Column: Dartmouth’s ‘Righty Thing’ rears its ugly head again

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    FILE - In this March 2, 2017 file photo, Tucker Carlson, host of "Tucker Carlson Tonight," poses for photos in a Fox News Channel studio, in New York. Carlson, who on Monday's show addressed the story of his former top writer, Blake Neff, who resigned after CNN found he had written a series of controversial tweets under a pseudonym, has left for vacation. It fits a pattern at Fox, whose personalities tend to go away to cool off when the heat is on. Carlson's vacation is the sixth example in a little more than three years. A Fox representative confirmed Carlson's vacation was planned before the Neff story broke. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File) Richard Drew

For the Valley News
Published: 7/15/2020 10:10:16 PM
Modified: 7/15/2020 10:10:09 PM

Those people who believe elite eastern liberal colleges are hotbeds of, well, elite eastern liberal thinking? They’re wrong.

At Dartmouth College, for example, a “Righty Thing” has flourished for 40 years, birthing Dinesh D’Souza, Laura Ingraham and, most recently, Blake Neff, who was Tucker Carlson’s head writer before resigning in disgrace from the highly rated Fox News show.

This Righty Thing is called The Dartmouth Review, and Neff is one of its products.

Neff, Dartmouth Class of 2013, quit Carlson’s show after CNN exposed the breathtakingly racist, misogynist, xenophobic and LGBTQ-hating pieces he had posted for years in an online forum under the pseudonym Charles XII. According to a friend of mine, Jamesa Saoirse Brown (Tuck ’06), the celibate Swedish king Neff chose as his nom de hate is an “embarrassing symbol” of the country’s warmongering past who is currently “celebrated by Swedish Nazis.”

I’d only heard of Neff once before he was outed for his mouth-frothing, hatred-spewing posts. Where was that? Oh, right: He was profiled in the most recent print issue of the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine.

The magazine arrived in my mailbox last Thursday. As I flipped through its glossy pages — I read obits first, then my own class news, then the articles — I first learned about young, new conservative voices oozing from the Righty Thing.

In a section titled “Pursuits,” Blake Neff is profiled by Dartmouth Alumni Magazine staff writer Sarah Clark, ’11. “Neff has never applied to any job he’s landed,” is the first line of the article, which is headlined, “The Right Stuff: Former ‘Review’ Writer Settles in at Fox.” Apparently, everything in Neff’s professional life has been handed to him without his necessarily having to ask for it: He got an internship in Washington, D.C., then a fellowship, then got tapped for a job, then his writing “caught Carlson’s eye.” It sounded as if this made Neff proud; he was Chosen.

Yes, but.

Getting jobs without applying for them is, as Elizabeth Pike, ’88, now at the University of Colorado, Boulder, noted, the very definition of white male privilege. Is this the way positions of power should be accessed in the world today? That some good old boys — gentlemen of the old school, or Old College — who share the same views and know they “see eye to eye on most issues” hire one another without putting the chips off the old blocks through the pesky bother of going through job interviews or filling out applications?

Neff is quoted in the piece, all smug and wiggly, one imagines, as saying he and Tucker see eye to eye and “Anything (Carlson) is reading off the teleprompter, the first draft was written by me.” Neff was especially pleased that, in terms of national politics, “we do have the power to sway the conversation.”

There’s an illustration of Neff holding a Fox News placard and looking impish.

Look, I understand that alumni magazines have one purpose: They’re the Amway of academic life, selling an insider’s perspective to prospective students. They exist to reassure graduates, recent and ancient, of the continuing excellence, exclusivity and meaningfulness of their choice of school. (Oh, and, on the side, they also might encourage the giving of money; the encouragement of money-giving has a teensy bit to do with the publication of alumni magazines.)

And to be absolutely fair, the magazine ran the story before Neff was disgraced. But somebody also decided that Neff was a good example of the college’s success — that somebody who got every job he landed without having to apply for any of them is a model of what the Dartmouth experience epitomizes.

What happened after Neff’s resignation was made public, though, is particularly interesting: The article was removed from the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine website, immediately and without explanation. Digital silence. A blank wall. Seeking a link to the article, alumni were directed to a piece on, I believe, alternative energy.

Perhaps because the message on Neff’s Twitter page now says, “@blakeneff does not exist,” somebody at the magazine decided to go with that.

After calls, letters and messages across dozens of platforms — and after I posted a photograph of the whole text from my print edition because print does not disappear — the Neff article reappeared on the website. I think it took about a day.

There’s now a caveat posted on the website about the piece on Neff, about how he resigned from Fox News and how his views don’t represent anybody else’s.

But the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine’s editors made a mistake in obliterating, without comment and with deliberate non-transparency, what they’d published.

Only after loud, raucous, unladylike (as well as ungentlemanly) and diverse voices cry out in the wilderness will anything change.

Gina Barreca, Dartmouth ’79, is a board of trustees distinguished professor of English literature at the University of Connecticut and the author of 10 books. She can be reached at www.ginabarreca.com.




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