Terry L. Newman, Medium.
It is now accepted as fact in many academic fields that you cannot teach issues about specific groups if you are not a member of those groups. In my first article for Quillette, I wrote about a professor in my Master program who proclaimed to our seminar that white sociology professors were incapable of teaching courses on race. Of course this is not true. You do not have to be non-white to teach the subject of race respectfully and knowledgably. The same understanding has permeated qualitative research methods in the social sciences, the idea that only a member of an insider group can understand and research that group…
Campuses constantly hold talks about white supremacy and white privilege, as if lurking behind every corner. Speakers are brought in on pedagogical days to sensitize staff in already overwhelmingly progressive faculties in the humanities. Guilt has become something associated not with one’s actions, but one’s demographic. Is it any wonder why someone might choose to abandon the burden of their whiteness, and embrace, instead, the pristine, blameless identity of the marginalized?[W]e should recoil at the thought of our individual worlds becoming so small and so narrow that the only research we can participate in is research about ourselves. This is the insider doctrine…
[U]ntil we overcome the divisive insider doctrine which plagues us both inside and outside the academy, the idea that only members of groups can understand one another, [we will have more Jessica Krugs.]
[As a high school senior, Krug was] disciplined for having plagiarized a piece that ran under her name in the school’s literary magazine.
A fellow academic who knew [Jessica] Krug back at the University of Wisconsin–Madison recalls how she used to identify as half Algerian, saying that her father was a white man of German ancestry who had raped her mother.
In addition to the position and resources Krug stole from academics of color, she also stole from the many students who viewed her as a trusted authority to help them make sense of the world and their own identities within it. The Cut spoke to four of Krug’s former students about reckoning with her deception in the wake of her Medium essay, and how they are coming to terms with her betrayal:
“For her to have built her entire persona on a lie is just so deeply hurtful, but also it’s coming to the point where it’s just like, Oh yes, of course a white woman will go and try to trick all these Black and brown students. … [T]he way I looked up to her, the way I wanted to impress her, [combined] with the power dynamics [and the fact that] the relationship was built on a lie is more important than the subject matter of what she taught.”
“[She] lied with such poise and ease … She ridiculed any students that were still in the learning process that didn’t understand things… It’s a very weird thing now looking back and just realizing that the whole class was kind of a mirage.”
“We thought that we were being taught African history by a Black woman. And now it’s just like, What else was a lie?“
“I thought I was reading a suicide note [when I read her confession]… [S]he was very adamant that she was from the Bronx — she had a very heavy accent throughout the whole class. She would come in with huge hoops and a nose ring and a crop top and tight, tight cheetah pants. She has a big tattoo on her arm of the socialist symbol [the hammer and sickle]… There was a good number of classes she didn’t show up to, that she canceled like 30 minutes before the class. It seems like she was a bit scattered or a bit out of place in what she was doing in her life. She wasn’t committed to showing up to this lecture.”
[T]old us her father was Tuareg from N. Africa. My ex, who’d lived and traveled extensively through Africa began asking questions that we never got satisfactory answers for.
[Now] the story of a Puerto Rican grandfather began to come out.
As she started claiming more and more that she was Black I didn’t quite buy it but I honestly didn’t know what to do with it.
[S]he dyed her hair dark. Before it was a dusty blonde.
So many times she accused me of not being Black enough in terms of politics. She was hardcore and woker-than-thou with it.
I’d always talk to my ex about how her Black identity felt weird to me. Like I couldn’t get a grasp on her story. But I’d never come across someone who lied so extensively about her background. Lesson learned.
The chair of GW’s history department does the right thing – contacts students who signed up for her courses, writes openly about the situation, and announces that he’ll keep her out of the classroom. Now the larger university needs to say/do something.
Krug will of course hold out for a fat severance check (I’m assuming she has tenure), and she’ll get one, because GW is being ridiculed, every day, all over the world. If GW dawdles, she’ll get a lawyer and threaten a lawsuit. She likes to make noise.
