The American Dissident: Literature, Democracy & Dissidence

Writers-at-large—Free Speech in Peril

When orthodox minds advocate freedom of expression, they will also, in the end, advocate castration and incarceration.
            —P. Maudit (2005)
The editor received the following in the mail, read through it, and responded critically.  Ms. Stahl instead of addressing the criticism, simply and unoriginally brushed it off with a witty response (see toon to the left and email below).  State art funding agencies tend to be bourgeois elitists and will only fund projects that do not question and challenge them... like Writers-at-large.  Well, sure, I could have been politer, worn a tux, etc...  But when I see the names tossed around, as if Ferlinghetti, Hayden and Forche were somehow better than the common citizen without fame, I get testy!  How did they go from Beatniks to established-order literary elitists?  That's the question that desperates for a response...
Please join us, and pass this along to all those you know who are interested in preserving freedom of expression, and a free press.  Thanks, Jayne
      Clinton Fein - 2004
What do Tom Hayden, Joseph Bosco, Sam Hamill, Jonathan Kirsch, Stephen Rohde, Carolyn Forche, City Lights Books, Norman Solomon, and Deena Metzger all have in common?
They all support Writers-at-Large!     
Writers-at-Large, a new California-based advocacy group, invites your participation, as a writer of any genre, in this effort for increased literary arts awareness, education, and funding, as well as to speak out against the rising tide of censorship which threatens our media, public school curricula, and public libraries.  It’s time to demand accountability for incarceration of journalists who refuse to play ball with federal investigators.
We need your help in raising consciousness about the importance of the written word to progressive social change, as well as to let legislators, elected officials, school boards, and the courts know—an injustice to one is an injustice to all.   As Writers-at-Large, we show up every time a journalist goes before a judge; we show up every time a book is banned from a public school, whether by standing outside the courthouse, spreading the word, writing to legislators, or appearing at a W.A.L. event.  This is hands-on advocacy which enables the free flow of information at a time when dissent is fast becoming a victim of media consolidation.  An informed electorate is our best defense.  In the words of playwright Arthur Miller, writing is “an effort to locate in the human species a counterforce to the randomness of victimization,” and seldom has entropy reared its ugly head more than today.
  W.A.L. has won the support of  former state senator, writer, activist Tom Hayden, immediate past president of PEN USA, and best-selling author, Jonathan Kirsch, director of Poets Against the War, and founding editor of Copper Canyon Press, Sam Hamill, filmmaker Tristan Creeley, executive director of Center for Creative Voices in Media, and screenwriter, Jonathan Rintels,  media columnist, founder, and director of “Institute for Public Accuracy,” Norman Solomon, American Book Award winner, Trey Ellis, City Lights Bookstore publishers Nancy J. Peters and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, former director of the California Arts Council, Barry Hessenius,  poets devorah major, Stephen Yenser, and Deena Metzger, executive director of Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Charles Brownstein, Gerald Nicosia, and others, and is proud to include as members Joseph Bosco, Dick Russell, author of “Eye of the Whale,” past president of Southern California A.C.L.U., Stephen J. Rohde, poet Jerome Rothenberg, Scott McMorrow,  and many others.  We need you!   It’s time to preempt the preemptors, and stand up for free speech.
There are no membership criteria, and no membership dues.  All you have to do is show up – whether literally, or figuratively.  The time is now, the place is now; the need is now!
For more information, and to sign up:
Contact:  Jayne Lyn Stahl,
      Project Director and Founder or (925) 899-4739   

W.A.L. is planning to have our first strategy meeting on Saturday, March 26th, from 2-5 p.m., at the Regents Room of the Hotel Durant in Berkeley.  You are welcome to join us----R.S.V.P.   
“Where they burn books, they will also,
               in the end, burn people.”
                        Heinrich Heine

Writers-at-large is a proud member of the Intersection Incubator, a program of Intersection for the Arts providing fiscal sponsorship, networking, and consulting for artists.  and is funded by the California Arts

