Branko Miletic

How Tucker Carlson became the 21st century Walter Duranty

I read somewhere that journalism is like a garden that needs nurturing and care, while writers are like flowers, all vying for the sun’s attention, so that in the end, the truth can bloom. Image: Etsy
I read somewhere that journalism is like a garden that needs nurturing and care, while writers are like flowers, all vying for the sun’s attention, so that in the end, the truth can bloom.

I read somewhere that journalism is like a garden that needs nurturing and care, while writers are like flowers, all vying for the sun’s attention, so that in the end, the truth can bloom.

Unfortunately, there is a long history of weeds seeking to strangle this garden.

The latest of these ‘journalistic weeds’ is Tucker Carlson, a man for whom morals and ethics have been subsumed by the never-ending drive for clicks, views, and comments.

Following his recent self-serving and some would say ‘soft’ interview with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, it seems Carlson has taken over from where Anglo-American journalist Walter Duranty left off in terms of apologia for the Kremlin.

In the vibrant greenhouse that is modern journalism, few public figures have been as divisive or despised as Walter Duranty.

Image: Wikipedia

Born in in 1884 in Liverpool to working-class English parents, Duranty’s journey traversed the boulevards of Parisian sophistication before blossoming into a formidable tour de force in the heart of Moscow.

Like a rose bush, Duranty’s career exuded both beauty in words and pain in application. His 1929 interview with Stalin earned him the coveted Pulitzer Prize, while his articles helped guide American recognition of the USSR in 1933.

Walter Duranty / NPR

As Sally J. Taylor, the author of Stalin’s Apologist: Walter Duranty (1990) has noted: “Duranty’s rousing prose, heroic in form to match the momentous events he was describing. The ebullience and energy of his style were incomparable, even on the staff of the New York Times, and it brought him growing fame as a page-one war correspondent…. Duranty had this ability to figure out what readers would be curious about, what they wanted to know… imaginative, observant, he made a feast of the leavings of the other correspondents.”

Image: Amazon

Amidst the brilliance of his writing, dark and ominous shadows lurked beneath the surface. Duranty’s once-unblemished reputation began to show signs of wilting as the content of his dispatches grew increasingly selective; he chose to silence the cries of the Ukrainian Famine – also known as the ‘Holodomor’ – and obscure the harsh reality of the infamous show trials, casting doubt upon the integrity of his journalistic creed.

Image: Tablet Magazine

However, as the truth wilted, so too did Duranty’s standing within the journalistic community, culminating in his dismissal from the New York Times in the late 1930s.

It was by no accident that he became known as ‘Stalin’s Apologist’.

In Duranty’s life story, we find a compelling and continuing reminder of the delicate balance between truth and perception, of fantasy and reality, of news and opinion. It is a reminder that amidst the vibrant blooms of journalism, thorns of scepticism must always be acknowledged, if not actually enabled.

Cue Tucker Carlson.

Carlson embarked on his media journey in the 1990s, crafting his words for The Weekly Standard and various other publications. His presence graced the screens of CNN from 2000 to 2005, where he served as a commentator and co-host of Crossfire, the network’s prime-time news debate program.

Tucker Carlson / Wikipedia

In 2009, he found a new home at Fox News, where his political acumen shone across various programs before he eventually carved his own path.

In what has been described as a pivotal moment of his career, Carlson co-founded The Daily Caller, a bastion of right-wing news and opinion. His tenure extended until 2020, marking a significant chapter in his professional trajectory.

However, Carlson’s influence transcends mere media sphere accolades. Described as a leading voice of so-called ‘white grievance politics’, he has navigated controversial waters, introducing far-Right ideologies into mainstream discourse.

His promotion of conspiracy theories, ranging from the ‘Great Replacement’ to COVID-19, has stirred debate, contention, and condemnation.

Yet, it is his remarks on race, immigration, and women—underscored by resurfaced slurs and allegations of racism and sexism—that have sparked widespread criticism and advertiser boycotts of Tucker Carlson Tonight, his acclaimed cable news show.

In April 2023, Fox abruptly cancelled Tucker Carlson Tonight. Despite the hazy explanation, Carlson’s legacy remains intertwined with the complex intersections of media, politics, and public discourse.

And speaking of intertwining, where do Duranty and Carlson converge? Where else, but squarely at the Kremlin.

As the BBCs post-mortem of Tucker’s Putin interview noted of the Putin interview:

 Vladimir Putin lectured, joked, and occasionally snarled – but not at his host.

Tucker Carlson laughed, listened – and then listened some more.

 During the American’s much-hyped encounter with the Russian president, his fixed, fascinated expression slipped a few times.

 But for the most part, Carlson seemed to lap up what Russia’s president was telling him.

 Putin was fully in charge of this encounter and for large parts of it his interviewer barely got a word in.

As the BBC adroitly pointed out, Carlson was a ‘journalist hostage’.

Image: YouTube

But this is where the two branches of their journalistic style – as well as Duranty and Carlson themselves, begin to diverge.

This, by all accounts is the crux of the difference between the two men.

As was reported at the time, it was evident from Duranty’s discussions with others that he was fully aware of the magnitude of the disaster. In 1934, he conveyed to the British embassy in Moscow that the toll of famine-related deaths in the Soviet Union for the previous year could have reached as high as 10 million individuals, either directly or indirectly.

British intelligence corroborated that Duranty deliberately distorted this information regarding the extent and severity of the famine.

This was because he firmly believed in Stalin and his USSR.

Carlson on the other hand has shown he believes in virtually nothing – bar his own ego of course.

Like his now-exposed charade of being a Donald Trump supporter.

In a text message sent on Jan. 4, 2021, Carlson wrote to an unidentified recipient, “We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights. I truly can’t wait.”

“I hate him passionately. … I can’t handle much more of this,” he added.

To call Tucker Carlson a charlatan would be patently unkind to all the hard-working con artists out there.

Image: NPR

Walter Duranty on the other hand was a committed Stalinist – if not by politics, then by virtue of his worship of the man himself.

As he famously once said of Stalin’s crimes, “You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.”

The weeds in the garden of journalism it seems, may need some pruning before like poison Ivy, they end up suffocating what little we still possess of the truth.









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About the Author
Journalist and editor with 25 years experience, including reporting from Bosnia, Japan and all over Australia--- focus includes IT, ethics and geopolitics.
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