Broken Sleep Books Poetry Kerfuffle

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Jaybird

Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to AskJaybird-at-gmail.com

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19 Responses

  1. Avatar Oscar Gordon
    Ignored
    says:

    IMHO, Yes, it does.

    However, I generally find it acceptable when applied against a person in a position of power/authority, and a lauded professor (with tenure, I’m sure) probably qualifies as an acceptable target.

    Is this an action taken by the publisher (which appears to be a company that values leftist ideals) when it became aware, or is than action taken because the publisher felt bullied by the mob?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      The tweet appears to have since been pulled. (Or, more precisely, the account has gone protected.)

      There may be a contractual issue for pulling a book you’d been scheduled to publish but no longer doing so based on a tweet (or series of tweets).

      If the original tweet has been pulled, there’s much less of a story here than before.

      Or, maybe, it’s an example of immune response.Report

  2. Avatar veronica d
    Ignored
    says:

    The “canceling” here is, perhaps, all the women in his program whose careers suffered because of his awful behavior.

    I know that all those women are invisible to y’all “cancel culture critics,” but they exist. They are people. They have inner lives. They have hopes and dreams. And they find themselves dependent on a person such as him, and all of the others who thoughtlessly defend people such as him.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck
      Ignored
      says:

      “I know that all those women are invisible to y’all “cancel culture critics,” but they exist. They are people. ”

      so do we get to yell at you about how you need to provide specific examples of this Big Problem You Definitely Say Exists, instead of just making an unverifiable appeal-to-authority argument? (and then we can pooh-pooh those examples as Not Being Relevant Because Reasons?)Report

    • Avatar Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      I have no idea what happened. I know that Broken Sleep Books terminated their contract with him over twitter on the basis of a tweet from someone else and the tweet from someone else said that what’s-his-name did some awful stuff as a professor.

      Out of everything that happened, the only thing that I think I know is that the guy got his contract cancelled.

      And *THAT* is interesting.Report

  3. Avatar Doctor Jay
    Ignored
    says:

    Keeping your word seems an important quality in people and organizations. There are a lot of other values, too, but fidelity seems pretty foundational to many of them.

    And the statement from Broken Sleep seems to duck the issue as well. If they wanted to publish more women and minorities, then they could do that, probably without breaking contractual obligations.

    If the accusations against Young seem substantive to them and likely to have an adverse impact on their business, then they should say so, not say something wishy washy about giving his “spot” (there are no spots in the publishing world!) to someone else.

    But their statement doesn’t even mention any accusations against Young. Of course, they don’t want to take a stand on it, which is common. It is also why we are here.

    I don’t want to take a stand on it either, but that’s a lot less important. I’m not part of the poetry world, or even the English professor world, or the literary world. My opinion has little impact other than to let people know that I think X or Y is bad stuff and should not be done.

    But of course, Broken Sleep is part of that world, and they probably have a precarious existence (publishing poetry can be like that), and would rather not make anyone unduly angry. They seem powerful to a poet who wants to be published, but they aren’t actually all that powerful when stacked up next to people like Deans and English Department Heads at large Universities.

    Which, of course, makes this more complicated, not less. Still, I think promises should be kept, contracts adhered to, and one’s word should be one’s bond.Report

    • Avatar veronica d
      Ignored
      says:

      I have no idea what a typical publishing contract looks like, but I would not be surprised if they have some kind of morals clause dealing with publicity issues such as this.

      We can read the woman’s tweet thread. As to how much of that the publisher has been able to verify, I don’t know, but neither does anyone else here.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon
        Ignored
        says:

        Is it cancelling? Yes.

        Am I concerned about this case? Not so much. The target is someone I would consider elite and probably more than capable of dragging the publisher into a nasty legal fight if they want to.

        Now if the target decides to drag the former student into a legal fight for her twitter thread (pretty sure everything she said in that would be protected speech), or if he pulls a Milo and encourages his followers to go after her, that’s not kosher.

        It’s really all about the mob, because the mob can very quickly go from punching up to punching down.Report

        • Avatar veronica d
          Ignored
          says:

          I agree. My concerns are about the mobs and the knee-jerk responses. It’s easy to find examples of those. However, so often this debate is about reasoned criticisms of powerful people who use their platforms to harm vulnerable groups.

          It’s obvious why some people want to conflate those two things. We shouldn’t let them.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird
            Ignored
            says:

            However, so often this debate is about reasoned criticisms of powerful people who use their platforms to harm vulnerable groups.

            I am 100% down with people going with reasoned criticisms of powerful people. Heck, I think that sort of thing is awesome!

            What I think is interesting is that the contract got pulled. That’s *FASCINATING*. Does it count as a “harm” or merely a privilege that was once extended but now, no longer is? Depends on the contract, I guess.

            I wondered if there have been any edits to the guy’s Wikipedia page and… nope.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Dean_Young_(poet)

            Not yet, anyway. (The last change to the page was 2018.)

            He’s got a twitter, apparently, but he hasn’t tweeted since 2012.

            https://twitter.com/embryoyoyo

            I mean, assuming that it’s the same Dean Young, of course. Lotta Dean Youngs out there and it wouldn’t surprise me that there’d be two that are prominent poets.Report

      • Avatar Doctor Jay
        Ignored
        says:

        Well, yeah. And if they are invoking the morals clause, they should probably say so.

        To say that they have decided, out of the blue, with no reference to any accusations, to give his “slot” to someone with less privilege is to indulge in multiple fictions. Not the least of these is the idea that there are “slots” and that they couldn’t do this without dumping him. There are lots of other possibilities.

