Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Wemple Fiasco Takes a Turn...

Murray Waas, who was recently subjected to the goonish abuse of The City Paper, posted today at the Huffington Post about the entire experience of dealing with Boss Wemple, The Anthropomorphic Anus that is Jason Cherkis, the betrayals of an old underling...and even including the implications that editorial director Mike Lenehan played some quid pro quo games as well. The upside is: at least Waas didn't have feces flung at him by that Trebuchet of Turds, Stephanie Mencimer--but hell, the night is still young!

It's a long, lovely, fascinating, and righteously stated, story. Life on Champlain is just about exactly as I imagined it. It's hard to tell what part I loved the most. But check out Cherkis:

He then badgered me over the telephone: "So are you a deadbeat of a cancer survivor? So which is it? Which is it?" Then attempting to bully me, he says "You're like begging me and Erik [his editor] not to write about it. Now you're like the poor cancer patient. Now you are falling back on your whole fucking tale of woe, dude. Feel sorry for me! I had the cancer thing."

Later, Cherkis told me that this was all a lie, and that I really went broke because I was living high off the hog. He screamed at me: "Don't tell me that in 2005 that the effect of your cancer survivorship made you bankrupt! Maybe it was living in fucking house where the rent was $2,800 a month!"

Taken aback, I asked Cherkis: "You know how much the rent on my house was? How would you know?" He then inexplicably screams the answer at the top of his lungs: "I'm a fucking reporter!"

When I inquired of him: "Why would you care about my rent?" And add, "You don't know my finances", he creepily responded, "Do I? Don't I? Do you want me to get out the filings?" referring to the bankruptcy proceedings.

In another instance, Cherkis called my home and screamed at me because I would not answer his questions, saying: "Look, dude, you are so tightly wound. Like one of those balls of rubber bands. I like to get everything out! But you are like... Did anyone ever tell you that you are like this really repressed person?"

Ha! "I'm a fuckin' reporter, dude!" Damn. And he thinks Waas is tightly wound!

Wow. All we can say is: This has potential. Hang 'em high!


Trey Graham said...

It's really hard to know where to start. So I'll start more or less at random, by wondering whether you actually know any of the people involved--or whether you just enjoy painting Wemple and Cherkis with the preposterously broad asshole brush you've been using lately. And I don't know, but is it still OK in your world to make a strong woman out to be some kind of dragon lady? Because a lot of the Mencimer-bashing I've seen you repeating here has that stink to it. I'm just sayin'.

I don't know Waas at all, just to be clear. But if you imagine that his rather purple (and repetitive, and self-aggrandizing) prose is a reliable portrait of Wemple & Cherkis' behavior and motivations, you're more credible than I'd like to believe. Those two certainly have their flaws--who among us doesn't? And I've had my differences with Wemple--who among us hasn't?

But to argue that he'd permit Cherkis to use the paper to pursue a personal grudge is to betray a basic ignorance of Wemple's personality, in particular. This, let's remember, is an editor who quite recently banned a valued longtime freelancer from contributing *on any topic* because she wrote a review of a play she'd bailed out of at intermission.

He's the same guy who not long before gave the boot to one of our star longtime contributors because that guy wrote an article critical of a noted band--and soon after apologized to the band.

I'm sure I shouldn't be sticking my nose in here. But you and the Circumlocutors of this world just aren't painting a picture I recognize. For starters, I was in the newsroom the day the Wagtime stupidity happened, and what we all heard that day was nothing like what's being retailed around the Web this year.

In fact one thing I remember *very* clearly from that day is that someone said it sounded like a good City Paper story, and Wemple responded that no way would the City Paper write about the confrontation or the cop's behavior -- because it would simply be improper.

I don't know, obviously, whether Wemple and Cherkis behaved themselves perfectly during the rather lengthy process of reporting out the Murray Waas story, because I wasn't in the office with 'em all that time. But I do know that in general, they're better people than you and Wonkette and Circumlocutor have been busy trying to make them out to be. And I know that they don't deserve the cheap brand of scorn you, in particular, have been dishing out.

The Deceiver said...

Due respect, Trey, but you might allow that you are viewing this through prisms of your OWN. W/R/T Mencimer and the whole poop flinging incident, her outsized behavior is, in and of itself, scandalous. W/R/T Circumlocutor's take on the story, the assertion that the DCRA article dovetailed conveniently with his own personal troubles with the same organization is a wholly legitimate concern.

