“I have worked in English language media even longer than Carlson has, and I “understand” nothing like the totalizing constraints he describes, nor would a significant percentage of the people I have worked with. The editorial direction (not quite a set of “limits”) at an opinion magazine such as Reason, for example, tends to be tethered to a political/ideological/philosophical point of view, with content mutually understood by employer and employee alike to fit within a publicly stated organizational mission, and yet, I have for two decades felt perfectly free to explore out loud some of my least libertarian notions (including one, ironically enough, that was influenced directly by Tucker Carlson).
Reason may be on the tolerant extreme of the open-debate spectrum, but I was similarly untroubled by the specter of editorial no-fly zones at the Los Angeles Times, a newspaper that hired me after I had written a series of “Outside the Tent” columns criticizing…the Los Angeles Times. (That institutional courage to solicit internal criticism was not shared by Carlson at his own The Daily Caller: Blogger Mickey Kaus resigned from the conservative publication in 2015 after a post of his critical of Fox News was deleted on the grounds that, in Carlson’s words, as quoted by Kaus: “We can’t trash Fox on the site. I work there.”)
As the Caller example indicates, the “rule of what you can’t say” is often self-imposed, for reasons that can have more to do with narrow careerism than some broader globalist plot. As such, breaking free from presumed shackles is often as easy as just blurting out the allegedly verboten thing—not unlike Tucker Carlson’s often interesting, often exasperating television program these past seven years.
But the populist trick and conceit, one that Carlson is already ratcheting up in his new Twitter phase, is to not merely say the forbidden truth but to do so while, improbably enough, claiming that you cannot do so.”
“Thirty years ago, the main conservative critique of the mainstream media was that it was biased. Twenty or so years ago, bias had escalated into pursuing an active agenda. Now, that agenda has managed to become an all-encompassing yet secretive transpartisan snow job.
“The undeniably big topics, the ones that will define our future, get virtually no discussion at all,” Carlson postulated in his first Twitter video after being fired. “War, civil liberties, emerging science, demographic change, corporate power, natural resources. When was the last time you heard a legitimate debate about any of those issues? It’s been a long time. Debates like that are not permitted in American media. Both political parties, and their donors, have reached consensus about what benefits them, and they actively collude to shut down any conversation about it. Suddenly the United States looks very much like a one-party state.”
This seems like a good place to point out that the May issue of Reason includes debates about war, civil liberties, emerging science, demographic change, and so forth. And I’m guessing that anyone who truly believes there are no meaningful differences between the two main political parties in the U.S. did not have children attending public school during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Carlson’s fans, including some (masochistic?) libertarians, surely do not care that his hyperbole crosses so frequently into fantasia; what matters is that he (again, like Trump) has the right enemies—the media, the wokes, the Pentagon, Big Pharma. If the journalism profession is going to go on a “moral clarity” bender of ever-escalating pejoratives for conservatives, aggressive “deplatforming” even of elected Republicans, and enthusiastic collusion with the censorious state, what’s wrong with a little overstatement from a commentator who rightly pushes back?
Well, once you start taking seriously the idea that some puppet master or single-minded Borg is inflicting intentional wickedness on Everyman for personal profit, then all intellectual bets are off. Conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat offered this ideological shorthand soon after Carlson was fired: “For any idea with an establishment imprimatur, absolute suspicion; for any outsider or skeptic, sympathy and trust. It didn’t have to be political or contemporary, either. The U.F.O. mystery? He was there for it. The Kennedy assassination and the C.I.A.? He had questions.”
Carlson these days is frequently going there, whether in sympathetic interviews with the similarly conspiratorial Robert Kennedy Jr., or just musing aloud about Building 7, all while striking the classic populist pose of betraying his class interest by spilling the insidery beans.”
“Controlling the population is the media’s “only purpose,” Carlson continued. “They’re not here to inform you….Even on the big things that really matter, like the economy and the war and COVID, things that really matter and will affect you—no, their job is not to inform you. They’re working for the small group of people who actually run the world. They’re their servants, they’re the Praetorian Guard. And we should treat them with maximum contempt, because they have earned it.”
Carlson may not want to control the population, but what he offers as a replacement sounds a lot like passive consumption of a commiserative message…from Tucker Carlson. “Where can you still find Americans saying true things?” he asked in his first post-show Twitter video. “There aren’t many places left, but there are some, and that’s enough. As long as you can hear the words, there is hope.”
And now, having earned scores of millions of dollars from corporate media, Carlson is ready to burn it all down from the outside.
“The gatekeepers are still in charge,” he lamented in his video Tuesday. “We think that’s a bad system. We know exactly how it works, and we’re sick of it….There aren’t many platforms left that allow free speech. The last big one remaining in the world, the only one, is Twitter.””