Recall I said I'd received about a hundred of them over this matter (not hundreds) over the past two weeks. For the most part they were relatively polite, an attempt to persuade me there is nothing to the CIA Paris Review story beyond what the NY Times reported. I treated them as an opportunity for dialogue, and responded to many of them, and received replies to my responses. The sense I had was that persons were trying to get a sense of what the ULA does or doesn't know. In turn, I asked questions designed to broaden my information. Not real cryptic-- but the fact remains that a great deal of time is being devoted to having us drop the matter, which was my point in mentioning the e-mails. The e-mails going to Cummings, on the other hand, have not been polite; have been insulting, abusive, and in my opinion, bullying.
Once I engage with people by e-mails, I treat them as off-the-record conversations. I'm no journalist, but I do want people to feel free discussing these matters with me privately.
Yesterday I had an exchange of e-mails with a Friend of Eggers, who seemed to be accusing me of something. Am I obligated to post those e-mails here? Of course not.
Is the Paris Review matter at all important? Paris Review over the years has had-- more than any other literary journal-- what all cultural entities crave: access to media. Access to media is power in this society. The chief reason no one votes for political parties like the Libertarians, for instance, is because they don't hear about them. Such parties have no access to media.
Through this access, George Plimpton was able to make literary "stars" out of nonentities like Jay McInerney. Plimpton also of course had connections to other kinds of star makers, from his good friend William Henderson at Pushcart Prize to editors and publishers at big publishing houses.
The creation of Paris Review was also important because it set the tone for other lit journals to follow. The tone is in William Styron's remarks upon the magazine's founding; that they wanted the "non-axe-grinders." This has been the prevalent philosophy of the literary world since. Any hazards that radical ideas might infiltrate themselves into literature were squelched.
The idea that Paris Review was not founded with CIA money is not plausible. Matthiessen used the journal as his "cover," yes-- but it's not as if it existed before he came to it; before he founded it. His joining it and its creation were simultaneous.
The idea that George Plimpton, son of Francis T.P. Plimpton, didn't know of the CIA connection from the moment he joined the magazine is not plausible. No other individual so fit the CIA ethos as George Plimpton, as I'll be writing about. That his pro-establishment concerns didn't stay with him through the course of his long tenure at Paris Review is not plausible. He was what he was, very much so.
In the past, Paris Review hasn't hesitated to speak up or threaten legal action to protect its reputation. At least, that was the case in 2005, as shown in an item on the 3/28 Galley Cat blog. Paris Review's then-Managing Editor Fiona Maazel told them, "I'm sure you do not delight in libel" in the context of a piece Galley Cat had run which had called Rick Moody a "financial backer" of the magazine, and discussed his resignation as a contributing editor. A minor issue, really-- yet enough to get Paris Review angry.
Strangely, in light of this example, for two years, about the CIA story, we've heard from Paris Review and its high-priced lawyers: Nothing. Not even a standard-issue threatening note on legal letterhead. Why not? Obviously they want no one looking into the matter.