Around the historical figure of America’s icon Jesse James congregates a community of con artists, charlatans, liars, claimants, and fraudsters. The entry fee is nominal. All it takes is an intense desire TO BE NOTICED. It is the exit fee that is costly and dear. Once identified among this community, most all never recover integrity.
Fools like these feed off one another voraciously. They can command no significant following. Their only power comes from the power to infect the un-knowledgeable, and to lie.
So it occurred in January of 2015 when the editor Joel Willans of the blog WhizzPast elected to headline an article titled, “25 little-known facts about the outlaw Jesse James,” with a fake photo of the Jesse James gang. Willans is an ex-pat of the UK, and apparently a man without a country.
The article was decent and fairly accurately written account with legitimate photos, almost a rarity these days, written by Kathleen Harris from the staff of WhizzPast. The “25 little-known facts” structure of the article is a favored darling of internet algorithms, intended to attract more clicks than relevant audience.
Editor Willans, I’d estimate, adores algorithms. He could not let the Harris article go unpublished without mucking up the writing integrity of Kathleen Harris with a fake photo of the James gang. Willans proudly explained in Comments to the article, the image was obtained from “an expert.”
The “expert” Willans cited is found on a website that is a well-known seedbed of fraudsters. It is no surprise to find Jesse James con artist Ron Pastore among them. Pastore’s activities are long known to Stray Leaves. Whenever Pastore speaks, the stats for pages on Leaves of Gas that relate to Pastore jump astronomically and the queries roll in. We’ve taken Pastore to the woodshed time and time again for his fraud. Now there’s Joel Willans to join with Pastore.
Gratuitously, Willans invited me to provide him a bone fide image of the James gang. If I could not, he said, he’d would persist in publishing the photo that is fraudulent. This is a typical con man’s gambit. The fact is, no image of the James gang exists. None, whatsoever. The James, as fugitives of the law, were not dumb so to photograph themselves and distribute their images, either as a gang or individually, begging to be captured. Asking to provide something that doesn’t exist is the con man’s way of saying, “Gotcha.” The fact that the faces in the Willans image cannot be authenticates as the identified names attached to them is the James way of saying “Gotcha, con man.”
Mr. Willans believes his college degree in history should stand for something. Indeed, it should, but certainly not for the perpetration of fake history. Modestly, Mr. Willans does not mention, he also has a degree in journalism from the London School of Journalism. His brand of journalism differs little from the tabloid trash Britain wildly generates.
Commentator Willans bows before the Holy Grail of algorithms, amazon(dot)com. After all, Willians is no journalist at all. He’s an adman. He invokes the once beacon of hope turned rampant despoiler to render people disparagingly as does his Grail. Two book reviews of Jesse James Soul Liberty on amazon only can mean a worthless book to him.
Willans appears to have backslid on his journalism degree. He makes no mention of the book’s Milton F. Perry Award, or its nominations for Best Non-Fiction Biography of the Wild West History Association, or Spur Award nomination from The Western Writers of America. He mentions not at all that the Tony Award winning Steppenwolf Theater commissioned award winning playwright Carlos Murillo to write a play based on a James family member featured in the book’s chapter “All for the Underdog.” Nor does Willans acknowledge the book’s popularity among libraries across the nation and book collectors of original new history, not regurgitated. Willans’ idolatry can produce only cynicism, which he believes is amusing.
The “Incorrect Facts” review of Virginia Church, Willans boasts of, has been addressed here before. Never mind the oxymoron title that would cancel out any subsequent content, her complaint is a closed issue until she alone elects to correct whatever she deems untrue. As for amazon, if I was able, I’d delete amazon from my book’s distribution network. Not because of how my book appears there, or amazon’s feeble sales results due to its skewed algorithms, but more for the fact that I disagree with the company’s predatory and exploitative business practices, and its despoliation of the literary market in favor of flooding the market with 99 cents pulp, most all lacking in any literary merit.
WhizzPast is a clever title for a blog. Its subtitle is “The fastest way to travel back in time.” Under the editorial hand of Joel Willans, with his history and journalism degrees, the Jesse James family is ridiculed and disparaged, and Jesse James history is steampunked, all for the sake of Willans’ algorithm success. So much for the value of a college education, and two degrees utterly wasted.
In this tawdry episode, WhizzPast fails in its mission as “The fastest way to travel back in time.” WhizzPast makes the issue entirely present, and not the truest. You see, Joel Willans is no more than an adman…whose art is deception, no different than the con men attracted to Jesse James throughout history, and who are much too prevalent today, preying upon the uneducated, the un-knowledgeable, and the ignorant.
UPDATE: Jan 25, 2015
While Joel Willians plays smackdown with his guest commentators, one commenter slipped in with a fact that once more puts the lie to Willians’ claim that his James gang photo is authentic. Judy posted:
“I don’t see how this could have been a picture of the James Gang. Just a quick google search tells me that according to the Minnesota Historical Society Mueller, the photographer, didn’t start his photo studio in Owatonna until 1884.
“I kept looking for more info about Mr. Mueller and found him in the Minnesota 1905 census and he had been a resident for 23 years, making his move to MN 1882.
By 1882-1884 the Youngers were in prison and Jesse was dead.”
Not to mention, Jesse James was dead in 1882.