It was almost funny-- but not quite. You have to ask yourself if these people believe what's coming out of their mouths. Putin claims that the peace demonstrations that have broken out in Moscow, St Petersburg and 50 other Russian cities today, were organized by Hillary Clinton. And Russia's spokesmen on Fox News were repeating that the whole Russian attack on Ukraine was concocted by Jake Sullivan to get peoples' minds off Hillary's supposed spying on the 2016 Trump campaign.
Hillary! Where does this insanity come from? The same people who made up the stories about Hillary and the pizza place basement brothel and the captives she is holding on the dark side of the moon? Margaret Sullivan was blaming Tucker Carlson for making any of this up today but she did report on his role in disseminating the Kremlin line to the poor saps who watch his show. "As Russia prepared to invade Ukraine," she wrote, "the biggest star on Fox News was busy doing what he does best: being thoroughly and appallingly wrong. He defended the murderous instigator Vladimir Putin while disparaging legitimate heroes like Alexander Vindman, the Ukrainian-born retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and former White House national security aide who was a key witness to Donald Trump’s abuses of power in his first impeachment and who has warned of Putin’s aggressions-- but whom Carlson preferred to paint as some kind of sanctimonious warmonger. Carlson glibly broad-brushed Vindman’s criticism of the GOP’s Putin apologists with his usual schoolboy sarcasm: 'Your job is to take up arms in defense of Alexander Vindman’s home country, or else you’re evil.'"
Carlson insisted that Ukraine was not a democracy but a “pure client state” of the U.S. government. And, in a particularly obnoxious rant, he suggested that Putin is morally superior to “permanent Washington,” some vaguely malign force that Carlson claims is manufacturing a global pandemic, teaching children to embrace racial discrimination and trying to snuff out Christianity.
Carlson’s pro-Putin act is so helpful that Russian state television has been rebroadcasting it with Russian subtitles. Carlson “urged Americans to turn against their government on the grounds that higher costs for them, in exchange for a pointless stand against Putin, is a ‘terrible deal for you,’” as Will Saletan summed it up in a Bulwark story comparing him to Charles Coughlin, the WWII-era radio host who defended the Nazis and painted Jews as a conniving force pushing the United States into the European conflict.
Carlson is dangerous because he has a cultlike following who believe his nightly rants. I would love to see the Murdochs put decency above dollars and remove him from the airwaves.
But it’s important to remember what Carlson is: nothing more than an outrage machine. What he offers is not political commentary. It’s Fox-approved nonsense meant to juice ratings-- and it works.
Don’t take my word for it. In 2020, Fox’s own lawyers successfully made the case in court that Carlson shouldn’t be taken seriously. And a Trump-appointed federal judge agreed.
U.S. District Court Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil echoed Fox’s own arguments in finding that Carlson didn’t commit slander when he accused a former Playboy model, Karen McDougal, of extortion, after the National Enquirer bought her story of an affair with Trump and then promptly shelved it on his behalf.
Why not? Because, Vyskocil decided, the whole tenor of Carlson’s show makes it clear to viewers that he is not stating “actual facts” about his topics.
“Whether the Court frames Mr. Carlson’s statements as ‘exaggeration,’ ‘non-literal commentary,’ or simply bloviating for his audience,” she wrote, “the conclusion remains the same-- the statements are not actionable.”
She added: “Fox persuasively argues, that given Mr. Carlson’s reputation, any reasonable viewer 'arrive[s] with an appropriate amount of skepticism’ about the statement he makes.”
That’s the problem, of course. Too many in Carlson’s audience simply don’t arrive with that measure of doubt or disbelief. They swallow his nonsense whole.
“He’s dangerous because millions & millions of Americans are nodding in agreement with him tonight,” tweeted Joe Walsh, the conservative talk-radio host and former Illinois congressman, on Tuesday.
Given the First Amendment, Carlson has the right to say what he wants on his opinion show. Judge Vyskocil made that clear in her opinion, using Fox’s own rationale. This is entertainment-- of a particularly ugly and dark variety-- but it’s not news and shouldn’t be mistaken for it.
Nevertheless, whether he’s talking trash about Anthony Fauci, Democrats, the reality-based press, or educators who want to teach history to children, Carlson does harm. The only defense against it is informed knowledge of exactly what he’s up to.
The millions who tune in to Carlson every night to get their outrage on should remember what their favorite host traffics in: bloviation, demagoguery and unrighteous indignation.
And they should remember what he isn’t obligated to deal in: the truth.
The 3 progressive congressional candidates running against entrenched military industrial complex incumbents in Washington state, Jason Call (WA-02), Stephanie Gallardo (WA-09), Rebecca Parson (WA-06) issued a joint press release this afternoon on the Russian invasion and I thought it might be worth reading so we can see how strong progressives are thinking about it:
For weeks, Ukrainian President Zelensky asked the U.S. to tone down its rhetoric of an imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine, which Zelensky said wasn’t coming. Now the worst has happened. We unequivocally condemn Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
We also condemn the U.S.’s reneging on its promise not to expand NATO eastward to Russia’s borders. NATO itself was formed to combat the USSR, a country that no longer exists. NATO was formed to protect the North Atlantic, yet it finds itself with landlocked member states over 1,000 miles from the Atlantic Ocean.
We stand with the 74% of Americans who do not think the U.S. should have a major role in Ukraine. We call on President Biden and Congress not to drag our country into war with Russia.
We have to ask: is it a coincidence that U.S. shipments of fracked gas-- also known as LNG-- to Europe have increased? Is it a coincidence that U.S. LNG stocks have skyrocketed in the past day? Is it a coincidence that the American Petroleum Institute wasted no time in releasing a four-point plan for profiting from this war?” Washington State is the epicenter of America’s nuclear enterprise-- with Bangor Submarine Base being the largest storehouse of nuclear weapons in the U.S., if not the world. Two nuclear powers should not go to war with each other: for the safety of Washingtonians and all the world’s people.