Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Replies to '22 Faces' Claims: Hard Questions for Author Judy Byington
Recently, I was charged with the unfortunate task of reviewing a hysterical piece of supernatural horror crime-genre pulp "literature" entitled 22 Faces by Judy Byington. This proved to be an infuriating task. The book -- poorly written, poorly plotted, bloated with repetitious events, contradictions, and intellectually insulting cartoon-like caricatures -- claimed to be a work of non-fiction, though defying all reason with its consistent references to supernatural events. The protagonist of the book, Jenny Hill, is described as having been born under the auspice of prophecy, is claimed to have been saved from ritual murder by way of divine intervention... she has suffered demonic possession, dabbled in "levitation", possesses ESP, and has personally heard the guiding voice of God.
Naturally, my review expressed skepticism.
Dismayed at the amount of uncritical press this book was nonetheless receiving, I began to suspect that those who were interviewing Mrs. Byington hadn't bothered to read her material at all. Thus I was moved to comment at the end of an online article regarding 22 Faces, which presented the book as mere tale of a rare and misunderstood psychiatric condition (Multiple Personality Disorder/Dissociative Identity Disorder). I left a simple comment pointing out the many other-worldly elements of the book whereupon Mrs. Byington herself saw fit to object in what soon became a prolonged comment war. The exchange is very revealing for what Mrs. Byington did not say. While she accused me of writing "falsehoods", she never specified what those falsehoods were. Senselessly, she decided that I am motivated by a desire to "defend rapists and murders", thereby dismissing my criticisms entirely.
This exchange, which was pulled from the website during the unflagging melee, became most informative when a woman identifying herself as Jenny Hill's sister, Susan, entered.
Susan began by pointing out that by no objective standard had jenny been “healed” by her so-called therapy endorsed by Judy Byington (the therapy by which Jenny "recovered" "memories" of being abused by "Satanists": “She [Jenny] is a very troubled mentally ill woman today.” according to Susan, “[Byington] has exploited Jenny and manipulated her into this book so that [Judy] may see personal gain from it. This book is nothing but lies lies lies. If she wanted the truth she could have interviewed Jennys [sic] family to get the truth. It’s disgusting what this woman has done and continues to do.”
It was interesting, but not surprising, to see that Byington had not even bothered to interview any family members of Jenny Hill in the course of her research. the obvious question becomes, what corroboration, if any, did Byington seek regarding Jenny’s claims at all? did she simply believe Jenny to be such an unimpeachable source of accurate information that fact-checking and corroboration were deemed superfluous and unnecessary?
Byington’s own book describes an episode in which Jenny fled from Byington for a time believing that she had observed “the mark of cain” somewhere on Byington, indicated that she was involved, somehow, with satanic cults… yet it never seems to have occurred to Byington that any other paranoid claims of Jenny’s may have been rooted in suspicious delusion, rather than fact.
Byington countered in a comment directed at Susan stating: “Jenny is not a ‘sick’ person as you portray her. She is a loving, caring person whom you should be proud of.”
Susan: “Judy, I did not say Jenny was sick, I said she was a troubled mentally ill woman. If she wasn’t so troubled you would have her on tour with you instead of relying on 30 year old [information.] Why not let Jenny speak for herself? Its [sic] because you want to portray her life then and now as something that is a lie in order to sell this book for your own gain. Why else would you have her sign away all her rights to this book[?] Jenny maintains alot of what was written about her occult experiences came from you. You have exploited and used Jenny. Your story would be laughable if it wasn’t so hurtful and spread so many lies about people. You can spin it anyway [sic] you want to justify yourself, but the truth about you is still there.”
Judy then idiotically trotted out more “ritual abuse” statistics which demonstrate nothing more than that she isn’t alone in her delusions. then she accused Susan, writing: “Not too long ago you threatened Jenny if she spoke out. Where were you when she faced being homeless last…[?]”
Susan: “Judy, the things she says to you and the things she says to me are always in conflict. I get that. Why is it that you don’t? Its [sic] impossible to take anything she says as fact. She is clearly disturbed mentally. I say that with no malice. I would just like you to think openly about the things she says and not be so willing to believe everything [is the] truth. Did you believe her when she said your husband was coming on to her sexually? I have heard that allegation too many times about other men to take it seriously. You ask where I have been… the same place I’ve always been. [H]ow many times has she called you in the middle of the night to come rescue her from some drama only to find her asleep and not knowing she had called or claiming she was being held hostage and you come with police to find her watching TV[?] …For obvious reasons I cannot have [that] in my home”…
Susan continued in another comment added moments later:
“But I have paid bills, buy her [Jenny's] groceries and clothing [.] [T]he list goes on. I guess she never told you. Just like she still claims you are exploiting her story. I guess she didn’t tell you we had talked also. I would never threaten Jenny, I have no reason to. I have warned her about you and she always agrees. That’s how her troubled mind works. She says whatever she can to keep peace. Why can you not see that? Do not ever question my support for my sister. I have done more than you will ever know. And yet I keep my stories of Jenny private so she won’t be hurt further.”
so here, suddenly, a remarkable story emerged of a mentally disturbed woman being fed harmful delusions for Byington to exploit. a story emerged of Byington’s opportunistic selection and arbitrary dismissal of whichever claims she deemed appropriate to her narrative or otherwise. Susan’s comments brought out some very interesting questions. why would Byington disregard a claim from jenny attesting that Byington’s own husband had been “coming on” to her? the book 22 faces is full of such claims that seem to be accepted uncritically. how often has jenny hill, in fits of paranoia, cried wolf regarding claims of assault or kidnapping that Byington is aware of? there was a lot here for Byington to answer to. remarkably, instead of answering to any of it, she immediately backed out:
Judy: “Susan…I know you have helped Jenny a lot in the past. This discussion is getting out of hand, certainly not respecting Jenny’s privacy and going nowhere. Let’s quit.”
now, suddenly, Byington was concerned for Jenny’s privacy! now, suddenly, she knew Susan had helped Jenny “a lot in the past”! (never mind that the book describes Susan only as some shitty antagonist of Jenny’s.)
I suspect the article -- along with the aforementioned comments -- was pulled to appease the desperate requests of the party whose credibility was most damaged by them. Fortunately, I have screen shots of this exchange, and I post them here in hopes that the questions this dialogue raised can not be simply ignored by Mrs. Byington as she continues to enjoy uncritical media attention from sensation-seeking hacks with neither the time nor inclination to actually read 22 Faces before discussing it with her. Hopefully now, with this material online, an interviewer doing fast Google research can be expected to find much with which to construct the Hard Questions....