Blood Money

I see that Tucker Carlson, in the final hours before Vladimir Putin, whom he admires the way many teenage girls admire the boy band BTS, launched his all-out attack against a non-aggressive sovereign country, engaged in a typically stupid pro-Putin screed aimed at fellow Trump bootlicker Lindsey Graham. Senator Graham had dared to criticize the tyrannical behavior of Carlson’s crush, and to warn Americans that prices for many items would go up as an inevitable consequence of the need to isolate Putin on the world stage.

To which sensible warning Carlson, an idiot whose idiocy knows no bounds, replied in the manner of a true Trumpster, namely by addressing his audience as a bunch of self-absorbed jackasses who of course should not be expected to care about anything in the world but their own immediate comfort and economic well-being.

From Newsweek:

“‘Gas prices are up, food prices are up.’ Well, that’s OK, because it won’t affect Lindsey Graham. He doesn’t have kids! And he’s got that generous congressional pension. He’s set.”

Addressing his viewers, Carlson said they would be “repaid in virtue” for their sacrifices.

“For the rest of your life, you can feel good about having supported something called democracy, something that is in shorter supply in this country than it’s ever been, but something we hope to defend in a country you can’t identify on a map,” he added.

Because he has no argument to make against Graham’s condemnation of Putin’s aggression, or against Graham’s frank observation that some domestic discomfort is the necessary price of dealing with a serious threat to the so-called civilized world, Carlson falls back on the standard sophistry of the dimwit in over his head: ad hominem. Graham is rich and has no kids, so rising prices won’t affect him. He has a big pension, so he won’t suffer economically.

Even if those accusations were true — which they are not, since a damaged economy affects everyone, as an actual believer in free markets would understand — they would be completely irrelevant. The question of whether or not Senator Graham will suffer economically, or whether he is a noble soul or a self-seeking blowhard, has no bearing whatsoever on the moral merit or logical soundness of his argument. Does Carlson really wish to present a rational case against the necessity of accepting some practical costs in life for the sake of achieving important long-term goals? Does he really wish to suggest that a nuclear superpower ruled by a ruthless dictator who openly spits at the semi-free world and has been waging a war of aggression against that world consistently, on many fronts and ever-more violently, for years, should be allowed to continue doing so indefinitely, simply because resisting him might cause gas prices to rise for a while?

I suppose Carlson might really be enough of a Putin-lover to try to offer such a case, but it would have to sound even dumber than what he has said on Putin’s behalf so far, so he apparently prefers to use his whiny pubescent voice for its more appropriate function, namely to scream “I hate you!” at those with whom he disagrees, and to beg his mentally and morally addled audience to join him in this pathetic chant.

Note the full implications of Carlson’s quip (a generous description, I know) about being “repaid in virtue” for the financial hardships deriving from the decision to stand up to the Russian thug at last. “For the rest of your life,” he mocks, “you can feel good about having supported something called democracy” — when, as he implies, your real priority should be your own comfort and wealth, not actually caring about anything bigger than your immediate practical interests. He is representing the perspective of myopic self-absorption against the basic principle — not just this application of it, but the principle itself — of choosing virtue over (perceived) immediate advantage. 

And consider the implications of his jibe about democracy being “something we hope to defend in a country you can’t identify on a map.” There it is. He is directly telling his audience that he knows they are ignorant of anything beyond their own neighborhood, that this ignorance is not only acceptable but good, and therefore that this ignorance is in itself a legitimate argument for allowing the world to sink catastrophically while they bury their gazes in their navels — or rather in their television echo chamber, which has more in common with bellybutton lint than with the bellybutton itself — while expansionist tyrannies with nuclear arsenals swallow up territory around the globe. The globe — you know, that round thing with a bunch of irrelevant names on it that mean nothing to you, the real American, as long as there is football on Sunday, gas in your tank, and Tucker in your living room to explain his unique Truth For Morons to you every night as you pound your fist on the sofa and nod your head while the also-ran in your junior high school debate competition squeaks, “Democrats are bad.”

“Why should I hate Putin?” asked the schmuck just the day before the bombing started. Maybe because Putin has spent the past twenty years actively scheming against your country and undermining its political structures for the express purpose of weakening it as an effective opponent to his aggression. Maybe because he is an authoritarian killer who poisons and imprisons his anti-authoritarian critics, who launches military invasions against non-aggressive neighbors, and who seeks to destroy the Western alliances that constrict his expansionist dreams. Maybe because he is currently in the process of dragging the modern world closer to final disintegration, and he is doing so knowingly and willingly, for the sake of reestablishing the territorial empire of arguably the most murderous and inhuman totalitarian regime in history.