W/R/T Waas, and Cherkis' behavior, all I can say is, if Waas doesn't have the tapes of the conversations he claims to have, then shame on Waas. But what he cites is damning, and, moreover, it's wholly consistent with the way I myself and a good friend of mine, have been treated by Cherkis--excoriated in an ad hominem fashion over a recreational poll we conducted online about...MUSIC, for Pete's sake--excoriation that led to being labelled as racist at one point! You think I'm the one with the preposterously broad asshole brush? Don't you talk to me about dishing out "cheap scorn"--I can all but assure you Trey, the scorn was bought and paid for.

"The bloggers should not have conducted this poll. It only exposes their own provincial, white bread tastes. It exposes their main weakness and that is that they are navel gazing, jerk off vessels for wanna be rock critics. If they had conducted a poll of say underrated bands, cool. If they had conducted a poll on the biggest disappointments, maybe. This just displays their limitations as open-minded, critical thinkers."


Cherkis writes this about a bunch of people who just wanted to poll each other for nothing more than frivolous fun! For that, we deserve to be called "white bread" and "provincial"? "Jerk off vessels"? "Limited critical thinkers?" Hello? WHAT FUCKING HARM HAD WE COMMITTED THAT WE DESERVED SUCH OPPROBRIUM? Especially from a person who participated that same year in a similar exercise, the Pazz and Jop poll, and whose ballot had noteworthy similarities. Asshole! Hypocrite!

Same piece: Now he's got spurious, entirely unfounded allegations to hurl:

"Because these bloggers are merely agents of buzz (that loathsome Tina Brown thing), their writing sounds a little PR. Of some band called Two Gallants, bloggers write: “The upcoming record on Saddle Creek should boost their stock tremendously.” Another writes: “And they got signed to Saddle Creek. Respect.”"

So, now we're, what, a collection of colluding shills? Any proof of that? Of course not. It's all BS and he knows it.

A week later, Cherkis comes back, casting new aspersions, throwing the race card, then backpedalling, and then finally launching into some kind of laundry list that's supposed to prove his moral superiority--you know, "he's down". Read it for yourself. Then, try to imagine someone saying this of you, and you thinking, "Well, this is entirely fair criticism."

So, Trey, when I read Murray Waas' take on the matter, I'll allow--he could be making it up. Maybe he doesn't have the evidence he says he does, and if Waas is lying then shame on him and I'll be as apologetic as they come. But when I read his take of his dealings with Cherkis, what can I say? SOUNDS ABOUT RIGHT.

As for Wemple, remember, I'd recently twice been warned that he was asking his reporters to gather information on me--as if that were within his purview to do. So, Trey, how would YOU recommend I react to that? Just curious as to how you might have handled it, you know?

Now, as I stated before, I strongly suspect that, if he did so, it would only be because he may have thought I was his other persecutor--Circumlocutor. But, if you'll recall, I said NOTHING about it until Wonkette posted it's lengthy article, including an email thread of Cherkis and a former intern of Waas basically colluding to violate the canon of journalistic ethics. At this point, sorry, but I have the right to comment even if I hadn't been told I was mixed up in it myself--for reasons passing understanding.

Still, I was mild, comparatively, then. The spat between the CP and Circumlocutor is entertaining to me. I'd be a liar to say otherwise. If anything touched a nerve, it was the part of Waas' piece that I quoted at length. Because, that's the same low, base, asshole behavior I was treated to. The same low, base, asshole behavior some friends of mine were treated to. Check your back issues, by the way. Read some Letters to the Editor. My experience with said reporter is part of a rich tradition.

So, Trey, and, again, due're doing the Lord's work over there, you're just and properly decorated for doing it, and on perhaps any other topic, I'd probably do nothing more than heed and concede...NOW YOU HAVE BEEN PROPERLY INFORMED where I am concerned, anyway. If you got a problem with Waas or Circumlocutor, you can damn well take it up with them.

The Deceiver said...

One final thing,'re quick to step in here and both label Waas as "purple...repetitive and self-aggrandizing" and present me with what you assert as exculpatory evidence against Waas' claims, but, gee, I can't help but notice that you aren't over at Huffington Post running a similar defense. If you have any REAL courage behind the convictions you've stated here, I can hardly imagine what impediment prevents you from voicing them where the crux of this melodrama lays.

If you want points, you'll have to do a lot better than going after low-hanging fruit like me.

Here There Be Pedants said...

Look here you two... "credible" means someone is believable, "credulous" means someone is inclined to belief. "It's" is a contraction of "it is" and "its" is the possessive form of "it." Writers are supposed to know the difference, or else ought to pursue other avenues of employment, like trash collection or congressional lobbying.

