This April, Tucker Carlson is coming to Chapel Hill to deliver the Park Lecture for the UNC School of Media and Journalism. The imminent arrival of the conservative contrarian has caused a bit of backlash, of course, given his prominence in the national dialogue and his often controversial guests, topics and what have you on his Fox News show, Tucker Carlson Tonight.
There’s certainly been much ado from these opinion pages. Just recently, an editorial ran which systematically picked apart the decision to bring Tucker Carlson, along with considering the flurry of conservatives brought to campus in the last few years. The crux of that editorial is, in fact, that Tucker Carlson is not a journalist. At this point, perhaps that’s true, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Maybe Carlson coming to town means that UNC students can experience the benefits of a good contrarian, or as James Carville said in a quote used to promote the event, “one of the world’s great contrarians.” We are surely just as guilty as any other cohort of society of tunneling into our own biases and catering our media diet to fill our partisan appetites. Perhaps a bit of intellectual jostling is good for the mind every now and then.
As regards Carlson being a journalist, he used to be. Before his shows, which spanned all the major news networks over his career, Carlson was a quite well-regarded journalist. He has written highly lauded pieces for Esquire in particular, and made the rounds in conservative publications like Policy Review and The Weekly Standard prior to his television career.
Carlson only became a true firebrand upon his ascension to the 8 p.m. time slot at Fox News, the spot left open by Bill O’Reilly. Though historically a Libertarian, Carlson’s show seemed to begin catering more toward the newly minted Trumpist demographic. He would refute that he is a sycophant, but his show seems like a reflexive defense of Trump.