Damage Control

A few days ago I whimsically wrote a blog post entitled “Why I’m Returning My Copy of The Anarchist Turn.”  In it I had made a number of claims. I was selective in the claims that I made because I did not want to open up a can of worms. There is much to be said about what happened in the months leading up to the final contract between The Anarchist Turn authors and Pluto Press. I deliberately left out a lot of stuff. In particular, I deliberately left out information that might implicate other persons into defending themselves or having to be involved in something with which they did not willfully choose to be involved. At every stage of the way, there is a trail of evidence to support my claims – and I will get to that shortly.

This evening Jacob Blumenfeld, on behalf of all three of the listed editors of the book, collectively drafted a response to my blog story. I understand that there must have been some pressure on them to do this since my blog post had received 10,000 hits in less than 24 hours. It was obvious to me that people were upset about what I wrote. Most of them, to be honest, seemed more upset about it than I. The story zipped around the internet, faster than the speed of light. Within just a few hours hundreds of people had shared the story on their facebook walls, twitter accounts, and on their blogs. It had even received some air time on Leiter Reports. For all of this, I want to send a sincere thanks to all of you.

Yesterday I posted a few images of what turned out to be the final copies of the contract. I also posted two handwritten notes from Pluto Press acknowledging me as an editor. I plan to post more evidence in the future – depending on how things play out. For now I simply want to take a moment to post the response from Jacob Blumenfeld, Chiara Bottici, and Simon Critchley. I will also note that, for whatever reason, Jacob, Simon and Chiara’s graduate student, was sent do the dirty work. He was the one who posted the response across various email lists – not Simon or Chiara.

April 19th, 2013

Dear Duane,

Firstly, please allow us to apologize sincerely for any upset that you have experienced in your dealings with us in relation to the conference and publication of The Anarchist Turn. If you feel that we have acted improperly and have been exploited, then we are sorry for that. It was not our intention.

As far as we recall, we only met once on the occasion of the conference at the New School in May 2011. You approached us in order to film the conference, which was subsequently released on ADCS and for which we were very grateful. Immediately afterwards you proposed us to publish the proceedings of the conference in the double format as a book with Pluto Press, and in an open access journal. We liked the idea of the open access and this is why we preferred that offer over that of Continuum, which had, in the meanwhile, also approached us. And indeed, we were quite surprised when we found out that Pluto Press had never agreed to the double publication, so much so that they eventually even refused to have the logo of the ADCS on the book cover.

In the end, we very much appreciated your help in mediating our contact and contract with Pluto Press, but we were truly surprised when we received a contract with you listed as an editor of the volume. This was not our understanding at all, and that’s why we never signed it. Until that moment, we had all thought that all the work you were (spontaneously) putting into the project was aimed at publishing the papers in the open access format of the journal you were editing, and we never thought that you were instead working in order to become of the editor of our book. Indeed, the conference was the fruit of years of intense, close collaboration between the three of us, which also has its own political history reaching back to occupations of the New School for Social Research in 2008 and 2009. But we needn’t go into that here. Let’s just say that the three of us put a significant amount of work into creating an event that linked with academics and activists around questions of anarchism. And needless to say, the three of us have also put in a lot of work in preparing and editing the book. In short, while we appreciate the weeks you put into project, the three of us put over three years into it.

To be frank, we felt that you had interposed yourself as an editor of the book without our agreement and we were slightly irritated by such behavior. We felt it was presumptuous, to say the least. Indeed, the three of us felt slightly manipulated by your actions. We didn’t ask you to work on the manuscript and, once again, our understanding was that you were acting as a mediator between the three of us and Pluto Press in the interest of the double publication project and were not an editor of the book.

That said, we should perhaps have acknowledged your mediating role in the preface, but, in the end, we decided not to because we felt that you did not behave correctly towards the three of us and, even less so, towards the publisher. But if you like, we could add your name to any future reprint of the book, adding a paragraph explaining how you came into the project but also why your name did not appear in the first edition.

With best wishes,

Jacob Blumenfeld, Chiara Bottici and Simon Critchley.

