Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson started Tuesday’s episode of his show Tucker Carlson Tonight with a nine-minute rant about “self-identified victimhood” using cherry-picked and heavily editorialized quotes from famous women. This is Carlsonese for, “Happy (belated) International Women’s Day, everyone!”
His targets included old favs Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama, as well as Meghan Markle (“a manipulative opportunist”), his coverage of whom he prefaced by complaining about the media coverage of her Oprah interview. Bizarrely, his diatribe then turned to New York Times internet culture reporter Taylor Lorenz, who had tweeted about her experience with online harassment:
Carlson, perhaps inspired by his frequent guest Glenn Greenwald—who had already devoted a thread to Lorenz’s tweet (and erupted thousands of words on her previously)—used Lorenz as an example of “the most powerful people claiming to be powerless.” With venom so pointed as to be obsessive, he described Lorenz as “far younger than prominent New York Times reporters used to be, she’s also much less talented,” and “at the top of journalism’s repulsive little food chain.”
“You’d think Taylor Lorenz would be grateful for the remarkable good luck she’s had, but no, she’s not,” he said. Got that kid? Shut up, and leave the complaining to the millionaires on Fox News!
Carlson had apparently decided that when Lorenz said her life was destroyed, she was referring to people criticizing her on the internet. Indeed, as someone who writes for a major outlet, whose stories regularly achieve cultural penetration that could reasonably be described as viral (her “OK, boomer” piece, for example), and who is outspoken regarding happenings outside of her immediate editorial purview, Lorenz is a fair target of criticism. But many experiences she has described exceed the usual criticism that high-profile writers face. Beyond Greenwald’s creepy and condescending fixation (as well as that of his Substack compatriot Matt Taibbi), Lorenz has claimed that people have attempted to hack into her accounts to change her passwords, sent her “vicious disgusting threats,” trolled her on Clubhouse by changing their profile pics to those of her public antagonists, and set up Twitter accounts to impersonate her. She became a target of venture capitalists after she dared to criticize a CEO’s rambling response to a story that had alleged mistreatment of her employees (which the CEO had previously apologized for). Without getting too inside-baseball (you can read Vice’s thorough account of the hell that Lorenz’s tweet unleashed here), this led to a Clubhouse pile-on of Lorenz that turned into a broader conversation about venture capitalists wrestling power away from the press.
In an interview last year, Lorenz said, “The internet is my life.” Leaving judgments aside and taking her words at face value, you can see how Gamergate-like attacks could destroy said very online life. Nothing in Lorenz’s tweet suggested that “no one’s suffering quite as much as Taylor Lorenz is suffering,” as Carlson attempted to twist her words into implying. She merely (albeit with dramatic flair) attempted to express how her quality of life, as she previously knew it, had diminished.
Carlson’s decision to pick on this young reporter and parade her as an example of what’s wrong with progressives and/or women today is ghoulish. He chanted her name like a mantra, which Lorenz tweeted her suspicions about:
Toward the end of his monologue, Carlson attempted to put this all into society-eroding perspective. “For rich people, deciding you’re a victim has many levels of appeal,” he reflected. “For one thing, it gives meaning to your decadent, empty life.”
Carlson, a rich person whose salary is undoubtedly several times Lorenz’s, is no stranger to such a strategy, though. In 2018, he alleged that his front door was “cracked” by Antifa protesters. CNN found no evidence of this, nor did the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., according to CNN’s report. When contacted for comment, Carlson told CNN in a statement through Fox News:
CNN has repeatedly defended Antifa, and you are doing it again now. Your story is a disgusting attempt to minimize an attack on my family and bring more pain to my wife and four children. I’m not playing along. I hope you’re ashamed of yourself. You should be.
While the demonstrators shouted threats and one spray painted the anarchy symbol on his driveway, no one in Carlson’s family was harmed, not even, it seems, his door. This begs the question where one draws the line between victimization and “self-identified victimhood.” Don’t expect an answer from Carlson, though—his hypocrisy will have to suffice.
Update (4:13 PM): The communications department of the New York Times has released a statement describing Carlson’s targeting of Lorenz as a “calculated and cruel tactic, which he regularly deploys to unleash a wave of harassment and vitriol at his intended target”: