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Antifa Expert Mark Bray Profiled

Thumbnail image for Mark Bray.jpgThe Gender Research Institute at Dartmouth instructor Mark Bray, who many observers assert advocates violence against white supremacists and others, was the subject on November 3 of a laudatory profile in the Chronicle of Higher Education. The piece is behind a paywall, but the section relating to Phil Hanlon and the College is as follows:

Less than two weeks after the Charlottesville rally, Mr. Bray was in the news almost every day. On Meet the Press, he boiled down the case for antifa for the Sunday-morning audience: “When pushed,” he said, “self-defense is a legitimate response.”

The scholar appealed to history, invoking the rise of fascism in Europe in the 1920s and ’30s. “The way that white supremacy grows, the way that neo-Nazism grows,” he said, “is by becoming legitimate, becoming established, becoming everyday, family-friendly.” Antifa’s project, he argued, is to “pull the emergency brake and say, You can’t make this normal.”

After that appearance, Campus Reform, a website devoted to pillorying liberal excess in higher education, ran a story: “Dartmouth scholar endorses Antifa violence.” The author was a recent Dartmouth graduate, a former editor in chief of the college’s conservative newspaper.

The same day, the university’s president, Philip J. Hanlon, issued a statement. “Recent statements made by lecturer in history Mark Bray supporting violent protest do not represent the views of Dartmouth,” he said. “As an institution, we condemn anything but civil discourse in the exchange of opinions and ideas.”

In the marketplace of ideas, Mr. Hanlon seemed to be driving down the value of Mr. Bray’s work.

The professor didn’t catch wind of the president’s statement until he saw it on the Campus Reform website. He was troubled. He wondered why Mr. Hanlon hadn’t reached out to ask what he meant.

Mr. Bray had received a few threatening messages. Now the threats increased. Most were vague; some mentioned gas chambers. When a package was sent to him at the college, an administrator contacted the police. (It turned out to be a book.) Reddit users publicized details about him, as well as contact information for Melville House and information about its distributor and sales team, and about Mr. Bray’s book talks.

The Dartmouth faculty rallied around Mr. Bray. Two days after Mr. Hanlon’s statement, more than 100 professors there signed a letter urging the president to retract his remarks. By validating the idea that Mr. Bray blindly supports violent protest, they argued, the president was showing that outsiders can suppress Dartmouth scholarship that they disagree with.

At the height of the public attention, some colleagues invited him for dinner and brought him home-cooked meals. James Heffernan, an emeritus professor of English, wrote to a local newspaper, calling Mr. Bray “a leading voice against the virulent fascism of our own time.”

Mr. Hanlon responded once more, sending an email to the faculty explaining his statement. He wanted to make clear, he said, that Dartmouth supports everyone’s academic freedom and is opposed to violence, and that Mr. Bray did not speak for the college.

“Immediately following Mark’s appearance on Meet the Press, the College experienced a tremendous surge of phone, email, and social media inquiry, from students and families, alumni and friends of the College, and from people without a clear connection to Dartmouth,” he wrote. “These questions and comments came from viewers of the show who not only interpreted Mark Bray to be supporting violent protest, but also believed him to be speaking for the College.”

To many professors, that email only proved their point.

“President Hanlon’s response, rather than strengthening the College’s commitment to the free exchange of ideas, effectively chills research and public engagement,” they wrote in a second response.

Mr. Hanlon had meant to put some distance between Mr. Bray and Dartmouth. In the process, he drew the professor deeper into the community. “If anything, I feel more at home at Dartmouth than I did before this,” Mr. Bray says.

Later on in the piece, the following is noted about Bray:

His current position at Dartmouth will end in the spring, so he’s on the job market. It remains to be seen whether hiring committees will see his high-profile public scholarship as a boon or a liability.

It’s hard to say that Phil Hanlon comes out of this situation looking like a sure-handed leader.

Addendum: Woodsville, New Hampshire resident and pundit extraordinaire Mark Steyn offers his take on Mark Bray.

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