The Removal of Junot Diaz

ORWELLIAN BEHAVIOR IN A POLITICIZED LITERARY WORLD

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While looking into another matter, we stumbled upon this article by Matthew C. Winner. Or rather, a note from Mr. Winner about an April 24th podcast involving Junot Diaz and Leo Espinosa, “The Children’s Book Podcast #435,” which on May 5th was removed.

AS Winner’s own comment states, the removal took place within 24 hours of accusations of sexual harassment being made against Junot Diaz– a knee-jerk action after no reflection, no investigation, no waiting for any dust to settle.

WAS Matthew Winner caught up in the media hysteria over the matter?

Note that he refers to “an overwhelming number of women” making such charges. (There were four by this time. An ex-girlfriend chimed in ten days later.)

Winner also says,

I, Matthew Winner, and The Children’s Book Podcast will not support the works of individuals accused of misogynistic acts, sexual predation, or any other offense against women. That behavior is intolerable. . . .

Do you catch the jump in logic? He goes from “individuals accused” to “That behavior.” For Michael C. Winner, the accusation is enough.

To make his point he slaps a large “REMOVED” over the image of Junot Diaz.

Flushed down the memory hole?

banned****

-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

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.

naffissahely - Edited

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

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

How Does a News Story Go Viral?

PUBLICITY IN THE JUNOT DIAZ CONTROVERSY

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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.”

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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.

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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

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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

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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

 

 

 

 

 

The Monica Byrne Four

EXAMINING ONE THREAD OF THE JUNOT DIAZ AFFAIR

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WHY FOUR?

THERE HAVE BEEN four men in the arts and publishing worlds accused of sexual harassment by Monica Byrne. One of them is award-winning author Junot Diaz. The charges by Byrne and several others against him have gained international attention.

(For purposes of this post, not included are the unsupported allegations Monica made about Melania Trump one year ago– addressed in other New Pop Lit News blog posts.)

In an attempt to find the truth of the matter, I decided to look into the incidents of the three other men– besides Junot Diaz– who were accused.
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FIRST, let me state that one has to be skeptical of any powerful institution– such as MIT– dealing with such matters, as the first instinct of any such institution is CYA: “Cover Your Ass.” For a tragic example of this we need look no farther than Michigan State University. In matters of public opinion– not in the courts– the burden of proof may well be on the involved institution.

SECOND, I believe that in all these affairs Monica Byrne sees herself on the side of truth and justice; that she’s made these accusations in pursuit of a good cause. I don’t question that. I’m describing what happened in these instances to see if misperceptions and miscommunications were involved. (As appears to have been the case with Carmen Maria Machado and her encounter with Mr. Diaz.)
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A.)  Bora Zivkovic

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In September of 2012 Monica invited Bora Zivkovic, editor and blogger at Scientific American, for coffee to talk about her work. They met at a cafe in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. According to her narrative, she discussed her visit to a strip club, among other things she’d done in pursuit of stories. Zivkovic opened up about his sex life with his wife. Monica was bothered enough by the encounter that afterward she sent him a note about it, then another. He apologized. In October Monica wrote about the incident for her blog, without naming him. A year later, October 2013, she updated the post, naming Bora Zivkovic as the man involved, and also contacting Scientific American about the incident. When two other women came forward with similar complaints, Zivkovic quickly resigned from his position at S.A. One of the other women complainants later said this:

-it may not look like sexual harassment. There was no actual sex or inappropriate touching. Bora wasn’t vulgar toward me, nor did he even directly announce his interest. It was all reading between the lines–

B.)  Raphael Martin

Raphael Martin

In 2013 Raphael Martin, then Director of New Work at Soho Repertory Theatre in New York, was visiting Durham, North Carolina. Monica Byrne had written a play she wanted Martin to read and somehow arranged to be part of a group he had dinner with in town. After dinner he invited Monica for a “late night rendezvous drink.” When they met up he may or may not have already had a drink, according to her Facebook write-up on the encounter, posted three years later on 10/25/2016.

Monica told Raphael Martin about her latest play, “Tarantino’s Yellow Speedo”– “about a polyamory cult at the Olympics.” According to Monica, “he seemed weirdly affectionate.” Despite this, she offered to drive him back to his hotel. On the way, he questioned her about whether she was polyamorous. She “tried to glide over it, saying yeah.” When they pulled up to the hotel he gave her a hug “that made my skin crawl, and sort of fondled my forearms.” Receiving no positive signal from her, he got out of the car and she drove home.

In 2016 Monica sent her blog write-up describing the encounter to a Facebook friend, who shared it and asked publicly if anyone else had also been sexually harassed by Raphael Martin. When other women described similar incidents he was quickly fired by Soho, left the job quietly and moved to London, England.

C.  Junot Diaz

junotdiaz

I still have a few questions regarding Monica Byrne’s encounter with Junot Diaz. Such as:

-Who was the date Monica mentions in her Facebook post on the incident, and why hasn’t that person come forward? *See added comment below.

-The dinner at a restaurant was after a sold-out talk Junot Diaz gave at the North Carolina Literary Festival in April, 2014. Likely everyone there would’ve liked to have been at the afterglow dinner. How did Monica and her date manage the invitation?

-Famed author Peter Straub was described as very present at the dinner, witness to all that occurred. Why has he had no comment? (Btw, I asked him for one via twitter. No response.) *See added comment below.

LIKE Zivkovic and Martin, when the accusations against him appeared Junot Diaz said all the right things, quickly withdrew from a literary festival and cancelled other public appearances. The statement issued in his name from his literary agent:

I take responsibility for my past. That is the reason I made the decision to tell the truth of my rape and its damaging aftermath. This conversation is important and must continueI am listening to and learning from women’s stories in this essential and overdue cultural movement. We must continue to teach all men about consent and boundaries.

WHAT HAS to be noted about all four of these men is that they’re all politically progressive. Their public statements have long been in support of women’s issues, and against the kind of behavior they were accused of. Which does not at all mean they weren’t themselves engaging in such behavior. All four are gregarious, touchy-feely men, “huggers,” who felt no inhibitions (until now, obviously) in engaging regularly in such contact. All appear harmless– and in these affairs, hapless. For what it’s worth, not a one is your stereotypical ultra-macho ogre. Not one made much of a protest, personally, against the charges. They meekly left their fates in the hands of others.
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BUT WAIT! Haven’t I spoken about four men accused by Monica Byrne of sexual harassment? Yes, there’s a fourth, and on the surface things don’t look good for him.

Here’s a tweet Monica recently sent out to the world, dated June 6 of this year:

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D.)  Jay O’Berski

oberski - Edited

The accused, Number Four. A theater professor at Duke.

IS there more to the story? Much more???

STAY TUNED!

-Karl Wenclas
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Playboy and Today’s War Between the Sexes

OR: WHY ARE PROGRESSIVE MEN HARASSING WOMEN?

New Pop Lit

The question isn’t as off-the-wall as it seems. What’s taking place is an internal war between two parts of the sexual/social/cultural revolution which kicked-off in the 1960’s and is ongoing.

ON ONE SIDE you have the hedonists and free-love people. Their first advocate was Hugh Hefner of Playboy magazine fame.

playboy

Recall his ethos? The playboy devotes himself to having as many women as he can, all the time. A generation of men– several generations, really– were raised to believe that their share of the sexual revolution could be summed up in one word, which begins with a “p.” (It’s not “playboy.”) Give women their rights; give them their freedom, and this in return was the payment. Another “p” word, “the Pill,” made this, at least for a time, reality. Woodstock, 1969:

Przystanek Woodstock 2012

Free love. Old-fashioned monogamy destroyed.

THOSE MEN who eagerly embraced this were sexist pigs, yes, but many were on the left– or, if they weren’t to start with, soon enough joined it. Businessmen throwing away their ties and grabbing paisley shirts and beads before eagerly jumping into the pigpen with the rest of the gang. Liberation.

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THE OTHER SIDE in this battle is the feminist movement, a huge portion of which has pulled back on this unlimited freedom, no limits, appetite-all-the-time part of the deal. Their avatar is Catherine MacKinnon.

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What does this have to do with men accused of sexual harassment in the literary realm?

HAVE progressive men, in sympathy with women and women’s issues, felt at liberty to go beyond normal bounds with them?

I’ll explore this, with examples, in my next post. Coming soon.

-K.W.

(Be sure to follow this blog to get all the updates. Much is upcoming.)