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

Ausbildung, Überrollen durch Panzer

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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Should Writers Be Purged?

LITERARY EDITORS AND PUBLISHERS are divided over the question of whether or not a writer’s work should be purged over misbehavior imagined or real taking place outside the sphere of the art itself. We may well be in the minority for answering, “No.”

Another question inevitably arises during such censorious periods: Where does the purge end?

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For instance, should Ezra Pound, founder of literary modernism, be deleted from memory banks and lit-history books? Should every award granted him be expunged?

(We addressed the question here in our yet-to-be-resumed All-Time American Writers Tournament.)

What do you do with a host of classic-but-problematic writers whose lives or art would today be considered beyond acceptable bounds?

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ARE WRITERS BEING BLACKBALLED?

We have the case of poet Joseph Massey, accused earlier this year of harassing women. According to Massey,  this was based on anonymous, distorted, and fictitious allegations. His chief accuser is a poet who had a two-year affair with him. I haven’t looked into the substance of the claims. Massey did admit, in a Facebook apology which was later taken down, to having issues.

WE’VE SEEN in the Junot Diaz controversy that an apology isn’t enough.

Joseph Massey, well-regarded though he’s been, lacks as big a name and reputation as Diaz. After the allegations, accompanied by an article or two about the matter, Massey’s work was deleted from The Academy of American Poets website, including an essay written about his work. Joseph Massey was also deleted from The Poetry Society of America, where he’d been announced as “New American Poet” in 2009. Down the memory hole.

NO DOUBT there are many flawed individuals within the walls of the literary scene, as there have always been. Some seriously flawed. As there have always been in the arts, period. History shows that many of the best artists, writers, composers, musicians, have been in some ways disturbed, wrestling with demons in the world, and within themselves. An argument can be made that it’s part of experiencing the world with more intensity than the rest of us. To feeling, raging, and suffering more than “normal” people.

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(Some will regard this as mere excuse making.)

Do we delete them and their work, all of it?

HOW MANY of the rest of us writers and poets have misbehaviors in our backgrounds which could someday be exposed? A few of us? All of us?

Do we all submit to background checks before submitting our work, just in case?

In this hyper-regulated day and age is the following statement obsolete– or does it still have relevance?

Let the one among you without sin cast the first stone.

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-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit NEWS

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

Junot Diaz Versus Lynch Mob

BUCKING THE ACCEPTED NARRATIVE

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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.

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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

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