A little while ago, a clip from this year’s World Economic Forum at Davos went viral. Historian Rutger Bregman had been invited to speak at the conference on the back of his book ‘Utopia For Realists’, but instead of giving the industry captains and ‘thought leaders’ at the event a few empty soundbites and meaningless platitudes he mercilessly and efficiently skewered the underlying hypocrisy that lies at the heart of Davos and other institutions like it. Here’s a refresher:
‘It feels like I’m at a firefighters conference and no one’s allowed to speak about water.’ — This historian wasn’t afraid to confront the billionaires at Davos about their greed pic.twitter.com/TiXSJZd89M— NowThis (@nowthisnews) January 29, 2019
Davos is ostensibly the forum at which the world’s best and brightest come together to talk through potential solutions to the world’s ills. In reality it’s a swanky mountain resort getaway for the international elite at which they eat fine food and propose shallow, surface-level tweaks in an effort to placate some of the gnawing guilt that must come with being the cause of the very problems they are pretending to address. Davos, like so many similar high-level summits and forums like it, has no real interest in changing the structural issues that have led to the problems that we face. The people who attend Davos have no drive to change the status quo because the status quo benefits them. They are a product of it. They can drape themselves in the language of progress and pat themselves on the back for being members of an enlightened liberal or ‘centrist’ class, but fundamentally all Davos is is a smug, self-congratulatory gathering of the capitalist elite that have dammed the planet. Climate activist Greta Thunberg lanced into a similar hypocrisy at the United Nations in December of last year.
One of the reasons that these millionaires and billionaires find it so easy to consider themselves enlightened and not really part of the problem despite being exactly the problem is that the ‘other side’ is so garishly evil that it warps the nature of our discourse and perception. As long as you don’t find yourself trading in the rhetoric of the likes of Fox News and other similar extreme right-wing Murdoch-spawn, it’s easy to consider yourself progressive. The funny thing about the particular late-capitalist crisis point we find ourselves in now though is the fact that—as in similar times of economic hardship in the past—the right-wing also cloak themselves in the language of progressiveness. They adapt to what people hunger for. While modern capitalism managed to hoodwink the world for a few decades into believing that what was best for the elites was best for everyone else, the seismic shock that was the 2008 financial crisis proved one step too far for vast swathes of those living underneath its boot heels. Suddenly the language of equality and socialism became all the rage. Capitalism would now need to protect itself from the fruits of the self-sown seeds of its own destruction. That is how we ended up with Donald Trump. A billionaire and predatory capitalist who swept into power in part thanks to his co-option of an anti-establishment narrative traditionally employed by leftists and brought to the fore in America in recent years by Bernie Sanders. The difference is someone like Sanders means it, whereas for someone like Trump it is just a cynical ploy. Marry that (empty) economic rhetoric to some racist nationalism and boom—that is how you get a rising fascist international.
The aforementioned Fox News—among other hard-right outlets—has also adopted that same tactic, with many of its anchors railing Trump-like against the ‘elite’. This despite them being very much embedded within that very same elite. One of the most vile of Fox’s stable of bellicose turnip-faced propagandists is Tucker Carlson, who has proven himself now to also be an absolute idiot. Thinking he could use Rutger Bregman’s anti-establishment presence and wit to further his partisan agenda, Carlson invited Bregman on his show for a long-distance interview. The interview did not go according to plan and Fox has refused to air it.
Good morning @TuckerCarlson, why didn't you air the interview with me last night? Couldn't handle the criticism? I think you should just show it. And try to resist the temptation to edit, I've recorded the full thing - including that moment when you start swearing profusely.— Rutger Bregman (@rcbregman) February 12, 2019
Carlson did not yield to Bregman’s request.
So Bregman has leaked the interview.
And honestly, as much as these are very important matters and emphatically not a spectator sport, hearing this beet-headed racist sputter and rage against someone who completely outmatches him is pretty damn delicious. Check it out:
Watch Fox News host Tucker Carlson call one of his guests a 'tiny brain…moron' during an interview. NowThis has obtained the full segment with historian Rutger Bregman that Fox News is refusing to air. pic.twitter.com/kERYPUaGLY— NowThis (@nowthisnews) February 20, 2019
1/ Here’s the interview that @TuckerCarlson and Fox News didn’t want you to see. I chose to release it, because I think we should keep talking about the corrupting influence of money in politics. It also shows how angry elites can get if you do that. https://t.co/hs1474MJNM— Rutger Bregman (@rcbregman) February 20, 2019
2/ I stand behind what I said, but there’s one thing I should have done better. When Carlson asked me how he’s being influenced by Big Business and tax-avoiding billionaires, I should have quoted Noam Chomsky.— Rutger Bregman (@rcbregman) February 20, 2019
3/ Years ago, when he was asked a similar question, Chomsky replied: ‘I’m sure you believe everything you’re saying. But what I’m saying is that if you believe something different, you wouldn’t be sitting where you’re sitting.’— Rutger Bregman (@rcbregman) February 20, 2019
Incidentally what Bregman is referencing there is Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman’s Propaganda Model of media control in Western democracies and the indirect yet iron grip that vested interests have on the delivery of news. Here is a clip of Chomsky describing the model to now-senior BBC journalist Andrew Marr: