Sunday, November 27, 2022

Opinion | How Tucker Carlson came to support Putin’s Russia

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These days, Carlson is offering consolation to the Russian president in what the host on Tuesday night time termed a “border dispute” with Ukraine. Addressing the Biden administration’s willpower to oppose Russian aggression, Carlson mentioned, “You’re going to win an important moral victory against dastardly old Vladimir Putin, who is much, much worse than Justin Trudeau, just so you know.”

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“So you can feel good about that, because — because,” snarked the host. “Let’s see, come to think of it, why would you feel good about that?”

As with Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, the constructing blocks for Carlson’s Russophilia — or no less than Russoindifferentia — have been lining up for a number of years now. So his propaganda throughout this disaster shouldn’t shock his devoted, polemic-accustomed viewers.

Just earlier than that present concluded, Carlson issued a retraction: “Earlier in the show, I noted that I was rooting for Russia in the contest between Russia and Ukraine. Of course, I’m joking. I’m only rooting for America.” Several days later, nonetheless, he clarified the place his allegiances stood: “I don’t think that we should be at war with Russia. And I think we should probably take the side of Russia if we have to choose between Russia and Ukraine. That is my view,” mentioned Carlson.

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Perhaps trying to subtweet Carlson’s whitewash, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow later that week rummaged by way of a listing of Russian atrocities: annexing Crimea; serving to North Korea evade sanctions; bombing hospitals and civilians in Syria to prop up an authoritarian regime; doping Olympic athletes, “then sabotaging the whole worldwide anti-doping infrastructure”; interfering with the 2016 U.S. presidential election; exporting high-end organized crime; and, in fact, killing Kremlin critics.

There’s little probability these outrages escaped the discover of Carlson, who’s simply the best-read, best-informed troll on cable news. He understood the horror of Russia again in his MSNBC days and understands it as of late, too.

Which is to say, Putin hasn’t modified; Carlson has. A convincing rationalization for his embrace of Putin — in addition to of Hungary’s strongman, Viktor Orbán — comes from the Atlantic’s Anne Applebaum: “The aggrieved Americans who now find their way to Orbán or Vladimir Putin also dislike their own country, albeit for different reasons. They cannot abide its racial diversity, its modern culture, its free press.”

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The core of Carlsonism is a roaring contempt for immigrants, whose alleged crimes he hypes and who he says make this nation “poorer and dirtier.” Now examine that platform with Putin’s place: “This liberal idea presupposes that nothing needs to be done. That migrants can kill, plunder and rape with impunity because their rights as migrants have to be protected,” Putin informed the Financial Times.

Ideological affinity poured out of Carlson’s on-air lecture Tuesday, wherein he blasted “everlasting Washington” for its anti-Putinism.

“Why do I hate Putin so much?” mocked the host. “Has Putin ever called me a racist? Has he threatened to get me fired for disagreeing with him? Has he shipped every middle-class job in my town to Russia? Did he manufacture a worldwide pandemic that wrecked my business and kept me indoors for two years? Is he teaching my children to embrace racial discrimination? Is he making fentanyl? Is he trying to snuff out Christianity?”

The message: Putin is no worse than American liberals and various other malefactors.

Perhaps the simplest explanation, however, is just that Carlson is showing off his extremist bona fides for MAGA viewers. Say stuff that no one else is saying, no matter what; out-Trump Trump; watch the ratings spike.

On this Thursday’s show, Carlson finally bowed to programming realpolitik. With Russian forces blasting their way through Ukraine, the host struck a new tone, calling the Russian action “awful” and saying, “Vladimir Putin started this war. So whatever the context of the decision that he made, he did it.”

But history — and everything we know about Carlson — instructs us not to be fooled. Don’t forget that he denounced the violence of the Capitol riot on the night of Jan. 6, 2021, then adjusted and adjusted until he was casting the rioters as persecuted freedom fighters.

Tucker Carlson has morphed into an unreasonable nihilist who boosts white nationalism, autocracy and whatever other lunacies are left in the Fox News cupboard. That formula has made his program the No. 1 show on cable news; it’ll mark its sixth baleful year on air this fall. Don’t expect Putin to stay the bad guy that long.

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