That John Wayne Worldview…

Paul Krugman recently commented on Tucker Carlson’s residence in a tough White male alternate  reality.

On Aug. 29 Tucker Carlson of Fox News attacked President Biden’s policy on Ukraine, asserting among other things: “By any actual reality-based measure, Vladimir Putin is not losing the war in Ukraine. He is winning the war in Ukraine.” Carlson went on, by the way, to assert that Biden is supporting Ukraine only because he wants to destroy the West.

Carlson’s timing was impeccable. Just a few days later, a large section of the Russian front near Kharkiv was overrun by a Ukrainian attack. It’s important to note that Putin’s forces weren’t just pushed back; they appear to have been routed. As the independent Institute for the Study of War reported, the Russians were driven into a “panicked and disorderly retreat,” leaving behind “large amounts of equipment and supplies that Ukrainian forces can use.”

Krugman’s column went on to analyze/deconstruct the worldview of those who–like Carlson–clearly prefer Putin’s Russia to Zelensky’s Ukraine.

He noted that there’s “a whole school of self-styled ‘realists'” who keep insisting that Ukrainian resistance to Russia’s invasion is futile, and who continue to call on Ukraine to make big concessions in order to end the war.  He then proceeds to investigate the worldview that leads so many on the political Right to laud Putin’s brand of leadership–a worldview that, as he writes, mistakes tough-guy swagger for effectiveness.

This worldview has warped the right’s perception not just of the Russian Army but also of how to deal with many other issues. And it’s worth asking where it comes from…

After providing some relevant quotes from Rudy Giuliani and Trump, he says

it’s not hard to see where the MAGA right’s admiration for Putinism comes from. After all, Putin’s Russia is autocratic, brutal and homophobic, with a personality cult built around its ruler. What’s not to like?

Yet admiring a regime’s values needn’t mean having faith in its military prowess. As a center-left advocate of a strong social safety net — or, as Republicans would say, a Marxist (which, of course, I’m not) — I think highly of Nordic welfare states like Denmark. But I have no opinion whatsoever about the effectiveness of Denmark’s army (yes, it has one).

The conflation of Right-wing values with strength can be seen in the Right’s transformation of Jesus into a MAGA Republican–a change so dramatic it now prompts satirical “GOP ads,” like this one.

Back in March, I wrote about a book I’d just finished–Jesus and John Wayne, written by a religion scholar at Calvin College who traced how the Jesus of Evangelical imagination had morphed from the “wimpy, feminine” prophet my  Christian friends continue to worship into a “manly, dominant” John-Wayne-like warrior. The book documented the degree to which misogyny and male dominance have become central to the Christian Nationalism that is today’s Evangelical belief system.

For a stunning number of conservative White Evangelicals, the “good news” of the Christian gospel has become a staunch commitment to patriarchal authority, gender difference, and Christian Nationalism, all anchored in white racial grievance.

The background provided by that book helps to explain the disdain of  MAGA Republicans like Ted Cruz (who has criticized  America’s armed forces for being feminized and “woke”) for Ukraine. That criticism, of course, is quite unlike their admiration for the Russian army which–as Krugman points out– is nothing if not brutal.

It is notable that –among its other “woke” features–women make up more than a fifth of Ukraine’s military.

Krugman points to what should be obvious: despite the Right’s celebration of brute strength, modern wars aren’t won by looking tough.

Courage — which the Ukrainians have shown in almost inconceivable abundance — is essential, but it doesn’t have much to do with bulging biceps. And bravery must go hand in hand with being smart and flexible, qualities the Russian Army evidently lacks.

Jesus and John Wayne added evidence to the arguments in Robert P. Jones’ book The End of White Christian America. Read together, the two books explain the transformation of Evangelical Christianity into the distinctly un-Christian worldview advanced by Tucker Carlson and other MAGA Republicans. Both books–together with a veritable mountain of social science research–document the morphing of a significant number of White Christian Americans into a very un-Christian cult.

The members of that cult frantically resist the inexorable progress of cultural and demographic change; they continue to reside mentally and emotionally in eras long past–in times when brute strength (epitomized by John Wayne) was more important than skill and smarts.

The obsolescence of that worldview is just one of the lessons we’re learning from Russia’s tragic and brutal war on Ukraine.


  1. This time, the world is reacting to stop the bully marching across Europe. Lets hope the bully is stopped before it is too late. When Hitler was the European bully, it was nearly too late before the rest of the world got fully engaged. It WAS too late already for many millions. But better late than never. John Wayne was a phony like Trump and Tucker. They are only tough in front of a camera. The never did anything tough on their own. Please take a look at the new Ken Burns film on PBS.

