Facts and Shadows

You tell me this town ain't got no heart
(Well, well, well -- you can never tell)

The sunny side of the street is dark
(Well, well, well -- You can never tell)
Maybe that's 'cause it's midnight
and the dark of the moon besides, or
maybe the dark is in your eyes
You know you got such dark eyes

-- "Shakedown Street," the Grateful Dead

BY ERIC F. COPPOLINO | Part one | Part two

EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW IT'S THIS EASY. We exist in an atmosphere where all one needs to do is propose nebulous theories, or call someone names (someone, such as a man), and you can get him fired for alleged sexual misconduct. Plausible, probable or proven does not matter. It just has to spook people, kind of like mentioning a bomb at 37,000 feet.

If his employers are careless, ignorant to the law, hypersensitive to political correctness or total idiots, it's even easier. It's possible to do this without accusers, or incidents, or victims -- only rumors and innuendo.

As Margaret Mead said: to change the world, all you need is a group of thoughtful, committed citizens. What certain local citizens here lacked in thoughtfulness they surely made up for with commitment, angry as they were that I had, in my February column, raised concerns about the fact that a man could be found guilty of sexual misconduct merely by accusation.

I politely pointed out a kind of sexual McCarthyism, but got no points for my good manners. That was in an article called Take a Step Back, published this past February in a magazine called Chronogram, for which I had written for the past 265 months.

The rumors were started by three people with a close association to Chronogram. The ambush began on the Facebook timeline of "truth-telling" activist Julie Novak, a former production manager of Chronogram. They had been spread in the Hudson Valley Feminists Facebook group, of 1,300 mostly women, with help from Lorna Tychostup, who was for 12 years Chronogram's political editor; and its then-current editor-at-large, Hillary Hoffman Harvey.

Rather than individual women coming forward with accounts of misconduct against them, they waged a battle of words, and words alone.

For example, after first raising objections to the viewpoint of my writing, I was then said to allegedly be "the most infamous abuser in the Hudson Valley," a condition for which my article was supposedly a cover-up. (Geographical note: the Hudson Valley spans from Yonkers, in Westchester County [just north of New York City], to Albany, the state capital three hours away, consisting of 7,228 square miles with a population of 1.1 million.)

I was also supposedly a misogynist. I had an army of lawyers. One woman claimed I was a cowardly piece of shit (wishful or perhaps hopeful thinking).

That, and a few other things: I have a challenging personality; there were three decades of nonstop sexual seduction of women and men using incense and tarot cards; I had been reading people's private email; and was a little short on self-awareness; and had attended a journalism school that did not cover “irony”; then there was stalking people in my friends' restaurants that I openly promote on Facebook; having a guitar case full of dildos; being a condescending, womanizing, abusive pig; being offensive; being the Harvey Weinstein of the Hudson Valley; being the Matt Lauer of Chronogram; and "abusing my position to curry favor with impressionable admirers, then ferrying them to remote locations, to groom and coerce them" (into not having sex).

We've indexed all of these; many already have exhibit tags on them.

It goes on:

Allegedly laughing at someone's breasts, one time at the Chronogram block party; reading people's minds, and knowing exactly what they're thinking before a word is even spoken (because I'm an astrologer, in case you were wondering about how that's possible); predicting, to the minute, someone's arrival in a café they had not been in for four months (more astrology, I guess); being accused of things by people who are now deceased; seducing young women by promising them detailed information about dioxin-like compounds (guaranteed panty-dropper); having a reputation; having a reputation for having a reputation; meeting someone and instantly making "out of context, extremely inappropriate sexual statements" (as opposed to meeting someone, and immediately making in-context, fully appropriate sexual statements); using fine-art model recruitment as an MO, when I wasn't recruiting models at all; and being a "Me Too" story for a "Me Too" activist whom I had only met for 30 seconds with many other people present.

You're probably asking yourself how I got through this. I'm not sure, except that I had the help of two friends who have handled hundreds of screen shots, and a lot of other help besides. Here are a few others, from what for a while seemed like an endless river of venom:

Being an asshole; giving someone a love poem, after an alleged undescribed but consensual experience she felt icky about 22 years later; asking to meet someone's dog (that one is true, about 10 times a day); having a pseudo-spiritual/I-am-greater-than-all approach (to whatever); not dealing with my shadow material; being defensive; being a serious creep and egomaniac; allegedly sending my eggs back to a restaurant kitchen three times during one breakfast out, for an alleged grand total of eight eggs; playing the "sex positive feminist astrology healer game" to facilitate meeting SUNY New Paltz students "for decades," including while I lived in Europe; my horoscopes reeking of creep; subtly manipulating people into sex; and being a tenacious investigative reporter, which presumably means I'm more likely to be disrespectful to women.

The person who said that, a woman, and a publisher, of Chronogram, had been the beneficiary of my reporting many times; it helped pay her mortgage. We've known one another since 1989, when I was a grad student and she worked in a bookstore.

I had allegedly gotten away with all of this "because the community can't seem to live without his horoscopes" and "gave him a pass" for that reason; many versions of "we don't know what it is, but it must have been something"; that I had written intentionally incendiary columns just to get a rise out of people.

One of my personal faves was that I had violated the boundaries of women by having a female news reporter working inside of the Hudson Valley Feminists Facebook group, a reporter whose role is to compile this data so we get to read about it. And finally, being gay because I wear rainbow-colored nail polish, which somehow lends credibility to my horoscopes (I need help understanding this).

Best of all, someone wrote, verbatim, and I quote: "He has ALWAYS BEEN ARROGANT SINCE I FIRST ENCOUNTERED HIM IN THE 70's. GUESS HE DID NOT MATURE IN THAT RESPECT."

Wait -- when? The 70s? Has someone been following me around since I was in junior high school? Or maybe elementary school? That kid who liked to read John Steinbeck and who tried to learn Morse code? Isn't it illegal to stalk little kids? Or at least creepy? And speaking of junior high, that does sum up the vibe of this all.

While I'm on the topic, I keep wondering: given all this, how could I possibly have any "impressionable admirers" left to ferry, groom and coerce? And why would anyone need to do all three? I'm not an expert, but either ferry, groom or coerce (into not having sex) would seem adequate.

*         *        *

NOTE THAT NONE OF THESE CLAIMS describe problematic conduct, or misconduct: such as something done to a specific person in a specific place and a time, causing specific offense or harm. Rather, they are vague statements about who someone thinks someone is, usually (as in 99% of the time) made by someone who has never met me.

It's taken a lot of work to register, emotionally, that they are not talking about me, despite claiming to; my name is plastered all over this garbage, and has been placed into the minds of thousands of my neighbors. Plus, I am Pisces with Cancer rising: the sensitive type.

Meanwhile, everyone contributing these "ideas" in Hudson Valley Feminists, which is moderated by a New York State licensed mental health counselor, is clearly going along with Rule 2 of the forum: You are expected to interact respectfully with others in this space. Please keep it civil; and with Rule 6: "Please do not...in any way use the group to humiliate/harass a private citizen who is not a member."

(Side note, I had applied to the group, and was refused membership. I guess they didn't like my definition of "intersectional feminism," which was the one-question quiz to get in.)

So much for that grounded, therapeutically sound environment under the care of a compassionate, certified counselor. When I called the New York State Office of the Professions in June to report the therapist for misconduct, they told me to call the police and report her to them for criminal harassment (like calling your doctor's office after hours: if this is an emergency, hang up and dial 911).

*         *        *

AMONG THE THREE ORGANIZATIONS that had fired me locally, Chronogram (whose motto is Arts. Culture. Spirit.) was the only one to conduct an investigation into the "allegations." Yet its founder and co-owner, Jason Stern, had warned me back in May, to my face, that "this isn't about the facts."

The facts would have revealed that the rumors had been spread by three people closely associated with the magazine itself: Tychostup, its former (pro-Iraq war) political editor of 12 years; Novak, the truth activist, Chronogram's former production manager and current friend and collaborator of the current editor-in-chief; and its then "editor-at-large," Harvey, whose widely diverse roles in this scenario include Me Too activist, personal victim (allegedly of me), reporter, broadcaster, independent investigator, forensic psychologist, Victorian chaperone, state legislature, prosecutor, judge and jury. And yoga teacher. (She has since resigned from Chronogram. I guess she had too much going on.)

