHER STORY

worldnewscollage

DID THE MEDIA MOB CONSUME ANOTHER PROMINENT AUTHOR?

A few months before the Junot Diaz accusation story broke across the globe, there occurred another media meltdown over an author accused of misbehavior– this one generated by a statement made to two media outlets which did little-to-nothing to investigate the story the statement was about. The person who made the statement, director of a writers organization, was at the time herself being pressured from an online mob to “do something” about the issue of sexual harassment. She did. An author’s career was all-but-destroyed as a result.

The writer? Jay Asher, author of the #1 best-selling novel 13 Reasons Why, which was the basis for the popular Netflix TV series.

Thirteen-Reasons-Why

New Pop Lit NEWS first covered the story in a general way last February, in an article we titled, “Publishing Industry Feeding Frenzy.”

(NOTE THAT the key part of the matter, an article at School Library Journal which received 199 comments, has been taken down. This is a story in itself, which we may or may not address in a separate report.)

The January 3 SLJ article can be considered THE CRUX OF THE MATTER, because this was where, for all intents and purposes, the story about Jay Asher’s behavior originated– via anonymous comments to the article. As our NPL NEWS post indicates, SCBWI Executive Director Lin Oliver felt herself under pressure from those comments.

Lin_Oliver_-_2015_National_Book_Festival_(2)

( Lin Oliver)

Indications are that Oliver and her staff were, at the time, unable to investigate the matter. She reacted regardless, making statements to Buzzfeed News, then to Associated Press, that Asher and another writer had been removed from her organization. (Jay Asher denied he’d been removed, and denied the harassment allegations themselves.)

That was it. A face-saving response to two media outlets. The result? A media feeding frenzy.

media3

How bad was it?

Here’s an incomplete list of media stories run on the matter in a three-day period, from February 12th through the 14th. (Many of the outlets reprinted the Associated Press article verbatim, with-or-without attribution. Others modestly reworded it while saying the same thing.)

buzzfeednews.com
apnews.com
people.com

vanityfair.com
businessinsider.com

indiewire.com
ew.com
teenvogue.com
theguardian.com
publishersweekly.com
usatoday.com
thoughtcatalog.com

nme.com
mashable.com
nylon.com
independent.co.uk
narcity.com
popbuzz.com
slate.com
bustle.com
seventeen.com
fortune.com
jezebel.com
nydailynews.com
hollywoodreporter.com

vulture.com
hellogiggles.com
foxnews.com
globalnews.com
clevver.com
billboard.com
mynorthwest.com
sltrib.com
wtnh.com
perezhilton.com
wionews.com
popculture.com
thewrap.com
country105.com
kare11.com
tvweek.com
mtv.com
9news.com
canoe.com
enstarz.com
lifezette.com
triblive.com
complex.com
ksby.com
wpxi.com
wtop.com

cosmopolitan.com
ibtimes.com
wftv.com
post-gazette.com
zimbio.com
chron.com
bookstr.com
wbal.com
refinery29.com
deadline.com

videtteonline.com
fox23.com
tristatehomepage.com
tvguide.com
betches.com
thebookseller.com
popcrush.com
girlfriend.com

cbc.ca
popstaronline.com
booksandpublishing.com/au
breitbart.com
yalovemag.com
sanluisobispo.com
cuestonian.com

Talk about destroying a career! All of these sites prominently displayed a photo of Jay Asher, with properly hyberbolic headlines: variations of “13 Reasons Why Author Jay Asher was booted from a writing organization over sexual harassment claims.” One of them picked that up a notch, with: “13 Reasons Why author becomes literature world’s Harvey Weinstein.”

THIS, over a disputed dismissal from a writers organization because of anonymous comments on a blog!

AS A RESULT, Asher’s Philippines tour was called off, numerous other speaking appearances and book signings were quickly canceled, his literary agent dropped him, and at least two bookstores stopped carrying his books. (See Westbrook bookstore dumps books by author.”)

Jay Asher’s somewhat-less-widely-circulated defense can be found at his blog.
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-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit NEWS

 

Schizophrenic Literary World

THE CURIOUS REHABILITATION OF TAO LIN

Tao_Lin_in_2010_(cropped)

THE WAR within establishment literature continues– as evidenced by this article by Jakob Maier of Buzzfeed News commenting on the sudden comeback of alt-lit opportunist Tao Lin.

(NOTE: Buzzfeed News was at the forefront of promoting accusations against Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Diaz— we have yet to receive a yes-or-no answer from reporters Amber Jamieson and Dara Levy about how much they knew in advance about the Zinzi Clemmons confrontation with Diaz at the Sydney Writers Festival this past May.)

ACCORDING to the Jakob Maier article, Tao Lin is currently being promoted by several icons of the established literary world– Vintage Books, The New Yorker and New York magazine. Anna Silman of The Cut (a New York mag project), has been leading the charge against Junot Diaz, so it’s a bit surprising to see this article in New York about what Tao Lin– accused of statutory rape four years ago– adds to his shopping cart.

shopping cart

AS Tao Lin infamously published a book titled Shoplifting at American Apparel, can we surmise that he doesn’t have a shopping cart? Confusion, confusion, all is confusion.

(To add to the confusion, the publisher of that book, Melville House, has also been on the anti-Junot Diaz bandwagon.)

For the record, Tao Lin as a writer is no Junot Diaz. In this critic’s opinion he has yet to demonstrate any writing talent at all.

More worrisome is possibility that the entire alt-lit movement of literary scam artists will make a comeback. Let’s hope not.

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.

wwI
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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

puzzle

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