Tag Archives: joe biel

Open letter to Microcosm Publishing

I was contacted a few weeks ago by someone from Berlin sending me a copy of this letter asking me how I felt about it. I was told that it was going to be sent out to collectives, infoshops, etc. Well, once the e-mail went out to more American groups I got e-mails asking if I was ok with it. I wrote back to the person in Berlin and requested to be added to the list of signers to avoid more of those e-mails.

You can read the Open Letter To Microcosm here and, if you agree, you can sign it at the bottom. I think it is reasonable to request for Microcosm to do, you know, what they said they were going to do. I would appreciate people signing it if they believe in the intent of the letter. However, I really don’t expect anything to come of this situation. It is already way too far gone for repair.


East Coast Adventures: part 3

September 30- October 5  NYC—>Philly—>Canastota, NY

We took the Megabus back to Philly then spent awhile trying to figure out how to get to the airport to pick up our car and all the people who worked at the Philly train station were unhelpful jerks. Finally we figured it out on our own and paid $7 to get to the airport that wasn’t that far away. WTF? Getting to the Portland airport is less than $3 from anywhere in the city. SEPTA, you are mean and expensive and your attendants smoke out the windows. What’s that about?

I almost forgot, in case you didn’t know, one of my favorite spectator sports is to watch the sinking ship that is Microcosm Publishing. It’s great that I don’t feel so attached at all these days but, I had to admit to myself that I must enjoy gossip because I find it pretty amusing to see the drama unfold from time to time. Usually my tip off is seeing hit spikes on this post and this post. This time it had to do with a space in Minneapolis asking not to have the latest Microcosm tour in their space. Then there was  someone posting their “sunshine is the best disinfectant” e-mail correspondent with Elly. Which lead to Ciara posting “extortion is so punk rock” on her blog. Maybe it is just me who has been banned from anything Joe puts on the internet, but does anyone else find it amusing that he never seems to be the person writing anything publicly anymore?


We drove north passing through the east coast’s sorry excuses for “mountains” listening to our ridiculous Spotify mix. We called it KJQ after the radio station we listened to growing up in Utah. The theme of the mix is if KJQ  had frozen in time in 1992. It’s 22 hours long and has lots of 80s and 90s college/alternative/modern/synthpop/etc. music from the Cure to Ministry to the Fixx to Material Issue and more! Go here if you have a Spotify account and appreciate that sort of thing and put it on random. Let me know if you would like and invite.

This part of the trip was the part of the trip that we weren’t too sure about. We were headed to upstate New York to visit Paul’s family that we had never met before. Paul’s dad was also going to be there visiting his girlfriend. I guess he didn’t seem to think to find a place for us to stay until a few days before even though we had told him months in advance when we were going to be there. A few days before we headed north he told us that he had secured a place for us to stay in a camper at Paul’s cousin’s he had never met before. Ok. We had some trepidations and figured if things didn’t work out we could head west to visit our friend Derek in Buffalo or take a peep at Niagara Falls.

Autumn was in full!

We got to Canastota , NY and met up with Paul’s dad and headed to Connie and Paul’s (Connie had a partner Paul, too!) In an instant all of our reservations were gone.  Connie and Paul were gracious and wonderful people. The camper we stayed in was so cozy and awesome and we just felt some comfy and welcome.

Our home away from home in Conastota!

We had many late night talks and were introduced to the wonders of cider and whiskey! Which we brought home:

so good!

to be continued…

My response to the Micrcosm public statement

Wow, over 650 hits to this blog and my post yesterday and not a single comment? Then I realized that I didn’t really make much of a comment either, I just posted other people’s words. So, here’s what I want to say.

Sure, Microcosm allowing comments on the post in the first place may have been problematic. It is also the easiest way to, you know, be transparent and”open the conversation” as they expressed in the statement. With that being said, I have several issues with the victim blaming excuse letter starting with the first sentence using the term “accusing” really? They say they don’t want a judge and jury trial, but that’s the language they are using. I find it an interesting phrasing that they say they care that the abuse was “named” and noticed that they never actually acknowledge that our (Sparky and my) experiences are/were valid or that, yes, Joe has issue with abuse and manipulation. Actually, in the letter posted last December, they did acknowledge that. Why not restate that?

As a survivor of emotional abuse, I am offended by this statement:

As abuse creates cycles of hurt, it’s been easier for those involved to put up a wall for personal protection rather than create resources for healing.

Really? After all I have gone through it is somehow my job to create a resource for healing for other people? Oh, I’m sorry, I was too busy working on shaking off the ghosts of abuse,  building back my self worth and learning to form healthy relationships again. I didn’t know that I somehow had more of a responsibility.

