Sunday, January 23, 2005

Understanding the Herd

"I never truckled. I never took off the hat to Fashion and held it out for pennies. I told them the truth. They liked it or they didn't like it. What had that to do with me? I told them the truth."
-Frank Norris

Back in the early 70s, Richard Nixon ended the draft and "Vietnamized" the war, based on his knowledge of the American psyche. Take the views of carnage off television screens and the populace would once again become complacent. He knew they weren't against war, carnage, domination and exploitation per se; they just didn't want to have to think about it.

Such is the major impetus behind anti-war outrage now for many affluent people. They want the war off their TV screens because it forces them to think about the brutal nature of American civilization. It gives them hints about the source of their affluence. (Cheap gasoline, anyone?)

I see a similar mentality at work with the lit-world herd. Many willfully avoid the ULA's fan site and the information given every week in our "Monday Reports," because the revelations might force these writers to have to think. Just as Kerry and those running his campaign didn't want to change the inequities of this society (only apply band-aids along the margins), so do many writers not want to alter the inequities and corruptions of literature. Change is disconcerting. They'd rather cling to the system they have.

STRIKING about last week's dust-up was the way peer pressure worked on many lit-bloggers. Starkly amazing was the 180 degree switch in opinion some of them went through over the nine plagiarism examples. The examples themselves didn't alter a bit-- and still haven't. Extraneous matters such as the ULA's previous battle with Bissell (which I thought was common knowledge-- and was ALLUDED TO in the opening lines of the e-mail I sent out) didn't change one iota the matter at hand. Yet the way the herd viewed those nine examples switched dramatically, as if their 1984 hate screens told them Eurasia was now the enemy and not Eastasia. They seemed to lose control of their own minds.

The herd dictated their opinion. Once Maud came forth with her views, and in effect TOLD THEM WHAT TO THINK, the debate in their heads was over, as Maud represents the voice of the herd. As I said, she never deviates, is never "wrong" in her judgement of which are safe targets on the lit scene and which are not.

Lit-bloggers showed sudden explosive anger when put on the spot-- when I listed three of their names. This was a trigger, because it said they were to be forced to address an uncomfortable matter; to use their minds, take a stand, engage their consciences, have an opinion-- and thus their anger at me for forcing them to do so. There's no question as to what Bissell did-- it's there in black and white. All one has to do is read the words. (You can scroll down and try again.)

But the matter had already been ignored for too long, and cut too close to the very nature of the lit-world. The lit-bloggers searched for any excuse they could find to say this wasn't plagiarism-- side issues involving the ULA's perceived flaws-- because if it wasn't plagiarism, their consciences would be eased, their pose as progressive angels sound, their lit world a place of harmony and fairness-- all would be right in their bubble of a universe.

With their outrage at my breach of protocol, their masks dropped and their true opinion of us and the classes below them came out. They hurried to link to past blog posts which labelled the ULA as neanderthal know-nothing morons.

(Why the working class is reluctant to support "liberal" politicians: We sense their true contempt for us, and the fact that at crunch time they invariably sell us out. Examples available upon request.)

The bulk of bourgeois lit-bloggers scorn the ULA and its writers for our non-genteel nature and the gritty honest authenticity of our poems and prose-- as they wear their Kerouac and Scott Fitzgerald t-shirts and drink from their Dostoevsky and Shakespeare coffee mugs (writers who were either notorious misspellers or notably unpolished). (Note: Bukowski still hasn't become "hip" enough for this crowd.) The contradiction will never register.

Demi-puppet brains were engaged for three days-- unfamiliar and dangerous territory (frightening terrritory)-- then their brains began shutting down across the board. Notes went up on their blogs one after another, "This is the last I'll say about the matter"; "This is my final post about this"; "I'm not going to name those people." Metaphorical lights seen turning off as portions of brains throughout demi-puppet land began closing.

(I'll wager you won't see them on these threads again. The word has gone out to them. Disputing with the underground is too risky. They might become contaminated. Look at Galley Cat! She's probably undergoing re-education sessions as I type this.)

There wasn't a shred of objectivity in the demi-puppet blog posts about the Bissell matter. The side they took was predetermined-- they looked for arguments to fit their viewpoint.

They can answer that I wasn't objective either. I'm sure I wasn't. I'll gladly admit it. Then again, I could've easily taken Bissell's side in things, to get right with the proper crowd. He sucked-up to me via e-mail right after The Believer article came out (as he does to anyone he perceives has some power), and indeed, did so in the article itself. Wouldn't it make sense to get along with Bissell, Franzen, Eggers, and the rest; to "go along to get along"? This is how any demi-puppet would play it.

But the ULA does not consist of demi-puppets.


Anonymous said...

