Privilege, Racism, Misogyny, and Fun in The Ivy League: 2020

How did somebody like Blake Neff shape the world for FOX? Duh. Dartmouth, bro.

Posted Jul 13, 2020

When an article about Tucker Carlson’s now-disgraced former head writer appeared in our alumni magazine last week and opened with the line, “[Blake] Neff has never applied to any job he’s landed,” I recognized the epitome of privilege’s often unseen architecture. 

The cute opening revealed the deep and messy trenches between public and private education in America.

For those in need of a handy definition of privilege, here it is: “Someone who’s never had to apply for any job he’s ever landed.”   

You’re welcome.

Elizabeth Pike came up with that adaptation. She and I both graduated from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire about 10 years apart. She’s now an advisor at U.C. Boulder. I’ve taught for 33 years at UCONN. 

Elizabeth Pike wasn't the only one to see the same thing I did. Hundreds of other alumni responded the same way.

The line segued into a brief history of Neff’s career, in which everything appeared to have been handed to him without his necessarily having to ask for it: he got an internship in D.C., then a fellowship, then got tapped for a job, then his writing “caught Carlson’s eye.”

But securing positions of influence and prestige in the professional world without applying for them is exactly what privilege offers. If you’re one of them, of course, and only then.

That’s the catch. It’s always been the catch.

It’s how gentlemen do it. Privilege. Private. Gated professional communities and here’s the code, pal.

If you’re going to find those who share the same view of the world as you, especially if that view is misogynist, racist, white nationalist, and homophobic—as Neff’s was—a guy needs to figure out how to ferret out those he can trust.

It's precisely because of privilege that those who “see eye to eye on most issues” can hire one another without the pesky bother of doing job searches or applications.

Neff, since graduating from Dartmouth in 2013, seems to have been bundled up and carried from job to job, like a treasure. Or like a body somebody's trying to smuggle someplace.

Neff’s insiders needn’t bother with H.R.; they don’t wait for jobs to be posted; they refer to “diversity hires” by terms which, with luck, will remain unprintable. Someone makes a call on his behalf; he makes calls; someone makes contacts; understandings are created; contracts appear.

But this happens exclusively when complex systems of privilege, probably including winks and nods, are implicitly understood.

In the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine piece, Neff boasts that he and Tucker see eye to eye, and that “Anything [Carlson] is reading off the teleprompter, the first draft was written by me.”    

My bet is that Carlson got Blake into Fox News as deftly as Trump got Melania U.S. citizenship.   

(Students at public universities can’t rely on secret-handshakes when it comes to their futures. They not only get a degree; they get an education. Then they must prove their skills, creativity and brilliance every day. Also, they have to pay off loans.)  

Tucker Carlson (renamed by John Oliver as “The Human Squash Court") was forced By FOX Corp. to have his head writer fired NOT because of what Blake Neff wrote for the Fox teleprompter-- but because Blake Neff was outed by CNN as his Own Other Secret self. Neff's Other Self, his Mirror Self, as Jung might put it, is a bold, gleefully woman-hating, Asian-hating, Black-hating man who said things in print Neff couldn’t make even Tucker Carlson say on air.

Under the pseudonym Charles XII, Neff had for years been writing truly breathtakingly racist, misogynist, xenophobic, and LGBTQ-hating pieces online. He went out of his way to make Klan-affiliated INCELs look bad.

But who would bother to check on such things, given that Neff was already cozily ensconced within the compound of a major news corporation? Under the aegis Tucker Carlson, of one of cable news’s most influenced figures, a commentator lauded by the American president, Neff's “shadow self” went unremarked. 

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

At Dartmouth College, conservatism has flourished for 40 years, birthing Dinesh D'Souza, Laura Ingraham, and most recently Blake Neff. Similar swamps exist at other so-called elite colleges and universities. There are marshy ponds at prep-schools, too, making them difficult to navigate for uninitiated students. You know, scholarship kids. Kids there to enrich the diversity of the student body. Folks who don't look like Tucker Carlson, or wish they did.

Creatures spawned in such tepid yet poisonous environments are viral media super-spreaders of every lousy notion passed off as “tradition”: they celebrate a sentimentalized glorious past where straight white Christian men never had to address anyone unlike them except to ask for a whiskey on the rocks, pronto. That's just for example. 

Privilege is a con. It’s nothing but a bundle of cheats, lies, myths, inherited money, and pious conveniences dressed up in boating togs, proud of its leather backgammon set.

It should be gone with the wind but it’s still Mount Rushmore.  

I’m glad CNN revealed Neff’s secret life as a weird woman-hating, warmongering, celibate king. No doubt Carlson’s on-air response, whoever writes it for him, will be a call to arms.  

And no doubt Blake Neff will find someone else’s eye to catch. He won’t look for jobs, exactly, but he’ll put out feelers. Conservatism will get him on the line. Then it'll get him off the hook.  

Until outsiders start to mess with the system of privilege by calling it out, breaking into it, and remaking the way it works, nothing will change.  

It’s tough job but it’s invigorating. You don’t have to apply for it, either. Just start.