Friday, December 23, 2011

'Tis the Season . . . for the "Thugniggaintellectual"

The lacrosse case unintentionally exposed the extent to which shoddy thinking passes for insight in the contemporary academy. Dozens of professors at one of the nation’s finest universities rushed to judgment based on highly incomplete information—and then when evidence emerged that contradicted their preconceived biases, they resolutely clung to their original opinions.

Such behavior had to raise questions about whether Group members—who, after all, represent the dominant pedagogical approaches in most humanities and social sciences departments—also poorly evaluated evidence in their own scholarship. Addressing that question was a central theme of the blog’s series of Group profiles.

Yet a closer look at what passes for scholarship among the Group also revealed some zany (to borrow an adjective from the current presidential campaign) assertions—such as Grant Farred’s claim that former Houston Rockets center Yao Ming represented “the most profound threat to American empire.”

A recent blog post ("'Santa Claus Is Coming to Town': Some Thoughts on Christmas and State Surveillance") from the self-described “thugniggaintellectual,” Group member Mark Anthony Neal, reached Farred-ian levels. Indeed, as one correspondent noted, it read as if it were intended as a caricature of the most ridiculous type of academic discourse.

The post opened with a warm holiday scene—the Neal family getting into the holiday spirit by listening to “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” (The Temptations’ version, of course, given that in the Group member's “youthful nationalist days, it was easy to reject the idea that some ‘fat white man’ would be honored for providing gifts that hardworking black women and men, like my parents sacrificed to provide for their families.”) And as this happy scene proceeded, Neal’s daughter tossed in a comment: “Santa sounds like a stalker.”

This . . . insight . . . prompted Neal to pause and reflect on “the more troubling aspects of Santa Claus.” He ultimately concluded that his “daughter was on to something. Every holiday season millions of American embrace a seemingly innocuous symbol, that is in truth a powerful reminder of the reality of State surveillance in everyday life.”

Santa as a latter-day J. Edgar Hoover, all courtesy of a professor's child! Who knew?

It also seems that parents who invoke Santa in a desperate attempt to get their kids to behave need to turn in their ACLU cards—for, as Neal explained, “Santa Claus is but a user friendly symbol of the State’s capacity not only to engage in blatant forms of surveillance, but to essentially police behavior in the absence of actual surveillance . . . How many parents have exploited their children’s knowledge that Santa ‘knows when you are bad or good’ as a means of reigning in bad behavior.”

Neal then proceeded to more flights of fancy, moving on from surveillance to a critique of Santa-themed Christmas TV shows, which “portray Santa Claus as a benevolent patriarch. Benevolent, that is, as long as children (and presumably adults) adhere to some State sanctioned notion of normal and legal behavior.”

The “thugniggaintellectual” provided his own unique brand of insight into Santa’s “disruptive outlaw figures.” BurgermeisterMeisterburger in Santa Claus is Coming to Town, according to Neal, “reproduced anxieties” not about Nazism (don’t be fooled by the German-sounding name) but instead “about Soviet-styled Communism.” As usual with the Group, why let evidence get in the way of a good argument, in this case proving American society’s reflexive anti-leftism? Or take two of my favorites—the Miser Brothers of The Year Without a Santa Claus. In Neal’s reality, they “are used to gently chide the kinds of male flamboyance often associated with homosexuality(!!).”

Neal’s post concluded by meandering from his reflections on Santa to commentary about the “State sanctioned assassinations of Black Panther Party leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark.” Of course.

It’s easy, and wholly understandable, to laugh at this type of drivel. But it’s worth recalling Neal’s valued place within Duke. Indeed, the revelation of the “thugniggaintellectual” moniker came from Duke's public relations office itself; Duke Magazine published an interview with Neal in which he asserted that “my intellectual alter ego is thugniggaintellectual—one word . . .I wanted to embody this figure that comes into intellectual spaces like a thug, who literally is fearful and menacing. I wanted to use this idea of this intellectual persona to do some real kind of ‘gangster’ scholarship, if you will. All right, just hard, hard-core intellectual thuggery.”

Those remarks appeared in print just after the dean of students, in a public forum on the university’s response to the lacrosse case, worried that Duke students had created a "culture of crassness.” No worries about how a professor who said that he engaged in “hard-core intellectual thuggery” contributed to a “crassness” of discourse on campus.

But why bother confronting the hypocrisy of the academic powers-that-be when we can speculate on Heat Miser's sexual orientation?