This train of thought was kicked off by Noah Cicero's strong post under "Comments" on the "Mediocrity" thread, and is kind of a continuation of some of the things Noah said.
I also want to mention that I've found on one of my e-mails the July 2 2004 e-mail "Ranger West" (I know his real identity, as does Bissell) sent Tom Bissell, in which Ranger pointed out that Bissell gave no attributions in the hardcover book (which negated TB's excuse about the Harper's essay that there wasn't enough room). Ranger asked Tom merely to issue a public explanation and apology. I was cc'd on this e-mail. To my knowledge, Tom Bissell never responded. To my knowledge, neither he nor Harper's has ever apologized. Such a simple step to make! Can't you all see the arrogance? And why? What for?

Anonymous said...

I have to mention also the ironic behavior of some of these people. One of our biggest blog critics has posted a bit praising Leadbelly, the iconic roots musician. Something strange about this pampered bourgeois conformist brat applauding the ultimate outsider-- while ignoring the literary outsiders and Leadbellys (Jack Saunders and Wild Bill Blackolive to name two) of now. Back in Leadbelly's day, he wasn't on the radar screen, was ignored, and any of the trendy "good people" and their wannabe sycophants of that time would've scorned him, just as similar kind of good folks scorn underground writers now. As I've said, the inherent contradiction will never occur to them-- they'll embrace something long after it was edgy and new, when it's become properly defanged and safe; when the originators are long dead and can become just another manufactured product the photo of which the poseurs can hang on their walls or post on their conformist blogs.

Adam Hardin said...

The Best Young Poets in America Courtesy of Verse Press:

Eleni Sikelianos

"My love and I love/each other so much we dream/the same dream of kitty litter I am not/making this up..."

I am not making this up. Really I am not.

Christian Hawkey:

"Duodenum, umbilical rain, fist; temple sextant, skeleton key/ant;whispercourse/eleven holes, over the counter, life/...."

That is quite a list Mr. Hawkey.

Katy Lederer:

"Around a white orchard, a frame. It is winter/and the mountains hum. The birds fly/less often now/I see her hand, and in it dread/ of me/..."

Did someone call for a Hallmark Card?

Steve Healey:

"Funny how the cookie just sits there/containing its wisdom and raisins/ or does it secretly expand beyond/the baker's mind to include/the concentric cooing of mourning doves..."

That truly is the worst few lines I have ever read.

I don't make this stuff up. There is more at Verse Press.

Noah Cicero said...

I don't think this is a continuation of my thoughts on the earlier post. If you go to a football game where 70 thousand people are watching, show up and ask the people in the stands what the people on the field are doing, they will reply, "Playing football." Their behavior is that obvious.
I've noticed walking around the last three months talking about The ULA with people, not preaching The ULA's name but just talking it what stands for. If I tell a working class person about it they don't put up a fight and just listen, because they know this is how the shit goes down. They know the notion of picking oneself up by their bootstraps is absurd and a sick joke. Everytime I've told an upper class college kid about The ULA I am immediately confronted with a fight resembling the nonsense that Maud and her bitches have thrown at The ULA. The mention of class always causes them to blow up and scream!
Wenclas and The ULAers know this, what makes this so sick and cruel is because it is that obvious.

King said...

I want to make another point about "the herd": that a cattle herd is one thing the ULA is not going to be. I want this to be an untamed wolf pack-- no conformists. Though we will and do have a variety of wolves-- from more quiet talents to satirists to ranters to investigators to reading crashers. This started out as a team on the order of the X-Men or Fantastic Four or the JLA, and we like people who have unique super-powers or skills to add to this, and we prefer people who are just a little crazy-- or at least in some way unique. There is no room at the ULA recruiting station for time-servers and ticket-punchers. We want D-I-Y activists or strikingly unique talents. The original team was chosen by me by just these very criteria-- and we've tried to maintain those standards. Most if not all members have earned their entrance onto this team, proved their cred, in some way. Not all that different from joining a biker gang. Or-- this is the kind of thinking we should return to as we decide this group's makeup.

Anonymous said...

Wenclas - the lit bloggers don’t scorn you because you are revolutionary. They scorn you because you are a fucking asshole. Showing up at a reading and heckling authors is the kind of douchebaggery you’d expect from right-wing dickheads - not readers. Where the fuck was your pissant group when the republicans were in town? Why the hell weren’t you here raising hell then? Because you had a reading to storm? You fucking wanker. You wouldn’t know a barricade if it was rammed up your ass, and that’s why no one’s buying what your selling.

Noah Cicero said...

I wrote an article with Bernice Mullins concerning the repubilcans which can be found at
The month it was at the Newtopia site it had over a 100 thousand visits and it was also on the Retort Magazine site which had over 30 thousand visits that month. But there is no audience for a ULA writer's work? The fact that ezines concerning politics or literature with barely any professionals can get thousands of visits proves without a reasonable doubt that there is a demand for a new literature and a new political discussion. and some say anybody can start an ezine, there are millions of them, well that proves it too. Why are there so many ezines posting work from unprofessional writers if there isn't a need for it.
Like most people against Bush we found around the election and especially after that it was not Bush that was the problem, it is the system. And Bush stole another election and the Democrats didn't say a damn word. And most of the people who protest Bush are just people who think it is hip to protest, that's why they never get anything accomplished. The difference between The ULA and the Bush protesters is that a ULAer is condemning with force the works of the MFA demi-puppets, The ULAer is declaring that their whole system is wrong, should be wiped out and changed. While the Bush protester is standing there holding their sign thinking, "I am so cool, people will think I'm so hip for protesting Bush."

Anonymous said...

This is for Anonymous above:

>Wenclas - the lit bloggers don’t scorn you because you are revolutionary. >They scorn you because you are a fucking asshole. Showing up at a reading >and heckling authors is the kind of douchebaggery you’d expect from right->wing dickheads - not readers.

Actually, Anon, if you look carefully you'll see that Karl's most vituperative criticism generally revolves around a few themes:

-wealthy and/or well-connected writers palming taxpayer-supported need-based grants to one another;
-specific authors who have unfairly attacked the ULA first, or who generally hold hostile viewpoints towards independent/self-published authors;
-those who defend the above and/or the status quo.

I assume you're talking about the infamous KGB/balloon-popping incident? I wasn't there, and don't claim to speak for Karl, but Anonymous, somebody popping a balloon at a lame reading isn't "douchebaggery," it's simply funny and kind of embarrassing, like farting at a funeral.

I also find it telling that you call such alleged behavior worthy of "right-wing dickheads"--which is interesting, because the vast majority of hostility towards the first amendment (PC speech codes on campuses, warning stickers on albums, "hate speech" legislation) has typically come from the LEFT. I find far more sympathetic/interested people on the right when it comes to loud, healthy, boistrous debate. Liberals tend to retreat to the patronizing stance that they simply KNOW BETTER, so the rest of us better shut up and listen.

>Where the fuck was your pissant group when the republicans were in town? >Why the hell weren’t you here raising hell then? Because you had a reading to >storm? You fucking wanker. You wouldn’t know a barricade if it was rammed >up your ass, and that’s why no one’s buying what your selling.

Perhaps he's too smart to fall for phony, Coke-or-Pepsi reactionary political posturing? People go to protest marches for the same reason they go to psychiatrists or hookers: it makes them feel better about themselves. I've met Karl only a couple of times but I can tell you he's one of the most sane, thoughtful, and gentle souls I've ever met (sorry to blow your cover, karl)--whether he farts at those funerals you call readings or not.


King said...

Well, the fact is that I and some members of the ULA protested the war when it made sense to-- before it began-- at a time when the trendy posers were nowhere to be found. Funny that our anonymous poster/poser doesn't mention our appearance at Housing Works (a narrative of which is still on the site) when we asked why the hip crowd were reading dead stories about trees at the very moment the storm clouds of war were looming overhaed. We ASKED the McSweeney's/Open City for a simple discussion of the coming event-- and were expelled as a result.
I'm not a Democrat or a Republican-- they're both corrupt parties in my book-- though one has a happy face slapped on it and the other tells you its agenda as it is, naked, without hiding what they are.
Oh, I know all about "progressives"-- I worked four years lately phone-fundraising for an environmental group and witnessed their bourgeois impotence in the face of this system.
Now that the war is on, I'll leave it to others to make noise. I have a brother who's a D.A.V. and in respect for him I'm not going to do anything that might be seen as not supporting our troops-- many of course are poor/working class people who've gotten way more than they bargained for.

Sorry, but I do hope the war ends as soon as the election is over, as do most of us.

King said...

p.s. Some of my best memories of Philadelphia in the short time I've been here are of doing anti-war poetry readings in early 2003 on streetcorners, in the rain in yuppy parks as people ignored us, and so on.
As for "the barricades"-- some of the verse in my new zeen, "Hot Poetry" ("Walt Whitman on speed" --Tom Hendricks) I think go on those barricades-- "American Clowns"; "Reflections on the 2004 Conventions"; and so on. Order your copy now! (Only three dollars cash to the ULA address.)

King said...

(To give credit where credit is due, I should add that the outdoor readings were organized by perpetually angry poet Michael Grover, who, despite or because of his constant anger, is always bringing poetry "to the people"-- in this instance to park yuppies who really didn't want to hear it; which was okay because we had fun regardless.)