MedievalGate Makes the Headlines—and the Tweets!
The bears are so excited! We made the Sunday New York Times! Look, look, look! They are talking about us! Well, me—Fencing Bear! But Professor Rachel Fulton Brown gets a mention, too! And Milo! And Vox Day! (The relevant passage with better links.)
The idea of medieval studies as a haven for white nationalist ideas gained ground when Rachel Fulton Brown, an associate professor of medieval history at the University of Chicago, began feuding with Dorothy Kim, an assistant professor of medieval English literature at Brandeis, after Dr. Kim, writing on Facebook, highlighted an old blog post of Dr. Fulton Brown’s titled “Three Cheers for White Men,” calling it an example of “medievalists upholding white supremacy.”
Many scholars were outraged when Dr. Fulton Brown, in a riposte to Dr. Kim written a few weeks after Charlottesville, tagged the right-wing writer Milo Yiannopoulos, whose website then ran an article about the dispute. Last July Mr. Yiannopoulos followed up with a 16,000-word attack on the field, which assailed Dr. Kim and others as “an angry social justice mob.”
The article caused a furor, as scholars accused colleagues of providing screenshots of private Facebook conversations and surreptitious recordings of conference sessions to Mr. Yiannopoulos.
Since then, Dr. Fulton Brown has become more isolated, as some who initially supported her have distanced themselves after she began citing the far-right writer Vox Day and even, in a recent blog post, entertained the idea that the Christchurch shooting might have been a “false flag operation.” (Dr. Fulton Brown, in an interview, said the depiction of her as a white supremacist or a member of the alt-right is “a misnomer” that “depends on a fantasy about me.”)There was a fair amount of reaction on Twitter (click images to enlarge).
Good to know that everyone now knows “the extent of RFB’s white supremacy”! (Hint: It’s non-existent. That’s why you have such a hard time seeing it!) Now if only they would pay attention to what I have actually been trying to say.
Thankfully, a few seem to have heard—and understood—including Charlotte Allen, writing for First Things:
Brown’s response [to Kim] appeared on September 14, 2017, on her blog of personal musings, Fencing Bear at Prayer (she is a skilled amateur fencer and has adopted a foil-wielding teddy bear as her logo), which she has maintained off and on since 2008. The post was more than 2,900 words long—typical for Brown, who never writes short—and displayed all the flamboyant literary, scholarly, and personality traits that I would come to associate with her during a series of interviews at her home near the University of Chicago campus. Her style involved a combination of artistic sensitivity (she illustrated the post with samples of medieval stained glass and manuscript decoration); formidable learning (quotations from the Vulgate Bible and its medieval commentaries); heart-on-sleeve religious passion (she converted to Catholicism in early 2017); free association (as she wandered from themes of floating witches in medieval folklore to her years on her high school swim team); and a hefty helping of sarcasm.
“It’s back to class for those of us who teach in medieval studies,” she began the post, titled “How to Signal You Are Not a White Supremacist.” Making a point not very different from Lisa Fagin Davis’s about the black St. Maurice, Brown directed her readers’ attention to the hundreds of dark-skinned images of the Madonna that the supposedly white supremacist Europeans of the Middle Ages had revered. But whereas Davis’s apparent aim had been to express irritation at white nationalists’ historical ignorance, Brown suggested that Kim’s blog post displayed an equal ignorance of the past. “Professor Kim wants you to be afraid,” Brown wrote in fervid italics. She continued: “How should you signal that you are not a white supremacist if you teach the ‘medieval western European Christian past’? Learn some f*cking medieval western European Christian history, including the history of our field.” (The asterisk is Brown’s.)Perhaps I shouldn’t have said “f*cking”? It seems to be the thing that got everybody most upset. Other than, of course, being friends with Milo. (I wonder what Donna’s brother would say?!)
Chad Pecknold perceptively argued:
The irony in all this is that it was medievals, rather than critical race theorists, who truly recognized that we all share a common human nature, no matter race or creed. The theorist who argues that every race has a specific ethno-epistemology is really in a poor position to understand the metaphysical realism of medieval thinkers. If critical race theorists are busy unmasking racial violence under every historical rock, how on earth will they understand the way medievals were interested in the patterns of reality which tell against that theory? How can the critical race theorists understand interactions between medieval Jews, Christians, and Muslims in the medieval university? Will they not walk right past the most important medieval disputes in order to foist imagined modern ones upon them?...
Medievals were realists who had intelligible disputes for one simple reason: they believed that the shared enterprise of human discourse was about reality itself, and was ordered to the end of human perfection, ultimately found in God. If the New York Times could rise to that medieval standard, we all might benefit more from their Kalamazoo beat.
Perhaps if my colleagues in medieval studies did as I suggested and learned some f*cking history they would have a better chance of understanding why their fantasies about me are so misplaced?
A bear can dream!
Meanwhile, Milo’s good friend Vox Day has brought out an e-book and soon-to-be paperback edition of Milo’s masterpiece about Professor Rachel Fulton Brown’s adventures in academe—with a new Foreword by Professor Mark Bauerlein. If you want to support my friends in the fight against the SJWs and their lies, you can purchase it here. It is also on Amazon here!