As for Joe stepping down, I don’t buy it. I’m sorry,I just don’t. Someone I know e-mailed Microcosm to ask about it. He’s not really leaving, he’s just not a voting collective member. I’ll bet that means he still has his hands in just about everything he does now but they are trying to paint a pretty picture, aren’t they? and I see “Non-Adherence Policy” is just like saying “We don’t really care. We don’t think this is important. We don’t have the time but we have this really corporate sounding term to hide behind even though we distribute lots and lots of things that express that we really do care about radical politics, feminism, and supporting survivors of abuse.”

Something else that concerns me is that there are only 3 people who signed the letter. Isn’t the collective supposed to be 6 or 7 people? Where are the other members? Did they quit? Where they fired? It seems really suspicious to me.

The weird paragraph about partners of Joe being talented and creative was really awkward for me to read. The other partner they are referring to is Sparky. When I was in Chicago for the zine fest I met Sparky and we had a lengthy conversation about the situation. She expressed hope in the re-founding and so I kept quiet with criticism to wait and see what came out the other side. But with her statement:

As a member of Microcosm for 4 years and a former partner of Joe Biel, I am sad to say that I no longer support Microcosm Publishing. I cannot support a group of people who so adamantly claim to oppose abuse, but in practice have let it continue for years. This abuse was perpetrated against me, and I have remained largely silent in hopes that Microcosm could be salvaged. I no longer believe this is possible.With much love and thankfulness to all my wonderful zine friends that I’ve kept or made along the way,

-Sparky Taylor

Her name is obviously not signed to the statement Microcosm released  and she clearly doesn’t work for Microcosm any more. She said she didn’t know how the other statement got onto Anarchistnews and she had fought to make a public statement something with substance that would show true effort at change. What made me most sad was hearing her experiences of emotional abuse that so mirrored mine as a partner of Joe and as a Microcosm worker and how easily it starts and how hard it is to stop.

Sparky and I were talking again and she wanted to know how to get the word out about her feelings about her experience with Microcosm. I offered her my support and to post her comment. Sparky is a smart, talented and creative woman and I wish her the best in whatever direction she goes from here. She and I both know that the only way is up.

Overall, the Microcosm statement isn’t worded how humans talk to each other. It is so intricately crafted as to say absolutely nothing of substance yet hits at hiding things. I wish I could say I wish them the best, but I no longer have any sympathy. -Alex Wrekk

hello blog hit spike, thy name is microcosm/joe biel/abuse/alex wrekk/boycott… or any combination of them.

So, some of you may know about my history with Microcosm Publishing and Joe Biel. And, if you don’t, you can read this post here.

At the very end of last year a supposed public statement from Microcosm was posted here.

I posted my response here.

Well, a new statement was actually posted on the Microcosm site here.

I would suggest your read it if you are interested and please leave a comment about it if you can. I think it would be helpful.

I’m going to close this post with a quote from Sparky Taylor, a former Microcosm employee, that was left in the comment section that make me very sad but sums up my feelings as well.

As a member of Microcosm for 4 years and a former partner of Joe Biel, I am sad to say that I no longer support Microcosm Publishing. I cannot support a group of people who so adamantly claim to oppose abuse, but in practice have let it continue for years. This abuse was perpetrated against me, and I have remained largely silent in hopes that Microcosm could be salvaged. I no longer believe this is possible.With much love and thankfulness to all my wonderful zine friends that I’ve kept or made along the way,

-Sparky Taylor

So, apparently Microcosm didn’t like the posts people were leaving and closed the comments. Luckily my friend saved them and I can post them here for you to see:


avatar Derek Neuland 0 seconds ago
Not true regGreg, if Microcosm had addressed and cleared a lot of this up ages ago when they were first confronted about this, I personally would feel better about them. But sadly, they continually disregard the thoughts and requests of the people they have wronged and have used tricky wording in their statements in order to save face.

avatar Doug Taylor 2 minutes ago
I don’t think I know Jessie or Adam, but Rio, I truly feel for you. Matt, too. I know that you walked on stage in the middle of something and had no idea what was going on. I know that you have tried your best with what you were dealt and tried to move forward. But there’s a reason I haven’t gone to your store.

I just can’t.

Have you ever been hated? Have you ever hated? I don’t hate you, and I don’t hate Joe. Hating is something that takes too much of a person, and I don’t recommend it.

Instead, I just try to understand how I feel, and I think that your well intentioned message is music to my ears…. four or five years ago. I do not know what has prompted this message, but I think of the trail of wreckage, and I can’t help but think that the end has come already.

It reminds me of a country western song where the guy comes back, hat in hand, freshly shaved and sober, pleading to a second story window: “I’ve changed, darling! It’s the real me! I’m back!”

A woman’s voice shouts back: “Back again? Well just a minute……” the shutters open and two boots come flying down, nearly hitting him in his head.

