If you’re a discredited fantasist and bully with bogus abuse claims to sell and an ax to grind about imaginary white supremacy, leading education news site Inside Higher Ed has an opinion section for you. Academic Dorothy Kim, who cooked up fake and insupportable allegations of white supremacy and invented stories about being harassed and threatened to destroy the reputation of a senior colleague, took to the pages of that website last week to persuade readers that she has been threatened with the sort of “deadly violence” that took the life of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville. It was a cheap, cynical and disgusting maneuver from someone who has never been able to produce a shred of evidence to show that she has been threatened, and whose story keeps changing whenever she’s pressed for details.
But it didn’t surprise observers of the political controversy within medieval studies. What has perplexed medieval studies professors is why Inside Higher Ed, whose editor Scott Jaschik is intimately familiar with the details of Dorothy Kim’s wrongdoing, has sided with her by providing a platform for the continued harassment and abuse of the University of Chicago’s Rachel Fulton Brown, even as an open letter from the National Association of Scholars requesting a clearing of Fulton Brown’s name approaches 1,000 signatures from scholars and graduates in dozens of fields from across the world. A year ago, Inside Higher Ed felt able to run a fairly balanced account of the controversy, which social justice warriors hated because it stuck to the facts. What changed? And why did IHE make space for a proven liar without, apparently, fact-checking a single statement, or requesting comment from people about whom Kim levels potentially career-destroying charges?
Practically every line of Kim’s op-ed for IHE is either unfalsifiable — though likely untrue — or categorically, demonstrably a lie. In explaining how the “alt-right” in medieval studies allegedly operates, Kim claims that the University of Chicago’s Professor Rachel Fulton Brown, a celebrated scholar, apparently took aim at her, supposedly out of nowhere, after Kim responded to the events of Charlottesville with a call to medievalists to disavow white nationalism. Kim says that apart from writing a single response to one of Fulton Brown’s blog posts and granting a single interview, she “otherwise… ignored her,” despite Fulton Brown continuing to blog and talk about Kim since January 2016. All of these claims are wholly false.
It can be exhausting to trawl through years of social media postings — which is what bullies like Kim rely upon — but this reporter and other observers have done the work of documenting her obsessive and extensive postings about Fulton Brown. We present here just a few small examples of a vast corpus of damning evidence already alluded to and selectively detailed in our previous reporting. Social justice warriors, who exercise the power of intimidation on social media, count on that medium’s impermanence to hide their most outrageous behavior and allegations. But Fulton Brown’s defenders have been meticulously cataloguing the appalling, baseless accusations that have been hurled at her. In a half-dozen known cases, Kim accuses Fulton Brown of doing precisely what Kim herself is guilty of, and, in many instances, contradicts herself or lies about past statements to concoct exaggerated and implausible allegations.
Kim Gone Goon
Kim claims that the article she published in August 2017 on the blog In The Middle was an innocent response to Charlottesville, after which Fulton Brown began to target her. This is also untrue. The implication of Kim’s distorted account is clear: she would have us believe that Fulton Brown is obsessed with her, and that Fulton Brown is the aggressor in their feud. But Kim has tweeted and posted on Facebook about Fulton Brown obsessively for years, not merely disagreeing with or criticizing Fulton Brown, but making wild, unsubstantiated accusations of racism that crescendoed in 2017 with outright allegations of “avowed” white supremacy and Nazism. Kim has never been able to produce any evidence of racism in Fulton Brown’s words or actions. Meanwhile, Fulton Brown has explicitly disavowed racism and white nationalism.
Between her In The Middle post of January 2016 and September 2017, Kim implies she was not concerned with Fulton Brown. But social media records tell a different story: constant, obsessive subtweeting and oblique references to the Chicago scholar on Facebook, often referring to Fulton Brown with nicknames so as to make searching for references more difficult. (In a Kafkaesque inversion of reality, social justice abusers claim that they refer to their victims with nicknames so as to avoid harassment themselves when their gossip and name-calling are noticed, as they are of course intended to be, by their targets.) By contrast, during that time, Fulton Brown mentioned Kim once on her blog, embedding a screenshot of Kim calling her a white supremacist.
Again and again, Dorothy Kim has posted in relentless and wildly defamatory fashion about Fulton Brown, while Fulton Brown has stayed silent. In December 2016, Kim published a series of posts on Facebook referring to a “female medievalist” she made clear was Fulton Brown. And tweets from February 2017 show Kim attempting to prove Fulton Brown’s association with the “alt-right” because the academic had written favorably about this reporter in a university newsletter. Kim, who has proudly added “Dr.” in front of her name on Twitter, wrote about Fulton Brown: “She is quite clearly a white supremacist.”
