Accountability, Joe Biel, and Microcosm
What I love about the zine community! Holding a person and a collective accountable for habitual abuse… http://heavymentaldistro.org/blog/open-letter-to-microcosm-publishing/ – For those of you who ask why I don’t like Microcosm, here is a start for your reading and deciding for yourself. –
I have had several friends over the years ask me what the deal is with Joe Biel and Microcosm. Why don’t I like Microcosm? Should they participate in an anthology being put out by Microcosm or Joe? Should they have their zines sold by Microcosm? Does one guy really ruin it for everyone?
Well, maybe not for you, but, for me, yes.
When I first met Joe at a board game night about 8 years ago, I was just as charmed as most people are by him. This was despite the fact that he was as condescending as all get out, including making fun of me and saying I was a vegan poser because I went with my friends to Denny’s and ordered coffee. I didn’t take the remarks he made too seriously then, until I realized later that he can just be generally demeaning. When I learned more about him from our interactions and from friends, including Alex Wrekk, I quickly became uncomfortable around him or anyone close to him. I don’t hate him, hate is too strong of a word… I just think he is boundary pushing, disrespectful, and probably emotionally abusive.
Probably that is, if any part of any story I had heard about his relationships was true, which I do believe many of the accounts I have heard to be true indeed. Of course, I heard about the complications of his relationship with Alex Wrekk first, but there were more beyond and past him, including a woman he as in relationship with after Alex who now tells a similar story as Alex’s about their relationship… As well as knowing the perspective of outside mediators that have tried to work with Alex and Joe. And also, knowing how he and Microcosm have related to other businesses and people whose work they publish and/or distribute.
It’s complicated to explain more about all of this in blog post. I started writing this post as a much longer entry, but, ultimately, I don’t have time or energy right now. So I will post what I have told many friends over the years:
If you want to here a lot more details about all of this and my personal perspective, just give me a call or let’s have coffee. I will tell you what I know, how I feel and why…
Meanwhile, I will volunteer what I have said a few times, including what I told a lady friend who asked me recently over the phone about Joe Beil and Microcosm. I, personally, don’t feel comfortable with him or Microcosm for a variety of reasons, but I would not hold it against you or anyone else for deciding to participate in an anthology project or being distributed with them. You have my acceptance, I just don’t advise it because I think he and the collective are unethical and not accountable. I am not going to judge you for getting involved with them if you feel skeptical because you don’t have a first-hand experience of being treated unethically by Joe or Miscrocosm… And I hope you don’t. When I know a person or a company or a organization has behaved unethically, however, I try to steer clear of it. Unless, of course, I do see some real accountability on the person’s or company’s or organization’s part.
While I think Joe Biel is lame and the situation with Microcosm kind of sucks, I am glad for what I see in the wake of all of it: A community that calls out abuse and talks about it. A community that expects accountability in a respectful way. A community that doesn’t launch a witch-hunt, but does demand a dialogue about unethical practices and seeks a meaningful solution.
Thanks to all the zinesters that are brave about standing in solidarity against abuse and other unethical behavior. You are all rad.