Sunday, October 21, 2012

Literary Enablers


You've likely been asking yourself: "If Tom Bissell wrote malicious slurs against the Underground Literary Alliance-- if The Believer Magazine, then later Believer Books, published these slurs-- why has nobody seen them?"

That's the $64,000 question. Why indeed? Are the slurs not there?

Yet you can go yourself to the original essay, here, and find them:

A huge chunk at the middle of the essay is devoted to likening us to mad, genocidal Bolsheviks. Did the reviewers and readers of his book, and the essay on the ULA, feel comfortable with those remarks? Can they possibly regard any of them as true? Did they pass over the "lots and lots of tombstones" analogy without the slightest shiver of a thought? (That they accept the fake empathy which opens and closes the essay is a given, but it shouldn't have blinded them to the rest.)

Here's a partial list of the established literary intellectuals who passed over the malicious parts without comment. Or maybe swallowed them whole:

-Garth Risk Hallberg (New York Times)
-David Ulin (L.A. Times)
-Daniel B. Roberts (Fortune)
-Katie Ryder ( and Guernica Mag)
-Brooke Gladstone (NPR)
-Maria Bustillos (L.A. Review of Books)
-Jason Boog (Media Bistro)
-Morten Hoi Jensen (Bookforum)
-Alex Gallo-Brown (
-Owen King (
-Maria Popova (Brainpickings)
-Ron Hogan (
-Blake Butler (HTML Giant)
-Brian Wolowitz (Spectrum Culture)
-Ed Champion (Bat Segundo Show)

Every one of these journalists and literary spokespersons seems to have missed the smears. It's as if their brains were programmed not to see them. They read them ("lots and lots of tombstones"), but nothing registered with them. They didn't ask themselves: "Can this be accurate?" They accepted the statements blindly.

Part of it is that Tom Bissell set them up to trust the narrator, with his apparent empathy toward writers, and therefore, us. (The ULA.) Part of it is they've previously bought the false narrative about the Underground Literary Alliance. They believed the statements because at some point they've already heard them, or a variation of them. Or were predisposed to believe them because of their own hostility to us (see Ron Hogan). Part of it is simply the behavior that comes with a herd outlook. It's a classic example, in fact, of absolute loyalty to a herd, with the questioning part of the brain shut off.

Scarier, as far as ULA writers are concerned, is that these writers are all positioned to further spread the false narrative about us-- and many of them have spread that falseness. It shows the enormity of our task. It's why I'm taking apart every part of that harmful piece of writing, examining its falseness.

No one else will!