Saturday, January 30, 2021

Literary agent fired merely for having Gab and Parler accounts; are publishers and agents going to look at an author's "social credit"?


New York, 2015

 Tucker Carlson (of course!) interviewed Colleen Oefelein, who was fired from a literary agency merely for having Parler and Gab accounts. 

National Review has a news story about the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency and its firing her, by Zachary Evans.  EugeneVolokh examines this question in Reason, as to whether New York State law might have prohibited the firing and as to what “recreational activity” means and whether it includes political speech (in promoting books or even in authoring them).  I went through this issue with my own employer in the 1990s and actually took a corporate transfer to avoid an issue. 

In fact I have a Parler account but have never posted on it.  She says she posted the same contents on Parler and Gab as on Twitter and she has never had a problem with Twitter.

In other words, her employer (as a book literary agent) doesn’t want one of its associates even “associating with” people on the right by using platforms that tend to attract them (that might include video channels like Bitchute). 

Indeed, Gab lost its hosting in 2018 after one of its members launched the Pittsburgh attack.  Most of these platforms have had to go to hosts like Epik.

It’s disturbing that a mainstream literary agency would behave this way.  But there is a great sense of nod to anti-racism and critical theory coming into mainstream corporate thought, as we have seen with the social media platforms, largely as a result of the stresses on the country and extreme political polarization, exacerbated by Trump and the events Jan. 6 at the Capitol.

The book business is also stressed by the pandemic lockdowns and closures, which certainly interfere with events at both chain and larger (or even neighborhood) bookstores.  Agents want to see authors sympathetic and interested in solving these problems.  Now that I think about it, I haven’t noticed many (or even any) Zoom book events, because people want to meet authors in person and get signed copies.

There is also a concern in the literary business that authors are willing to “write what other people want to read” rather than just what they want to say.  This has political overtones.  “Identarianism” (and addressing people where they are, as in handbook-style writing) is sometimes seen as more appropriate than a detached, academic, distant style (that sound elitist and in the last few years has become offensive to some people).  That was particularly an issue with my issue of the past, “gays in the military”. 

We may see a world where writers are expected to see some “social credit” if they are to be heard at all, and critical theory indeed mixes in with that.  It’s a big concern right now, and an existential threat to writers who want to remain “independent”  of outside “collective” pressures from others. .

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