Saturday, June 9, 2007

"Stalinist Clown" Strikes Back!


[Notice: George Tod Slone and The American Dissident do not have permission to quote this blog or any other writings of mine in either digital or print editions without either proper citations or links to the appropriate URL. Due to Slone’s improper usage of quotations, I will no longer be responding to him via email or any other non-public forum. I will only respond to G. Tod Slone either through this blog or through a venue moderated, edited, published, or archived by a third party.]

Part I

This past week, Doug Holder handed me a copy of the latest print edition of The American Dissident (Issue 15, Summer/Fall 2007) a publication and website published by Professor G. Tod Slone. Slone reproduced an email criticizing a cartoon he produced under the pseudonym of “P. Maudit” in which he referred to poets Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Andrei Codrescu as fascists. He also reproduced his initial reply and accompanied it with the URL of the cartoon in which he lampooned me.

However, even though I had allowed him to post to my blog, he did not provide a URL for my reply to the cartoon, nor did he acknowledge that this was part of a longer conversation, nor that I had rebutted many of his claims. This is intellectual dishonesty on his part.

As of this writing he has posted some of the correspondence in which I critique his cartoon of me, however, he does not provide a link to my full response nor is this correspondence mentioned in the print edition. He also states that I "[come] off as a rather passionless eunuch" though this photograph indicates that I am neither.

Due to Slone’s unwillingness to give an accurate account, and his tendency to take quotations out of context, twist them often until they have become non-sequiturs, I will no longer be responding to Slone except on my blog or in public fora that provide transparency. Slone is free to submit posts to my blog. If he chooses to continue quoting me, however, it will be with the understanding that he will provide proper citations to either a URL or to a print publication.

While Slone does not appear to think me qualified to criticize him or his work, he has spent much time being quite vague as to which of my criticisms he finds disagreeable. To reiterate, I contend that:

a.) Slone’s cartoons are often poorly drawn.

b.) Slone’s cartoons are rarely funny, unlike the work of Jim Behrle, whose material cuts much closer to the bone of the contemporary poetry scene.

c.) Slone deliberately takes quotations out of context.

d.) Slone makes slanderous claims i.e. "Andrei Codrescu and Lawrence Ferlinghetti are fascists" yet refuses to substantiate this when asked for evidence.

e.) Slone does not substantiate his claims of corruption within the academic-literary world with concrete evidence as done by the now defunct foetry.

f.) Slone routinely redefines words like "fascist" and “Stalinist” to a point where they begin to lose meaning.

g.) Slone’s constant use of terms like "fascist", and "Stalinist" to describe his critics, use of the word, "dissident" to describe himself, frequent accusations of conspiracy between his critics and other perceived enemies, claims to speak "the rude truth," et cetera closely resemble the rhetorical devices of political extremists.

h.) Slone’s coulrophobia (irrational hatred of clowns—specifically directed towards me) indicates that he has a major gap in his understanding of Western literary and theatrical traditions. To which I have had to point out to him that William Shakespeare, Molière, Fredrico Garcia Lorca, and Dario Fo, all wrote for clowns and at least two (possibly all four) of them performed as clowns.

Part II

To summarize the current status on my disagreement with G. Tod Slone (something he will not honestly reproduce or refer to in his own account in the pages of either the print or on line editions of The American Dissident. I will publish an email I wrote on April 24th, 2007 in response to an email Slone wrote earlier that day. Quotations are from that email. Bracketed glosses are my own to enhance readibility. Links have been added.

Professor Slone:

To begin: I suggest you refrain from attributing to me view-points that I do not espouse. Strawman arguments only work when the intended target is incapable of responding.

> how do you explain that my
[Codrescu and Ferlinghetti] cartoon
> provoked such hostility on your part?

I would hardly call my comportment towards you "hostility", but since you ask why I so objected to your cartoon regarding Codrescu and Ferlinghetti, I will spell it out again:

1.) I have been engaged in an examination of European political extremism in general, and fascism in particular.

2.) I consider fascism to be an ideology
[hostile] to the basic democratic institutions that I value.

