He names no names but there happens to be a guy on the same network who’s thrown both arms around the “bioweapons” nonsense lately and embraced it in a big bear hug.
Coincidentally, that same guy is one of the most influential populist-nationalists on the American right. And populist nationalism happened to be the target of a harsh Mark Levin rant at CPAC last month.
Is there some beef between him and Tucker or does Levin simply find Carlson/Bannon-style nationalism repellent? Not that I blame him.
Levin criticizes Putin friendly media/Republicans/Democrats for pushing bio weapons claims pic.twitter.com/k5VnB7NDv1
— Acyn (@Acyn) March 14, 2022
Either way, he’s not the only conservative who’s taken a shine to the term “Putin wing”:
— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) March 10, 2022
The “Putin wing” of the media includes some liberals, of course. Although the most prominent examples tend to cater to right-wing audiences, not left-wing ones:
In an hour-long video, Glenn Greenwald gives credence to Russian claims that the Ukrainians were carrying out “emergency disposal” of dangerous pathogens they had been developing with US help.
I'm going to translate a *LONG* thread by a geneticist debunking these claims. pic.twitter.com/sAa6u9SCZa
— Ilya Lozovsky (@ichbinilya) March 13, 2022
There are 25+ US-funded biolabs in Ukraine which if breached would release & spread deadly pathogens to US/world. We must take action now to prevent disaster. US/Russia/Ukraine/NATO/UN/EU must implement a ceasefire now around these labs until they’re secured & pathogens destroyed pic.twitter.com/dhDTH5smIG
— Tulsi Gabbard 🌺 (@TulsiGabbard) March 13, 2022
Greenwald and Gabbard are both regular guests on Tucker’s show, coincidentally. Not content to dub them members of the “Putin wing,” some hawkish Republican pols have taken to using stronger language:
Tulsi Gabbard is parroting false Russian propaganda. Her treasonous lies may well cost lives.
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) March 13, 2022
Actual Russian propaganda. Traitorous. Russia also said the Luger center in Georgia was making zombies. Tulsi should go to Russia https://t.co/SEEw8MEZB6
— Adam Kinzinger (@AdamKinzinger) March 14, 2022
Kinzinger’s hawkishness has led him off the rails lately, calling for a no-fly zone in Ukraine and lobbying Fox to yank “traitorous” Carlson off the air. I’m surprised to see Romney using the “T” word, though, as he’s usually a restrained figure. You can’t commit treason by holding an opinion, Mitt, no matter how obnoxious it is. Do better.
As for what qualifies a commentator as belonging to the “Putin wing” of the media, it’s unclear. Certainly it takes more than opposing intervention in Ukraine by NATO, although as Russia’s crimes there become more abhorrent, we may yet reach the point where wanting the U.S. to stay out gets you slapped with the label. For now, I’d say that if the Russian foreign ministry is retweeting you, you’re at least in the discussion:
Welp. The Russian Embassy in the United States is now retweeting Candace Owens, who is amplifying a slogan (“Russian Lives Matter”) that is part of a coordinated disinformation campaign. pic.twitter.com/tWeLRMSe16
— Caroline Orr Bueno, Ph.D (@RVAwonk) March 14, 2022
Two days ago Owens wondered why America wasn’t deplatformed from the global economy like Russia has been after it “slaughtered hundreds of thousands” in Iraq. Another clue about belonging to the “Putin wing” would be if the Russian government itself is broadcasting your clips for domestic consumption:
On March 3, as Russian military forces bombed Ukrainian cities as part of Vladimir Putin’s illegal invasion of his neighbor, the Kremlin sent out talking points to state-friendly media outlets with a request: Use more Tucker Carlson.
“It is essential 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,” advises the 12-page document written in Russian. It sums up Carlson’s position: “Russia is only protecting its interests and security.” The memo includes a quote from Carlson: “And how would the US behave if such a situation developed in neighboring Mexico or Canada?”
The document—titled “For Media and Commentators (recommendations for coverage of events as of 03.03)”—was produced, according to its metadata, at a Russian government agency called the Department of Information and Telecommunications Support, which is part of the Russian security apparatus.
Multiple segments from Carlson’s show have been shown on Russian TV over the past few weeks. As for Trump, the populist-in-chief, he’s been careful not to align himself too closely with Putin apologists lately. He’s praised Zelensky’s bravery and described what’s happening to Ukrainians as a “holocaust,” urging people to pray for them. But despite Sean Hannity’s best efforts a few days ago to steer him away from the “Putin wing” of the party and towards the Hannity/Levin “Putin is evil” camp, Trump wouldn’t quite bite. As with any nationalist, it’s hard for him to criticize an authoritarian who’s wrapped himself in his country’s flag.
All in all, it’s an awkward moment for populist influencers who calculated that the American right would be far more ambivalent about a conflict between Vladimir Putin and a bloc led by Joe Biden than it’s proved to be. Even most MAGA fans are solidly pro-Ukraine. Is that a turning point in American politics? Francis Fukuyama wonders:
A moral clarity has been imposed on populist politics. Many of these populists, including Donald Trump, have been able to pretend they’re really tribunes of the people, that they’re channeling a democratic urge.
But they’re also flirting with an open kind of authoritarianism. That authoritarianism has now been translated into horrible slaughter, where everybody can see that kind of politics leads to military aggression, the loss of innocent lives, and so forth.
That’s the reason every one of them — except for Trump, evidently — has been trying to backtrack from the support they gave Putin.
Fukuyama believes that the current populist moment is due to complacency about the virtues of liberal democracy that’s defined western governance since World War II. People get bored, they’re seduced by the idea of rebelling against the established order, and then something happens to shake them out of their complacency and lead them to appreciate the system they have anew. I’m skeptical that the Russia/Ukraine war will be anything like a revelation in American politics in that regard but it’ll nudge us in the right direction. At a minimum, even a second Trump term probably wouldn’t see the U.S. withdraw from NATO now.