After all available rumors, innuendos, "stories," theories, insults and accusations had been gathered (with the help of wide publicity, and Ms. Harvey running around town with her digital recorder), and were compiled, and reviewed and distilled, they were given to an attorney named Ryan Poscablo.

He is a former federal prosecutor and now professional investigator of sexual misconduct. His job was to confront me with the goods, and demand an explanation, for the safety of the community.

Poscablo had two assistants, one being a second attorney and the other, a paralegal, to help him conduct his investigation. Here is what I was asked about in our 90-minute meeting on May 10, 2018, in Woodstock:

1. Allegedly negotiating affirmative consent with an adult via text message, no sex involved;

2. Allegedly inviting an adult into my home, no sex involved;

3. Allegedly going hiking with an adult, and possibly (but not really) having consensual sex, 22 years ago;

4. Allegedly noticing the scent of someone's perfume in a cafe, 25 years ago;

5. And finally, has my writing made some women uncomfortable, at any point in the past 10 years? That is, since Dubya was president, way back in 2008?

And that was it and nothing more. There was nothing else to ask or to claim; there were no other accusations, no accusers, no victims to appear on Dr. Phil. Not even a little groping to account for. This would make the most boring TMZ or New York Post story in history. That is why the investigator had to make such a point of the issue of "making women uncomfortable" -- with my writing, rather than my personal comportment, since all he had was my writing.

And this is why Chronogram CEO and co-founder Jason Stern could say to me confidently that that Ryan Poscablo's final word was, "There is nothing." (He had also previously said, rather reassuringly, that, "Sometimes witch hunts work." Interestingly, Chronogram’s “chairman” David Dell also said to me, “Sometimes witch hunts work.” Exact same words.)

Ryan Poscablo had nothing even vaguely resembling misconduct to ask me about. I'm sure he was wondering why the heck he was even sitting there, getting paid, being recorded by me against his will, with my therapist in the room (since this was in my judgment a discussion best suited for therapy), thinking about where to have lunch, and worried about traffic backups on the George Washington Bridge returning to the city during rush hour.

Despite a (so far) three-month, Peyton Place-styled controversy that burned up a lot of time and energy in three local organizations, and that led to my removal from four professional positions, there was nothing that even vaguely resembled misconduct, transgression or anything criminal, immoral or unethical.

However, that last bit seems to be true -- item number 5, about my writing being a challenge for some (despite what was for others the annoying popularity of my column). To the great relief of a select few individuals, I will now officially cop to item number 5, starting with discomfort about my having raised concerns about illegal sex discrimination in my February column -- which Chronogram's editors had personally approved and published.

My concerns about "guilty by accusation" had proven, in at least one case, to be true. Nobody could claim that black swans did not exist.

And for the prior 22 years, I had written regularly about subjects including negotiating consent, men needing to take care of women's bodies, polyamory, tantric sex, therapy, personhood, masturbation, jealousy, and making peace with my inner female side.

I had openly documented my sexual and relational development on the pages of the magazine. I wrote about presenting my ideas at the American Psychological Association (APA) convention in 2009, as a non-psychologist faculty member. I wrote about what I had learned from my teacher Betty Dodson, author of Sex For One. I also wrote countless astrology essays, news analysis pieces, and articles on everything from being gluten-free to Sept. 11 to real estate fraud by a local land conservancy to toxic dorms at the local state university campus, where I reportedly am right now, with my tarot cards and incense, hitting on impressionable first-year women (who have not arrived on campus yet).

I can see how some of my articles might have nudged some people out of their comfort zone, at least once in the past decade. Maybe even twice. (I was not especially popular with the land conservancy, or the administration of the campus with the toxic dorms.)

Yet if Item 5 is true of someone, they don't seem to have much of a comfort zone to begin with. It's like a little breeze could blow them into some other zone.

What zone would that be?

Maybe it's the fact-free zone, which seemed to be expanding rapidly in recent weeks. Apparently Jason Stern and his fellow editors at Chronogram weren't the only local media moguls who didn't want to be troubled by documented reality.