On 22 February 2017, she referred to Fulton Brown as “the Ann Coulter” of medievalists, with “talking point[s] … pulled from Breitbart white supremacist manosphere land.” In July of the same year, she made her accusations more explicit and career-endangering, writing on Twitter that Fulton Brown was a “known” white supremacist. This tweet was sent during a controversy about a conference in Leeds that Kim had alleged was racist for allowing medieval iconography in the lobby.
Kim referred to Fulton Brown as a “Breitbart writer,” despite the fact that Fulton Brown had never written for the site. As a senior editor for Breitbart at the time, I recall us seeking and being granted permission to reproduce a single blog post already published elsewhere, but Fulton Brown never penned a word specifically for Breitbart. Kim knows this, because in April 2017 — during the period Kim claims she was “ignoring” Fulton Brown — she explicitly referred to Fulton Brown as a “white supremacist” on Facebook and accused her of “overtly coming out as such” by allowing her blog post to be reprinted. In the same Facebook post, Kim asks: “How is it unjust to call out [Fulton Brown’s] virulent white supremacy?”
Kim has been repeatedly referring to Fulton Brown as a writer for Breitbart since 2016 to shore up her hopelessly counterfactual allegations of racism. Kim was still referring to Fulton Brown as a “Breitbart writer” in September 2017, in another of the long public conversations she had about Fulton Brown, many at her own instigation, all of which she has apparently since forgotten.
Kim suggests in IHE that she high-mindedly ignored Fulton Brown, implying that Fulton Brown had been preoccupied with her, blogging and speaking about her endlessly while Kim rose above the whole ugly thing. But the absolute reverse is true. And her activity has not diminished, even after her colleagues elsewhere in medieval studies, driven largely by my long report on the controversy, have begun to suspect that her outlandish claims may indeed be fictions. Kim spent much of the academic year 2017-18 giving invited talks at which she spoke regularly about Fulton Brown’s “fascism.”
It can be difficult assembling a full account of what social justice-motivated abusers have said, since in their public interactions they use pseudonyms and nicknames, and records of their private conversations are hard to come by. But when you do catch them out making damaging and unfounded accusations, they react badly. Kim has complained many times about her own words being repeated back to her, which is a frequent complaint of Left-wing activists who are uncomfortable seeing their own unpleasant statements reprinted later. When caught out calling their colleagues white supremacists, Nazis and alt-right sympathizers on the basis of no evidence — or as revenge for political disagreements — Left-wing academics are fond of crying foul and protesting that they never gave permission for their foul language, wrongful claims and generally abusive outbursts to be quoted or reported.
Kim has of course done this repeatedly, though it’s instructive to note how much more measured her language is when she knows she’s on the record. Witness this mealy-mouthed sentence for IHE: “Her actions can be interpreted as harassment and a bid to create a hostile environment for medievalists of color discussing diversity and inclusion.” The Kim of 2017’s Twitter and Facebook posts would never have bothered with that slippery phrase, “can be interpreted as.”
Of course, it doesn’t matter whether you ask for permission to quote social justice activists or not. If they’re embarrassed by the results of your reporting, they reflexively fib. At least once, Kim has brazenly lied about giving permission for her words to be used. In a Facebook post on January 18, 2016, Kim wrote directly to Fulton Brown: “I have no issues in you citing anything I have said in this thread. I may finally write a post myself and cite the fencingbear [sic] blog.” Yet that very same year, referring to the same conversation on December 22, Kim wrote: “[S]he felt fine, without asking any of us whether we were OK to quote us [sic] in a private Facebook group and a good faith conversation without our permission.” The chutzpah of Kim invoking “good faith” has not been lost on observers, since Kim’s IHE op-ed seeks to disguise the fact that the two women had cordial words on social media, and that permission had been sought and granted for Kim’s words to be used.
Without demonstrating any need for them, Kim has demanded that conferences provide her with private security details. She angrily threatens and denounces conferences that decline to do so on Twitter and Facebook. Yet her demands for special protection appear to rest solely on her own feverish imagination and the voluminous social media posts in which she speculates luridly about the things she imagines might happen to her at the hands of fellow academics. There is not a shred of evidence that anyone, inside or outside of the field, wishes Kim physical harm. Her hysterical claims would be laughable were it not for the damage done to Fulton Brown’s professional standing by what appear to be paranoid fantasies.
