Tucker Carlson is the hottest media personality in America. Comfortably the most watched cable news show, Tucker Carlson Tonight is a ratings bonanza, with even former President Donald Trump said to be a keen viewer. Part of Carlson’s appeal is that he presents himself as a maverick outsider, someone who thinks outside the box and is not afraid to launch tirades against the powerful and criticize the government and its foreign policy. Certainly, he does surprise many people, covering subjects other cable news hosts do not touch. However, on closer inspection, this populist everyman persona is all a facade; Carlson himself has deep connections to the government and the national security state and works hard to obscure the real centers of power, channeling popular rage towards safer targets.
A blue-blooded chip off the block
Tucker Swanson McNear Carlson was born into a wealthy California family in 1969. He attended a number of private preparatory schools in California and New England, including the exclusive St. George’s School in Rhode Island, where today attendance costs between $46,000 and $67,000 per year. From there, he went on to study history at Trinity College, a private Connecticut liberal arts institution that charges similar fees.
Carlson is a blue-blood through and through. His great-uncle was Arkansas Senator William Fulbright, while his step-mother, Patricia Swanson, is the heiress to the Swanson Frozen Food company fortune. In his earlier years, before his character change, Carlson openly described himself as a trust-fund baby. “I’m extraordinarily loaded just from money I inherited from a number of trust funds,” he said in 2008.
His father, Richard “Dick” Carlson is an important journalist and high state official who was appointed by Ronald Reagan as director of the U.S. Information Agency (USIA), the body that oversees government-funded media, including Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio and TV Martí and Voice of America, of which Dick was also the director. (USIA has since been replaced by the U.S. Agency for Global Media). Together, these outlets are part of what The New York Times called a “worldwide propaganda network built by the CIA.” Their goal is to bombard enemy countries with regime-change propaganda. Until the 1970s, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty was directly funded by the CIA.
In his position as director of USIA, Dick played a considerable part in the downfall of the Soviet Union. In a 1990 event alongside media moguls Rupert Murdoch and Ted Turner, he noted that “international broadcasting played a very critical role, as was suggested by Mr. Murdoch, in the events that took place in the USSR and Eastern Europe in the past couple of years.”
Listening to his speech, it is clear he saw his primary role as being to bring about regime change. In fact, he was proud of it, stating:
International broadcasters were equally important in laying the groundwork for the democratic revolutions that we have seen. Isn’t it incredible how Western all those Eastern Europeans sound in talking about freedom, democracy, free enterprise, environmental concerns. And they didn’t get those ideas from their own media or from textbooks in their own countries; they got them mainly from international broadcasters like Voice of America, the BBC, Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe.”
In this same job, Dick was a key component in the ultimately successful attempt to bring down the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua through hybrid warfare. The U.S. bombarded the country with incessant propaganda, funding local media outlets that preached regime change, amplifying fake news and scare stories, and supplying enormous amounts of weapons and training to far-right death squads that labeled themselves “Contras” (short for counter-revolutionaries). U.S.-trained and -armed death squads would go on to carry out massacres across Central America throughout the 1980s, killing hundreds of thousands of people.
Dick would later be appointed by President George H.W. Bush as U.S. Ambassador to the Seychelles and serve on a number of neoconservative think tanks. Chief among these is the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), an organization widely accused of being little more than a front for the Israel lobby. Indeed, when asked point blank if that were the case, he refused to deny it, stating only that, “Israel is a country under siege. It’s a democracy in a part of the world where there are no democracies. And it is under constant irregular terrorist attack and threat.”
Also on the board of the FDD at that time were Jeanne Kirkpatrick, a high official at the center of the Iran-Contra Affair, (the operation where the U.S. sold weapons to Iran to fund Nicaraguan death squads), and R. James Woolsey, CIA director from 1993 to 1995. Dick would later team up with Woolsey again at the Institute for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence.
A couple of preppy freedom-fighters
From his position as head of USIA, Dick’s role in the U.S. dirty, hybrid war against Nicaragua can be reasonably surmised. But far fewer people know that a young Tucker himself also played a part in it. While still in college, Tucker and his roommate, friend and Daily Caller co-founder Neil Patel went to Nicaragua at least two times to, in Tucker’s own words, “get involved in the war and support the side that was right, which was not the Sandinista side.”…