Report from the Culture Front

Senior colleagues in my field are worried about me, that I have been spending too much of my time on the front lines of the culture wars and not enough on my scholarship.

This is a bit disingenuous on their part, considering I just published my second major monograph this past year, but they are worried about me and want me to get to work on my third.

“Spend your time on your scholarship. That is what lasts,” one of my former teachers tells me.

“I do hope that you can get all this behind you and get on with your life. It is all a distraction and a burden that no one should have to bear,” one of my long-time supporters urges me.

What should a happy warrior say? 

Part of the problem, if there is one, is that I am having too much fun.

How could I possibly go back to my old life, having tasted the pleasures of battle?

Does Wonder Woman hang up her Lasso of Truth and go home?

I don’t think so!

After all, what could be more invigorating for an intellectual than a life-or-death battle of wits?

(If my opponents were honest, they would acknowledge that they are having fun, too.)

But make no mistake, the stakes in the battle are high.

If I lose, it is not just my career that is at risk. It is—I am quite certain of this—the whole of our Western civilization.

It is at this point that you are supposed to burst out laughing. I just did!


It has been interesting reading the YouTube comments on the video that Professor Janice Fiamengo (University of Ottawa) just published about the controversy that has been swirling around me:
Good God! You just can’t make this shit up! —487shawn
Wow and holy cow—this woman has guts. Racheal Brown gets super high marks. — Chris Kilmer
Pathological envy and resentment anyone...? —Ian Paling 
Listening to this, I can only ask. Are these people completely insane??? — Geir PG
Academia is so disconnected from reality. I know I am just stating the obvious here.... — el scorcho 
Sometimes you feel like howling to the moon. — Petre Catalin Logofatu 
Indeed.

As Professor Fiamengo asks in the set-up for her video:
Do Medieval Studies academics believe in witches? It seems some of them do when the ‘witch’ in question is a University of Chicago historian who wrote a blog post called “Three Cheers For White Men.” According to a large number of Medievalists and other academics, this post was so dangerous in its presumed ability to spread heteropatriarchal and white supremacist harm that the person who wrote it has had to be chastised, called out as a white supremacist, and preferably fired from her academic position.
Nobody has been more surprised than yours truly at the response that my “Three Cheers” blog post has excited over the past three years. My friend Barry Jacobs (yes, that is his real name) tells me I was being naive. Of course my fellow academics would come after me if I challenged their theoretical constructs! Okay, he didn’t put it quite that way. What he said at the time was more along the lines of “I dare you.”

“I dare you to say something against gender studies.”

As Barry told Milo at our In Real Life Symposium:
When she started out on all of this, Rachel had tremendous confidence in the academy, that she could voice her opinions, and they would be accepted in the spirit of academic free-for-all, vetted as appropriate for academic ideas, and I think that at first she was very shocked...  And I warned her. I said, you need to be prepared for what’s coming. 
Thank God, somehow I was.

Both my friends in the Symposium and Professor Fiamengo have remarked how harrowing it has been watching me being put through the wringer by the lying and name-calling. (‘White supremacist’ now seems rather tame in comparison with some of the things I have been called.) Barry has explicitly said it has been one of the most excruciating experiences of his life—which is saying something, given what I know Barry himself has lived through. (The cane that he is holding in the video is not a theatrical prop.) Professor Fiamengo told me researching the script for her video made her literally sick with headaches. It took her about a week. I have been living this adventure now for almost three years. Nor do I expect it to end any time soon.

Do I have any regrets?

Absolutely none.

It helps, of course, having Milo on my side. Did I mention that he wrote a 16,000-word investigative tour-de-force in my defense? It is but the tip of the proverbial iceberg of the encouragement and support he has given me.

I also have my Random Laypersons—the Facebook and now Twitter friends who have been writing to me non-stop over the past two and a half years, telling me their stories about the attacks they have sustained from the Social Justice Warriors, Diversity officers, nannies and scolds, and thanking me for standing up against the mob.

I have the members of my new parish, the Catholics who have taken me in and prayed for Milo and me over the past two years, even as he lived through the attempts of the Left and the Right to destroy his reputation and his career.

I have the some 1000 signatories of the Open Letter that the National Association of Scholars has written in my defense. (They are still adding names, but I understand we were over 850 even before Professor Fiamengo’s video went up. If you haven’t already, please sign!)

What I do not have is any sense of why I should “get back to my scholarship” when the whole academic world is burning down.

The commentators on Professor Fiamengo’s video would seem to agree.
All this means is that one day society will pull the plug on all the arts, there is no longer anything of discernible value issuing forth. — TheShorterboy
These people are literally insane. PS: The communists and make no mistake, these people are absolutely communists to the person. They must have and are fully committed to a one world technocracy. That is really what is driving this campaign from the so called academics. PS2: There is a silver lining in this. Working people soundly reject this insanity. So in a very funny and ironic twist workers of the world have already united against academic insanity. :p — kmg501 
These people are UNIVERSITY SO-CALLED professors???? If I were a parent & paying for classes in Medieval studies I would remove my child from these classes. — John Forbes
I think the only thing that will make these idiotic sjw professors pull their heads out of their asses will be when people stop enrolling in their classes. — Bill Barry
Here in America we have a college or university on every corner. Yet we fall further behind the word (sic) in academic scores. Maybe there will be a pruning of these institutions, they clearly aren’t raising the intellect of America. It’s almost as if the purpose of a university is to provide jobs for college graduates and not to educate our youth... College has to be the biggest financial scam out there. A degree by itself won’t make you successful. — contrarian duude
My senior colleagues are right: our scholarship and teaching should be what matters. But the SJWs who have been calling me names for the past two or three years think that their scholarship and teaching matters, too, just not for the same reasons. My friend Barry is right, too: I had no clue that things were as bad as it seems from the way in which I have been attacked by colleagues who have never met me, never read a word I have written, certainly never visited my blog to find out why I might have such admiration for Milo.*

And yet, I have not lost my job.

I am going to be spending this month easing myself back into some proper academic work—book reviews and short articles that I have promised to write. And I am excited about the new graduate course I am teaching this autumn on the virtues and vices in medieval Christian thought. But I am wary about expecting that things can return to scholarship as usual—precisely because the thing that the academic colleagues who have been attacking me hate is scholarship as usual, scholarship for the sake of the truth. They see scholarship as political activism. “Choose a side,” they say. “Doing nothing is choosing a side. Denial is choosing a side.”

Okay, I’ll choose. I choose God and his Mother’s side. There. I chose.


*One senior colleague had this story to tell me just last week. He had asked one of his colleagues why I was such a problem for our field, and she sent him the link to Milo’s article about me. He asked her, “Have you read it?” She said, “I don’t need to.” And thus dies academic inquiry.

Image: Chartres Cathedral, North Rose Window, ca. 1235 (Wikimedia Commons via Art History Blogger)

For my continuing adventures as a conservative in academia, go here. For my support for Milo, go here. For my argument about the importance of God and his Mother, go here.

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