Russian dictator Vladimir Putin spoke Wednesday at a televised government meeting, during which he denounced U.S.-led economic sanctions that have isolated Russia’s economy as well as targeted the overseas assets of the country’s oligarchs in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine. Putin’s response was a tirade of culture-war themes about a supposed elite class attached to liberal values instead of their own country — themes that felt oddly like they could have been copied from right-wing media in the United States.
Among the targets of Putin’s ire were so-called “national traitors” who have taken up Western values, combining luxury goods and liberalism including “foie gras, oysters, or so-called gender freedoms.” (Putin has singled out alleged “traitors” in the past, echoing language employed by former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.) Putin claimed that such people “would sell their own mother, just to have permission to sit at the entranceway of this higher caste.” Putin added, “they want to be like them, imitating them in various ways,” according to English subtitles on a video of his remarks.
While we have become almost desensitized to the way Fox News prime-time host Tucker Carlson has parrotted pro-Kremlin propaganda, it now seems like Russia’s leader is parroting Tucker Carlson. This development comes in the wake of a recent memo from the Russian government, directing the country’s media outlets to promote as many clips of Carlson as possible.
Notably, Carlson has a long history of attacking gender equality, insulting women in the military, and falsely claiming that transgender rights were "an issue for rich people." Carlson has also railed against diversity as a “core” national weakness, which he claimed was to blame for everything from higher gasoline prices to the looming downfall of society.
Putin also claimed that the West was now seeking to “cancel” Russia, echoing one of Carlson’s own arguments from three weeks ago. As the war against Ukraine began, Carlson exhorted his viewers to resist attempts by the media to get them to hate Putin, with Carlson invoking numerous culture-war themes in his defense: “Has Putin ever called me a racist? Has he threatened to get me fired for disagreeing with him?”
During his televised rant, Putin also denounced persistent economic inequality in the West. But, according to multiple reports, he could potentially be the richest person in the world. He had an estimated net worth of $200 billion in 2017, stemming from his alleged control over significant chunks of Russia’s energy sector, and he also presides over an inner circle with vast wealth of their own. And while he heckled “those who have a villa in Miami” or “the French Riviera,” he’s got his own palace on the Black Sea, and a lifestyle of yachts, cars, and reported “secret girlfriends.”
Carlson also does quite well for himself, with a reported net worth of $30 million and a family fortune that afforded him a privileged upbringing, which included attending private school in San Diego and an elite prep school in Rhode Island. His father Dick Carlson is a retired banker and media executive with lengthy government experience, whose résumé included stints as director of Voice of America and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Carlson has made an entire career out of his fake-populism scam, claiming to oppose a cultural "ruling class" and to speak out against rich people on TV — when in fact he is one of the elite, is supported by wealthy benefactors, and those wealthy individuals he does attack tend to be people in minority groups.
Clarification (3/18/22): This piece has been updated for clarity.