I do not intend to respond to this press release in full today. I will do so in due time. I simply want to point out a few things. First, this press release was posted as a comment to every single one of the blogs on my website, dingpolitik. That is, every story on my blog had a comment from Jacob with the exact same press release. Second, they included a redundant time-stamp. As most people know, emails include the time-stamp, and so do comments to blog posts. I will state in a moment why I believe that this is significant. Third, this email was sent out to numerous email list-servs and to people with whom I have never corresponded. I am pointing all of this out simply to demonstrate that this email was not actually written to me – it was written to the public as a form of damage control.

I do want to thank Simon et al. for acknowledging my feelings. This, of course, is a shit-sandwich way of dismissing somebody. The strategy typically involves acknowledging a person’s inner conviction that they have been wronged while nonetheless telling them that they are quite delusional. It reminds me of the strategy of “having said that”: With the rhetorical technique of having said that one can state the meanest of shit. Having said that, I want to thank Simon et al. for finally beginning to address this issue. In point of fact, once Simon decided to cut me from the project – upon being handed a rather nice book deal (the book receives higher royalties than the book deal I snagged for myself with the same press) – he also cut me out from all email exchanges. I wrote to Chiara and Simon several times about my feelings about being betrayed and they ignored me. Actually, before I posted the original blog story about all of this I wrote to Simon to let him know that I was going to go public with it. I received absolutely no response.

My claim is that almost everything written in the preceding press release is blatantly and flagrantly false and misleading. I admire the collective ability of Simon et al. to manufacture a response but I do not believe for a moment that it has been written in good faith. It seems to me that it was an exercise in damage control, and that it was directed to a public and not to me. I believe that all of this could have been avoided had Simon et al. addressed my feelings when I first articulated them by way of email.

Here are some misleading things: the three of you collectively believe to have met me at the conference. This is a mistake, I did not attend the conference. I can not even begin to wonder how you got this wrong. I approached Simon by email for his permission to video record it. As I stated in my original blog story – Michael Truscello was the one video recording at the conference. I believe that you spoke with him and that he made himself and his intentions known to you upon arriving. Maybe I’m just not important enough that you would have remembered this.

Next, you claim that I proposed to publish the proceedings of the conference in a double format as a book with Pluto Press as well as in an open access journal. I find this claim frustrating because it seems to imply that you were, from the beginning, passionate about open access publishing. I pointed out in my original blog story that I actually offered two (in point of fact, I believe there may have even been a third or fourth) suggestion about how we might proceed with publication. Admittedly, you perhaps only recall the one that most seduced you but even here you’ve succumbed to conflation. In point of fact, this was not the only proposal on the table from me to you. To claim that it was is blatantly false and misleading. I can produce evidence to demonstrate that this is correct.

The first option, which included Pluto Press, was never proposed to you as a settled deal. I merely informed you that I would take it upon myself to ensure that it would happen, that I would work toward making it happen. And, truth be told, it did happen. I want to suggest that you could not do this by yourselves and that you needed me. In fact, my belief is that you used me to make it happen precisely because you’ve had so many failed attempts pitching the book in the past. Recall that when I originally made the pitch to you it took you quite a long time to respond. In the mean time – I have it on good authority from the mouths of those whose words matter in shedding light on the situation (I can produce proof of this) – you had your book rejected from Verso Books, by a certain Anarchist Studies series, and even, would you believe, a few more places too. All of this happened before you finally decided to go with the only option that it probably seemed you had left at your disposal. Already I have implicated some people in this debate, and I apologize – I have, with great effort, attempted to remove information that would implicate others elsewhere and so I apologize in advance. It seems, and there is no crime in this, that you folks just couldn’t find a publisher that believed in the project. Verso, for example, didn’t want to publish the book because they don’t do conference papers. Another independent press which I shall not name here, rejected the book for similar reasons. In another case, it was rejected from a series of books because you didn’t want to produce a proposal and go through the peer review process. Hence, you passed that work off to me. And I spent many hours dealing with your reviewers – by email, and, in fact, on the telephone. If the reviewers should like to speak up at any time, I invite them to do so.

