Rutger Bregman had a brush with viral fame recently when a video of the Dutch historian trying to talk sense to global elite at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. If you’re not familiar with the Davos meet-up, it’s basically a conference where disgustingly wealthy people get together to pat themselves on the back for acknowledging the social ills wrought by globalization, income inequality, etc. but stop short of doing anything to put and end to them.
In the clip, an exasperated Bregman chastises the wealthy participants for focusing on problem-solving through charitable giving instead of just paying higher taxes that can be allocated for the common good.
‘It feels like I’m at a firefighters conference and no one’s allowed to speak about water.’ — This historian wasn’t afraid to confront the billionaires at Davos about their greed pic.twitter.com/gCXUSup4dO
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) January 31, 2019
“I hear people talking the language of participation and justice and equality and transparency, but then, I mean, almost no one raises the real issue of tax avoidance right? And of the rich just not paying their fair share,” Bregman said. “It feels like I’m at a firefighters conference and no one’s allowed to speak about water.”
Bregman speaking truth to power caught the attention of Tucker Carlson, who’s recently discovered wealth inequality and has been playing an anti-Wall Street populist on his Fox News show. Carlson, himself the step-son of the Swanson frozen food heiress, said in an interview about his new criticisms of the economy, “A country where a shrinking percentage of the population is taking home an ever-expanding proportion of the money is not a recipe for a stable society. It’s not.”
Unfortunately, Carlson’s new harsh “anti-elitism” seems to be reserved only for those whose names don’t appear on Tucker Carlson’s paychecks, something Bregman learned after filming an appearance on his show.
The best 8 mins of Fox News you will probably ever watch.
— Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan) February 20, 2019
In the unaired interview, a delighted Carlson effusively praises Bregman for pointing out the hypocrisy of Davos attendees to their faces. Things started to take a bit of a turn, however, when Bregman points out that Carlson’s own network has been instrumental in driving the message that taxes on the ultra-wealthy should be kept low.
Watch Fox News host Tucker Carlson call one of his guests a 'tiny brain…moron' during an interview. NowThis has obtained the full segment with historian Rutger Bregman that Fox News is refusing to air. pic.twitter.com/kERYPUaGLY
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) February 20, 2019
“The vast majority of Americas for years and years now, according to the polls—including Fox News viewers and including Republicans—are in favor of higher taxes on the rich,” Bregman says. “But no one’s saying that at Davos, just as no one’s saying it on Fox News.”
Bregman goes on to offer a “quite simple” explanation for the divide, that those at Davos and those on Fox News had been “bought by the billionaire” class. “Almost all of the pundits on this channel for years have been against higher taxes, right?”
Carlson asks Bregman what the policy solution would be to combat tax avoidance (corporations and wealthy individuals using accounting mechanisms and tax shelters to avoid paying their fair share) and Bregman steers the conversation back to high marginal tax rates.
“We had top marginal tax rate for the very rich of about 70%, 80%, 90% under Eisenhower,” Bregman says. “So, as a historian, for me it’s really not rocket science.”
That’s when Carlson shows his true colors, claiming the economy is so different now that higher marginal rates on the wealthy aren’t the solution. Bregman counters by pointing out the unspoken corrupt bargain that keeps issues like tax avoidance and higher marginal rates out of the national conversation and gives us demagogues like Trump.
“You guys have brought into power a president that doesn’t even want to show his own tax returns,” Bregman says. “So I think the issue really is one of corruption and of people being bribed, and of not being—not talking about the real issues.”
Then things got a little personal.
“What the Murdochs basically want you to do is to scapegoat immigrants instead of talking about tax avoidance,” Bregman says, referring to the billionaire Murdoch family that owns Fox News. “So I’m glad you’re now finally raising the issue, but that’s what’s been happening for the past couple of years.”
“And I’m taking orders from the Murdochs, is that what you’re saying?” Carlson replies.
“No, I mean it doesn’t work that directly,” Bregman says. “But I mean, you’ve been a part of the Cato Institute, right? You’ve been a senior fellow there for years? You’ve been taking their dirty money. They’re funded by Koch billionaires you know.”
“Wait, why don’t you tell me how it does work?” an angry Carlson shoots back.
“Well, it works by you taking their dirty money, it’s as easy as that.” Bregman says. “You are a millionaire funded by billionaires, that’s what you are. And I’m glad you now finally jumped the bandwagon of people like Bernie Sanders and AOC, but you’re not part of the solution, Mr. Carlson, you’re part of the problem.”
Carlson interjects to call Bregman a moron and say he probably won’t air the segment (he didn’t), but Bregman sticks to his guns.
“You’re a millionaire funded by billionaires and that’s the reason you’re not talking about these issues,” Bregman says.
“But I am talking about these issues!” Carlson says.
“Yeah, only now. Come on, you jumped the bandwagon,” Bregman says. “You’re all like, ‘Oh I’m against the globalist elite blah blah blah.’ It’s not very convincing, to be honest.”
Then Carlson loses his cool.
“I wanna say to you, why don’t you go f*ck yourself, you tiny brain—and I hope this gets picked up—because you’re a moron. I tried to give you a hearing, but you were too f*cking annoying—”
“You can’t handle the criticism, can you?” Bregman shoots back.
No he cannot.
Carlson’s show—which once aired an entire segment devoted to the gender of Christmas cookies—released a statement about the “disappointing” unaired interview saying they “respect our audience’s time too much to consider airing it.”
Bregman tweeted about the experience of being interviewed on Carlson’s show, standing by his statements and offering a more nuanced explanation of the nefarious influence the wealthy have on our national conversation.
3/ Years ago, when he was asked a similar question, Chomsky replied: ‘I’m sure you believe everything you’re saying. But what I’m saying is that if you believe something different, you wouldn’t be sitting where you’re sitting.’
— Rutger Bregman (@rcbregman) February 20, 2019
By refusing to air the interview, Carlson proved Bregman’s point for him.