“Jeff Mach Allegations”

It’s still strange to me to google my name and see “Jeff Mach Allegations” come up as a predictive option.  There was a time when the first thing you’d see would be, say, Jeff Mach Events, or something else I had done or created. It’s fascinating to watch that Daily Beast article come up, remembering the author’s specific breech of what we had in writing in service to her very clear agenda. And to be honest, I don’t exactly fault her for having an agenda; I’m pretty sure she went in believing she was fighting Evil, with a capital E. What keeps striking me isn’t the one-sided narrative; it’s that there’s less than one side here. There are tiny fragments, and we’re supposed to make a story out of them.

Human brains are good for that – filling in empty gaps. There are so many examples of how we’ll take a piece of something and fill in gaps (this article from Scientific American is one of my favorites on the subject).  What we’re not good at is filling them in accurately when we don’t have enough of the picture.  (How many people see a face on Mars?  How many people can picture the beings in constellations when they look at the sky?  For me, I’ve always been able to “see” that face in pictures, and never really seen the constellations.)

When I think about the allegations which now follow the name “Jeff Mach” (and I have thought about them every single day since they’ve happened)–that’s what I think about: all the gaps.

I’m not even talking about gaps that make stories untrue (that’s a subject for another time) – or which leave out critical and pertinent data.  I’m not talking about “proving people wrong”; I’m talking about understanding the stories themselves.

Sometimes, I get frustrated by how monolithic the narrative is, how much it consciously wants to hear one side and rejects hearing the other side.  How my own desire to speak “my side” seems to get characterized as some selfish act.  (And to be honest, I believed that myself, for a long time.  I had long been infused with the idea that there are no false accusation, and that to question any of them is to disrespect someone’s pain.  I pretty much considered my own pain to be collateral damage.  It took me a long time to find out that I’m not the only person–especially not the only man–to do so.)

But then I go back and I re-read what’s been put up.  (It’s easy enough, after all; just as the allegations were simultaneous and multi-platform, there was also a website that started covering them, literally faster than one could read them; whatever else you can say about the allegations, you can’t say that there wasn’t planning behind them.)  And what keeps striking me, time after time:

These are not stories.  These are pieces of stories.

The idea is that it’s necessary for stories to be fairly fragmentary, because we need to protect the anonymity of accusers.  And that’s a valid point.  The problem is, what can we do with story fragments?

In a world where we know people have serious problems going to legal authorities about sexual crimes, we recognize that crimes go unreported.  But in a world where we also recognize that people tell a whole lot of lies and distorted stories on the internet, stories that never get vetted at all, we also need to recognize that we begin to lose the ability to figure out what happened.

There are a lot of very loaded conversations about what we believe in allegations of sexual misconduct.  It’s a long and difficult subject, and I will probably address it in a different post.  But I’m going to use some more specific ground right now.

The aforementioned theories of protecting the anonymity of people involved in alleged sexual misconduct–simply do not apply to straight-up business dealings.  “This person abused me” is an emotionally and criminally complex question; “This person was supposed to pay me $250; here is the agreement to do so; they did not do so” – is not.

I’m not afraid to address the sexual allegations.  I’m not afraid to speak the truth, which is to say that I am innocent: not a rapist, not a predator.  I am just seeking a solid place for comparison.

For example, there’s a pervasive narrative that I defrauded vendors and/or performers.  How?  If my company promised a vendor a space, and that vendor didn’t get that space, then we’d both have records.  And, indeed, in places where we made mistakes (or where vendors made mistakes) – we have whole conversations via email.  Because conventions will make a few mistakes in the span of 20 years; that’s extremely different from going around defrauding people.

Those things don’t come up specifically because those mistakes are rare, and we have simple records on file.  “We’re sorry you didn’t get the right-sized space; here’s a refund”, or “Oh, you’re right, I thought I’d applied for X size, but my application does say Y size.  I apologize.”

