So, one of the things that affected the committee's "sentence" for Jim Frenkel was his claim that his settlement with his former employer Tor (an imprint of Macmillan Publishing) would prevent him from speaking publicly about his conduct for five years, which would be four years now. The existence of this injunction became the basis for the time period before Frenkel could petition for readmission, since they couldn't expect him to apologize and acknowledge what he did publicly before that.
I've said before that it was completely unnecessary for WisCon to incorporate this supposed settlement into their decision. Even if one accepts the idea that he could acknowledge his wrongdoing and petition for re-entry, any legal trouble that would prevent him from doing so until a certain date would be his problem. Setting the timetable based on neither helps nor harms him from a strictly objective standpoint.
Yesterday, it came out--confirmed by the legal department of Macmillan--that he was bound to no such agreement. He straight up lied about its existence.
Some people have positioned this as him lying to avoid apologizing, or lying to avoid punishment. I'm not sure that the second is exactly accurate--by which I mean, I don't know that he actually avoided punishment by it--but the fact is, they're both far too innocent a description for what happened here.
What he did was lie to avoid acknowledging his conduct, publicly and on the record.
Jim Frenkel is a serial harasser and abuser of women. I saw a disagreement on Twitter earlier today about whether he had really "flown under the radar" or whether he was a "known quantity", and the fact is, he was both. Some people knew, some people didn't, and the things that some people knew differed in apparent context and magnitude.
A man like this depends on the fact that information is compartmentalized, even within a community. A man like this needs to be able to shake his sadly and say, "Well, that's their story." or chuckle wryly and say, "The things they say about me." or "You know these things have a way of getting blown out of proportion." or (if he has the right audience) "Women, right?", whenever there's even a glancing mention of his past conduct.
He has to be able to spin off the things that "everyone knows" about him as so much rumor and innuendo and exaggeration to the people who aren't part of the everyone who knows them.
The question of why it took so long for him to suffer any real consequences is a complicated and sad one involving many failings, societal and personal. I have to imagine that the matter of why now, though... the question of why critical mass started to build up around 2010 and a tipping point was reached between 2013 and 2014 has a lot to do with the internet, with the way that it has de-compartmentalized information and brought people together, and even changed the way that many people think about and deal with these things in offline spaces.
Frenkel has not acknowledged his conduct in any public space or forum. He showed up this year at WisCon 38 to assert his innocence. A man like this will privately express "regret" show "contrition" when necessary, but to have a public statement from his own lips or fingers where he owns up to what he did would be devastating. That's the Game Over.
Or at least, a major setback. He might be arrogant enough to believe he could still spin that as an unfair condition that he was forced to accept, and might be charming enough to sell that to some people.
The bottom line is, the fact that Jim Frenkel lied about this and the circumstances of the lie are collectively one of the most dangerous indicators of his true character yet revealed. They reveal that his contrition is a sham, they reveal that his manipulations are deliberate and calculated, and they reveal that his intentions are not to change his ways, not any more and for any longer than he has to, in order to continue to get away with this.
I know a lot of people have been hoping that the sub-committee's decision would be revoked and substituted with another one. I know virtually everyone has been hoping that they will at least release an official clarification to firm up the timeline. I don't know what the conversation around this in the ConCom looks like right now, or even if it's still continuing.
I would certainly hope that the knowledge that he lied to the sub-committee would on its face be enough to end the debate and merit a permanent ban. I can sadly imagine people who still value loyalty over member safety, con ideals, or even the reputation of the con making the argument that there's no rule that says that and it's not like he was testifying under oath, which ignores the implication of the lie.
On the chance that the debate is still for whatever reason raging, I'd like to offer a way forward that doesn't require another sub-committee and doesn't require another decision of the same complexity.
The original decision mentioned that his provisional right to return would be subject to evidence of either substantial change in behavior, or continued problematic behavior. We now have evidence of continued problematic behavior, intent to continue problematic behavior, and fabricated evidence of changed behavior that calls into question .
My understanding is that the original decision was meant to say that there would be a hearing for this evidence in four years' time. Well, for whatever reason, it doesn't actually say that. Anywhere. All it says is that WisCon will entertain "grounded, substantive evidence" that he's changed, and also any evidence against him. Well, we have the evidence against him, and this evidence makes it hard to believe any evidence he provides would be substantive or grounded.
So my suggestion to the ConCom is this: in keeping with the wording of the original decision and in light of the evidence, kick him out the door and lock it behind him. No hearing. He blew it. He's gone.
Here's hoping that you're way ahead of me and these words are completely superfluous.