Tucker's back


Tucker Carlson posted a video on his Twitter account on May 9 announcing that his show will now be broadcast on Twitter.

As of this publishing, that video in about 24 hours has had 22.3 million views.

Who needs the mockies any more? (We've been saying that for a very long time now.)

Paul Ingrassia's Substack article on Tucker the polemicist is featured here as well.

We're back

RubyRayMedia on Rumble
Published May 10 2023
Length 3:02

Tucker Carlson: America's Last Polemicist

Tucker Carlson proved to be the last of a breed of television commentator who demonstrated an aptitude to read, write, and perhaps most dangerous of all, think on his own.

PAUL INGRASSIA on Substack | MAY 9, 2023

Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman orator, philosopher, and statesman, lived during a period of great social and political turmoil in the late republic's history, bearing witness to Rome's transformation into the political empire whose forces would ultimately claim his life. Cicero made the fateful act of siding against Caesar, which was born of his devotion to the old order and Optimate values that made him one of the most powerful and famous senators in Roman history. Where his political achievements failed, however, as the old republic would never survive Caesar's political onslaught that completed Rome's transformation into empire, Cicero's mark on the culture proved more enduring. As a writer, Cicero was so prolific that it has been estimated three quarters of all the surviving Latin from his time flowed directly from his pen. Many scholars assert that he singlehandedly kickstarted the Italian Renaissance, which was a rebirth of ancient Greek and Roman thought made possible through the rediscovery of Cicero's writings. Though obviously pagan, having predated the birth of Christ by a few decades, Cicero was long the vessel by which some of the greatest minds of the early Church, most prominently, St. Augustine, accessed the literary wellspring of the ancient world to help found what later became the doctrine of Christianity.

So, it is no understatement that Cicero left behind an extraordinary legacy that shaped Western civilization overall. A crude assessment of Western history would attribute Cicero as its chief founding father, whose model not only inspired the early Church, but perhaps more relevant to our times, was a model to which America's Founders repeatedly turned for guidance.

What, then, does Cicero bear in relation to Tucker Carlson, men who are worlds apart not just in time, but in vocation?

Speaking in the abstract, there are political parallels which unite our moment in history with Cicero's – ours is a regime in observable decay; our politics are becoming increasingly authoritarian in response to that decay as the older social fabric erodes at breakneck speed; older institutions, in turn, are being rapidly delegitimated, to name just a few obvious examples. But ours also is a regime that has been fundamentally altered by the devilish powers of modern technology which has engendered new, insidious forms of political propaganda, increasingly totalitarian in composition. The propaganda machinery, made possible through a joint venture between the modern administrative state and its de facto politburo – the mainstream media – has introduced the real threat of political tyranny in our times at an order of magnitude that would have been unthinkable for most living Americans just a few short decades ago. This is one parallel between ours and Cicero's time.

Meanwhile, the masses – so easily indoctrinated by the hard and soft institutional levers of the regime's propaganda complex – are in many ways more politically malleable than ever before. They have been utterly stripped of the critical reasoning faculties that were once long the very lifeline of self-government and individual liberty in American politics. Indeed, what had been necessary prerequisites to American liberty – which include critical reasoning abilities and a robust knowledge of history – have been degraded into not just mere luxuries for an educated elite, which would pose a serious problem, but likely not cataclysmic. Rather, the political elite has internalized as a dogma that thought itself is anathema, a dangerously perverted doctrine that invariably leads to the view which declaims genuine education as a threat to their hegemony, and thus something that must be eradicated root and branch.

The literate citizen, rather than being a necessary building block of individual liberty as is the case in a every well-functioning society throughout history – be it, democratic, republican, monarchical, or some mixed regime – has been quickly reduced as the mortal enemy. This "development" where thought is actively penalized by the governing class is really quite extraordinary in historical terms, characteristic of only the darkest of ages in human history. The regime now preferentially selects for the functionally illiterate citizen, or, stated another way, the one who can best regurgitate government-manicured talking points, which the masses absorb uncritically for the most part as disseminated through the loudspeakers of mainstream media.

Tucker Carlson proved to be the last of a breed of television commentator who demonstrated an aptitude to read, write, and perhaps most dangerously, think on his own. He commanded logos — the written word — and made that word flesh through his nightly commentaries, similar to what Cicero, the philosopher, did as Rome's greatest public advocate and rhetorician. That is not to say that Carlson possesses a Ciceronian intellect, but it does showcase his Ciceronian penchant for telling the truth, making the link between the two men tangible.

