Tucker Annihilation
February 23, 2012

A couple nights ago, Tucker Carlson told Fox News that “Iran deserves to be annihilated.” Nothing to see here; just some standard yuppie pundit chest-beating. But I found his pseudo-mea culpa absolutely fascinating:

It’s my fault that I got tongue tied and didn’t explain myself well last night. I’m actually on the opposite side on the Iran question from many people I otherwise agree with. I think attacking could be a disaster for the US and am worried that Obama will do it, for fear of seeming weak before an election. Of course the Iranian government is awful and deserves to be crushed. But I’m not persuaded we or Israel could do it in a way that doesn’t cause even greater problems. That’s the main lesson of Iraq it seems to me.

See, the problem with declaring war on Iran is that it would be a “disaster” … for the US. It might cause problems. That’s the main lesson of Iraq.

You could argue that this position is less monstrous than the one that tongue-tied Tucker seemed to profess on Fox News. After all, he’s saying that we shouldn’t take actions that would lead to the senseless slaughter of thousands of Iranians. But he’s doing so while also making clear that the lives of those thousands of Iranians are not the main issue. National interest, dammit!

If the “main lesson” of Iraq was really that one should refrain from committing inexpedient atrocities, then no one’s really learned anything. Just remember Tucker’s words the next time he castigates the Iranian government for how poorly they treat Iranians.

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Beck and Circuses
June 1, 2011

Last night I finally got around to reading Tim Dickinson’s epic Rolling Stone profile of Fox News president Roger Ailes. It was fascinating, though I would have liked to see less of a straight chronology of his life and more analysis of why Fox works the way it does. Maybe that’s less a criticism of the profile and more a vacuum that needs to be filled independently of it. But some of the last few paragraphs offer a tantalizing glimpse of a subject which could be fertile ground for its own profile, or its own book.

But Ailes has not simply been content to shift the nature of journalism and direct the GOP’s message war. He has also turned Fox News into a political fundraising juggernaut. During her Senate race in Delaware, Tea Party darling Christine O’Donnell bragged, “I’ve got Sean Hannity in my back pocket, and I can go on his show and raise money.” Sharron Angle, the Tea Party candidate who tried to unseat Harry Reid in Nevada, praised Fox for letting her say on-air, “I need $25 from a million people – go to SharronAngle.com and send money.” Completing the Fox-GOP axis, Karl Rove has used his pulpit as a Fox News commentator to promote American Crossroads, a shadowy political group he founded, promising that the money it raised would be put “to good use to defeat Democrats who have supported the president’s agenda.”

But the clearest demonstration of how Ailes has seamlessly merged both money and message lies in the election of John Kasich, a longtime Fox News contributor who eked out a two-point victory over Democrat Ted Strickland last November to become governor of Ohio. While technically a Republican, Kasich might better be understood as the first candidate of the Fox News Party. “The question is no longer whether Fox News is an arm of the GOP,” says Burns, the network’s former media critic, “but whether it’s becoming the torso instead.”

It’s not just that the Republican Party has a propaganda wing unlike any other in American history. Calling Fox News a propaganda wing is just one way to look at it; it could also be that the media empire is the main event and the candidates are just tie-in products.

To me that’s the more alarming notion. But it’s also the logical extension of our cultural understanding of politics as theater. If the GOP is now an extension of Fox News, it’s because how we govern ourselves as a country is becoming little more than an extension of our thirst for entertainment. Sure, the cynic will say it was always this way. I would only say to the cynic that he lacks imagination regarding how far it has gone, and how much further it can go.

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Decision Points
November 22, 2010

DALLAS - NOVEMBER 09:  Former U.S. President G...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

In his review of Decision Points, George Packer writes that former President Bush “has no toleration for ambiguity”

he can’t revere his father and, on occasion, want to defy him, or lose charge of his White House for a minute, or allow himself to wonder if Iraq might ultimately fail. The structure of “Decision Points,” with each chapter centered on a key issue—stem-cell research, interrogation and wiretapping, the invasion of Iraq, the fight against AIDS in Africa, the surge, the “freedom agenda,” the financial crisis—reveals the essential qualities of the Decider. There are hardly any decision points at all. The path to each decision is so short and irresistible, more like an electric pulse than like a weighing of options, that the reader is hard-pressed to explain what happened. Suddenly, it’s over, and there’s no looking back.

No wonder, then, that Fox News continues to function as his in-house PR firm. The whole right-wing noise machine is oriented towards one thing: the promise of a wholly unambiguous world, with the evil elites on one side and the salt-of-the-earth forces of good on the other. Why, in a world like that, would historic decisions ever be difficult?

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