Dear Reader (Including those of you who needing more help with portion control of your newsletter consumption),
We’re going to have a lot of opportunities to return to the January 6 committee, so I’m going to hold off on a lot of the substance—and there was a good deal of substance in the first hearing—and just make two points about last night.
First, I made a mistake.
On Wednesday, in response to Fox News’ decision to not cover the January 6 committee live, I ran through a whole bunch of reasons why they came to that journalistically indefensible decision.
But in fairness, Fox isn’t actually saying the hearings aren’t news. Bret Baier, a serious journalist and a friend, will be anchoring coverage on Fox Business. In other words, the network just doesn’t want to put the hearings on instead of its normal prime time lineup because they’re not newsworthy enough to preempt non-news shows. I have no inside information, but I’m pretty confident that’s not the judgment of many of the folks in the news division. Certainly, Bret thinks it’s worth his time.
There are a lot of theories for why Fox has made this decision. It’s difficult to tease them all out because they overlap so much. But one theory is that Fox doesn’t want to piss off Trump. Another is that it doesn’t want to piss off its very pro-Trump core audience. Another is that conceding that the January 6 committee is newsworthy runs against what Fox’s prime time hosts have been feeding to their viewers for more than a year. And another is that the line between GOP messaging and Fox programming is so thin it’s hard to figure out where one ends and the other begins. The GOP and Trump’s inner circle both insist the real issue is high gas prices and inflation. And those are real issues. Moreover, it would just be terribly embarrassing to have text messages from Fox hosts to the Trump White House read over Fox’s air. Oh, and there’s also the theory that it’s just about money. Prime time generates revenue while a C-SPAN-like simulcast carried by all the other networks anyway wouldn’t. A lot of Trumpists insist that they should not be covered because no one cares about January 6.
A little further on, I added: “But I think the decisive factor is simply that Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott and her colleagues are simply scared of the prime time hosts and don’t actually care enough about journalistic considerations to defy them.”
Now, I think much of this holds up. What I hadn’t anticipated, however, was the possibility that Tucker Carlson believes the January 6 committee really is a big deal and that he was scared of just how newsworthy it might be—particularly to his own audience.
How else can you explain the fact that his show ran for the whole hour without commercial interruption? I know Tucker is a fan of Elizabeth Warren’s economic program, but let’s be clear: He’s a capitalist. At least in the sense that he likes to make money. But he decided that it was worth forgoing advertising revenue for the whole hour. Why? I’m open to any plausible theory, but the only one I can come up with is that he couldn’t risk people flipping channels while Seb Gorka droned on about Relief Factor (a fish oil supplement that all super-patriots take before they put their heads on Mike Lindell’s pillows), to check out the hearing—even on Fox Business.
I don’t know what he thought we’d hear last night, but he clearly thought his viewers had to be spared even a moment’s exposure to it.
“The whole thing is insulting. In fact, it’s deranged,” Carlson exclaimed. “And we’re not playing along. This is the only hour on an American news channel that will not be carrying their propaganda live. They are lying, and we’re not going to help them do it.”
I think the motivation is exactly the opposite. He was afraid his viewers might be exposed to the truth, and he can’t have that. Whether he felt that way because he thinks so little of his audience or so little of his own claims, I don’t know.
It’s pretty amazing when you think about it. He’s basically saying that Fox’s own sister network was broadcasting insulting lies, with his colleagues Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum anchoring the coverage of those insulting lies. And those “lies”—peddled by, among others, Trump’s former attorney general and Trump’s own daughter—might be so compelling it was worth turning his show, at least for an hour, into a non-profit without honor.
What if …
My second point is to simply ask a question: “What if it were true?” What if Trump did in fact intend, and conspire, to steal the election? What if he and his minions deliberately orchestrated a siege of the Capitol? What if Trump did in fact say that his own vice president should be hanged?
Would that be bad? Forget all the rhetoric about democracy almost dying. (I think democracy would have survived even if Pence hadn’t behaved honorably and heroically.) Would it be bad?
This isn’t a rhetorical question, even if I think the question answers itself. After all, in the aftermath of the siege, we’ve heard from Carlson and countless others that it would be bad if the rioters were Antifa, BLM, or agents of a Deep State plot. Hell, Sen. Ron Johnson literally said that if Antifa or BLM had done what all those goons did he would have been “concerned.” But since it was Trump supporters—many of whom have confessed to these crimes on video—it was no big deal, and saying otherwise is apparently an insulting lie.
So, again, what if it were true? It’s an important question to ask all the people bleating about how this is a “show trial” and propaganda, because it’s almost surely true. And in all likelihood, we’ll get plenty of evidence proving it’s true. (I really should say, plenty more evidence it’s true.) And it would be good to have people on record admitting, at least hypothetically, that an attempted autogolpe is a crime—political, constitutional, or simply moral—in the United States of America. Because if Americans of all ideological stripes can’t agree on that, then maybe democracy really is in peril.
And if you know someone who refuses to even answer that question because it might prove inconvenient to Donald Trump or his “movement,” then you’ve got their answer.
The left should Ruy the day.
Anyway, we’ll be coming back to all of this in due course. Let’s switch gears. I had a fun conversation with political scientist Ruy Teixeira on the Remnant this week. One of the things we discussed was how much was lost by the left’s decision to abandon an emphasis on class in favor of identity politics.
