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Oct 29, 2022·edited Oct 29, 2022Author

So, I opted to wait to comment 'til it appeared others had had their say about my essay. As the number of comments have remained at a total of 37 for a good number of hours, I think now is a good time to offer my own follow-up thoughts.

First, I want to thank the majority of folks for whom the essay resonated and also those few who were less than enthused. The reason I thank both groups is because if anything, I think the essay served to be something of an ice-breaker in terms of discussing some of the negative behaviors we all witness in online spaces among writers and publishers alike.

Next, I want to remind that larger group for whom the essay resonated of the old Chinese proverb, "It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness." I remind you of that because while I understand much of the frustration expressed in your comments, the proverbial darkness surrounding dogpiles, smear campaigns, false accusations, and damaged reputations is going to continue to exist. Reason being, social media is anarchic, and when it comes to online mobs, there is no central authority to appeal to for redress.

Recognizing that fact, the way I've chosen to light a candle is not simply to have written the essay above. I also host the On the Record blog, where James Diaz' Testimonial is archived. If you're a writer or publisher who's been the target of a dogpile and/or smear campaign where your peers have defamed and libeled you, then I am more than willing to try and help you, should you wish. And, I will do so free of charge.

How can I help you? I can help you to collect, organize, and analyze the “receipts” of any dogpile and/or smear campaign to which you’ve been subjected. And, to aid you in composing an argument that pushes back against any lies your peers told about you, and/or illogical arguments they made against you. Such a testimonial can be shared with individual writers or publishers should they come to you with questions based on rumors or gossip they heard. Or, it can be shared online via social media if deemed necessary to more publicly counter your detractor(s), most especially if they seek to continue (or resume) their smear campaign against you.

Please note, I understand how collecting, organizing, and analyzing such data about yourself can be triggering. As such, I can do as much or as little as you wish in terms of interacting with such derisive materials. I can also serve as a sounding board for sorting through all the myriad accusations and claims made against you in order to focus on those which are at the heart of the smear you suffered. In so doing, I can help to restore at least *some* of that sense of Self you had before your peers screwed with both your head and your reputation, and also provide you with something tangible to push back against any continued campaigning on their part.

With all that in mind, if you've been a target of an online dogpile and/or smear campaign and feel a testimonial would help you, then I can be reached by email at midnightlanegallery@gmail.com, or on Twitter @BAD_ACID_LABS

I’ll add, in the closing paragraph of the “Contextualizing Hobart Pulp,” I asked those who are tired of being passive bystanders and might wish to participate in awareness raising campaigns for their thoughts. But, the only two people in the comments who shared their thoughts on that matter was James Diaz and Alina Stefanescu.

This, I will admit, was a tad disappointing. Though, I’ll acknowledge the lack of curiosity related to what an awareness raising campaign might look like could at least be in part due to the open-ended manner in which I posed the question. And, little concrete detail as to what such an awareness raising campaign might entail, beyond my offering James’ testimonial and Michael Schmeltzer's FB slideshow as suggested reading.

Here, I think the question is, how might you light a candle? First, consider taking your primary focus off those who do the targeting and place it instead on those who've been targeted. For, the latter group is far and away more important than the former from an ethical perspective. Moreover, from a practical standpoint, it’s far easier to help one who’s been targeted than it is to change the collective behavior of a group of bullies.

Next, consider speaking up for those who’ve been targeted. Speaking up can be as simple as posting a testimonial on your social media platform, should a target desire such aid in order to help them rewrite the false narrative others have composed about them. Becky did that for James when she promoted their testimonial recently on this very Substack, as did Misery Tourism when they replatformed some of James’ poetry. If you’re a writer and/or publisher, others might need similar help from you promoting their stories or deplatformed work in the future. (And, you never know. You yourself might need such help in the future.)

If you wish to be an active bystander in pushing back against those cases where the Wisdom of the Crowd turns out to not be any too wise, then you can reach me at the same email address or Twitter handle I left earlier in this comment. Beyond building a pool of participants potentially willing to post any future testimonials, I'd also certainly appreciate volunteer help from anyone with a social science background in qualitative research to aid in collecting, organizing, and coding materials such as tweets and Facebook posts, should the need arise. For, I sense there’s a very good chance that need will arise.

If you have any related experience, I’d be glad to hear from you. Hell, if you have no experience at all, but wish to learn some basics in terms of conducting qualitative research and utilizing the findings to perform victim advocacy relative to online bullying, I’d also be glad to hear from you.

On that note, take care.

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Oct 27, 2022Liked by Becky Tuch, Johnny Longfellow

An element missing from this fantastic write up is that in the current climate where most literature exists in a closed-world community of other writers, the lack of external measures of success means that gaining "clout" functions more like high school cliques than like any meaningful engagement between writers and critics.

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Oct 27, 2022Liked by Becky Tuch, Johnny Longfellow

Thanks so much for this important post. It is so well reasoned and explores elements of this issue I was unaware of.

I am proud to have work up on several of the journals you list – first because of the quality of the company my poems are situated among, and second because of their courage in the face of the purity police. As an old leftist living in Trump country, I confess I have more productive conversations with my right wing neighbors than many of my fellow lefties.

I think the closest analogy: when the fellow next door argues with me about the election, he does not immediately demand I return his pressure washer I borrowed. Nor does he demand I stop writing poems about his son (who I loved as an only a neighbor can), lost to suicide – even when those poems challenges his beliefs about gun rights.

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Oct 27, 2022Liked by Becky Tuch, Johnny Longfellow

Becky,

Thank you so much for this thoughtful post. I am so glad to see an in-depth discussion of this phenomenon, which I find very concerning and upsetting. I think your suggestions of ways to protect journals and writers from being pulled under are important to consider. I would not want to be an editor of a journal in this climate. Editors are, in my opinion, heroes for putting themselves out there and facing this kind of wrath because of the decisions they make about what and who to publish. It's hard enough being a writer. I feel that having to use the word courageous (you are courageous for this post!) to describe editors and writers in this climate is indicative of what is so problematic right now.

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Oct 27, 2022Liked by Becky Tuch, Johnny Longfellow

Thanks for this. Smartest thing I've read about this whole mess. We do ourselves no good by eating our own.

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Oct 27, 2022Liked by Becky Tuch

As a new writer who wants to talk about some sensitive issues from a personal viewpoint that diverges from the accepted norm in literary circles, I worry about where/if/whether I will get those ideas published.

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Oct 27, 2022·edited Oct 27, 2022Liked by Becky Tuch

I don't know the details of the "mis-step" (a term that sounded like 1984 New Language to me when I read it and is a charge that sounds handy and ready to use to facilitate the "re-education" camps), but I can guess.

Firstly, I'm convinced Lenny Bruce would not be allowed to even breathe today. Today's electronic left has an active lust for censorship and a burning desire for groupthink, and that part of us, therefore, is no better than the MAGA cult. Maybe worse, because the veneer of "free speech" is just a gauze shield you can see right through with them.

Secondly, I can't keep track of what products I'm not supposed to buy, what magazines I'm not supposed to read, what websites I must block, which actors I'm supposed to boycott, and what words I'm not supposed to use.

Thirdly, fuck that shit all to hell.

I print out all the online stuff I have published here and there and file them in a box all with the physical publications that published me. I am in the process of republishing everything on Patreon - specifically in the case of hivemind crap like this.

When we were doing Thrice Fiction I published a writer who wrote a story that contained the "N-word" not in the form of "N-word" but in its actual word (and don't get me started about the gymnastics I just had to do to tell you about it just now). In the story, it was used by a bigot. The story concerned a guy who made it his life's mission to actually travel the country and piss on the graves of every racist segregationist he could think of. It was used because that's the way his opponent would talk, ffs. I got a couple of emails complaining and basically told the senders to go fuck themselves. Nothing came of it, but I almost wish it had because I was ready to go to war about it.

I look at young "reactors" on YouTube looking at old movies and cringe when the morés of today don't match the morés being depicted and their visceral, even predictable, reactions make them look either like Puritans or pearl-clutchers.

Put me down as ready to fight about cancellation, labeling, and what can only be described as cyber-bullying - a phenomenon that depends on the bully being and staying cowardly annonymous. /rant.

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Oct 27, 2022Liked by Becky Tuch, Johnny Longfellow

Johnny Longfellow, thank you for taking the time to put together this analysis. I am new to this issue and you’ve given me a lot to consider.

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Oct 27, 2022·edited Oct 27, 2022Liked by Becky Tuch

I read the actual original interview and it (referring to that, not this post) was interesting. The whole issue is so convoluted. I felt a lot of the content was both provocative, in the current climate, and also kind of substantively reasonable, AND presented (by both in interviewer and inerviewee) in an eggregiously bombastic manner--a sort of dare-devil move. So my sympathies are very divided.

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Oct 27, 2022Liked by Becky Tuch

Can't wait for St. Margaret of Atwood to demand she be 'de-platformed' from the archives of Playboy, that despicable magazine that first published Ray Bradbury's 'Fahrenheit 451', which was about a future of book burners and thought controllers. And rush to your bookshelves to bin anything by Raymond Carver because he got his start with Esquire. The only new suggestion I would add to Johnny's recommendations is to cancel your subscription to any magazine who cancels writers. ;-)

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Both history and human nature show that those who cancel today may themselves be canceled tomorrow [see: Brave New World; 1984 ; Animal Farm; The Trial; The Gulag Archipelago]

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Oct 27, 2022Liked by Becky Tuch

I can’t decide if this furor is more like the Salem Witch Trials or the book burning of the USSR. The American Left has become the very thing we used to despise: a mob intent on punishing or destroying anyone who disagrees with them.

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Nov 6, 2022Liked by Becky Tuch, Johnny Longfellow

Thank you J. Longfellow for your thoughtful, researched insights to the Hobart incident. And a big thanks to Becky Tuch too for sharing and creating this space. To have a piece published in a lit mag, which takes only first time rights but then archives the piece on its website, has always seemed like a win-win for the writer to me--despite the potential impermanence of the online journal. (I always make a pdf of my published lit mag work and advise other writer to do this too.) Looking at this thru the writer's lens, maybe it's isn't necessarily a win. It's clearly more complex in a situation like this, albeit not common. I'm left with some questions. When the founder of the Hobart and several editors left the magazine en masse, seems that the EIC was left with sole control. Who owns Hobart? The EIC? And if yes, then does she get to call the shots? Maybe, probably. Writers are not typically aware of the structure, like ownership, of a journal beyond what they can see in the masthead. What all do we need to know about a journal before we submit? I echo what others have said in this stream that journal editors are a dedicated group of lit lovers who do a giant service to readers and writers--for the large, large part. Does Hobart have advisors? If the journal had an advisory board in place, that might have helped to manage, or maybe avoid, the mass exodus. Who knows. But possibly there could have been facilitated discussions outside of social posts that could have led to a different outcome. Given how lit mags run, on small budgets and manpower, having an advisory board may be a luxury. Some have advisors, but I don't know how common that is. When a previously published piece is "rehomed," is it published with an * or some explanation of how it was included? I don't feel or mean to say that rehoming indicates that the work is of less quality, but rthe e-published piece has taken different editorial channel from all the other submissions. This might something for the writer to consider. Archival rights is interesting--but again from the writer's view, as long as those rights don't interfere with what the writer might then do with the work (submit to an anthology, incorporate into a collection, etc.) And as a writer, I'm not sure I want to give up my right to withdraw. I've read the Hobart has recruited another top editor, so it may be that the journal moves on and this incident fades away with time. But what if the editorial direction changes? What if there are more bombastic interviews? Of course, changes in editorial direction and missteps can happen with any journal at any time. And if a piece was included in a print issue, of course you can't change that. But if the journal and editor can remove my work (if I behave badly or in a way they don't approve), should I not be able to do the same? Again, Mr. Longfellow, thank you for all the work you did on this essay. I agree with many of the points you raise and potential ways to address this ugly aspect of the lit mag publishing climate. Last question: For the writer who has published work on Hobart's archive right now, what do you suggest? Wait and see?

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Looks like I'm in the minority here, but I feel like this column is off-key in several areas. Most of the editors I know offered to consider reprinting stories pulled from Hobart because they felt sympathy for the authors. Contrary to one of the main points in this column, I think most lit mag editors are decent people who are trying to promote stellar writing while supporting the authors. My eyes glazed before I made it through all the footnotes in the Longfellow column, but I don't recall any "competing" journals conducting smear campaigns against Hobart in regard to the Perez interview. (Do today's online lit mags really compete with each other?) Maybe I missed some instances of that? The magazines and editors I follow are generally not opportunistic vultures hoping to capitalize on another publication's downfall. And I can't blame authors for wishing to not be associated with a pub that blasted extreme political & social commentary all over Twitter. Why shouldn't authors have the right to ask that their work be removed in such volatile (and rare) situations? As the column bemoans, this is not the old days of print magazines. We're publishing in an electronic world now, and the landscape is different than it used to be. I think that's (mostly) a good thing. I do agree with the point that dogpiles are usually unnecessary and cause undue harm, and they happen too frequently on social media--but that doesn't mean we don't have the right to speak up when we disagree with something, like I'm doing now.

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I consider myself pretty far out on the left, politically, but it is so unfortunate that the forces of political correctness and thought/language control are able to run people out of the arena simply because they don't like/agree with what they read. Poetry/ writing isn't supposed to affirm/reflect the status quo but the gate keepers and ministers of taste apparently have forgotten about the utility of its subversive power.

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As a writer, I have the right for my work to appear in an online publication--and to disappear from that online publication if said publication promotes positions I deem problematic. I think the "smear campaigns" described in "Contextualizing Hobart Pulp" are exaggerated. Some editors, in sympathy with concerned writers, are offering homes for displaced work. Those offers are generously intended, and no author should feel it's inappropriate to republish elsewhere.

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