The Idiocy of Tucker Carlson

BY HANK REICHMAN

Fox News’s Tucker Carlson once had a totally undeserved reputation as some sort of “thoughtful” and urbane conservative.  But check out the latest from this button-down bigot:

TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): If you’ve been awake at any point in the last 50 years, you know that American colleges are basically pretty liberal. But in the past five years or so, campuses seem to have been hit by a fever they haven’t experienced since the 1960s. Instead of focusing on professional skills or the sweet treats of scholarship, millions of students and professors have made far left politics their only reason for being at school.

The result is this: everybody gets a safe space except white men. They are hated and despised. What is this about, exactly? Scott Greer is the author of a new book that considers it, it’s called No Campus For White Men, and he joins us in the studio. Scott, thanks for coming on.

SCOTT GREER: Thanks for having me on, Tucker.

CARLSON: So the hysteria level is rising, that’s not my imagination. I went to college at one point. It wasn’t like this.

[…]

CARLSON: There’s so many ironies in all this, I guess the first one you sort of noted, everyone in college is privileged by definition. They’re not working for a living. They’re learning, which was considered a privilege for like a thousand years.

Before I get to my main point, let me quickly dispose of Carlson’s notion that “college is privileged by definition” by recalling a California State University study, which revealed that about one in ten of the CSU’s 460,000 students is homeless, and at least one in five doesn’t have steady access to enough food.  What privilege these kids have!  Moreover, as an article in Academe a few years ago pointed out, even before the Great Recession students were working more and probably learning less:

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2007 nearly half (45 percent) of “traditional” undergraduates—that is, students between the ages of sixteen and twenty-four attending college full time—worked while enrolled. About 80 percent of traditional-age undergraduates attending college part time worked while enrolled. The share of full-time, traditional-age undergraduates working fewer than twenty hours per week has declined during the past decade (to about 15 percent in 2007), while the number working between twenty and thirty-four hours per week has increased (to about 21 percent in 2007). Today nearly one in ten (8 percent) full-time, traditional-age undergraduates is employed at least thirty-five hours per week.

So much for the “many ironies in this.”

But the main outrage in this exchange is Carlson’s ridiculous contention that on campus “everybody gets a safe space except white men,” who are “hated and despised.”  Apparently Carlson is unaware of the major epidemic of sexual assault, rape,and harassment on college campuses, which on many campuses has female students, faculty, and staff of all ethnicities constantly in fear for their safety.  37cdb71700000578-3770282-brock_turner_21_has_been_released_from_jail_after_serving_three_-a-70_1472848982046According to Department of Justice statistics forcible sex crimes on college campuses increased by 77% between 2001 and 2012.  According to the National Sexual Assault Hotline, 11.2% of all students, undergraduate and graduate, experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.  Among undergraduate students, 23.1% of females and 5.4% of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.  Perhaps, in the Scottsboro tradition, Carlson thinks all the perpetrators are black males.  They’re not, of course.  See the fellow pictured on the left?  That’s a white male named Brock Turner, convicted of sexually assaulting a woman on the Stanford University campus.  Perhaps Turner foolishly thought the campus was a “safe space” for him to engage in such criminal behavior.  And it might have been, had he not been interrupted and apprehended by two white male foreign students who noticed what was going on and did the right thing.  (I wonder if President Trump will now endanger their visas.)

But it’s not just sex crimes.  Take, for instance, the unprecedented rise in hate crimes, many of them on college and university campuses, in the wake of Trump’s election.  Such incidents were already not uncommon even before the election.  For example, the AAUP’s report on the Melissa Click case at the University of Missouri noted how “in April 2015 a swastika and the word heil were drawn in what appeared to be charcoal on the wall of a residence hall stairway. . . .  Additional incidents followed in the fall, as African American students, faculty members, and staff members spoke publicly of a long-standing pattern of abuse, with one professor writing that in eighteen years at the university she had been ‘called the n-word too many times to count.'”  These and similar incidents elsewhere clearly threatened the safety of many students and faculty, but not principally white males, who have too often been the perpetrators.

