Alessandra Stanley doesn’t think much of Tucker Carlson’s new chat show on MSNBC, “The Situation with Tucker Carlson.”
She says it’s shallow, superficial, sarcastic, and has the effect of making Carlson seem dumber than he is. (In fact, he’s not dumb at all.)
“And he is surprisingly churlish,” Stanley writes. “He interviewed Lory Manning, a retired Navy captain, on whether military women should be allowed to work in combat zones and slapped down her reasoned arguments with schoolyard sarcasm, dismissing her position as, ‘Mutilation is a woman’s right.'”
Two points about this.
I barely know Carlson, but I’m not at all surprised by the churlish part, judging from my one real encounter with him. It was a few years ago, when I was the exec editor at George. Carlson had written a piece for us, I don’t remember what about, but it was fine. (My predecessor had assigned it.) But for some reason, the subject of George came up on Crossfire, and Carlson just trashed the magazine, saying how terrible it was.
A couple days later, I picked up the phone and called him. I said something like, Tucker, why’d you say such harsh things about the magazine? You seemed happy enough to cash our check.
I mentioned the specifics of what he’d said.
Carlson claimed that he hadn’t said that.
I mentioned that I had the transcript of the show in front of me.
He hemmed and hawed and backpedaled like mad, and said something about how sometimes on TV you say things you don’t mean.
I’m sure this is true. I’ve been on TV enough to know the pressure you feel to say things that are more pointed, more extreme, and less nuanced than your real beliefs. Still, I found the whole episode pretty unimpressive.
Here’s the second point: Carlson’s style of interrogationâthe smarminess, the easy put-down, the sneer, the sarcasm, the glibness, the eye-rollingâhas become typical of the vernacular of American conservatives in, say, the last ten years. (If you need any evidence, just look at some of the posters on this site.) Like that line, “mutilation is a woman’s right”âyou just want to groan and say, Tucker, why so immature? The woman’s trying to make a point.
Is it just possible that this style is wearing out its welcome?
It’s never been particularly enjoyable, of course. Listening to Rush Limbaugh or Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity is like eating at McDonald’s; it can taste good in the act, but afterward, you think, Why did I just do that? Yuch.
But more important, it seems particularly ill-suited to a time of great seriousness in American history. It’s more about scoring cheap debating points than about finding common ground or resolving problems, and it’s certainly not about actually listening to people who hold differing opinions.
During the Clinton administration, that approach led to transforming a stupid sexual piccadilloe into a constitutional crisis.
Now there’s a war onâa war started by conservativesâand the conservative debating style just seems defensive, anxious, and increasingly irrelevant.