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great update on Group members intellectual progress. Merry Christmas to KC-- thank you for everything you have done as a desperately-needed voice of sanity for Durham.

skwilli said...

I suppose I should be happy that Mr. Neal's opinions both confuse and scare me. I'm mostly confused as to how the word "intellectual" can be inserted into any sentence already containing "Mark Anthony Neal"??

Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas to all.

In case any of you wondered whether KC slipped in transcribing, he did not.

The "thugniggaintellectual" really does not know the difference between "reigning in" a country and "reining in" a horse. The faculty at Duke is obviously semi-literate.

JeffM

Mark Anthony Neal said...

Recent? The post is from two years ago, but thanks for bringing traffic to my site. :) Also, glad to see you've made it to Twitter.

KC Johnson said...

Always good to hear from the "thugniggaintellectual." And I "made it to Twitter" around a year ago.

Lois Turner said...

The spelling used in the printed interview is actually "thugniggerintellectual." Perhaps the man himself could tell us which is correct. I've likewise often wondered about the difference between "gangster" and "gangsta."

Anonymous said...

I don't know how long ago it was or who the comedian was, but years ago I remember a sketch on tv involving the reading of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." Maybe it was Robert Klein, but I am probably wrong. The lyrics were read as written, but the speaker used a sinister German accent and emphasized phrases like "you'd better not shout." The implication was that Nazi stormtroopers would be hunting persons down who "pouted" or "shouted." The sketch drew uncomfortable laughs. It sounds like Mr. Neal may have had a previous inspiration for his holiday musings. (I also seriously doubt that his daughter made the "stalker" comment with no prompting) JLW in Ohio

Anonymous said...

I am still processing "thugniggaintellectual." I get the "thugnigga" part but it doesn't seem to weave together nicely with "intellectual." Could we go with something a little more coherent, perhaps? Maybe "criminalafricanamericansmartass?" Well, maybe that won't work either-- let's brainstorm this.

I was also trying to see what cool moniker I can come up with for myself. I thought maybe "Sweetcrackaretard." What do you think?

Happy Kwanzaa to all from Durham, North Carolina.

Jim In San Diego said...

What in the world is the definition of "intellectual thuggery"?

Mr. Neal seems to be proud of his intellectual thuggery. The ordinary meanings of the two words would seem be be a contradiction in terms - "intellectual"? - "thuggery"?.

Incidentally, interesting to see Mr. Neal monitoring DiW. So are a lot of others. Keep up the good work.

Jim Peterson

Anonymous said...

He thinks Santa Claus is scary. He should check out Elf on A Shelf. He reports to Santa every night.
My granddaughter believed. She straightened out her act when the Elf was mentioned.
Yes, indeed.
Santa's practically a member of the ACLU compared to Elf on A Shelf.

Anonymous said...

As a pesrson of color, I HATE the word nigger or any derivative of it.........especially when spoken or written by people of my race who think they somehow own the word and can use it in a kind of insider fashion. Thugnigger, no matter who speaks or writes these words, no matter, coupled with brain or felon, makes me sick. This guy is a disgrace to those of us who believe in genuine scholarship, refusal to play the victim, and deep love of our heritage. You'd think he would at least proof read his work since most folks know spellcheck can reign,rein or rain on us!
What a clown.

Anonymous said...

I have to commend the Duke professor as I found his work to be at least as educational as a Beach Boys Christmas Song, even the one that ends with the fat Beach Boy singing "Christmas comes this time each year" over and over. That's a standard of factuousness and accuracy that, heretofore, I thought unattainable by any member of the Gang of 88! (If only the rest were so factuous.). Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and an Eventfull yet Fun New Year to All! MOO! Gregory

mikelau said...

You just cannot make this stuff up.

I imagine that most readers find the words and actions of the "thugniggaintellectual" far more troubling than the concept of Santa Clause.

Anonymous said...

Hard to believe parents pay $50K+ to get an education for their offspring from people so bereft of any intellectual capacity. What a total waste of money. Hard to believe teachers like this can get tenure. Sad.

Anonymous said...

That's $50K+/yr.

Anonymous said...

Could we pitch in and buy this bozo a thesaurus? It might save some head-scratching over the subtle differences between "fearful" and "fearsome". Perhaps his all-seeing and all-knowing thugdaughtaintellectual can get him straightened out with the help of Roget.