Mary Katharine Ham Breaks With CNN Drumbeat: Tucker is Right Not to Cave to the Outrage Mob

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Posted: Mar 13, 2019 2:01 PM
Mary Katharine Ham Breaks With CNN Drumbeat: Tucker is Right Not to Cave to the Outrage Mob

If you're just tuning into the controversy over comments made by Fox News host Tucker Carlson on a shock jock radio program more than a decade ago, know this: The old remarks were dug up by the left-wing attack dog organization Media Matters, whose entire purpose is to chronicle the supposed 'sins' of right-leaning commentators and journalists.  They have a particular fetish for delegitimizing and destroying Fox News (disclosure: where I work), frequently targeting its advertisers with boycott pushes.  

Writer David French -- who's opposed 'scalp collection' culture on both sides of the ideological spectrum, as I have on numerous occasions -- writes that while he has no interest in endorsing or defending what Carlson said years ago, the virtual mob's escalating, vindictive efforts to hound people out of jobs over objectionable speech is corrosive to society:

I don’t like what Tucker said, but here’s what is far, far worse for our nation and our culture than a pundit saying shocking things to a shock jock: the creation and sustainment of an outrage industry that spends millions of dollars (and countless man-hours) in the quest to destroy the lives and careers of the people it dislikes. Here’s the way it works. If you’re a conservative or a Republican who attains any kind of prominence at all, then the hunt is on. Media Matters has its rolling list of allegedly bad or silly things I’ve said and written, for example. And the more prominent you are, the more diligent the hunt. People will listen to hundreds of hours of radio shows or podcasts. They’ll watch tapes of cable news until their eyes glaze over. They’ll scan through hundreds of thousands of written words — letting the sum total of the person’s worldview and body of work wash over them — looking for that “gotcha” moment, the word or phrase that proves “the bad man really is bad.” 

Our nation cannot maintain its culture of free speech if we continue to reward those who seek to destroy careers rather than rebut ideas. And when you reward a Media Matters search-and-destroy fishing expedition with calls for boycotts or reprisals, then you are doing your part to destroy debate. It’s vengeful. It’s cowardly. And it’s exactly the online world that spiteful partisans want to build.

Ben Shapiro, while also not offering support for Carlson's words, tore into Media Matters and its tactics:

Media Matters, contrary to media descriptions, isn’t a “media watchdog organization.” It is a political smear factory designed to perform precisely that function against anyone to the right of Hillary Clinton. The organization was founded by professional smear artist David Brock, in conjunction with the Center for American Progress, an organization itself founded by John Podesta, the Clinton White House Chief of Staff. Hillary Clinton herself advised Brock on the creation of the organization. Mega-donor Leftist George Soros has poured money into the organization, announcing in 2010, “Media Matters is one of the few groups that attempts to hold Fox News accountable..." Media Matters had regular strategy calls with the Obama White House. For years, Media Matters has operated as an aggressive wing of Clintonworld, going so far as to suggest hiring private investigators to dig up dirt on Fox News hosts. Media Matters consistently attempts to tear down conservative hosts by either ripping them out of context or by digging up old Bad Things™, then astroturfing public pressure against advertisers.

The boycotts and pressure campaigns they gin up "continue apace," Shapiro concludes. "This time, Tucker Carlson is the target. In the past, Media Matters has targeted Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, Megyn Kelly, and pretty much anyone remotely associated with the right." This is exactly how they operate, and virtually everyone on the center-right with a significant media platform has an open (and distortion-filled) 'file,' including yours truly. My friend and co-author Mary Katharine Ham, who worked for Carlson for years, appeared on CNN to discuss this firestorm. She made a series of important points, drawing distinctions between voicing disapproval and thirsting for punishment -- as well as contemporaneous comments vs. dredged-up outrage fuel. She also compared Carlson's pointed non-apology to the approach of the late, great Joan Rivers, and also cheekily gave a shout-out to the Media Matters scrivener who's been assigned to monitoring her work over the years (click through for the video): 

“I do think he’s right when he says that if he apologizes, nothing ends, and nobody’s interested in his apology,” Ham said. “I think that’s true. I think that’s how outrage mobs operate.”...“I wrote an entire book about how I don’t like coming for people’s heads, and people’s jobs because they say things people don’t like,” Ham said. “And I actually believe what I wrote. And I do think there’s another thing that’s corrosive in addition to people saying mean things. And it is the impulse to take people down, and to take people’s jobs...“Look, if it wasn’t a fireable offense for MSNBC ten years ago [where Carlson was employed at the time], it ain’t a fireable offense now,” Ham said.

Here's the book she mentioned.  I'll leave you with a brief review of some "problematic" things written by the president of Media Matters, as highlighted by the retaliation-minded Daily Caller, which Carlson co-founded: