Tucker Carlson, Liberator?
Tucker Carlson visited Canada this week to “liberate” it from … from what exactly?
Well, that’s what thousands of people – including the premier of Alberta – came to Calgary and Edmonton to hear in packed arenas.
Tucker’s two-day liberation tour from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s “authoritarian dictatorship” is timed perfectly around two political pieces of populist kindling: Trump’s march to victory in the US presidential primaries and a Canadian judge’s ruling that the Liberal government’s invocation of the Emergencies Act during the Trucker pandemic protest was “unreasonable” and unconstitutional.
It all sent a message: The populist forces are gathering and ready to take down Trudeau (and Biden) and save Canada from “disgusting decline.”
Here are the things destroying Canada, according to Liberator Carlson: mass immigration, medical assistance in dying (“genocide”), legalized pot, transgender people, the woke folks, the media, big tech, a “metrosexual” prime minister, anti-Christian groups, solar panels … and then, the great biggie, the authoritarian state itself, which exposed itself during the pandemic. “This is a destruction of you and your culture and your beliefs and your children and your future,” Tucker breathlessly summarized.
Pause for a moment on that sentence, because in it lies, perhaps, the most challenging dynamic facing democracies worldwide: hate disguised as anger. The stark casting of politics as a personal, apocalyptic battle over the imminent destruction of … everything. Your culture. Your beliefs. Your children. Your future.
In Tucker’s End-of-Days casting, this is not a mere election cycle, a debate of ideas, or even a culture war. It is a war. Period. Mao Zedong once said “politics is war without bloodshed,” but as the rhetoric keeps getting hotter and political opponents are increasingly viewed as personal enemies, the lines between politics and war are dangerously blurred. And it raises the question, how to respond to this?
The first thing to establish is that a fierce debate of ideas is the core of democracy. Freely disagreeing with others is the whole shemozzle here, so protecting and defending the right of people to say things you disagree with (outside of hate speech, etc.) is foundational. Disagreement doesn’t make someone the enemy; it makes them a partner in democracy. That’s why the arrest of a commentator from Rebel News as he chased down a Canadian minister was fundamentally wrong. And why having Carlson come to Canada is perfectly normal. It may have a political impact, but it was not and should not be banned. Questioning power and protecting speech is core democratic stuff.
It's also why debates and court cases over, say, the government’s use of the Emergencies Act in Canada are critical.
But contrary to Carlson’s distorted mirror, this happens all the time. That’s why willfully twisting facts, playing footsie with hate speech – Carlson’s stock in trade as he profits from paranoia – needs an equally robust response.
For example, the Emergencies Act is a controversial tool, but the fact is, it was heavily scrutinized when invoked. There was a vote in Parliament, a built-in sunset clause (it was only in use for nine days), an inquiry headed by Justice Paul Rouleau (whose scope included access to confidential cabinet documents), and court cases from civil liberties groups … who just won!
Hardly the hallmarks of a dictatorship. It is the robust debate about a government’s use and overuse of powers, which is ongoing in any democracy. Torquing this stuff as some kind of fascistic conspiracy erodes the hard work it took to build these check and balance systems in the first place.
On one hand, the media and politicians have to be extra transparent, open, and fair, and they should take criticism about their own biases and assumptions. On the other hand, they can’t be scared to check facts, call bullshit, and avoid promoting hate.
For example, as Carlson raged about the government’s overreach on COVID – “hey Canada forcing people to take an untested medicine is not a good idea” – he left out the fact that in January, February, and March of 2020, HE was one of the leading voices calling on the government to do MORE. “People you know will get sick …Some may die. This is real,” he said. In March, he actually visited Donald Trump in the White House to urge him to take stronger action. “Anybody who imagined that this was just media hype turned out to be wrong,” Carlson said. “Feb. 3 is the day that it was confirmed to me by a US government official that this was a huge problem and that a lot of people could die. That’s when I learned it. And that’s the night we went on the air and said, "Wow this is something you really need to worry about.’”
Did Tucker mention any of this during his liberation tour? Is calling out his own call for action against the dangers of COVID political bias or just fact-checking
the revisionist history he’s peddling?
I guess this used to be called “standards,” but standards of shame, debate, and humanity have been abolished by the anonymous shield of social media, the political efficacy of disinformation, and the profitability of anger. Both the far right and the far left, among other culprits, bear responsibility. This is not bothsidesism. The fringes of both political spectrums have destroyed the middle ground on a host of issues – the pandemic, Ukraine, Israel-Gaza – and made reasonable dialogue a helluva lot harder.
Where does it end up?
Look, people are scared about where we are headed, but let’s not arm up.
Maybe it’s just good to remind folks that in the US and Canada, though there are real and deep problems, we have it pretty darn good next to, well, almost anywhere.
In the US this week, inflation was 3%, wage growth was 3% and employment was 3%. Look around the world. That’s not bad.
It sure as heck doesn’t look like the apocalypse or like your children will be destroyed.
Wars require liberators. Democracies require candidates.