“You’ll need those to put the miles between us so sorely deserved. I’ve changed, too, for I’m not the kind of girl that let’s the wolf back in. Now, GIT.”

If it’s truly quitting time at Microcosm, I suggest getting a new job as well, or maybe going back to school. I hear college is nice this time of year, maybe even better in the fall with all the leaves changing color. Can’t speak for Bloomington, but you can just about live on financial aid in Oregon if you’re thrifty. Even more financial aid is available for individuals over 24.

There is so much I don’t understand about these Microcosm communiques. Each one posted leaves me with fifty questions, or feeling even more confused than before. I don’t understand waiting until two days before Cindy’s deadline to post something on anarchist news, let alone ANYTHING important on that site. Why feed internet trolls food they have never tasted before? Why not here instead? People obviously read this site.

I am curious about what happens in the background that nobody knows except for the people that don’t want it revealed. I am weary of the very thought of dealing with people, such as Rasmussen, as mediators that survivors have already declined to work with. I am irritated that the problem is still bracketed with “accused” instead of “acknowledged” or “identified”. Even “self-professed” would be better.

I try to help when I can, and it is very difficult. Sometimes I feel like I have done a poor job. Other times, I feel like I tried to put out a forest fire with a squirt gun. This thing hasn’t really died, but life has got along well enough with really having to deal with “Microcosm Madness” all the time.

Alex has been a true friend to me, and I would be remiss if I couldn’t try to match that. I guess it is one thing to stick up for your friend, but it is something else entirely if your friend makes you constantly have to apologize for their behavior, or “almost” apologize, which is even worse. Think about that.

— Doug Taylor

avatar regGreg 12 minutes ago
Who did Rio, Jessie, Adam, and the various authors, volunteers, etc. abuse?

Think of how much more you could actually be helping victims of abuse (both in and out of your ‘radical’ circle), if this energy was direct to that goal instead of pushing forward a trial-by-mob on a zine distro and publisher based on it’s (previous?) relationship to an asshole.

It’s too little too late for many of you because there was never enough that could be done in the first place. If that’s the case you’re not here to build or better anything anyway. You’re here to help strangle the last bits of life from a project intended to push and grow a medium you purport to love. If it isn’t then maybe you should stick around to help microcosm be better than it could be otherwise.

Sounds like Rio, Jessie, and Adam are trying to put out their hand and it’s being filled with spit out of practice and stubbornness.

avatar ManDuh 1 hour ago
This is the most victim-blaming bullshit I’ve read in a long time, especially the fourth paragraph. Doesn’t sound like anyone in Microcosm wants to take responsibility for anything they’ve done. I knew there was a reason I stopped doing business with this organization.

avatar Nate. 1 hour ago
“This whole situation from beginning to end is the perfect example of what happens when people of positions of power and privilege in the radical community are left in those positions and aren’t challenged because people refuse to support each other.”
Or because they are scared of losing their jobs.
Whateve, Sparky is my homie and it really infuriated me to watch her struggle with this from the outside, and see a collective that actively promotes(!) confronting abuse WITHIN THE SCENE (or whatever) get railroaded by ONE SHITTY DUDE! Who did the EXACT same thing in another city with a different person!
You guys are fucking politicans man, you can’t trust anything you say.
Gimmie my zines back, you people are ridiculous.
I honestly wanna see this collective go down. I mean the least people can do is not support this kind of hypocrisy. They had a MILLION chances to do it right, and they didnt even come close. They didnt even try! I think if this whole shitshow went public, anybody would be shocked and enraged at how poorly this whole process went.
I say boycott, this issue hasn’t been taken seriously at all.

“the collective believes that ostracizing someone isn’t a healthy, restorative response, and we’ve struggled with accountability being more than a radical judge-and-jury trial.”
^Wow i wonder how the victims who got booted from this collective feel. Ostracized? Whatever, this statement is fucking WEAK.

I dont think theres anything left to say except BOYCOTT MICROCOSM.

Love the rest of yall. Thats it.

avatar microcosm 2 hours ago
As a member of Microcosm for 4 years and a former partner of Joe Biel, I am sad to say that I no longer support Microcosm Publishing. I cannot support a group of people who so adamantly claim to oppose abuse, but in practice have let it continue for years. This abuse was perpetrated against me, and I have remained largely silent in hopes that Microcosm could be salvaged. I no longer believe this is possible.

With much love and thankfulness to all my wonderful zine friends that I’ve kept or made along the way,

-Sparky Taylor

avatar Derek Neuland 2 hours ago
“organizational refounding” sounds like “let’s try to dig ourselves out of the hole we’re in”

avatar pollyvomit 2 hours ago
I am really glad y’all have decided to work on this FINALLY and release a statement but this for something that has been going on for years that a lot of microcosm employees witnessed first hand, it really took y’all 5 years to work on your shit?

