Saturday, May 17, 2008

Victory Denied?

I've had some time to think about ULA strategy, its successes and failures. I realize how close we came to collapsing the whole shitty mess of the literary elite on more than one occasion.

My question: Why did people on the other side exaggerate our threat, giving us power we didn't have-- the ability to shut out privileged writers? Because that's how they saw us, a sign of their own weakness.

Isolating just the activist campaign-- one of four legs of the original strategy-- one can see how in its early stages it worked beautifully. Targeted was not the entire literary establishment-- always unnecessary-- but a few isolated pressure points. We struck inside the very heart of the beast. The main part of our total campaign-- in-person protests and shows combined-- in 2001 lasted a grand total of six weeks before the ULA itself split in half, yet the momentum we generated carried through 2003.

Until 2004 a few core remaining members did enough to keep the momentum rolling, despite our limitations. Establishment response was inept, best exemplified by Dave Eggers caught posting anonymously against us on Amazon, as spotlighted in the New York Times. Still, we had a short window of opportunity before the establishment solidified its opposition and sealed its walls at all points against us. Speed versus time.

Later demonstrations of the campaign, notably the Howl Protest, were probings of status quo strength-- necessary reminders that the ULA campaign was ongoing. Through vehicles like this blog, ULA pressure never ceased.

One mistake we made was to underestimate status quo weakness. Panicked mad reaction, as we faced; hostility and blackballing; is no sign of strength.

The essence of a guerrilla insurgency campaign is to wait for openings, then exploit them. Opportunity was granted early in 2007 with the Paris Review/CIA revelations. Yes, it's a low circulation publication, but has always had tremendous influence within inner circles of New York decision making. (Look at the names on its masthead sometime.)

We didn't notice ENOUGH Paris Review's failure to address the CIA question. (We also didn't recall the quick failure of another lit journal, when it was caught printing a fake letter purporting to be from me.) We didn't recognize the huge ongoing embarrassment of the CIA matter being openly discussed, including on Paris Review's Wikipedia entry, or the panicked flurry of e-mails from ex-PR co-editor James Linville, and his panicked flight from London to New York to consult with the current Paris Review team.

We felt the pressure ourselves as we generated it. Within the circles of the Paris Review and their allies it had to be greater. As the ULA ship vibrated from its own assault, the ULA member with closest contacts to the New York scene bailed, taking four other ULAers out the door with him. Our direction was turned. Attack engines shut down.

If the Paris Review-- a key foundation stone of the literary elite-- had been forced to address the legitimate questions raised, this would've been a huge victory for the ULA.

The departure of five ULA members at once was damaging, no doubt about it. The timing was killing. I put on a brave front on this blog, and took full responsibility for the situation. This weakened me irrevocably within the ULA team.

We'd found a vulnerable spot on the establishment dragon-- but you need to push the sword home all the way in order to slay it. The vulnerabilities in the serpent remain.

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