Date:  18 Mar 2005
Subject:  Hardcore criticism...
Dear Jayne Lyn Stahl,Project Director and Founder, Writers-at-large :
It is always important to fight censorship!  But it is sadly myopic to only fight rightwing censorship and pretend there is no such thing as leftwing censorship.  On another note, it is disappointing, though quite predictable, that you chose to emphasize NAME-BRAND WRITERS in your letter.  Are you working for Barnes & Noble?  Instead of promoting NAMES of those who do not need promotion, you should be promoting great WORKS of literature.  Art and writing has become the hyping and re-hyping ad infinitum of NAMES, not great works of art and literature.  Evidently, the corporation can sell the not-so-great works of NAME BRANDS.  Capitalism promotes NAMES because NAMES sell.  America has become a vast market for selling NAMES.  You apparently, willingly and knowingly, participate in that market GAME, which can only be detrimental to society and democracy.
Why have you decided to make Ginsberg the poster boy of your campaign?  After all, Ginsberg sold out to the tie-and-jacketed crowd, became a tired marketer of his own stuff and that of his tired Beatnik friends.  He built up an old boy and girl Beatnik networking organization that rejected criticism.  He became a tenured academic, friend of the intrinsically corrupt old boy and girl networking academic crowd.  You need to think of the damage NETWORKING does to art and literature in the name of NAMES, ICONS and the CORPORATION!  
Is not yours but a thinly disguised orthodox-Democrat oligarch party, anti-Bush campaign?  To be convincing, you need to make yours much more than an anti-Patriot Act Democrat party organization.  You note:  “in this effort for increased literary arts awareness, education, and funding.”  What you really mean, however, is “in this effort for increased literary ICON awareness, indoctrination, worshipping, and funding.”  You also note “to speak out against the rising tide of censorship.”  What you do not want people to speak out about is “the rising tide of politically-correct leftist censorship.”  Will you discuss my criticism or will it simply be pol-corrected and censored?  There is a huge and growing breach between thinkers and orthodox followers.  Why not open your campaign to both instead of only to the latter? 
Will your strategy meeting end up as nothing more than a leftist ICON-worshipping session?  Does the California Cultural Council’s stamp of approval imply you would never criticize that cultural council or any of its members?  Does it imply you would automatically turn a blind eye to any intrinsic cultural council corruption and favoritism?  Check out my website for a full critique of an example of intrinsic corruption regarding one such state cultural council, the Massachusetts Cultural Council (  Does PEN’s imprimatur imply you would never criticize it or any of its members?  Does it imply you would be content with its policy of awarding monies to only those literary journals backed by its members?  Does it imply you would be content with its total indifference to my complaint of its total indifference with regards its backing of an international literary festival that clearly prohibits free speech and _expression when such might criticize the festival itself?  Finally, how might you respond to this letter of critique?
A.  I don’t have the time to debate such issues.  We are very busy!
B.  You are angry and bitter and need to get a life!
C.  You are probably a rightwing neo-conservative because you have had the “nerve” to criticize the left. 
D.  I agree with some of what you state but think there is a better time and place for it… sometime somewhere someplace.
E.  We are not a thinly disguised PAC! 
F.  No response

Sincerely, G. Tod Slone, editor The American Dissident

Date:  18 Mar 2005
Subject:  Hardcore criticism...
Many thanks for your missive.  One always enjoys healthy debate, but shies away from flagellation (survival ethos at play
here, forgive me), and sharp objects.  When words become swords, and flags, language becomes divorced from thought. 
I embrace the dissident in the spirit of kindness, gentleness, humanity, and compassion.  I embrace literature not as a
"name brand product," but as the progeny of mortal, thieves of fire who awake from their slumber not to narcotize, and stab,
others, but to share some light.  I hope, too, that you get a life, and don't leave home without it.  In the spirit, I wish you much
success, and most look forward to
reading "The American Dissident."
Most sincerely,
Jayne Lyn Stahl


Date:  18 Mar 2005
RE:  Hardcore criticism...

