Subtweet Scandals

Is This The Most Hated Man in Books?: Twitter vs. Edward Champion

Book critic Edward Champion raised hackles this summer with a vulgar rant about female writers—and he’s just been kicked off Twitter for attempting to blackmail a female colleague.

via Facebook

Most people have never heard of Edward Champion, the book blogger, plagiarist outer, and professional crank who, for the second time in so many months, set off a Twitter inferno by harassing a female writer—prompting an outpouring of support for his target and his own threats of suicide.

If you poke about outside of New York’s small literary world and Champion’s name strikes a familiar chord, it is likely because of his 11,000-word summer invective against the success of those he suspected to be less talented than he—they happened to all be women—but none more so than the object of his bile, writer and former Gawker editor Emily Gould.

The piece, “Emily Gould, Literary Narcissism, and the Middling Millennials,” railed against Gould’s success and raged with a “get off my lawn” tone and subtext that screamed, “Recognize MY genius.” Gould was, according to Champion, “entitled,” “a dim bulb,” “a torrid hoyden hopped up on spite,” and, in the most quoted description from the essay, “a minx,” whose “head is so deeply deposited up her own slimy passage, it’s often hard to see the sunshine.”

Champion’s screed may have been tasteless and mean-spirited, and it was unquestionably jealous. But it could be (and was) argued that his tirade wasn’t necessarily a display of misogyny. Champion’s main complaint, perhaps tastelessly put, was that Gould is not “a real writer.” To question a writer’s chops is fair game—especially for a book critic.

And yet the social media pile-on against Champion was swift. Other writers and editors and feminists in all fields took to Twitter to defend Gould.

Rusty Foster at Newsweek pleaded with readers to resist the temptation to read the essay, asking them instead to, “officially, starting right now, pretend Ed Champion never existed.”

Nicole Cliffe editor at The Toast said on Twitter that as a result of the backlash she had received private messages from “a ton” of industry people “who’ve been terrified of him for years.”

Champion reacted to the criticism by tweeting a photo of the view from a bridge along with the words, “No money, no job, no gigs, no agent (a MS out with three). Not good enough. So I’m going to throw myself off a bridge now. No joke. Goodbye.”

Champion did not jump off a bridge that day and later said he would be taking some time off. Film writer Glenn Kenny wrote on his blog, “So be mad at Ed Champion all you want; he’s entitled to it. But if you can, spare a little compassion for the guy. I’ve been in his shoes, and for all his bluff and bluster, it’s pretty plain that he’s in an awful lot of pain. That’s usually one reason certain folks take to trying to inflict pain on others.”

At the time, very few writers weren’t calling for his head on social media. But among those slightly sympathetic towards Champion’s plight was Porochista Khakpour, an Iranian-American author quoted in Champion’s essay. In a series of tweets, Khakpour suggested perhaps a public flogging was not the best idea for someone who had recently threatened to end his life.

So it was surprising to see Champion go after Khakpour in the way that he did last night. Champion ended a series of increasingly unraveled tweets with an attempt to blackmail Khakpour, saying that if he didn’t receive an apology—for the transgression, Khakpour says, of deleting a “mean” comment about another writer on one of her Facebook posts (I know)—he would reveal the name of a man who photographed her naked.

A shaken Khakpour immediately reached out on Twitter for help. But Champion made good on his threats, tweeting the name of the man then quickly deleting it.

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Champion’s intimidation of a former ally was so abusive—potentially criminal, even—that it immediately set off calls for his head.

At some point in the night, Twitter suspended Champion’s account.

According to Khakpour, “a very fast-moving anonymous coalition of females were the ones who got his account suspended.” Early this morning, Champion responded to the suspension with a Facebook post that sounded similar to his threat in June. In it, he wrote that his long-time girlfriend, an editor for Publishers Marketplace, an industry trade publication, had left him, and said he had “no reason to live.”

“I’ve been informed that my Twitter account is suspended. So I’d like to thank Porochista Khakpour (and Dan Kois and Emily Gould) for going well out of their way to ruin my life. The woman I loved has left me after nearly nine years, and between that and the relentless howls for my blood, I really have no reason to live anymore. If I have any advice to young people, I urge you to never write or become part of the publishing industry. It is too occupied with bloodthirsty jackals who willfully miscomprehend idiosyncratic voices and go well out of their way to stifle interesting thought. This world is a horrid cancer that no decent soul should ever partake from. Get out of it while you still can. Goodbye.”

Requests for comment to Champion have not been returned.