extortion is so punk rock

still taking a blogging break, but making a little time for an important issue. i know a lot of people who read this thing mainly know me through zine stuff, & people who know me that way are probably aware that i have been working on bringing to light joe biel’s (of microcosm publishing) history of misogynist abuse & manipulation for many years.

about a month ago, one of my closest friends here in lawrence, kansas agreed to organize an event called “dinner & bikes”. it was presented to her as an evening of vegan dinner & short films about bicycles & radical activism with some traveling presenters. she is not terribly involved with the zine community & didn’t know who the presenters were. a friend of hers (who DID know who joe was & WAS aware of his abuse history) had asked for a local volunteer to organize the event & jaimie offered.

when jaimie finally got the facebook event listing up, she invited me & i checked out the listing. that was the first time i knew that joe biel had anything to do with the event. the three traveling presenters were in fact joe (who has failed several accountability processes that have attempted to help him come to terms with his abusive, manipulative tendencies), his partner elly (who has viciously victim-blamed abuse survivors in her extremely vocal support of joe & equally vocal condemnations of any attempts to hold him accountable for his behavior), & a friend of theirs named josh, that i don’t know anything about.

i immediately called jaimie to fill her in on exactly what she’d been roped into doing. neither one of us knew what the best course of action was. cancel the event? but we knew they probably wouldn’t have too much trouble finding someone else to book them into another venue, either in lawrence or in nearby kansas city. allow the event to happen & disrupt it? but that would be really stressful for us, & there was no guarantee of being able to achieve a productive moment with lawrence community members who just wanted to watch some short films about bikes. eventually jaimie decided that canceling the event was the best course of action. she asked me to draft up an explanation of this decision that she could send out to invitees. i did so, & she passed it on to people. unfortunately, she didn’t remove elly as an administrator of the event before sending out the message, & elly immediately swooped in to delete the event from facebook, eliminating the event context for the messages. a few people were confused because they’d forgotten about the event or never intended to come in the first place, but…the event was canceled & that’s what mattered.

within a matter of days, the bikes & dinner tour succeeded in re-booking their event at a venue in kansas city for the evening they would have been in lawrence. done & done…right?

not quite. a few days later, jaimie received a message from elly, demanding immediate payment not only of the $150 guarantee the bikes & dinner people were initially requesting (for an event that never trasnpired, mind you), but an additional $150 because the event was canceled in “bad faith”. elly also requested a “retraction” of the cancellation message that had characterized joe’s abuse history as problematic & not something jaimie wanted to support in bringing into the lawrence community. never mind that elly had canceled the event on facebook, thereby eliminating jaimie’s access to the original invitation list…it’s not like jaimie was seriously going to retract anything to begin with.

jaimie has decided to make all of her correspondence with elly in organizing & canceling this event public. i’m re-posting it here because i think that anyone who is still financially supporting microcosm publishing or may find themselves in the position of supporting joe or elly in other ways, like organizing events for them, should be aware of what they are getting into. bear in mind that at least one of the women joe has been abusive to has actually requested that people boycott microcosm in order to stand with abuse survivors. if you still choose to support these people with your time, money, friendship, resources, et al, that is your choice, but consider this a gesture toward informed consent:

Aug 10th:
Hi my name is Jaimie Oller and I got your email address from Cait Giddings in a post from Ailecia Ruskin about wanting to bring your bike show through Lawrence, KS in Sept. I’d love to help set this up and was just looking for more information and the exact dates you were coming through town.

thanks so much!

In Good Health,
Jamie Oller, NCBTMB, CPMT, CIMT
Devoted to creating a world where every child has the chance to meet their full potential. Liddlekidz.org

**********
Hey Jamie,
Thanks for writing! We’d love to do a Dinner & Bikes event in Lawrence, if possible. We’d be there on September 22nd, and would want to do the event from 7-9. Basically, our chef serves up a fancy vegan meal for the number of people we expect, then I give a presentation about bikes and the economy, Joe shows a bunch of super short (3 minute) movies about bike culture, and that’s that.

