Pundits, man your stations. It seems that the Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson yipped that Eagles quarterback Michael Vick should have been executed three years ago when convicted on dog-fighting charges.
Many are now getting hot and bothered expressing shock that Carlson would actually call for Vick’s execution—a tad extreme even for Fox.
Frankly I was shocked that Carlson, humiliated so thoroughly by Jon Stewart the many years ago, still is on the air. The guy has been on more cancelled programs than Jennifer Love Hewitt.
In full, the paunchy, lipless, chinless, porcelain man-boy with the ubiquitous bow-tie said, "I’m a Christian, I’ve made mistakes myself, I believe fervently in second chances. But Michael Vick killed dogs, and he did in a heartless and cruel way. And I think, personally, he should’ve been executed for that."
I know it’s hardly news for a Murdoch-owned right-wing shock jock to say something shocking. It’s like receiving word of a celebrity sex tape. The thrill is gone. I am also well aware that in the current media set up, it’s Carlson’s job to say something utterly outrageous and the job of people like myself to respond. We make statements about Carlson’s peculiar brand of blood-thirsty Christianity. Maybe we point out how easy it is for Carlson to call for the death of an African American athlete, always the low-hanging fruit for his race-baiting ilk.
We bat this particular ball back and forth like—as one writer once said to me—"two hookers working opposite sides of the street." The ensuing hot-house debate becomes an entertainment option for people soured on American Idol.
But there is actually a serious problem with this kind of 24 hour cable performance art when the subject is Michael Vick. It’s that pesky entity pecking at the window of reality television known as "reality."
Dostoevsky said famously,“The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” By that standard, the United States exists in a barbaric state. Enter a prison—something I sincerely doubt Carlson has ever done—and you see the daily, dreary, reality for the 2.3 million people who live behind bars. In what’s become the largest prison system on earth – take that China! – you see the herded poor stacked on top of one another. You see a world disproportionately black and brown with African American men six times as likely to go to prison as whites, with one in 9 black men between 20-34 living in a state of incarceration.