It may surprise most to learn that Milo Yiannopoulos’ staunchest defender — even in the wake of the recent scandal in which he was accused of endorsing pedophilia — is a conservative, Christian professor.
For the last six months, Dr. Rachel Fulton Brown, an associate professor of history at the University of Chicago, has spent countless hours pounding away at her keyboard writing posts for her personal blog that have explained, defended, applauded — even venerated — that famously “Dangerous Faggot.”
More recently, but prior to Milo’s fall from grace, she authored “Why Milo Scares Students, and Faculty Even More” for the University of Chicago Divinity School’s online publication Sightings.
Between her blog posts and Sightings article, she’s officially become a campus pariah — and she’s not even on campus. She’s finishing a two-quarter academic leave set to return to the classroom this spring.
Meanwhile, the recent uptick in Fulton Brown hate mail prompted her to find herself recently sitting inside the office of Emilio Kourí, the history department chair, talking about her extracurricular activities.
She’s not in trouble, she said in an interview with The College Fix, calling the University of Chicago true to its word that it’s a place where free expression is sacrosanct. But as a result of the meeting, she altered her faculty bio to more clearly delineate that her personal blog, “Fencing Bear at Prayer,” is just that.
The 9-year-old blog has been a place of solace for Fulton Brown, where she can say anything, unlike her history lectures, which she keeps strictly on point.
That blog, launched in 2008, has chronicled the scholar as she’s journeyed through life’s lessons, documenting her struggles and inner monologue. In September 2016, her path landed on the figurative doorstep of one Milo Yiannopoulos, prompted by the University of Chicago’s infamous rebuttal of safe spaces that went viral.
She read his work, watched his videos, and came to see greatness.
Since that time, dozens of posts on Fencing Bear have in one way or another praised Milo and his message, which the historian said is often ignored in favor of a focus on his antics or the many labels he’s been given by haters.
“[The] issues that Milo talks about are usually considered political, but in fact have to do with people’s deepest convictions: the proper relations between women and men, the definition of community, the role of beauty, access to truth,” she wrote in her Sightings article.
Fulton Brown, who calls Milo a friend, said the movement he created is unlike any other.
“I saw him doing the single most important thing anyone has been doing on college campuses in my entire career,” the 52-year-old professor told The Fix. “He did something amazing, which is what I said in the Sightings piece: He showed us the depth of the crisis. … He is talking about fundamental truths in a jokey, provocative, expletive-laden way, and he has got a growing student audience like nobody has ever had.”
Birds of a feather
Like Milo, Dr. Fulton Brown does not mince words. Consider a blurb from her Feb. 21 post “Bully Culture,” which she wrote shortly after the pedophilia scandal broke:
The young man was an unexpected messenger. He talked all the time about having sex with other men. About wanting to be penetrated by black dicks. About how good he was at giving head. But he told the young women they were right to want babies and the young men they were right to want wives. He spoke often about how sad he was that he would never be able to make a child with the person he loved so long as the person he loved was another man. He joked about wishing that he might be cured, perhaps through prayer or electric shock. And he described how he had learned to be gay. …
And so the bullies came for him. They called him self-hating. Homophobic. Transphobic. Misogynist. Sexist. They mounted protests against his talks. They accused him of spreading hate. Endangering innocents. Inciting violence. They made him out to be the villain because he told the truth. And then they called him a pedophile. Because he had been abused as a young teen-ager and would not swallow the lies.
Shame on all of you. You spineless cunts. The bullies are YOU.
(The c-word phrase is one she borrowed from a Milo speech in which he called the older generation of conservatives that term.)
She has also likened Milo to Jesus, writing three days after the scandal broke: “Jesus so enraged the holders of power in his community that they trumped up charges against him, trying to get him to blaspheme so that they could invoke the death penalty against him. When Truth speaks to Power, Power bites back. Hard. But what Power does not know is that Truth will prevail. Because Jesus’s kingdom is not of this world.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Fulton Brown’s blunt passion for defending what many called indefensible apparently went too far.
Consider this rebuttal from Usama Rafi, a second-year Ph.D. student in history at the University of Chicago, who writes in the Chicago Maroon: “Professor Brown, thank you letting us know your thoughts, but as your self-anointed St. Yiannopoulos says: ‘fuck your feelings.’”
“Brown claims that she loves Yiannopoulos because of how he says what he says. In fact, she only really champions him because of what he says. This is less an issue about Yiannopoulos and more of an issue about what she believes to be the unequivocal truth of her religious and political views: abortion is murder, casual sex is morally wrong, a woman should spend her most ‘fertile’ years raising children and cooking for her husband, etc. To her, to propose any other view is a lie.”
English professor Julie Orlemanski, meanwhile, penned a letter to Sightings chastising it for publishing Fulton Brown’s piece, stating in part the publication has “a responsibility to the university community of current students, faculty, and alumni and to our broader political world to reflect on the likely effects of publication.”
“… I have spent more than a dozen hours since the article’s publication three days ago responding to appalled graduate students, faculty at other institutions, and faculty here,” Orlemanski added. (Sightings has since defended its decision to publish Fulton Brown’s article.)
Addressing the scandal
Unfazed, Fulton Brown said she will not stop defending Milo.
As for the pedophilia scandal, she said that’s been misunderstood. She said he was using “gallows humor”– defined as grim and ironic humor in a desperate or hopeless situation — as a defense mechanism of sorts. Explaining it further on a blog post titled “Milo and Me,” she wrote:
What happened to Milo this week was a planned, targeted political take-down. The video clips that were used to make it seem like he supported something against which he fought his entire journalistic career were taken out of context, both out of the immediate context of the conversations in which Milo was engaged when he made these statements, and out of the life context that became clear in his press conference: he himself is a victim of underage sexual abuse and was incapable, until now, of letting himself think that.
“His priest and another man had touched him in ways they should not have when he was a teenager from the age of 13 to 16,” Fulton Brown told The Fix. “I think he made clear … he was talking about himself indirectly in those moments, and I know in his own reporting he has exposed pedophiles. … That sort of abuse is unspeakable, awful. He is speaking as an abuse victim on these clips and not somebody who is advocating for those kinds of relationships.”
“It makes utter sense to me,” she added. “Women who are beaten by their husbands often make excuses for those husbands.”
She also has a few words for those who were quick to turn their backs on Milo.
“I was very angry,” she said. “It was very clear to me that the conservative establishment that had benefitted from his antics on campuses, getting young Americans, College Republicans and Young Americans for Liberty encouraged and energized and hopeful about what it might be to have a campus culture that can talk about things again — they didn’t give Milo long enough to defend himself, that he was a victim of abuse himself.”
Nevertheless, his career is far from over, she adds: “He has not lost his following.”
As for Fulton Brown, she’s not worried about her career, either. No stranger to controversy thanks to her blog, in February 2016, long before she spent her free time defending Milo, she wrote a post “Talking Points: Three Cheers for White Men,” which praised white men for their longtime support of the ideals that uphold feminism. It prompted strong rebuke from her feminist peers.
But the historian said she is not one to back down.
“They want me to doubt myself,” Fulton Brown said. “… This exercise of shame is always about trying to make us doubt our own convictions. I am confident.”