Sunday, October 21, 2007

Take Your Pick

Some say that Tucker Carlson is a moron, who simply doesn't know anything about the issues and people he talks about. Others say he's the lowest form of shill, a Tony Snow-grade political parasite who masks his contempt for his viewers' intelligence with a veneer of good humor and bonhomie, since it's easier to screw people over when you lull them into a false sense of confidence.

I prefer to think that animals such as Carlson and Snow combine the worst of both worlds, dispensing lies and truth with equal vigor, since they have been conditioned to not worry too much about which is which.

Later in the same show, Carlson made another comment that, while not directly accusing the media of bias, likely led some viewers to conclude that the media inaccurately portray Republicans as the party of the wealthy. Carlson claimed to speak a simple truth that "nobody ever, ever mentions":

CARLSON: OK, but here's the fact that nobody ever, ever mentions -- Democrats win rich people. Over 100,000 in income, you are likely more than not to vote for Democrats. People never point that out. Rich people vote liberal. I don't know what that's all about.

The reason that "people never point that out" probably has something to do with not wanting to be thought of as a fool or a liar. Carlson's claim that people making more than $100,000 a year tend to vote for Democrats is simply false.

In the 2006 congressional elections, Republican candidates won among those making at least $100,000; they won by an even larger margin among those making more than $200,000. The same was true in the 2004 presidential election, the 2004 congressional elections, and the 2000 presidential elections (exit poll data are not available for the 2002 elections, but it's a safe bet that the pattern held, particularly given that Republicans did better overall in the 2002 elections than in any of the others).

Tucker Carlson's entire job is covering politics and has been for years. It would be bad enough if Carlson simply didn't know something so basic about contemporary American politics as the fact that people who make at least $100,000 tend to vote for Republicans. But it's worse than that: He actively believes (unless he is simply being dishonest) the opposite; so much so, that he takes others to task for not joining him in spreading his false claims. And not just once -- he made the same claim in July:

CARLSON: I think this is a longer-term trend that has been unnoticed by a lot of people. I'll never forget that in 2000, exit polls showed that Al Gore won the over-$100,000 income bracket. Rich people are liberal. Rich people vote Democratic. There's this hangover from the 1930s that the Democratic Party is the working man's party. No, it's the party of Silicon Valley. It's the party of rich people. It's the party of the poor and of the rich.

In fact, 2000 exit polls show that only 43 percent of "the over-$100,000 income bracket" voted for Al Gore; 54 percent voted for George W. Bush. That was the income range Gore lost by the largest margin -- but Carlson will "never forget" that Gore won it!

Carlson, if he even bothers defending himself on this, would no doubt say almost reflexively that he simply misspoke. Oh, mea culpa and all. But of course he did not misspeak; he meant to say exactly what he said. They always do.

The market is there, and the viewers and listeners of this drivel are constantly -- and I mean constantly, every minute of every day they choose to watch one of these stupid shows, because it's apparently all they watch -- gulled by this nonsense. A snotty little mezzofanuc like Carlson is there to practice his embouchure on the Gooper skin-flute issue of the week, because he doesn't bother checking his facts, and he knows his viewers don't either. Same with Limbaugh harrumphing about dhimmicrat morality while he himself decides on Bangkok or Santo Domingo for his next travel destination; same with O'Reilly scaring the codgers with lurid tales of lesbo gangs mugging nuns and orphans.

It's no stretch at all for these people to habitually calumniate whoever happens to cross their path. It's not that they don't know they're lying, or even that they don't care. It's that facts are orthogonal to their prime motivation, which is to gin up this incoherent swell of fear and disdain that John Kerry is going to come to your trailer and repo your Beanie Baby and salt shaker collections if you don't get with the program.

It makes sense, perversely. How else are you going to con idiots into voting against themselves, again and again and again, without flat-out lying about what demographic or income level is most represented by which party? Thus Al Gore and John Kerry, both obviously wealthy men, become caricatured as hypocritical, indifferent plutocrats, lighting cigars with million-dollar bills and sleeping on polar-bearskin rugs while lecturing the plebes on environmental and social morality. But George W. Bush, who literally has not succeeded at any point in his entire life without the initial effort of his parents and their "friends", is a man o' the people. Ditto lifelong lobbyist/lawyer Fred Thompson, and all of this nonsense is helpfully recycled by Rush Limbaugh, who makes $25 million per year, and a veritable industry of professional liars.

There's obviously a whole mess to unpack there, which has to do with how Americans view money, which in turn relates to how we've devolved from a culture of entrepreneurialism and innovation to a culture of consumerism and hucksterism. We have a very unhealthy attitude about money in general; most Americans, judging by their actions, are financially illiterate or semi-literate, and apparently view wealth merely as a means to live some cobbled-together fantasy of decadence that seems to be part Cribs and part Scrooge McDuck.

Any time people view an entire class of people with a combination of resentment and envy, the cognitive dissonance is bound to catch up with them. And so it has. Facts get the same short shrift; everybody apparently wishes to appear they know what they're talking about, without having to actually find out the relevant details and put them together.

The people who actually do take the trouble invariably find themselves marginalized for being too partisan, as someone failed to inform the factual data that the appearance of objectivity, however false, is infinitely more important than doing the research and finding out that the truth takes a side. The earth is not flat. George W. Bush is about as good a judge of character as he is a nucular physimacist. The Iraq War is a deadly boondoggle that is going to ruin this country if we don't stop screwing around with phony debates and manufactured outrages.

So maybe the question is not whether Tucker Carlson and Tony Snow and their slimy ilk are liars or fools (or again, both), it's whether the people that enable them to remain gainfully employed are one or the other, or both. It is impossible to have a healthy perspective on what's truly important in a climate where truly useless people are allowed to thrive in this sort of exalted capacity of unearned money and influence.


woodguy said...

"Unearned money", indeed. It's my understanding that l'l Tucker is heir to the Swanson frozen dinner fortune and never made it past his freshman year in college. Probably couldn't keep up with his studies, what with viglilantly patrolling public restrooms looking for pervs to manhandle.

He constantly refers to himself as a libretaian but sticks unfailingly to the GOP party line.
The thing I find most loathesome about him is the faux concern he exhibits, misrepresenting someone's position on a given issue then, with furrowed brow, feigning great interest in his guest's answer before countering it with an argument he had waiting in the wings no matter what response he elicited from his guest.

To call him a smarmy Little Lord Fauntleroy is an understatement.

In regard to the snuff-dippin' NASCAR set voting against there own interests, I'm reminded of a joke:

Two men were competing for the attentions of a young hottie in a bar around closing time. To impress her one of them pulled out a $100 bill and proceeded to light his cigar with it. The other man, not to be outdone, pulled out a check, filled it out in the amount of $500 and lit his cigar with it. The young woman, being a good Republican, went home with the latter.

woodguy said...

I stand corrected. Li'l Tucker does have a degree in history (go figure)from Trinity College, according to Wikipedia.

He's still an asshole, though. Of that I'm sure.

jp said...

**I prefer to think that animals such as Carlson and Snow combine the worst of both worlds, dispensing lies and truth with equal vigor, since they have been conditioned to not worry too much about which is which.**

That's just damn good writing.