This is something I’ve thought about a lot over the last few years. As a conservative, I grew up rejecting the emphasis on class as a monocausal explanation of politics and culture. The hard version of this worldview is traditionally understood as Marxism or some variant of Marxism (there were many variants). The idea that you can reduce everything to class conflict and class consciousness—or lack thereof—is profoundly flawed for reasons that take up literally millions of pages in thousands of conservative books.
But it’s worth noting that many ideas are flawed when taken to such extremes that they exclude all other theories of human behavior. Reducing all human actions to race, religion, genetics, or culture is also wrongheaded. That doesn’t mean that any racial, religious, genetic, or cultural explanation is entirely without merit. There are biological differences between men and women. Those differences inform our understanding of all sorts of things. They just don’t—or shouldn’t—inform our understanding of anything and everything. This was the problem with the “vulgar Marxism” of Engels.
A “recovering Marxist,” Teixeira is still somewhat nostalgic for the days when an emphasis on class dominated the left—and so am I. Sure, reducing everyone to a kind of homo economicus excludes all sorts of important things.
For instance, a poor Catholic janitor and a rich Catholic stockbroker may have all sorts of different interests based on class, but they also share a similar faith in God and how best to worship Him. Of course, the janitor might put more emphasis on the church’s teachings about fighting poverty than the stockbroker. Then again, given the sociology of the wealthy these days, he might not. My only point is that religion is an important prism for explaining attitudes and behaviors.
But so is class. And one of the nice things about old fashioned socialism was its inclusiveness. Whites and blacks, Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and no small number of atheists could all be on the same team with roughly the same agenda.
Teixeira laments the loss of class as a mode of analysis for this, and other, reasons. “One thing I’ll always find ironic about this, Jonah,” he said:
“… is that people on the left for 40 years had been denouncing neoliberal capitalism as a monstrous system that ruins everybody’s lives, especially those in the working class. The nature of this economic model is to interfere with people’s ability to lead a decent life. Well, if that’s true, isn’t it at least possible some of these people could be reacting against that? Shouldn’t we at least consider that possibility? But no, instead at the very moment where working class people have more questions about the standard neoliberal economic model, the left is kind of veering off into this cultural cloud cuckoo land where just everything’s about various forms of identity, race, gender, trans, whatever. And it’s much more important to fight oppression on the basis of those things, real or assumed, than it is to actually do something about uniting people behind an alternative economic model.”
Now, I’m sure we disagree about what an alternative economic model should look like or even the idea that we should have an alternative economic model in the first place. But he’s right about the irony. As I wrote in the wake of the Buffalo shooting, a lot of people on the left leapt on the murderer’s virulent racism as proof that we need to combat “white supremacy.” I have no problem with combating white supremacy. But most of the time, what the left means by white supremacy isn’t virulent racism. The Fortune 50 companies and elite universities Ibram X. Kendi shakes down for his anti-racism tutelage aren’t shot through with Klansmen. Such institutions hang their “Black Lives Matter” banners and donate to all the progressive causes. They are often quite eager to hire black people and boast about their efforts at inclusion. Conversely, the Buffalo shooter didn’t mow down a bunch of innocent people in the name of global capitalism or the 1 percent.
But by subordinating class-based arguments to identitarian ones to the point where the white working class is definitionally racist or simply insufficiently “enlightened” to be a part of your ideological coalition, you end up in a ridiculous place on the left’s own terms. From a strict class-based perspective, a poor, uneducated white family in Appalachia is more deserving of government assistance or intervention than a rich, educated black one. But the metrics by which we measure “social progress” don’t see it that way. I know universities like to boast about how many “first generation” college students they have, but they prefer to brag about how many racial minorities they have. Indeed, many universities “import” foreign students of color to augment their statistics. I’m not an “America first” guy as popularly defined, but I can see the outlines of an argument that this is problematic.
If the left were serious about winning elections so that it can implement policies it wants, it wouldn’t write off the white working class. Rather, it would do everything it could to attract them, because they’re necessary for you to reliably win elections, never mind attain significant majorities. But as Teixeira argues, the progressive left, particularly in the wake of Trump’s election, can’t get its head around the fact that racism is not the only, or primary, explanation for why they’ve been losing the white working class for decades while America, including the white working class, has become steadily less racist over the same period. When the white working class was the heart of the FDR and LBJ coalitions, it was—by every measure—far more racist than it is today.
We’ve all heard some version of, “when all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” What that expression leaves out is all the problems you create by hammering everything that’s not a nail. By all means, be concerned about racism. But if you treat every problem like it’s an example of racism, you won’t solve the problem of racism, but you will create a lot of non-racist problems for yourself.
Various & Sundry
Canine update: The girls are just fine, though they’ve been having problems catching their morning treats. I’m not sure what that is about. We’ve had some nice cool mornings lately, and that’s all the girls need to have some fun. They don’t know it yet, but they will have a sleepover next week with Kirsten as the (bipedal) Goldbergs are heading to Alaska. We haven’t found a housesitter/Gracie-minder yet, but I’m sure they’ll all have a grand time.
And now, the weird stuff