Recently, I refered to Tucker Carlson, someone I was blissfully unaware of until the incident in question, as a prime example of the “new” face of racism. It turns out Carlson is also the “old” face of homophobia.
While being interviewed about sex in public places, among other things, Carlson said he had been solicited far too often in men’s bathrooms. When asked what he did about it, Carlson admitted to getting some friends together and going back in the bathroom “to teach the guys a lesson.” Despite essentially admitting to instigating and participating in a gay bashing, Carlson was never questioned about his statement nor did MSNBC choose to air this part of the segment, releasing it only after someone leaked the information to the rest of the press.
Whether Carlson was joking or did in fact go beat up a man in the bathroom for propositioning him was unclear at the time of the interview. Either way his statements support a prevailing sentiment that it is ok to beat people up because of their sexual orientation and or sexual practices. Heterosexual men can solicit sex from women on the street, at social events, in the library, on public transportation, etc. and can do so in lewd and demeaning ways that far outmatch the general rule of caution taken in public bathrooms by gay men without concern or sanction. (Yes there are sexual harassment rules but try applying that to a construction worker and see how far you get.) Worse, his comments were made in an era of “he tried to pick me up” defense where the anti-justice justice movement argues that the straight male who beats up or kills a gay male is the victim because he has been driven temproarily insane by the gay man’s proposition that threatens his sexual identity and his cohesive self.
As always, the other aspect of this case is the silence. The station and the interviewer chose not to air the segment but neither questioned Carlson’s assertion for validity or for depending on a notion of “acceptable violence.” In assuming he was joking, they failed to assess whether a real crime had been committed nor to hold him accountable for either committing that crime or implying committing such a crime was justifiable.
Carlson later responded to being called a homophobe by insuring his new version of the story made him the victim. In the new version, Carlson was a teen and the gay man an adult. The man physically approached Carlson, grabbing him by the shoulders. After Carlson got help from an older friend to confront the man, they found him “waiting to do it to someone else” and beat him up.
In this version of the story, Carlson once again relies on homophobia exempt him from responsibility for using violence. The story changes from two men using the bathroom to one of a child predator loitering in the bathrooms, depending, of course, on the myth that gay men are all child predators. Carlson’s gay bashing is recast as vigilantee justice, again relying on the belief that gay advances are deplorable in their own right and that physical violence is the appropriate response.
Even in a world where this man was a predator, which I do not believe he was given that this very important piece was left out of the jovial toned interview, how does Carlson’s beat down help anyone? Carlson, a white male teen, did not go to the police who would surely have protected him (and did in the new version of the story, when they enter the bathroom to find gay man in shambles, Carlson fine, and arrest the gay man) but goes to get his friends for a beat down. In so doing, he not only takes the law into his own hands but also fails to protect any other youth he claims to be so concerned about, as his actions would not lead to this supposed perpetrator being caught, arrested, or known to the police but rather make him change bathrooms or become more secretive about his sexual predatory behavior.
If, as I believe, this story is a complete fallacy, designed to once again posit white heterosexual violence as jutified in the face of difference, Carlson has simply exchanged one homophobic thesis for another. In the original story, he assumed he would be supported in his actions based on the idea that gay people chatting you up are icky and therefore deserve violent reprisal. In the second version, he relies on the gay=child predator myth to justify his violence and worse claims bloggers who were calling him and MSNBC out for the interview are the real criminals for demeaning both SA survivors and survivors of gay bashings. What were those steps I outlined for the anti-justice justice movement again? . . .
What is very clear is that the incident did occur and Carlson did get away with beating someone up on the basis of sexual preference and bragging about it on national television.
In this era of increased hate crimes and decreased hate crime legislation and investigation, I think we have to be vigilant about the unexamined assumptions and behaviors that dominate our shared public lives. When tv personalities are allowed to engage in hate crimes unchecked or to propogate oppression based theories unexamined we send a message to the world that violence and hatred are normal and accepted ways to solve dominant culture’s discomfort with difference.
- And now, like Don Imus, who I had blissfully never heard of before his controversy, I lay Tucker Carlson to rest – he will not appear in this blog’s theorizing again. Unless of course he does something so heinous I cannot help myself.
- you can find a transcript of the interview and his rebuttal to activists at Media Matters