As the AAUP national Council stated in November,

threats and harassment differ from expressions of ideas that some or even most may find repulsive. They intimidate and silence. The free exchange of ideas is incompatible with an atmosphere of fear. Colleges and universities must be places where all ideas and even prejudices may be freely and openly debated and discussed, but such discussion cannot happen when some members of the community are threatened or excluded. Our goal must be to provide safety for both ideas and for all those who wish to engage with them.

reichmanLet me make this more personal.  See the fellow on the right?  That’s me.  Although the picture is a few years old, it should be clear that I’m getting on in years, male and definitely white, although because I’m also Jewish Steve Bannon, Carlson, and company may believe that I should be denied the privileges of “whiteness.”  In my career I’ve studied and taught at numerous colleges and universities in four different states.  As an officer of the AAUP I have in recent years visited dozens of campuses, public and private, elite and open-access, across the country.  But on all these many campuses as a white male I have never failed to find a “safe space” — the entire campus!

Safety and safe spaces are clearly a major concern on college and university campuses, but only someone who willfully ignores reality could believe that the specific safety of white males — by which, of course, Carlson really means a small subset of obnoxiously conservative white males — is the main problem.

And then there is Carlson’s laughably ridiculous claim that “millions of students and professors have made far left politics their only reason for being at school.”  I don’t even know how to come up with data to demonstrate what an absurd fabrication this is, but just think about it.  Are we really to believe that “millions” of professors in, say business, engineering, or physics programs — or, for that matter, in the social sciences or humanities — are spending most of their time not on teaching and scholarship but on dissing and threatening those “hated and despised” white males?  Or are we to believe that “millions” of students, taking on escalating levels of debt to pay skyrocketing tuition bills and other expenses, are willfully wasting their money on mindless activism?  If the stereotyped images of the “tenured radical” professor and the unkempt and unstudious campus protester have any basis in reality, real-life exemplars are surely few and far between.

All this would be worth only a few laughs at the expense of the bumbling Carlson were it not for two things.  First, his endorsement of these extreme views may offer increased credibility to those well-meaning and more moderate voices who — mistakenly in my view — claim that the main threat to academic freedom comes from a largely student “left” and not from governmental assaults, right-wing harassers like the Professor Watchlist, and, most important, the creeping corporatization of higher education.  And, second, given the growing compartmentalization of media reception, there is the real possibility that Carlson’s audience will actually believe this utter nonsense.  Therefore, on the off-chance that some of that audience may encounter this post, I ask them to consider what their response would be were I to spout something like this:

If you’ve been awake at any point in the last 50 years, you know that American small towns and rural areas are basically pretty conservative. But in the past five years or so, these areas seem to have been hit by a fever they haven’t experienced since the 1920s. Instead of focusing on actual work or the sweet treats of rural hominess, millions of such people have made far right, racist, and misogyinist politics their only reason for living.

The result is this: The only people safe in those areas are white men. All others are hated and despised.  Mexicans and Muslims remain as quiet and out-of-sight as possible, for fear of those nativist vigilante posses carrying six-shooters on their hips at all times.  The frightened few Black people fear cross-burnings and even lynchings every day.  Anyone not a fundamentalist Christian is branded a “heathen.”  And women are compelled to leave school at an early age to become “homemakers,” tending after their increasingly ne’er-do-well husbands, who spend all their time getting rowdy drunk or shooting heroin.

I’m a lifelong city boy, but even I know that such a description would be worse than a caricature: it would be a bald-faced lie!  But so too is Carlson’s description of academia.  I certainly hope no one takes his nonsense seriously.

 

7 thoughts on “The Idiocy of Tucker Carlson

  1. I follow the American Conservative, and I assure you that some people over there passionately believe Carlson’s viewpoint. They keep a far closer eye on campus left goings-on than I do, and take them as evidence of how the students involved, and their allies, want to run the country. They see students attending high-class colleges as future rulers, and they see this future elite’s hostility to them, their interests, and their values in every article about campus unrest that hits the news.

    It is an eye-opener to read these discussions, and not just because I don’t get to hear such opinions in my social circle. Their blogs host some of the best-managed discussion sections I’ve seen, and a lot of liberals choose to do their political commenting over there.

    • I’m well aware that many believe this, including some otherwise intelligent people. But not only are elite schools not representative — there is no way that they even enroll the “millions” of students Carlson claims are devoting their time to far left politics — but insofar as their graduates do become the country’s future rulers, they are by and large far from leftists. Take, for instance, Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, who went to my own alma mater Columbia as an undergrad and Harvard for law school. Trump himself attended the most elite business school in the country, Penn’s Wharton School, about which he often brags. Bottom line: the Carlsonian conservative view of life in higher education has little to any basis in the reality of our complex college and university system.

      • I take your point, but to argue that the newsworthy things that happen on campus are not representative – ‘what you see isn’t what you get’ – strikes me as rather weak. It’s saying that people shouldn’t worry about our stands on cultural issues because we are so ineffective at transmitting them to students, at the same time that we want them to pay tuition because we will be so good at transmitting knowledge to their children.

