The trouble with Tucker Carlson:

Why  conservatives should not support right-wing autocrats

Western liberal democracies have been under persistent attack in recent years by closed-minded left-wing ideologues who have taken over many of our leading institutions. Attempts to cancel, deplatform, and sanction anyone who dares to voice a dissenting opinion have been common in the media, in our universities, and in public life. It is all the more important, therefore, that resistance to such woke totalitarianism comes from trustworthy, well-informed, and objective opinion leaders, media organisations, and commentators.

As a refugee from communist Hungary myself, with painful memories of life under a dictatorship, I am highly sensitive to creeping totalitarianism at both ends of the political spectrum. I have therefore watched with growing concern the worrying trend among some conservative commentators, such as Tucker Carlson, who have been sycophantically promoting right-wing autocracts and illiberal regimes such as Viktor Orban’s in Hungary.

In a recent deeply embarrassing interview, Carlson acted as an obedient propagandist for Orban. Orban is a close friend of Putin, and is on record as a committed opponent of “decadent” Western liberal democracy and a keen admirer of “healthy” Eastern autocracies such as Russia, China, and Turkey, which in his view represent the future of humanity.

Despite his recent exit from Fox News, Carlson remains an important media personality. On the title page of the influential US magazine American Greatness, we find the following intriguing exhortation: “Support Tucker Approved News.” I doubt that we should trust Carlson to “approve” our news, given his promotion of right-wing dictators. He must have been familiar with Orban’s disgraceful record as a populist autocrat and self-professed champion of illiberalism who, according to Voice of America, has turned Hungary into the first dictatorship in the EU.

In his interview, Carlson enthusiastically dealing with Orban’s bizarre claim that Hungarian media (ranked 87th by Freedom House) is actually freer than media in the US.

Orban’s rule is based on a tailor-made, one-party constitution, and new electoral rules that can give him a parliamentary supermajority with support from just 25% of eligible voters. He has placed his loyal acolytes in charge of major state institutions; turned most of the media into propaganda outlets; compromised the independence of the judiciary; and destroyed all democratic checks and balances. Orban has also created a thoroughly corrupt mafia state. His barely literate childhood friend, until recently a humble gasfitter, has become the country’s richest man under Orban’s reign. His family members are now billionaires. Orban’s son-in-law has been accused of racketeering and criminal conspiracy by the EU, yet Orban’s trusted public prosecutor Peter Polt has refused to investigate.

Orban is not without friends. Donald Trump greatly admires him and recently praised him as the impressive leader of Turkey (sic)—a gaffe that can perhaps be excused in one so preoccupied with himself.  Orban, in turn, advised Americans to “call back Trump… Trump is the man who can save the western world.”  

So, why do some conservative media personalities like Tucker Carlson promote populist totalitarianism? Perhaps he may have been taken in by Orban’s manipulative and dishonest political posturing as a champion of Christianity, conservatism, family values, and a critic of woke Western decadence. If so, he has been negligent and unprofessional in not doing his homework on Orban’s shameful track record.

Possibly Carlson, and others like him, believe that any self-professed critic of woke ideology must be their friend. Perhaps this could also explain the inexcusable sympathy for Putin by some on the radical right. But anyone who believes in the foundational enlightenment values of Western liberal democracy such as individualism, liberty, and tolerance must resolutely oppose all enemies of human freedom, whether they claim to represent left-wing or right-wing ideologies.

Carlson has also received support and hospitality from lavishly endowed institutions closely allied with Orban’s corrupt regime and supported by Hungarian taxpayers, such as the Matthias Corvinus College, which also attracts a growing number of Western intellectuals to its well-paid Fellowships (Jeffrey Sachs, Mark Khater, Joshua Katz, Tilo Schabert, James Orr, et al.).

Of course, Hungary is not an important country, providing barely 0.8% of the EU’s GDP. Yet Carlson’s activism and the naïveté of other conservatives do matter. Orbán has many followers in Central and Eastern Europe and he is actively promoting illiberalism and autocracy in the Balkans. For his efforts, Trump  showered him with exuberant praise for doing such a “tremendous job” during a White House visit in 2019.

Unfortunately, Tucker Carlson is not alone in falling under Orban’s sway. Orban was a keynote speaker at the Conservative Political Action conference held in Budapest and he also appeared at a CPAC event in Texas last August, where he received a very warm reception.

It is profoundly disappointing that some Western conservatives have—perhaps inadvertently— legitimized Orban’s regime. Douglas Murray accepted the hospitality of Orban’s Danube Institute, and Roger Scruton received a medal from Orban. Conservative academics from the US and Europe flock to richly rewarding junkets organized by Matthias Corvinus College and other Orbanite front organizations squandering Hungarian taxpayers’ money.

The growing backlash against woke tyranny, political correctness, and gender ideology led Orban to realize that attacking neo-marxist totalitarianism can yield significant conservative support in the West. Yet Orban’s regime is built on exactly the same sort of tribal intolerance routinely employed by left-wing autocrats. Those who value liberty, individualism, and rationality cannot make common cause with right-wing autocrats who are openly disdainful of our basic values. Orban has excluded himself from the democratic West, and he and his government should be treated accordingly. Those who support freedom and oppose left-wing totalitarianism must not allow ourselves to be manipulated by crafty autocrats like Orban and naive apologists like Tucker Carlson.