Likewise, with performers–if I had a habit of not paying performers, I wouldn’t be able to get performers.  Jeff Mach Events wouldn’t have had massive amounts of programming.  We sure wouldn’t have had a great deal of professional sound and light.  If the company promised things in writing, we’d have them in writing–which we do.  If we made handshake deals (which we avoided, in general; it’s easy to lose a friendship over the sorts of things that ARE covered in a written agreement, but may not come up in an oral deal) – and didn’t follow through, people would have stopped performing.

But not only have those allegations continued, without people being able to back them up–they’ve gotten farther and farther afield.  I’m accused of running all manner of events in secret; I’m accused of somehow having secret deals with all the hotels in New Jersey to keep out competitors (there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of hotels in New Jersey, and I literally can’t conceive of how you would even make that kind of deal with even a few hotels; a convention is worth tens of thousands of dollars to a hotel venue.  How would you somehow conspire with ONE hotel where you aren’t even running events or booking rooms? – much less hundreds?)

That’s exactly the nature of how narratives work, though.  They spiral.

Recently, I was issued an incredibly illegitimate cease and desist order relating to my putting on events, and attempting to censor a book I’ve written.  I was asked if I’d abide by it; I responded that my side had answered the letter.  Someone maintained that the order said I had to do certain things; I said it did not; they persisted, I said, we’ll let the law decide.  They said, they weren’t surprised that my attitude was “If you don’t like it, sue me.”  I said: I have been in business for over 20 years.  Can you name even one instance where that’s happened?  They said they couldn’t, but that it “didn’t matter”; it was just clearly “how I do business”.

(I have, in fact, questioned at least a few contracts.  Everyone in legitimate business has times when there are contractual questions.  I’ve also abided by my contracts–literally hundreds. It’s a matter of clear, visible, legal record, which I can document.  But that doesn’t matter.)

That’s how far narratives can spin on something that isn’t as loaded, as complex, as challenging, as what an ex-lover says you did or didn’t do five or eight or ten years ago.  Those are with things that are written, visible, documentable.

There is a basic concept here, one I think we need to apply:  If we’re going to believe in someone’s guilt and innocence, we need to see at least two sides of a story.  Even more: If we’re going to believe in taking drastic action because we believe in someone’s guilt or innocence, we need to see more than part of a story.

-Jeff Mach

 

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Jeff Mach: My statement on allegations and consent

On January 23rd, 2018, I learned for the first time of a collection of accusations against me. In a single day, allegations that I was a predator who took advantage of people through my business dealings were posted in a coordinated pattern across multiple social media platforms.

I have stayed silent for over 10 months. Some of that was because of legal advice but mostly because I wanted the people who felt I had hurt them to have their say. After much introspection, I am now ready to make the following statement.


First and foremost: I have a sincere desire to make things right by anyone who honestly feels I have hurt them. I continue to urge you to contact me or a mutual friend (as nearly all of those who spoke up are people with whom I have had long-held relationships)so we can enter into a dialogue in the hopes that it might lead to healing. Wherever the path to healing begins, I am present and ready to begin.

Discussing & defending one’s self in this type of situation is extremely difficult. I do not want to minimize anyone’s feelings but I must set the record straight so I can move on with my life.

Simply put, the narrative of the attack was:

  1. Jeff Mach is allegedly a predator
  2. Therefore, he should not be allowed to continue to be part of our community
  3. Therefore, he should give up his businesses, and preferably give them to us, his accusers.

The majority of my allegations come from:

  1. My business competitors
  2. Disgruntled Ex-Staff
  3. Past intimate partners

The goal of the attack was not to have me address any errors or problems, there has never been any attempt at communication, or mediation, and most certainly no attempt to come to any sort of resolution.

Yet:

  • I have not committed nor even been accused of sexual assault
  • There have been no legal complaints brought against me
  • There have been no lawsuits brought against me

Just a continuous pounding attack professing how terrible I am, with the insistence that anyone who questions it must be aiding a monster, and is, therefore, a monster themselves.

I have spent the last 25 years serving my community and demonstrating my deep commitment to consent and empowerment. Literally thousands of people who have attended my events and interacted with me over the years can attest to this. I have, and always will try to create a better environment for everyone.

Which is why these tactics have been very successful.

Nothing could be more upsetting to me than to be accused of the very thing I tried to fight against for 25 years.

I am especially disgusted that people whom I have actually hurt in some way have been used to further an obviously calculated smear campaign that was created to destroy my business and allow others to profit from that situation.

So disgusted and so upset that, against legal and other advice, I willingly handed over my life’s work to my accusers.

I legally gave all control & ownership of my businesses over to others, which included the Steampunk World’s Fair. For reasons of their own, they chose to cancel The Steampunk World’s Fair, even though they were aware that there was no money to issue refunds.

  • I did NOT cancel The Steampunk World’s Fair.
  • I did NOT have the ability to cancel it as I no longer owned it at that time.

Although I have no legal responsibility to do so,  I am taking legal action that will hopefully, finally, permit those wronged by the people who destroyed SPWF to gain back at least some of what they lost. It is my goal to find some way to see that those people are helped, that their pain and difficulties are met with attempts at compensation.

I am not perfect, like everyone I have made mistakes. I will continue to make mistakes, but I will also continue to learn from my mistakes and grow as a person.

Again, I will always be sorry for anyone I have hurt, knowingly or unknowingly. But I also know that the angry factions which worked to take me down will not accept apologies; they never wanted to listen or talk, just to isolate me, leaving me in the dark, then emerging all at once in a coordinated attack.   

My name is Jeff Mach. I have spent my adult life serving the community. I am here to talk and I am here to listen; but I will not vanish out of existence. I am not a monster. And I never have been.

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A response to The Daily Beast’s article on my allegations

It’s hard not to notice that, if you Google my name, a Daily Beast article comes up.

I’ve tried take what I’d think of as a high road.  The accounts of individuals are individual’s stories. They can make whatever claims they want, especially if they’re anonymous.  And while I strongly want to simply refute them, to point out that there’s not only no evidence for them, but evidence against them, I’ve refrained–so far.

But there are parts of that article which really need some more background; and without it, I’m going to say straight-up that in my opinion, the article lies.  It’s The Daily Beast’s How The Steampunk Community Was Rocked By Its Own #Metoo Scandal.

On my end, this isn’t a point-by-point refutation of everything in the article. That’s for a future time. This is just taking a look at some of the most egregiously important parts of the story which aren’t told. I’ll go over a few of them. (And again, this is not my formal, specific reputation of each individual claims. I may know claims to be inaccurate, but I still struggle with whether it hurts people who haven’t accused others falsely for me to speak too loudly about the false allegations against me.  This is really me just putting some ideas into words, as I continue trying to process the attacks on my life.)

* The Steampunk community was not “rocked by a #metoo scandal”. I was accused of #metoo violations. Other people took over my Steampunk event that year, and burned thousands of people by cancelling it–the opposite of everything I’d discussed with them. The community was rocked by the actions taken by a small number of people after the allegations happened–not those allegations. Had other people not canceled an event, because they truly (and incorrectly) believed they weren’t liable, the community would have been shook, but not shaken to the core.

But while that’s important, it’s also kind of a nitpick. I wouldn’t call the headline a lie, just some clickbait, and it’s hard to blame a paper for clickbait.

* Attendance at The Steampunk World’s Fair did not “break four digits”; it was regularly in the 5000-8000 range. More accurate to say that it “nearly broke five digits”.

* The phrase “patterns of toxic, manipulative behavior emerged” is pure opinion, and it’s a loud opinion, but there’s no evidence of this–just a few anecdotes by angry ex-partners and angry ex-business partners, written by the friend of one of those angry ex-business partners (a fact she does not disclose.)

* I’m skipping over the allegations. They aren’t true. But I think some of the people making allegations believe them wholeheartedly. There may come a time when it’s necessary for me to refute them point-by-point, but I’m concerned with proving my innocence–not with proving other people to be liars.

The two may be inextricable. We’ll see.