The Deceiver said...

Touche, HTBP.

Trey said...

Whoops. Back in town, haven't checked to see if anybody cared. Sorry.

Pedants: You're right, natch, about credible/credulous. That's what comes of commenting after two episodes of Slings & Arrows and a glass of wine. I cringe, mortified.


1) Of course I view it through my own prism. Thus the phrase "you ... aren't painting a portrait I recognize." Did the disclaimer need to be clearer?

2) How would I react to hearing that Wemple had ordered reporters to try to learn your name? Well, when I heard it, I called him and asked him if it was true. He said no. It was pretty simple. The switchboard will put you through.

3) Why haven't I commented at the HuffPost? That too is relatively simple: As strategically disingenous as I suspect Waas's preemptive strike against the CP article to be, he at least is one of the parties to the conversations he purports to describe. I'm not. So I feel like I don't have much standing there. But I *do* feel like I probably know as much about it as you possibly could, and probably more. It's really not so much Waas' version of events I was questioning; it was your endorsing it with such certainty.

4) Can Cherkis can be an asshole? I'm pretty sure I conceded that in the original comment. Is he an unredeemable asshole? We'd probably differ. The point, again, is that I'm pretty sure he doesn't use the paper to pursue grudges. And I'm damn sure Wemple doesn't.

The irony about all of this is that you argued, in your item on the lynching of Tricia O., that level-headed people don't let themselves get ruffled to the point of irrationality by a bad review. But your anger at Cherkis seems at least partly rooted in the way he treated you and your fellow pollsters in ... a review. On a blog. Which form of media you lauded, in the very same Tricia O. note, as a good place to "go ahead and be as vicious as you wanna be."

Come to think of it, I suppose you're at least being consistent. But I'm not sure you're quite being just.

The Deceiver said...

Wow. If you are going to compare Tricia's obviously harmless cheek (which, in the perfect "if the shoe fits fashion" brought out the very inflamed pretensions in the theatre community she was oh-so gently mocking) to writing two articles that began with hypocritical derogation and continued into wholly slanderous accusations of racism, then there's no help for you.

Similarly, I get chills at your unspoken suggestion that I lack standing to publicly defend myself, comment freely on it, hit back as I see fit, and, YES, take a guy like Waas at his word when his story dovetails with not just my own, but Cherkis' own history of suspect journalism. He never pursued a grudge in the City Paper? You should read the hit piece he did on his landlord and housemates (which Circumlocutor deliciously unearthed this week, taking me down Memory Lane). I can assure you, my opinion of Cherkis' reportage is right smack dab in the middle of the mainstream.

As for Wemple, maybe he's a saint, maybe a sinner. To my perspective, the balance seems to run against him. Finding out the answer will be entertaining to me. If I accept Waas' account with certainty, remember, his experience dovetails with my own. But, as I have said repeatedly, mayhap he lacks the smoking guns he says he does. If it turns out Waas has been shining us on, believe me, I'll be among the first to pen a "Boy Howdy, I was dead wrong!" piece. And I'll do so with a song in my heart.

And no, neither Wemple or Cherkis are irredeemable. Tell you what, why not suggest to them they each do something really nice for me. Like buy me a Kit Kat bar or something. That'll go a long way to making us friendsies again!

As far as you commenting on HuffPo and elsewhere, I didn't mean to say you were obligated to do so, and I'm sorry if it came across that way. It's just that in this odd affair between Jason, Erik, Murray, Circumlocutor, the CJR, that dickhead intern who probably should never work in journalism again, watching you tee off on me--the teeny-tiniest of all the possible potatoes in, on or near the field, just seemed a little OUTSIZED, you know? Especially considering you have such big time opinions on Waas' credibility and Wemple's greatness. Why are you wasting them here, on me and the handful of people who read this?

I guess what I'm trying to say is that we can both acknowledge that there are other fora where your passionate defense would be more impressive. As far as my own "consistency" goes, please note that a) I didn't shy away from letting you speak your peace. You're a good guy, even if we spend the rest of the year hitting each other over the head on this matter, and you're always welcome to say what you like. But, it's important to remember, again, for consistency's sake, that I have never claimed any higher purpose for the DCeiver than my own amusement. Well, mine and Mary Beth Fritsky.

I suppose I could put some kind of disclaimer here, but it would likely read: "All opinions expressed on this blog are varied in how informed and sensible they are. But no one's forcing you."