Open Letter to Microcosm Publishing

The MARS Collective has signed on to this open letter to Microcosm Publishing, expressing concern about their support of a perpetrator of abuse. The full text of the letter is copied below, or you can read it and sign your name or group by clicking here.

We encourage other library and infoshop collectives, zine distributors, zine-makers, community accountability supporters, and festival organizers to:

  • Read and sign this open letter
  • Reconsider your own relationship with Microcosm if you have one, depending on their response or lack thereof to this letter
  • Make time in your groups to engage in critical, constructive dialogue about abuse, assault, and accountability, and help build our collective capacity to deal with these issues.

Open Letter to Microcosm Publishing

Dear Microcosm,

We write as zine distributors, zine-makers, library and infoshop collectives, community accountability supporters, and festival organizers from the DIY (queer, feminist, punk and/or anarcha-) community. We express our concern regarding your support of a perpetrator of abuse.

The wide reach of Microcosm’s distribution can be intimidating for any individual to speak out against, so we write this together, in solidarity.

We refer to your statement from June 2011, regarding Joe Biel’s involvement in Microcosm. You ended with “We do sincerely hope to open the conversation” and “Expect to hear more from us soon!” We ask, was the conversation opened? And, what was the follow-up to this?

You wrote: “Joe stepped down from being a collective member, and Microcosm will be collectively owned by the remaining members by the end of this year [2011].” Yet in 2012, Joe is listed in your newsletters and homepage as a member of Microcosm. We think this to be insensitive, considering that people are emotionally invested in your real and genuine response to Joe’s lack of accountability. You mentioned transparency, but we ask, what has been done since June 2011? Why is there no visible communication, on your website, newsletter or annual report?

Restructuring is one thing, but our main point is the accountability of an individual who still works for Microcosm. His name was not added to your statement, and this appears as though he has other people speaking for – and protecting – him. A statement where he speaks for himself, and is clear about his role in Microcosm, is overdue. A statement about whether or not he wishes to take responsibility for his own behavior is long overdue. We are worried about the power that Microcosm gives to an individual who has been known to abuse his power. We are concerned that Joe is not working towards changing his behavior. Is Microcosm going to put into practice their rhetoric about supporting survivors, and reflect on their role in perpetuating abuser’s behavior?

We would like to support you, but cannot do so as long as you support a perpetrator of abuse, whilst being passive and/or unaccountable for it. We were surprised and left a little lost by the brevity of your statement/s. Your lack of action and communication has been frustrating, disappointing and puzzling to us – as anti-oppression, social justice, or anarchist collectives. Whether or not Joe continues to be a member of Microcosm, we feel that trust in the collective, in its ability and desire to respond and be supportive and to follow through, has been ruptured.

We don’t believe that boycotting Microcosm is an adequate response to abuse, but we are uncomfortable with having any kind of relationship with Microcosm without an acknowledgment of, and a response to, Microcosm’s continued work with and, through that, support of Joe Biel who has not been responsive to and responsible for his patterns of behaviour.

Hundreds of zinesters and collectives may not feel comfortable associating with someone who is not acting accountable for his abusive behavior. Has informed consent been given to all people that are being published or distributed by Microcosm?

These are some things you could do now:

  • Explain the situation to anyone you are working with. Ask for their informed consent to continue work with them from this point onwards.
  • Make clear how the process of decision-making is progressing, and make it visible and transparent to your colleagues and “customers”.
  • Keep an updated list of action points and major decisions somewhere visible, that are in response to concerns, eg. “The collective is working to create a Resource Council, an independent group of volunteers to offer support and mediation to Microcosm – This was done in Dec 2011”. List other things that the collective has aimed to do so people stay informed on if these things have been achieved.
  • If there is no continual process with Joe, if he is not currently working to change his behavior, then he should not be benefiting from his position of power. He should no longer be a part of Microcosm.

These processes and recommendations should have already been considered by the collective years ago. We realize that this is hard work, but it should have been, and should still be, your priority over business as usual. It is the responsibility of your collective to self-educate, and to conduct its own accountability process, without external pressure or provocation.

We hope to hear from you soon, as your response is long overdue. We would like to hear from you by the 1st of October, 2012.

Original list of signers:

  • Heavy Mental Distro, Berlin
  • Anna Vo, Fix My Head zine, Berlin
  • Cindy Crabb, Doris zine, Support zine
  • Sonia, Mimi Zine Distro
  • Sarah Tea-Rex, Brighton
  • 56a Infoshop, London
  • LiLi, London
  • Billy Phoenix, London
  • Emma, Angry Violist
  • Colin, Slice Harvester
  • Project Bridget, Melbourne
  • Cherry Bomb Comics, Auckland
  • Daniel Boyle, Capital Eyes Zine, Canberra
  • Ariel Silvera, Queer anarchafeminist, Republic of Ireland
  • Halley, Infecticitis Zine, Raumschiff Distro, Berlin
  • Minnehaha Free Space/MARS Collective
  • QUARREL, Oakland
  • Philly Survivor Support Collective
  • Wooden Shoe Collective, Philadelphia
  • For the Birds Feminist Collective, NYC
  • Support New York
  • South Brooklyn ABCF
  • The NYC Coalition for Safer Spaces
  • Papercut Zine Library, Boston
  • A-K Pirata, Princesa Pirata Distro
  • Neon Rouge, Wellington, Aotearoa
  • PRAXISS, Philadelphia
  • Boxcar Books and Community Center, Bloomington
  • Alex Wrekk, Brainscan Zine, Stolen Sharpie Revolution, Portland Zine Symposium organizer, Portland Button Works co-owner

(To see how the issue with Microcosm came to our attention last year, read here.)