By Emma Kaden
Recently, the tumult between Americans over politics has gotten more, well, tumultuous. Almost every conversation is politicized, and civil debate has given way to harassment, accusation, and even violence. It is getting increasingly difficult to have a discussion without passionate, misguided attempts to place blame on anyone with differing beliefs and ad hominem attacks.
It’s hard to believe just how many reputations have been damaged by unfounded claims. Yet in many cases, this propensity toward condemning others for their political beliefs combines with a widespread groupthink mentality to create something altogether dangerous.
A glimpse into recent news coverage will produce a plethora of accusation-based stories slinging baseless claims. A saga of which you may not have heard is unfurling in academia, with one of the last redoubts of sanity in the humanities being under siege for insufficient devotion to Marxist reinterpretations of its subject matter: medieval studies.
In an article titled “Middle Rages: Why the Battle for Medieval Studies Matters to America,” writer Milo Yiannopoulos documents the furious attacks on Medieval Studies Professor Rachel Fulton Brown for the crimes of acknowledging the accomplishments of Western Christendom, pushing back against racist and sexist defamation of white males, and defending her discipline from destruction by political correctness—all of which, it is important to note, are part of the grand leftist effort to redefine America as intrinsically corrupt throughout history and thus requiring a rejection of our constitutional political system:
“Standing at 5’5” and weighing barely 130 lbs — ‘Just say size eight,’ she tells me during fact-checking — Professor Rachel Fulton Brown doesn’t look like the dangerous woman her critics describe. But she has become used to reading outlandish descriptions of herself since June 2015, when she published a blog post titled ‘Three Cheers For White Men,’ effectively dropping a barrel of gunpowder into a burgeoning internecine war within Medieval Studies. Three years and hundreds of blog posts later, the tenured University of Chicago history professor is being casually referred to as a ‘fascist’ at medievalist conferences, accused of inciting physical violence and rape against her peers, and avoided like a strumpet with bubonic plague. She has even been called out for bad language by Mark Zuckerberg’s sister Donna.
Fulton Brown’s blog post wasn’t, as her critics claim, a veiled defense of white nationalism, or anything like it. She was responding playfully to the ‘dead white male’ trope in academia, gently pointing out that the wicked caucasian dudes of social justice folklore were responsible for, among other things, the development of chivalry, consensual marriage and, to some extent, the success of feminism itself. But her post went down like a cup of cold sick anyway. Dozens, later hundreds, of Fulton Brown’s colleagues declared war on her, incensed by her refusal to back down and apologize — and by the fact that she had blogged approvingly, a number of times, about a rising star in conservative media who was causing eruptions on campuses with his scathing commentary about the finger-wagging campus Left.
Fulton Brown was taken to task for refusing to acknowledge the problematic ‘whiteness’ of her field and her responsibility as a Medieval Studies professor to ‘do something about it.’ But a dozen senior professors interviewed for this story say something very specific and different is happening: an attempt to inject into the study of the Middle Ages the same far-Left identity politicking that has done so much damage to liberal arts departments. In the course of writing this story, I have interviewed scholars, journalists and authors, many of whom privately confided that Medieval Studies needed a Rachel Fulton Brown to draw a line in the sand, because, for the past half-decade, gender warriors and race scholars with axes to grind have been on a mission to change the field irreversibly.
Sympathetic, but hitherto silent, colleagues say the attempt to destroy Fulton Brown is part of a larger invasion into the discipline by activist academics, who see their role as arbiters of moral taste, determined to rid the field of infidels who refuse to bow to social justice. You’ve read stories before about academics at war over free speech with their own institutions. This is different. It’s the story of a professor who has taken on her entire academic field, with no backing whatsoever from the University of Chicago, an institution that prides itself on its commitment to free speech and academic freedom. What’s more, the crazy bitch might even win.”
When faced with a litany of accusations, Fulton Brown did what many are unwilling to do: she kept calm, and she stood her ground. After “eighteen months of provocation and name-calling,” during which she let the accusers spit their condemnations without engaging them, she posted a notably mild blog post on the subject that, while not full of anger, still managed to get her point across. Imagine that!
“Few academics, presented with a rapidly expanding cabal of furious online critics and wild, unsubstantiated allegations flying around of ‘white supremacy’ and racism, would refuse to submit to the mob, instead thumbing their nose at their angry critics. But that’s what Fulton Brown did.”
Read the full story on Fulton Brown’s battles with academic intolerance here.