During a recent episode of his hit Fox News show, Tucker Carlson Tonight, the titular host went on a rant about one of his competitors:
“Chris Hayes is what every man would be if feminists ever achieved absolute power in this country: apologetic, bespectacled, and deeply, deeply concerned about global warming and the patriarchal systems that cause it.”
This nasty little quote is a bite-sized sample of what Tucker serves up every night. It’s almost poetic how tidily he sums up his disdain for beta males, witches, and tree huggers in this particular taunt. The way he suggests feminists and environmentalists are in an unholy alliance with one another is an especially inspired bit of paranoid storytelling.
The best part of that quote, however, is when he makes fun of MSNBC host Chris Hayes for wearing glasses. You see, real men have perfect eyeballs. It’s risky for a man like Tucker Carlson, who dresses like a divorced dad who hangs out at the country club bar, to make fun of another man’s appearance. But these are the new playground rules, I suppose. So be it.
Tucker, of course, will not apologize for his invective. Men do not apologize. That would be a sign of weakness. Other signs of male weakness include introspection, individuality, and personal responsibility.
If you’re unfamiliar with Tucker Carlson Tonight, allow me to introduce you to a primetime news program specifically concerned with the declining fortunes of straight white men, a self-pitying ethnic minority who, somehow, own most of the property and wealth in this country. The show is 60 minutes of spittle-flecked bellyaching loyally sponsored by a religious pillow.
Tucker is a sort of faith healer for men who have panic attacks when they hear the word “feminism.” It is, sadly, ineffective as an anti-anxiety regimen. Every Monday through Friday at 8 p.m., three million viewers keep tuning in, uncured and frothing mad.
Imagine millions of red-blooded American men complaining to anyone who’ll listen that nothing is their fault — forever.
They watch Tucker scowl, scold, and complain about the melting pot. He hates the nerds and the nice guys, people of color who aren’t eternally grateful that they can, occasionally, vote. Most of all, he derides women — especially powerful women like Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, the superstar Congressional freshman who is, also, President of the United States in the parallel dimension where Fox News viewers live. He managed to call the 29-year-old a “moron” shortly after calling Hayes a four-eyed wimp.
Let’s return to his fussy jeremiad against Chris Hayes and feminism: I mean, what’s the worst that could happen if feminists got absolute power? A virulent outbreak of mass equality? Tucker’s trash talk is just a projection of his view of masculinity, which I reject because it’s a pathetic vision, really. Women are not to blame for a “decline” among men. I mean, I’m not in decline, my lower back notwithstanding. Some men just want to sit in a hole and feel sorry for themselves.
The topic of how to, and how not to, act like a man is boring. It’s the second most boring conversation one can have, right after “which is the best hot dog condiment: mustard or ketchup?” (I mean, the answer is clearly mustard, but I’m not a fanatic about it.) Apparently, however, it’s a conversation that has to happen, repeatedly, or an army of Tuckers will rise up, take to the streets, and bore us all to death.
I was taught by the men in my life — father and brothers, uncles and pastors, teachers and scout leaders — that a man never makes excuses.
A Marine once told me real men own their fuck-ups — and we were talking about his terrible tattoos. Sure, we were both drunk. But his point was solid. My dad taught me the same. He was a sort of amateur existentialist who taught me that as long as I took responsibility for my actions, I would be a good person (or, at least, not a bad person).
Tucker Carlson’s septic brand of masculinity denies men the right to apologize. A person who is robbed of this right is a person who cannot face uncomfortable truths, and that limits their human potential. A happy, healthy person defines their own success and is capable of loving their family and community fiercely.
In the words of the father in the classic (and highly problematic) ’80s movie Dirty Dancing, “When I’m wrong, I say I’m wrong.” And Tucker is wrong — about many things. He’s wrong about the threat feminism poses to masculinity. He’s also wrong about climate change.
Conservatives like Carlson deny, with petulant rage, that human industry is causing global warming. This is the logic of a spoiled prince who shrugs and says “I dunno” when asked who messed up his room — as if the room itself was at fault for the unmade bed, scattered toys, and clothes left in great tangles.
Of course, it’s the boy’s fault. He is responsible for his room.
Our planet is a mess, and humanity can only shrug and say “I dunno” when someone asks, “Who messed up the Earth?” We did, and only we can clean it up. We are responsible for the consequences of our actions and no quibbling, obfuscating fossil-fuel crony with scientific credentials can fully absolve us of our guilt. Anyway, we owe Mother Earth an apology (and amends).
If Tucker Carlson is allowed to define masculinity, then modern men are doomed to become like Tucker Carlson: delicate, furious, sodden with drama. Bitter jellyfish living a life free from consequence or meaning. Just imagine millions of red-blooded American men complaining to anyone who’ll listen that nothing is their fault — forever.
It breaks my heart how some people crawl inside their own wounds and hide.