Accusations of lying between John Wells and John Bowman

by Paul William Tenny

As a "media pundit", which to me is a media critic-blogger-opinionist hybrid, I suppose it should be in my wheelhouse to write about matters just like this more often. Personally, I think this kind of isolated industry drama isn't worth writing about if you don't understand it, and to understand it, you kind of need to know the people involved and the deep background, which in this case dates back nearly a decade.

That's not me, so I don't normally go there, but this case is a little different.
I didn't write much about what happened with SAG this year. Their dispute with the AMPTP dragged on far longer than my attention span would allow for, and most of the fighting was going on inside SAG itself. Long story made short, SAG "moderates" took control after a months long stalemate and quickly capitulated to what amounts to little more than the DGA/WGA deal.

Now we've got another round of elections with two rather unhappy groups of people. In the case of the WGA, current President Patric Verrone is apparently forbidden from seeking a third term. Verrone and John Bowman (former negotiating committee chair) have their guy on one side, and John Wells on the other. Bowman accused Wells of undermining the WGA's negotiations with the AMPTP during the strike by working with the Directors Guild to sign an inferior deal, according to an email sent by Verrone and Bowman as part of the campaign.

Wells has denied it and other people have weighed in in various places. [Most of this can be had from the L.A. Times.] Craig Mazin is vocal about guild politics and has been active as a board member before, and I read his blog every now and again as a primary source. Mazin wrote three posts from August 28th through the 31st and then deleted them sometime yesterday.

His stated reason is that "there's been a very good development", one which only WGA members will ever get to hear about.

Problem is it wasn't only guild members that heard people like Mazin call Verrone and Bowman liars.

That rubs me the wrong way for a number of reasons. The media critic side of me thinks it's dishonest to write something and then not have the courage either to stand behind it, or to retract. The opinionist side of me understands the regret of saying something and wishing you could take it back. And the blogger side doesn't care about anything other than preserving people's access to all the information so that they can always see the big picture.

I've heard accusations similar to what Verrone and Bowman said about John Wells before. That he leans more towards the producer/management side than the writers' side, which is fundamentally incompatible with the responsibilities of managing a talent union. This may be nothing more than a continuation of that, but it certainly feels like there may be something to it. Wells supposedly supported the strike, but it's really very easy to say that and not mean it. Everyone knows he liked the DGA deal and that his support for it would place him in direct opposition to the ruling factions that didn't.

To say that Wells was undermining the WGA by announcing his support for the DGA deal while he was serving in an unofficial capacity for the negotiating committee is not entirely unreasonable, though it may be exaggerated and may not even be true.

Alas, this is the part where not knowing the people and the history means not knowing for sure what Wells' intentions were.

And ultimately I don't really care at this point.

Mazin took umbrage with Bowman's statements regarding Wells being more of a producer than an advocate for the cause of the writer in all circumstances. Fine, but it's not fair to John Bowman or anyone who read that criticism to then wipe it from existence as it if never happened. Having Craig Mazin take sides gives that side added weight, on the one hand, even though the criticism was little more than weak rhetoric, on the other.

It's critical for people to be able to know how substantive Mazin's criticism was, if he's going to join the fay, beyond simply knowing which side he took. It's also worth noting something which ought to effect how anyone values that criticism. Mazin took one paragraph from Bowman's statement and criticized it out of context to the rest of the email in one post, but in another, he copied John Wells' entire reply along which his own commentary.

[A cache of that first post can be found here, and the third with Wells' response is here, thanks to Google.]

That's hardly objective or reasonable, and people ought to be able to know about this kind of selective criticism when deciding whether or not it has any merit. But that's not possible when someone writes a post, which is then read, and then deletes it a couple of days later when things suddenly change.

Even if one were to take this at face value, that "There's been a very good development", that hardly changes the fact that accusations of lying in the midst of a union election were made and that sides were taken, which was subsequently erased from history after "very good developments".

It's even ironic that Wells himself lashed out at Bowman, saying "In a perfect world, Patric and John would publicly retract their dishonest statements and apologize for these ugly and highly regrettable tactics."

Worse still, the end result is that even though people were accused of undermining their own union, while others were accused of lying about it -- all made in public -- the outcome is not public and may never be known to anyone outside of the WGA.

Such behavior, even if it has been resolved in private, ought to warrant public retractions of some kind to address the very public and damaging accusations that brought it to light to begin with. Simply deleting evidence of support or opposition from public view only serves to undermine confidence both in the parties involved, and those who write about them.

I have no interest in dictating such things to other people, but it's always worth pointing out that if you're going to make negative statements about people in public, you should have the courage and integrity to stand behind those statements publicly, or renounce them publicly as well.
in Film, Labor, Television


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