When your best defense of a man is, “Hey, at least he hasn’t beheaded journalists,” perhaps it’s time to raise your standards.
But this is Fox News we’re talking about, specifically Fox host Tucker Carlson, known to many for getting thoroughly owned on his show by Teen Vogue writer Lauren Duca. Carlson’s MO seems to be attempts at being clever that backfire, strengthening his opponent’s argument instead.
His defense of Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s Chief Supremacist, is no different.
In response to a USA Today editorial “What Bannon Shares with ISIL Leader: Our View,” Carlson invited deputy editorial editor David Mastio on his show, purportedly to defend the editorial board’s comparison.
The editorial compares the worldviews of Bannon and ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, specifically that both believe that the West is at war with Muslims–all Muslims, and Islam as a whole, not just terrorists. The claim is solidly backed up by direct quotations from both Bannon and Baghdadi, which is perhaps why Carlson chose instead to set up several straw men to knock down, comparisons between Bannon and Baghdadi that have nothing to do with the accurate and narrow comparison that USA Today was making.
As noted above, Carlson first points out that unlike Baghdadi, Bannon hasn’t beheaded journalists. Not successfully or literally, anyway.
Bannon also hasn’t used chemical weapons on Kurds, an oddly specific point. Carlson could have just stopped at “chemical weapons,” but perhaps he’s not entirely sure of that one now that Bannon is on the National Security Council, with potential access to the NSC kill list.
Another point in Bannon’s favor: He does not employ child soldiers! Maybe Carlson was mixing up Bannon with Betsy DeVos, who recently bought a position as US secretary of education and supports profiting off children in exchange for forfeiting their civil rights and gaining a dubious education, not to mention being on the board of the Acton Institute, which has advocated for dismantling child labor restrictions.
Next we have another oddly specific point in Bannon’s favor, that he never ordered “mass execution of Christians,” which is probably not the best way to defend a man against charges that he supports a global war against Muslims.
And the last bullet point for Bannon’s resume, “never declared a caliphate,” should fit in nicely with his role at Breitbart, overseeing a team of writers dedicated to writing fake news calculated to rile up Breitbart’s audience of white nationalist, misogynistic alt-right trolls and the Republicans who love them.
Or maybe it will fit in with his goals to “destroy the state” and win the “Judeo-Christian war” against “Islamic fascism” by clearly encouraging the rise of American fascism. But at least he can say he “never declared a caliphate.”
Honestly, I think the USA Today editorial board really missed out on even more comparisons between Bannon and Baghdadi. Here’s just a few off the top of my head: