An article by: Francesco Sidoti

The accusation of being a “useful idiot,” made against American journalist Tucker Carlson, should be evaluated in a historical perspective. And then it will turn out that the USA, as well as the entire world, is full of personalities who do not share the choice of neoconservatives from President Biden's entourage.

There are other “idiots” like Tucker Carlson, from Henry Kissinger to Jeffrey Sachs.

“Tucker Carlson is a useful idiot,” was the chorus of the most respected columnists, starting with the Financial Times, followed by the Economist and countless others. However, the definition of “useful idiot” should be clarified. In fact, if it were to include all critics of the West’s current policy on the Russian-Ukrainian issue, it should first and foremost include Henry Kissinger, right up to his most recent public statements (such as his May 24, 2023 interview with Die Zeit newspaper), in which he legitimized the so-called “occupation” of Crimea. Regarding the Russia-Ukraine conflict he said: “It’s not just Russia’s fault.” Kissinger recalled that in 2014 he opposed Ukraine’s entry into NATO, adding that “from there, a series of events began, culminating in the war.” Finally, he questioned the existence of Ukraine as a unitary national state.

Kissinger is not the only “useful idiot” who can hardly be called an “idiot.” It is very difficult to call an “idiot” Jeffrey Sachs, whom the New York Times instead once characterized as follows: “Probably the most important economist in the world.” It’s also very hard to call an idiot John Mearsheimer, author of one of the most intriguing books for understanding contemporary American politics. In short, there is a very long list of Americans from a wide variety of ideological sectors who are critical of the West’s current strategy. Although, you could mention Cornell West, Robert Kennedy Jr., Mike Johnson, Steve Bannon, Michael Tracy.

At the level of international pacifism, this is not about Raúl Sánchez Cedillo or Roger Waters, whom some harshly criticize. This is about unanimously celebrated and respected people, from Jürgen Habermas to Antonio Guterres, who have very different ideas and interests: they can be defined in many ways other than “idiots.”

The latest addition to the controversial list of “useful idiots” was none other than Pope Francis, as he spoke out regarding the possibility of negotiating a solution to the conflict in Ukraine: “That’s a bold word… you’ll be ashamed, but if you keep this up, how many deaths will there be? And it’s going to end up being worse.” For more than two years, Pope Francis has been calling for a “diplomatic solution in search of a just and lasting peace.” From the beginning of his pontificate, he denounced a “phased third world war” and feared nuclear conflict: “This danger does exist. All it takes is one accident.” He explained that he was against reducing such a complex issue to notions of right and wrong, without thinking about the roots of the issue or the interests of the parties involved in the conflict. He said over and over again that war is madness because it causes enormous loss of life and material damage, but it also enriches arms manufacturers. He had already been strongly rebuked for these statements, but he still jeopardized his reputation: he repeated and motivated his point of view with rare courage.

The category of “useful idiots” is often used to demonize and exorcise evil spirit in the realm of dissidence where unsuspecting people are found; they are described as small minorities, when in fact, as polls show, they represent a numerically dominant portion of the population. In general, this democratic majority of pacifists is irrelevant: idiots if all is going well, otherwise traitors and venal, or a rabble so idiotic that they can be disregarded altogether – even if they are a majority.

Even Pope Francis made the list of “useful idiots.”

A “useful idiot” is an idiot primarily because he works for free and does not report to a superior. The servant works for the master. Many have speculated on the subject of Hegel’s famous statement: “No man is a hero to his valet. This is not because the hero is not a hero, but because the valet is a valet.” That is, the valet sees his master’s vices and defects, but silently cleans his master’s shoes and cleans up the feces.

The valets bring the heroes down to their level or a couple notches lower. As the contract dictates, they must invite public ridicule by granting the idiot a license to be idiotic. They stigmatize those who think differently than their master by lowering and changing every value in their own, reduced and partial, units of measurement. According to them, there is no greatness, reasoning, truth, honesty, sincerity, courage; not because there are no heroes, but because they are servants of their master.

The idiot didn’t always have a bad reputation in the press. The eponymous masterpiece of the great Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky, “The Idiot,” completely changes the original pejorative meaning. The main character of the novel, Prince Myshkin, is an honest man, deeply imbued with a sense of goodness, and for this reason the people around him consider the prince an idiot, both, so to speak, in the “technical” and in the “clinical” sense. This theme has universal value to such an extent that it is present in many cultures. In particular, Akira Kurosawa made a movie, “The Idiot,” inspired by Dostoevsky, depicting a genuinely good man with the same moral: meekness and idiocy are often ignobly equated. This movie is often compared to Kurosawa’s other masterpiece, “Rashomon,” the ultimate reflection on the credibility of witnesses, the uncertainty of facts, and multiple visions of the same reality. Akira Kurosawa said: “Of all my movies, I was especially written about it… ‘The Idiot’ was something I wanted to do long before ‘Rashomon.’ Since childhood I have loved Russian literature, especially Dostoevsky, my favorite author, and I still believe that he is the one who writes most honestly about the deepest questions of human existence.”

If Sullivan, Blinken, and Burns are the organizers and brainiacs, there is nothing to be happy about. They are noted for their involvement in some of America’s most spectacular foreign policy fiascos

We also find compelling and moving depictions of idiots in American fiction, from Huckleberry Finn to Forrest Gump. There are a lot of brainy people in America, too. Jake Sullivan, Anthony Blinken, and William Burns could have been facets of the precious crystal of Western intellectual thought, but alas, they have made their mark in the most spectacular failures of American foreign policy: the so-called Arab Spring, Turkey, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Mexico, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East. Since they are the leading experts on failure and defeat, but not on shame after the fact, they defiantly use their valets as sort of “ventriloquists.” Western minds are still hoping Putin will meet the same end as Gaddafi and also want to send millions of Russians to “re-education” camps. They work every day to implement these plans.

Warmongers that send others to die in their wars are poker players who know that their cards are weak and the bet will be beaten, but bluff and raise the bet anyway in the hope that their opponents won’t notice the deception, as more and more players fear the concrete possibility of losing everything, and many are already rooting to overturn the table and get out of the game. The only hope for them is to be replaced by someone who today has a reputation of an idiot.


Francesco Sidoti