3.) While it is important to identify fascist ideology and policies where they exist, it is irresponsible at best and slanderous at worst to accuse individuals of being fascists or espousing fascist when nothing in their behavior indicates this.

4.) You accused Codrescu and Ferlinghetti of being fascists.

5.) You have not once provided evidence to substantiate your claims, despite multiple requests.

Such willy-nilly labeling of anyone one does not like as "fascist" is a rhetorical strategy used on the extreme left. Essentially, I viewed that cartoon as an unethical smear.

Furthermore, your immediate response to my criticism was to liken me to a "Stalinist"-- which, interestingly enough, is a rhetorical strategy generally used by the extreme right when facing criticism.

This is not to say that you are of the extreme right or of the extreme left, as I do not get the impression that you have a clear ideological position.

In fact, you appear to redefine the word "fascist" to conveniently mean whatever suits you at any given moment, which undermines your credibility to speak on political matters.

Again, this is the crux of my argument with you. All other tangents are of your creation-- and I regard [them] as just that: tangential.

In fact, most of the interest I have in your case is as a "control sample" that I can use in comparison to political extremists, in that you use the similar rhetorical strategies but are largely lacking in any coherent ideological content. I am able to examine your rhetoric and never run the risk of being offended by anything but your affronts to logic and evidence.

> I don't think I
> ever met you at those Stone Soup gatherings,

To my knowledge, we never met, and I do not believe I became aware of you until long after I parted ways with Stone Soup. I have stated as such. In fact, I only became aware of you because Doug Holder is a fan of your cartoons and likes to show them to people.

> To mix clown and poet to form clown-poet can
> only diminish the poet part.

Evidently, you are unfamiliar with the work of William Shakespeare, Molière, Fredrico Garcia Lorca, and Dario Fo, to name but a few. It is sad that a learned man such as yourself is so ignorant of Western theatrical and literary traditions. You are too sanctimonious and self-serious to be a good comedian-- so it's for the best that you have never played the clown.

> what is your foet connection?

I read the website at times. I mostly confine myself to the articles that document conflict of interest and cronyism, and have twice (to my memory) read the forums. I do not recall ever posting there. Sorry to bust your bubble, Foetry happens to provide more information about cronyism and patronage in the literary-academic establishment than
The American Dissident.

> Why do you keep your blog blocked for members only?

I do not. My blog is set so anyone can comment. Before answering your question, I even checked to see if I had unintentionally blocked it. If you are having technical problems, it probably has to do with your computer or your ISP. However, I will check with blogspot.com tech support to see if there is an error on their end.

[Note: There appeared to be no such error at work, and Slone was able to post.]

> It is quite simple and the evidence that 50 lit journals
> rejected that manuscript of mine is, like it or not,
> definitely a form of proof of that assertion [that
> academic literati are entirely closed to critique.]
> If the manuscript was so bad, as no doubt you would
> declare, why would a stranger have paid $150 to
> publish it? That also, like it or not, is a form
> of proof.

My studies of political extremism also shows that non-academic presses are very happy to pay for articles that fit their own ideological preferences especially when the author claims to have been persecuted or censored by the establishment. However, these articles are often not supported by either a coherent argument or a convergence of evidence-- and thus would not be considered for publication in an academic journal, which is seen as proof that the author and the non-academic press that publishes the work are the targets of a conspiracy amongst the 50 academic journals. 50 is a rather large statistical sample of literary journals and it would seem that if the article was of merit, it would have been accepted for publication is at least one journal. I find it more believable that the article was either sent to the wrong journals or seriously flawed.

Again, I have no reason to believe that you are a political extremist. You just use similar rhetorical strategies.

> I accept your criticism of that cartoon,
> though evidently, it cannot be an objective
> critique since you are its very object.

My criticisms were:

1.) That the technique was lacking,

2.) The quote was out of context,

3.) There were far more interesting options that could have been taken had the cartoonist had greater technical prowess (indeed I pointed out that some of the choices you made appear to be to "make up" for your lack of technique.)

4.) That I was not insulted.

1.) and 2.) are objective. 3.) is a matter of aesthetics, and so not objective.

Trust me, I wasn't offended by anything other than the disappointment that it was not a better cartoon.

Ian Thal

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