        In a comparable situation, many colleges are shutting down wrestling programs. I’m an old wrestler, and I’m unhappy with this. Often, AD’s blame Title IX for this, but that turns out, in my opinion, to be utter BS. They could shave 1 percent of the football budget and fund wrestling, but they don’t want to frame it that way, they want to blame Title IX.

        This feels like they want to blame Young for their own failure to publish women and minorities. Oh hey, there’s an accusation against Young, let’s deflect any guilt we might get on to him That irritates me.Report

        • Avatar veronica d
          Ignored
          says:

          Fair enough. I certainly support publishers making an effort to support women and minorities. However, I can see how using language such as “slots” might be counterproductive — although I think it is a business reality that publishers cannot publish everything they might wish to, for various financial reasons, so while there probably aren’t N “slots”, with some specific N, they cannot push N to any value we might wish.

          In any case, I’m very suspicious when people want to critically parse the language used to support minorities and women, but will let pass unexamined the default of selecting white men.

          To white men, what feels like a meritocracy might not be so merit based at all, as illustrated by all the women pushed out by the actions of this man. To me it feels like justice if his “slot” is given to one of those women hurt by him, or by men like him.

          White men will cry injustice and demand to be heard, but so shall the rest of us.Report

  4. Avatar Stillwater
    Ignored
    says:

    Jaybird,

    You’re a recovering libertarian, so you know that *not too long ago* the social behavior tool favored by libertarians was shaming and shunning. They loved that s***. But it seems like libertarians (and the ish) are the most vehement opponents of cancel culture. So, serious question: what’s the difference between cancel culture and shaming/shunning? I gotta be honest, I don’t see much daylight between them.

    Second question: are libertarians indirectly admitting they were wrong about shaming/shunning?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      I’m still pushing against “Cancel Culture Doesn’t Exist”. I see “Cancel Culture Exists But It’s Good” as a step forward.

      From there, I can get to the question of the extent to which tortious interference is bad and whether we’re confident that it won’t be yet another program popular among the NPR Totebag set that will end up with women and minorities hardest hit.

      As for shaming/shunning, I think it’s interesting that this is coming around and hitting the MFA crowd. I mean, let’s face it, when it comes to politics, does Dean Young strike you as anything even *CLOSE* to a Trump voter? I mean, sure, he lives in Flyover but he’s a MFA kinda professor who does MFA kinda stuff.

      And he got cancelled. His poetry pamphlet did, anyway. (Well, maybe it’ll have to be published by someone else now. I wonder if the accusations will follow to the new place or if the new publisher will be sufficiently mercenary to say “we just publish poetry and then try to sell it”.)

      Shaming/Shunning is great. We need more of it! As much as the internet will handle! But contracts being dropped? Because of a tweet or series of tweets? That strikes me as likely to have second order effects that are going to suck and third order effects that are going to be really, really, really funny.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater
        Ignored
        says:

        But contracts being dropped?

        Well, if we need more shaming and shunning, but not more contracts being dropped, but the contract is dropped because of shaming and shunning, what are we supposed to have less of?

        Less of a connection between shaming/shunning and its effects?

        If so, the behavior you object to isn’t the shamy/shunny cancel culture, but the employers who apparently don’t know the rules of this game and fire people (the ultimate shunning) merely because those employees have in fact been publicly shunned.

        I mean, it’s bizarre to me that the ideology which most emphatically championed shame/shun as an appropriate and desirable social behavior tool is the ideology that most vehemently opposes people doing that exact thing.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird
          Ignored
          says:

          I think that shaming/shunning is fine. It’s when people get others fired for non-work-related reasons, that I think that we’re starting to get into some weird places.

          Now, I also know that the train doesn’t have particularly good brakes so once it starts getting into weird places, it’s going to go into weirder ones and we’re going to find ourselves wondering at Poetry Professors getting cancelled.

          (Hell, from what I’ve heard about Master’s Programs, we’re probably going to start getting hit with a deluge of stories from people who weigh their future options and decide either that there’s going to be no harm done to their future by telling their story or see a potential opening by telling their story and we’re going to hear a *LOT* about the ish that is going down in the post-grad world.)Report

          • Avatar Stillwater
            Ignored
            says:

            Right. Here’s the disconnect, though: you say “when people get others fired for non-work-related reasons” which is an action taken by an employer, not the shamy shunners.

            Universities and other employers *could* simply refuse to fire people for the shame/shunny reasons provided. But they don’t, presumably because they have an additional decision calculus in play. You’re criticizing the wrong group of people here. You praise shame/shun as a social behavior tool and oppose firings for non work-related reasons. You’re problem is with employers who buckle to a type of social pressure you actually support.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird
              Ignored
              says:

              Well, in this *PARTICULAR* case, I think that, depending on the contract, this was likely dumb.

              I mean, maybe it was done on a handshake in which case it’s likely to be fine but, if somebody signed something, it strikes me as likely to backfire. (But the publishing house is in Wales. So God only knows what the likely outcome is.)

              You praise shame/shun and oppose firings for non work-related reasons. You’re problem is with employers who buckle to a type of social pressure you actually support.

              Well, I also know that there are a handful of business-types out there who will respond really quickly to social shame/shunning. There are also a handful of business-types out there that will prove nigh-impervious to it.

              And that is part of what is going to lead to the places that will be really, really, really funny.Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon
          Ignored
          says:

          It’s two things:

          1) Target acquisition – Is the person being cancelled truly guilty, or are people over-reacting based upon incomplete or incorrect information? See Emmanual Cafferty.

          2) Proportionality – Does the ‘punishment’ fit the ‘crime’? See David Shor.

          This has always been an issue with public shaming/shunning. The new wrinkle is that thanks to social media, it’s not a local effect, and you can’t escape it if it’s unjustified. Also, it all happens so fast people often don’t have time to defend themselves at all.Report

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