        Also, a conservative concerned about culture war issues would argue that a lot of what they see in social justice movements on campus does leak out into the larger society, faster than we expect. How long were campus groups exercised about trans rights before Obama mandated bathroom choice in schools? How long did it take for ‘privilege’ and ‘intersectionality’ and ‘diversity’ to become the stuff of mandatory workshops?

        I think people who oppose the campus social justice agenda do have reason for concern. I support most of the goals, and I’m concerned – and as you point out in response to another comment, the AAUP has also been concerned about some of what’s been going on.

      • I think you are missing my point, or perhaps I didn’t express it well. I do not deny that some students and some academics say and do intolerant — often simply stupid — things. As you note, I’ve written about them. It would be amazing if that were not true in such a massive higher education system. My point is that such abuse is still overwhelmingly a “man bites dog” story; on the overwhelming majority of campuses and among the overwhelming majority of both students and faculty such cases are rare — “dog bites man,” and hence, according to the old adage, not news and not reported. It’s a matter of perspective. My argument is, therefore, not that we are “ineffective” but that we are, warts and all, overwhelmingly tolerant. And, I might add, that is actually the view of many conservative scholars who, unlike hucksters like Carlson and his guest, are actually on campus. See here: https://academeblog.org/2016/03/15/a-conservative-defense-of-academia/ and also here: https://academeblog.org/2016/04/14/another-conservative-defends-liberal-education/

        As for elements of the campus social justice movements “leaking out” into the broader society, my response is that I would certainly hope they do, just as I assume those conservative foundations investing in higher education think tanks hope their findings do as well. (See my commentary on some of these here: https://academeblog.org/2016/11/03/free-market-centers-academic-or-political/). That’s one reason we have colleges and universities. Who would want to pay for a public higher education system with no influence at all on public debate? Let’s face it, in American politics today “money talks” but, fortunately, so can the educated — and that holds for whatever perspective they hold.

        And I would add that whatever so-called “liberal bias” may exist on campus (but certainly not in business and law schools), actually, most often, this makes those very campuses more not less hospitable to contrarian, often quite conservative, views. Take for instance the execrable right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos. He has just completed a speaking tour of campuses. He was met everywhere, not surprisingly, with protest, but in most places he spoke. Where he was stopped by protests — e.g., at U.C. Berkeley — I was among the first to condemn the actions of those who denied his right to speak (https://academeblog.org/2017/02/09/two-wrongs-dont-make-a-right/). Still, overall, it is no accident that a right-wing huckster like Milo sought an audience on college and university campuses, which — abuses from extremists on all sides notwithstanding — still remain more open to diverse and controversial viewpoints than any other institution in American society.

        Academic freedom has been and will be assaulted from multiple directions, including from both “left” and “right” (terms that are often inadequate and simplistic at best). But the fact remains that the absurd arguments offered by Carlson and his guest completely distort from whence the overwhelming majority of assaults today arise.

  2. first its hard to reply without degrading the author. I’ll try. So you support men in general being denied due process. I also see that you lack critical thinking skills buy your comments on hate crimes. I assume the info came from CNN or the NYT. The irony is that you were part of the protests in the 60’s. But you are the establishment the status quo. Just face it your ideas have been rejected. Your side lost. Elections have consequences. I have been a democrat all my life. This year I voted straight Republican. I have never given money to a candidate… This year I gave to Trump. I will never vote for the socialist Dems again. I don’t embrace the Republicans. I support Trump……

    • Thank you for trying not to degrade me, but for many readers I fear most of your comment degrades only yourself. I’ll limit my reply to pointing out that your own “critical thinking skills” seem limited if your accusation that I somehow “support men in general being denied due process” is any example. Nowhere is this mentioned in my post. Had you investigated, however, you might have learned that defense of due process for those accused in sexual harassment cases was a major focus of the AAUP’s report, “The History, Uses, and Abuses of Title IX’ (https://www.aaup.org/report/history-uses-and-abuses-title-ix), which lists me as an author. Oh, and Brock Turner received due process: he was convicted and sentenced to what many considered to be a light prison sentence by a criminal court. But, please, enjoy your new political identity while you can, including your delusion that you will be immune from the consequences of this election. Best to you.

Your comments are welcome. They must be relevant to the topic at hand and must not contain advertisements, degrade others, or violate laws or considerations of privacy. We encourage the use of your real name, but do not prohibit pseudonyms as long as you don't impersonate a real person.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s