terry allen (by way of mf@mediafilter.org (MediaFilter)) on Tue, 14 Jul 1998 04:38:07 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> Terry Allen Answers CAQ Attacks

July 13, 1998
FROM: Terry Allen (editor of CAQ, 1990-May 1998)

Thank you to everyone who wrote or phoned with support for the fired CAQ
workers. We got more than 1,000 e-mails and phone calls of support.

I have held off sending out this letter, but, after reading Agee's personal
attack, I think the whole story needs to come out. I'll respond first to the
letter/"position paper" that CAQ corporate officers, Louis Wolf, Bill
Schaap, and Ellen Ray, have distributed in response to the CAQ staff letter
announcing the firings. (I have appended this position paper, their
termination letter to us, and the CAQ staff original letter.)

The "position paper" by Wolf, Ray, and Schaap contains distortions and lies
that are potentially damaging to our reputations and demeaning to the work
of not only the staff, but of the hundreds of writers and artists with whom
we worked. Even a brief examination of this letter will give you some idea
of how they bend and break facts to fit their agenda.

At the core of their position paper is a vague defense of the firings of all
three pay rolled CAQ staff members:
"We can only assure you," they wrote, "that we believe we were fully
justified in taking the action we did."

Nowhere, however, do they explain why they hired couriers to deliver
termination letters to our houses early Sunday morning -- only days after
praising the staff for its exemplary work. Nor do they justify hiring a
security firm to change the office locks on employees, two of whom had
worked for CAQ for eight years. They "*only* assure" that they *believe*
they were justified in firing us as they did.

Then they present "a few facts":

WOLF, SCHAAP, AND RAY (writing in their May 19 "position paper"):
"The discharges were not without notice, both long-term and short-term..."

FACT: Neither I nor Sanho Tree was ever at any time threatened with firing.
Never, not once, not long-term, not short-term. Not verbally and not in
writing. No warning. Never. Nor was any disciplinary action ever taken
against any of us. Barbara Neuwirth was given one warning over a minor
incident--putting up a poster that offended the publishers.

WOLF, SCHAAP, AND RAY (continue) " . . . and, indeed, even in our final
communication, we offered to sit down and discuss `anything' with any of
them. None accepted this offer."

FACT: The "offer" in this "final communication," (see below) came AFTER we
had already been fired "effective immediately." The "anything" they were
prepared to negotiate referred to post- termination affairs only.

WOLF, SCHAAP, AND RAY (in their May 10 termination letter a.k.a. "final
communication" to the CAQ staff):
"We are prepared to discuss individually, with each of you, compensation
due, severance pay, facilitating unemployment insurance payments, the
forwarding of personal mail and messages, the transfer of health insurance
and any other matters you wish to discuss."

WOLF, SCHAAP, AND RAY: "None accepted this offer."

FACT: Their implication that they had made an offer "to sit down and discuss
"`anything' " BEFORE we were fired was not only a misquote of their own
"final communication," it was untrue. Since the firing, however, the staff
has tried to negotiate for return of our things and payment of money due.
The  publishers still have not returned much of the material. In the
meantime, not one message or piece of mail has been passed along to me. We
all await news of the severance pay they mentioned.

"It is also totally disingenuous to describe the conflict as a
management-worker dispute ..."

FACT: They were management, we were workers, they had, and used the power to
fire us.

"[It] was deeply insulting to be called "capitalist thugs."

FACT: For the sake of accuracy, we actually wrote that they  "acted ... like
*corporate thugs.*" Their defense that they didn't make money from the
magazine is irrelevant. We never said they extracted a profit, only that
they used the tactics of corporate thugs. They did.

"Can anyone who knows us and our histories believe, "for example, the absurd
charge that we `championed' an article suggesting Adolf Hitler was alive in

FACT: Wolf did. I was there when he held up production of the magazine
during deadline for several hours while he discussed the theory with its
promoter as they examined a giant wall map of Antarctica spread out on the
desk in Wolf's office. When I went into his office to try to get him to
continue proofreading, he greeted me enthusiastically, telling me that we
should print something about the story.  (Note, by the way, their careful
wording; they don't deny the episode happened, but rather, ask if it is

FACT: And yes, it turns out that many who know Wolf, Schaap, and Ray
remember their long history of championing questionable conspiracy
theories--and of smearing numerous innocent people, without proof, as

At the same time as they backpedaled the Hitler nonsense, they ignored the
other more substantive political disputes. They do not deny that they
aggressively pushed publication of stories championing Serbia as victim of
Bosnian aggression, of Azerbaijan as innocent target of Armenian villainy,
or an undocumented story on US biological warfare.

