Republican Role Model: Why Trump followers are inspired to emulate Putin’s brutal ideology in America
In a speech delivered on March 25 from his office in the Kremlin, Putin criticized the West’s “cancel culture.” He charged that it was “canceling” Russia, “an entire thousand-year-old country, our people.” It was the third time in recent months Putin has blasted the so-called “cancel culture.”
Which is exactly what Trump, Tucker Carlson, and the Republican party have blasted for several years.
“The goal of cancel culture is to make decent Americans live in fear of being fired, expelled, shamed, humiliated and driven from society as we know it,” Trump said as he accepted his party’s nomination at the Republican National Convention in 2020.
Tucker Carlson, one of Fox News’s most prominent personalities, has charged that liberals have been trying to cancel everything from Space Jam to the Fourth of July.
Putin’s fixation on transgender and gay people has also been echoed on the American right. Republican state bills aimed at limiting LGBTQ rights or discussion in schools are soaring. Last fall, months before Texas’s Republican governor Greg Abbott threatened to criminalize parents who give their transgender children gender-affirming care, Putin argued that teaching children about different gender identities was “on the verge of a crime against humanity.”
Then there’s admiration for Putin himself. Just before Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Trump deemed him “savvy,” “genius,” and “smart” for “taking over a country, literally, a vast, vast, location, a great piece of land with a lot of people, and just walking right in.”
On his Fox News program, Carlson asked, rhetorically: “Why do I hate Putin so much? Has Putin ever called me a racist? Has he threatened to get me fired for disagreeing with him?” But Carlson called Ukraine “an obedient puppet of the Biden state department” and suggests Putin’s invasion was nothing more than a “border dispute.”
Putin’s lies and the lies coming from America’s extreme right are mutually reenforcing. Carlson’s Fox News segments show up in Russian propaganda. And when the American site “Infowars” resurrected an unfounded Russian claim that the United States funded biological weapons labs in Ukraine, Putin repeated the Infowars story.
To conclude from all of this that authoritarians think alike is to miss a deeper truth. Putin, Trump, Carlson, and a growing number of rightwing commentators and activists, have been promoting much the same narrative – for much the same reason.
Remember, Putin was put into power by a Russian oligarchy made fabulously rich by siphoning off the wealth of the former Soviet Union. Likewise, Trump and the radical right in America have been bankrolled by an American oligarchy – Rupert Murdoch, Charles Koch, Rebekah Mercer – daughter of hedge fund tycoon Robert Mercer, Blackstone chief executive Stephen Schwarzman, and other billionaires.
What do these two sets of oligarchs get in return? Strongmen who divert the public’s attention away from the oligarchs’ hijacking of their economies toward cultural fears of being overwhelmed by the “other.” Putin’s MO has been to fuel Russian ethnic pride and nationalism. The Trump-Carlson-radical right’s MO has been to fuel white American nationalism.
In both cases, strongmen and their allies have mythologized a “superior” culture – replete with creation stories of blood ties, motherlands, and religion – supposedly endangered by decadent forces intent on attacking and overwhelming it.
To Putin, the decadent force is the west. As he put it Friday, “domestic culture at all times protected the identity of Russia,” which “accepted all the best and creative, but rejected the deceitful and fleeting, that which destroyed continuity of our spiritual values, moral principles and historical memory.” Hence, a mythic justification for taking Ukraine back from a seductive but inferior western culture that threatens to overwhelm it and Russia.
The Trump-Carlson-White Nationalist narrative is similar: America’s dominant White Christian culture is endangered by Black people, immigrants and coastal elites who threaten to overwhelm it.
The culture wars now being orchestrated by the Republican party against transgender people, gay people, poor women seeking abortions, and schools that teach about sex and America’s history of racism, emerge from the same narrative as Putin’s culture war against a “decadent” West filled with “sociocultural disturbances.” As does the right’s claim that “secularists” have, in the words of former Trump attorney general William Barr, mounted “an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values.”