Kim claims to be the target of violent threats, but she has been unable to provide any evidence of them when pressed, and her story has repeatedly changed concerning when and how the threats were supposedly made. Neither her institution at the time, Vassar College, nor Poughkeepsie Police ever received a complaint from her about harassment. Neither has seen any evidence that she was ever harassed or threatened, and Kim has never provided any evidence to justify her claims, which is significant because she has so often, as she does again in the pages of Inside Higher Ed, blamed Rachel Fulton Brown and this reporter for the imaginary threats. IHE knows this, but has allowed the feminist activist to repeat mawkish claims about needing the assistance of uniformed patriarchy — and, presumably, the Second Amendment — to protect her every time she walks down a university corridor.
Rachel Fulton Brown, on the other hand, has provided this magazine with dozens of examples of threats, just one of which we reproduce here, out of the hundreds, if not thousands, of abusive, demeaning, defamatory, insulting and foul-mouthed pejoratives and well-documented, outright, terrifying threats of violence and retribution Fulton Brown continues to receive from the so-called arbiters of tolerance. The example we show here probably still falls short of what law enforcement would consider a “credible threat,” but it is head and shoulders above anything Kim has been able to produce.
Dorothy Kim has complained that Fulton Brown posting a photograph of her in a blog post subjected her to threats and violence. Obviously, it did not, and it is a sorry statement on the debasement of the academy that America’s supposed intellectual elite — or at least a small slice of it — has been persuaded by such ridiculous assertions. Even feminist observers have credited Fulton Brown for her moderate responses to Kim’s provocations, and her reproduction of an image of Kim was wholly pertinent to the discussion of a matter Kim had brought up herself regarding her Asian appearance. But what’s more, Kim had done precisely the same thing to Fulton Brown on January 18, 2016, in a Facebook post in which she said she was “not OK [with] supporting white feminist work” and accused Fulton Brown of “upholding white supremacy” — a far more threatening gesture, given that she was presenting an image of Fulton Brown together with an unfounded allegation of white supremacy.
Where Kim’s claims are not outright fabrications or worrying manifestations of psychiatric dysfunction, they are simply… mystifying. Take, for instance, the statements she makes about this website’s reporting. A cartoon of a character from Game of Thrones once illustrated a brief news story about the controversy on this website last September. The story was written by an intern. It received a few thousand page views and a single comment.
Kim thinks that the drawing closely resembles a character from The Walking Dead, a television program, which, it is alleged, proves in some vague and unspecified way that the cartoon constituted something like a violent threat against Kim and kicked off a wave of racist and sexist harassment. This remains the sole piece of evidence offered by Kim and her supporters for the laundry list of expensive security demands she seeks to impose on conferences and academic institutions. The claim that this cartoon is designed to carry a veiled threat of physical violence is somewhat undermined by the fact that neither I, Fulton Brown nor the intern in question has ever seen The Walking Dead.
Since I wrote to Kim two months ago, asking her to comment on allegations that she simply invented the harassment she says she has faced at the hands of Rachel Fulton Brown and Milo Yiannopoulos supporters, Kim has gone out in search of other feminist fantasists previously exposed by my reporting as frauds, who have not been able to provide her with any stronger argument than the following dismal effort: “To be a target of Milo Yiannopoulos and his followers is to be stalked forever.” No evidence is offered in support of the claim that being written about by a New York Times bestselling author and award-winning investigative reporter rains down a wave of harassment and abuse on the people featured in my reporting, though having your manipulations and deceptions laid unexpectedly bare by someone with such a large platform may well be disconcerting. That is journalism, functioning as intended.
Kim has been asked dozens of times for many months now to provide evidence of the threats to her physical safety she says she has received. In her op ed for Inside Higher Ed she produces the most pitiful example imaginable of mean words on the Internet, drawn from a Breitbart comment section about her whispering campaign against Rachel Fulton Brown. The comments are not nice, but they do not constitute the “threats against my body” that Kim explicitly says they do. As a former senior editor for that website well acquainted with the sometimes gruesome nature of “free speech central,” you can take my word for it that by Breitbart standards these remarks are tame. They pale in comparison to any YouTube comment thread you care to mention, being merely of the kind that appear on every forum everywhere on the Internet. In any case, irrespective of your tolerance for the rough and tumble of Internet comment sections, there is nothing in here that could be interpreted as a threat.
