Tucker Carlson, Class Traitor

Tucker Carlson, Class Traitor. By William McClay. A review of Tucker’s new book:

The book … evokes a bygone age, an era of magazine and newspaper journalism that seems golden in retrospect, and is now so completely gone that one must strain to imagine that it ever existed at all.

The simple fact is that almost none of these essays could be published today, certainly not in the same venues: They are full of language and imagery and a certain brisk cheerfulness toward their subject matter that could not possibly pass muster with the Twittering mob of humorless and ignorant moralists who dictate the editorial policies of today’s elite journalism. …

Carlson usually shows a certain fundamental affection for the people he writes about, even if he also ribs or mocks them in some ways. In particular, there is none of that ugly contempt for the “booboisie” and ordinary Americans that one finds, for example, in the pages of H. L. Mencken, and in a great deal of prestige journalism. Instead, he reserves his contempt for the well-heeled know-it-alls who genuinely deserve it. In that sense, the Carlson of these essays does not seem very different from the Carlson of today. He always has been a bit of a traitor to his class, and commendably so.

Tucker Carlson is indeed a figure of real significance in the culture of today’s journalism. But not for the reasons they think. They might get further in their ruminations if they were willing to entertain the thought that it is not Carlson, but their own industry, that has changed almost beyond recognition; and that he is a brave outlier standing against a smug profession that routinely confers plaudits and prizes on itself for demonstrably false reporting and naked political advocacy.

The introduction … is Carlson’s apologia for the book, and it is hard-hitting. He remarks upon the changed tone of journalism since the days when these essays were written.

In 1991, journalists were proud to be open-minded, and I was proud to become one. . . . Editors saw themselves as the guardians of free speech and unfettered inquiry. . . . Being despised was something you bragged about. It meant you were telling the truth.

He then goes on to describe a portion of the long slide alluded to in his title, concentrating on the descent of the book trade. He tells the story of Simon & Schuster’s rapid decline, beginning with its 2017 cancellation under pressure of a book deal with gay-conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos. The story culminates in an excruciatingly embarrassing dialogue between Carlson and two S&S executives who find themselves unable to explain the company’s decision to cancel Sen. Josh Hawley’s The Tyranny of Big Tech, while moving full steam ahead with Hunter Biden’s pseudo-book Beautiful Things — even as Biden was under active investigation by the Justice Department for his shady business dealings in China.

The only possible explanation for this asymmetry is that publishing today, like journalism, has become nakedly politicized. “It never occurred to me,” Carlson says, “that a story of mine might be killed, or rewritten into mush, because some executive thought I’d voted the wrong way. If small-minded partisans had been in charge, I never could have stayed in the business.” Now they are the ones in charge. “At this point, people with my opinions can’t [stay in the business]. They’ve been driven from traditional journalism.”

The modern partisan media hasn’t exactly improved the way society is run, has it? Well, maybe for a few. But really, does class warfare have any winners in the long run? Does civil war have any winners?