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. According 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.
Let 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.