Blackballing 2018

A FICTIONAL EXAMINATION OF DEPLATFORMING AKA CENSORSHIP

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WE BELIEVE that fiction is a valid way of addressing current issues. “Fiction” can illuminate truths escaping other forms of investigation and argument.

The trick, of course, with writings that are in any way political, is making them credible. Putting balance into them so they’re not simply polemics. Not merely an unbalanced screed. Toward that end I focused as much on the failings of the lead character as on the issue he deals with. That much-dissed concept of objectivity comes into play.

The short story is “Safe Zones,” posted at one of my several personal blogs. (When deplatforming of myself occurs, eliminating all my forums and writings will be no easy task!)

***One of the things I wanted to convey in the story is how we’ve completely lost control of our own lives. That everything we do today requires a technological platform of some kind– without them, it’s difficult to live; to survive.***

Feedback to the ideas expressed, and to the writing itself, is welcomed.

-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

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Poetic Justice?

ONE REACTION TO THE AILEY O’TOOLE PLAGIARISM ISSUE

Ailey-OToole(Photo from The Rumpus.)

THE BIG NEWS in the U.S. literary world over the weekend was the accusation of plagiarism against young poet Ailey O’Toole. The past couple years O’Toole was incessantly networking a host of interconnected literary journals, becoming known within that well-protected, well-screened community as one of the art’s rising young stars– culminating in this interview at The Rumpus. Much drama there expressed. A troubled individual, no doubt.

NOW it’s discovered, by those who published and promoted her, that O’Toole was plagiarizing not just one writer, but a lot of them.

ANOTHER discovery has been less acknowledged– that Ailey O’Toole was an enthusiastic member of the so-called Poetry Cops. She worked hard at having fellow poet Rachel Custer removed as a reader at a lit journal called Barren Magazine— and blacklisted throughout the poetry world. (In this day and age, many literary journals actively support the idea of an ongoing blacklist of journals and writers.)

IS it poetic justice then for Ms. O’Toole to end up in effect banned herself?

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Is there a lesson in this?

IT MIGHT BE that more important than a writer’s perceived political stance is the quality of character. That when a poet is spending half her time trying to get other poets fired or blackballed– dissing and diming them out; instead of focusing on the art– it might be a sign of a lack of that long-forgotten quality.
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-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit NEWS

Poetry Cops: An Investigation

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FINDING THE RIGHT ANALOGY FOR TODAY’S CENSORS

WHO are the Poetry Cops? How do we best describe them?

We’ve already used the pod person analogy from “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” Close, but incomplete.  How about Programmed Robots? Blackballers use stock phrases and code words as if the phrases had been programmed into them.

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OR: Leninists?

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SPEAKING of which, there’s this. A Poetry Cop?

Their biggest mistake? Calling her a lady.

“That’s no business, that’s social injustice.”
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The “Mean Girls” analogy has already been put forward–

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FINALLY, we come to the most accurate parallel: Carry Nation:

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–and her acolytes:

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The cause may have changed, but the impulse remains the same: Stamp out bad behavior and the hint of untoward words, opinions and ideas wherever they’re found. BAN THEM!
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Beneath the silliness is a core truth. Freedom of expression is a value for the public-at-large. But for the artist, the writer, the musician, the poet, it’s VITAL. It’s everything.

Begin restricting language, the free expression of opinions and ideas, and you kill art.
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“Poets in Name Only”

When you’re squealing and snitching and stoolin’ and lying,
when banning other writers takes up all of your time,

Hunting down opinions different from your own,
not thinking of the damage and destruction you have sown.

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You’ve lost your credibility, poetical integrity.

You’d like another target, another carcass on your wall;
Kill ALL the other poets you’ll be the fairest of them all–
(you think)–
but the portrait in your closet says your cause is gonna stall.

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We don’t want your duplicity, mendacious mediocrity.

It’s ego it’s ambition it’s politics it’s pose,
narcissistic bonfires of art is how you want to close.

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Keep your hellish attitudes, your social justice platitudes. . . .

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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

Who Controls Universities?

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During times of upheaval, the students do. The programmed mob. Raging Id. An unleashed beast.

Dictators from Hitler to Castro to Pol Pot have known that students are the shock troops of totalitarianism.

Professors, those institutional markers of mediocrity, either stand aside, or rush to get in front of the parade. Administrators are as squeamish.

During times of protest, students feel their raging youth, their numbers and their idealism.

Attend one of those “Nutcracker” ballet matinees during the holidays and watch what happens when the children in attendance outnumber the adults– and they realize it. They take over the hall– shouting; screaming; running up and down the aisles.

