TUESDAY, MARCH 22, 2022
An unusual family story: As we noted yesterday, the latest episode began on Wednesday evening, March 9. On that evening, Tucker Carlson engaged in a bit of "cable news" shrieking.
On that enchanted if overwrought evening, Carlson said so many things in his opening monologue that it's hard to say exactly what he said. But based on the headlines above the Fox News transcript, this seems to be what Fox News believes that Carlson said:
Tucker Carlson: Someone needs to explain why there are dangerous biological weapons in Ukraine
The Pentagon is lying about this—why?
Based on the official Fox News headlines, Fox News believes that Carlson made those statements that night. Fox News believes that Carlson said that there are dangerous biological weapons in Ukraine, and that the Pentagon is lying about that fact.
That seems to be what Fox News believes that Carlson said. It may also be what Carlson himself believes he said; presumably, he could have had those headlines changed if he thought they misrepresent the point of his screeching monologue.
At any rate, that's what Carlson may have said on Wednesday evening, March 9. A fair amount on pushback ensued, and Carlson apparently changed his tune on Monday evening, March 14.
(For the record, we watched both shows in real time.)
Once again, Carlson's screeching performance that night makes it somewhat hard to determine just what he exactly said. But these are the headlines which sit atop the transcript of the monologue which opened his March 14 program:
Tucker Carlson: Everything that Tulsi Gabbard said about biolabs in Ukraine is true
Tucker Carlson addresses claims the US is funding biolabs in Ukraine
Those are the headlines which sit atop the transcript of Carlson's March 14 show. Claims about "biological weapons" are gone. Carlson is now said to be addressing claims about the presence of biological labs.
According to these new headlines, everything that Tulsi Gabbard said about those biological laboratories was true. Gabbard had appeared as a guest on the March 9 program. According to those headlines, Carlson was now defending the claims that she had made on that original program.
That said, it was quite explicit, on March 14, that Carlson was defining the claims he and Gabbard had made on March 9—but what a surprise:
Those March 9 headlines told that world that there were dangerous biological weapons in Ukraine—and that the Pentagon was lying about it.
Now, a different story was being sold. Carlson was defending claim which had been made about biological labs. At least in the new, improved headlines, mention of those dangerous, lied-about weapons had been disappeared. But so it goes when a very influential "cable news" channel presents the views, or at least the apparent claims, of a highly influential "cable news" mega-star.
On a fairly regular basis, the star in question will shriek and screech about some topic, often in ways which make it hard to define exactly what he has said. That said, a powerful impression may be delivered, as was the case on March 9.
On that evening, Carlson made so many screeching claims that it was hard to say exactly what he had said. But the impression he gave was quite clear—there were biological weapons inside Ukraine, and the Pentagon was lying about their presence.
Why does Carlson behave in this way? Why does Fox News permit it? There's no perfect way to answer such questions, but Carlson put more of this conduct on display in his opening monologue last night.
Last night, Carlson stressed the idea, again and again, that Americans should be rooting for Ukraine to win its fight with Russia—to remove the Russian army from within its borders. But according to the headlines which sit above the transcript of last night's opening monologue, we Americans are being lied to again:
Tucker Carlson: We have a right to know what's going on in Ukraine, but our leaders are lying
Zelenskyy's actions in Ukraine are authoritarianism, not democracy
We should be rooting for the Ukrainians to win their fight against the Russian invasion. But Zelensky is an authoritarian, Carlson said, and our leaders are lying to us about that fact.
In this instance, Carlson's statements about Zelensky, and about some of his actions, were fairly straightforward and clear. They also seemed to be built, in several major instances, on simple misstatements of fact, or on statements of fact which were baldly misleading.
For one such statement, read this:
CARLSON (3/21/22): A war is being waged in America's name with our money, so it's fair to ask how the side we are backing is doing.