WOLF, SCHAAP, AND RAY: "Not only have we never, in its
twenty year history, taken a salary from the magazine, we have, year after
year, to the present, contributed the entire shortfall-not an
insignificant amount- necessary to keep it from folding, and to meet its
every obligation."

FACT: Although Schaap and Ray try to give the impression that they
contributed to "the shortfall," in fact, the publishers' financial
contribution to CAQ, such as it was, came exclusively from Wolf's inherited
wealth. And as for their making up every shortfall, that's news to the
staff. We provided our own software and training, paid our way to
conferences and award ceremonies, and even bought various essentials,
including reference books and office furniture. Staff members also missed
salaries so that writers and printers could be paid when money was short.
Ray and Schaap, on the other hand did virtually no work for the magazine for
the last 10 years.

WOLF, SCHAAP, AND RAY:"for more than a decade [we] wrote, edited, and
produced the magazine virtually on our own.

FACT: This statement (which refers to the magazine's first decade) dismisses
out of hand the contributions of past editor Bill Vornberger and of all the
support staff and writers who gave generously of their work.

Their position paper is correct in one thing, however. Interpersonal
relations between employees and owners were strained. But these
interpersonal difficulties had a context. They began several years ago and
were rooted in two distinct, but often intertwined tensions. The first was
the publishers' repeated attempts to violate the agreed on firewall between
editorial content and the owners' personal and political interests (referred
to above). More generally, they sympathized with a conspiratorial world view
and despite the strictures it would have imposed on reporting, argued
against critical analysis--or even gentle humor-- on certain topics, e.g.
Fidel Castro. (FYI, I have appended a memo I wrote to them after they took
me to task for allowing Benjamin Treuhaft, a longtime Cuba supporter to be
quoted calling Castro "a nice old fart.")

The second area of dispute was the staff's' refusal to become complicit in
or to tolerate unethical and illegal behavior on the part of anyone
connected with the magazine. Tensions rose only AFTER the staff discovered
that Wolf had been caught on surveillance camera at the Associated Press
archives in New York stealing scores of photos and negatives while doing CAQ
"research." He had apparently been stealing photos from AP for years and
telling the staff that they were legally obtained. We found out about his
thievery only a few days before going to press- - with pilfered AP photos
laid out in the magazine--and had to redo the desktop publishing at the
eleventh hour. We explained to Wolf that such theft not only endangered the
magazine and the credibility of all associated with it, but was a terrible
disservice to the photographers and to the historical record--even one owned
by a corporation. We also insisted that he not had to stop lying to the
staff about his activities. He appeared to understand and was contrite.

But his behavior continued to be secretive and duplicitous: Wolf took other
peoples' personal correspondences, initiated strange projects without
informing anyone, and continued to lie to his co- workers and to steal. He
also negligently misplaced large amounts of CAQ money. The situation reached
a climax a few years after the AP incident, when we found out that Wolf had
slashed pages out of bound volumes at the Library of Congress and had been
stealing prints from the Martin Luther King Library in DC, a desperately
underfunded public library that is one of a handful of resource centers for
African American studies in the country. He agreed that his lying and
stealing a problem and he would take a year leave of absence. He wrote a
letter to the staff confessing to "stealing/borrowing photos and graphics
[...and] my willingness to lie to coworkers" and asked us to explain his
leave with "a general reference to medical problems." For his sake, we agreed.

These offenses by Wolf are perhaps what Agee refers to when he notes my
inability to "forgive human failings." In fact, we forgave Wolf over and
over, for years. The staff did its best to help him and finally forced him
to get therapy. Schaap and Ray admitted that they had known for a long time
of Wolf's pattern of dishonesty and understood the danger it posed to the
magazine. They agreed to his year's leave, only to insist later that he
return after nine months. The staff concurred and welcomed Wolf back, hoping
that things would be better. They were not. But although interpersonal
relations were strained, we continued to work together.

Throughout that period, Agee-- one of the magazine's founders who now lives
in Germany-- never communicated with the staff about either political or
interpersonal problems. His current letter is  an out-of-the-blue
undocumented, ad hominem attack, full of insults and devoid of facts. He
accuses me of being a monster but he offers no examples, no evidence. He
accuses me of being a woman who used foul language. (I plead guilty). In the
end, the letter simply makes McCarthyesque charges of unnamed "unbelievable

Agee's sudden stand raises some important questions:

* Why, if Agee saw serious problems, and felt a stake in the magazine, did
he never try to mediate or talk to me or other staff members? In eight
years, I and the other current staffers spent less than an hour with Agee,
and only then as part of a social group. He never asked or heard our side of
the story and so, while we were keeping quiet to protect Wolf and the
magazine's reputation-- the publishers were spreading their version of events.

