Part of what makes Right-Wing propaganda so effective is that it gives its consumers cover to believe both sides of the political spectrum are essentially the same. Left, Right—both sides (it vigorously implies) are engaged in partisan hackery costumed as journalism. This is why it poses as “News”: to lend authority to this false equivalence. For all the world, R-W propaganda is meant to look like news. If traditional media uses broadcast desks and television anchors to reach its audience, so too do the propaganda machine’s entertainers. If traditional media uses graphics and charts and chryons to convey its message, so too will Fox News, Newsmax, OANN et al.
That even the propagandists admit—for legal purposes—that primetime stars like Tucker Carlson aren’t meant to be taken seriously is easy for his audience to ignore. For one, they’ll never hear about it. And for another, they genuinely believe what’s been shouted into their rural satellite dishes for years and years: that all journalism is partisan, all journalism is opinion, all journalism is the same.
This is what makes Fox News, Newsmax, and OANN’s coverage of (for example) the current crisis in Ukraine so dangerous. Because while traditional media faces the challenge of simplifying a complicated, decades-in-the-making geo-political situation into widely digestible news pieces, Fox News’s only priority is to call that coverage into question. (And, of course, whatever the problem is, to blame the Left.)
Which brings us to Tucker Carlson’s deeply disingenuous opening rant from Friday, February 17th, later published to Fox News’s website as the above linked editorial. In it, he follows the R-W propaganda machine’s playbook to a T: instead of engaging with the nuance of the Russia/Ukraine crisis and its global implications, he claims the very existence of that nuance is evidence of traditional media’s “covert agenda.”
In this case, he seems hell bent on misunderstanding the phrase “could.” As in, the Biden Administration’s warning that a ground invasion of Ukraine could begin as soon as 2/16/2022. In Tucker’s words, “Joe Biden has been very clear about that. So have the intel agencies and of course, their stenographers in the news media. As Politico put it, “Russia will start a physical assault on Ukraine as soon as February 16, multiple U.S. officials confirmed.” And then, of course, proof of the traditional media’s covert agenda: A ground invasion of Ukraine did not commence on 2/16/2022. “But here’s the funniest part of all:” Tucker claimed, “There was no invasion. Feb. 16, 2022 was yesterday. Nothing happened. Vladimir Putin did not invade Ukraine.”
No acknowledgement of the fluidity of geo-political crises, and certainly no acknowledgement of the possibility that—*gasp*—the Biden administration’s very public warning increased pressure on Putin to rethink Russia’s plans.
“What’s going on here?” Carlson pretends to analyze, “Well, the most obvious explanation is the most obvious one. Doddering old Joe Biden, who even before he was senile, was widely considered a moron in Washington, has been played by Vladimir Putin, who may be evil but definitely is not stupid. If Putin bluffed an invasion of Ukraine to make Biden look ridiculous, it worked.”
And then, the lie that begets all others: “This is clearly some sort of intel operation that’s being filtered through the State Department and the media.”
It’s all a farce, to Carlson. A deep state con. Forget that, instead of on the 16th, on February 21, 2022, Putin took the step of recognizing as legitimate the seperatist regions of Ukraine, and sent Russian troops into them. Meaning that, today, Russian troops are inside of sovereign Ukraine.
Usually, sending foreign troops into a sovereign region is known as an “invasion.”
But it didn’t happen on the 16th, so it’s a con.
It’s evidence of a coverup, probably at the highest levels. Maybe it’s even an FBI conspiracy to boot.
And is this what Fox News was hoping for all along?
Because, surely, we’re going to spend the rest of the week hearing about how it’s all proof that “Biden is Weak” and “Putin is Strong.”
But it seems that, contrary to the world Carlson is intent on describing to his viewers, even the answer to the What-Does-Fox-News-Want question is more nuanced than a simple yes or no.
Fox News wanted this, yes, because it fits their narrative. Nuance = proof of traditional media’s covert agenda. And if traditional media is thus “proved” to be covert, then it’s an opportunity to legitimize their own propaganda. If it’s all lies, well, at least their lies are palatable to their audience. And if the lie reinforces the lie, then there’s no need to ever change the channel.