And no – despite all the histrionic self-cancellation language in her bullshit letter to the world, no way will this woman have the decency to leave GW. She’ll plant her ass there until they pay up. She’s got a long life of vileness ahead of her, and will need to subsidize it.
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…
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency features Jessica Krug’s early years in Jewish Day School and in a Conservative synagogue.
Ah hell. I’m not gonna excerpt stuff from this. Just read it.
The question is not Why is a violent woman running around the big city being violent? That’s not newsworthy. The question needs to be put to Hunter College: Why is one of these on your faculty?
Part of the answer lies in ye olde erotic attraction to radically chic violence that Leonard Bernstein made famous in that same city in the ‘seventies. Shellyne Rodriguez’s art, she tells an interviewer, “highlight[s] the audaciousness of the Biker Boys who take the streets undeterred by NYPD’s futile crackdown.” Makes elements of brainy artsy NY go pitapat.
This sort of thing also exists on some sort of urban mischief continuum with the non-revolutionary, white collar crime (undeterred by the SEC’s futile crackdown) that has always found representation on the boards of trustees of the sorts of schools that think Shellyne Rodriguez is cool. Recall the many high-level lawless money men/university trustees we’ve featured over decades on this blog, starting with Yeshiva University’s dynamic duo, Bernard Madoff and Ezra Merkin. At the very top of this mafia today are of course Trump/Giuliani (who hold far grander positions than mere trustee) and a whole world of superrich rapacious give-a-shit NY bad boys… UD‘s just saying that when a significant high-profile portion of the local culture is composed of high-risk-loving financial criminals (see Steven Cohen, Brown University etc. etc.) quite a few of them holding powerful positions on university boards of trustees, we shouldn’t be too surprised that this sort of world has room for other sorts of sociopaths. The school that hired Rodriguez features convicted insider trader and trustee Leon Cooperman.
These white/nonwhite criminal twains, trustee and professor, meet with a mutual thrill, a tacit sense of recognition, at a campus cocktail party, say, and if Rodriguez hadn’t attacked a man with a machete the other day, Cooperman would probably eventually have signed off on the tenure of Hunter’s own Jessica Krug. (‘Perhaps one of the most disgusting things [Krug] publicly did was to attempt to justify the brutal murder of 15-year-old Lesandro Guzman-Feliz, who died in a machete attack at the hands of gang members in a case of mistaken identity, by claiming that had he lived he would have ended up being a cop.‘) High-flying scofflaw cultures tend to have no trouble with nasty pieces of work like Rodriguez. Self-aggrandizing nihilist subversive meets self-aggrandizing nihilist subversive.
Yes, yes, post-machete, post-other forms of non white collar violence, Hunter has dropped Rodriguez like a hot potato.
Hunter happily goes on loving itself some bad boy Leon Cooperman, but then he’s not a poor artist. He’s a rich insider trader. He gets to keep his trusteeship.
So the question of how Hunter College found itself holding on to Rodriguez in the first place has two answers: Ever-popular radical violence, and the allied and fully mainstreamed “audaciousness” of NY white collar criminality.
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.
As yet another faux minority person bites the dust, UD thinks nostalgically of Jessica Krug, a colleague of hers at GWU, who was similarly given to pickling herself in Brown Skin Girl.
So much still to say about the curious case of UCLA philosophy lecturer/psychotic would-be mass killer Matthew Harris. For UD, the crucial question is – who hired him at UCLA? Simply put, how did a guy who apparently was a known problem — maybe even a danger — at his previous school – Duke – end up in front of a classroom at UCLA?
How long did UCLA keep him in the classroom?
Here’s the bit on his time at Duke.
Harris received his PhD from Duke University in 2019. It has been alleged that while there, he engaged in a some inappropriate actions with or in regard to students, and that some faculty in the Department of Philosophy at Duke were aware of issues with his behavior; it has been alleged that some Duke faculty recommended that he not be left alone with students.
So far the above can’t be confirmed; and since everyone with any connection to Matthew Harris is currently running scared (he might be released on bond or sent to a low-security mental health facility), I wouldn’t expect anyone to say anything for awhile. But let us assume this information about his behavior at Duke is true. Let us assume that his madness definitely began to manifest at Duke, that the peril of the man was something of an established fact at Duke. How can we account for UCLA hiring, and for some time keeping, him?
Here are a few thoughts.
1.) Just as GW’s Jessica Krug had institutionally powerful enablers, so perhaps Harris had influential cheerleaders at Duke and/or UCLA. Sometimes it only takes one pivotal/assertive/aggressive advocate to tamp down misgivings other colleagues might have.
2.) Harris’s aggressivity, sense of grievance, and general strangeness might have been filed under “wounds of race” – just as Jessica Krug’s similar emotional profile — when people were under the impression she was black — was perhaps interpreted/mainstreamed in this way.
3.) Harris had great credentials – Duke, a respected thesis director, fellowships, prizes. I’m assuming he had strong recommendations. Nothing on paper argued against him, and it looks as though no one at Duke – formally or informally – shared anything worrisome. Or did they? Again, a strong enough advocate might find a way to neutralize worrisome information. (Interestingly, Duke was both Krug’s publisher and Harris’s graduate institution.)
4.) Once in the classroom at UCLA, Harris benefited from the praiseworthy tendency of universities to give professors enormous freedom in what and how they teach. But as a novice at the trade, Harris should have encountered more oversight than he apparently received. To make matters worse, the dissolution of disciplinary boundaries in the humanities means the absence of anything like an agreed-upon canon of readings to assign in any particular class. “[A] final exam … included an essay question about the hate-filled manifesto of Christopher Dorner, a former LAPD officer whose 2013 shooting rampage killed four people and wounded three others. Students were asked to consider the ‘oppression, disrespect and loss of dignity’ suffered by the homicidal ex-cop.”
Exactly the sort of assigned reading you’d expect in an undergraduate philosophy course. Before Hegel and Arendt, Christopher Dorner.
Have I ever. UD has been circling this thing for a few days, waiting for more information to be released before she blogs about it.
The much-laureled U Penn student’s last name – Fierceton? – was the first thing that seemed strange to ol’ UD. No one else has it – the only mention of it I can find appears in a translation of the ancient Chinese Classic of Mountains and Seas – a book of myths whose translator puts the name “Fierceton River” on an obscure location.
Mackenzie’s last name used to be Morrison. Here her mother, Dr. Carrie Morrison, talks about breast density. Mackenzie dropped Morrison and added the dramatic Fierceton, which is fine, even fantastic, if you want to mark your separation from your roots, your own free fierce identity or whatever.
Fierceton’s roots are what you’d expect for someone born to a prominent physician: Private schools, horseback riding, cool vacations. But she has garnered all sorts of university goodies (scholarships, awards) reserved for underprivileged people, her argument being that her mother abused her, and in her teens she ended up in foster care. So she’s arguing that this means her background is foster care/abuse/underprivilege. Which a certain chapter of it is, but qua formulated humanoid she’s much more privileged than not, which puts into question the legitimacy of her underprivilege-based goodies.
Further – it certainly matters whether her claims of maternal abuse, amounting to broken bones, blocked breathing passages, and other nightmares, are true. All of the charges against her mother were dropped, and it looks as though hospital records list injuries much less nightmarish than the ones Fierceton claims.
One thing Fierceton has going against her is America’s really rampant culture of self-aggrandizing fakes, like UD‘s erstwhile colleague, Jessica Krug, an upper middle class Jewish woman from Kansas City who got all sorts of academic goodies by pretending to be a poor black person. Thanks to scads of identity scammers, we all have a vivid category into which to place Fierceton, whether this placement is in fact fair. Institutions are also hypersensitive – given this cultural background of scamming – to the possibility of being exploited by fakers, and in the case of Fierceton they have indeed started to come down hard on her. She is suing in response, so we will eventually know where at least some of the facts lie.
Put aside the ethical problems with professors who lie about their race/ethnicity, and thereby incalculably hurt other people and groups and the value of truth itself; ask yourself whether the problem with such people is not that they are contemptible, but that they are insane.