These tropes have served to distract attention from the systemic economic looting that oligarchs have been undertaking, leaving most people poor and anxious. Which is why the grievances that Putin, Trump, Carlson, and the Republican party use are unremittingly cultural; they are never economic, never about class, and most assuredly not about the predations of the super-rich.
Reduced to basics, today’s oligarchs and strongmen – along with their mouthpieces and lackeys, are trying to justify their wealth and power by attacking liberal values that have shaped the west, beginning with the enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries – the values of tolerance, openness, democracy, self-government, equal rights, and the rule of law. These values are incompatible with a society of oligarchs and strongmen.
Ultimately, the oligarchs and strongmen will lose. Putin will not succeed in subduing Ukraine, Trump will not be re-elected president, and Carlson and his ilk will not persuade Americans to give up on American ideals. But the culture wars will not end any time soon, because so much wealth and power have consolidated at the top of America, Russia, and elsewhere around the world that anti-liberal forces have risen to justify it.
Timeline: Tucker Carlson's Pro-Kremlin Propaganda
December 19, 2016: Carlson cast doubt on the CIA assessment that Russia interfered with the U.S. election and said he’s “open-minded” about Russia.
January 3, 2017: Carlson questioned attempts to sanction Russia for cyber attacks.
January 13, 2017: On then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s Senate hearings, Carlson asked, “Why are they so anti-Russia?”
January 18, 2017: Carlson argued with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) about Russia and the DNC hacking, asking how Russian interference in the election was any “different” from other nations spying on the U.S.
May 3, 2017: Carlson questioned whether Russia is a threat to democracy and claimed not to have seen “any evidence” of Russia’s wrongdoing, including regarding Ukraine.
July 26, 2017: In an interview with then-Vice President Mike Pence, Carlson asked whether sanctions against Russia in response to aggression in Ukraine would help America.
January 14, 2019: Carlson: “Why should I care about whether Russia invades Ukraine?”
January 15, 2019: Carlson argued that the U.S. shouldn’t have to uphold Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty and defend the Baltic member states of NATO.
September 24, 2019: Following the revelation of then-President Donald Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during which Trump attempted to extort Ukraine into assisting with his re-election effort, Carlson said, “Nobody has bothered to explain why sending $400 million in military aid to Ukraine is in the interest of the United States.”
September 30, 2019: Carlson claimed that “mindlessly sending military aid to Ukraine in order to antagonize Russia” jeopardizes American national security.
September 30, 2019: Carlson questioned why the U.S. should send aid to Ukraine: “Why should you be in favor of that? Does it help America? Does it make you safer?” Later, he asked, “Why do we care so much” about “Russia messing around in Ukraine, or Estonia, Crimea or whatever?” finally ending with, “Why wouldn’t we be friends with Russia?”
September 30, 2019: Carlson: It’s just funny that my country actually is being invaded by other countries from the south — look at the population movement into the United States without our permission. And nobody cares and caring is itself seen as immoral. But we have to be outraged, morally outraged that Russia is making belligerent noises at Ukraine. Do you think that’s weird?
October 29, 2019: Carlson claimed that Trump was being punished for not supporting Ukraine’s independence, glibly commenting, “His phone call was unacceptable because it might prevent America from automatically unthinkingly spending billions of dollars over many years to prop up a country that most Americans could not find on a globe at gunpoint.”
November 13, 2019: Carlson devoted his monologue to mocking America’s relationship with Ukraine: “We need Ukraine like a drowning man needs a life ring, or more precisely like an alcoholic needs a drink.” Later, Carlson dismissed the need to defend Ukraine: “Ukraine is very far away from us. That could be Trump’s campaign slogan. In fact, let’s hope it is Trump’s campaign slogan.”
November 15, 2019: Tucker asked Representative Louie Gohmert (R-TX), “Why are we taking Ukraine’s side in a war against Russia?” Carlson added that Russia invading Crimea is “totally fine” with him as it “has no effect on America.”
November 15, 2019: Tucker asked retired U.S. Army Colonel Douglas MacGregor why we should care about the Ukraine-Russia conflict and accused the State Department of pushing the U.S. into a war with Russia.
