Every article about Carlson in our syllabus starts with a common premise, that he is more interesting than the typical television talking head. Partly this is because of evolutions and surprising jerks and jolts in his worldview. He’s a former hawk who is now often a dove on military intervention, a conservative who found things to admire in Elizabeth Warren and her attacks on big corporations.
Even more, however, it is because of how he fits in the ecosystem of Washington and New York journalism. Carlson is comfortably familiar. He’s one of us, an entertaining companion at lunch, full of gossip and wit and even ideas. At the same time, over the years, he has become radically unfamiliar. There are not many journalists or other people regarded as public intellectuals who are promoters of Trump and Trumpism, and who share the president’s fluency in insult and indignation.
It is the composite nature of Carlson’s character—belonging at once to two divergent worlds—that makes him interesting to fellow journalists in a way that, say, Sean Hannity, with a larger audience and more direct influence with Trump, generally is not. Many colleagues once viewed him as an important voice of the intelligentsia. Many now believe he has joined the dumbgentsia. They wonder, as Columbia Journalism Review put it, “What happened to Tucker Carlson?”