Occupationally, Carlson first started not in broadcast journalism, but as a writer for various conservative publications, including the neoconservative Weekly Standard, where he had the opportunity to hone his literary craft over several years before becoming a television commentator full time. This time spent in written journalism before converting into a television talking head could be seen as a sort of rite of passage for Carlson, something that for all intents and purposes simply does not exist any longer for pundits now entering broadcast journalism, particularly at the level Carlson would achieve. Nevertheless, it was this experience — this mastery of both written and spoken word — which ultimately distinguished Carlson from the rest of the commentator pack — and by a country mile.

Unlike the Sean Hannity's of the world, who are so evidently as intellectually vacant as their monologues are sterile, which pantomime corporate talking points night after night in the most mind-numbingly way possible, Carlson always displayed at least some reminder of his skillset as a writer through his television commentary. This was his true gift, which lent itself to original (if not sometimes controversial) takes that typified his punditry throughout his television career, even as he grew into the household name that he is today. Carlson's knack for occasional controversy, a natural outgrowth of his originality of thought, is observed through the course of his evolution from bowtied libertarian jousting with John Stewart on Crossfire to populist oracle inveighing against American adventurism in the Middle East and Ukraine. This he did with charm and erudition a ways away from the bustle of Fox New's corporate headquarters in Midtown Manhattan where he could safely play the Johannine role as the voice crying out in the Maine wilderness in quasi reclusion hundreds of miles away.

* * *

Carlson has always been something of a political rebel – a spirited maverick and contrarian in a business that has long been hostile to any sort of great experimentation or creative ingenuity. Part of that inflexibility was due to the limited nature of the television medium itself: at its genesis — network television, like Hollywood before it —was designed to disseminate government approved propaganda, which it did with uncanny efficiency – and only occasional controversy – for many decades after World War II, when television became a household staple and the nightly news the default vehicle for the dissemination of popular information. However, as technology evolved, and the public became more docile in reaction, television became increasingly lazy, regressing from an innovative technology with all sorts of possibilities to an incubator of groupthink and regime approved narratives. The modern era of television, in which cable news became the supreme vehicle for narrative shaping, was effectively born when Ted Tuner launched CNN in 1980, creating the paradigm, in which virtually every single major pundit on air today, including Carlson, was raised.

Prior to the advent of the cable news model, which ultimately devolved into the endless 24/7 information cycle, there was still some room on television for longform commentary, which also included well-written monologues and talk shows whose tones were neither demeaning nor self-righteous, much as they are today, but actually serious and edifying. This includes not just the Walter Cronkites or Johnny Carsons of the world, but also of smaller commentators who treated audiences in a sophisticated manner, respecting the dignity of the listener that was far cry from the sanctimonious sermonizing so common of today's personalities, who now expect their audiences to mindlessly accept their talking points with all the fervor of a religious edict handed down ex cathedra from the chair of St. Peter. Even the earlier days of CNN adhered to this older more dignified model to a certain extent, with shows like Larry King that, spread over the course of an hour, would allow guests the breathing room to flesh out their thoughts while giving audiences adequate time to make judgments themselves about what they were observing.

It can be easy to forget that cable television had once not been (at least as obviously) an incubator of regime pieties it has now sadly become. There was a point in American life, and not too long ago, where conversation, not pontification, was the hallmark of televised punditry. Part of the reason why television remained a respectable medium, at least for a period of time in the mid-twentieth century, was because its golden age still largely cross-pollinated with the older form of print criticism, which, albeit dwindling in cultural import, still existed in the personages of Gore Vidal, Norman Mailer, Jacque Barzun, and many other critics – whose impact on the medium was readily discernible — and still valued, as demonstrated by their frequent appearances on popular talkshows — even as television mostly eclipsed print as the preferred vehicle for political commentary overall.

All of which is to say, print and television for a period of time had a synergistic relationship. Insofar as the latter medium flourished, it exploited the best of the former's fruits that could be transfigured into syndicated commentary. While a few generations removed from the names listed above, Carlson, whether intentionally or not, preserved the virtues of that older model of broadcast journalism in his own monologues, whose originality and occasional brazenness increasingly stood out amidst a sea of homogenizing mediocrity that broadly defines the commentary now saturating today's airwaves. This phenomenon became especially acute in recent years, where the countless distractions of social media and the ever-diminishing attention spans of the general public made Carlson's levelheaded takes, born out of an orchestrated distance from the chaos of society, the ultimate bogeyman of Washington's uniparty consensus.

How then might Carlson's contributions be evaluated in terms of impact on the political culture? Well, first and foremost, as performing an explicitly political operation, it may be helpful to think of television in explicitly political terms – and cable news, in particular, as being designed for a specific political role for the regime: namely, as disseminator of received opinion. Cable news has now fully become (if it had not always been) the main pulpit for transmitting regime pieties.

In our decadent times, those pieties more than ever resemble a kind of religion (or more accurately described: woke, anti-religion), in which the commentator, forgetting his role as interpreter of news, has instead lost himself to his ego, allowing it to overtake any higher prerogative for truth telling. Instead, the modern television commentator sees himself more akin to a preacher. But unlike the televangelists of yore, his Bible is the de facto theology – replete with its litany of approved doctrines – of the regime.

In this context, Carlson's transgression becomes that much more evident: he is not being punished for simply deviating from the approved narrative, but for committing an unspeakable blasphemy in the eyes of the regime. Anecdotal evidence of this fact is found in the reports claiming that since his termination that many politicians on both sides of the aisle in Washington are quietly cheering the decision behind the scenes. This cuts to the heart of his particular sacrilege: it is one thing to critique the Biden administration for being too "soft" on China (whatever that means) or even for getting too "woke" (so long as that term's contours are only vaguely defined at best, with assurances that no meaningful policies are recommended that would potentially alienate a corporate advertiser), but dare pay lip service to the victims of January 6th, or worse, question the sanity of appropriating hundreds of billions of dollars to the Ukraine as inflation reaches forty year highs at home (which Carlson did), and face the real possibility of getting canned (which Carlson did).

The unique circumstances of Carlson's firing cannot be overstated. How the whole episode unfolded is ultimately a telltale of why, despite his flaws, Tucker should be seen as a hero by not just the Right, but all patriotic Americans. For one, unlike Bill O'Reilly or Megyn Kelly, Fox's most notable firings prior to Carlson, and unlike peers from competing networks such as Don Lemon, who was ousted on the very same day as Carlson, only Carlson left his perch being the unmistakable top dog in all of cable news. His ratings, which regularly commanded more than 3 million devoted viewers on an average weeknight, were leaps and bounds ahead of the competition – indeed, at the time of his unceremonious dismissal, it is no exaggeration to say that Tucker Carlson could claim the mantle as the most successful personality in the history of cable news. He has even become bona fide presidential material – a rare multimedia sensation, who found success at various stages of his career in television, print, and even as a public orator as recent, high-profile speeches at Heritage and TPUSA go to show.

This is why startup networks like Pat Bet-David's Valuetainment are so willing to fork over $100 million without a second thought (which is estimated to be a low figure in the Tucker bidding wars) to Carlson who, at only 53, has likely decades left remaining of untapped potential – in terms of original perspectives and creative pursuits – that he can bring to the table. This hunch was only reaffirmed by his headturning insights on several notable podcasts of late, which included an endorsement of controversial social media influencer, Andrew Tate, on the Full Send Podcast. Tucker's sky high market value would have been unthinkable for more conventional hosts like Bill O'Reilly and Chris Cuomo, both top shows on their networks in their own heydays, but whose successes still largely if not exclusively depended on the traditional medium of television to realize, as proven by their respective returns to relative obscurity once that medium was taken out from under them.

Tucker, on the other hand, is one of the rare mainstream personalities still young and talented enough to make perhaps yet another career transition – this time, from cable news to podcasting (or more generally, into the decentralized media space). Part of this is a luxury of timing: centralized or mainstream institutions across the board, from Congress to traditional finance to television to even the nation state, are undergoing a seismic revolution in identity and purpose, a revolution that has eroded their legitimacy by the day. In this regard, Tucker's ouster may be deemed genius from the standpoint of timing: he was forced off the Titanic just before it had become entirely submerged, and was thus able to grab a lifeboat and salvage his professional life in the nick of time. It will be interesting to see in the coming months whether Tucker's departure becomes something of an accelerant for this greater process of decentralization already well underway that touches virtually every aspect of modern society (and in Carlson's case, of traditional cable news specifically), which may have the unintended effect – at least in the eyes of the Murdoch's and other cable news executives – of being the catalyst for the demise of a business model already on life support.

Rupert Murdoch, similar to many of the members of the gerontocracy that currently preside over Washington, DC, is a decade older than the man now festering in the White House. While much of the day-to-day management of Fox News has been handed over to his younger sons, Lachlan and James, there is no better portent for the future of the cable news business than the nonagenarian face of Fox News. And time may be running out even sooner than expected: Tucker's void triggered a precipitous cable news ratings decline, not only at Fox, but across the industry – having a spillover effect on both CNN and MSNBC's ratings as well. Overall, the damage was monumental – the declines have approached nearly a 50% drop-off in viewership in some cases, something that analysts will track closely in the ensuing weeks to see if such trends are permanent. If there is no rebound, Tucker's firing could well go down in the history books as the straw that broke the back of traditional cable news, ending a four plus decade reign as the medium of choice for most Americans of getting information.

