Tucker Trades Up

01.11.2005 | Russ Smith | Media Affairs

What, exactly, is the problem left-wing commentators have with Tucker Carlson’s bow tie? It’s a sartorial affectation, not as grand but similar to Tom Wolfe’s white suits, and suggests nothing at all about his professional skills. Not all that different from nose or genital piercings, tattoos, baseball caps or, God rest his soul, Johnny Cash (saintly because of an elderly conversion to “progressivism”) wearing nothing but black clothes.

But according to Matt Taibbi, writing last week in New York Press, Carlson’s bow tie proves that he’s effeminate, a “smart-aleck closet case,” in his words, a guy who probably fights like a girl. Taibbi, on a roll here discussing Carlson’s departure from CNN to a primetime spot on MSNBC—a smart career move for the former Weekly Standard writer—also comes up, better late than never, with this profound conclusion: “Television has its own ideology. No matter who wins the fake debates, it always wins. It is always selling something: not just products, but a whole mountain of cultural assumptions and prejudices that make the population passive, submissive and amenable to buying.”

Welcome to the 1960s, Matt.

I’ve no idea whether Taibbi actually knows Carlson, but it’s doubtful after considering this ridiculous conjecture: “Carlson puts a soothing face on conservatism for educated East-coast progressives—because even the biggest neo-Marxist wanker from Brown takes one look at Carlson and sees the one man in America he would feel sure of being able to kick the shit out of in a back alley… In a bar fight, no 35-year-old man with a bow tie has friends.”

Yeah, and yo mama wears army boots. I do know Carlson, like him a lot not only for the hilarious stories he tells but for his keen intellect, and bow tie or not, I doubt any “wanker from Brown” would want to pick a fight with the tall, athletically built Carlson in a bar, protest march or the steps of a cathedral.

Carlson’s move from CNN (the station that fired him) to MSNBC is a huge trade-up for the middle-aged journalist, especially considering that his former station’s new president, Jonathan Klein, is clearly a moron. And I can say that judging solely by his public statements and not his wardrobe.

Klein, of course, is the guy who defended Dan Rather’s forged-documents smear of President Bush last September on 60 Minutes, alleging that some nefarious cover-up had taken place. Two days after the story aired, Klein told Fox News’ Tony Snow that Mary Mapes, producer of the segment, was a “peerless, crack journalist.” He then denigrated the bloggers who brought the CBS embarrassment to the mainstream media by saying, “You couldn’t have a starker contrast between the multiple layers of checks and balances [of CBS] and a guy sitting in his living room in his pajamas writing what he thinks.”

What prescience! At deadline, Klein hadn’t yet commented on Monday’s news that CBS has fired four people, including the “peerless” Mapes, for their role in the 60 Minutes hit job. CBS president Les Moonves, who’s been trying to cozy up to the White House, said, “We deeply regret the disservice this flawed 60 Minutes Wednesday report did to the American public, which has a right to count on CBS News for fairness and accuracy.”

Moonves wants ratings, naturally, and since the network nightly news broadcasts are of diminishing importance today, he ought to hire the unctuous Katie Couric away from NBC to replace Dan Rather in March.

Anyway, not only has Klein demonstrated a perhaps fatal misunderstanding of the enormous media shift that’s occurred right under his nose, but he then cited the idiotic Jon Stewart as the person who has his pulse on—to use an old media term—the “zeitgeist” of this generation. Klein praised Stewart for his criticism of Carlson’s former venue, Crossfire, saying to the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz (Jan. 6), “I think he made a good point about the noise level of these types of shows, which does nothing to illuminate the issues of the day…a bunch of guys screaming at each other simply doesn’t accomplish that.” In addition, Klein, clearly enjoying his moment of self-righteous stardom, told Associated Press tv writer David Bauder on Jan. 5: “I doubt that when the president sits down with his advisers they scream at him to bring him up to date on all of the issues. I don’t know why we don’t treat the audience with the same respect.”

Indeed. CNN needs to clone Aaron Brown.

CNN’s last remaining primetime draw, Larry King, doesn’t raise his voice, but his abominable suck-up fest with celebrities and politicians isn’t likely to be booted off the air, even if Stewart, in his new role of ombudsman-at-large for American media, in the future kicks him in the balls as well. Unlike Crossfire, which was banished to the afternoon last year, Larry King Live still draws advertisers.

Meanwhile, the New York Times, itself hopelessly behind the curve, congratulated Klein for the upcoming CNN makeover. In a Jan. 9 editorial, the Times praised Stewart for appearing on Crossfire last October and accusing Carlson and former Clinton aide Paul Begala of “partisan hackery.” Certainly Crossfire and similar shows—Hardball, The O’Reilly Factor, Hannity & Colmes, etc.—are by now tired and in need of a facelift themselves, but it’s typical the Times editorialist didn’t look at his or her own op-ed pages when speaking of “partisan hackery.” What are Paul Krugman, Maureen Dowd and Bob Herbert, if not partisan hacks?

More wisdom from the Times: “Jonathan Klein, president of CNN, announced last week that he was canceling ‘Crossfire’ and steering CNN back toward actual news. Maybe this could be the start of something big… [An attempt at humor, but who knows?] People tuning in to hear how the election was going might very well imagine they had clicked onto a pregame show for professional wrestling. Perhaps this trend has gone as far as it can go. Mr. Stewart’s ‘Daily Show,’ which is especially popular with young people, is a reminder that television was supposed to be a ‘cool’ medium, best suited to people whose jugular veins aren’t throbbing. And last month, when the tsunami hit Asia, viewers got a chance to notice what they were in danger of losing to talk TV. CNN, with a comparatively large international army of journalists at its disposal, went out and covered the story. Fox News and MSNBC had to depend more on conversationalists in the studio, all of whom agreed that tidal waves were very, very bad.”

One wonders if the Times’ new best friend, Jon Stewart, who is “especially popular with young people,” a species that as each year passes skips the Times and other daily newspapers in favor of the internet and South Park, will soon be invited to contribute a regular op-ed column on its pages.

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