A COMBUSTIBLE MIXTURE
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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