Upon first glance, it looked like Fox News’ Tucker Carlson was going to be in trouble. A photo was circulating that featured him with a sex worker. Kate Aurthur, Chief Los Angeles Correspondent of BuzzFeed News shared the photo on Twitter in an attempt to shame and mob the conservative superstar.
One small problem though: the photo was completely innocent. It was simply an instance of a fan (who happens to be a sex worker) taking a photo with a celebrity she admires at a funeral of a mutual friend, Dennis Hof, who happened to own a legal brothel. Neither here nor there.
That she happens to be a sex worker should be of no consequence. That it was made an issue speaks to the fact that a progressive journalist believed that a man to whom she has ascribed a belief system would be shamed by being in this photo. She attempted to call out his hypocrisy, as journalists so often do. But the hypocrisy didn’t exist. Moreover, if Aurthur, as a good leftist, has no problem with sex work then why would she have an issue with someone else not being troubled by it either?
Christina Parreira, the sex worker featured in the photo, found a place to speak her truth in The Federalist, a conservative outlet long derided by the progressive left for mostly vacuous reasons. The fact that a sex worker had to set the record straight in The Federalist about a Twitter-based kink shaming hoax speaks to the change that has been happening throughout our media. Outlets that were once considered to be beacons of free expression are now more prudish and censorious than the outlets they critique.
It’s no surprise that the would-be shamer, Aurthur, works for Buzzfeed. Buzzfeed has increasingly become the go-to source for puritanical scolding. They are are also responsible for the blistering hot takes that Louis CK’s jokes were too edgy or that YouTuber PewDiePie was some sort of stealth Nazi. Playing gotcha with an outspoken talk show host and a fan he met at a friend’s funeral is even too low for Buzzfeed. Or at least it should be.
Perhaps Mitchell Sunderland, the person who snapped the Carlson pic, said it best when he tweeted: “If someone told me when I was a gay, liberal seventeen-year-old that in a decade liberal publications would be censoring people and shaming them for their sexualities and conservatives would be defending sex workers, I would never have believed you.”
Sunderland, the Penthouse Editor-at-Large, spoke to us briefly about this ridiculous situation: “The only thing the late, great Dennis Hof loved more than free press was exposing hypocrites. He would have lived for this saga.”
And because of the relentless hypocrisy and complete incoherence of this cultural moment, The Federalist is going to bat for a Vegas sex worker while Buzzfeed is engaged in the lowest form of kink shaming and finger wagging. We should applaud The Federalist providing space for Parreira to fight back against those who wanted to form a mob against her and Carlson.
We also reached out to Parreira who said, “This is the new culture war—when someone on the “liberal left” feels they have the moral superiority to trash someone in a photo at a funeral. The left is desperate right now, and it shows. Americans aren’t stupid, and the free thinkers will win the culture war.”
The leftist counter culture that had been effectively driving ideas forward for the past several decades has capitulated to its worst impulses. Instead of advocating for those individual freedoms that it believed would bring about change, it has opted instead for a forceful approach, to simply shouting “we’re right, listen up, do it our way.” This is neither an effective way to drive an egalitarian movement, nor to ensure that individual rights will be upheld.
The thing is, this should not be ideological; you don’t have to be liberal or conservative to care about free speech or to abhor censorship and smear campaigns. But it is more important than ever to be discerning and reject tribal allegiances.
Pay very close attention to where your basic freedoms are being defended and where your language and life choices are being policed. It doesn’t matter how you identify. We, the authors of this piece, are both liberals. But ask yourself this: who is looking out for your rights? There are people from all over the spectrum who care about your rights. But the people who don’t? They want you to believe it’s an either or choice. Buzzfeed has become a monolith of moralism. Everything is black and white to them. They will tell you what’s “okay” and what’s “not okay.”
This moralism is pushed forward without any basis upon which to make moral judgements. No religious moral framework grounds this fabrication, not even a political one. It is simply a knee-jerk reaction to an opposition that is perceived as the enemy more than it actually is.
Liberal values are no longer the domain of the left, and those who believe in liberal ideas, such as individual freedom, the protection of natural rights, the necessity of debate and reasoned discussion, and educational frameworks that are not indoctrination factories, are finding their way out of an illiberal, leftist milieu. Rubbing the sand from our eyes, and embracing no ideology is the new way forward. Finding truth amidst the vast outputs of fiction is not a task for the faint of heart, but one that must be engaged in.
When a woman takes a photo, and the woman turns out to be a sex worker, and the person she was in the photo with is then shamed by someone who is not against sex work, what sense does that make? We can’t hate Tucker Carlson for his family values and hate him for taking a photo with a sex worker. Both things can’t be bad.
Exiled liberals are increasingly turning to conservative and centrist venues like Reason, The Federalist, Quillette, and Areo to avoid the scolding and to be able to freely engage in an open exchange of ideas. The left is giving up its claim to liberalism, and the right seems ready, willing, and able to take up the gauntlet.