As someone who has worked in collectives for years, there is usually a understanding in the radical community and resources readily available (that even MICROCOSM HAS PUBLISHED) that talk about how to support survivors, and deal with the topics of transformative justice, accountability, anti oppression work, patriarchy, abuse, etc.

I know it’s not easy especially when people are involved in the same collectives/projects. but it NEEDS to be done, when abuse is happening IT IS ALL OF OUR JOBS AS COMMUNITY MEMBERS TO HELP STOP THE CYCLE AND SUPPORT SURVIVORS AND HELP AGGRESSORS CHANGE.

This whole situation from beginning to end is the perfect example of what happens when people of positions of power and privilege in the radical community are left in those positions and aren’t challenged because people refuse to support each other.

as a business that engages in the selling of radical leaning goods you have to practice what you preach, this just makes you look really bad and untrustworthy, like you’re just in it for the money.

also “As abuse creates cycles of hurt, it’s been easier for those involved to put up a wall for personal protection rather than create resources for healing” this sounds like victim blaming, while it’s up to survivors to state their needs and boundaries around the healing process you should respect their level of involvement. you can’t expect survivors to orchestrate an accountability process, such as you can’t expect a nonwhite person to teach a white person about anti racism, its not their fucking job. also using the word “accusing” makes it seem like you don’t believe that joe has committed abuse, its just in bad form.

but i wish y’all luck in what you do and hope that the collective thrives. if you need help with the collective side of things there is the US Federation of Worker Co-operatives. there are also resources in and around portland.

avatar alexwrekk 2 hours ago
I also find it ridiculously hilarious that my tattoo shows up next to my name when I post. So, I think I’ll do it again.

avatar alexwrekk 2 hours ago
So, are there only 3 “collective” members now?

So, is this the public statement or is the one posted here:http://anarchistnews.org/?q=node%2F13086 at the very end of last year? Is that one also valid? And why was it posted on that site?

Too little too late, indeed.

avatar punctual 2 hours ago
Dear Rio, Jessie, & Adam,
I don’t really understand why you can’t let Joe do some apologizing rather than letting him use your words as a scapegoat for those he should TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for.

You should expect to try to bandage some wounds, and you shouldn’t have to shoulder an apology on someone’s behalf (which equates to just the same amount of cowardice).

avatar Derek Neuland 3 hours agox
The term “too little too late” comes to mind. Also, if you’re all for transparency, why is there no mention of the fact that Joe Biel is still an employee at Microcosm.

Also, stop using the chainring heart design!

A Microcosm public statement, seriously?

I’d much rather tell you about my first adventure with puff pastry, how using vodka for part of the water makes great pastry dough, or how I’m making vegan black eyed peas for the New Year. But, I’m gonna weigh in on this before the end of the year. If you haven’t read this post yet, you catch up. If you are sick of hearing about, please ignore this post.

THIS would never have been on my radar had I not noticed a bunch of hits on my blog from Anarchistnews.org. What’s Anarchistnews.org? I had no idea until I went to the link. Apparently The Microcosm Collective squeaked by Cindy’s deadline to make a public statement about Joe’s history of abuse by 2 days and stuck it in this obscure corner of the internet. Hooray for them. But, as the first reply stated: “Who the fuck are Cindy, Alex, or Joe?” You might not want to read the replies, it might take years off your life or boil your brain, who knows? Who the fuck are Cindy, Alex or Joe,  indeed! There is no context or links to anything, it just sits there like a steaming pile of someone’s baggage while people who didn’t know and didn’t care walk by. Not only who the fuck are Cindy, Alex and Joe but who are The Microcosm Collective. There are no names listed.

In an e-mail to me from Cindy a few months ago, she asked me to put this into Brainscan #26 , a zine about all the failed mediation attempts with Joe:

In my statement to Microcosm, I asked that the collective make a statement or that each collective member contact me. When I sent this statement to all the workers listed on the Microcosm website, Joe emailed me and told me that the collective was only 3 people: him, Chris and I think Adam. I found this so disturbing. Especially since Sparky, who was very involved in Microcosm, wasn’t included in this list.

One of the big stumbling blocks in the accountabilty process came when we had emailed some questions to Microcosm workers who’s email addresses I had, and Joe was upset that we had only contacted some of the collective members. He said the collective was him and the people in Portland, the people in Bloomington and the people in Kansas; I think 7 or 8 people in all.

I’m sure there is an official policy on who is collective and who is not, but I would like it to be noted that Joe’s manipulative use of who counts as being a collective member, makes it impossible for me to stick with the demand that each collective member contact me.-Cindy Crabb

I’ll admit, it is nice to be told I was right and be thanked but the statement is so vague and just too little, too late. I feel that if this was truly meant to be a public statement they would have, you know, put it on their own website. Or maybe responded to the echo chamber of blog posts about it or a really novel idea would be to e-mail me, not stash it away on a website that clearly doesn’t care about it.

