Hurry! Break the glass and pull the alarm! Tear the acrylic dome off the Batphone—WAIT! Better yet, alight the Bat Signal! Stop the presses! Get the commissioner on the line! Dial 911! Dial 911 again, hang up, then call the police precinct directly, so that they know that This. Is. An. EMERGENCY.
What’s the matter, you ask? Oh, nothing serious. Just our First Amendment is under assault! The freedom of the press—the superius value in our chorus of verbal liberties—is in danger of being forever silenced. Muted. Shtummed. Squelched. Mouth sewed shut like Wade Wilson.
We must act now, or we’ll surely lose the unencumbered freedom to write, publish, print, report, and hold power to account via grandiloquence. Well… what are you waiting for, intrepid muckrakers of the newsroom!? Why is nobody raising their derrière from their ergonomic office chairs? THE CONSTITUTION IS ON FIRE!
Oh, right. Because it’s a Fox News journalist who is being intimated, not some desk zombie at USA Today.
Fox primetime host Tucker Carlson claims the National Security Agency is surveilling his digital communications, personally targeting him because of his vocal opposition to the the Biden Administration. How does he know this? Carlson says a government grass tipped him off: “We heard from a whistleblower within the U.S. government who reached out to warn us that the NSA… is monitoring our electronic communications and is planning to leak them in an attempt to take this show off the air.”
Given Carlson’s incendiary monologuing that is his show’s main selling point, it’s a wonder as to what the reformed populist could have said in private that’d be more taboo than what he says on air every weeknight. A year ago, Carlson skewered Iraq War veteran, Purple Heart recipient, sitting senator, and double-amputee Tammy Duckworth, calling her a “coward” who “hates the country” she gave her legs for. If that wasn’t fireable, no private guy-talk, no matter how smutty or racy, will be.
But Carlson is convinced he’s under the NSA’s scope, with bureaucratic snoops gathering evidence and sharpening the guillotine for his nape.
The NSA, unsurprisingly, denies the charges. But then, they would do that, wouldn’t they? NSA functionaries have long denied the security state’s surreptitious reach, most infamously when former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lied to Congress about the PRISM program’s unbounded surveillance capabilities. As Glenn Greenwald, the infosec journalist who, along with Edward Snowden, originally revealed the unwieldy extent of Uncle Sam’s voyeurism, pointed out, the “NSA has extremely broad authorities to collect communications without ‘targeting’ a person.” Carlson’s in the dragnet, along with the billions of other internet users on earth.
That Carson may have been discriminated against for his partisan views isn’t paranoid conjecture. Our mighty Panopticon isn’t a politically disinterested monolith. G.S. paper pushers have feelings too. Recall: Trump campaign advisor Carter Page was on the irregulous end of a federal wiretap for the crime of working for a skeptic of the military-industrial complex.
Is it plausible, then, some NSA bureaucrats are monitoring Tucker Carlson’s emails in a dark, steel-shaded room in Fort Meade? Certainly. Could the whistleblower be giving Carlson a line to make him look bad? Another possibility. Could the entire thing be a ploy for attention?
That’s what Carlson’s coevals apparently believe. Rod Dreher once wrote that “there are three kinds of people who run toward disaster, not away: cops, firemen and reporters.” He should have added an addendum: *unless the disaster involves Fox News personalities. Carlson is being treated like a vox clamantis in deserto by his fellow news breakers. “Spoiler alert: The NSA isn’t spying on Tucker,” tweeted National Review alum and cigar-chomping, fat-cat trimmer Jonah Goldberg. “At a well-run network, Tucker’s claim would have never aired,” said CNN’s Murdoch Inc. correspondent Brian Stelter. His deputy, Oliver Darcy, posits that Carlson’s “own colleagues don’t seem to believe him.” Erik Wemple of the Post concurs.
So does Tucker have the goods? Does he possess bonafide proof that his private correspondence is of interest to nameless government drones in slacks and Oxfords? He’s been off the mark before: Carlson issued a correction last November after erroneously reporting that a deceased gentleman cast a presidential ballot in Georgia. Thus far, we’ve been told only to trust Carlson’s word on the matter—a tall order for any Malcolmist press critic.
What Tucker can tout as evidence is the unveiled contempt military brass have for him. After daring to question the efficacy of “maternity flight suits” in the Air Force earlier this year, Carlson was called out by the Pentagon’s press secretary, who insisted our fighting forces won’t “take personnel advice from a talk show host.” Carlson also drew martial wrath after calling Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley “stupid” and a “pig” for reciting Critical Race Theory buzzwords during congressional testimony. Retired Four-Star General Barry McCAffrey, in breaking stoic-warrior character, questioned “why [Carlson] hasn’t been terminated?” One could ask the same thing about our two-decade excursion in Afghanistan, but that may come off as uncouth.
There’s precedent to consider in the case.
The Obama Administration, from which Biden’s White House draws many of its current staff, has singled out Fox News for invasive tracking before. In 2010, the Department of Justice monitored Fox reporter James Rosen, scouring his emails and phone records. That scandalabra was met differently back then: journalists of all organs rallied to Rosen’s side, fearing that their civil liberties would be violated next. The top-of-the-cable-chop anchor has so far only drawn doubt from his peers.
It stands to reason that a lowly NSA analyst may have a bone to pick with Carlson, who uses his highly viewed program to coruscate the Deep State. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Trumpy heir’s lettres numériques were under scrutiny. If true, it wouldn’t be an abuse of power per say because of the inherent redundancy: we’re all under the NSA’s thumb. The difference is in the degree of pressure applied. Still, one would think the Fourth Estate would demonstrate some concern over the privacy of one of its own. No such luck for the Tuck.
Back in May, CNN reported that its correspondent Barbara Starr had her comms records collected by President Trump’s DOJ in 2017. This was scarcely a shock. CNN played prime bête noire to Trump’s media-averse administration. Yet the press outcry over the revelation, resounding loudest on Twitter, was immediate. The same journorage occurred just weeks later when the Times and the Post announced the intrusive record-gathering happened to a handful of their respective reporters during the same time period. The House Judiciary Committee, led by Democrats, even opened an investigation into the probe.
But when Tucker Carlson makes a similar allegation? Just caryatids and heckles. Sure, Carlson doesn’t have the recipients to prove NSA lookie-loos were peering at his text messages. But his asservation is not without merit. It should pique the curiosity of his fellow journalists. Instead, it’s treated as too infra dig to take seriously. The lack of interest is a new sewery low for our gutter press.