November 25, 2019: Tucker Carlson said that he’s rooting for Russia against Ukraine
December 2, 2019: Despite having previously said that he was “joking” about rooting for Russia over Ukraine, Tucker doubled down on supporting the Russians in the conflict: “I don’t think that we should be at war with Russia. And I think we should probably take the side of Russia if we have to choose between Russia and Ukraine. That is my view.”
December 17, 2019: Carlson baselessly argued “The only purpose of aid to the government of Ukraine is to antagonize Russia,” adding that viewers should “keep in mind” the costs of antagonizing “a country with more nuclear weapons than any other country on the globe.”
December 18, 2019: Carlson mocked the idea of supplying military aid to Ukraine, which he surmised would not have been what the founders intended; “If there’s one thing Jefferson and Madison agreed on, arm Ukraine.”
January 30, 2020: Carlson mocked the American relationship with Ukraine: “Ukraine — that noble, windswept Eastern European nation that is our single greatest ally in the world, maybe our only real ally. If Ukraine wants it, we provide it. That’s the rule, as they’ve explained in the Senate. All decent Americans stand with Ukraine. Now, for a moment the president seemed to falter in his moral duty to stand with Ukraine, and for that he is being impeached.”
January 31, 2020: Carlson said Trump should have canceled aid to Ukraine: “There is no reason to send weapons to Ukraine, in my opinion.”
February 5, 2020: Carlson mocked the need to defend Ukraine: “It is our highest and most sacred duty to support the people of Ukraine and needless to say, that includes giving them sophisticated weapons systems whenever they ask for them and neve, ever delaying the delivery of those weapons, even for a moment.”
February 5, 2020: Fellow Fox News host Jeanine Pirro joined in Carlson’s mocking of Ukraine, saying, “I didn’t know Ukraine was so important,” to which Carlson responded, “All important! There’s nothing more important than Ukraine!”
November 10, 2021: Carlson questioned why the average American should care about the borders of Ukraine and Crimea when, according to him, “our own territorial integrity has been flagrantly violated” by immigrants.
December 7, 2021: Carlson and his guest, retired U.S. Army Col. Douglas MacGregor, speculated that Russia’s return to its Orthodox Christian views could be the reason America and the West seem bent on its destruction.
December 7, 2021: Carlson again compared Russia’s attempts to invade Ukraine to immigrants coming through America’s southern border.
December 7, 2021: Carlson aired a chyron telling viewers that the threats against Ukraine were taking place because Russian President Vladimir Putin “just wants to keep his western border secure.”
December 21, 2021: Carlson included the narrative that “Ukraine is essential to our national security” within a list of so-called government “psy-op[s]” that are “designed to convince you of something that’s just obviously false.”
February 17, 2022: Carlson mocked media companies for reporting that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was imminent based on reports by intelligence agency sources, dismissing the possibility of air strikes and cyber attacks. “According to Politico, this physical assault ‘could be preceded by a barrage of missile strikes and cyberattacks. So these aren’t just gang members. They’re Russians,” Carlson said.
February 17, 2022: Carlson called Zelensky a “puppet of the Biden administration” who was also a “low-grade comic of some kind.”
February 22, 2022: In his opening monologue, Carlson gave a passionate defense of Putin as a person.
February 22, 2022: Carlson aired a chyron mocking criticism of Putin: “Anything Less Than Hating Putin is Treason.”
February 22, 2022: Carlson called Russia’s buildup of forces surrounding much of Ukraine’s border a simple “border dispute.”
February 22, 2022: Carlson mocked Biden’s condemnations of Putin, joking that “you’re going to win an important moral victory against dastardly old Vladimir Putin, who is much, much worse than Justin Trudeau. Just so you know. So you can feel good about that because — because — let’s see, come to think of it, why would you feel good about that?”
February 22, 2022: Carlson told viewers that the reason the Biden administration was considering providing support for Ukraine is because “Joe Biden likes Ukraine. So Putin bad, war good.”
February 23, 2022: Carlson compared Russia invading Ukraine to migrants crossing the American southern border.