Edited to say that I don’t know for a fact that this actually from the Microcosm Collective. It does not appear anywhere on their site or anywhere else on the internet. I can’t imagine that it is fake though.

Paul calls 2010 the year that everything broke. So, good riddance! Tomorrow is ONE ONE ONE ONE. I think we wrote a Copy Scams song about that called one one one one! It’s about stealing copies but screaming ONE! ONE! ONE! ONE! tonight might be fun? See you next year.

Brainscan #26

I’m not sure how i missed posting about my new zine on my own blog but, I have a new zine! And it is basically the What’s the Deal With You And Microcosm? blog post plus a little more including a paragraph from Cindy Crabb clarifying a bit of her request.

get it?

I’m just going to say that this zine is not for everyone. 26 is my leave favorite number and I ended up writing about my least favorite topic that just will not go away!
In 2006 I wrote the zine Brainscan #21: Irreconcilable Differences. This zine was about my personal experience of realizing I was in an emotionally abusive relationship, finding the courage to move on and challenging other people to identify power and how they use in in all of their relationships. In Brainscan 21 I did not name name because I did no think it was useful, but in this zine I do. Several other people have approached me with issues they have had with the same person and I thought it might be helpful for people to hear a bit more of my story tying my personal experience with Joe to my business experience.

This zine is based on this blog post https://alexwrekk.wordpress.com/2010/07/29/so-whats-the-deal-with-you-and-microcosm/. People have kept asking me about it so I thought I would put it in zine format. The blog post is about my least favorite subject: my history with Microcsm Publishing, Joe Biel and his attempted and failed accountability processes plus input from a few other people. To lighten the load I also talk about some of the other stuff I have been involved with and things I’m looking forward to next year. 32 pages 1/4 sized and uncharacteristly text heavy. Back cover illustration by Steve Larder

How you can get a copy:

stick $2 USD in an envelope and send it to:

Alex Wrekk
5307 N Minnesota ave
Portland, Oregon 97217

Paypal $2.50 to alex@smallworldbuttons.com

Head over to my Etsy shop and get my new zine and if you really want to be nice you could also pick up some of my catalog buttons buttons or maybe get some custom buttons made for yourself!

Having a housemate with a cursive typewriter is rad!

some of my catalog buttons. I have almost 100 now.

constructive alternatives

While it was pointed out to me by my sister that my last post regarding my experience with Microcosm and Joe wasn’t as angry as I have been in the past, I realize that it doesn’t offer anything helpful besides information. I guess that’s what some people have wanted from me all along, information. I documented a very small fraction of my personal experiences of emotional abuse in a romantic relationship with Joe Biel in my Zine Brianscan 21. It seems people wanted more information about the business side so I tried to tie those together in that blog post.

What I didn’t offer was solutions or what I want specifically from Joe or the community. As for Joe, he has been given sufficient information as to what he needs to do to actually complete an accountability process, and he has been given yet another chance for that. As it was put in the statement of the last accountability team, Joe’s accountability should not be the burden of the community as it has already exhausted everyone involved. that being said, I think we need to seriously look at what can be done constructively.

When I said that survivors of abuse should be supported I alluded to boycotting Microcosm, but it’s not enough to simply boycott. If you mean to send a message you should let them know why you are not spending your money with them, why you don’t want your zine/book distributed or published or your artwork used by them. Also, if you have had specific problems with your interactions with Microcosm you should speak up. Trust me, you are not the only one. Let them know what they need to fix, what they need to pay more mind to. Give them an option, give them a choice to change because ultimately, it’s not only in their best interest, it’s the right thing to do.

If Microcosm truly wants to show that it is a collective, that they do not struggle with Joe’s abuses of power, and that they support the ideas and values behind the books and zine they publish and distribute  then then should as Cindy Crabb said in this post, “come up with a collective statement confronting/admitting Joe’s abuse and manipulation, and/or for Joe to legally remove himself from the collective”. I’d also like to add another option, for people in the community and people who are associated with Microcosm to seriously encourage Joe to cooperate in a transparent accountability process because his hurtful actions and problematic behaviors are putting people’s livelihoods in jeopardy.

My intent was never to destroy Microcosm or Joe or anyone that works with Microcosm. I left Microcosm in October of 2006 because I was not happy with how the business worked or how I was treated. With a whisper I have been asking for accountability for almost 4 years,  I got tired and left it to smoulder. But now I’m tired of seeing other people hurt and disrespected and having no voice and I’m really glad to hear that other people are recognizing this..

