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I've had a few people tell me that Microcosm has issues and shouldn't be representative of the zine world - too capitalist, sell-out, some personal issues with the founder.

Now being that I am on the other side of the world, and my main connection with zines is as a reader, I'm not aware of any of the context around Microcosm or their supposed controversy. As far as I know, they're one of the bigger zine distros, bit of a brand name, they've got tons of stuff, and the founder and his ex had big personal issues (as related in Brainscan).

Could someone fill me in? Someone once told me "you, MTV, and Microcosm are what's wrong with the DIY world" which amused, bemused, and confused me all at once.

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I think the idea is that the abuse has been used within the business as well - cutting Alex's contributions off, unethical practices, and so on. I personally find the abuse-overlooking a bit offputting - I can understand the dilemma between work that you like made by someone whose character you find awful (e.g. Roald Dahl, awesome writer, not so awesome anti-Semite) but that no one wants to acknowledge that dilemma in and of itself, especially in a medium as personal and vulnerable as zines, is scary.

Dan 10things said:
helenomicon said:
I think Joe kind of forfeited the right to privacy when he chose to emotionally abuse Alex, but hey, whatever.

So you think it's fine for the public to openly discuss went on all your past relationships when you did something wrong? And to bring it up again and again in public forums and to try to get other people involved in the drama?
Is it abuse overlooking? I don't think so at all. I just don't see how alleged abuse in their personal relationship has anything to do with us or why some of you feel so easy at discussing it when you clearly do not have all the details. To me it borders on libel, which I not only find unethical, but it's something you can be sued over.
Yeah, that's true; we only have a couple of people's voices to rely on, and only one of them was directly involved. Joe doesn't seem to have said anything (has he?) and there's still the non-personal stuff, which could go either way - damning truth or malicious libel.

Dan 10things said:
Is it abuse overlooking? I don't think so at all. I just don't see how alleged abuse in their personal relationship has anything to do with us or why some of you feel so easy at discussing it when you clearly do not have all the details. To me it borders on libel, which I not only find unethical, but it's something you can be sued over.
So you think it's fine for the public to openly discuss went on all your past relationships when you did something wrong? And to bring it up again and again in public forums and to try to get other people involved in the drama?

If I've never shown a single shred of regret or remorse, and if my abusive behaviors are a) ongoing and b)tied in with my business practices, then yes. I believe Alex has asked other people to try to call out Joe on his shit because trying to work it out between them didn't do a damn bit of good. And again, your dismissing abuse as petty "drama" is nauseating.

Hmmm, where have I heard all this shit before? Oh, right, whenever someone who's in a decent band or does a good zine or otherwise puts out some kind of creative project is revealed to have done something awful. The sheer amount of times I've seen someone finally get up the courage to confront their abuser/assaulter/whatevs only to be met with a heaping helping of "herp derp, I don't know all the details so it's not okay to judge, and they've done a lot for The Community" (translation: "you're obviously lying because someone who is LIEK OMGZ A KEWL ARTISTE COULD NOT HAVE DONE SUCH A THING") makes me want to spew burrito chunks.

I know for damn sure that if Alex's abusive marriage had been with some random non-book-publishing schmuck, no one would be leaping to his defense so quickly. But hey, what's years of emotional abuse? They've got shirts with bikes on them, and stuff!
tiara's comparison to roald dahl is a brilliant one. because of remarks dahl made in his life, there are people who perceive of him as viciously anti-semitic. some of those people refuse to purchase his books because they feel they are supporting the legacy of a political platform they find detestable. others acknowledge his anti-semitism, but feel that it has no bearing on the books he has written. & others have tried to argue that dahl's remarks have been misconstrued & that he wasn't anti-semitic at all.

