A New Yorker article about a literary/academic fraud named Hache Carrillo, who was a colleague of UD‘s (she sat on the tenure committee that wisely turned him down, unlike the unwise GW history department that tenured his fellow fraud Jessica Krug, and as a result spent years very publicly paddling up shit’s creek), has appeared.
You’re probably not interested in the patented New Yorker long-form details of this pretty trivial cultural figure, but the article does feature a neat and sweet summary of the many literary frauds (venture even slightly out of just this one fraud category, and you’ll end up with an article too long even for the long-form New Yorker) who’ve tried to put one over on us in the last decade or so.
Go ahead and think of all the successful, high-functioning frauds who must as we speak be running around our literary landscape befrauding everyone cuz they haven’t been (won’t be?) caught.
I guess administrators like the one in my title are worth thinking about. Before we condemn this anonymous person, let’s stipulate that a lot depends on the letter this person received. Was the letter writer a credible source? Oh yes. Is it likely that the letter was a naked example of envy, paranoia, nuttiness? Very, very unlikely. Does an administrator routinely get letters warning that a faculty member is a fraud? No. Does that mean you dismiss it as just a weird thing and throw it away? No.
Maybe you worry that anything you do could trigger litigation from Carrillo if he gets wind of it and so you toss it.
Okay, but let’s say you should do something. Fraud being as popular as it is, you should indeed do something. What do you do?
UD suggests that you pass it along to the dept chair/head of creative writing basically without comment. Maybe you scrawl a couple of question marks atop the letter by way of saying huh I dunno you deal with it. Hell, maybe that’s what was done, and the person we need to talk to about doing nothing is/was inside the English department.
But anyway we fired the dude, and he died a few years ago, so none of it amounts to much beyond another lesson universities should learn (most won’t) about the not inconsiderable number of people out there laying siege to their schools through fraud. Schools spend a lot of time worrying about larcenists and sexual predators, as well they should; but frauds do really really serious harm, and the fact that GW had two in succession – and tenured one! – is an institutional embarrassment.
In an interview with the New York Times, [one of the people who outed Krug] said the allegations [against her] came up during a discussion about [the] late novelist H.G. Carrillo.
Carrillo’s sister revealed after he died in April that he was not a black Latino, who fled Cuba with his family as a child, like he had claimed his entire life.
His sister said he was an African-American born and raised in Detroit, Michigan.
[The] junior scholar came forward with claims that Krug had also been lying about her identity.
Your blogueuse was herself on the tenure committee reviewing Carrillo! We turned him down because we simply could not make sense of his creative/scholarly portfolio, and also because he seemed a seriously troubled, unreliable person. He listed works that never appeared in his file; students reported that he could be strikingly irresponsible in his dealings with them… I don’t remember that many details now, but I remember rather liking his fiction writing, and tending toward wanting to award tenure. Almost everyone gets tenure… But it was as if he didn’t really want tenure – he was evasive and not terribly cooperative with our committee…
Of course, now that we know he was a fraud, his ambivalence makes sense – the closer you get to tenure, the higher your profile becomes, and the greater your threat of exposure.
Krug is not George Washington University’s first professor to fabricate their identity.
Novelist H.G. “Hache” Carrillo taught creative writing there full time for eight years until 2015. Carrillo’s true name was Herman Glenn Carroll…
… or… okay… UD explains it all for you.
A reader writes wondering about Jessica Krug and intentionality. Could this have been a double hoax? As the reader puts it:
Jessica [at some point] reveals that “I did it on purpose.”
Indeed it’s worth posing the question of motive in deeper terms than merely careerist in cases like Krug, although pretending to be a black woman in a work/financial support/emotional support setting designed to advantage minorities was obviously a large part of her intent. I’m sure H. G. Carrillo, once her colleague at GW, and a fellow hoaxer (Meta-hoaxer! He was already black. He added Cuban.), had exactly the same advantages in mind. And there are abundant similar examples, including the curious transformation of Mike Hudson into Yi-Fen Chou.
The particular case of Krug, however, suggests instructive truths about certain dangerous personality traits. Instructive – as in listen up! and your university might be able to see the next Jessica Krug coming before the super-rad bullies at your school muscle her tenure through, and getting rid of her costs you a ton of money.
There’s a very ugly way in which the personal is the political. Something toxic happens when angry narcissists with massive diffuse grievance as a preexisting condition meet ideas about the public world which allow them to organize, exteriorize, and be rewarded/celebrated for that personal rage. We know from several sources that Krug was, from about the age of thirteen, a highly irritable, self-righteous, arrogant, fight-picker. Nothing about her privileged (private schools, loving family) upbringing suggests mistreatment; rather, if you follow her behavior through to the present — where people in her New York apartment building report sudden motiveless insult, hostility, and threat from her; and former friends report a self-loathing so intense it regularly broke out in attacks on other people around her as being even more loathsome than she — what emerges is a violently nihilistic hatred of the world seeking outlets. “Krug is way worse than Rachel Dolezal. Krug not only pretended to be Black, but purposefully caused tension between Blacks and whites—trying to get Black people to hate white people as much as she did, when she really just hated herself.” A friend describes her “persistent negativity and jealousy.” A GW student describes her showing the class a photo of “the white woman who won an award over her.”
I’ve encountered a few people in my life whose sudden outbursts of verbal cruelty shocked me right down to the ground. And you know, your UD ain’t a shrinking violet, so we’re talking really vile and explosive and hurtful statements.
