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Friday, September 17, 2021

Tuning in to the other side

                                                              Tucker Carlson

As an exercise at the end of Chapter 6, RAW advises reading magazines that communicate political ideas you disagree with. And he also advised similar reading habits in this interview:

" I also read at least one periodical every month by a political group I dislike -- to keep some sense of balance. The overwhelming stupidity of political movements is caused by the fact that political types never read anything but their own gang's agit-prop."

I recently listened to Ezra Klein's podcast interview with Tyler Cowen, and I was struck by how Cowen offered similar advice:

"I would say, have friends from all sorts of different idea groups, even if you really don’t like those ideas. And if you have a list of, oh, I won’t have a friend, you know, who’s a Nazi — like, fine. I don’t have a friend who’s a Nazi. But starting to make that list is actually, I think, a bad thing to do. Have diverse friends ... Spend your time building things, doing things, meeting people, going places. Don’t get too much into the complaining, about the right, about the left. Like, whatever you’re going to complain about, a lot of it will be correct. But it’s making you less productive and I would say stupider to be too much into the complaining, if I may complain about the complainers."

When I did my last blog post for the Prometheus Rising discussion group, I committed to take in material I usually avoid: "I also pledge to try to watch a couple episodes of Tucker Carlson's show, someone I've managed to successfully avoid for years. As he is Fox's top show host, it also will be interesting to compare his show with his MSNBC counterpart, Rachel Maddow."

I don't know what it's like in other countries, but in the U.S., politics has largely supplanted religion and any intellectual pursuit as a source of meaning and as a consuming passion. I am not crazy about politics -- I lean toward the Gene Healy theory that politics makes people stupid and mean -- but I sometimes think I'm the only American who doesn't constantly post endless political BS on Facebook.

In any event, I did watch two episodes of Tucker Carlson's evening news show on Fox. Just as Rachel Maddow has the flagship show on MSNBC, Carlson is Fox's top show host. I had to watch Tucker kind of the down low to avoid offending my wife, who watches Maddox almost every night; it would have been difficult to explain I was just trying to do an exercise in Prometheus Rising. 

Both shows are both entertaining and manipulative, with each zeroing in on the most risible actions and statements by the other side, and with plenty of sarcasm and wit by the hosts. Mostly because of the vaccination issue, I would say I tend to agree more with Maddow's views, but both are good at scoring points. I wish someone would do a  similar TV show to push Reason magazine style libertarianism, the political point of view I lean toward. 

It seems to me people in the U.S. might understand each other better if Democrats would watch some episodes of Tucker Carlson's show, and Republicans would watch a few episodes of Maddow's show. 


Rarebit Fiend said...

It occurred to me today that while I'm a bilious and abrasive as the next asshole on the Internet, in real life I actually do have some measure of forbearance. Today some staff members were mocking another for their COVID related beliefs. While I am extremely angry about those who are anti-vax or anti-science, I know this person got the vaccine and follows the procedures faithfully. I also know they're extremely helpful and personable.

I don't agree with their beliefs, but I'm a pretty idiosyncratic person and hopefully few people completely agree with another human's belief system 100%. Growing up where I am from, I actually do think I've learned to disassociate people from their political beliefs- if they don't talk too much and I like them otherwise. Ha. I don't think I would be able to be around most of my family if I judged solely on politics. Luckily, it seems we have an unspoken truce of silence. (And isn't that how any oath of silence should be?)

Rasa said...

I've watched more than enough of Carlson. However, I have followed RAW's advice for years about reading or watching news sources you usually would not watch, so I do watch a bit of him from time to time. His schtick tends to turn my stomach. I prefer comedians and talking heads on TV who punch up instead of punching down, and most of the right-wing stances seem to be perpetually punching down. It doesn't mean that someone punching down can't have a valid argument, but punching down seems to be an end in itself. I think belittling the entire Black Lives Matter movement is a good example currently.

I think climate change, the continued suffering of minorities under systemic racism, the rich not paying for their use of the Commons, the various corporate mafias setting the national agenda with an eye on greed, etc. – these are issues that the right tends to ignore or ridicule, and so in comparing the sarcasm of Carlson vs Maddow, I prefer the sarcasm that punches up.

I knew Maddow before she became famous. We both worked at the same small radio station in Northampton, Ma. I didn't know her well, but I liked her a lot. Her local talk show was intelligent and relevant. I don't regularly watch her now, but I do think she is one of the most thoughtful talking heads we've got. I don't care if she gets obsessed with a given story. More often than not she reveals some astounding nefarious activities. Carlson, on the other hand, regularly twists the facts, or outright lies, even to the point where his lawyers arguing in court, in fighting a lawsuit, claimed that his program was entertainment, and could not be held accountable for "misinformation." I have a bit of a higher standard than that for my news sources.

Prop Anon said...

Not a fan of Carlson or Maddow
Both seem obsessed with ratings and saying whatever to get people to keep watching
The 24 news cycle has distorted new even more than before
The distinction between "Democrat" and "Republican" is paper thin
As both are backed by the same funders
RAW seemed to understand that point clearly when he wrote a post about the 2000 POTUS election from Jim Hightower that showed both Bush and Gore were backed by the same corporate funders