as far as joe & his history of abuse (which is not "alleged" at all, dan; i think even joe would admit to abusive behaviors at this point) & its relationship to microcosm...the same dynamic is at play. he has his irascible defenders, who won't even accept the idea that accusations against him are anything other than scurrilous gossip & rumor-mongering. then there are the soft-boiled apologists, who say he may have done "bad things," but see no reason not to support microcosm & spin joe out a whole series of second chances. & then there are people like me, who think the truth is obvious to anyone who cares to really look at it, & refuse to support a business that enables the sort of unethical, illegal, manipulative, abusive behavior joe has been engaging in for the last ten or so years. & expecting any of these camps to come together in a sudden display of solidarity & unified acceptance of a single perspective is ludicrous. i have no faith that someone like dan will read my words & suddenly see things the way i do, & no matter how many times he dismisses what i say as "gossip," i'm not going to agree with him.

but i will say that i must disagree with star blanket river child: as heated as this thread has become at times (& how could i not, when we're talking about the kinds of issues we are talking about--emotional abuse tends to raise feelings a little more than questions about long-arm staplers), there hasn't been any "name-calling," as far as i have seen. it IS possible to disagree with someone, even virulently, even to think less of them as a person because of your disagreement, without resorting to "squabbling," & by & large, i don't think i'd classify the majority of this thread as "squabbling" or "drama". i disagree with people like krissy & dan, in deep, fundamental ways, & the nature of our disagreements says a lot about who they are as people & their respect for other people (especially abuse survivors), & as i result, i think somewhat less of them. but this discussion absolutely SHOULD be happening here, because a) tiara asked about it, in seemingly good faith, & she deserves a response, & b) because this issue DOES affect the larger zine community, & this website, as ridiculous as it often is, seems to be the online hotspot for zine-related communication right now. if anyone has a better recommendation about where this issue can be discussed so that people who are curious about making better zine procurement decisions have access to information that might help them, i am all ears.
I didn't specifically mean this thread, this issue has come up before. And I definitely wasn't referring to your comments when I mentioned squabbling.
There's plenty of other places to discuss it. This is not the whole zine world, this is one tiny corner. I am not saying by any means that this issue should be ignored, I believe zinesters should be aware so they can choose whether or not they want to support this distro. I think that can effectively be done through blogs, word of mouth, etc.

All I'm saying is it (not by your words, but others) is seeming a bit trivialized at times here. Abuse should not be trivialized. I'm offended by that. That's all.

ciaraxyerra said:
tiara's comparison to roald dahl is a brilliant one. because of remarks dahl made in his life, there are people who perceive of him as viciously anti-semitic. some of those people refuse to purchase his books because they feel they are supporting the legacy of a political platform they find detestable. others acknowledge his anti-semitism, but feel that it has no bearing on the books he has written. & others have tried to argue that dahl's remarks have been misconstrued & that he wasn't anti-semitic at all.
as far as joe & his history of abuse (which is not "alleged" at all, dan; i think even joe would admit to abusive behaviors at this point) & its relationship to microcosm...the same dynamic is at play. he has his irascible defenders, who won't even accept the idea that accusations against him are anything other than scurrilous gossip & rumor-mongering. then there are the soft-boiled apologists, who say he may have done "bad things," but see no reason not to support microcosm & spin joe out a whole series of second chances. & then there are people like me, who think the truth is obvious to anyone who cares to really look at it, & refuse to support a business that enables the sort of unethical, illegal, manipulative, abusive behavior joe has been engaging in for the last ten or so years. & expecting any of these camps to come together in a sudden display of solidarity & unified acceptance of a single perspective is ludicrous. i have no faith that someone like dan will read my words & suddenly see things the way i do, & no matter how many times he dismisses what i say as "gossip," i'm not going to agree with him.
but i will say that i must disagree with star blanket river child: as heated as this thread has become at times (& how could i not, when we're talking about the kinds of issues we are talking about--emotional abuse tends to raise feelings a little more than questions about long-arm staplers), there hasn't been any "name-calling," as far as i have seen. it IS possible to disagree with someone, even virulently, even to think less of them as a person because of your disagreement, without resorting to "squabbling," & by & large, i don't think i'd classify the majority of this thread as "squabbling" or "drama". i disagree with people like krissy & dan, in deep, fundamental ways, & the nature of our disagreements says a lot about who they are as people & their respect for other people (especially abuse survivors), & as i result, i think somewhat less of them. but this discussion absolutely SHOULD be happening here, because a) tiara asked about it, in seemingly good faith, & she deserves a response, & b) because this issue DOES affect the larger zine community, & this website, as ridiculous as it often is, seems to be the online hotspot for zine-related communication right now. if anyone has a better recommendation about where this issue can be discussed so that people who are curious about making better zine procurement decisions have access to information that might help them, i am all ears.
do you honestly think this HASN'T been discussed through blogs & word of mouth? this conversation is hardly the crowning jewel of joe biel-related information dispensation, but it is another avenue for appraising people of the situation. obviously a few people have walked away with new information that is making them think. i consider that a win.
I'm glad I read things posted in and linked to in this thread. I'm glad they're available for me to look at again. I'm not sure if or when I would have seen anything similar otherwise.
geez, please don't assume I'm stupid. of course I know it's been discussed through both, I'm sure this is the LAST place it's been spoken about, and I'm not saying it's not a "win."
I just don't like abuse being trivialized. How are you disagreeing with me on this?! I am completely on your side, and you're still trying to argue with me.

