Where’s the Evidence?

LATEST NEWS FROM THE JUNOT DIAZ CONTROVERSY

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The latest news from the Junot Diaz controversy is there is no news.

FROM THE MOMENT the Junot Diaz alleged harassment controversy broke big-time on May 4th, two of the three original accusers, Monica Byrne and Zinzi Clemmons, have made numerous tweets promising everyone that more stories would be forthcoming. Zinzi Clemmons has said she has “receipts”– emails from Junot Diaz documenting the fact he’d harassed her. Monica Byrne has mentioned time and again “39” other accusers waiting in the wings. Those who’ve been covering the story, including ourselves, have been waiting, and waiting, and waiting. (Alisa Rivera came immediately afterward with an incident from a date gone awry 15 years ago, as did ex-girlfriend Alisa Valdes with her experiences.)

THE ASSUMPTION– in my opinion the wager by the original three– was that Diaz was unquestionably an abuser and that many more accusers would come forward after the coordinated presentation on May 4th made international headlines. Monica Byrne had been through this twice before (see this), and based on those experiences, believed enough other women would come forward to remove Junot Diaz from his positions at Boston Review and MIT. As we now know, both institutions held the line.

HOW LONG had the planned revelations been under consideration?

Here is their genesis, in a few of the tweets exchanged between Monica Byrne and an initially reluctant Carmen Maria Machado– dating from 2015:

THE THIRD member of the trio was brought on board beginning in December of 2017, at the same time MeToo stories were breaking everyplace. See this, and this, and this.

MEDIA BLITZKRIEG

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GIVEN the intensity of the criticism, Junot Diaz should’ve been completely destroyed. The calculation with any such maneuver is that the target will be. It’s analogous to Germany’s “Operation Barbarossa” invasion of the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941. After a string of easy victories, Hitler believed the rotting structure of the world’s first Communist regime would collapse in on itself, as a result of a strong push. Didn’t happen. He didn’t count on the enormous fortitude of the Russian people.  What followed was a long, slow slog. Which is what’s been happening the last several months between both sides of the Junot Diaz controversy.

Bora Zivkovic and Raphael Martin, obsequious liberals unprepared for their personal idiosyncrasies to be exposed to the world, immediately apologized and resigned in the face of accusations. What happened in the Junot Diaz matter was that a recording of his verbal exchange with Carmen Maria Machado was produced– and completely changed the dynamic of the controversy. This led us, and others, to look further into the matter.

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WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? We’ll see.
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-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit NEWS

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The Other Harassment Case

THE ACCUSATIONS AGAINST DONALD FUTERS

futers3(Donald Futers in 2011.)

MORE COORDINATION BY ACCUSERS?

Curious or coincidence? On May 4, the very day his wife confronted Junot Diaz at the Sydney Writers Festival, her husband, Andre Naffis-Sahely, confronted Penguin UK poetry editor Donald Futers on twitter, referencing Junot Diaz in so doing:

TO WHAT did these inferences apply? Two days later he added this:

THE NEWS was breaking as he tweeted this. The person making the accusations: A.K. Blakemore:

Among the many articles in the United Kingdom about this controversy, most prominent may have been this one which appeared in The Times.

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(Poet A.K. Blakemore.)

At least one journalist in England was skeptical about the accusation:

WE at New Pop Lit NEWS haven’t looked deeply into the Donald Futers/Amy Blakemore issue. We’re unable to offer a judgement, or even an opinion, either way. What’s interesting as regards the Junot Diaz issue is that one of the principals there, Zinzi Clemmons, along with her husband, Mr. Naffis-Sahely, were instrumental in bringing Futers/Blakemore matter also to light. (For what it’s worth, Naffis-Sahely, like Ms. Blakemore, is published by Penguin UK.) More coordination? At the least, many conversations behind the scenes.

The following three tweets show Clemmons to be very much the activist on sexual harassment:

What’s the back story to this particular part of the expanding story? Far be it from us to say. What Futers is accused of doing (which he denies) remains vague. All we know for sure is that he and one of the writers he edits, A.K. Blakemore, went on a date in 2015. We also know that– as with Junot Diaz– his employer has not fired him. We know Zinzi Clemmons has been actively involved in both controversies.

andre naffis-sahely(Andre Naffis-Sahely.)

Keep in mind that both controversies are battles within the established literary scene, in the U.S. and the U.K. Donald Futers, like Junot Diaz, has been vocally and vociferously progressive. Which makes us think our second post on the Junot Diaz affair may have been on the money.

THERE IS YET another personality apparently involved in some way in the Futers/Blakemore issue. More, perhaps, about that upcoming.

-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit NEWS

Media Malfeasance?

QUESTIONS IN THE JUNOT DIAZ CONTROVERSY CONTINUE TO MULTIPLY

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(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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(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

How to Write a Hatchet Job

PRELUDE TO EXAMINING SLATE’S JUNOT DIAZ ARTICLE

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THE TRUTH is that a character assassination can be written on anyone– especially when you delve into the person’s long history of writings and cherry pick from them to bolster your argument.

Did Slate‘s Lili Loofbourow do this in her examination of the Junot Diaz sexual harassment controversy now dividing the literary world?

THE TRICK is that the same treatment could be performed on Ms. Loofbourow. For instance, two minutes of google searching found this article:

“In Praise of Fleabag and the Unapologetically Flawed Female Antihero.”