What we need to make it happen: A darkenable-ish place with a screen or wall to project movies on (we have a projector — and a sheet we can hang up if necessary. A place for the chef to cook — doesn’t have to be a fancy kitchen, either someone’s house works or a sink & table & place to plug in his hot plate; and a guarantee to cover food, gas, etc in case only like 4 people show up and three of them forgot their wallet (it’s happened). We usually ask for $150, and organizers usually find a sponsor (local bike shop, the library, the city) to cover it if they’re worried about attendance.

Lots more at our website: http://ramblingroadshow.com

Thanks!
Elly
503 810 9443

**********

Elly,
Sounds awesome! I think that $150 is totally possible in Lawrence and I know a space that has a kitchen and a screen! let’s go ahead and set this up! and I’ll make the space reservations tomorrow. if there’s anything that needs to change, feel free to email me or FB me (Jaimie Oller). I’ll touch base again in Sept just to make sure everything is a go!

thanks so much! this sounds awesome!

In Good Health,
Jamie Oller, NCBTMB, CPMT, CIMT

**********

Jamie,
Perfect! Wow. Thanks a ton. Let me know venue details and I’ll put them up on the website and on the fb page I just made. If you want to rsvp there, I’ll make you an admin and you can switch up whatever you like: https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=242560475778628

Likewise, if you need anything let me know.

Thanks again! I’m excited to go to Lawrence!
Elly

Also, what’s your address? I’ll send posters.

**********

Sept 12th:
Elle,
I wanted to let you know that after I agreed to organize this event I was made aware of Joe’s history and his failed attempts at community accountability. I really don’t feel comfortable bringing someone with his history into my community to discuss feminism or any other radical projects while ignoring his lack of accountability, and therefore I must cancel this event.
— In Good Health,
Jamie Oller, NCBTMB, CPMT, CIMT
Devoted to creating a world where every child has the chance to meet their full potential. Liddlekidz.org

**********

Sept. 13th:

Jamie,
I’m floored. And stunned. That about sums it up.
It sounds like you’ve made up your mind. So I’ve crossed that one off and we’ll work out something else for that day.
Best wishes to you.
Elly

**********

(this is the cancellation message, written by me, ciara xyerra, at jaimie’s request, that was sent to invitees of the lawrence bikes & dinner event, approximately september 13th.)

after doing the groundwork to get this event going, it came to my attention that one of the touring members, joe biel, has a long history of behaving in abusive & manipulative ways with women. he has failed mediation & three community accountability processes. i do not feel comfortable inviting such a person into our community to discuss feminism or other elements of radical activism. it’s my belief that such behaviors, particularly when coupled with a lack of accountability, help to create a culture in which survivors of abuse & misogyny are expected to take a backseat–that these issues are considered ‘personal’ & therefore irrelevant. the fact that joe’s tourmates would choose to overlook this history & bring him into communities across the country without being transparent about joe’s actions & lack of accountability calls their judgment into question as well. i don’t want to live in a community that looks the other way when it comes to abuse & misogyny, & i hope that you don’t either, so i have decided to cancel this event.

if you are interested in learning more about joe’s long history of abuse & failed accountability, here are some links:

http://alexwrekk.wordpress.com/2010/07/29/so-whats-the-deal-with-you-and-microcosm/

http://alexwrekk.wordpress.com/2011/06/21/hello-blog-hit-spike-thy-name-is-microcosmjoe-bielabusealex-wrekkboycott-or-any-combination-of-them/

http://sassyfrasscircus.tumblr.com/post/300364252/on-microcosm-publishing

for more information on radical community responses to abuse & misogyny, here are some links:

http://www.phillyspissed.net/

http://www.defenestrator.org/node/1796

http://www.incite-national.org/index.php?s=114

**********

Sept. 25th:
Jamie,
Please consider this email a formal request for a retraction of your defamatory statements about Joe Biel, Microcosm Publishing, and the Dinner & Bikes Tour.
Also attached is an invoice. We had agreed to a $150 guarantee for our event in Lawrence. But because for such an event we would expect to make at bare minimum $300, and because the cancellation was not in good faith, I am attaching an invoice for the larger amount. Payment is due immediately.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions. I hope that we do not have to take this to the next level.
Elly

