A guy comes into a bar and says: “Waiter, take $10 and go tell that man over there at the back of the bar to shut up or I’ll rip his head off.” The bartender nods and replies, “As you wish, sir,” and, as he walks away, the guy adds: “Hey, but say it like it’s coming from you, OK?”
There are many forms of cowardice. May my theologians forgive me, but I am sure that Adam ate the apple just to stop Eve from making a scene in front of all of Paradise. Pilate was pretty cowardly, although the grand prix goes to Judas for being history’s most infamous traitor. Mata Hari’s spy antics and betrayals might not have made her as famous as Judas, but still her reputation has passed on to posterity. Ethel and Julius Rosenberg’s spying often tops the rankings of the great betrayals of the 20th century. Of Marcus Junius Brutus, I needn’t say much. And we Spaniards never forget that Napoleon Bonaparte asked Spain to let him cross the country with his army to fight against Portugal, but once the Portuguese territories had been conquered, then double-crossed us and, taking advantage of the fact that his troops were already here in the Iberian Peninsula, overthrew the Spanish monarch and appointed his idiot brother, Joseph Bonaparte, as ruler. All very French.
Betrayal and cowardice go hand in hand. At the end of the day, betrayal is typical of cowards. In the media, in politics, or on social networks, when you hold an influential position, being a coward is always the easiest path. It involves saying what you want others to hear instead of what you believe. Let me insist on this idea: in this era of cancellations, singular thinking, and lynchings on social networks, thinking for yourself can be very costly. Not everyone can afford it. There are those of us, God help us, who don’t know how to do things any other way, even if we often see our potential income reduced by this suicidal tendency to be a bit mouthy.
Tucker Carlson is free. He says whatever he wants, and perhaps that is his greatest asset. Despite saying things that are often out of tune with the big-media discourse, there are a lot of people who follow him all over the world. I have defended him on more than one occasion, even though we do not always agree. I have defended him because I like his way of going about things and his singular ability to annoy the Left. It’s also true that I’ve joked about him a lot, especially when he proposed a year ago that we tan our testicles in the sun. I said something like, “OK, Tucker, I like you, but not as much as I like my balls.”
I have seen many friends abruptly leave their television programs, newspapers, or radio stations because of decisions that had nothing to do with the audience: boycotts by advertisers, calls from powerful people, insinuations in the offices of the higher-ups… I am not going to tell you anything you don’t already know when I say that the journalistic universe is an immense swamp, second only to the mud and stench of the political world. Not everyone is lucky enough to write for The American Spectator.
The most recent case in Spain was the 2009 ousting of Federico Jiménez Losantos from the COPE network, a generalist radio station owned by the Spanish Episcopal Conference. Federico, who was the station’s star, was not fired because of the audience, in fact, technically, he was not even fired. Pay attention to the subtlety: they decided to relegate him to a residual time slot. In the exercise of his freedom — and, it must be said, his amusing talent for satire — he stepped on too many powerful toes in politics, business, and the media. When he said goodbye after six years on his morning program, he said on the air: “We have had the freedom to say what we wanted, what it has cost us is another matter.” By the way: his book Memoria del comunismo (A Memoir of Communism), fundamental reading for anyone who wants to understand what communism is, has not yet been published in English and I cannot understand why.
I say all this about Federico because he is Tucker Carlson and vice versa, and because it is always the same. I found the Spanish journalist’s attitude exemplary, assuming that he was fired from his program precisely because he did not give in to the brutal pressures to which he was subjected during his last year. He would have earned much more money if he had given in, but he would not have been happy. Five months later, he created his own radio station and resumed his famous program … and it’s still going. He continues to say whatever he wants. No media mogul or fortune can pay for that.
I’m convinced Carlson will do the same. He can’t be shut up. And that’s a good thing. We need free voices more than ever. H. L. Mencken warned us long ago: “We must be willing to pay a price for freedom.” I only hope that after paying I have enough left in my pocket for a few gallons of beer. Freedom is important (sound a harp here), but beer is nonnegotiable.
Translated by Joel Dalmau.