Sunday, February 24, 2013

Is The New Yorker Undemocratic?


Every time I glance at the background of a New Yorker staffer or writer, I find a graduate of the Ivy League. Harvard, Yale, and Columbia mainly, with a smattering of grads from other elite schools like Oxford and Stanford.

What percentage of The New Yorker’s staff consists of those from unrepresentative, ultra-privileged universities?

These persons and institutions claim to be democratic, they aggressively portray themselves as liberal and progressive, but their structures, their entire careers and lives, are undemocratic, even anti-democratic.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

At The New Yorker


I notice that on February 14, The New Yorker magazine held a discussion, moderated by Amy Davidson, and including a panel of “experts,” on the subject of “Ethics and Drone Warfare.”

Think about that for a minute, because the very title of the subject is revealing. It allows the possibility that drone warfare could somehow, in their moral universe, be “ethical.”

Sell drones to us as a necessity for our survival. BUT, there is nothing remotely ethical about them. It’s an aspect of American Empire. There’s also something about them uniquely cowardly. They’re immoral. Neither do they achieve for the United States any moral benefit in the military sense of the word moral, which is akin to morale. Or: what kind of p.r. do they give us? Curiously, it was Obama who was going to change our image in the world.

(Were the atomic bombs dropped on Japan necessary? Possibly. Ethical? Were they not in fact a barbarous act, an instance of utter inhumanity?)

Which brings us to another question. All these staff people at The New Yorker suddenly showing questions about the Obama administration three months ago were giving him their slavish support. There’s likely not a person in the entire New Yorker building who didn’t vote for the man. It likely never occurred to any of them that there was any other choice.

After all, the argument goes: Mitt Romney would’ve been worse. We thus get a sense how the political game is played. Forget any talk about the Republican Party vanishing. They’re a necessity. They exist with the Democrats in a symbiotic relationship, because the existence of one justifies the behavior of the other. Any behavior. “Romney would’ve been worse,” the Amy Davidsons of mainstream media can argue—which justifies on the part of the Democrats in particular, and good liberals generally, anything. ANYTHING.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

What David Berman Said

When the ULA (Underground Literary Alliance) was fighting the literary establishment ten years ago, they didn’t know how to handle us. They couldn’t handle our credibility, our honesty, and the strength of our arguments. They were so badly losing on every point in the intellectual debate, they’d grasp at any occasion when it seemed one of their number scored a point.

Such was it with my e-mail exchange with David Berman, which Thomas Beller spotlighted in his 12/13/12 “River of Berman” essay for Tablet magazine. Like every other status quo writer discussing the ULA, Thomas Beller gives a false presentation.

In his essay, Beller quotes from part of this email from David Berman to me:

 “Look King, if you're going to be so civil about this then
disregard my first letter. I thought you were hot-headed
assholes looking for a fight. I got more projects than I can
handle now but I was willing to drop them all
for a good old fashion ass-kicking contest, not some fancy
symposium with wine and cheese. Obviously I'm talking to the
wrong guy. Who's the head asshole over there?

Tell him to call me,

David Berman”

Thomas Beller considers this dealing with the ULA “gracefully and usefully.”

There’s not a gram of honesty in Berman’s remark, and it has little connection with anything I said. Berman is being intentionally snarky, that’s all. He’s not serious about the “relevance read-off” he’d proposed and he’d never been serious about it. His retort is more on the order of a small child running up, yelling a putdown then quickly running away.  For some reason, Beller and others were impressed by Berman’s remark—given out of context. It was one out of a series of exchanges I had with him. The end result was that David Berman backed out of the read-off, though we proposed a number of venues. We, in fact, had a “Relevance Read-off” anyway a few months later, without David Berman, in Chicago—though we would’ve included him or anyone from Open City right up to the last minute.

Why does Thomas Beller admire this behavior? There’s nothing admirable in it. Berman challenged the ULA, on behalf of Beller’s mag Open City—then he never followed through on it. So what was the point? It exposed THEM as frauds, not us.  Here, by the way, is David Berman’s initial email to me on the topic. Note that it’s semi-coherent and disingenuous. Graceful? Useful? I wonder why Thomas Beller doesn’t reprint this email?

“My name's David Berman, I wrote a book of poems for open city
and heard about you folks from Joanna Yas. I've checked out
your website and agree with a lot of what I see. Moody sucks
and he's rich and its a crime he got a grant. McSweeneys is
fueled by a lot of arrogant nerds (who i count as a more
insidious demographic than standard issue elitists) and open
city published too much euro trash. Yet, i really believe these
people are not the enemy. they actually publish blind
submissions. Its the fusty old journals who wont give a young
writer an even break. i stopped submitting along time ago to
paris review etc. because i cant stand rejection. So i offer
you a challenge. you have seven guys or so on your committee.
select your best writer and i will read against him at your
venue. i will represent open city and paint my face our team
colors your guy paints his face your team colors. after the
reading we will pass out a ballot to the audience they will
vote for which reader fulfills your criteria for good writing.
It will be based on YOUR CRITERIA so you start out with an
advantage. how about it?

sincerely david berman”

Saturday, February 2, 2013

More McSweeney’s Brainwashing

Here’s an interesting quote from a writer named Gladstone, found at the Comedy Conglomerate’s blog:

“It took me a long time to learn the McSweeneys voice and I definitely had to conform to their mindset to get published consistently there. That is a magazine’s right, but yes, I found it limiting. And I don’t know if it’s true, but I was afraid to write too much for McSweeney’s for fear it would mess up my voice.”

Conform, people. Conform! It’s a subject I cover in The McSweeneys Gang, my newest ebook.

Thomas Beller Joins Ranks of Anti-ULA Smear Artists

NEWSFLASH: Thomas Beller has called King Wenclas, former head of Underground Literary Alliance, "a maniac" in Tablet Magazine. Reaction:

A smear, a slur, a libelous label, called a maniac by Mr. Beller of Mr. Beller's Neighborhood. Not such a nice guy after all.

I'm informed that ULA still has photo of Mr. Beller attacking ULA at Housing Works, which contradicts Beller's mischaracterization of the incident.

Mr. Beller: Let's discuss this.

(The incident is discussed in the new ebook novel, The McSweeneys Gang by King Wenclas, available at Nook or Kindle.)