So, if you aren’t on the “Alex Wrekk is crazy” train,or the utilitarian “my calculator does social math and it tells me that the good out weighs the bad” camp, or the “Microcosm is great for me so why should I care?” brigade here’s some other awesome distros to check out to buy zines and maybe even have your zines distributed. If you know if more distros that should be on this list let me know:

Bird In Hand(Australia)

Click Clack Distro(US)

Black Lite Diner(US)

False Start(US)

Fight Boredom(Canada)

Marching Stars(UK)

Riot Grrrrr(US)

Stranger Danger(US)

Sweet Candy(US)

Things You Say(US)

Vampire Sushi (UK)

Check out the links on my site (ya, I know I need to update it) for stores, and zine events. Also check out all the people who sell zines directly on Etsy. We even have Team Zine with lots of people who sell zines on Etsy. I think ordering zines directly or trading for them should really be at the heart of the zine community, not one stop shopping at zine Wal*Mart.


Well, there certainly has been a spike in hits for this blog since the last post. I’m trying to figure out if I have the time and energy to make a more detailed version of that post into a zine before the symposium. There are more things that seemed extraneous to post online but might work well on paper. We’ll see if it comes through. Time is closing in on me and it seems that I’m adding things to my to-do list as soon as I check things off. I’m planning a national zine tour (Zines on toast! check out the awesome website), finishing up Portland Zine Symposium organizing, and tomorrow Paul and I are headed to Denver to see the Warlock Pinchers reunion! They are a band I have listened to since jr. high and never got to se live… that sort of seems like a them from the past year of shows I have gone to: Dead Milkmen, Screeching Weasel, The Pixies, and now the Warlock Pinchers! Awesome!

What that all being said, I have been informed that Joe is now starting a third accountability attempt. I can’t help but think that, had he been anyone else, no one would have even given him a second try. I have to find a messed up sort of humor in the fact that he even has privilege in getting more chances than other people. weird. I haven’t read Joe’s We Make Zines statement but I read Ciara’s recap and it reads like the demented rantings of a lunatic with a Twinkie defense. I’ve gotten similar letters from Joe that tell me nothing I want to hear so what’s the point?

Thank you everyone for your support both public and private from the e-mails, facebook messages, blog posts and replies, Etsy messages, phone calls and texts. I really means a lot to me to hear words of encouragement. It was hard to muster the words I posted but I am so very glad I did. I have also noticed the discussions of power within activist/DIY communities and think that raising awareness about it is so important. Here are a couple of links to these discussions and general discussions on it that I am aware of:

Feminist Memory


order of the gash

there’s our catastrophe

And when my blog was posted to facebook it got….interesting

And with that I’m off to finish my laundry and packing before heading to Denver tomorrow morning.

So, What’s the deal with you and Microcosm?

I have to write something about this and not just leave it muddled in the words of others on the internets. I have seen and heard public discussion of my past involving Microcosm Publishing and Joe Biel. A lot of things have been said; some true, some not. Some things, like the discussion of Microcosm in the We Make Zines forum, I heard about but refused to read or respond because sometimes I just don’t have the energy to deal with it. Some people have criticized me, think I’m crazy or think that the issues I have are only based on a vendetta or a personal attack. I have seen people I know, and some that I don’t (and didn’t ask for their help), advocating for me. This has made me feel simultaneously anxious about what strangers have to say but, also supported in the zine community that I love.

At the beginning of 2010 Cindy Crabb, from Doris Zine and various other projects including editor of the Support zine, came to me after hearing about a failed mediation attempt between Joe and I in 2008. She asked if she could help set up an accountability team to get the ball rolling again. A team was set up with people in Athens, Ohio with a few other people consulting and giving input. After several months that attempt more-or-less failed. This is the statement from the Athens Support Network about their experience:

Statement from the Athens Support Network:

In January, 2010, we convened to help with the accountability process of Joe Biel. We had been given the understanding, from Joe, that he was in therapy, had met Alex’s demands, and didn’t know how to proceed since she did not want contact. We confirmed that Joe had met most or all of Alex’s logistical/legal demands, but in order to confirm whether or not he had identified and changed his behavior, we set about some written exercises. Our process was straightforward and formal, working on identifying behavior and making amends. Joe cooperated with the “identifying behavior” exercises – vacillating between what we perceived as willingness and defensiveness. We did not make it past the “identifying behavior” section of the process, as it became clear that a much deeper conversation/process needed to happen and we were unable to commit to the time and energy it would take. We think that if another process was to take place, it would need to be face to face and would need to have people in his immediate community actively involved. We believe that these people would need to have professional training and experience, and have a large amount of time to commit to the process. We do not believe it is the community’s responsibility to sacrifice themselves for this. We do think that it is the responsibility of Joe’s friends and other people who benefit from acquaintance with Joe to recognize that the accusations concerning his abusive behavior are valid, that he still has problems with control and manipulation that he is working on, and to point out to him when he is behaving in these manners, even if it is not negatively affecting them. We also belive it is up to Joe to actively encourage and support this type of dialogue with his friends, co-workers and acquaintances.
Joe is in therapy, and we feel that he is making progress through therapy. He has identified a large number of behavior issues and has done work and continues to do work to change them. He believes that he honors Alex’s experience. We, however, feel that he still has extreme problems with control, manipulation, defensiveness, and portraying himself as the victim. We feel that he often minimizes and belittles Alex’s experience, and sometimes seeks to redefine it as communication problems rather than emotional abuse (see blog response post, Feb 5). In Brainscan, Alex’s counselor identified Joe as “using classic examples of distraction while arguing like some sort of sleight of hand trick with words”. We also noticed this in our working with him.
Joe has a number of counter-charges against Alex. While we were unable to explore all these charges, they are consistent with the actions of someone trying to regain power when their power has been taken away from them due to emotional abuse.
We do believe Joe is working to understand and change his behaviors. We do not believe this gives him a clean slate.

Also, in this blog post Cindy discusses her experiences with Microcosm and Joe stating: “I won’t be publishing my next book with Microcosm. I am going to give them until the end of the year to come up with a collective statement confronting/admitting Joe’s abuse and manipulation, and/or for Joe to legally remove himself from the collective. If by the end of the year, this isn’t done, I will be removing my zines from Microcosm.” -Cindy Crabb

For the most part I haven’t actively or publicly stated anything about this besides in my zine Brainscan #21. (it can be read online here) With the conclusion of this failed accountability process I feel I should say something. Here is my somewhat linear experience with Joe, Microcosm, and the accountability process:

Joe Biel is the founder and, to the best of my knowledge, still the head of Microcosm Publishing ( I don’t personally believe it could ever truly be a collective). Joe and I were romantically involved for 6 years, three of which we were married. I “worked” for/with Microcosm from 1999-2006. I left my personal relationship with Joe Biel when I realized I was not respected, supported, or valued in our relationship and, through several catalysts, came to understand that he was emotionally abusive in our personal relationship. I left Microcosm when I realized that they same abusive mechanisms in our personal relationship, were present in our working conditions. While were attempting to collectivize Microcosm Joe continued to make unilateral executive decisions without the input of other collective members as well as revoked my responsibilities and undermined my autonomy.

After I quit Microcosm Joe soon moved the company half way across the country and hired new people. I wrote about some of my experience in Brainscan zine #21: Irreconcilable Differences. In the zine I did not name names because I did not think it was relevant. I would rather challenge readers to examine the use of power in their own life than saddle them with my unfinished baggage. I tried to end the zine on a personal positive note with my new life because through counselors and mediators I had gotten no closure with the situation. I had a lot of counseling on my own, I learned to live again, I wanted to move on because there was seemingly no resolution to be had.

I have been reluctant to say more about it publicly because I haven’t wanted to go back there emotionally. Does that make sense? I don’t want to dissect some of the darkest and most lost years of my life in a public trial. I don’t have the time, energy, or inclination to wade into places that I don’t want to go back to. But, with the help of others like Ciara, Cindy, Doug and many more, I realize I need to say something.

The thing is that I really really really enjoy my life as it is now. I enjoy the fulfillment of running my own business. I enjoy the gratification in the hard work I have done on my house and my yard to make it a home which I am truly proud. I appreciate my kind, talented, and supportive friends. I am also extremely grateful for how close I have grown to my family through all of this. Most of all, I enjoy being in a relationship with with someone who loves me unconditionally, accepts me as I am, supports me and trusts that I know what is best for me. This is why I haven’t wanted to spend time hashing out the darkness. It is nice and safe here in my world now. I don’t like the idea of stepping into the public scrutiny of people who think I just have a personal vendetta or people that think emotional abuse isn’t really abuse, that it is just confined to romantic relationships, or that that it is just a “personal issue” and shouldn’t be challenged publicly.

I know that it is not just me who has identified abusive behaviors in Joe. I have had conversations, letters and e-mails from past Microcosm employees, and people who have had their work published and distributed by Microcosm. Also, Joe has been asked to leave or not attend zine events, radical gatherings, and places with safer space policies in Portland and beyond. I’m learning that I have support from people who are not ok with abusers like Joe who refuse or only half-heartedly work on their accountability.

