CNN Manages to Play Right Into Tucker Carlson's Hands With Overwrought Critique of His New Show

Things are not going well over at CNN. On Tuesday, the network’s internal divisions spilled into the open as employees began to publicly criticize CEO Christ Licht, who is reportedly on the way out the door. Ratings are in the tank, an evergreen reality on CNN that far predates the current regime.

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With that amount of chaos going on, you’d think the liberal network would be careful about throwing stones, but when Tucker Carlson burst back onto the scene Tuesday evening, they just couldn’t help themselves. In an overwrought write-up, CNN described Carlson’s Twitter show as “low-budget” and decried him for giving a voice to “some of the most extreme ideas in right-wing politics.”

The commentary, which appeared next to a “Tucker on Twitter” logo at the corner of the screen, was in the same style as viewers have come to expect from Carlson, a conspiracy-peddling talk-show host who gave voice to some of the most extreme ideas in right-wing politics.

The NYT’s Katie Robertson and Jeremy Peters summarized the first episode like this: “He expressed sympathy for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and mocked President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. He accused the mainstream media of lying. He wrapped up by declaring that U.F.O.s and extraterrestrial life are ‘actually real.’”

Somehow, despite Carlson previewing the trap he was laying, CNN still managed to walk right into it. To illustrate that, let’s go back to his monologue. Toward the end, he discusses the press’ penchant for gatekeeping, insisting that only certain stories can be covered, noting that if you step out of line, they will try to destroy you.

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CARLSON: So if you want to know why our country is dysfunctional, this is a big part of the reason. Nobody knows what’s happening. A small group of people control access to all relevant information, and the rest of us don’t know. We’re allowed to yap all we want about racism, but go ahead and talk about something that really matters, and see what happens. You keep it up, they’ll make you be quiet. Trust us, that’s how they maintain control.

When Western tourists first started traveling in large numbers to the Soviet Union in the early 1970s, they found that many Russians had a completely warped understanding of the United States. They thought that Americans lived in grinding poverty, in a state of perpetual race war, desperate to flee to the freedom and prosperity of the Russian bloc.

They thought this because that’s what they’d been told. They had no way to know otherwise. The few Russians who understood what was really going on in the rest of the world had learned about listening to shortwave radio broadcasts, sometimes under the covers so the neighbors wouldn’t hear. 50 years later, it is bewildering to consider the irony here. We’re the ones who live in ignorance now.

Carlson’s entire point was that networks like CNN see themselves as righteous gatekeepers, bestowed with the authority to decide not only what information is legitimate or not, but what information you can even see lest you be called any number of derogatory names like “extremist.” And despite Carlson giving them the cheat sheet beforehand, CNN somehow managed to perfectly illustrate his criticism anyway.

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Take this description in the network’s write-up as further evidence of the disconnect.

Carlson faces an uphill climb if he hopes to reclaim the power he once enjoyed through Twitter videos.

The first episode of “Tucker on Twitter” didn’t help. The debut video looked like a meager shell of Carlson’s former show. The production quality was bare bones, with the audio gently echoing in the background as Carlson used his spare hand to scroll through the teleprompter himself.

Putting aside that I thought the production quality was fine (to the point where no normal person will think otherwise), was Carlson supposed to set piles of cash on fire to ensure a big enough budget was consumed? How would that have made the show any better? It’s such an odd critique to see from a network that is in financial peril and continues to circle the drain. The unearned elitism of the legacy media is Carlson’s entire point, and CNN can’t help but prove him right.

The article goes on to downplay the viewership of Carlson’s first Twitter episode, noting that Neilsen ratings of television shows measure concurrent watchers. But who cares? Total views are total views. I’d much rather have tens of millions of people watch my show over a 24-hour period vs. a few hundred thousand watching it in a scheduled television spot. Again, that is an example of the kind of artificial boundary CNN and others seek to enforce.

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They despise that they no longer control the flow of information, and their primary goal is to regain that power. In the end, though, the protestations just come across as jealousy. CNN is no longer the big kid on the block (and hasn’t been for a very long time), and watching them take shots at someone with far more reach and influence over “production quality” doesn’t land well.

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