Joseph Paul Forgas

Joseph P Forgas, AM, is a social psychologist & Scientia Professor at UNSW. He has published numerous books, including ‘The Psychology of Populism: Tribal Challenges to Liberal Democracy.’


  1. The labour theory of value is dangerously similar as it sounds to the value added production, one of the mantras of today’s capitalist, globalist economy.
    It is useless to try looking for a purely marxist, successful state, just as it is to do the same with a purely capitalist one. There was a time when Milton Friedman contended that Hong Kong was such a place, but that has faded into the past. Instead of picking Marx and marxism into pieces, I would rather suggest a more liberal approach, without political biases.
    In the USA, where even Canada is considered a socialist aberration, a substantial part of the state and the economy is operated in the socialist principles. ( In the USA any government-run institution is regarded as socialist. They are completely oblivious to those minimum requirements of a socialist economy, such as the public ownership of land and the means of production, the circulation of money and the planned economy.) like te VA, the military, the military industries, Fanny May and Freddy Mac, the welfare system, Medicare, Medicaid, etc. and quite a few more are government run and are amounting to a substantial part, (some say about 55-60%) of te economy.
    In my opinion at least numerous developments were based on marxian ideas, such as the materialistic view of history, the trade union movements and workers’ rights. But most of all the introduction of the welfare state, that eventually proved to be limited success, nevertheless, gave a gigantic boost to American and European societies. This was the conveyance that enabled the proletariat to become part of the middle class.
    Now, the supposed prediction about the collapse of capitalism was not at all as far fetched as you claim. In fact capitalism is collapsing every 10-12 years, (already producing one crisis as soon as in 1873), although gradually less and less severely, in horrible depressions. Since the New Deal, however, it is possible to recover from those crisies, with government support, of course, the marxist way, to restart and reset until the next collapse.
    In summary therefore, I can say that just as there is no purely marxist country successfully operating, similarly capitalism is almost impossible to work without some marxian features.

    1. I continue to disagree… Marxism is a deterministic revolutionary ideology that aims to destroy the capitalist market system by an ‘inevitable’ revolution and substitute a planned economy followed by a communist utopia (or nightmare)? This has nothing whatsoever to do with social democracy that seeks to work within the existing system and improve / adapt it. Your claim that marxism can take some, or any credit whatsoever for social democratic innovations in Canada, Fanny May, or the Scandinavian countries is completely false. Liberal democracy, and social democrats within it, work by continuous improvements, trial and error, inventions, etc. Marxism in contrast explicitly predicts and seeks the revolutionary destruction of the capitalist system, and always resulted in tyranny, violence and misery. This is further confirmed by the sorry history of marxist versus social democratic parties. Marxists always hated social democrats more than anyone else, and destroyed social democratic parties for their lack of revolutionary fervour, whenever they came into power and had an opportunity to do so. So it is really is impossible to argue, as you do, that the successes of social democracy are in some ways indebted to marxism… exactly the opposite is the case, any social democratic success has been achieved against marxist orthodoxy.

      1. Dear Joe, your dogmatic zeal enumerating the evils of communism, I think, is misplaced, although it may be true. Yes, there were evils committed in name of socialism by thugs claiming socialist aims. ( You forgot to mention among them Hitler and Mussolini), but they were just power-hungry criminals and manipulators, marxists by name only. And yes, they hated social democracy, as the more popular and far more successful competitor. However all that do not amount to any evidence against the marxist inception of the social welfare state and socialist democracy. But if you insist on the labels instead of the facts, then we cannot continue discussing this subject. You do not have to look much further than any history website to find that social democracy is originating with Marx. If that is not good enough for you, I cannot find any argument better, to convince you.

        1. Obviously we will continue to disagree so not much point in continuing this discussion. My concern is that many people continue to whitewash and try justify the fundamentally unscientific, revolutionary and violent character of marxist ideology, not because the theory is either true or workable, but because it holds a deep psychological attraction as tribal quasi-religious ideologies often do.

        2. I do not wish to be an arbiter here, it seems to me that Joe is chastising a so called “vulgar” Marxism (which does have its roots in Marx’s works), Sándor takes the view that social democracy is s brach of the socialist-Marxist credence.

          I simply want to say here that the great ideas of the 19th century have transformed considerably during this long 20th century, they became a bit blurred in convergence.

          1. Thanks for being an arbiter, Andras! I still think that there is a fundamental difference that cannot be ignored between marxism, that is an explicitly deterministic, closed, violent and revolutionary ideology, and social democracy that seeks social justice by pragmatic and democratic means. Using social democracy’s achievements somehow to justify marxism makes no sense. Marx was no social democrat in any sense of the world. I don’t see how noting this qualifies as dogmatic zeal on my part…? I think it is very important to clearly see marxism for what it is, the source ideology for the most violent and murderous regimes in human history, and at the same time, one the most psychologically seductive secular religions ever constructed. Well, on my part, a fun discussion so far… not being a marxist, I have no skin in this game!