All of the interactions I have had with Joe and Microcosm since I left (all the people that I knew who worked there quit voluntarily or otherwise) has been terrible:  unanswered e-mails about critical issues like the entirety of my book Stolen Sharpie Revolution being available on Google Books with out my permission, my artwork and my writing being used without my permission on the website and in zines and books they have published, poorly documented royalty checks, not getting books I was owed, stealing button business from me, not changing their logo (an image that both Joe and I both had tattooed on our bodies before it was the Microcosm logo), and on and on. After awhile I gave up. It wasn’t worth my time or energy to argue with a brick wall because that was what all my attempts had become. Microcosm, a company that I helped raise from just about the very beginning, never responded and just ignored me and my concerns completely. To be fair, after the first mediation attempt in 2008 some of these issues were resolved.

It got easier to put it out of my mind when I left the relationship, when I left the business, and when J physically moved himself and Microcosm half way across the country. But, now he is back in my town and I’m feeling pressure. I’m realizing that the situation is not behind me when I dread running into him in public. I fear he, or one of his friends, will confront me so I don’t go to events that I think he’ll be at. I wrote him a letter expressing my boundaries and what he needs to do to show accountability and I have worked with mediators to try to set boundaries yet he has left flyers and put stickers in places he has been asked not to go, I have seen him ride by my house a few times, he sent me a very triggering letter that left me weeping on the post office steps when I had specifically asked him not to contact me. He has demonstrated time and again that he is incapable of respecting my boundaries. Maybe I too thought it was a personal thing and that I should keep silent. Our culture teaches us that we don’t talk about such things publicly, they are our secret shames.

Personally I always knew that Microcosm was a top down operation starting with Joe. When I worked at Microcosm I saw how Joe shot down my ideas and then later took them up as his own. I saw how he struggled with power when confronted with collectivizing. I saw him make executive decisions without talking to any of the supposed collective members. I saw they way people treated him, the things they gave him from artwork to computers, the respect they gave him in exchange for a little of his power. I later heard stories of people saying they did what he asked because they were afraid to upset him or that they wanted something from him so they felt they had to do what he said. I heard from people who had their artwork stolen, who were never paid for their zines, people unhappy with their situation after being published with Microcosm, people who had their paychecks withheld because Joe thought they owed him money, people who never said Microcosm could copy their zines yet I knew we had made hundreds of copies that I personally had stuffed in envelopes and put in the mail. I have heard from people who have asked to have their zines taken out of the Microcosm catalog because they did not want to support an abuser and they were argued with and told it was just a personal thing. There are many other stories that I wish I could say, but they aren’t mine to tell. After hearing all the stories and the realizations of what I had been a part of I started to feel sick to my stomach and feel guilty that I was part of something that appeared so lofty with a but was unthoughtful, disrespectful, and damaging to the community.

In 2008 I was contacted by individuals in Portland offering to help in mediation between Joe so that I could feel safer in my city. That mediation failed because Joe was unable to even work with the mediators. This year Cindy Crabb, from Doris zine and various other projects, and a few other brave souls began a new mediation and accountability process with him. She has been a huge support with this and has done a great job at pulling together people and resources for a task that has already failed before and most likely will again.  I have heard that Joe has been in therapy and that his therapist has concluded that he is not abusive, which just felt really dismissive of what I experienced for years. I’m not sure how this could be done without even trying to consult with me, which is what is supposed to be done in abuse therapy. Also, I don’t put much weight in Joe changing after having see his manipulative behaviors first hand with two different counselors.

In the end, I find it hypocritical that a company masquerades as a happy collective but is really being run by a supposed anarchist and feminist who is dismissive when called out as emotionally abusive. It seems ridiculous that a person who runs in circles of feminists, anarchists, and other radicals would balk at requests for accountability, ignore requested boundaries, and blatantly disregard their hurtful behaviors and then chock it all up to a “personal vendetta”.  It makes me sad that so many people ignore the issues when they are brought to light and that the community refuses to challenge these behaviors.

Where it gets tricky for me is knowing that several people make their livelihood or have their art distributed in ways they never could because of the machine that is Microcosm; from the zinester that is happy to get that $100 check to pay their rent, people who are excited to have their work published or distriburted, the printers of Microcosm t-shirts and stickers, to the people that make a living working at Microcosm. I even understand the complexity of someone living in a small town whose eyes were opened up to ideas and politics through the Microcosm catalog. But at what cost? When problematic behaviors go unchallenged and are swept under the rug because it is easier or because there are benefits to ignoring it, the larger patriarchal system of power and abuse is just being perpetuated.

At first it merely hurt my feelings a little when friends would continue to have their zines carried or published by Microcosm. I didn’t feel I had the support or right to ask them otherwise. Bur now, after failed attempts at mediation, accountability and repeated belittlement I have changed my mind. I believe in honesty and justice and giving people information to make up their own minds and they should act in accordance to their values.

So, the question is do I think people should support Joe Biel and Microcosm? If you think survivors of abuse should be believed, supported and respected and you believe abusers should be held accountable to their community and those they have hurt then I think you know my answer.