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Unilateral Illiberalism

Tucker Carlson’s fawning interview with Vladimir Putin shows that he will never pose a threat to despotism.

· 7 min read
Unilateral Illiberalism
Stills from Tucker Carlson's interview with Putin.

When Ayatollah Khomeini granted Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci an interview in the holy city of Qom in 1979, the meeting was terminated when she tore off the chador she had been made to wear, calling it a “stupid medieval rag.” When Fallaci met Colonel Qaddafi in Libya, she was blunt: “I want to understand why everyone dislikes you so much, why you are so little loved.” And after an extended harangue from Yasser Arafat about the need to eradicate Israel with revolutionary violence, Fallaci drily remarked, “Conclusion: you don’t at all want the peace that everyone is hoping for.”

Bemused viewers of Tucker Carlson’s recent interview with Vladimir Putin saw no evidence of the skepticism or thinly veiled contempt that La Fallaci (as she liked to refer to herself) brought to her craft. Nor were they rewarded with an informative glimpse into the Russian despot’s mind. Instead, they were treated to an unedifying display of sycophancy that permitted Putin to filibuster for more than two hours. In The Rebel, Albert Camus spoke of tyrants conducting “monologues above a million solitudes.” Thanks to Carlson’s flaccid performance, Putin’s semi-coherent and ahistorical monologue reached millions more than usual. 

Carlson is the latest in a long line of credulous partisans so fixated on domestic political vendettas that they wind up as a humiliated mouthpiece for vicious propaganda. In this case, Carlson’s attempts to secure endorsement of his parochial obsessions with a series of leading questions went nowhere.

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