The worst offense that second guest poster is guilty of is making such a shitty joke, when the comedic possibilities presented by Dorothy Kim are so endless. Kim could provide no screenshots from Facebook pages operated by Fulton Brown, me or anyone else, because the threats she alludes to are non-existent. If this is the best she can come up with, it is hardly shocking that medieval conferences have declined to provide her with armed guards everywhere she goes. The only thing Dorothy Kim might need protection from are her own peculiarly detailed violent fantasies, but that is a matter best left to a psychiatrist. Incidentally, note the timestamp on the screenshots Kim supplies, reproduced above, which indicates that the comments were left “ten months ago.” Visit the same page today and you’ll see they were made a year ago, which means Kim’s screenshots were taken as recently as July — coincidentally, this is exactly the time I wrote to her asking for comment for my long feature on the fallout from the slanging match she started.
Kim writes in her Inside Higher Ed screed that the “alt-right … broadcast her office location.” She doesn’t go into any detail, because this is the most disingenuous characterization imaginable of the facts, and any further discussion of what actually happened would expose her to ridicule. Kim’s office at the time was publicly listed on her Vassar faculty page, freely accessible to the world. Fulton Brown merely linked to Kim’s official faculty page when mentioning her, so readers could find out about whom Fulton Brown was talking. Kim appears to be saying that linking to a publicly available page on a university website is equivalent to doxing. This is ludicrous hysteria, plain and simple. And just look how she characterizes that innocent act: not a fellow academic linking to a colleague in the course of debate, but the creepy and terrifying “alt-right” sending her physical location far and wide, inviting assassins and assailants.
Kim then asserts that Fulton Brown deployed a “tactic from the alt-right playbook” by showing up to a conference session at which Kim was speaking. Mere attendance at public events is now considered a form of abuse, according to social justice warriors. Kim claims that a tweet by Fulton Brown about the session constituted “harassment,” despite the fact that the audience was invited by the moderator to do so. Kim then attempted, unsuccessfully, to have Fulton Brown banned from future panels.
Kim says she has received no support in her brave endeavor to conquer white supremacy in the academy and weather a storm of abuse which, it seems increasingly clear, exists only in her imagination. This, too, is laughably false. For her fake claims, Kim was awarded free membership of the Medieval Academy of America. 1,500 people signed a letter in support of Kim, condemning Rachel Fulton Brown, on the basis of events that almost certainly never happened. The Medieval Academy of America set up a harassment committee in direct response to Kim’s complaints, and the Executive Director of the MAA, Lisa Fagin Davis, tweeted in support of Kim just a few days ago, and so did another professional scholarly organization. As is so often the case with Kim’s claims, her allegations are not just inaccurate but the diametric opposite of the truth.
You don’t have to wonder how medievalists, annoyed at themselves for being taken in by Kim’s night terrors, have reacted to her complaining that she has not been supported: several of them wrote to me angrily to tell me after Inside Higher Ed hit publish. By the time my own feature had been published last month, academic Carol Symes, previously harshly critical of Fulton Brown, had already privately apologized for her role in the outrage mob. There is a growing sense of impatience and irritation from senior medievalists about the free passes Kim has been given after so brazenly lying about her colleagues and after threatening conferences and professional associations and generally making a nuisance of herself, while producing no scholarly work of note.
Indeed, seasoned Kim-watchers know that the few examples given here barely scratch the surface of a career characterized by audaciousness, mendacity, intimidation, name-calling and bullying from a woman who has taken $200,000 in taxpayer-funded research grants and produced absolutely nothing, years after the grant period has ended because she is too preoccupied telling attention-seeking lies and trying to destroy the careers of fellow female academics who do in fact produce serious works of scholarly inquiry. This is the woman whose words Inside Higher Ed have printed, without fact-checking or giving Rachel Fulton Brown or me the opportunity to respond to very serious charges, not only of white supremacy and racism, but also of organizing harassment of a junior female academic, which Kim repeats uncontested in the opinion pages of IHE.
It should be clear by now that Dorothy Kim is not an innocent victim. She is a pernicious, aggressive, dishonest, disreputable and chameleonic professional arsonist, and a shameless defamer of Rachel Fulton Brown’s reputation and the reputations of anyone who dares to defend Fulton Brown against her bogus allegations. She takes turns presenting herself as helpless victim and champion of the marginalized and vulnerable. On August 15, 2017 on Facebook, Kim wrote that people “who side with [Fulton Brown]” or who comment on her “incredibly toxic” Facebook page “are Nazis.” She referred to Fulton Brown in the same month as “repugnant, racist and basically overtly white supremacist” and again attacked the professor’s supporters as “Nazis and morally indefensible.” Displaying the same comical lack of self-awareness and pathological forgetfulness she exhibits in her comments for Inside Higher Ed, at the same time as she was tweeting and Facebooking near-continuously about Fulton Brown, Kim wrote: “I am blocked, nor do I really care what she is saying.”
