Politeness Will Kill Us All
In the face of extreme immorality, the only sin is keeping quiet
Over the weekend, a man confronted Tucker Carlson in a Montana fishing shop, calling the Fox News host “the worst human being known to mankind.” Carlson, a racist misogynist who has been spreading vaccine misinformation even as Americans are hospitalized and dying, responded by smirking and calling the man, “son.”
A Fox News spokesperson said the encounter was “inexcusable,” and that “no public figure should be accosted regardless of their political persuasion or beliefs simply due to the intolerance of another point of view.”
High-profile conservatives also rallied behind Carlson: Meghan McCain warned against “accosting a public figure while they’re...with their family on vacation” and Dinesh D’Souza tweeted that it was “unhinged” of the man to “harass” Carlson while he was with his (adult) daughter.
Setting aside the fact that free speech is not a 9 to 5 value—we’re allowed to utilize it even during your off hours!—what’s incredible about this kind of sputtering outrage is the hypocrisy. After all, these are the same people who scream at women walking into abortion clinics. And just a few months ago, Carlson himself encouraged his millions of viewers to call the police and child protective services on parents with children who wear masks.
Conservatives cheer on the harassment of everyday Americans but are horrified by a wealthy ‘public figure’ being bothered on his day off—almost as if they only care about powerful people being allowed to do and say whatever they want free from consequence.
Let’s be clear, that’s what Carlson being publicly confronted is: A reasonable consequence of awful, immoral behavior. If you want to spread hate and fear to millions of Americans, being called out on it is a fairly tiny repercussion. Who’s the snowflake now?
And that’s the rub—people like Carlson are cowards at heart. They can sit behind their video camera and stoke bigotry without any accountability. They can lie and hurt American families while raking in millions and going on lovely fly-fishing vacations.
That’s why it’s not just okay to confront awful powerful people; it’s necessary. It’s our moral duty to speak up, the literal least we can do.
Falling for the trap of civility—the lie that we need to be polite in order to be good—will only get more people hurt and killed. Because that’s what’s happening right now. People are dying of Covid, people are dying because of racism and sexism.
This is not a game, or a difference of opinion. It’s a matter of life or death. But to those like Carlson—the powerful and privileged—the issues that determine our futures are little more than a thought experiment they get to make lots of money on. Politics can be theoretical when you have nothing to lose. For the rest of us, it’s our lives.
Calling one of the worst people on earth the worst person on earth is not harassment or cruel. It’s not out of line or impolite; it’s ethical and justified.
In the face of extreme immorality, the only sin is keeping quiet.