  2. Yes, Marion Morrison was a phony. He was, after all, a movie star. What else would we expect. Oh, and he was also a staunch Republican. BTW, lest we lose sight of this trend, Ronald Reagan was also a movie star…and a phony, manipulated by Donald Regan and the other Wall Street moguls. Donald Trump, of course, has been acting out his pathology from the moment the make-up brush left his cheeks for The Apprentice.

    So, any time a political entity starts invoking Jesus, it sounds more like the Taliban than it does scripture from the book of Matthew. Typical of Republican phonies because they have no other substance to their lust for power.

    Carlson is merely the latest in a long line of mindless fear-mongers without a clue. Anything and everything spilling from his fetid mouth is a lie and a distortion. Turn him off.

  3. John Wayne was always the same person with a different job; extremely limited acting ability and was a slightly smarter version of Lennie in “Of Mice And Men”. The movie “Trumbo” showed the true person John Wayne was with his full support of Joe McCarthy and the aid he provided in “outing” those who believed him to be a friend but he suspected of being or consorting with Communists. Today he would be on stage with Trump seeking Dictatorship of this country using Putin rule book as a guide; Rudy’s foolish public appearances would have been ended by poisoning long ago. Brute force instilling fear into the hearts and minds of the sitting Republicans and those running on the MAGA campaign foundation may be the end of democracy as we have known it…warts and all.

    A line from Jimmy Dean’s long ago hit song, “Big Bad John” comes to mind. “You ain’t big; you just tall, that’s all.” Those mute and idle sitting Republicans don’t recognize their own impending death in politics if they don’t begin to speak and act like American citizens with the ability to recognize the enemy is their own party. Lennie had George to do his thinking for him; Trump hasn’t the humanity or intelligence to rule by anything but threats and lies. But, people; this coming November 8th election is not a John Wayne movie with a hero coming to rescue us. We must save ourselves by voting and VOTE BLUE NO MATTER WHO can end in victory for our democracy.

  4. Replying from Dublin this morning, where I’m being an American tourist with our two daughters – a very special blessing if there was ever one. Several of the natives we spoke with in the pubs last night fear the United States as much as they do Russia. I hope we were able to allay their anxieties a bit and dispel the equivalence – at least while we still have a republic left.

  5. The contrast between John Wayne and Eddie Albert is significant. John Wayne only saw combat in movies. In “The Green Berets” he comforts a Vietnamese boy to whom Jim Sutton’s character was close before the latter’s gruesome movie death, as John Wayne stare out across the China Sea as the sun sets. Problem: they’d have to look west to watch the sunset. So that movie really was about Santa Monica. Albert, however, served in the Marine Corps. I believe it was Saipan at which Arnold continued to drive the troop transport in his charge from ships to the beach, under heavy fire, even though to do so was not ordered. We should remember one thing, amongst so many, about Reagan. He was the only U.S. President to wear a Nazi uniform (again in a movie). At least of which we are aware.

  6. Krugman identifies as “center-left?” LOL

    Just to be clear, if you get your “news” from the television, you’re misinformed. The television is an entertainment box. It’s not meant to tell you uncomfortable truths. You can rely on your favorite host to tell you precisely what you want to hear. That is their job.

    It’s the same as Trump. He’s an actor. So is Biden. So is Zelenskyy (actually a stand-up comedian).

    Lest I forget, an all-white male oligarchy wrote our Constitution for male oligarchs. Neither women nor blacks had the right to vote. This is what Charles Koch wants again.

    Why do they also use the bible?

    It’s also a story about a patriarchal male god where women were subservient to men. For some reason, European white males made Jesus and God look like a European White Male. Jesus was a Jewish middle-eastern man.

    As for Ukraine, we’ve been getting heavy doses of propaganda from Eastern Europe since 2004, when it all started. The USA hasn’t used the truth since the inception of the CIA – read the history.

    Anyway, there are upcoming referendums in Eastern and Southern Ukraine. They want to join the Russian Federation just like Crimea did in 2014. In anticipation, Putin just announced the Special Military Operation would cease. He’s calling up a small percent of reserves, and the annexed communities will be protected by the Russian Federation Military.

    This is now a different game. The European nations following the lead of the United States have a significant decision to make in the coming weeks. We should all hope they tell Biden and MIC to back off, including the stand-up comedian in Kyiv.

  7. The only things the Russian army ever had going for it are: 1) Brutal winters, 2) A large number of people to use as cannon fodder, 3) An almost inhuman brutality. Since they haven’t built an economy that works, they focus all of their industrial capacity on the making of war machines.

    Somehow, I always feel a bit like a broken record when I point to obscure histories like that of Ukraine. Ukrainians have always eventually overthrown their occupiers and they will do so again, if need be.

    Todd, never think that Putin will allow a free and fair plebiscite. He didn’t in Crimea and he won’t in the Donbas. If the Russians in those regions want to live in Russia, they can always move there.

  8. No one should be surprised that Carlson is pro-Russia just like his buddy tRump. Carlson is a close friend of Hungarian authoritarian Viktor Orban, the pro-Putin loyalist.

  9. Marion Morrison, from Iowa, was well-advised to have his name changes to a Texas-sounding tough guy, like John Wayne. After all, you can’t shoot the bad guys and Indians with an accounting-sounding name like Marion Morrison.

    Wayne (Morrison) was a racist and to the right of Attila the Hun. We need fewer of the likes of him if we are to save our democracy.

  10. Patrick,

    I’m curious to know why the Irish are so afraid of the U.S.

    Is it because they see so many crazy far right extremists winning elections here and are also aware of the large number of trump/fascist loving citizens?

  11. Republicans want cheap government so that more money is in play for distribution up by Capitalism. They are taught by their entertainment many ways to obscure that simple fact but it is at the foundational level the position that conservatism has been taken to.

    It also is a means by which to stop progress and return to the cultural past that they enjoyed entitlement in. Government expenditures were lower “back in the day” so then is associated with cheap.

    That all makes perfect sense if the world was going to end when we do.

  12. Gerald; John Wayne and Hedda Hopper were a powerful duo during the McCarthy era and after. It never seemed to darken their reputations or their rise in the movie world; evidence of the low priorities and morals of the majority of this country even then. Trump would probably attained the presidency easily at that time and never a doubt about actual reelection. How fortunate we are to at least have a chance to oust “Our Own Personal Russia” at this time; if only the voters turn out on November 8th or before.

  13. Nancy — I have had similar reactions from people in Germany, South Africa and Switzerland — they think the US is populated by nutjobs.

    The new book by David Corn “American Psychosis” is a very good history of the demonization of many groups in America starting with the Illuminati back in the 1790s. I have just finished the section on Joe McCarthy and am now reading about the John Birch society. All of these bigoted groups/individuals have been tolerated by the GOP. (And I suspect the Dems have have their skeletons in the closet, too). It’s always the same story — keep the base happy so we can keep our seats. Wonder what would happen if everyone else would just agree to say “To Hell with the Base!” and just put their ideas out there for a better government and nation. I think the only way you should be able to speak about you opponent is to say what you have done or would do differently from them. And if you violate the rules of debate your mike is pulled for a full 10 minutes while your opponent gets to speak on any topic. And how about this? The FCC gets to put a warning below your show such as “The following content is opinion only and may contain incorrect or untrue facts.”

  14. Nancy M, yes, totally and I concur with Kathy M. They also viewed America historically as an imperialist troublemaker. Fair or not their point of view is heavily informed by the fact that they were England’s first colony centuries ago and it took 900 yrs to shake the chains, a process they still view as incomplete.

    Looking forward to David Corn’s book. Curreny reading “They Knew” by Sarah Kendzior – similar historical/anthropological survey of America history around conspiracies and conspiracy theories and the difference.

  15. Wow, let me see,

    Eugenics started in America and Britain, organized slavery in the United States the slaughter of native Americans to steal their land, the absence of voting rights for anyone who is not a wealthy white landowner. Manifest destiny, adopted by our founding fathers, American romanticism, and American exceptionalism, written about by Alexis de Tocqueville,

    All things embraced by the Nazi party in the 1930s. The German-American Bund, America’s allied movement with the German Nazis.

    The late 1930s ships full of Jews being returned to Germany! Yep, what a great country we have.

    Wholesale lynchings of black men women and children, wholesale slaughter of native American women and children, all because of the Rudyard Kipling state of mind and the White Man’s Burden.

    So many times I’ve seen a tatted up muscle bound white dude get his butt demolished by an average looking black dude! Working in the nightclubs was always a front row seat. It’s funny how around 11:00 or so, the white guys grow a set of these huge beer balls, and on their trucks outside, they have those rubber ball sack hanging from the trailer hitch! They were just asking for a beat down, and usually received it!

    White guys are really afraid of people who are a different spot, stripe or color… Unfortunately their chin leads the way. I remember the so-called liberal upper middle class guys that I worked with at least that’s what they called themselves, taking ethics classes and being trained in diversity all the while talking smack about black folks, and, I would just nod my head! After a few weeks I made sure my wife needed to borrow my truck, my wife of course is a very dark African American woman! She pulls up to the loading dock and gets out, the guys started talking smack, I go down and give my wife a kiss and say hey guys this is my wife she’s just here to get my truck! Did you ever see a white guy who is pasty white turn even whiter? All of those middle management dudes talking smack, I had them all on tape! Mini recorder looks like a pen, now they’re available on Amazon for almost nothing. Then they were about 400 bucks. I retired at 50, even though I did break my back and my legs, they told me not to bother coming back I would get my pension and collect social security. But I still hung on to my trusty pen.

    People can talk about conservatives, but those who claim to be liberals are just as bad! They’re Kloset Klan, and there are way more than you think! My wife has six separate degrees, from three colleges! But to them she was someone to jeer!

    Today a person of color still has to be at least twice as good to even be considered for jobs competing with white folks.

    Are we really better than Nazi Germany? Are we really better than Vladimir Putin’s Russia? The Khmer Rouge in Cambodia? China and their Uieger prison so-called re-education camps? Not at all.

    At least down south folks don’t hide who they are, up here? Well, the white folks hide behind their liberal hedgerows! At least until they are out of earshot from those nosy colored folks!

  16. Get a grip John! You had 50 million white dudes on the dock that day all picking on your “dark African wife”. Don’t let the bad apples spoil the whole bunch! I worked for a major corporation for thirty years and never witnessed anything like you describe. I did hear plenty of cat calls for young blond women and sneers pointed at gay men. I just confronted the offenders and watched their face turn from white to red and Then I listened to the spineless POS beg me not to report them.
    See something wrong do something right!

  17. Victoria Spartz the Indiana 5th district Representative is struggling to clarify where she stands on MAGA strong man issues. She has spoken out in Congress against Putin and his army’s aggressive, brutal invasion of Ukraine, giving details of some of the atrocities. Then she goes on to say Biden is weak and needs to do more, much more.
    It was reported that Spartz and other Republican Congressmen recently visited Trump when he was at Mar Largo posing for photos showing support. She has stated that that it was wrong for FBI to search Mar Largo and “we don’t want a police state”. Wonder what she thinks of Trump’s support of Putin. Does she think if Trump was still Potus he would push back on Putin? Something doesn’t add up; Spartz is an enigma.

  18. Peg,

    Don’t be so naive!

    Have you ever heard of driving while black? What about not getting served because you look native American or black? I take it you must be white! I have the privilege of being tri-racial! I can really be almost anything I want to concerning race. I’ve always heard a lot, always seen a lot! During the second world war, why did the white soldiers tell the Europeans, black soldiers grew a tail at midnight!?!?

    When push came to shove, I didn’t worry about going and telling on anyone, if the need was there, it was handled, simple as that! I’ve talked about this before on this blog, go back and take a look. Read Rudyard Kipling’s “The White Man’s Burden!” Not 50 million but a pretty good amount!

  19. “John Wayne” was an actor, and too many Americans can not see beyond the image on the sliver screen! That, however,
    was/is not his problem.
    Marion Morrison was just a guy doing his job, was not a phony in the usual sense. Is an actor, playing Hamlet, a phony?
    Carlson may, I say, may, not even be a phony, he may actually believe the garbage spilling from his upper orifice, as so many
    uncritically do. But, phony, or not, he is presenting calculated messaging that coincides with the known biases of his audience.
    The “John Wayne Worldview” is a black and white one, with no room for subtlety, or thinking, and thinking is not one of the
    strengths of the far right folks.
    “Putin is not loosing the war in Ukraine, he is winning the war in Ukraine,” is a categorical statement left standing alone in the
    universe, with nothing to corroborate it…black and white, no thought required, no parts to assemble, “Swallow it whole or you
    are not one of ‘us’…you know, with muscles between the ears.”

  20. “Anyway, there are upcoming referendums in Eastern and Southern Ukraine. They want to join the Russian Federation just like Crimea did in 2014. In anticipation, Putin just announced the Special Military Operation would cease. He’s calling up a small percent of reserves, and the annexed communities will be protected by the Russian Federation Military.” -Todd Smekens, above

    If you didn’t think his paycheck is in Cyrillic before, what do you think now?

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