Indeed, Pluto Press did not agree to do a double publication in the beginning. I never claimed that they would. That was never part of our arrangement. You’ve either deliberately mixed things up, or you’ve misread our correspondence. I think it is the former: I can produce evidence that you knew what the deal was all along. Having said all of this, I will admit that I went out of my way to push for open access anyway. It was always my mandate – I admitted this in the first blog story. Heck, I was happy to publish the entire thing open access through the original ADCS press. But you didn’t want to do that. You didn’t choose that option. In fact, you openly rejected it, and I can once again provide evidence to back this up. Sheesh – if you wanted open access you should have stayed away from Pluto Press, no? Having said this, I seem to recall that Pluto was open at one point to having a partial open access agreement. The original negotiation was to have the book published in ADCS open-access a few months after Pluto made some money. We can continue to discuss this point if you want and I can refresh your memory as to what happened there.

Finally, you made the most blatant lie of them all. You claimed that it was not your decision to have the ADCS affiliation removed from the book. You passed the blame onto the publisher. I have this email from David Castle at Pluto Press which confirms my story. I can provide others, and perhaps will if you like:

Hi Duane,

Just to update you, we are moving ahead with publishing ‘The Anarchist Turn’ – which should see the light of day in March next year. You can see some details here: http://www.plutobooks.com/display.asp?K=9780745333427

I don’t know whether you have been in touch with the book’s editors, but it turns out that they didn’t think it was appropriate to profile Anarchist Developments in Cultural Studies in the book, so I haven’t been back in touch over the intervening months. I hope you enjoy the book when it comes out, though.

All the best,

David Castle

Senior Commissioning editor

Pluto Press

Please, do not pass responsibility off to Pluto Press. For this you are all infinitely responsible. I was led to believe, for reasons that I will not disclose at this particular moment (do not want to implicate Simon’s colleagues), that it was single-handedly Simon Critchley’s decision to remove ADCS and myself from the project.

Next, you’ve reduced my involvement in the project to one of a mere “mediator.” I find this absolutely insulting. You are deliberately ignoring all of the invisible work that I did. I’ve mentioned what some of this work has been in my original blog and, if you like, I can take some time to refresh your memory. I have evidence to prove that my work resulted in the manuscript people have in their hands today.

Next, you claim that my involvement in the project as an editor was rejected – and that this is the reason you didn’t sign the earlier contracts. I’m not denying this claim. In fact, this is my problem. The question is really: when was I considered an editor? I can provide proof that I was understood as an editor that begins from near our initial correspondences. Moreover, the final correspondences between Chiara and I points to Critchley’s sudden equivocation. In those final correspondences Chiara made it clear that it was Simon who all-of-a-sudden had issues with the arrangement (and not her or you).

I would ask that you not refer to my work as “spontaneous” because this implies that it was unprovoked and that I took the work upon myself. I pitched my involvement to you and it was agreed by all of you. Do you really believe that contracts land on your lap without any work? Somebody has to do that work. I was that somebody, and I did plenty of it.

You claimed that you collectively spent several years organizing the conference. That is all well and fine – it was not my intention to doubt that. But please, do not confused the fact that you put work into the project for the fact that I did not put any into it.

Finally, one of the real points of contention in your press release seems to be that I had a problem with having my name removed as editor. It is hardly that. As I wrote in the original blog story, I was happy, in the end, to receive that one sentence acknowledgement. Sure, I would have been bitter about it. But I was willing to let it all go. I just wanted some acknowledgement for the book deal that I gave to you. But you have the audacity to deliberately (you’ve confessed this in your press release) remove my name from the acknowledgements, even after you made a promise to have it in there. Moreover, you didn’t write to let me know as to why you thought it was inappropriate to remove my name. If you thought that I was trying to exploit your hard work, then you should have shared your feelings. But seriously, Critchley exploited by me? Get real. 

All of this is to give you early notice that everything you have written in your press release is deliberately inaccurate and misleading. In the coming days, I will provide the evidence to show why.

I apologize for the poorly written blog this evening. I had a long and exhausting day.


3 thoughts on “Damage Control

  1. IANAL and this is not legal advice.

    Oh, ffs, sue them already. You don’t need the signed contract to sue them. The emails representing that you would be compensated for the work you put in should be plenty. Name the press as a co-defendant and you’ll get a settlement as soon as someone with the good sense to be embarrassed by obviously exploitative behavior sees the evidence. But you’re going to completely hamstring your ability to squeeze out a settlement by posting all the dirty laundry publicly before formally seeking redress, not to mention the stupid admission of having stolen the book, if you don’t quit with the righteous naïf act and soon.

  2. Pingback: A Thinly Veiled Threat | dingpolitik

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