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.

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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

 

Junot Diaz Versus Lynch Mob

BUCKING THE ACCEPTED NARRATIVE

lynch mob

OUR BRAINS like to simplify the bombardment of information coming from all directions at them. They draw conclusions about an issue then file away those conclusions– but not the entirety of arguments, complexities, and nuances leading to them. Once those conclusions, right or wrong, become the accepted narrative, that narrative is embedded like concrete into the minds of thousands– even millions– of people.

THE MEDIA feeds on those narratives. It creates them, expands them and spreads them via headlines, hyperbole, and hysteria.

Leo-frank-police-have-the-strangler-headline
WITH the Junot Diaz issue we have a narrative that was already created. Sexual harassers everywhere– and they are everywhere. The frantic scramble to out them spread to the literary world. One or two members of the Old Boy network like Lorin Stein at Paris Review were quickly taken down. For a hungry media that wasn’t enough.

WHEN an aggressive activist fed media members gossip, rumors, and exaggerations about Junot Diaz, already worked-up journalists were primed to pounce.
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THESE THOUGHTS were occasioned by an exchange on twitter I became part of.

NOTE how minds have already been made up– that Diaz’s guilt in the matter is assumed. Attempts by Heather Quinn  and myself to bring up actual facts and evidence met with closed doors. (I ended up blocked.)

Junot Diaz’s fiction used to condemn him? Really? Why?

Because it fits with the accepted narrative about him, which was established by a media frenzy on May 4th and has since become embedded into the literary public’s heads.

But the authentic intellectual questions the accepted narrative.
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-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit News

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.)