**********

Sept. 28th:
Elly,
I want to let you know that you have no right to send such an email to me. I in no way agreed to pay you and you, yourself cancelled the public invite to the event and then replaced that night with another event in Kansas City. Legally speaking, you have no legs to stand on and I suggest that you act more carefully in the future before threatening legal action towards strangers.
In regards to Joe, Microcosm and your Tour: I will not be taking my statements back and if anything, will be making this threatening email public to allow others to see the bullying tactics you also use. Nothing I stated is unfounded and all of it can be proven. My suggestion is if you want folks to stop pointing out how fucked up Joe’s behavior has been in the past, maybe you should encourage him to work towards fixing it.
I will be disregarding your letter and demand for payment, as well as letting all other radical organizers in Lawrence and surrounding areas to no longer support Microcosm or any other projects that Joe or yourself may be involved in.

**********

Sept. 29th:
Jamie,
I absolutely encourage you to publish our correspondence. Sunlight is an excellent disinfectant.
Best,
Elly

**********

there you have it, folks! spread the word as you see fit!

5 Comments Add yours

  1. the emails stand up on their own. as someone who has helped organize events for travelling groups in my own community, i can’t imagine being in the same situation. i feel like your friend dealt with it in the most respectful way possible, and elly’s responses make her seem immature and overly defensive. her sept 13th email and sept 25th emails are just worlds apart, and really sad to react to such unfounded attempts at extortion. might as well have said, “please pay us 150$ for being dicks.”

    hopefully this situation figures itself out, and it’s just such a bummer to realize joe biel will probably never, ever own up to his bullshit.

  2. “accountability processes”? What the… ?

    As far as accountability goes, filing what we call ‘charges’, has proven to be very effective… especially if the abuse has been continuing for quite some time.

    1. ciara says:

      check out some of the links about community responses to sexual or domestic violence to learn more about why some people might choose not to go the traditional legal filing charges route, & to possibly learn more about what a community accountability process is & how its goals are very different from just throwing someone in jail/providing a physical barrier (like jail or a restraining order) to prevent abuse from continuing. i’m not going to get up on a soapbox & make an argument for community accountability versus traditional court routes, but i think there are a lot of reasons why someone may choose one or the other (or both…or neither), & the point in this situation is that all parties (including joe) agreed to pursue community accountability, but joe’s interactions with that process (as well as his experience with professional mediation & therapy) appears to have not been in good-faith at all.

      (i’d also question how “effective” filing charges in domestic abuse situations actually is. you may have heard that the city of topeka, kansas recently announced that they are going to stop prosecuting domestic violence charges–which are just misdemeanors anyway–due to budget cuts.)

      & ultimately, i don’t want to rehash the whole “is it abuse? is it not abuse? if it was really abuse why didn’t anyone go to the cops?” argument because this entry is really about a related but very different topic. people who might choose to work with joe &/or elly in the future on various projects, like tours, could probably stand to have access to the information that when things don’t go down the way joe & elly want, they demand money, pubic apologies, & threaten legal action. but none of those are really things that anyone can “file charges” over. it’s just something that is at odds with the radical values joe & elly put forth as their public personas, & something that some people may want to know.

  3. Thanks for the links. And yes… Topeka, KS – always First in the Race To The Bottom!

    As flawed as the legal system is, it just seems to me that the other method is completely toothless, as the behavior of the accused party has borne out.

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