Although I thought Tucker Carlson’s interview of Russia’s president Vladimir Putin was fairly balanced and even slightly aggressive, what followed — slice of life short films recorded in Moscow — were cringe and conspicuously not representative of American way of thinking.

Shooting one video in the Moscow Metro, two in a supermarket and one at a fast food joint, Tucker made amateur mistakes. The Metro is Moscow’s major tourist attraction and it is impressive, especially the central stops. Although Carlson said that he was interested not in the gaudy details of Kievskaya station but in the fact that they were preserved in original condition over decades — heavy-handed Soviet symbolism left intact and stations kept clean and safe.

The safety of the Moscow Metro is a pressing question, and not only when it comes to criminality. In 2004, Islamic terrorists killed 10 and wounded 50 and in 2010, two female suicide bombers killed 40 and injured over 100 during rush hour.

The infrastructure of the capital city is not the sole target of terrorists. In 2017, a suicide bomber murdered 16 and injured 64 in a St. Petersburg Metro attack. How Russia deals with ongoing terror threats is worth investigating, and Russians should be commended for carrying on with normal life despite the attacks.

Carlson is not interested in these topics, which is fine, but to fawn over the Moscow Metro when overall Russia’s infrastructure is substandard is the kind of error that Bernie made when he visited Russia on his honeymoon in the 1980’s and came away impressed with crystal chandeliers in the subways.

Having spent many years on the coveted prime time Fox slot, Carlson is expected to be familiar with basic laws of economics. It was strange to watch him to visit a grocery store along with a fast food joint and coming away “radicalized” — his word — after learning how little he had to pay in American dollars.

Fact checkers piled on immediately. Tom Norton at Newsweek pointed out that Russians earn for less money than Americans. Looking at purchasing power parities compiled in 2022 by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Norton found that the “same basket of goods and services bought in the U.S. for $1 would cost $30.19 in Russia.” In other words, it’s easy to be an American on a holiday in Russia; making ends meet as a Russian is hard.

Moreover, I am not sure where Carlson was going with the cheap foods idea. American agriculture is already heavily subsidized, including through illegal immigrant labor. As a vocal opponent of illegal immigration, he should be prepared — and prepare his audience — to pay more at the checkout. Of course American families may save elsewhere because we are propping up cheap food, but if we are talking about what consumers are charged at the register, that number is subsidized.

Tucker’s fascination with the Russian grocery cart that requires a deposit to operate was another odd scene. These carts are neither some sort of amazing new technology nor unique to Russia. If anything, they signal that he is not visiting high trust society, the kind where customers can be relied on to return the store’s property.

High trust societies are another fixation of the former TV host. As such, Carlson likely noticed that Moscovites are not keen on putting faith in each other — or do as much as make eye contact and say hello. Many of them are kind and loving people, but leaving your door unlocked is not recommended in Russia’s capital.

I find it peculiar that Carlson took the angle of everyday life comparisons. First of all, this is not the game Russia can win and Tucker seemed to be interested in what Russia can do better. Americans can afford more goods, drive more cars, and live in more spacious homes. The USSR, it can be argued, lost the Cold War as early as 1959 when President Nixon showed off an average US kitchen at the American Exhibition at Sokolniki Park in Moscow. Soviet visitors saw that socialism can’t provide for their well-being as well as the free markets do.

Russia never caught up when it comes to amenities and physical comforts. Even if there is a point to be made about the deterioration of the quality of life here or the fear that the next generation will not be as prosperous as the last, we are still better off than the Russians.

Everyday life is the Russian fixation, not ours. It’s Russian women who for generations studiously examine every Western film to figure out the latest shoe styles. Typically, Americans look for something else in the land of the bear — something mysterious in the eyes, soul, perhaps or, failing that, attractive women. I hesitate to speculate why Tucker took the angle he did.

Finally, I find it annoying that Carlson went to Moscow to drag his country in front of its geopolitical rival. As I mentioned in my earlier piece on this subject, Russians are a proud people and this kind of behavior is considered shameful. There is the common Russian proverb “Do not take garbage out of the hut,” meaning whatever discord exists within a family, should stay behind its walls and away from scrutiny of strangers.

If Carlson wants to call attention to inflation or the sorry state of our own public transportation — point taken. I am very concerned about my grocery bill and I wrote about safety on the Bay Area’s BART myself. But he needs to make this point here, in the US.

Russians themselves don’t respect people who take the proverbial garbage out. They may appreciate Carlson for making certain points for them, but at the end, Tucker was too American for them — too brash in the Putin interview, too persistent. His trademark intense listening face — too gimmicky.

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