ciaraxyerra said:
do you honestly think this HASN'T been discussed through blogs & word of mouth? this conversation is hardly the crowning jewel of joe biel-related information dispensation, but it is another avenue for appraising people of the situation. obviously a few people have walked away with new information that is making them think. i consider that a win.
I have had an unexpected crash course in the subject of emotional abuse over the course of what I can only describe as a healthy and loving relationship with the controversial Mr. Biel over the last -- wow, it's been nearly a year already.

I've read books, zines, talked with professionals, talked with friends and heard their stories, talked it over endlessly with Joe. Thought about it a lot. Learned a lot and cried a lot. It's not a pretty view of the world we live in, when you start to notice these ingrained, messed up power dynamics everywhere, and I mean everywhere.

I'm not here to defend Joe against this bewildering laundry list of accusations, mostly because I wasn't there. I didn't know him during his marriage, I don't know Alex, I'm not part of the Microcosm team, and I'm not involved in any zine community. All I know is that I spend a lot of time with Joe, I'd trust him with my life, I'm nobody's fool, and I don't observe anything like what's stated here in any part of his life.

If anyone reading this has specific questions about Microcosm's business practices and history, why not simply ask someone at Microcosm. I don't know most of the others, but they seem solid and honest and perfectly willing to air grievances and disagree with each other. If people want to know about an individual's personal experiences in their work or a relationship, well, you can probably ask, though when it comes to personal questions empathy often goes the whole distance.

Likewise, if anyone needs a glowing character reference for Joe, I'll gladly give it and then some. But that doesn't seem to be the real issue. The discussion is about a pervasive problem in our society--abuse--and how progressive, thoughtful people should deal with it, as well as the more general issue of addressing problems within one's community.

There's a lot going on in this discussion. There are several people, with one in the lead, speaking out against abuse and demanding that one person and/or their business be ostracized. No greater goal has been stated, unless I'm missing something.

First of all, placing a label for a set of wrongs you've experienced all on one person and then pushing them out the door may be cathartic in the moment, but it doesn't make those wrongs go away and it doesn't make anyone's life better. If you're successful, it's a classic example of winning a battle to lose the war.