    1. This is easy… free market capitalism and liberal democracies obviously work well in practice. This is evidentiary support based on overwhelming evidence. No marxist system has ever worked anywhere. Marx’s core idea based on the labor theory of value is obviously nonsense, yet his whole edifice is based on these erroneous assumptions. Even in the first half of the 19th century others like Adam Smith and Ricardo had a far better understanding of how capitalist economies work than Marx – but it was Marx who managed to construct a circular and quasi religious system that still gives people who really should know better an illusion of understanding.

      1. This is hardly evidentiary support. It is a good argument which has the force of persuasion, at the same time capitalism and liberal democracy do not seem to become governing institutions in many parts of our world. I doubt that the Marxist edifice rests on the labor theory. It seems to rest on many grounds, some have sense as working hypothesis, others are doubtful when it comes to ‘administering’ (governing) the world. Pro-market liberals have reason to be modest as to the reach of their evidence.

        1. Well, the labor theory of value is the crucial foundation of the entire marxist edifice. It claims to provide ‘scientific’ proof for the inevitable pauperisation of the proletariat and, and the necessary revolution that must ensue. Except the labor theory of value is entirely wrong, and instead of pauperisation and revolution the proletariat has become affluent and joined the middle class. There has never been a proletarian revolution anywhere, and the so-called marxist societies are totaliatarian self-perpetuating dictatorships everywhere. Karl Popper conclusively destroyed any credibility marxism had, but such fairy tales and consensual delusions tend to resist rational argumentation, and this was the case throughout human history. The fact that liberal democracy and market capitalism did not spread everywhere is not because they do not work, but because in order to work they do require very enlightened and specific boundary conditions (pluralism, check and balances, freedom of speech, rule of law, etc.) that are difficult to establish. But there really cannot be any doubt that marxism has never worked anywhere and when tried it brought unqualified disaster. It is really high time finally to lay this monstrous ideology to rest for ever, as we have done with its historical twin, fascism? But then, beliefs in such circular and unfalsifiable stories tend to be very resistant to change…

  2. No problem, you are all welcome, welcome to your views on marxism. However, my disdain for marxism is not because of my personal background (bringing this into the picture is a bit of an ad hominem argument that we should best keep away from…?), but because of my reading of both Marx, Popper, and also my understanding and study of his fundamental system, and its revision by the Frankfurt School. I now believe that marxism has no evidentiary support behind it, it is essentially an attractively construced secular religion that appeals to various evolutionary vulnerabilities of humans, it has been an absolute disaster whenever tried, and yet it still functions like ‘the opium of the intellectuals’ as Raymond Aron noted in the 1950s. More to the point, the surprising vulnerability of intellectuals to such tribal religions is much in evidence – just as many intellectuals in the 1930s were enthusiastic supporters of fascism, so now many of them can’t let go of neo-marxist ideologies like cancel culture, critical race theory, BLM, etc. The result is political polarisation on a dangerous scale, and possibly Trump next year that would be a real disaster…

    1. Nothing is further from my mind than to launch ad hominem attack against you. However, it was you who argued on the basis of being a refugee from a marxist state. Since you are claiming, correctly, that it had little to do with your assertions, it is not really unreasonable if I relate on a similar basis to your argument. Or, as the man said: ”nothing personal.”

      1. No problem, no offence taken. I only mentioned my background to make clear my connection to Hungary and concern about the Orban regime, not in any way to justify my views on marxism.

  3. While I appreciate the author’ intention to rally conservatives against the Orbán regime, I respectfully disagree that Tucker Carlson is a “conservative”. Rather he is the kind of opportunist that fascist movements and communist movements attract. Carlson’s spiritual “parents” are individuals such as Jacque Doriot, who effortlessly switched from communism to fascism or the AVO officers, who switched from Hungarian fascism to communism. Orbán, as this author knows and as most readers know, is also an opportunist in the same vein i.e. a member of communist youth organization, while other more principled peers were opposing all things communist. Carlson is less naive and more about cunning as is Orbán.

    Given that Orbán’s son is gay as are some other prominent fideszniks; we can rest assured that his tirades against LGBT fellow citizens are marked by the same kind of opportunism regarding his other political choices.

  4. The terminological inexactitude of this article and its equation of “woke ideology” with “left wing” with “neo-marxist totalitarianism” unfortunately undermine the otherwise wholly apposite criticism of the Orban regime.

    1. Dear ogocog, I am inclined to agree with you.
      The Author’s claim to be a refugee from communism is a somewhat inadequate excuse for these overstatements. Being a refugee myself, similarly to the Author, I do not feel compelled to throw out all social resposibility and democratic aspirations, just because they were first presented by Marx, or still are represented by the marxists.
      This unconditional, phobic abhorrence from anything progressive gives away the unfortunately biased position of the Author. Otherwise a most admirable thinker whom I highly respect.

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