The latest high-profile entry into our Washington media universe, Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller, launched yesterday. With millions of dollars in venture capital, a staff numbered at 21 (a huge number for an online start-up), and plenty of publicity, the site hopes to be a conservative combination of the Huffington Post and Politico. Out of the box, there are certainly things you could criticize, like the pedestrian design ("Hey, what if we use a lot of bold, blocky capital letters, and everything will be red and blue? No one’s seen that before!"). But there is one thing that really stands out.
Carlson has promised that the Daily Caller will do lots of original reporting on Congress and the executive branch, to which we should all say, more power to them. Ideologically motivated or not, we can never get too much reporting. Looking around the site, though, the reporting isn't yet much in evidence. What is evident is a lot of stuff seemingly designed to irritate liberals.
Start with the inaugural offering on their video page, which Carlson says will be "the best organized and most interesting around." It's a song called "Dear Mr. Gorbachev," wherein Nashville songwriter Billy Cerveny sings about how, for no particular reason other than, well, now things are different, he misses the U.S.S.R. "No offense to all you mullahs/But the Cold War it was cooler/Oh, we had it all/Mr. Gorbachev, please rebuild that wall." Carlson praises the song for being "cheerfully subversive," but it's hard to see what it's supposed to be subverting.
There are other things on the site that continue this theme in different ways. One was a column by S.E. Cupp, in which she imagines herself on a date with a you, the reader, telling you all about how much she hates you, and how much you must hate her. "First of all, I say, I dislike you very much already. Not because you've already told me how much money you make, but because I'm a misanthrope. That's because most of the people I meet fall far short of the examples my mother and father set decades ago. Whereas they are compassionate, hard-working, down-to-earth, unpretentious, God-fearing common folk, you are an entitled, self-important, elitist and condescending snot weasel who wears his empty moral relativism and cheap 'Daily Show' pieties like they are Olympic medals." Liberals are elitists and conservatives are real Americans -- never heard that one before. Cupp goes on to say that she doesn't care about the environment, likes war, and hates France. Such brave truth-telling!
There is a generation of conservative writers who seem to think that saying things designed to make liberals mad is the height of rebelliousness. But we passed the point some time ago when this kind of thing was even remotely interesting, let alone shocking.
Which brings us to what was the featured story this morning, a column by Tucker Carlson about Al Sharpton. Apparently, Sharpton's bit part in the Harry Reid kerfuffle was enough of an excuse to justify a column going over his prior misdeeds. I don't know if Carlson expected liberals to rush to Sharpton’s defense over his behavior in the Tawana Brawley scandal, but I'm sure no one did. It's not that Carlson was trying to irritate liberals here, but this is the connection: Conservatives not only expend a lot of effort doing and saying things they think will drive liberals crazy, they also have great affection for people they think drive liberals crazy (see Palin, Sarah). In conservative circles, the enmity of liberals is its own virtue. But on the left side of the divide, people just don't care nearly as much. If we did, we would have nominated Sharpton for president, because nobody infuriates conservatives quite as much as he does. But conservatives find Sharpton much more interesting than liberals do, and it's hard to think of any figures the left celebrate for little reason other than that they annoy the right.
Is the Daily Caller going to be successful? It stands a fair chance -- they have enough capital to get going, they have a site crammed to the gills with content, and if they follow through on their pledge to do real reporting, they could actually offer something of unique value. If they could stop caring so much about tweaking liberals -- which is going to get boring really fast -- they just might have something.
-- Paul Waldman