Dear Jayne Lyn Stahl:
Thanks for your response, though I find it sad, aberrant, and quite lacking for the director of a writer’s advocacy group concerned with free speech and expression issues.  Your statement, “an injustice to one is an injustice to all,” is simply hypocritical hot air because evidently you do not give a damn about injustice when perpetrated by leftists.  Essentially, your response implies your lack of desire for real debate.  You only desire “healthy debate,” an aberrant euphemism for “debate with like minds only,” which in effect is really unhealthy for the mind and intellectual growth.  Evidently, unsurprisingly, and quite sadly, you are a steel-trap door closed firmly to debate.  In fact, your logic or lack thereof is quite flawed. 
You state: “When words become swords, and flags, language becomes divorced from thought.”  What a wonderful statement… for those
who fear words and especially criticism!  It serves as a wonderful shield for the self-esteem deficient. Any words you conveniently might
“feel” to be threatening or uncomfortable, you simply deem as “swords” and thus automatically “divorced from thought,” which really makes
no sense at all and seems oddly lacking in thought.
You state:  “I embrace the dissident in the spirit of kindness, gentleness, humanity, and compassion.”  This is yet another wonderful,
vacuous statement!  If men and women were to follow your thinking, clearly we’d still be under British rule, with slavery, and Bush would
have easily won all the states.  Think and reason if you are still at all capable… and I fear you might have lost that capability when you
joined the Democrat party and allowed yourself to become indoctrinated… because it probably felt comfortable and was convenient and
otherwise beneficial to your self esteem.  
You stated:  “I embrace literature not as a "name brand product," but as the progeny of mortal, thieves of fire who awake from their slumber not to narcotize, and stab, others, but to share some light.”  Where do you get your ideas?  Your letter points to the opposite with its list of NAME BRANDS, including GINSBERG, FERLENGHETTI, and TOM HAYDEN.  How do you explain that egregious contradiction?  Evidently, egregious contradictions in logic are simply immaterial within any orthodox mindset, right… or left.
“Thieves of fire”?  “Sharing some light?”  Wow!  Of course the light must be friendly to the orthodox mold and the thieves be of the approved variety and orthodoxy.  Baby, I’ve always had a light.  Does that make me one of your “thieves of fire”?  And yes, I’ve always tried to share it.  A metal smith friend of mind made me a lantern years ago.  I’ve been walking around with it since to poetry centers, writing workshops, creative writing classes, editorial boards, publishing houses, cultural councils, and advocacy groups like yours… in the daytime looking for an unorthodox person. And like that other fellow with the lantern, I too:  “nuzzle the kind, bark at the greedy and bite scoundrels,” which is why I am now barking and biting. 
You state:  “In the spirit, I wish you much success, and most look forward to reading The American Dissident.”  In what spirit
is that?  Do you also wish Bush “success” “in the spirit”?  You will likely never read nor ever attempt to read The American
Dissident, so why the empty words?  Are you simply so used to using empty words of niceness that you “feel” obligated to
use them with my regard too?  Are you going to use your words of niceness to try to get rid of the Bush regime and Patriot Act? 
Can you not see the gross hypocrisy in your very communication? 
BTW, perhaps you misread my end questionnaire.  The “get a life” was not directed towards you at all.  It was simply the kind of comment received when I criticize a lazy intellectual fed, more often than not, on leftist orthodoxy. 
Sincerely, G. Tod Slone, editor The American Dissident,

Date:  20 Mar 2005
RE:  New web page... Writers-at-large
You may take a gander at the new web page I've created for you, as well as the cartoon I sketched of you.  Go to:, then left hand column on the very bottom under Writers-at-large.  Why did I create a page?  Read below.
G. Tod Slone, editor
The American Dissident


[To her credit, Jayne Lyn Stahl did manifest the curiosity to take a look at this website page.  She actually responded.]

Date:  20 Mar 2005
Subject:  Hardcore criticism...

Dear Mr. Slone:
No one has ever called me a "feminist" before, I'm flattered.  As one who was, dare I say it, breast fed by, and an avid reader of,
Arthur Rimbaud, Oscar Wilde, Garcia Lorca, Jean Genet, I find myself amused by being stamped by this label.

I most admire those folks, like Noam Chomsky, who you quote on your Web site, and beg your forgiveness for being unable to
engage, at this moment.  Do know that, to me, "without Contraries is no progression," as poet William Blake writes.  Heartfelt
congratulations, and respect, your way.  I'm sure you intend no animosity towards me only wish for some garden variety
debate.  I barely have time to water my plants, and buy milk, or I'd happily give you the play you deserve and, from the looks of
things, desperately need.  Do know that you have an ally, and friend, in me, and as familiarity often breeds contempt, possibly
if you clean off the mirror you've been gazing at a bit too much lately, you may find me staring back at you------self is the other
is the self.....  no need for opposition unless it be cloaked in the spirit of friendship and amity....

Yours, as ever,


Date:  21 Mar 2005
RE:  New web page... Writers-at-large
I found the “feminist” label attached to you while looking for your photo.  I certainly did not invent it.  I can easily eliminate it from the cartoon.  Just the same, your behavior did seem to mimic that of Gloria Steinem when confronted with Camille Paglia
(i.e., absolute refusal to debate.  Of course, I have nothing against feminists who respect and encourage the free speech and expression of others and who appreciate debate with different voices.  More often than not, I have encountered the opposite. 
Your excuse is a common and lame one: “unable to engage, at this moment” and “I barely have time to water my plants, and
buy milk.”  Yet one would think a poet would place “engage” and “debate” at the very top of the list of things that must be
done, not somewhere in the middle and after watering the plants and grocery shopping.  But the “poet” today does tend to
put it in the middle if any place at all. So you are certainly not an exception with regards the poet flock or herd. 
Of course, I mean you no “animosity” at all.  I am a truth seeker and do openly criticize, satirize, and otherwise expose anyone in a power position (director or sous-director or simply partisan) who appears to be corrupting truth for the paltry sake of celebrity, money and ego.  It appears that you demean debate, which is really the cornerstone of a thriving democracy (evidently ours is not quite “thriving”) by belittling it as “garden variety.”  Perhaps you have become obsessed with vegetarianism? 
It is odd, though most predictable, that in lacking valid argumentation you chose the route of shooting the messenger via
denigrating epithet as in “desperately need” and “clean off the mirror you've been gazing at a bit too much.”  I am not
desperate, or at least not any more desperate than an average human being considering the vast cosmos and the very
absurdity of life.

Your new-age jargon and spiel does, in a sense, irritate me because it serves as a shield (apparently one that you “desperately
need”) and enables you to justify your particular bourgeois rendition of the poet.  I certainly have a very different vision than
yours of what a poet ought to be, though in all evidence rarely ever is or seeks to be.  The American poet today is really
nothing more than a sell out, an easily purchased groupthink, groupfeel entity.   

In any event, I wish you had taken the time and intellectual energy to respond to my critique of your flyer instead of simply
dismissing it.  An intelligent person should encourage, feed on, and even create from criticism, rather than viscerally and
automatically reject it. Poets have become, for the most part, average Joes because they cannot accept criticism and rarely if
ever RISK anything personal.  They lives and writing have become flaccid.  In brief, they have lined up like so many lambs to
the slaughter or rather castration.  

I wish you had brought the critique to the attention of your celebrity partisans, including Ferlinghetti and Hayden. But I suspect
both have sold out to the dollar bill and celebrity and would also viscerally and automatically reject any criticism.    

Clearly in America networking and teamplaying are much more valued than unique contribution.

G. Tod Slone