Fulton Brown has found herself in a double-bind. Just as she has been asked to “prove” she is not a racist — when she denies it, they say they don’t believe her — she is also expected to “prove” that Dorothy Kim has received no violent threats. Truth be told, it is impossible to prove to another person’s satisfaction that you are not a white supremacist, which is why social justice warriors make claims of racism and sexism and homophobia so freely: they can never be conclusively disproven, but they have the desired effect of damaging the target’s reputation. But it’s pretty easy to prove you have been the victim of violent threats: All you have to do is produce some of them. Kim has been unable to do so.
If Kim has received the sort of threats and abuse she insists she has, why can’t she, like the tech feminists she consulted for this op ed, sprinkle just a few examples in her copy? (Now she has been repeatedly publicly called on this, watch out for some hideous stuff to magically appear, shorn of EXIF data and any other useful verisimilitude, together with tortured explanations of why giving more specific detail would put her “at risk of physical harm.”) More to the point, why didn’t she contact the police at the time? Why does Vassar College have no record of threats she says were sent to her department in her name? Why won’t they even confirm that she reported being harassed to them in the first place?
What where they thinking?
You don’t have to agree that Dorothy Kim must provide evidence she has been threatened to see clearly from the pack of lies she has published on IHE’s website that she has little regard for the facts of history. After obsessing over Fulton Brown on Facebook and Twitter for years, Kim now denies she did so, and says she was randomly targeted by Fulton Brown as an innocent scholar of color who was just trying to do the right thing by letting everyone know that racism is bad. Bitch, please! We’ve got the receipts. As with our previous reporting on this subject, no doubt many of the tweets we refer to will be scrubbed from the Internet after publication. We of course retain archived copies, available upon request to interested parties.
Dorothy Kim presents herself as an innocent victim. But she is precisely the opposite, and Inside Higher Ed knows it, because they read my exhaustive reporting in full, before it was published. IHE had the opportunity to present a nuanced version of the political dispute in Medieval Studies and the appalling behavior it has generated from some quarters. Instead, they have chosen to give a platform to the villain to repeat and even expand upon grotesque descriptions of a senior colleague — and then invited the victim to put an even bigger target on her back by responding — all for page-views. Inside Higher Ed has thus repositioned itself from impartial observer to social justice mouthpiece.
In fact, it’s even worse than that, because IHE and its editor Scott Jaschik have done more than embarrass themselves by credulously providing a platform to a proven liar. By taking melodrama based on confabulation at face value, and even seriously, journalists at IHE and elsewhere are helping to create and sustain the Dorothy Kims of academia, who would not dare concoct such fictions were it not for an army of naive journalists and editors ready to reproduce their wild claims. IHE has become complicit in an ecosystem of bad faith, bullying and untruthfulness.
If fantasists like Dorothy Kim were ignored, rather than elevated by irresponsible, scandal-fanning media outlets, they would be far less capable of inflicting such lasting and devastating damage on their innocent targets. Of all the possible feminist authorities available in higher education, and there are hundreds of them, IHE has handed a platform to a dodgy lightweight, mortally wounding itself in the process — as collaborators with evil usually do. Inside Higher Ed injected itself into this debate in September 2017, judiciously sketching out the contours of an ugly academic debate between a distinguished senior academic and an attention-seeking troublemaker. But now it has joined in the process of ennobling a ludicrously unserious epiphenomenon like Dorothy Kim, presenting her as a critic worthy of her own byline.
With the facts we present here so readily available, and so quick and easy to assemble, a question presents itself: why would IHE not perform even the most basic responsibilities of its role as a prominent journalistic institution serving America’s higher education sector by checking a couple of Kim’s claims? The likely answer is depressing: education media has been captured by the identity politicking social justice loons of the university whose excesses it ought to be scathingly documenting — in the process, ceding its moral authority and surrendering its independence to the activists dead set on destroying the scholarly integrity of the academy. Marshal Pétain had nothing on these guys.
Milo Yiannopoulos is an award-winning investigative reporter and the New York Times-bestselling author of DANGEROUS.