Second, consider that the sources of these accusations, whatever their intentions or experiences, are asking you to take sides in an issue about which nobody can argue or ask questions. Ciara here, who I don't know, is demanding that if you are against abuse (you are, right?) then you must join her in ostracizing one person and business or else you clearly must be on the wrong side of the issue -- and worse, you risk having similar allusions made about you (and trust me -- you do not want to be on the receiving end of this campaign). Ciara, I respect your passion, which I share, for this difficult subject, but that's a dirty trick and smacks of a witch hunt. This isn't a discussion of an issue, it's an aggressive power play and that's not a progressive or healthy way to address anything, much less something as important as abuse.

I admire, a lot, the motivation to speak up when something isn't right. But there is a big difference between, on the one hand, bravely speaking out against the abuses of power that plague all levels of our society, and on the other, demanding that others unquestioningly join you in excommunicating and branding another member of the community. In this case, that line seems to have been crossed a long time ago.

So what do you do when you hear major accusations against someone in your community? I wish I had all the answers to that. I'd start with empathy. This is not a cut-and-dry situation. There is a huge amount of history here and It would take a strange kind of person to not be hugely affected in their life and mind by years' worth of escalating accusations, to go through no process and no changes.

Abuse is a pervasive issue and it's probably a good idea to educate yourself about it. I learned the most from a book called "Why Does He DO That?" by Lundy Bancroft, and from all of Cindy Crabb's amazing work, especially her Support zine, which applies to situations well beyond sexual abuse and which everyone should read even if they think they don't need to. Prepare to feel really disturbed and upset when reading these things and make sure you are taking breaks, taking care of yourself and have someone around to talk with it about. Trust me.

A final thought -- if you read ye olde famous Brainscan #21 and resulting discourse, including this thread, you'll notice a lot of things, and one of them is that the story as told by Alex has no end and no resolution. Telling her story, and continuing to tell it, is therapeutic for her, clearly. She has moved on in her personal life, which is great. But there is no moving on for the story. The accusation just stands there like an open wound, and continues to be explored from every direction. There is no one asking how a person or a community grows, evolves, learns, becomes better. There are demands to shun one person, but no specific requests being made of that person, little apparent willingness to engage with him or with any kind of process except that of berating him. My question for you all is -- what do you want from Joe? What do you want from this community? Is any kind of resolution possible or even wanted? I can't imagine that this ongoing saga is gratifying for anyone anymore. I'd like to think there is a way out of it that will make the community stronger and everyone involved wiser, but how?
isn't the person you are accusing of abuse on this site? instead of just talking about him indirectly, couldn't you just bring your opinions of him, to him? i just think it's cowardly to talk about people behind their backs like this, or out in the open. unless you were in that relationship and were with alexx and joe every single day you have no idea what types of things happened in their relationship. i get how abuse works and i've been through that, and i just know that i wouldn't want my relationship dissected out in the open in front of my peers like this. the original poster asked about microcosm, someone could've said, "on the guy who runs it is accused of abusing his old girlfriend" and that could have been the end of the discussion.

this really isn't our business. abuse and domestic violence are very serious, but the he said/she said is called DRAMA and it's disgusting. you can't prove that he did anything, all the things that people are talking about are not documented or on tape so you can't really know. if alexx would have pressed charges and joe would have had his day in court and been found guilty, that would have been different, but it's basically one person's story over another person's story. what your friends say or what you read in someone's blog doesn't make it true or a fact.

i'm involved in a zine comp that is going to print right now and we are working on a consensus model. one person said they don't want to work with microcosm, we said fine, and that was done. we didn't have this whole discussion on why, her voice was enough.

this thread is sick. i agree with star blanket river child. this is really not the place to discuss people's personal lives. if people have problems with microcosm's business practices, that's one thing, but if you just have issues with joe or whatever his name is, bring them up with him.
By the way, I forgot to add that while I don't have a ton of extra energy for long exchanges on internet forums, if anyone wants to get in touch personally my email is eleanor dot blue at gmail, my phone number is easily discovered on google. If you're in Portland we can have coffee. Ciara in particular, if you feel comfortable getting in touch to have a conversation about this, please do. Sometimes these things are better discussed in-person than on the lonely internet.

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