Of course, inevitably, people will ask whether Fox News should have better anticipated the industry-wide shockwaves that Carlson's firing necessarily jumpstarted. To many who side with Team Tucker, it likely appeared obvious, a forgone conclusion even. After all, to the extent Fox News still retained a loyal viewership after having called Arizona way too prematurely in the 2020 presidential election, which many longtime viewers found unforgivable (and reacted by unplugging the proverbial cable), those who remained with the network overwhelmingly did so out of loyalty to Tucker Carlson alone.

But that loyalty ran only to the man, not the network. Now with Carlson's removal, there is absolutely no reason anymore to watch Fox News – especially when the depth of Carlson's monologues is compared with, say, the repetitious bromides of Sean Hannity or Laura Ingraham, the two other Fox primetime hosts, who cannot hold a candle to what Carlson was able to produce in originality night after night. Meanwhile, the revolution in podcasting and "decentralized media" more broadly threatens to further degrade the legitimacy of the mainstream cable news model overall, especially at a time when the latter's orthodoxies have become more rigid than ever, making original insights of the Carlson caliber difficult, if not impossible for up and coming commentators.

Indeed, it was partly due to the zealotry of mainstream cable news's increasingly inflexible orthodoxy that even accounts for Don Lemon and Chris Cuomo's ousters. Lemon, the more recent of the two prominent CNN firings, was axed shortly after a clip of him went viral in which he strongly implied middle-aged women were past their reproductive primes, one of the few statements of truth to have ever been uttered from his pulpit. While the link between this controversy and Lemon's termination may not be direct, the amount of attention this particular blowup sent across the media landscape (almost as if by design) is reason to believe it may have been a factor – or at least provided face for a justification – to pink slip the CNN host.

Which brings us to evaluating Tucker Carlson's ouster – an ouster the details of which obtain clarity by the day as more leaks trickle out, reported by Media Matters and other far-left watchdog groups (and to the likely delight of Fox News' executives, if they are not themselves conspiring in the rollout), that attempt to frame Tucker as a menace to society. How these leaks are coming out and being reported is a story unto itself, lending insight into the psychology of the corporate media class – who seem to genuinely believe their particular worldviews have purchase among the broader public. They also seem to genuinely believe that Tucker's ad-libbed, politically incorrect remarks being leaked will somehow render him persona non grata among the body politic (or competing networks), in the hopes of blackballing him out of a job for good, where he will be forced to return to his monastic lifestyle, though this time without the outsized megaphone of his Fox News platform.

So much of this is so patently silly, and speaks to the stupidity and out of touch-ness of the pezzonovante at Fox (and cable news in general). The fanaticism with which they have doubled down on regime theology in the wake of Tucker's firing is on no greater display than in the fact that Fox effectively committed seppuku by axing their most lucrative host at the summit of his powers. Carlson's significance to the Fox brand cannot be overstated: it was lightyears ahead of Bill O'Reilly's, who, despite being the de facto face of the network at the time of his firing, proved quite fungible – particularly with Tucker ready in the bullpen for his spot. This, combined with the fact that O'Reilly's ouster came at a time when the cable news model still had several years left in the tank goes a long way towards explaining why the Carlson situation is fundamentally different from what any of his predecessors experienced.

What is also peculiar about Carlson's situation is that his drawing power as a primetime anchor for a traditional cable news network so cut against the grain of societal wide forces today — economic, technological, and cultural — that bend decisively in the direction of decentralization, that it can be stated with little exaggeration that his departure will certainly leave a permanent mark on all cable news. The fact that it has been recently reported that Fox News would be willing to pay out his remaining salary – a whopping $20 million per year – just to prevent him from taking another job with a competitor (and potentially air any dirty laundry against his former employer in his new perch), further testifies to his command over the media landscape, and the corresponding threat — indeed, existential threat — Fox's suits certainly perceive him to their very existence.

On a macro level, the Carlson episode underscores how twisted and perverted the idea of the once great American dream has become in recent years. Basically, Fox News is telegraphing by Carlson's firing that exceptional, talented people — indeed, Carlson embodies the very principle of the absolute best of the best — may be lucratively compensated for their insights, but only to a limit: there is a very hard ceiling nowadays on just how much a primetime anchor can do within the existing framework.

