Bubba is a radio shock jock in Tampa. And, Carlson, of course, is the Fox News anchor who used to wear bowties. Forever cursed with preppy looks, he is known these days for, shall we say, over-correcting. His aversion to political correctness has become so acute that he routinely says “mean” things that ostensibly hurt people’s feelings. His plainspoken ways have also made him a multi-multimillionaire who makes his Fox News predecessor and heretofore unrivaled smirking bully, Bill O’Reilly, seem boyishly pranky.
Apparently, Carlson hasn’t always been so charming. Between 2006 and 2011, he was a somewhat regular feature on Bubba’s show. Recently unearthed tapes, compliments of the dogged archaeologists at Media Matters, reveal that Carlson was shockingly jock-ish in some of his musings, causing the mind-minders to dust off their high dudgeon.
They say: Carlson is an anti-Muslim Iraqi-phobe, a misogynist and, you know, a white guy. (P.S.: Carlson is a professional acquaintance but not a dear friend, though I’ve bought jewelry from his sister-in-law. We also share a close mutual friend, who shall remain anonymous, as he prefers, primarily so that he can fish more. Finally, I never watch Carlson’s show because he infuriates me. Oddly, now that everyone seems to be mad at him, I’m coming around to liking him again.)
Let me explain. First, what Carlson said on Bubba’s show about Iraq was abominable. Perhaps in the spirit of shock, he said several remarkably offensive things, such as that he had “zero sympathy” for the Iraqi people because they “don’t use toilet paper or forks.” He also said that Iraq was populated by “semiliterate primitive monkeys” and, thus, not worth invading.
In other taped ruminations, Carlson also said that women are “extremely primitive” and “basic,” and “not that hard to understand,” which earned him the title of misogynist. I know Carlson well enough to know that this is ridiculous. In a tweet, Carlson described these remarks as merely “naughty” — and I am inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt that he at least wasn’t being completely serious. He’s a traditional, country-club Republican guy who knows and practices the gentlemanly arts (when it suits him). Besides, who would disagree if he had said instead that men are primitive? (Deafening applause.) Basic? Hard to understand? Puh-leez. My guide to men is a one-pager titled “Sex and Supper.”
To clarify, these observations don’t mean that I, in any way, agree with Carlson’s offensive quips — or that I don’t think his words are often over the top — but Fox News didn’t hire him for his righteous platitudes. He knows his audience and feeds them all the red meat they can stomach. As for Bubba, bless his heart, shock radio is what it is. I don’t listen to it; I don’t like it; I find it as boring as I would eavesdropping on a men’s locker room. I do, however, listen to a lot of comedy and suspect many “Bubba the Love Sponge” listeners felt that Carlson was merely joking in a guy-taining way.
What I do agree with, however, is that neither Carlson nor anyone should instinctively bow to the mob, as he said in a retort to demands that Fox News fire their most popular anchor. Let them rage their furies, but once we allow a self-selected subset of American liberalism to become arbiters of what constitutes acceptable thought, then we are, indeed, on the road to purgatory. I figure it’s always better to let Vile and Invective exercise themselves by the light of day rather than push them into the dark down-under, there to fester and grow ever more foul.
Such high principle is, obviously, problematic at a time when rhetoric has tended toward the incendiary, pitting American against American. It would be a far better world if speaking every thought weren’t rewarded and if the gentlemanly arts were extended to the spoken and written word. But when it comes to free thought and expression, the remedies are always worse than the original offense.