An Apology

“The modern loss of respect, or rather the conviction that respect is due only where we admire or esteem, constitutes a clear symptom of the increasing depersonalization of public and social life.” – Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition

First off, I’m sorry that this extremely necessary post was a long time in coming.

On the evening of September 25, 2014, I tweeted a number of inappropriate and over-the-line tweets to the novelist Porochista Khakpour, who I had been sparring with all day. I had been heavily drinking, but this does not excuse my behavior. In reviewing what I tweeted after the fact, I don’t even recognize the man who was tweeting that night. I am utterly appalled by my actions.

Thus, I offer my most heartfelt and earnest apologies to Porochista Khakpour. I am legitimately contrite, very aware of my wrongdoing, and have spent many hours rethinking what respect really means and what my relationship with words is.

I am not yet prepared to write about the more severe events that occurred the next morning (and after), but I was forced to remove myself from the Internet for a very long time. When I returned, I had no idea that so much ink and vitriol had been spread about me on social media. I have not read all the articles, but I have been apprised of their defamatory and outright inaccurate contents by other parties. Nevertheless, I earned the backlash. The punishment wasn’t just confined to the responses. There was the brutal and heartbreaking end of an eight and a half year relationship, excommunication from a sizable part of the literary community, and a sudden derelict status that I am now trying to claw my way out of. Despite all this, I have remained positive and have learned much that I hope to impart at length someday. And I will still be writing.

I would also like to thank one person.

One of the few people to rise above the toxic sludge of conjecture and innuendo was New York Times Book Review editor Pamela Paul. I’ve criticized Paul a number of times, but I respect the fact that Paul, who worked under the Sam Tanenhaus era and was undoubtedly familiar with the office shorthand, took the time out to debunk one of the promulgated stories. She didn’t have to do this. I doubt the Review‘s credibility would have been especially damaged by the rumor. But in an age where collecting unconfirmed gossip now constitutes “journalism,” I appreciate Paul’s commitment to professionalism over pitchforks. It’s an invaluable reminder for a writer with a loud voice that there’s another way to do things.

© 2014, Edward Champion. All rights reserved.

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16 Comments

  1. I agree with Kenny Mann that it’s good to have you back, but I worry about your return, mainly because you don’t seem aware of the many ways in which this post is not, in fact, an apology. No matter what kind of disclaimers you immediately add to the statement, writing that you’d been drinking heavily the day you blackmailed Porochista Khakpour (let alone that you don’t recognize the man who did that blackmailing) can only have one motivation: to distance yourself from what you did. Likewise the contradiction of both saying you earned the backlash that ensued and characterizing that backlash as a vitriolic, toxic sludge of defamation (i.e. inherently undeserved). Only innocent, misunderstood people are set after with ‘pitchforks’ – but you weren’t innocent or misunderstood in the soiling incident I watched unfold back in September.

    During that incident, one commenter asked a question that stuck with me, and I want to ask it again here because this post of yours really make me think it’s valid: are you sure the Internet is a good fit for you? I ask because each one of these cyclical burnouts of yours has been worse than the one before it, and that makes me worry about this one.

  2. I appreciate the critical comment, Steve. But this post is, in fact, a bona-fide apology. I refuse to to fall into the apology trap, whereby someone makes a good faith, earnest, and heartfelt effort to recognize and atone for his wrongdoing, only for members of the crowd to claim, “Well, he’s not being sincere enough!” or “He’s trying to defend himself!” One person’s nastiness (in this case, mine) does not justify another’s. There’s a reason I quoted that Hannah Arendt section on respect, transgression, and forgiveness.

  3. I have to agree with Steve, Ed. That is not really an apology. I see self-pity, but no real effort to make amends or insight as to how you will behave differently in the future. I would be interested to know what you consider to be the elements of a genuine apology, because to quote a very great book: “I do not think that word means what you think it means”.

  4. Your choice of “The Death of Socrates” to illustrate your apology is fascinating. I’m certain you know the story told by the painting. I wonder if the irony is intentional.

  5. I must agree with Howard, Claire, and Steve. The use of the Socrates painting implies you were simply truth-telling, or “keeping it real”, or some such bullshit, while the ignorant crowd condemned and slaughtered you. Nope, that’s not how it was. I was there watching the whole thing go down that day and, drunk or not, your vitriol was potent. The aftermath was equally potent yes, but particularly once it became clear this was not a one-off incident on your part. The catharsis of those articles was necessary for the community to re-establish its own guidelines of civil behavior. The incident took on a life of its own, regardless of you. Not only were you were offline to not defend yourself, but being writers, well: people wrote about their feelings. So you became a symbol, as happens when humans intellectually dissect specific behaviors. But now that you, the actual person, are back to experience some of it and be hurt by it, you are basically declaring your own victimhood here while cloaking it in an apology. That is perhaps not the healthiest approach, yet it is understandable. I’m sure you’re sorry that the incident occurred, but what I think many would like to see is that you are able to confront your own ego about this matter and acknowledge from whence the darkness comes. Find the true origin of the anger and settle that score with yourself. People would be happy to read a true acceptance of struggle and flaw. And goodness knows we need intelligent people like you producing quality work.

  6. Oh, leave the guy alone. He made a stupid mistake that everyone survived — in fact, everyone got a jumbo opportunity to grandstand. He didn’t stalk anybody, he didn’t rape anybody, he didn’t try to put someone in her place at a major awards ceremony with racist comments. Yet apparently he’s lost everything. So unless you think this is just, unless you feel yourself immune from the sin of indiscretion, unless you think the endless moral posturing the “literary world” wallows in is productive or even particularly literary for that matter, give him a break and stop scolding him already. Ed, I’m sorry. I know I’ve made fun of you in the past and I apologize. I hope you’re well.

  7. (Heck, I’d even forgive the guy who hijacked my name and sentiment in the first line of his equivocation.) -K

  8. It’s pretty obvious that the commenters rejecting Ed’s apology are giving it a bad faith, ungenerous reading. If you’re fortunate enough never to have endured a period of emotional turmoil that disrupted your entire sense of self, then have the decency to show a bit of compassion towards those you have. Let those among you who have never had to say to the world, “I had been heavily drinking, but this does not excuse my behavior,” cast the first stone.

  9. You say that you were “forced to remove [yourself] from the Internet for a very long time.” Do you really consider two months to be a “very” long time? Seriously? Because this sounds a lot like my 8 year old daughter who laments, on October 25, that Christmas will take “foreverrrrr” to get here.

    And I’m sorry, Edward/Kenny/Andy, but by including the “shout out” to Pamela Paul, Ed dropped any semblance of sincerity from his “apology.” The fact that he doesn’t get that says everything about his continuing lack of self-awareness.

  10. You didn’t recognize the man who was tweeting that night? Huh — that’s funny. Everyone else sure did.

  11. And what about the countless others you’ve smeared and attacked and sprayed with your vitriol? Will additional apologies be forthcoming? It’s a long list. Better get busy.

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