Why has Tucker Carlson been so reticent?
Tucker Carlson has been quiet since his dismissal from Fox News. Notwithstanding sensational headlines that he has "broken his silence," he has done no such thing. Why is he not going after the cancel culture at Fox with both barrels? He often says — convincingly — that "no amount of money and power could dissuade him from telling the truth."
Did he sign a "non-disparagement agreement" (NDA)? That would be out of character — and disappointing. In fields like media and academics, such agreements are inherently unethical, because they protect not legitimate trade secrets (like non-disclosure agreements), but unethical conduct, such as censoring, "canceling," or purging unfavored views and violating journalistic or academic freedom. NDAs conceal actions of which the employer — usually a college or media outlet or other institution ostensibly devoted to "truth" — is ashamed. And it is also ashamed of the NDA itself, which invariably prohibits disclosing the NDA's existence. If Fox is censoring its staff — and trying to conceal the fact that it is censoring its staff — the world should know.
Journalists, professors, teachers, or clergy who are dismissed because they expose wrongdoing or offend important people really have only one effective recourse: damaging the institution's reputation by going public with evidence that it suppresses truth. But this is precisely what the NDA forbids and punishes.
Accepting such "hush money" also comes dangerously close to surrendering First Amendment freedoms, because it is difficult to expose unethical practices without exposing the unethical organization hiding behind the NDA. If Carlson must hold his tongue about Fox News, must he also hold it about all media chicanery? In other words, NDAs commandeer the public justice system not to protect free speech, but to punish it. They turn the public judiciary into a private goon squad to punish, not the wrongdoers but the wronged. If Carlson lashes out at the "mainstream media," would that violate such an NDA? He has lawyers and money to contest that, but the rest of us do not, and he should consider that before he agrees to such a bargain with the devil.
Not only is Tucker's First Amendment clearly important to him, but so are his own freedom and reputation. It is difficult to believe he would gag himself in this way — even for millions in a payout that he could earn better elsewhere by being free from any muzzle.
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There is another possibility. I believe they have him by the short-and-curlies. While a number of extortionate devices could be used, one in particular has become a favorite of conservative organizations that want to betray their principles without the world knowing.
Conservative employers like media companies and universities are now at the forefront of one of the most sinister legal developments in silencing dissent, and one that builds upon the judicial tyrannies I described in a previous article and post. This maneuver has escaped most observers because that is precisely its purpose: to smother dissent and criticism beneath a cover of secrecy and legal retribution.
So effective are these legal devices at concealing dirty deeds that they conceal themselves, and few people know about their existence. Like NDAs, they constitute a serious judicial innovation, one that allows public justice to be hijacked to muzzle all of us.
They also constitute a major reason for the deterioration of the media, colleges and universities, and other cultural institutions. Crooked institutions can dismiss politically incorrect journalists, professors, scholars, students, and others without the world ever knowing, because the punishments can be severe.
In my next article, I will describe what I suspect they are holding over his head and why he is holding his tongue — and why we should all be concerned.
Image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0.