* Why, if the publishers didn't like the job I was doing, couldn't they just
give me notice, severance pay due after eight years of employment, and ask
me to train new editor to ensure a smooth transition?

* And if I was the problem, why does Agee support firing the whole staff?

Agee then defends the publishers by misquoting the staff letter. He writes
that "Terry's [sic] charge that [the publishers] had done practically
nothing for years is ludicrous." But our letter, written by all three fired
staff members, did not disparage Wolf, Schaap and Ray's provenance as
long-time activists, only their lack of involvement in the magazine in the
last eight years. Most of the publishers' achievements in Agee's list
precede our tenure at CAQ and in any case had little or nothing to do with
actually putting out the magazine.

But more importantly, Agee fails to confront either the manner of the firing
or that fact that it was not just I who was fired, but the whole staff.

As it stands now, the fired staff members are still missing a significant
portion of our stuff--including software, files, letters, and even art
work-- that was in the office when Schaap, Wolf, and Ray locked us out. Wolf
admitted that he, Ellen Ray, and Bill Schaap had gone over all my personal
belongings and had taken whatever they wished to claim as magazine property.
Blum, the bookkeeper, who came in a few hours a month, chimed in that he,
too, had looked through all my things. In June, they allowed us to go
"individually" and collect some things. I packed up while Louis Wolf, the
corporations' lawyer Jim Drew, Bill Blum, and a man they hired to carry the
heavy items as far as the office door looked on. Wolf and the lawyer rooted
through my things again as I put them in boxes.

Despite the fact that we were paid monthly, they sent us only the one third
of a month's pay. I am still waiting for the routine reimbursement for
business calls made while I worked out of Vermont. Unfortunately I have
already paid the $2,600 owed by CAQ to the phone company.

The publishers also confiscated all my reporters notebooks. I have contacted
sources who might be compromised, but if you feel that any confidential
information you gave me is threatened, please notify me and I will do what I

Fortunately, I was in Vermont, from where I sometimes telecommuted, with the
CAQ computer when we were fired. The day I received their fax demanding
return of the computer, I faxed back arrangements for shipping it via
Mailboxes, Etc. The next morning, I got a call from a Vermont lawyer. He
announced that he had been retained by the publishers and was sending
someone to my house to seize the computer. I had an hour to remove my
personal computer files and all the software that was not licenced to CAQ
(leaving the rest intact). If I have not responded to any e- mails of
support, it is probably because some material was lost when I hurriedly
switched computers.

In the weeks since the firing, many people have  sent messages of support
and shown their outrage by, canceling subscriptions, and sending back
renewal notices with notes condemning the firings. Others have declared that
they will not write for, or contribute art to CAQ.

It means a lot to know that so many people cared about the magazine and the
principles of journalism and the practices of fair labor we fought for.
Please keep in touch. I miss so many of you already.

Please, pass this letter on.


Terry Allen

Dear Bill and Ellen,
...And now to your comments on the reference by Treuhaft to Castro as "a
nice old fart." Barbara and my first reaction was, quite frankly, that you
were joking. When we realized you were serious, I was taken aback that even
such a mild and affectionate remark by someone  (I refer to Treuhaft) who
has devoted much to Cuba was outside the realm of what you and your Cuban
friends considered an acceptable comment. That kind of hagiography turns a
admirable world leader into a tin god and serves neither progressive
movements nor good journalism.

And last issue--journalism--is what has stuck. Imagine, if you will, that
the publishers of, say, the New York Times wrote chastising the editor
because she quoted someone offering an affectionately  disrespectful
description, of, say, Bill Clinton. Perhaps she called him "a charming old
reprobate" in an otherwise supportive article. Now imagine the publishers
said that the reason they objected to the description was that they were
embarrassed by the remark. They felt very close to the administration,
visited Washington often, and have many Democratic friends whose fine
opinion of the New York Times might be compromised by such lack of courtesy.
Now imagine that the publishers advised the editor that they prefer that
this not happen again.

Please, be reassured that I no more equate Castro with Clinton than I do CAQ
with the Times, but the analogy, as far as journalistic independence is
concerned, is more or less apt --although I must admit that taking a
position of principle over this issue seems Quixotically absurd.  It's a bit
like defending to the death someone's right to eat lime jello.

I will be glad to hear you out on the subject and would be happy to publish
your letter in the magazine along with this reply.

Terry Allen
44 Old Brook Rd.
Richmond, VT 05477
802-434-3767 voice
802-434-3767 fax (call first)
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