February 23, 2022: Carlson told viewers that “Ukraine, to be technical, is not a democracy. Democracies don’t arrest political opponents and they don’t shut down opposition media.”
February 23, 2022: Carlson lied to his viewers, claiming that, technically, it was Russia that fought the Nazis while Ukraine collaborated.
February 23, 2022: Carlson called Ukraine “a pure client state of the United States State Department.”
February 24, 2022: Carlson covered the Russian assault on Kyiv by complaining about “maternity flight suits” for American service members.
February 24, 2022: On Tucker Carlson Tonight, guest Erik Prince complained that the Biden administration did not listen to him on Ukraine.
February 24, 2022: Tucker Carlson blamed the “climate people” for emboldening Putin and giving him the power to send Europe and the U.S. into an economic depression.
February 25, 2022: Carlson delivered an outraged monologue, calling the invasion a “humiliating defeat” for Biden and criticizing him for failing to prevent the war.
February 25, 2022: Carlson’s guest Charles Hurt blamed the Green New Deal and Biden’s environmental policy for the invasion of Ukraine.
February 28, 2022: Five days after claiming that Americans had no real reason to hate Putin, Carlson claimed it was understandable that “most Americans now despise Vladimir Putin.”
February 28, 2022: Carlson compared the invasion of Ukraine to the January 6 insurrection, telling viewers it will be used to persecute those who “dissent” and “purge the country of the Democratic Party’s political opponents.”
February 28, 2022: Carlson railed against the demonetization and banning of Russian propaganda outlets like RT from social media platforms, claiming it was an effort at “censoring the opinions of Americans.”
March 1, 2022: Carlson claimed that “Big Tech has aligned with intel agencies to curate everything you learned about the war being fought in your name in Ukraine” to censor supposed pro-Russia content.
March 1, 2022: Carlson’s guest Miranda Devine compared the war in Ukraine to the situation at the southern border, claiming both situations are “an invasion in anyone’s language.”
March 1, 2022: Carlson mocked a deceptively edited clip of Vice President Kamala Harris explaining the situation in Ukraine in layman’s terms.
March 2, 2022: Carlson argued against the removal of Putin from office, warning it would be “counterproductive to our interests.”
March 2, 2022: Carlson mocked the bipartisan support shown for Ukraine during the State of the Union.
March 3, 2022: Carlson’s guest said aid to Ukraine should be conditional on funding the border wall and border security.
March 3, 2022: Tucker Carlson attempted to blame Vice President Kamala Harris for his failure to take intelligence reports warning of the impending invasion of Ukraine seriously.
March 7, 2022: Carlson claimed that Trump’s 2019 impeachment for “threatening to withhold military aid” to Ukraine was actually a plot by Democrats to intentionally incite war with Russia.
March 8, 2022: Carlson told his viewers a bizarre lie that the Biden administration “effectively encouraged” Putin to invade Ukraine.
March 9, 2022: Carlson accused America of “mounting a disinformation campaign” against Russia.
March 10, 2022: Carlson delivered a barely veiled dig at his colleague, Fox national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin. Carlson accused reporters fact-checking claims about the Ukraine biolab conspiracy theories, which Griffin did on the March 9 edition of Hannity, of “lying” while not bothering “to do any reporting whatsoever.”
March 11, 2022: Carlson called Biden’s ban on Russian oil “the single most damaging thing any American president has ever done to this country and to the world.”
March 13, 2022: Mother Jones reported a Kremlin memo that instructed Russian media to “use as much as possible fragments of broadcasts of the popular Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who sharply criticizes the actions of the United States [and] NATO, their negative role in unleashing the conflict in Ukraine, [and] the defiantly provocative behavior from the leadership of the Western countries and NATO towards the Russian Federation and towards President Putin, personally.”
Brіаn Cаhn and Mаxіmіlіаn Clаrkе
Nіkkі McCаnn Ramіrеz, Jаnе Lее, and Аlіcіа Sаdowskі / MеdіаMattеrs.org
Originally published on Robertreich.org
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