In the three weeks since its publication I've lost count of the number of legitimate journalists who have heaped praise on "The Mystery of Tucker Carlson" by Lyz Lenz for Columbia Journalism Review.
It is indeed a well written and thorough profile of the lil' guy's career. That said, its fundamental premise makes no sense.
To catch you up if you don't want to read a rather lengthy thing about Tucker Carlson, the argument is that a once "good" conservative pundit whose tone was Serious has turned into a shrieking, conspiracy-peddling white supremacist.
The first part of that argument is undermined by the fact that "good" conservative pundits – you know, the ones who can come on the shows without embarrassing everyone by braying like the Fox & Friends crew or Rush Limbaugh – are almost entirely a creation of the centrist media. Chuck Todd. Tim Russert. Chris Cillizza. You know, the Meet the Press types. They've been running out of Good conservatives lately, though. It's part of the reason they were so crushed when McCain died. There are very few Republicans they can bring on the show without ending up feeling bad about themselves.
So they anointed Carlson long ago as one of the Good ones on the basis of, I guess the fact that he wears a bowtie and has prep school manners. They did this with Jonah Goldberg too. But the thing is, both of them are actually very stupid people making much the same arguments – more politely and with bigger words – as Glenn Beck, Hannity, etc. Carlson is now and always has been a hack. He just played the George Will card; hacky arguments delivered through that leather-patches-on-elbows persona.
There is no doubt, though, that Carlson has gone off the deep end since he was hired by Fox News to replace O'Reilly in all but name. Rather than seeing this as a mystery, it underscores the more likely explanation: he is a grifter who will wear any metaphorical hat that enables him to cash in. When the non-Fox networks wanted George Will Jr., he dressed up like the biggest twerp on campus and got paid to do that. Now that times have changed – not to mention now that the juggernaut of right-wing media came calling – he's more than happy to change his tune.
Despite making a living off of what appear to be strongly held opinions, I'm convinced that most of these people will sing any song to any audience if it pays and elevates their profile. These aren't artists with an acoustic guitar and a story to tell; they're session musicians and frankly they don't give a shit what you ask them to play.