Some of the biggest names in literature have penned a letter expressing their outrage at what they see as the ‘forced resignation’ of the New York Review of Books editor, Ian Buruma. Buruma stepped down amid fury over his decision to publish an essay by alleged sexual attacker Jian Ghomeshi. Ghomeshi has been accused by more than twenty women of sexual violence, including biting, slapping, choking and punching.
Joyce Carol Oates, Ian McEwan, Lorrie Moore and Colm Tóibín are among those who penned the letter in response to what Buruma himself called his ‘conviction’ on Twitter for publishing a 3,000+ word essay by former broadcaster Ghomeshi in which he dismissed the multiple allegations of sexual violence made against him. The essay, “Reflections from a Hashtag” kicked up a storm on social media.
Jian Ghomeshi in 2015 | Image Via Toronto Star
The joint letter states that its authors find it “very troubling that the public reaction to a single article – repellent though some of us may have found this article – should have been the occasion for Ian Buruma’s forced resignation”.
The Guardian notes that
The letter injects an ethical tension between #MeToo’s push against largely male sexual misconduct and the sometimes conflicting impetus towards freedom of expression right into the heart of the literary world. It also pits many of the NYRB’s most celebrated writers against the magazine’s own publisher, Rea Hederman.
However Hederman has released a statement asserting that Buruma’s resignation had nothing to do with online bullying, and was in fact the result of a series of mistakes and poor decisions on his own behalf.
According to The Guardian, Hederman claims that
Buruma cast longstanding editorial practice aside and excluded all the magazine’s female staff from the process that led to Ghomeshi’s article being published. The draft of the article was shown to only one male editor on the staff, while six female editors – including four long-term staff members who had worked with Buruma’s predecessors, Bob Silvers and Barbara Epstein – were effectively shunned.
Buruma has claimed that the staff as a whole supported the decision to run the offending article, however Hederman refutres this, saying that many staff members “felt his comment that the staff came together after initial objections to the Ghomeshi piece did not accurately reflect their views.” The Guardian say that it is unclear whether the signatories of the letter were provided with the opportunity to read Hederman’s account before the letter was written.
The New York Review of Books has confirmed that the upcoming issue will contain essays from a number of the twenty women who have accused Jian Ghomeshi of sexual violence.
Featured Image Via The New York Times