A person commenting on a New York Times essay on the latest identity fraud (this one’s a woman who claimed to be Native American to get ahead in academia) goes there: Is it not plausible that a person capable of spending her entire adult life pretending to be someone she’s not may be mentally unbalanced? Indeed, don’t we all expect to encounter Christs of Ypsilanti and Napoleons of Boca Raton only in institutions?
This woman, and Jessica Krug, and probably other fraudsters like them, went victimization-theft one better and harassed actual black and Native people they knew because the fraudsters found them inauthentic. Just as each of the three Christs impugned the Christness of the others.
Which is a real method in the madness thing, ain’t it? Talk about diverting attention from your own, er, lack of identity-evidence — look at that faker over there! And that one over there!
When personal, belligerent, enactment of minority identity becomes more important than intellectual legitimacy… well, you get what you wish for. You get the performative professoriate; you get high-kicking Jessica Krugs putting blackness over on… on almost everyone.
Yes – all of these tired pathetic tales feature non-insane observers attempting to point out that the political steam issuing from the head of the department firebrand is BS. But y’all know how love is…
We hired Jessie in a fever
Hotter than a pepper sprout
We been talkin about Jessie
Ever since the fire went out…
Yet many of you would hire her again; and the latest Krug remains in a good academic job, and keeps getting published by (wait for it) the same press that published Krug. Even though everyone at this point knows she’s a truly vile liar.
It’s kind of like – if American academia likes brazen amoral liars that much, what’s it got against Donald Trump? Why does it think academia is superior to Trumpland? Both places promote people – even nutty scuzzy people – who satisfy deep dark desires. Trumpland’s just more honest.
Although UD grew up right down the Amtrak corridor from New York City, she seldom traveled there; even as an adult, she’s visited shockingly few times. UD has spent more time in Ubud, Bali, than in NYC. Yet she notices that she has, over the years, developed a curious sort of home wisdom about one of the most prominent subcultures there.
These rough and ready truths of hers are not, of course, based on nothing; like many literate people, UD has been reading about that city and its inhabitants all her life; and from what she has gleaned, she has derived some modestly explanatory takes on some of its more notorious denizens.
Most broadly, she finds that firmly situating Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, Michael Cohen, Charles Kushner, Marc Kasowitz, and many other Trumpish madmen — but especially Donald Trump himself — in New York City helps us understand them. It’s helpful to see them as emerging out of a particular ecosystem in which their behavior is perfectly normal.
On a lower yet still fascinating level, firmly situating two recent high-profile identity-fakers (Jessica Krug and Hilaria Baldwin) in NYC also helps us understand them.
Let me start with the lunatic White House.
New York City, let us say, rears, attracts, and encourages hyperdriven hypercompetitive crazies who just go all the way. Their nature is to charge into everything – money deals, marriages, parenthood, politics – with supermanic frenzy and without a thought – without one thought, I tell you – for the morrow. Bankruptcy? Divorce? Jail? Fuck it. Trump ran headlong into a ridiculous quest for the presidency and look what happened! NYC people simply keep breaking through – that’s the thing. They don’t think of life as a series of steps which will if you’re not careful eventuate in bad outcomes which will pain you and those you love and condemn you to hell or whatever — they don’t think like normal people. The Big Mo on steroids – that’s their thing. Competitive capitalism unbound. Competitive everything unbound. No shame, no fear, no brakes.
Did you see either of the films based on Madoff? In both films, if I recall correctly, someone at some point looks at him and says something like Why did you do it and why didn’t you stop? The why did you do it part has no NYC resonance; the not stopping part – not stopping until THE ENTIRE WORLD ECONOMY TANKED AND HE COULD NO LONGER PAY OUT REDEMPTIONS – is echt Trumpy NYC. If you’re a Trumpy New Yorker, only some form of global collapse will stop you. Recall that up to the moment of his arrest Madoff was a singularly respected, highly placed, and well-connected New Yorker. A pious New Yorker – Yeshiva University’s treasurer!
