A few days ago, Twitter exploded with accusations and counteraccusations surrounding Thomas Achord, a writer and podcaster who is known for his support of “Christian nationalism.” He was accused of posting racist, anti-Semitic Tweets from the anonymous Twitter account @TuliusAadland (see    , , etc…). He subsequently lost his job as the headmaster of a Christian school. In a public note, Achord vehemently denied owning the account and insisted he was being impersonated by someone who had created fake social media accounts and fake email accounts, and who had even posed as him in an extended email exchange.
Because of my involvement in this incident, I’ve been called a “POS,” a “fake Christian”, a “loser”, a “snake,” a “vulture,” “malicious,” a “wolf,” someone who committed “slander” and who “sought and achieved the material ruinous [sic] a Godly man and his family as cheap collateral damage in his defamatory fight against another Godly man.” These are only a few direct quotes from the dozens of accusations made against me over the past few days. (On the plus side, I was also called a “nerd”.)
Yesterday, Achord announced: “I have come to conclude that the Tulius Aadland twitter account is indeed an old alias account of mine.” In this note, I’d like to explain what happened. Please pray for Achord, that he would truly turn from his attitudes and actions, and that he’d receive forgiveness and grace. Please remember that as Christians, we have a non-negotiable duty to forgive just as we have been forgiven. You can also support his family financially here. For those familiar with the situation and with the evidence against Achord, you can probably skip to the final section about my own involvement.
This incident began when I tweeted that “Christians who rail against the divisive ideas of critical theory must not soft-pedal divisive ideas smuggled in under the guise of ‘Christian nationalism.'” My concern was –and is– that unbiblical ideas about ethnicity can be deployed by both the far-left and the far-right and that we must reject these ideas regardless of their origin. In response, Alastair Roberts quote-tweeted me and wrote: “The concern @NeilShenvi raises here really is important. There is a sort of Christian Nationalism that is a sort of identity politics that self-consciously develops itself with CRT as its foil and mirror.” He claimed that Thomas Achord was the owner of numerous Twitter handles including @TuliusAadland and @tristramrides, and gave two examples of Achord’s CRT-infused thinking: 1) screenshots of Tweets about “White antifragility” from the @TuliusAadland account and 2) an article written by “Tulius Aadland” about “White antifragility” from the website Identity Dixie.
I quote-tweeted Roberts’ thread and wrote: “I’m trying to be consistent here. I’m attacking ideas, not people. I’m citing explicit statements; I’m not speculating about motives. But we should oppose these ideas no matter their origin and regardless of which ‘tribe’ they’re coming from, for the health of the church.”
The final relevant Tweet came from Achord himself. He wrote: “Neil correctly perceives that these musings on the topic of race are an exploration of the principles of CT applied to racial dynamics as a reductio ad absurdum. They are descriptive, not prescriptive. If @zugzwanged [Roberts] sought honest dialogue, he could have inquired directly [emph. added].” Note that Achord read Aadland’s Tweets (not just mine), explained the intention behind Aadland’s Tweets, and chided Roberts (and tagged him) for not “inquiring directly” of the author.
Now, Achord’s later explanation was that he read the Tweets in haste and wrongly assumed they came from his own account, since he had used the “Tulius Aadland” pseudonym in the past. He claimed he only later realized that the Tweets were written by an impostor. But note that he clearly agreed with the content of the Tweets. They were so reflective of his thinking that he assumed he was the author (which, we now know, was actually true). Moreover, at no point did he deny that he was the author of the Identity Dixie article on “White antifragility” which was explicitly mentioned in Roberts’ thread.
At this point, though I disagreed strongly with the article and the Tweets for the reasons stated, I had no idea that the Aadland account had posted horrifyingly racist and anti-Semitic Tweets. That fact only came to light later in the day. All I knew was that Achord had agreed that I had correctly understood these Tweets which he himself thought were his.
When people later began posting screenshots of racist @TuliusAadland Tweets, I was appalled. Later that night, I began seeing claims that Achord had been fired. Since many Christian teaching jobs invoke a “morality clause,” I reasoned that the school may actually have had moral and legal grounds to terminate him. I was hearing many claims in private, but I resolved to keep them private until more public evidence was available from the school or from Achord.
When it became clear that Achord had indeed lost his job (on the day before Thanksgiving, no less), I began to face tremendous backlash for “doxxing” and “slandering” him. People insisted that he had been falsely accused and that I had either unintentionally or deliberately spread lies to destroy him. They insisted that I should have reached out privately to him (although, recall, that I had only shared Tweets that he himself thought were his and which had not yet been connected to other racist Tweets). Nonetheless, when people pointed out that this incident could have been the work of an impostor, I messaged Achord on Facebook to hear his side of the story (he had deleted his Twitter account). I will keep our conversation private, but his response was gracious, non-accusatory, and consistent with his later public statement, denying that the Aadland account was his.
Unfortunately, he lied both to me and to the public.
Even apart from his own confession, there were multiple, strong lines of public evidence identifying Aadland as Achord. The clearest example is an image posted from @TuliusAadland’s account on Feb. 20, 2020 at 8:04 AM. It shows a photo of a “Grief Share Room” sign on a classroom door with the caption “Spare me this garbage. Guys, don’t ever ever go to something like this. Go outdoors. Construct something. Workout and build yourself. Learn a skill. Do not express your weakness. There’s absolutely no benefit.” Note the distinctive cross icon at the top of the placard. This is the official logo of the church which houses the private Christian school of which Achord was headmaster, and a school employee confirmed that this picture showed the interior of the school. (Based on my conversations with a former school board member, I must emphasize that Achord’s attitudes should in no way be imputed to the school, whose immediate, decisive action demonstrated their abhorrence of his beliefs.)
It is obviously highly implausible to think that an impostor created a small fake Twitter account in 2019, regularly posted memes and political commentary for two years, attracted dozens of Achord’s real friends and associates without Achord finding out, visited Achord’s school in 2020 to take an incriminating picture, and then allowed the account to go dormant in August 2021, only for the trap to accidentally spring on Achord fifteen months later.
Even apart from the mountain of evidence that has been collected over the last few days, there was clear evidence that Achord was Aadland in the original threads. Recall that Achord first claimed to have been the author of Aadland’s Tweets on “White antifragility” but later said his identification was mistaken. But if he immediately recognized the reasoning in the Tweets as his own, then –even taking him at his word– the most likely explanation was that he was indeed the author of the “White antifragility” Identity Dixie article, which deployed precisely the same arguments and used the same language (I had independent, but private, sources which confirmed his authorship). The fact that the incriminating Identity Dixie article was immediately removed further supported this idea; an impostor who wanted to discredit Achord would have had no reason to remove the article. Therefore, the most reasonable conclusion was that Achord was the author of the Identity Dixie article, whether or not he denied being the author of the Tweets. However, there was a crucial discrepancy in the dates.
Aadland’s Tweets about “White antifragility” were posted on June 7, 2020. However, the Identity Dixie article was posted on Sept. 18, 2021, over a year later. The arguments in the Tweets and the article are identical. Moreover, both the Tweets and the article begin with an unusual reference to the movie The Fifth Element. Consequently, either 1) Achord and Aadland were the same person who wrote both the Tweets and the article, or 2) Achord had plagiarized the article from the Aadland account despite claiming to not have known about the existence of the Aadland account. In either case, Achord was lying.
These two points are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the evidence that Aadland was Achord (for example, to my knowledge, no one has noticed that of the eight authors Aadland mentioned in his Tweets –some of whom were very obscure– six were featured on Achord’s official Goodreads bookshelf).
After my initial Tweet, I said little about Achord apart from 1) mentioning that I’d contacted him privately and 2) reminding people of my limited role in this situation. One possible objection is that I should have posted the evidence mentioned above sooner. Why did I delay? There are several answers, but I’ll provide two: First, some of the evidence I had came from private sources and I could not share it without permission, despite the fact that it proved to be entirely correct. Second, I knew that efforts were being made to urge Achord to confess. In fact, I had a lengthy personal phone conversation with Achord late Saturday night (in the presence of a third party) during which I affirmed that I would do whatever I could to vindicate him if he was innocent, outlined the evidence, asked him questions, showed him ways he could demonstrate his innocence, and charged him again to confess if he was guilty. Yet I did not want to present any evidence publicly until he had had every opportunity to repent.
In summary, I was not guilty of slander (and, to his credit, Achord himself has never publicly accused anyone of slander). The claims I made –indirectly, by retweeting Roberts– were actually true and were supported by multiple lines of public evidence. Achord himself agreed with the Tweets I shared and he himself assumed it came from his own account. I had no knowledge of his racist Tweets until later in the day. At no point did I contact Achord’s school. At no point did I attempt to get him fired.
I hope this incident will prompt some serious, serious self-reflection. We must never make the pursuit of truth subservient to our tribal allegiances. We must never hold other people to standards that we ourselves ignore. Slander is indeed a grievous sin, which is why Prov. 18:17 is so crucial: “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” Let’s be slow to speak, slow to judge, and patient to wait for evidence. In addition, please pray for Achord. He has sinned grievously, but so have we all. I’m not convinced that he has truly recognized the depth of his sin, but let us pray that he does. Let us treat him as we would want to be treated, as people who have also been forgiven much by a Savior who is “full of grace and truth.”