Clearly, there are an awful lot of heroic Ukrainian citizens. We see them all the time on television. We applaud them. We admire them, but how is the government doing? How is it behaving? Again, we have a right to know, even if state-controlled media in Ukraine won't report it, even if our sort of state-controlled media here downplays it, dismisses it.
Here's a man called Gennadiy Druzenko. Druzenko was a medic in charge of a field hospital in Ukraine. He's appeared on CNN. Here, he casually announces that he has ordered the castration of captured Russian soldiers. Watch:
We admire Ukraine's heroic citizens, "but how is [Ukraine's] government doing?" Having established that framework, Carlson turned to a peculiar incident involving Gennadiy Druzenko, who seems to be a marginal figure and may or may not be connected to the Ukrainian government at all.
To read Newsweek's account of this recent strange incident, you can just click here. (Headline: "Ukrainian Medic Apologizes After Saying Russian POWs Should Be Castrated.")
It seems clear that Druzenko actually made the weird statements in question. What isn't clear is whether Druzenko is actually a representative of "the government," and whether any of this unfortunate weirdness should actually matter at all.
That said, in Carlson's hands, this weird incident was used to support the claim that Zelensky is an authoritarian and that Ukraine is no democracy. Carlson shrieked and screeched about this matter, as he so frequently does. He also shrieked and screeched as he made his basic overwrought claims about Zelensky himself.
Tucker Carlson is 52 years old. He's been a major media figure for several decades. Previous editors, including ranking players of the left, have testified to his ability—to the gifts he brought to the journalistic undertaking in his earlier years.
Today, he's a highly influential figure—and where he was once a journalist, today's his current work is characterized by his screeching and shrieking, and by his apparent belief that pretty much anything goes.
Various people have tried to explain why this "poor immigrant" behaves in the way he currently does. As we've watched his headlong decline, we've often wondered about this remarkable passage in an account of a remarkable, two-generation family story:
Carlson was born Tucker McNear Carlson in the Mission District of San Francisco, California, on May 16, 1969. He is the elder son of artist and San Francisco native Lisa McNear (1945–2011) and Dick Carlson (1941–), a former "gonzo reporter" who became the director of Voice of America, president of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the U.S. ambassador to the Seychelles...
Carlson's paternal grandparents were Richard Boynton and Dorothy Anderson, teenagers who placed his father at The Home for Little Wanderers orphanage where he was fostered by Carl Moberger, a Malden, near Boston, tannery worker, and his wife Mainer Florence Moberger, and adopted at the age of two-years-old by upper-middle-class New Englanders, the Carlsons, an executive at the Winslow Brothers & Smith Tannery of Norwood (the oldest tannery in America) and his wife. ..
In 1976, Carlson's parents divorced after the nine-year marriage reportedly "turned sour." Carlson's father was granted custody of Tucker and his brother. Carlson's mother left the family when he was six, wanting to pursue a "bohemian" lifestyle.
When Carlson was in first grade, his father moved Tucker and his brother to the La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego, California, and raised them there. Carlson attended La Jolla Country Day School and grew up in a home overlooking the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club. His father owned property in Nevada, Vermont, and islands in Maine and Nova Scotia. In 1984, his father unsuccessfully challenged incumbent Republican Mayor Roger Hedgecock in the San Diego mayoral race.
In 1979, Carlson's father married divorcée Patricia Caroline Swanson, an heiress to Swanson Enterprises...
Carlson's father rose from an orphanage to remarkable prominence and considerable wealth. As for Carlson's mother, she abandoned her sons when Carlson was only six.
According to a profile in The New Yorker, Carlson never saw his mother again. We'll link to that profile tomorrow.
"I pity to the poor immigrant," Bob Dyland once wrote. He was speaking of Donald J. Trump at the time, but he may have bene thinking of Carlson.
How did Putin get to be Putin? How did Trump become Trump?
Also, how can we explain the pitiable shrieking of Tucker Carlson? His work is routinely beyond the pale. Tomorrow, we'll cite a famous rule, then suspend it for the day.
Tomorrow: The Goldwater rule, suspended