Hell, Trump’s the president. And in case you haven’t noticed, he’s not planning to stop being president. Susan Glasser writes:
… Trump has remained … obnoxiously unrepentant. … He does not want to let go, to cede the spotlight, to renounce his outsized claim on our collective consciousness….
And you know that at no point in the real Madoff story did anyone ask him why he didn’t stop – that line was edited in for hayseeds outside NYC like UD, cuz otherwise the film would make no sense in any moral world she and her like can imagine. No one around Madoff ever stopped doing anything lucrative or personally advantageous, no matter how sordid, and Madoff would never have stopped either.
Once Trumps and Madoffs are truly a spent force, once they decide it’s safe to slow down and decamp with their winnings (even spitfires get old and lose their fire), they make a purely lateral cultural move – to their house in Florida.
People look at Donald Trump as a singular, ab nihilo dude; they can’t fathom his past behavior and they certainly can’t fathom his present. But he and Giuliani are behaving exactly the way people pickled in their brine always behave: Advance, Advance, Advance and the world can fuck itself.
Central to NYC-style heedless advancement is lying. You misrepresent yourself; you misrepresent your financial worth; you misrepresent the value of anything you have to offer. And of course you lie about other people; you make up obviously jackshit stories about Obama being born in Kenya and George Soros controlling Congress and Joe Biden stealing a presidential election. Advance, advance, advance, lie, lie, lie. In your NYC world everyone’s obscenely on the make and everyone lies. Lie it forward. No lie is too edgy, absurd, out there, shameless. Bigger the better. Keep going. Seems to work fine in DC too.
Look at Harold Brodkey’s take on this slice of NYC culture. His perspective is that of an artist, not a crazed capitalist, but he evokes the same Trumpian world, one part mania, one part lying:
I was always crazy about New York, dependent on it, scared of it – well, it is dangerous – but beyond that there was the pressure of being young and of not yet having done work you really liked, trademark work, breakthrough work. The trouble with the city’s invitation was that you were aware you might not be able to manage: you might drown, you might fall off the train, whatever metaphor you preferred, before you did anything interesting. You would have wasted your life. One worked hard or not at all, and tried to withstand the constant demolishing judgement. One watched people scavenge for phrases in other people’s talk – that hunt for ideas which is, sometimes, like picking up dead birds. One witnessed the reverse of glamour – that everyone is jealous.
It is not a joke, the great clang of New York. It is the sound of brassy people at the party, at all the parties, pimping and doing favors and threatening and making gassy public statements and being modest and blackmailing and having dinner and going on later. (Renata Adler used to say you could get anyone to be disliked in New York merely by praising that person to someone nervous and competitive.) Literary talk in New York often announced itself as the best talk in America. People would say, “Harold, you are hearing the best in America tonight.” It would be a cut-throat monologue, disposable wit in passing, practiced with a certain carelessness in regard to honesty. But then truth was not the issue, as it almost never is in New York.
New York City is also where we find the highest-profile imposters – people who, like fictive Manhattanite Jay Gatsby, lie all the way down to their corpuscles. Jessica Krug: White, Jewish, affluent; Gatsbyized black, hispanic, poor. Hilaria Baldwin: Offspring of people whose ancestors arrived on the Mayflower; Gatsbyized a Spaniard with a strong accent and a shaky grasp of the English language.
Plenty of distinctions to be made amid all of this, I know. Hilaria (real name Hillary) ain’t much of a story. One… theatricalizes, mythologizes, oneself to be more interesting in the big city crowd. To stand out in hypercompetitive NYC. Baldwin is a strange woman, given to exhibitionism and self-praise, but who cares? Kim Kardashian for the west coast, and, for the sophisticated east, NYU-educated Hilaria Baldwin (though Kim comes by her exotic Armenianness honestly).
Krug’s far more insidious NYC tale carries ugly social implications having to do with the ideological corruption of universities and other institutions.
But both women share with the mad Trumpian lads that NYC thing: fake it til you fake it. Fake it more. Nothing exceeds like excess.