No-Brand Nudo

Misleading but Worthwhile: Tucker Carlson’s ‘Long Slide’

One evening last year at Sam’s Club, I saw a hardcover book by Tucker Carlson called The Long Slide: Thirty Years in American Journalism. I picked it up to buy without even looking inside the book. My wife said it could be a Christmas present, and sure enough it was.

When I opened Carlson’s book several months later, I was surprised to see it mostly contained past articles he had written. Though I knew Carlson was a large TV personality, I didn’t realize he honed his craft as a journalism writer.

The book’s Introduction portion highlights Carlson’s thoughts on the decline of journalism. He leads the book off in this poignant way:

Death and irrelevance are coming for all of us. That’s the one certain thing. Repeat that to yourself every morning, and things fall into perspective. Most of what we think matters really doesn’t.

Coming from such an opinionated newshound, those lines threw me. The first section in Carlson’s book should be required reading for students studying journalism in college, but fat chance of that ever happening because of his politics.

The first section in Carlson’s book should be required reading for students studying journalism in college, but fat chance of that ever happening because of his politics.

Quite a bit surprised me about The Long Slide. Carlson reveals sides of himself people might not expect. He’s a fantastic writer, too. The pieces in this book remind me of some of the top-notch literary journalism articles I studied in graduate school.

Carlson, it turns out, is humbler than he comes off on Fox News. Beyond that, the stories in The Long Slide show that he is daring, funny, experimental, and tender. There is much more to him than what you see on TV.

So why does he think journalism is in decline? Carlson says in the Intro that his fellow journalists when he started were less politically motivated. Though many of them leaned left in their outlooks, they kept an open mind and didn’t care that Carlson was conservative.

In short, journalists, according to Carlson, had a less activist bent when he got his start, and he’s thankful that he worked in the field when things were like that.

I won’t go on about this topic, but Carlson makes a great point. Journalism is different today, and activist journalism and the stifling of free speech is making me worried about this democracy experiment.

The Stories in an Unexpected Book

In the first piece, “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” published by Esquire, Carlson boards an iffy plane to head to a war zone in West Africa with Al Sharpton and individuals in the Nation of Islam. The objective of this unofficial diplomatic group was no less than to halt a civil war in Liberia. Carlson’s coverage of his time with Sharpton, whom he really liked, reveals a genuinely dangerous area of the world mixed with hilarious moments and unexpected bonds that formulated. Carlson called it the “most fun” magazine article he ever wrote.

In the piece “When the Fun Stopped,” published by the Weekly Standard, Carlson talks about the time he discovered the book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as a twelve-year-old in 1981. Hunter S. Thompson’s classic inspired Carlson to both “drop everything and take up journalism” and, later on in life, try every drug he read about in Thompson’s book.

Carlson’s personal stories in The Long Slide are perhaps the most memorable ones. One time, in front of his young kids and their friends, he inadvertently “vaporized” the top of his head while trying to fix a gun.

In the final story, “One Man’s Treasure,” also published by the Weekly Standard, Carlson ponders how the valued items stored by his kids in the shed next to their summer house in Maine may not mean as much to them in the future. Because while the “bricks and rocks and hunks of rusted metal” they saved for the following year will remain, his children will have grown, changed. Will they still care about what they collected when the following summer rolls around? As a father who has watched his kids grow, Carlson knows they likely won’t care, and it was a sad thing for him to contemplate.

I’ve only scratched the surface of the collection of the twenty-three articles in The Long Slide. Other stories highlight well-known people who had their day in the sun. One article talks about a scammer named Derek Richardson, whom Carlson crossed paths with and aimed to take down.

My biggest laughs occurred in the article “The Unflappables,” where Carlson shows the fun he had at the expense of telemarketers who too often interrupted his family dinners. He had no trouble telling these salespeople he was blind and, one time, he scribbled on a door-to-door salesman’s clipboard that he was “a deaf-mute.”

Perhaps the title of The Long Slide was a bit of a marketing ploy — the majority of the book does not go into Tucker Carlson’s thoughts on journalism — but I’m glad the book is what it is. The stories are excellent and do indeed reveal a time when journalism was different.

Photo by Sal Nudo


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