Steve Duin Fabrication
Dark Horse publisher Mike Richardson recently wrote a column describing a meeting I was party to on March 29, 2000. Mike was a facilitator and I was a witness; the meeting was between Oregonian columnist Steve Duin and Andrew Vachss. Mike's summary was necessitated by Duin's fabricated account of what occurred, as published in The Oregonian. That Duin—a journalist by trade—would "reconstruct" an event that allegedly occurred years earlier, structured to make him look like a person of great importance who regally consented to "hear out" Andrew, says everything you need to know about his character. But I have some things to add to further illustrate that character. And to do that, I have to reach back a bit farther.
In 1995, Andrew wrote a Batman novel, which was also adapted as a comic book. Duin interviewed Andrew at the San Diego Comic Con that same year. The entire reason Andrew wrote the book was to bring attention to crimes against children being committed with the culpability of the Thai government; at the time, Thailand was the world center of child sex tourism. Andrew's book is a work of fiction—it is a "Batman" book, remember—but in the back is David Hechler's fully sourced 13-page article about the Thai government's refusal to protect that nation's children from being marketed to serve the child-sex tourism industry.
This book was meant to inform, and to inspire people to act. And whenever you succeed in getting people to act, you can be sure they won't all act the way you want them to. Enter Sean Parlaman.
Parlaman was a child rapist posing as a "warrior" for child protection. I use the past tense because Parlaman is past tense. In 2002, he took a dive off the fifteenth floor of a Pattaya building as officers were waiting to bring him in for further questioning—he had already been charged with child sexual abuse. But in 2000, his personal attacks against Andrew—who he saw as the personification of the boycott—and his claims that the boycott was actually ended were at their peak. Parlaman concocted some "sources" and grossly misquoted others. At one point in 1996, he even phoned Dark Horse Comics—where I then worked—posing as ABC News broadcaster Ken Kashiwahara and claiming to have certain "information" about Andrew … which I will not repeat here. When Kashiwahara was made aware of this, he went ballistic, and immediately confirmed that he made no such call … and never would. At another point, Parlaman cited an article written by Duin—a nonexistent article, in fact—in one of his endless Internet posts. Andrew asked Duin to simply post a message that the "quotes" were lies, and not from any column he wrote. The fact that Duin's a journalist should have been motivation enough to set the record straight; additionally, Parlaman was threatening the legitimacy of a campaign seeking to protect children from sexual abuse. But Duin couldn't be bothered to so much as post a clarifying message on the Internet. Andrew was not subtle in his reaction to Duin.
Suddenly, The Oregonian's prior rave reviews of Andrew's books turned into slaws. Duin, amazingly enough, actually requested to review the books, and his personal agenda was so strong that he managed to trash Andrew's books in his reviews of other author's books.
That brings us up to Mike's column, describing the 2000 meeting. I'd characterize Mike's column as accurate, but I'd also say that Mike is more of a gentleman than I am. So while Mike writes, "[T]he event, as [Duin] described it, never happened," I would say that Duin's account is an utter fabrication; not an interpretation of events, but a complete lie (from a columnist who self-righteously characterized James Frey as "a refresher course in what happens when the rubber ducky of truth meets the tsunami of shameless entertainment").
And while Mike writes that "[Duin] denied any predetermined intent in the tone or content of his review," I would say that Duin stammered through an attempt at an explanation of his conduct—not just in his hijacked review of Andrew's book and his out-of-context attack in the unrelated review, but also, and more importantly, in the aforementioned matter of Sean Parlaman—without ever actually completing a thought. Duin did not, as Mike wrote, "[have] a difficult time explaining why [his earlier published remarks] had no bearing on his book review"; he in fact had a difficult time forming words, he was shaking so much.
That Duin would, in his column, claim Andrew "accus[ed him] of threatening his livelihood by criticizing" his books is beyond absurd, and certifiably narcissistic. Andrew's interest in book reviews is famously non-existent, and the idea that he would suck up to a quivering nothing like Duin is clearly Duin's personal fantasy … which he expressed as fact.
None of this would have become public had Duin not made it so—Andrew had dismissed the whole meeting as "pathetic" seconds after it was done. I know, because that was his entire comment to me as we were driving away from the building. I have a few theories about why Duin wrote his fantasy "account," and can't think of a single one that demonstrates honor. Read Duin's column for yourself by clicking here, and see if you can. Then compare Duin's column with Mike's excerpt—and you'll notice that, since the original posting, Duin has eliminated the phrase, "In a glorious outburst of paranoia and spite." You can decide what it says about a journalist, that he'd electronically doctor a printed column rather than make a correction (which would result in an attention-getting public record). What it says to me is that he's at least got the intellect to rectify libel per se when it's pointed out to him.
Years ago, Andrew explained to me that low intellect does not equate to low character. A person can be less than brilliant, but shine in ethics. In the years since, Duin has reminded me that, while low intellect and low character are not the same thing, they certainly can exist in the same person.
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