Through the Twitter Glass
I met Karl Steel for the first time a month ago at the International Medieval Congress in Kalamazoo.
I was standing in the book exhibit near the display at Scholar’s Choice for my new book...and there he was! The colleague who had so generously christened my fabulous Facebook friends “Random Laypersons”! I was delighted to finally meet him and tell him how much we enjoyed the joke.
He was, shall we say, less amused. (Click on tweet images to enlarge.)
I had no idea he had been tweeting about me for the better part of a year and half. Before I learned to search Twitter this past week, all I knew was that he had ridiculed my Facebook friends for being interested in learning from me.
I know now that his interest in me was, shall we say, somewhat more persistent.
He has, as it turns out, been tweeting about me since December 2016, when Breitbart published one of my earliest blog posts about Milo.
Karl’s take: I have clearly surrendered any scholarly credentials I may have had by standing up for a victim of pedophilia.
Oh, no, wait, that’s not at all what he said.
The adjectives alone are enough to strike terror into the faint of heart. That I dared to write about Milo and—gasp!—publish on Breitbart was “ghastly,” as one of my former students put it. Karl agreed.
Friends warned him to lock his account lest the Breitbart trolls come after him. I am curious that he did not, given that he clearly expected the worst.
Instead, Karl kept tweeting about me, even before the Reagan Battalion hit on Milo on February 20, 2017.
According to Karl, I and our fellow medievalist Allen Frantzen are “harmful” because “white supremacists and other rightists are particularly invested in MA as authentic Europe [sic] heritage.” Never mind that I had explicitly written against precisely this claim—that Europe was ever great because it was “white” (or “male”)—long before I started writing about Milo.
That was the whole point of my original post on “Talking Points: Three Cheers for White Men”: to recover some sense of what makes Western civilization good for women. I used the term “white” as an allusion to the much derided “Dead White European Males” of the older Western civ curricula.
No matter. Because I defend Western civilization as the source of the very criteria by which Karl and my other medievalist colleagues would damn me—for its ideals of inclusion (a.k.a. Pentecost), respect for women (a.k.a. Galatians 3:28), and valuation of labor above class (a.k.a. bourgeois virtues)—I am to be cast into the outer darkness of academia.
Nor did Karl soften after Milo was humiliated and driven from polite society by his so-called fellow conservatives. (You know what I call them. Everybody knows.)
No, like a good SJW, he doubled down, particularly in September when I wrote about the way in which one of our other colleagues in Medieval Studies had been posting on social media about me.
This was the context for his comment about my desire to cultivate the approval of “Random Laypersons.”
“Is her scholarly work generally respected?,” one of his friends asked. “Good question,” Karl answered. “What she does is outside my scholarly expertise, but I’ve cited in [sic] 2002 book favorably before. But her stuff now: I’d say no.”
Perhaps he thought I was claiming scholarly credentials for my blog?
Which is funny, because one of the reasons that I started the blog was specifically because it was not peer reviewed—indeed, because I wanted to write about my experience as a fencer and a Christian for Random Laypersons and scholars alike.
It is the same reason that I started using my blog to write about Milo: because he is Christian and a cultural fencer. I saw it immediately when I started watching him that he was a champion in our spiritual duel against the use of trigger warnings and political correctness.
(No, for the gazillionth time, I don’t think Milo is Christ; I just think he is following in the pattern of Christ’s story, which medievalists should recognize even if no one else does).
I tried to explain this motivation to Karl this past week when I found the tweets he had posted about Milo and me.
Karl was having none of it: “Your attachment to that nazi-friendly scam artist Milo is pathetic and embarrassing from someone with your education. Don’t contact me again.”
(Oh, the irony! As if it was I who had been tweeting insults about him!)
And then he posted a number of articles which he thought proved that Milo was a “nazi-friendly scam artist,” most particularly Joe Bernstein’s article in Buzzfeed.
As if he thought I hadn’t seen it or something. I am, after all, mentioned in it:
I didn’t call. Milo’s long-running feud with Bernstein is nearly as famous as his feud with Ben; I knew what was coming without having to talk with Joe.**
I wrote my own response on my blog a day or so later.
I am curious that Karl seems not to have read it.
Because, you see, he seems to haunt my social media for mentions of himself. How else did he know within a day that I had made a joke about his calling my Facebook friends “Random Laypersons”?
What I posted on Facebook: “ROTFLMAO. He's talking about YOU GUYS!!! I have the best friends. All my friends are the best.”
Aha! He is a younger sibling, academically speaking. We both did our doctoral work at Columbia. That could explain it. Sibling rivalries are always the most vicious.
Plus, he genuinely believes I am a racist, which, of course, excuses everything:
And after I posted what he had said about my friends and how they had laughed about it? He gloated that he had managed to poke the bear and how few Twitter followers I had:*
I get now why Karl had that look on his face when I met him by the book exhibit at Kalamazoo. Who knew that he had said all these things about me? No wonder he froze—and then later accused me of accosting him.
If I were truly cruel, I would share with you the comments my Facebook friends have been making about him today in response to my share of the above post about how pleased he was to get some response from me, even if he never read it. (Okay, I’m teasing, they aren’t that bad.)
But since I am the good bear here, it seems only fair to give Karl the last word, from a tweet that he posted long before he starting poking at me:
*Which was true. I wasn’t Twitter-savvy then. But, as one of my Facebook friends commented in response to my share yesterday of this thread:
Wait. I thought their whole schtick was claiming that we Random Laypersons are a rampaging mob that terrorizes people on social media. Now the complaint is that we *don’t* rampage? We don’t even have the power to rampage? We just, y’know, hang out in your Facebook salon like the civilized middle-aged people we are and quietly shake our heads at the craziness? Well, duh.**Meanwhile, I have other colleagues fantasizing about using the emails leaked to Bernstein against me. Academia, eh?