In other words, while Fox granted more leeway to Tucker than any other host of theirs in terms of what he was able to say from his primetime perch, a function of Carlson's own natural abilities, the host was undoubtedly circumscribed in what he could say: truly insightful, meaningful analysis – indeed, the Overton Window for speech – had strict guardrails set by Fox News, and even someone as influential and talented as Carlson had to adhere to them — or risk termination. Part of this goes to a problem that is of course not isolated to Fox News, but observant all across America today: in a regime that has become grotesquely decadent like ours, originality of thought is stifled to only that which might be understood by the lowest common denominator (or the executives pandering to the debased wokeist sensibilities of their braindead corporate advertisers). Fox News, and those who adhere to the corporate media model, have basically signaled to their most talented hosts — we will pay you handsomely so long as you do not make use of your talents to their fullest possible extent. In this inverted version of the American dream, the best talents have to be leveled down to the mouth-breathing bottom-feeders: the lucrative payouts are not so much testimony to their natural gifts, but a perverted incentive to make these talents not use them!

Which brings us to yet another unspeakable problem with Tucker's success: he committed the ultimate blasphemy of outperforming his peers in 2023 America as a straight, white, conservative, Christian male with a happy, functional family. It is undoubtedly true that straight, white men are the most villainized class of people in the eyes of the regime today, full stop. Indeed, even at Fox News, the reputedly conservative standout in the cable news market, the fact that Tucker was replaced immediately with a black man, Lawrence Jones, speaks to how much the de facto woke religion of the regime permeates every single decision made in the corporate media world today.

This is not a slight against Jones, who may or may not be a worthy successor to Carlson, but the writing is on the wall for that decision by Fox's executives to deliberately choose a black man: no clearer a mea culpa by the Murdoch's to their corporate advertisers could have been made, the latter of whom deemed so many of Carlson's positions as anathema – blasphemous – to their precious ideology. Between the choice of remaining well-regarded among New York City's liberal elite, where no respectable person would dare impugn DEI, critical race theory, or wokeism, or risk committing professional suicide – evidently the Murdoch's found the latter option far more palatable. And so they went with it.

We have entered an age of insanity where paying lip service to regime pieties, even at the tremendous cost of potentially losing one's entire business, as Fox News did, is now preferable to the traditional market forces of supply and demand. The radical zealotry of the regnant theology of the regime helps further explain why one of Con Inc.'s favorite slogans – "get woke, go broke" – has largely fallen on deaf ears by the greater conservative grassroots, who, being smarter than the architects of such vacant slogans, intuit that the days of innocent political disagreements over tax rates and regulations are long over.

Even today's debates surrounding the so-called "culture wars" (to the extent those "wars" still exist), which in decades past arguably provided the most direct link between politics and religion, have obtained a theological cadence that would put to shame the most morally charged arguments seen in Pat Robertson's heyday. In an age where first order political principles – e.g., are men and women different?; should countries have borders?; do parents have rights to make decisions about the medical decisions of their children? – are now in radical flux, the religious dimension of politics reveals itself more viscerally and starkly than any other time in living memory.

Accordingly, those who dare so challenge the basic morality of America's ruling class – and valiantly subject themselves and their families to the kind of criticism that someone of Tucker Carlson's status and megaphone has done – are often forced to undergo a series of humiliating rituals by the regime — which entails censorship, both soft and real, firing, doxxing, blackballing, and many other kinds of subjugation intended to make (and keep) one into a forever social pariah. While opportunities for success may still be found, even in a regime gone batshit, to which Carlson's great fortune testifies, such opportunities are not without steep personal, financial, even spiritual, costs that fall upon any dissident who would so dare be the voice in the wilderness and proclaim the light of truth in an ever darkening world.

The latter point attests to why Tucker Carlson is so valuable, not just in terms of dollars and cents, but as belonging to a very short list of truth-seekers, the likes of which might include Donald Trump, Elon Musk, and Andrew Tate, who have endured real personal hardship – risking their lives, fortunes, and indeed sacred honor – on behalf of the cause of free thought and truth – veritas – that is the essential ingredient of any truly democratic society. It is that noble pursuit which unites all great men across the generations, and ultimately what links an ancient orator like Cicero, who paid the ultimate sacrifice for his beliefs, and a modern "orator" like Tucker Carlson, who, in his time, likewise had to sacrifice a great deal to speak the truth in the face of creeping tyranny that would seek to put asunder any dissident voice with the gall to challenge the regnant orthodoxy.

Paul Ingrassia is a two-time Claremont Fellow: he was the Jack Roth Charitable Foundation John Marshall Fellow for 2022 and a Publius Fellow in 2020. Mr. Ingrassia graduated from Cornell Law School in 2022 and is a member of the New York Young Republican Club. His Twitter handle is: @PaulIngrassia.

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