Some years ago, Joe Biel, a co-founder of Microcosm, was publicly called out for being emotionally abusive in his relationship with his then-partner and Microcosm's other co-founder Alex Wrekk. He has also been called out as being manipulative in collective organizing with Microcosm. This whole time, the company maintained a degree of silence about this issue that I personally found totally odious and appalling.
Some time in 2009 or '10, (you can read an accurate timeline at Alex's website), Joe began engaging in a mediation/accountability process initiated by Cindy Crabb, publisher of Doris Zine and general rad ally and friend. I had already read Alex's zine about the abuse via Support New York, and was heartened to hear that Microcosm was perhaps finally taking accountability. In January of this year, Microcosm released a very problematic and disappointing statement, which has been critiqued by Cindy far more succinctly than I feel capable of right now. In February, someone from Microcosm contacted me to order new zines and I wrote them the following email:
Hey J----,No one at Microcosm bothered to respond. Earlier this week I was shown their most recent public statement, which was actually published on their website this time, at least. At the time I first saw this statement, there was a conversation going on in the comments section that seems to have disappeared now, but was luckily archived here. If the comments had still been open on that blog post, I probably would've written to Microcosm there instead of writing this public letter, but since they seem determined to close down any actual dialogue, I feel like I have no choice but to write something here.
I don't think we know each other. I have had lengthy discussions with S---- in the past about some misgivings I've had about distributing through Microcosm, which she more or less helped me to quell, but those misgivings have been given new breath as of late.
Aside from doing Slice Harvester, my main project for many years has been doing perpetrator accountability work [with] Support New York (http://www.supportny.org) here in NYC. Much as I appreciate the income generated by, and reliability of, turning a bulk of my mail-order over to Microcosm, my allegiance lies first and foremost with my beliefs around those who perpetuate abuse and how they should be held accountable.
Before agreeing to distribute through Microcosm a year or so ago, I had a number of long and very involved conversations over the phone with S---- in which she assured me that Joe's process was making progress and that the collective was totally into keeping him accountable. In light of some recent updates from Cindy Crabb, I don't feel like I can continue to distribute Slice Harvester with you all in good conscience. Even though SH is totally separate and anonymous project and is absolutely distinct from my accountability work, my commitment is still to that work, and when I think about continuing any kind of relationship with Microcosm, I get a feeling in the pit of my stomach that I've learned to heed.
I wish Microcosm had been a little more transparent about acknowledging Joe's abusive behavior from the get go, and I really wish it seemed like you all were acknowledging it at all right now. I can't even find the public statement you guys made about Joe's behavior anywhere on the website. Is it available outside of anarchistnews.org, where I finally found it in google? It doesn't seem very transparent or accountable to leave something so crucial off the website.
Overall, I am really disheartened by all of this and as I said, I don't think I feel comfortable working with you guys any longer.
While I think that the new statement is far more heartening than the last, I still feel majorly let down by it's timing, it's vagueness, and the silencing of criticism Microcosm has engaged in by hiding the comments that were previously posted. At this point, Microcosm has a few copies of Slice Harvester Quarterly #2 left and when they sell out I don't think I'll be selling them any more any time soon. I would urge any other zine makers who consider themselves an ally to stop working with Microcosm until they get their shit together, and I would urge everyone else to hold off on ordering from them until they prove themselves to be willing to engage in actual accountability and dialogue.
There are standards we must set in our community. Abuse and abusive behavior happen in this sick fucking society, there is no avoiding that. We are socialized to harm one another, and men in particular are socialized to be so disconnected from our emotions that the harm we cause is oftentimes inadvertent. However, it is each person's responsibility to be open and honest with themselves and the people in their lives and foster an environment where abuse accusations can be taken seriously, and both survivor and perpetrator can be given access to the healing they need. Microcosm's actions have done the exact opposite of that. They've given an abuser a shield to hide behind and perpetuate his shitty behavior while publicly seeming accountable, and that is untenable. Microcosm needs to get their shit together ASAP. This stuff is hard to navigate but they are majorly fucking up.