But perhaps I am misjudging Tucker Carlson, and he is more farsighted and clever than I give him credit for. Perhaps he sees, or has been informed, of the long-term plans for global tyranny that are currently in the offing, and of Putin’s intended prominence in that forthcoming reordering, and he is therefore sensibly auditioning to be the first prime-time host of “Vlad’s Western Front Tonight.”

A reader might wonder why I am harping on Tucker Carlson and Fox News these days. Yes, they despise America as founded and liberty in practice. Yes, they treat their viewers like idiots, and desperately hope to keep them that way in order to continue exploiting them for huge profits. Yes, they had so much to do with the rise of the worst president in American history, who in turn is more personally responsible than any other world leader for the current confident assertiveness from alt-right hero Vladimir Putin. All true — but still, I never, ever watch Fox News, and would not sit through one evening of any Fox host’s show, least of all Carlson’s, and especially in this post-Trump era. So why should I spend so much of my time, effort, and website space on those blowhard salesmen and their millions of consumers, who are no superior in their TV preferences to people who obsess over game shows or soap operas all day?– no superior, and a whole lot more dangerous as useful idiots for tyranny. Perhaps I may explain it simply as a form of atonement, putting myself right with the gods so that I can look at myself in the mirror without shame.

For I am not a Democrat or progressive who criticizes Fox News from a tribal opponent’s point of view. On the contrary, for many years I engaged in political commentary on websites that placed me right alongside Fox, the afternoon radio hosts, and of course the Republican-friendly blogs where I posted my thoughts, as a fellow traveler or quasi-member (if not always in perfectly good standing) of the so-called “conservative media.” This means that for years I allowed myself to be at least optically associated with many people in that “conservative media,” and to be at least optically aligned with thousands of readers of the “conservative” websites, on the somewhat delusional premise that while there were many ways in which I was not a typical or tribally pledged “conservative,” I could nevertheless feel comfortable talking to people of that brand, secure in the hope that many of them, when push came to shove, were more broadly in sympathy with my political views and aspirations than were the members of any of the other identifiable factions in the current global climate. I felt, for reasons that made sense to me prior to 2016, that in spite of any differences regarding preferred methods or ultimate goods, I was writing for and speaking with people who at least believed in individual liberty, at least preferred self-reliance to dependency, at least rejected strongman political solutions in favor of resignation in the face of life’s incongruities and imperfections, and at least believed that virtue is more valuable than petty advantage, the mind more valuable than money, the truth more valuable than comfort, and thinking more valuable than cheering.

In 2016, I learned very suddenly, as did many others, that all those “at leasts” were false assumptions. I realized that the people with whom I thought I shared a basic sympathy were merely fair-weather friends, as likely to fall for the stupidities of anger and strongman rhetoric (however fake) as any progressive, and as willing to sacrifice their independent minds to collective self-contradiction and “populist” authoritarianism as any leftist activist. Furthermore, I came to terms with the fact that even the most prominent leaders of the “conservative media” — the most influential radio hosts and website publishers — were simply profiteers playing a game with a weak and frightened audience for money and power, without an ounce of pride or principle among them. 

So I got out. I stopped writing for them, stopped lending whatever bit of credibility and respectability I had earned to their corrupt and ugly cause. I turned down my last request for an interview on a prominent “conservative” program. I gave up almost my entire (pretty substantial) readership on a dime. It was not hard or painful. It was common sense. To associate myself with people whom I respected, in spite of various differences in approach or opinion, was a completely different thing from associating myself with what I was now seeing. Dissociating myself from the reality that had revealed itself, therefore, was as easy as my original decision, years earlier, not to submit my writing to a progressive outlet, which is to say it was no decision at all, but merely a natural refusal to align myself and my thoughts with people with whom I had nothing important in common, and with whom my proper political relationship would be one of mutual disapproval or distaste. 

To assuage any residual guilt, let us say, over my earlier semi-alignment with a faction that has since exposed itself, en masse, as a gushing fan club for sociopaths and thugs, I feel a certain compulsion to set the record straight on the true purposes and mendacity of many, if not all, of the leading voices of that faction. Tucker Carlson is far from the most disappointing of that group, for the simple reason that I never would have mistaken him for a principled conservative (or a principled anything else) to begin with, but, due to his extreme popularity at this nadir moment for the former “conservative media,” he has become a sort of symbol of everything that misnamed collection of frauds stands for, and a living reminder of everything they have eagerly prodded toward destruction while wrapping themselves in the very flag they have helped to prepare for burning.

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