*         *        *

ON JUNE 18, we received a filing prepared by Radio Kingston's attorneys, in reply to something I've written regarding my illegal April 20 firing by that organization.

Radio Kingston's attorneys wrote: "Whether Coppolino engaged in some, all, or none of the conduct alleged by his accusers is largely immaterial."

Really? Largely immaterial, as in, does not matter? Yes, actual attorneys, who presumably went to law school, wrote that sentence, for money. That is what they have claimed. The truth is immaterial, and the radio station's image in the community is the only thing that matters. That is what they wrote!

Setting aside the bottom line that I was not accused of any specific misconduct, therefore there were no accusers, Radio Kingston's attorneys are admitting, out loud, their reckless disregard for the truth or falsity of their own statements. The Supreme Court has a term for that: actual malice (codified in a landmark 1964 case called The New York Times v. Sullivan, a decision reported on page one of The New York Times on the day that I was born).

Planet Waves

These are very special lawyers, who have an average one-star review on the Yelp of attorneys (a member of our research team thought to check; I would have missed that detail).

Attempting to prove I was what they claimed was the "town pervert" (direct quote, worthy of being printed on a tee shirt), written by a lawyer, approved by his client, Radio Kingston and the NoVo Foundation, the radio station's egalitarian, humanitarian, do-gooder sponsor, they included as an exhibit a photograph of Janis Joplin and her boyfriend Pigpen (the Grateful Dead's first keyboard player) flirting in San Francisco in the 1960s, which I had posted to my Facebook timeline. (They are dressed; he's affectionately cupping her breast; she is grabbing his ass; they are laughing. It was the Sixties. Happiness was legal.)

To the same end, presenting incontrovertible proof that I am not a mensch, they included my spoof coupon inviting customers to enjoy 10% off at the (sadly) nonexistent Vagitarian Café's "All You Can Eat Pussy Bar."

Radio Kingston, through its attorneys, claimed I could be fired just for these posts. This was entertaining, compared to what would come next.

*         *        *

WHEN I HAD DISAPPEARED FROM Chronogram for the first time since Bill Clinton's first term, very few readers had any clue why. My column was there in May, and gone in June. So, after fielding God knows how many phone calls the prior month and being asked just that question nobody knows how many times, Brian Mahoney, the editor, took it upon himself to explain it in the July edition's editorial, elegantly titled, Make Decisions, Have Reasons.

First, Mahoney followed the same script that had proven irresistible to everyone else: critique my writing, then declare me guilty of nondescript misconduct. Brian clearly thought he was talking to "his" readers, and forgot that he was talking to people who just wanted their horoscope and were wondering where I had gone, and was I OK, since I had been so utterly dependable at showing up the prior 88 seasons running.

First, among other critiques (including claiming that I was a "bomb thrower" as a columnist) Mahoney explained to everyone how exactly my horoscopes are written. He declared: "I may, in fact, be the world's foremost authority on the writing of Eric Francis Coppolino."

Oh really.

Now, you can test that claim out for yourself. Here's his explanation. Here we go. I bet you cannot wait to read what comes next.

"Regardless of what you make of an astrologer's process in reading the stars, horoscopes are a written form."

So far, he is half correct. I use planets, not stars. But horoscopes are definitely written.

"One of the reasons Eric's horoscopes are so good is that he's a talented writer. He also follows a formula in his horoscopes, elegant in its simplicity, that's structured like this: You, dear [insert astrological sign here] are facing a challenge. And you have the internal resources to overcome it. That's it!"

Yes, that's it!

Planet Waves

That's all I do! I just [insert astrological sign here] and follow the diagram to the right. The things practically write themselves. It's so easy, Siri could do it. So much for my trade secrets.

Then Mahoney said to the world, apropos of where his "talented" writer had mysteriously gone, and why I am up late on a Friday night writing this article right now: "While the findings of the investigation are confidential, what I found out led me to sever Chronogram's longstanding relationship with Eric Francis Coppolino. It revealed a pattern of behavior not aligned with the values of this publication and the community it represents."

Confidential? What…why…seriously? To whom, and from whom? Certainly not him, his business parters, his investigator, or me. And…sever? Did he think I was going to crawl into the nearest cement mine and play bongo drums the rest of my life? He did not sever our relationship. He proposed judicial matrimony.

