In his latest unlistenable televised rant, (and published almost word for word as this nearly unreadable opinion column on the Fox News website), Fox “comedian” Greg Gutfeld rambles irrationally for hundreds and hundreds of words about…*checks notes*…statues? Ah, yes, correct, one of the Right Wing Propaganda Machine’s favorite culture-war complaints about the Left: they’re so Woke they keep removing statues from places.
It’s the same playbook as ever for Fox News, when you think about it. Convince well-meaning Americans that their very way of life is under threat, then present Fox’s own deep conservative cynicism as the only possible cure.
This time it’s a stone representation of Teddy Roosevelt that Fox has leapt into the culture-war fray to defend. Deflect, Distract, Blame Biden, and when all else fails, invoke the worst pandemic of all: Wokeness.
Here’s that shining beacon of conservative manliness, Gutfeld, defining what he describes as The Larger Problem: “It’s our craven leaders who are under the thumb of a tiny, woke mob. This, as crime explodes in every city run by libs.”
That’s right. According to Gutfeld, The Problem facing our country today is a tiny, woke mob with the superpower of shifting national focus away from the crime he’s pretty sure is exploding in every city run by libs, and onto unimportant stuff like the cultural representation of traditionally oppressed minorities.
There’s a lot to unpack here but, first, it’s worth noting that Gutfeld’s Fox Late Nite “comedy” program is actually just terrible, terrible TV. Here’s The New Republic asking if Gutfeld’s show is the worst Late Nite program on television, and concluding that it might actually be the worst in the history of television. “It is excruciating and often depressing to watch. Even a couple of minutes makes you question the point of comedy itself and wonder if you’ll ever laugh again. It is the latest futile attempt at providing a conservative counter to The Daily Show and proving that conservatives are funny, too, goddamnit—a pathetic and profoundly insecure show that mostly serves as a collection of anxieties about the left’s cultural power.”
But, okay, back to that stone representation of ol’ Theo Roosevelt. The one that got Gutfeld so stirred up that he needed to do a 7 minute televised rant defining his Larger Problem.
As has been made repeatedly clear for more than a year, “the museum’s decision was based on the statue itself — namely its “hierarchical composition”—- and not on Roosevelt, whom the museum continues to honor as “a pioneering conservationist.” That is, the museum’s problem with the statue is not Teddy himself, but the way he’s arranged in contrast to the two figures he appears to be escorting. “Roosevelt sits mounted high on a horse. Flanking him at stirrup level are two half-nude standing figures, one “African,” the other “American Indian,” who, like porters, carry his rifles. It doesn’t require a sensitivity to subtexts to see that the composition, no matter how you gloss it, is quite literally an emblem of white-man-on-top. Endless generations of kids on their way into the museum will see the image and think such hierarchy is O.K., even — as Roosevelt may well have felt — natural.”
Further, as the New York Times reports, even Roosevelt’s direct descendents agree with the statue’s removal. “The world does not need statues, relics of another age, that reflect neither the values of the person they intend to honor nor the values of equality and justice,” said Theodore Roosevelt IV, age 77, a great-grandson of the 26th president and a museum trustee. “The composition of the Equestrian Statue does not reflect Theodore Roosevelt’s legacy. It is time to move the statue and move forward.”
But even this enrages Gutfeld, who comments on it that, “In the New York Post, they quote one of Teddy’s descendants, Theodore Roosevelt IV, who cheered the removal, saying the statue is being relocated to a place where its composition can be recontextualized to facilitate difficult, complex and inclusive discussions.
Well, thank you, you pretentious —–. If Teddy were alive, he’d dress you up like a white rhino and chase you through Central Park with a 12-gauge.”
So he’s BIG mad. But the subtext, which is plainly his real reason for making the rant, is that cities “run by libs” are dirty, crime ridden, and filled with homelessness. (Forget for a moment that crime is up nationwide, not just in cities but in suburbs and rural areas alike.) “Abe Lincoln’s statue was toppled in Portland,” Gutfeld complains, “I guess they’re siding with John Wilkes Booth. […] Then, they destroyed the city. Of course, there’s no correlation there.” (Forget for a moment that the city of Portland is not now and never was “destroyed.”) (Forget for a moment that the phrase “woke” has no actual meaning.) (Forget for a moment that the big cities he complains about, like Portland, in Oregon, or like Chicago, in Illinois, or NYC, (where Gutfeld lives with his Russian wife), are usually the largest economic drivers of their states.) (Forget for a moment that it’s possible to walk and chew gum at the same time, with regard to cities’ ability to work to address crime while at the same time devoting resources to removing problematic monuments.) And it doesn’t matter if he’s right or not, because his siloed audience is never going to fact-check him. Gutfeld, like Fox at large, can tell his audience whatever he pleases, cash his checks, and then trail off incoherently into the middle distance while his audience zones out, trailing off, incoherently, quiet, but so, so mad about something, loud again, until…