* I’m mentioned as having exchanged money with someone for sexual relations. That’s what we’d call the Big Lie. I did not pay that person for sex. I later on gave money for travel expenses to that volunteer, a person I’d known for years, just as the company compensated lots of people for travel and other expenses. That money was budgeted for travel, and spent on-record. I’m not ashamed that my company compensated people. I AM frustrated that the same people who claim we didn’t compensate anyone are often people who were on-the-books-payrolled-employees. In this instance, if I recall, that person may actually have been paid officially, by check, by her boyfriend, who was our Chief Operating Officer. These are details which change the story rather a lot, don’t you think?

(Again, I’m not even taking on the sexual allegations here–just journalistic fact-checking.)

* The other woman involved in my “sexual” scene with Ms. CK would like to be heard. But no-one wants to listen to her.

* There’s a claim made that “if no-one brings up compensation, they don’t get paid”. We had an entire performer system based on applications; we agreed on compensation in advance, and put it in writing. Then we paid it. We worked with literally HUNDREDS of performers. I know that, in 20 years, we’ve made some normal mistakes–X person didn’t pick up their check a the end of show and it needed to be mailed; Y person specified “we need a place to store gear”, and we provided that, but not a room.  But we did what every event does: We fixed it.  And those are exceptions, not rules. Ask our performers. We have written, documentary evidence, and bank records; we have literally hundreds of performers and thousands of vendors who were happy, and kept wanting to come back. But The Daily Beast never fact-checked that.

* Really bad fact-checking: It’s claimed I ran a fundraiser for Gil for a show which “never materialized”. It REALLY should be noted that the show materialized–that is, I paid for the venue, I paid for the space, I created the room for Gil to run his program. I covered all of those costs. Gil just couldn’t put a program together.

* Gil also claims that I “blocked him wherever possible”. The reporter, whom I had never met, was Facebook friends with Gil at the time. ALL SHE HAD TO DO WAS GO TO HIS ACCOUNT TO SEE THAT WE WERE MUTUAL FRIENDS. We’re still not blocked. I have a screenshot of my friend request to him. I also have screenshots with my messages to him, including one where I asked to talk about money he felt was owed.  It’s EASY to check to see if someone’s blocked on Facebook. Unless just claiming they’re blocked makes a better story.

Poor fact-checking there.

* The article’s chief business allegations stem from Gil, Gil’s friend and business partner AS, and Gil’s friend Nikki – who is characterized as vending with my events “despite” problems–as opposed to being one of the first people to sign up for each event, who only left in a huff when she didn’t get the room she wanted–years after she (now) claims that I hurt her father. And I’ve asked the basic question: If I owed somebody money, why can’t Nikki produce an invoice? Because I can certainly provide invoices we sent her, and records for our financial transactions.  Also, my phone call with her was specifically characterized by my saying directly that I didn’t owe money for services that were presented as being without cost; but that I was willing to pay it ANYWAY if it would help her father. Turning that into some kind of gloating about her father’s illness is… messed up and low.

* The thing that gets me here is that if I were committing horrible business practices, there’d be hundreds of records. My company did very little business on a handshake level; we had contracts, which we honored, invoices which we sent out, invoices which we received and paid. All The Daily Beast needed to do was ask for proof.

* Finally, the piece is portrayed as news, but it’s thoroughly editorial:

“Who else is complicit: the employees who stayed despite being aware of some of Mach’s practices? Those who are trying to revitalize the events now? What did it mean to benefit from these community gatherings that hurt so many?”

WHO got hurt? If this is news, can you document ANY of this?
Why did these events exist for nearly 25 years, if all they did was hurt anyone?

The truth is, I did not prey on people, I paid my debts, and I acted appropriately. The Daily Beast published an opinion piece as if it were news reporting. And damn, that piece has wrought a lot of destruction. And it’s obvious why–they profited from all the clicks, never actually caring about fact-checking or source-checking.

And that’s part of why I fight. Because journalists should have free speech to publish their opinions. They should also have the opinion to publish controversial facts. But when they publish controversial opinions and present them to the world as facts, then they deserve to be–not censored, not sued–but held up to the light and made responsible for what they put in print.

-Jeff Mach

=======

For the record: You can find “My Statement On Allegations And Consent” here.

I tried reaching out to The Daily Beast repeatedly. No-one returned my calls. The author of that story published EXACTLY one story–that one–and apparently never wrote for them again.

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