In response to The Disturbing Campaign against Tucker Carlson
Agreed, Rich, let’s oppose the attempted deplatforming. Let’s have debates instead.
But if we want to talk about “disturbing,” I would also nominate this set of remarks from Carlson:
The message from our leaders on the right, as on the left, was unambiguous. Don’t complain, you deserve what’s happening to you. No one jumped . . . more forcefully or seemed angrier at an America than former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.
Quote, “Tonight I turned on the news and I’m heartbroken,” Haley wrote. “It’s important to understand that the death of George Floyd was personal and painful for many. In order to heal, it needs to be personal and painful for everyone.”
But, wait a second. You may be wondering, how am I, quote, “personally responsible” for the behavior of a Minneapolis police officer? I’ve never even been to Minneapolis, you may think to yourself, and why is some politician telling me I’m required to be upset about it?
Those are all good questions. Nikki Haley did not answer those questions. Explaining is not her strong suit; that would require thinking. What Nikki Haley does best is moral blackmail.
Notice the misstatement of Haley’s view — she did not say that we were all personally responsible for what happened to Floyd. She said that what happened should be personal and painful to everyone. Ramesh made this point last week. For my part, I’d say that if my fellow citizen’s rights are violated — which would appear to be what happened to George Floyd, even if we set aside all racial questions — then this should bother me personally. The rights and liberties of my countrymen are my concern. They should, in fact, be any American patriot or nationalist’s concern. It does not take much thinking to understand this, or to see that Haley did not assert the foolish thing to which Carlson replied.
(Nor, of course, does referring all claims of disparate impact back to crime rates by race, or looking exclusively at the frequency with which officers use lethal force against suspects of different races, neutralize all arguments that there is sometimes racial bias in policing. The Ferguson report, among other things, makes this clear. And the falsity of the popular narrative concerning Michael Brown doesn’t change a thing as far as that goes.)
Or here’s Carlson on Mitt Romney’s participation in a Black Lives Matter march:
Mitt just wants to make sure that Americans understand, get it through their thick heads, that Black lives matter. As if Americans didn’t know that.
But accusing your entire country of racism turns out to be a pretty small price for someone like Mitt Romney. What Romney’s really worried about, what all the finance moguls funding this movement are worried about, is that someone somewhere will ask the obvious questions. How much have you, Mitt Romney, personally made, how rich have you become by sending jobs overseas — working-class jobs — by charging obscene interest rates, and by otherwise harming poor and Black communities economically?
This is not very good thinking either. Rather it is an ad hominem fallacy in the form of a piece of unsubstantiated speculation about Romney’s motives.
Nor do I see where Romney ever accused the entire country of racism.
What Carlson said is, in other words, a dodge. But it’s not just a dodge. It serves to suppress consideration of the questions in dispute by whipping up an emotional reaction to an unrelated issue. The apparent tactic is to anathematize people’s — as far as I can tell — sincere political beliefs and arguments, and to do so in fallacious or speculative ways yoked to mass upheavals and counter-upheavals. So we might also consider it an imitation of illiberal progressive rhetoric and tactics. It is a specimen of rhetorical thuggery.
Sometimes that comes of defensiveness, of the feeling that one has been targeted. So we should remember that Carlson’s home address was posted online, after which a group of protesters vandalized his home and threatened him and his family. (“Tucker Carlson, we will fight. We know where you sleep at night.”) The word for that is “reprehensible.”
But Mitt Romney was not part of that incipient mob. Nor was Nikki Haley. Nor were millions of Americans who have sincere concerns, right or wrong, about racism and police brutality.
Many people in history have been personally targeted and yet managed to keep their intellectual integrity and their liberality. Leftists cannot cancel those imperatives.