White men be fighting like this
Fox execs be panicking like that
The brouhaha surrounding a recently-disclosed text from erstwhile Fox host Tucker Carlson is fascinating to me. Part of it is the text itself — yes, the racist bit, we'll get to that, but also just the entire thing? All that punctuation! It's very boomer, and very weird, even before you start talking about how white men fight (or don't, as the case may be.)
It’s not how white men fight, though: what a ride. This one sentence, not actually even relevant to the thesis of the thing, has kicked off a truly remarkable cycle of self-congratulatory discourse that treats its revelation as some kind of bombshell, perhaps even a win for the left. To sum up: Tucker Carlson makes a nonsense racial generalization about the innate dignity and honor of white men, a.k.a. a thing he has been doing in far more incendiary terms on a national primetime television show, on a bimonthly basis (at least!) for the past however many years, and every talking head on CNN is like, Ladies and gentlemen, we got him. Do we? Do we got him? Because from here it looks more like he’s drawing energy from this scandal, like one of those comic-book villains who only gets stronger the more you attack.
But, yes, the racism question, or perhaps more of a comment: what I find interesting is not that this sentiment was racist. It's that it's racist in such a particular way, one which is in fact very popular in all the same enlightened spaces from which the Ladies and gentlemen we got him muttering is now emanating, but only as long as it's being expressed by the right person. I mean, tweak that sentence just slightly, so that it becomes an unflattering generalization about white men — or white women, perhaps? — and it would have been right at home in the New York Times Opinion section at any of several points within the past few years.
This is not to put these particular commentators on blast; the anti-white-women industrial complex is its own billion-dollar animal at this point, and everyone wants a piece. But it’s strange to see just how easily this kind of identitarian stereotyping (which I personally find really unsavory no matter which direction it's coming from) is either held up as either a brave and necessary expression of truth, or a smoking gun for the most despicable sort of virulent racism, depending entirely on whether the person doing it is on Team Us or Team Them.
Anyway, the New York Times very much wants us to believe that his white-men-fighting commentary is the real reason for Carlson’s firing, calling it a “text message sent by Tucker Carlson that set off a panic at the highest levels of Fox.” This, I do not believe. Five minutes ago, it was an article of faith amongst right-thinking journalists everywhere that Fox News, an evil, racist network, loved the guy precisely because he says stuff like this; at the very least it cannot have surprised them. Did these panicked execs somehow never watch their own top-performing primetime show?
A theory: if anything in the text scandalized the execs at Fox, it would be the part where he suggests that a member of antifa is also a human being deserving of compassion. Whether or not it would set off a panic, per se, it’s certainly off brand.
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