Fear of a Black Planet (or Any Other Non-white Color)
Both Piers Morgan and Tucker Carlson's vindictive behavior are a master class in straight white fright.
As the media obsessed over Harry and Meghan’s Oprah interview, many interrupted their dissection of the “royal dis heard ‘round the world” to revel in the schadenfreude of another Piers Morgan screwup.
Morgan stormed off the set of the show he co-hosts, Good Morning Britain (GMB), after being tactfully, yet forcefully confronted by the show’s dashing weatherman, Alex Beresford, over Morgan’s insistent, irrational, and often unethical attacks on Ms. Markle.
Full disclosure, I’m not a fan of the royals or royalty in general; still, I admire Queen Elizabeth II. Maybe it’s her longevity. Or how she chaperoned the United Kingdom out of the wreckage of post-War Europe just to watch its empire slip away as the then-Soviet Union and the United States carved up the Cold War world.
As the Empire collapsed, Elizabeth remained steadfast, acutely aware of her duty to remain regal—and at times enigmatic and Sphinx-like—as one of the greatest empires since Rome was reduced to a novelty tourist spot dangling off the coast of Europe.
But if the Queen—and by extension, the Royal Family—is the living throughline of British history, a fossil of a faded grandeur trapped in amber, Piers Morgan is a more Quixotic figure; an oddly overly self-assured caricature of the British public schoolboy confident in his knowledge that the Empire still exists and he, and only those like him, can reconquer the world for Queen and Country.
You know, a pompous jerk.
Brothers in Arms (Minus the Actual Military Experience)
Morgan’s professional behavior would have killed the careers of lesser mortals, as Business Insider so neatly summarized, “(Morgan) is the most famous figure in British media and yet behind him is a trail of scandals and screw-ups stretching back 25 years. He has been ignominiously fired, censured by regulators, investigated by government authorities, rebuked by a judge, and questioned by police.”
A day after Morgan turned on his heel and stormed off the GMB set like some latter-day Norma Desmond, it was announced he would no longer be co-hosting the show, that he had “resigned”. Morgan later said he was fired because he was “(the) latest ‘victim’ of the cancel culture that is permeating our country, every minute, of every hour, of every day. Though of course, I consider myself to be neither a victim nor actually canceled.”
So, was it any surprise that across the pond, that feckless white supremacist Tucker Carlson would, of course, throw his support behind Morgan?
Carlson likened Morgan to some First Amendment hero, fending off “the mob”; one of the knights of the Round Table, a latter-day Sir Gawain, only this time, a knight green with envy.
Like Morgan, Carlson is—depending on your perspective—a paragon or a parody of straight, white male privilege.
Following Morgan’s attacks on Markle, pundits were quick to label Morgan a racist, but in light of his history of very public meltdowns and missteps, he appears—to me, at least— as a shameless, self-promoting opportunist playing the role of wizened contrarian. It’s quite the circus act.
If anything, his recent book, Wake Up, Morgan’s hot-take attack on alleged “woke” and “cancel culture” atrocities, actually teed up his Markle rant by distilling his—and to a greater degree Carlson’s—overarching philosophy:
If it ain’t straight, white, and male, it ain’t worth shit.
Morgan had barely begun to clear out his desk, when Carlson decided it was politically astute to attack women in the United States armed forces, particularly pregnant women, because, while anyone can attack one woman who dumped you after one bad date, it takes real cajones to attack the more than 200,000 active-duty women, many serving in global hot spots, from the comfort of your midtown Manhattan TV studio.
Birds of a Feather
Carlson’s attack on women in the military comes in a long tradition of his attacks on equality, diversity, and multiculturalism—he followed that attack recently by alleging that US military standards have declined because of minorities being allowed in its ranks.
Morgan and Carlson’s vitriol, are of a piece.
When Morgan attacked Daniel Craig for having the audacity to use a baby carrier with his infant daughter, such fatuous outrage falls within the same withered spectrum of Carlson’s tragic, myopia.
When Morgan belittled of the late Muhammed Ali and was called out, his defense echoed the kind of infantile “whataboutism” you expect from the likes of those who showed up at the United States Capitol on January 6 to “Stop the Steal”.
You know, ignorant, and more than a little sad.
Despite having begun their careers in legitimate journalism, both men parlayed their punditry (when their media ascensions appeared to stall) into pop culture celebrity—Morgan on Britain’s Got Talent, and Donald Trump’s The Apprentice; Carlson, Dancing With the Stars. The kind of career move that screams more for their need for attention than their ability to make sound judgment calls.
Through it all, however, their gratuitous attacks on women, minorities, immigrants, trans people, gays, the disabled, you name it, really, remained dizzying—you Google long enough to find there isn’t an underrepresented and often harried group of people these two haven’t belittled, bullied, or attempted to badger into submission.
Straight White Fright
Morgan and Carlson see the erosion of “Western Civilization” not as a consequence of the failures of Western European liberal democracy to live up to its promise of liberté, égalité, and fraternité—God forbid they would admit to that—but as part of a larger conspiracy where the barbarians are no longer at the gates, they’ve breached the ramparts and have taken out mortgages.
It’s just not done!
Morgan, Carlson, Donald Trump, the late Rush Limbaugh, Nigel Farage, Mitch McConnell, to some degree, the late Christopher Hitchens—all aging Gen-Xers and baby boomers—were and are fighting against a reality that is both frightening to them and unavoidable: The end of straight, white male hegemony.
The same people who say they don’t see racism, have most likely never been racially profiled.
LGBTQ people wouldn’t be discriminated against if they didn’t talk about it… the way these guys talk about their sex lives.
The denial of the female experience—from the “male gaze” to gender inequality in the workplace to sexual assault—isn’t real because these men have never experienced it; ergo, it doesn’t exist.
Ergo, for Morgan and Carlson, those people are lying.
Par for the Course
Megan Markle and pregnant GIs won’t be the end of Morgan or Carlson’s careers, because straight white rage sells, and there are plenty of people not just willing to buy it, but invest in it, too.
Before the media even had a chance to move on to either Morgan or Carlson’s next apoplectic outrage, talk of Rupert Murdoch launching a Fox News-like channel in the UK surfaced, allegedly eyeing Morgan as one of its first hires.
Meanwhile, back in the States, it appears the four-plus years of CNN and MSNBC riding the Trump train to TV-ratings gold has ended, with Fox News—battered and bruised by the bad press of the Capitol Riots and insurgent, slightly more insane Right-Wing cable challengers like OANN and Newsmax—narrowly regained its lead in the ratings for February, barely a month after President Joe Biden took office.
And, this shouldn’t be a surprise.
In a 2020 Pew survey, it was revealed that “Americans ages 65 and older account for around four-in-ten of those who say their main source is Fox News (37%), compared with 21% of all adults, according to the … survey. And around nine-in-ten who turn to Fox News (87%) identify their race and ethnicity as non-Hispanic white, compared with 65% of all adults.”
As the rest of the “mainstream media” turn to covering the inevitable bureaucratic banality of the Biden Administration, the daily outrage and disbelief of the Trump Era have, for most parts, been replaced by lackluster efforts to make appointee hearings engaging. Tragically, the week’s multiple mass shootings in both Georgia and Colorado actually broke the tedium for CNN and MSNBC.
But not at Fox News, where Tucker Carlson spent the first night of the mass murder in Boulder, Colorado complaining about COVID-19 precautions. Until Biden urged “decisive action” on assault weapons.
You know, something old, white straight males can get angry about.