We knew something was up in colleges when we had a table at the Allied Media Conference in Detroit two summers ago. I had sat at a table with a small press guy at the AMC in 2008. Back then it was a standard DIY zine-style event. Activists were there, sure. (Including myself.) But everyone was happy. The atmosphere, whatever your cause– if you had one– was harmonious. By 2015 the vibe had changed. No harmony. Instead: fragmentation. Each table with their own particular identity politics, from race to gender to abundant bodies– and everyone was angry.

Trump’s election didn’t create the anger. It set it off.

We sensed the irrational force hovering over the proceedings. Without question the self-righteous force is more dominant on college campuses now than in 2015. News events show this.

Mob power by its nature is intolerant. The question of “free speech” in the fight against injustice, to the youthful crowd on the side of right, is beyond irrelevant. Distasteful speech becomes an object of hate which must be steamrolled; cleansed away. Most people aren’t aware that Nazism itself was a youth movement which took over universities. Mob rule is always irrational, always fascistic, always totalitarian, no matter the flag of the moment it flies under.

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But who creates the mob–?

Death of the Alt-Right

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While it will likely stumble on in the political sphere a while longer, the so-called alt -right is finished in the literary realm. Didn’t take much to end it. An alt-right site, Excavation– digging up the underground, was forced to shut down by an aggressive antifa campaign. Its editor, Michael Marrotti, has vanished from view. From what evidence I’ve seen, the criminalized words he used ranged from “Jewish Sharia” to “white pride.” As epithets,  fairly mild– but still thought crimes in this well-regulated time. The poets who’d published their work at the site didn’t realize he was a white supremacist until told about it.

Marrotti himself is a working class poet from the rust belt city of Pittsburgh– not a person of any power. “Supremacist” is a misnomer. “Defensivist” might be more accurate.

“It’s all about pain
steak knives used
to warm the soul
from a frigid planet”
-from Marrotti’s poem, “Optimistic Poetry”

Another alt-right site, Casper Magazine, changed its name several months ago when the ideological weather vane began changing– at the same time its original editor, “Pozwald Spengler,” either radically changed his identity and belief system, or sped away without a whimper of protest, not to be heard from again.

At least two stories were expunged from the site, “Cathy” by Ben Arzate, and “Scumbag,” by Alice Florida Xu. They’ve been safely flushed down the Orwellian memory hole. No complaints heard yet from either of the two writers. Given today’s hysterical McCarthyist climate, one can understand their silence.

Other alt-right figures who were once buoyant about creating an intellectual alternative to today’s p.c. monolith have backed off from, or recanted, their ideas.

OUR CONCLUSION is that it was never much of a movement– more straw man than army. Its few writers and editors were easily intimidated. If any remain they’ll be rounded up by the antifa posses, publicly chastized and silenced.
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How much of a danger did alt-right-leaning writers pose? Could they have posed?

It’s noteworthy that these advocates of “supremacy” had not a sole representative at any of this nation’s major cultural and literary institutions. Not at publishing’s Big Five, nor at the Washington Post or New York Times, nor at The New Yorker magazine, Vanity Fair, Esquire, New York Review of Books, Bookforum, LARB, etc. etc. etc. Instead, individuals of marked privilege themselves at these bastions of influence have used the opportunity to themselves denounce any trace of alt-right thinking in literature today, to adopt a posture against privilege, and approve and endorse the angry antifa posses.

In the literary sphere, there are dangers and then there are dangers.

 

Disclaimer

CAUTION: We’re turning this blog into a free speech zone, where we’ll discuss actions of the New Censorship Movement; in some cases mentioning the incidents and names (gasp!) of those writers or literary sites which have been expunged from the Internet. Such actions reek too much of Orwell’s classic novel 1984 to suit our taste. Too many people have fought too hard for the freedom of expression all of us (up until now) have enjoyed, for us to casually sit by when such freedoms are restricted.

Example: Our upcoming new entrants in the All-Time American Writers Tournament include two controversial writers, one controversial in his political ideas and actions and the other controversial in his art. Should they be expunged from memory because they offended people?

We’re frankly amazed by the complacency of writers to what’s happening– but we shouldn’t be, given our own history within a well-regulated U.S. literary world. We may at some point discuss that history here, and the role it’s played in our thinking.
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THE WEEK IN POP LIT

The current week includes a very good new story by Brian Eckert which affirms the right of an individual to live life as he chooses. We also reported on the above-mentioned Tournament (more reportage this weekend). Keep up on pop lit doings at our home page.

Thanks for reading!