Fox News star Tucker Carlson is the right’s avatar of grievance, the conductor of its orchestral whine about America’s tumble into cultural decadence, its principal hero in a fairy-tale battle against the dark magic of the Very Woke. There has been talk about him running for president, but that would be a demotion from where he is now, widely recognized as “the most powerful conservative in America.”
Unlike Carlson's other phobias, I think this one is rooted in reality.
Unlike Carlson's other phobias, I think this one is rooted in reality. Critical race theory remains an opaque legal philosophy and not an instruction manual for K-12 students; immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than those born here; and vaccine mandates save lives. But women with agency? We threaten his whole world.
Just a few days ago, Carlson admitted it plainly: “In my mind, the archetype of the person that I don’t like is a 38-year-old female white lawyer with a barren personal life.” (Gosh, I wonder how that word “barren” got in there.)
The commentator similarly speculated that the Highland Park shooter wasn’t an exceptional case of extremism but rather the product of a cultural moment: “A lot of young men in America … suddenly look and act a lot like this guy” because “they know that their lives will not be better than [those of] their parents” even as “the authorities in their lives — mostly women — never [stop] lecturing them about their so-called privilege.”
He also threw in a swipe at “government-endorsed weed” and “endless psychotropic drugs,” thus batting about .500 in the conservative conspiracy theory ball game. (He didn’t blame trans people for anything, though, and he didn’t mention vaccines. Better luck next time, Tucker.)
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Some have chosen to pick apart Carlson’s hypothesis from a factual perspective. For instance: We really don’t know that much yet about the suspect’s motivations. This type of misogynist speculation certainly won’t help understand what they might be. Then there’s the dubious assertion that young men in general are being constantly harangued about their privilege. It may be a much bigger part of the cultural conversation now, but it’s easily escapable. Might I suggest Fox News?
History and a whole library of research show that civil rights gains for women end up making seismic changes in society.
There’s a much simpler motivation at play here. “Feminists did it” is a fantasy scenario clearly intended to explain this type of violence without having to actually acknowledge or even debate Americans’ incredibly easy access to guns. But look at the deep truth in Carlson’s vision: Women with authority are increasingly unafraid to use their power. And yes, that can disrupt the lives of men. It can also help men and improve their lives. A more equitable society is not inherently bad for the male species. Just ask men enjoying the benefits of robust parental leave, to take just one very easy example.
History and a whole library of research show that civil rights gains for women end up making seismic changes in society. Women getting the vote has been connected to the growth of government social programs and a rise in women’s wages. Suffrage leaders went on to agitate for access to birth control. And that was a revolution so profound that its effects are still being studied. Certainly, women’s progress has led to discomfort for a subset of men: They now compete with women for jobs, women are choosier about whom they marry (if they marry at all), more women than men get college degrees. You have to watch what kind of jokes you make, and it’s not cool to catcall. Sometimes, there are consequences for sexual misconduct.
But ultimately, women having control over their own bodies does shift the power paradigm. And that’s what scares Tucker Carlson — and people like him.
When Carlson admitted that his chief foe was a 30-something single woman with a post-graduate degree, he was doing a tele-interview from what looked like the inside of a closet. Coincidentally, that’s where scared little boys everywhere tend to go.