The former bow tie-wearing Vineyard Vines embodiment of a talk show host is back with another slick title, cartoonish front cover, and constant references to the days when you didn’t care which party your neighbor supported.
The Long Slide is not a long-overdue book from Carlson, following his last successful publication, Ship of Fools. The timely footnoteless critique poignantly explained how the ruling class’ arrogance towards blue-collar America resulted in the “throbbing middle finger” that was Donald Trump.
Of course, his audience (myself included) wasn’t looking for another commentary on the media, as they’re already in heavy supply. But it’s always nice to have a title that elicits odd frowning and peculiar head-turning when cooped up in your bustling Starbucks.
Critics have called him the out-of-the-closet-elitist, yet his prose was salient enough in 2018 not to be canceled by Simon & Schuster like his longtime guest, Josh Hawley’s, The Tyranny of Big Tech, the same year—which Carlson claims in the intro, was purely political.
Sadly, it seems everyone has a book in them, especially the anchors at Fox news. Either about themselves, an instruction guide for COVID-19, finding Christ, or two cents on solving the increasing political divide.
So how does another radio or tv show host separate himself from the tempting flimsy binders that others in his line of work so often release? Frankly, Carlson’s work has exceeded expectations in unique flair and catchy zingers.
Before hosting the highest-rated “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” his first job was as a copy editor, then jumped from publication to publication and finally from one cushy TV job to the next, and was idealized enough for Christopher Hitchens to beg: “I wish he wouldn’t give up writing for TV.”
His new volume isn't the most enlightening read for an aspiring journalist; however, it provides insight into a time when the political agenda of writers was divorced from the subject of the article. Tucker claims to have purposefully written for editors who “passionately disagreed with [his] politics.”
In post-2020, we have watchdog shows: Howard Kurtz’s “Media Buzz” and Brian Stelter’s “Reliable Sources,” which report and create news entirely on the personalities from other channels. Therefore, headlines about the vaccine status of anchors are prioritized over more meaningful accounts. Carlson’s adventurous yet quirky storytelling might be the break people need from the marching orders of cable television and woke streaming services.
What It’s About
Understanding the world means browsing magazines and reading about the issues of the day. But any issue you pick up becomes dated fairly quickly, or as Carlson delineates, soggy as week-old Chinese takeout, but when speaking of the days of no internet or TV, a subscription to Nat Geo or Boys Life might have been your only spectacle beyond the obituary-ridden gazette.
The Long Slide takes the work of a revered journalist and unravels pockets of history in every corner by leading you down a twenty-three article journey from his days at Esquire, The Weekly Standard, Politico, and yes, even The New York Times. Each chapter is devoted to one of these pieces along with an introductory paragraph contextualizing the decades-old entry.
The layout is neither thematic nor chronological, but the headlines are intriguing enough to keep you turning at least another page. Jumping between the hypocrisies of James Carville to the presidential campaigns of George W. Bush and John McCain and recently, predicting Trump’s republican nomination, the political heavy-hitters are sure to satisfy any Washington gear head.
Sprinkled within this greatest hits is Tucker’s sweet spot of long-form narration. The first chapter, “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” recalls the diplomatic All-Star team of Al Sharpton, Colonel West, and members of the Nation of Islam’s stride to rescue the “low-grade revolution” state of Liberia. Carlson’s breed of anti-neoconservatives and warhawk sentiments are brought to fruition in the “Hired Guns” Esquire feature: The insider’s view into the contracted work of “DynCorp International,” paints a disparaging conflation of the private sector and the American military, at the early stages of the already doomed War in Iraq.
The intensity level fluctuates from the terrible truths on hospitals and lab’s advocation for eugenic-driven abortion policies to a man’s successful business venture selling potato guns, racing shopping carts and blowing up barbie dolls. Even the most emotionally charged titles remain on the periphery of Carlson’s core partisan beliefs.
The closer piece on Tucker’s Maine vacation home is a touching tribute to fatherhood and ties nicely to his usual platitudes about reverting to a family-oriented America. In a nutshell, each story succeeds in clarifying the recent past against the acute present.
Why You shouldn’t read
One amazon review reads The Long Slide “was boring after boring story” while another grumbles “how can Tucker call himself a journalist.” To be fair, the book's staleness is minimal, but for politically-minded people under thirty, their interest likely won’t extend so far into the Clinton or Pre- 9/11 eras.
Observations about how British Colonialism’s only upside was that it left decent architecture or encountering loan scams driving near the Capital, just seem to be filler for the handful of well articulated opinion pieces. I realize his editors must satisfy a word count, but on second thought, the arrogance of copying and pasting “recycled columns” written at the dawn of one’s career and assuming your loyal fans will bite is striking.
To be fair, it’s not on the same level of self-aggrandizement which Andrew Cuomo spews in his leadership memoir published before the year was up for plagued New York city. Nevertheless, in the first pages, Tucker admits reading through these stories is like “reading your journal in high school.”
So why would I be expected to have any more enjoyment than the author? Don't read this if you’re looking for another addition for your zoom library background to convince people how high your I.Q. is, you’re better off with Everybody poops or Where the Wild Things Are.
Why You Should Read
Recently, the media establishment has written Tucker Carlson off as the former-winner-of-magazine-awards-turned-right-wing-populist. Ever since filling the shoes of his predecessor, Bill O’Reilly, the question of “what happened to Tucker?” has been posed by every left of center journalist. Has he “squandered his God-given talent” for clickbait?
Perhaps, this book is a response to his critics, as well as an attempt to placate those who once called him a friend. The old Tucker - the Iraq war-hating, Bush-criticizing, and possible Luddite they all used to love is still with us, buried amidst the shallow conservative talking points and badly combed hair doo.
Remember, he’s alumnus of the Hunter S. Thompson school of Journalism, when your eyes plow deep into the page beyond clusters of letters and no longer following the scribbles of a straight reporter, but exploring sensory thoughts and memories of someone who understands specificity to be the soul of any convincing story. All part of the exciting, “athletic interpretation” the profession needs.
Does Tucker, unbeknownst to himself, hope to rekindle that flame? The back cover preaches: “you had to go places, meet people” and “see unusual things,” to produce good journalism. Maybe the pompous teleprompt-reader who seems tethered to his comfy D.C. studio still embodies the Walter Mitty philosophy of finding purpose by inviting danger.
When authors come across previous work they tend to groan at mistakes and may wish to rectify their ignorance. Rarely, do we find enough substance in our past work, spread out over time, to combine into one manuscript. The Long Slide, does this perfectly by stringing together unconnected works of non-fiction and giving a lucid peek into a class of reporting that is receding from mainstream culture. Though it may be replicated, modern examples are, more often than not, political in nature and pure enjoyment of the story is left in the dust.
Even if you don’t purchase the hardcover, at least take a look at one of his long-form pieces scattered across the internet. The variety of subjects are genuinely written in the author’s voice and no ideological rants and or calls to action, rather a journalist who’s just a kid at heart.
Photo Credit: Simon and Schuster