Thursday, May 26, 2011

Winning the Debate

The strategy of the Underground Literary Alliance upon its founding in 2000 was to provoke a public debate about American literature, then to win that debate and convert opponents to our ideas. In that sense we welcomed strong criticism, and so could hardly complain when it occurred. What threw me is how quickly that criticism became underhanded, behind the scenes, anonymous, skulking-- including from at least one mole planted into the organization (proofs available) and numerous other betrayals.

When all is said and done, the ULA won the debate, big-time. We won every argument conducted honestly-- including early on at the 2001 CBGB's press conference when we debated the Paris Review and Open City staffs. Unlike our powerful adversaries, throughout we operated upfront, stand-up all the way. We exposed corruption, discussed topics, that no other writers would touch. The ULA's brief but explosive history is full of honor, integrity, courage, and pride.

2 comments:

Jeff Potter said...

In the 4 years since the ULA's hiatus have other literary figures been busy with activism, confrontation, or exposes of the status quo or corruption?

Has anyone or group picked up, even somewhat, where we left off?

Any pranksterism?

We were innovators, being the first group of lit-activists, but you'd think the idea might stick.

Whups, but maybe today's writers, with their eyes on the career and the group (workshop) more than the art or purpose of art, indeed saw what happened to us and figure it's not worth the risk. We got global attention, but also a fierce and secretive crackdown.

There are occasional exposes of writer malfeasance, but the ULA was interested in the other side of the desk -- problems and influences worth noting on the System side, and alternatives worth building.

Actually, it seems like it's been quiet. But we can't all know the cool stuff that's been going down. Let's share some links!

(...Except for that growing, rolling dust cloud from the Borders collapse.)

Isn't the idea that the Internet is self-organizing and that the most relevant info floods outward virally? Nobody needs something as archaic as a group anymore, least of all writers who have their acts together, right? We finally have the all-access meritocracy we've needed.

Still, it would be neat to see repliers post links here about projects for uplift and outreach, challenges brought against exploiters in the last 4 years. ...Signs of life and resistance. They gotta be out there. Let's see 'em!

King said...

I note that Outsider Writers, formed by breakaway ULAers, has a big announcement at the Community part of their site sayin g "The End Is Near" and asking someone to take them over.
OW was founded by those who disliked our activism and thought they could do things better. Instead of a Making Waves strategy, they resolved to make no waves at all. And didn't!
They have fifty gazillion members, but the support is an inch deep. There's no commitment at all. People sign up-- anyone and everyone can sign up-- announce their individual project, then vanish, never to be heard from again.
It's a case where the social media strategy doesn't work. A thousand islands scattered across the landscape doesn't work. It's like loose random molecules. An amorphous gas instead of a solid.
Cohesion is the necessary element. A knife cutting through butter. Cohension and commitment. The ULA made more noise with a handful of members than these loose coalition groups because we believed in the cause. We were unified, moving in one direction-- for a time.
History provides countless examples of such happenings. Cortez conquered the mighty Aztec empire with two hundred ruthless men because they were balls-to-the-wall hard-bitten characters who believed in their cause and knew exactly what they wanted, while Montezuma and his advisors were cautious, uncertain, and believed in nothing, not in their destiny nor in themselves.
Surely you see the phenomenon in biking, how a team of riders will work together, drafting together, cooperating, to reach the goal ahead of others.
It's the same for anything else in nature. Including with literature.