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The television show Loofbourow acclaims is, in her own words, “–a tremendous, oddly nourishing show about a liar and thief.” “It’s the story . . . of a woman who reads people too well and takes advantage of them,” “somehow desperate,” “a lean, amoral Matilda with no impulse control.”

(Anyone we know. . . ?)

Reading the article, one would think Lili Loofbourow doesn’t care, really, about apologies– nor about ethical behavior and truth. One could readily believe that Lili Loofbourow is simply a media gun-for-hire, fixing her opinions to fit the needs of her editors– or those of the greater conglomerate media herd.

That would be unfair.

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THE SLATE article is interesting to me, because it reminds me of a long essay that was written fifteen years ago for a major literary publication, about an activist writers group. A writers group coincidentally devoted to exposing blatant corruption in the established literary world. That long-ago essay was a well-written hatchet job, filled with half-truths, distortions, and omissions. It defined us, creating a narrative which became “the truth” about us in everyone’s heads, so much so that any journalist afterward covering the organization read that essay as part of their research on it, viewing it through the same prism of misconceptions.
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I’m not complaining. I’m stating how the game is played. Those who rise to a position where they crank out articles for a variety of publications play the game very, very well.

The solution? To create an alternative literary world, and alternative lit-media, not based in the shark tank of New York– one devoted to facts, talent, and truth.

COMING SOON: A more direct look at the Slate article.

-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit News.

Mischievous Monica

FRESH REVELATIONS IN THE JUNOT DIAZ CONTROVERSY

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MY LAST blog post (here) ended with Duke professor Jaybird O’Berski appearing to have engaged in sexual harassment of Junot Diaz-accuser Monica Byrne via twitter. At least, Monica charged him with such, providing an example.

But what if the sexual language he engaged in had also been engaged in by her– even encouraged by her? Apparently they had quite a few lusty conversations– on twitter and by email.

Below, a sampling of O’Berski’s twitter feed, taken from exchanges with Monica.

(Does this throw light on the other incidents– those outlined in my previous post? Judge for yourself.)

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Is there much more to say?

-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit News

The Cult of Junot Diaz

FOURTH IN A SERIES ON THE JUNOT DIAZ-BOSTON REVIEW CONTROVERSY

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RARE INDEED is it for a writer in  this day and age to create an obsessive fan base– but by all appearances Junot Diaz has done it, as I’m discovering while covering the ongoing controversy over whether he should or should not resign as Boston Review‘s fiction editor. His defenders guard twitter night and day, obsessively noting every hashtag related to the issue and commenting instantaneously. As someone who worries about the health of literature in this country, this is good to see.

THE QUESTION I’ve raised is to what extent the Junot Diaz persona matches the actual person beneath?

It’s unquestionable that he’s an intelligent person– by all indications a fairly complex one. It’d be naive to think he’s not to some extent in his public appearances playing to the needs of his audience. Would this be unusual? Not at all– not even in the pristine land of today’s literary scene, which some want to believe is all sunshine and cotton candy.

(Does anyone truly believe that the public good-guy persona of author-publisher Dave Eggers, for instance, is the actual person? Is anyone that naive?)

THERE’S ALSO the question implied by Carmen Maria Machado in her infamous recorded exchange with Junot Diaz. Namely, to what extent does the character Yunior in his book of stories match himself? A little? A lot? Does Diaz’s actual life match in any way the incidents described in the book? Is Junior in any way an aspect of Junot Diaz’s own personality?

These are questions which his defenders believe aren’t supposed to be asked about him– even though they’ve been asked about nearly every famous author who’s ever existed. (Did Hemingway’s characters resemble himself? Scott Fitzgerald’s? Naw! No way!)

ANOTHER PROBLEM the Cult of Junot has is with anyone who thinks his revelatory memoir in The New Yorker magazine was a mistake. Significantly, most who think it wasn’t are women. But I bring to the question the perspective of a man, taking the stance of the aforementioned Hemingway in regard to a confessional memoir called “The Crack-Up” penned by the aforementioned F. Scott Fitzgerald. Hemingway felt the publication of such material was a mistake; that it was better dealt with obliquely in a novel. Ernest Hemingway followed a stoic code forgotten or dismissed in this day and age.

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The New Yorker wants its male writers to reveal– if not revel in– their vulnerability. For example we need go only as far as one of the stories in their current fiction issue, “Fungus” by David Gilbert, which has the weepy male lead character searching at the end of the overwritten tale for a “pregnant tree.”

(We’re doing a feature on “Hamlet” at our main site in a day or two. I’m reminded of one of that character’s lines: “–wise men know well enough what monsters you make of them.”)

WHAT’S HAPPENING

VULNERABILITY. That word is the secret for Junot Diaz’s fanatical defenders and opponents, not a one who’s able to view the recent accusations against him dispassionately. They’re emotionally invested in the guy– likely because he exudes a sense of vulnerability. Women are attracted to this quality in a public personality– as could be proven by a long list of movie stars and pop music idols.

Are Junot Diaz’s accusers in fact (has been charged by his fanatic defenders) themselves frustrated fans? Ex-members of the Cult of Junot Diaz? (One anyway had an affair with him.)

There’s some logic to the idea. And as I said, if people are getting worked up over a writer, pro or con, that’s good to see. (David Gilbert no doubt wistfully wishes he could create that level of hysteria. . . .)

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MORE TO COME?

-Karl Wenclas on the New Pop Lit news beat.