And wait, wait -- whose pattern of behavior? Does he mean the behavior of his own former editors, who personally started this bullshit? Or the people who wrote all those comments I quoted above?

Does he mean his own behavior, concealing his knowledge of a false accusation -- an accusation that on April 6, sitting in my studio, he said to my face was bullshit -- his word -- after I had found out about it -- two weeks after he had emailed me the truncated letter to the editor in late March? The letter where the longer version, the one he knew about but I did not know about, which later appeared on Facebook, contained a false claim of "misconduct"?

And what community? Whose community? The one in his mind? Or the community I hang out in seven days a week, rarely leaving a two block radius?

When challenged by a reader, he added in a comment, in perfectly grammatical doublespeak: "Eric is neither innocent nor guilty."

Of what, exactly? And to according to whom?

Oh, he admitted to deciding personally that I should be fired, uh, because that's what you do when your writer is neither guilty nor innocent. Everyone knows that.

And, what he found out? After 20 years of editing my writing, and our being in touch every month from every country I've lived in, and working 50 paces from my office and 20 paces from my home for 11 years in a tiny little town, and being the world's biggest expert on me, and most of all, working with my all-female editorial team every month for years, there was something new he could possibly find out?

This is like discovering something new about your dog, who you've had since he was a puppy. Oh! He likes cookies! I NEVER would have guessed!

*         *        *

LET’S PRETEND FOR A SECOND that the world's biggest expert on me is talking about me. First, if there is an additional "pattern of behavior," he has not told me about it, and I have a right to know. So do you. I mean, I could step out for a cup of tea right now and continue the pattern.

For those wondering about the official "documenting alleged misconduct playbook," or the garden variety H.R. playbook, the rule is that there is no "secret information" when someone is being confronted with their alleged misdeeds. This is not Kafka’s The Trial. It’s not Chairman Mao’s Red Guard during the Cultural Revolution in China, accusing people of things so heinous, they were unspeakable, and therefore, unprovable.

You hand the accused person all you have, along with the proof, and you demand an explanation. But they already did that, or attempted to, and found nothing.

Second, the actual "pattern of behavior" that was documented by his company's investigation included a model of negotiating consent that would have passed muster at Antioch College, the very headquarters of politically correct sexual activity; the origin of the Antioch Rules of Sexual Consent, where it's amazing anyone gets naked for anything but their morning shower.

Is Chronogram against consent? If so, what exactly do they propose as an alternate community standard?

What the heck are these people talking about?

Who ARE they? Am I trapped in an episode of The Walking Dead? How do I get out?

Which brings me to the subject of shadow. In psychological terms, shadow is repressed material (feelings, rage, desire, guilt, shame, aggression, misogyny, disgust, and so on) that people project onto others, so that in their mind, it's not about them. It's not in them, it's out there, in the world. The purpose of the projection is to relieve internal pressure, because the feelings are so painful.

For people who are projecting, the dark stuff is never about them, it's always about the person they're projecting onto. That creep. That weirdo, stalker and manipulator. That infamous, condescending, womanizing, abusive pig. They are talking about themselves.

When people make decisions that seem insane, and say hurtful things that cannot be true, or when they seem trapped in incomprehensible conflict, that they spew out and act out on others, that is often the sign of suppressed pain and grief. When someone says, over and over again, that one particular person or type of person is disgusting, they are disgusted with themselves. And I don't blame them. The people who have done this deserve to be disgusted with themselves.

Women of Hudson Valley Feminists, I have a question for you.

Has it occurred to you, however dimly, that your abuse of the Me Too movement has made it more difficult for survivors of sexual violence, or those trapped in it right now, to speak up and get help? Has it occurred to you that you've made life more difficult for even one struggling person, who now might not be believed, after your example of blatant deception and aggression? After you've done this thing that even kids know about, which is to cry wolf?

Please -- let us all know.

Copyright © 2018 by Eric F. Coppolino and Planet Waves, Inc. All rights reserved per UCC 1-207
and other applicable laws. For inquiries please contact anatoly@planetwaves.net




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