A confession: When Obama nominated Jim Yong Kim to manage the World Bank, we immediately hopped over to Dartmouth’s popular gossip sheet, Dartblog.com. If you’re not familiar with Dartblog (if not, you probably don’t go to Dartmouth, but that’s okay), it’s difficult to properly describe. It’s peerless* not just in the Ivy League, but in all of higher education. It’s as if IvyGate were to start taking itself seriously—like, really, really seriously—and then focus entirely on one school. It’s vindictive, petty, and somehow earnest, but sucked dry of anything resembling fun or humor or self-awareness. It’s an ongoing reality show that we can’t peel our eyes away from.
The star of this show is Dartblog’s only regular writer: Joe Asch ’79. We’ve written enough about Asch in the past, but if you’re not acquainted with him, just go over to the website, and you’ll get a feel for his grudges. Which is crucial, because Dartblog consists almost entirely of Asch’s grudges. That’s why we hurried to refresh Dartblog after we heard word of Kim’s nomination: Asch hates—hates, hates, hates, hates, hates, hates, hates—Jim Yong Kim. He hates him so much that when Politico announced Kim’s nomination, Asch sincerely believed it was a hoax. You could almost taste his disgust—the effect was that potent.
Other things Asch hates include: Dartmouth’s administration, Dartmouth’s hourly workers, and—incredibly—The Dartmouth.* Whatever the subject, it’s Asch’s signature contempt—unmitigated, unmeasured—that makes Dartblog so entertaining to read.
But two of Dartblog’s recent emissions are beginning to worry us—and they should worry you, too.
In this morning’s first Dartblog post, Asch publishes an email he received from a Dartmouth staffer, which email of course contains every possible suggestion of the douche-baggery and self-importance indigenous to the Ivy League’s daily papers. In this missive, we find the D’s executive editor reminding the paper’s opinion columnists not to talk to reporters. With this email Asch declares:
It is becoming ever more obvious that the College’s paper of record is little more than an extension of the Office of Public Affairs. How sad.
Several months ago, The D’s staff was told not to read Dartblog, nor to speak to nor respond to communications from your humble servant. As I said, quite curious.
As noted above, this is Asch’s method. It’s really entertaining, honestly! The august “It is becoming ever more…”; the faux-meek “How sad”; the reference to the paper’s staff being passively told (by whom?) not to read Dartblog—all of these tiny details color in the fundamental appeal of Joe Asch. He’s the guy who dares to take things seriously—or pretends to.
Now take a look at Asch’s next immediate post, which consists of this text and a comic lifted from The Dartmouth’s website:
While The D’s news reporting glides over the sour campus mood at President Kim’s opportunistic departure, student columnists Don Casler and Peter Blair, and talented cartoonist Steve Elliott (below), don’t hesitate to criticize Jim Kim’s weak tenure as the College’s leader and the unseemliness of his hasty exit.
Here’s where things break down: the last post—to which “While the D’s…” refers—did not concern news reporting. The email it contained was addressed to the paper’s opinion writers. Bear in the mind that Asch is making consecutive remarks which openly contradict each other on several levels. First, he calls The Dartmouth the lap-dog of the College’s administration, and then—a breath later—claims that only the paper’s news reporters deserve such a remark. That doesn’t make sense. First, the leaked email concerns “columnists who express an opinion” and then—later—it also applies to “news reporting.” No and no. No!
None of that makes sense. At the same time, it’s obvious why Asch permits himself such liberty. There’s really no use in giving Jim Yong Kim a single inch. The entire conceit of Dartblog is that its author cannot be so rational as to consider a side other than his own. This was vividly demonstrated when Asch became the champion of a coke-snorting, witness-intimidating, chair-hurling 9/11 truther named Andrew Lohse. Lohse’s famous column made Kim look bad, so Asch liked him—really, really liked him—to the point of embarrassment.
Which was fine, in fact; Lohse’s apprenticeship made sense. Asch was being consistent. But we want to know: should we or should we not hate The Dartmouth? It’s not so clear. What about the various members of Dartmouth’s administration? Same thing: Who, exactly, should we scoff at? Who knows? Because if Asch can’t quite decide, how will we?