Plus out of context. Nothing in the immediate social setting/conversation seemed to have prompted the statements’ content and ferocity; rather, what emerged seemed to come from a deep, mysterious, long-tended ground of excruciating rancor against moi. (Plus against other people, who were also, UD came to know, targets of these shock-and-awe explosions.) I’m talking about a person who, minutes ago, seemed a pretty unproblematic friend.
So vile and unprovoked were these attacks that UD had nothing to do with the attackers post-attack — except for one of them. Her aunt could not be rejected. Because… well… her aunt. The others seemed to UD to have revealed an essential untrustworthiness, a basic ill-will in regard to other people, themselves, and the entire world of human existence which would be absolute nuts to hang around. So she didn’t.
But let’s say UD were a really politically correct person – and/or really politically committed person. Let’s say she felt almost unbearable guilt about the history of white racism and the ongoing immediacy of her own white privilege. Faced with an angry, insulting Jessica Krug who had told UD tearful tales about the suffering of her black ancestors and her own suffering, UD would interpret Krug’s vileness not as simply the manifestation of a shitty personality (some people get charming ones; some people get shitty ones), but as an understandable personal /political/historical manifestation of resentment, frustration, and sorrow. UD might even be grateful to be made to feel the guilt that was before more of an abstraction. “No, Lizzy, let me once in my life feel how much I have been to blame,” says Mr Bennet as the Lydia/Wickham fiasco unfolds in Pride and Prejudice. We want to feel things, and relentless emotional confrontationalists like Krug oblige.
A person like Krug spends many years observing the gratifying effect of her personal nastiness; people seem to appreciate the wokeness-boost it gives them. And because she’s competitive and insecure and narcissistic, the nastiness will tend to be about chastising other people for being less aggrieved and militant about grievance than Krug is. Sadistically, she explores how far she can go in inflicting politically masochistic wounds, and over time the intensity of her attacks grows. Her fundamental motives are world-destroying nihilism, and the obscure, and less and less serviceable, gratification she derives from exteriorizing her bottomless maddening sense of the grinding nothingness of existence.
She terrorized Black and Latina women, panned their work and politics, and made many of her colleagues take on additional labor under the pretense of having to deal with her imaginary family saga. Krug was particularly cruel to US-born Puerto Rican scholars, who she often accused of lacking the insider knowledge and cultural fluency that she reveled in.
Clearly Krug’s own being is nothingness; she would not have been able to jettison it utterly and permanently for an assumed being if that were not the case. Like Alfred Jarry, she embraces her vile nihilistic Ubu. Her own family is nothingness; with little to no discernible emotional cost to her, she has been able to abandon them totally for two decades, not even showing up for her mother’s funeral. Over time, her thin, histrionic, theatrical identity thins more and more, and she must carnivalize it with greater and greater desperation. “She always dressed/acted inappropriately—she’d show up to a 10am scholars’ seminar dressed for a salsa club etc—but was so over the top strident and ‘woker-than-thou’ that I felt like I was trafficking in respectability politics when I cringed at her MINSTREL SHOW,” writes a friend and colleague. And if Jarry’s fate is anything to go by, Krug’s fate doesn’t look too good – he too lay his Ubu on more and more thickly, while what was left of his actual self slept the days away in an alcoholic stupor. Not a recipe for a long life, and he didn’t have one.
So – to return to the original question – is there any way to think of Jessica Krug’s life – up to and including her post-tenure explosion – as purposive? Has she all this time been holding aloft to the world some socially important message about race… or intellectuality… or …?
Don’t bet on it. She passively embodies the same message Emil Cioran actively and explicitly wrote out in books like The Trouble with Being Born, the very same message David Benatar wrote out in Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence. A nihilist without the courage of her lack of convictions, Krug has a rough road ahead.
And look. I know you don’t need reminding about the other side; but… if you do.
The provost has sent a rather blah email to the community, acknowledging the “pain” many are feeling, and listing groups on campus that can help one deal with that pain. He confirms that La Bombawhatever will not be teaching this semester. The university is “reviewing the situation,” which almost certainly means they’re crouched down with Krug and her lawyer and trying to hammer out a… er… mutually beneficial severance package.
UD can’t help feeling a smidgeon of superiority here, since she was on the GW English department committee that refused to tenure the last fraud at the school…
No, we didn’t know Carrillo was a fraud, but we all felt something was not right in him and in his work, and we made the case to our colleagues that he would be a problem for us and for our students.
I’m gonna go way out on a limb and speculate that a woman as blatantly whacked as Jessica Krug was enabled all the way to tenure in the history department by only one or two powerful and way-assertive people… That others in the department were appalled and tried to vote her down but couldn’t go up against the combination of her respectable publication record, their belief that she was a black woman and therefore added much-needed diversity to the department, and the politically correct assholes in the department who were more than ready to bruit it about that anyone voting against her was a racist.
I’m gonna guess there’s a whole lot of finger-pointing going on among relevant faculty, some of whom – I swear to God! – fail to see what the problem is. Like, she identifies as black and race is a social construct and so what the fuck…? Others of her enablers have probably dug in to their Foggy Bottom dwellings, grinding the French roast at home and waiting til the coast is clear. For yet others, this really feels like the last infuriating politically correct fiasco they can bear – but what can you do. DC is quite the place to live, and tenure’s a beautiful thing.
And so it goes.