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The Lies of Tucker Carlson
Tucker Carlson's distortion of public problems creates a dangerous zealotry that undergirds GOP base politics.
Tucker Carlson is a maelstrom of bad faith, white nationalism, and Putin-friendly disinformation. Just as this nation (and really an older generation) fails to imagine mental health fragility to be like wounds needing maintenance, monitoring, and healing; we as a society must build an imagination for what kind of dystopian future people like Tucker Carlson can influence. At a macro level, we have been a relatively quiet and prosperous society. We can recognize that we have an abundance of natural resources, and also acknowledge that the nation colonized Indigenous Peoples to build its empire. But generally, Americans live in relative comfort (in the global comparison) and until recently could trust that their government wasn’t operating at the whims of arbitrary and malicious movers and shakers that can overrun institutions overnight.
However, the GOP’s enablement of Donald J. Trump to be an ethnic demagogue pushing plutocratic policies also put the nation’s civil society and social fabric in a state of division and erosion. Tucker Carlson was the main arbiter of this collapse as he messaged the Trumpian line on a nightly basis, no matter how many falsities or violence was associated. Tucker’s programming is engineered for a heavily White audience that by happenstance (or choice) inhabit physical and metaphorical echo chambers that suggest a rising tide of minorities (sexual, racial, religious, etc.) is coming for all that they (and prior generations) worked to achieve.
It is classic fearmongering; thus, we have mass shooters writing manifestos about the Great Replacement Theory, which Tucker projected and spread.
Tucker would also have minorities on his show agreeing with the revanchist and cynical talking points. It was his way of either giving his audience proof that marginalized groups were brainwashed by their unsophisticated groupthink or conveniently amplifying someone looking to make money and gain notoriety regarding the fears and discomforts of the dominant group in a time of change. Having a white nationalist-tinged right-wing message as someone who identifies as any kind of marginalized citizen is a fast-track to clicks and stardom. Tucker would be the incubator for this process as people like Vivek Ramaswamy, Candace Owens, Dave Rubin, and others frequent his programming.
Take this Vivek example on CNN. The interaction with Don Lemon obviously would not have happened on Tucker Carlson Tonight.
No matter who is the purveyor of this cynical message, it still has the same strain of untruth and white grievance pressure points that defined the cruelty, malice, and grift that was Trumpism and undergirded the modern Republican party.
Every night, Tucker would chip away at the fabric of America by turning serious topics into conspiratorial intrigue, the unserious concerns of idealistic but naive young people, and secret government operations by an underground cabal one would find in a spy thriller. Prime examples of this were the police killing of George Floyd, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
Tucker relentlessly claimed that we really don’t know how George Floyd died despite a videotape showing a White cop’s knee on the neck of a Black man who was far beyond subdued.
Carlson and other Fox hosts (day and night) also fearmongered about the potential for insurrections and mass violence because of unruly Black Americans and their allies.
The channel and their main propagandists successfully injected fear and racist politics into a clear and present violation of human rights. For that is the power of Fox as one begins hearing the manufactured talking points come out of the mouths of ordinary citizens, who usually have a limited intake of current events, credible information, or exposure to the vast diversity within communities of color. Personally, it was some of the most disgusting programming to witness in the waning days of the George Floyd saga. I couldn’t believe what I was watching as (to me) these malicious news charlatans worked diligently to debase a movement for racial justice with so much glee.
Tucker was like watching a demon at work.
The COVID-19 era is also a disheartening period characterized by observing death rates and watching the most irresponsibly confident news hosts push conspiracy after conspiracy about a blatant public health crisis. The network’s own viewers were at risk as they had geographical deficiencies surrounding access to high tech medical facilities, and as the average age of the audience was more susceptible to a respiratory attack.
Still, Fox dragged their audience into terrible health outcomes because they, and Carlson, interpreted the pandemic as a chance to “Get Trump.” Carlson essentially spread the idea that the vaccine was a way of controlling anyone that wasn’t a President Joe Biden supporter and thus threw political gasoline on a raging inferno of health misinformation (and disinformation).
The astonishing and cavalier night performances by Tucker signaled to so many around the world that a part of America’s citizenry was dreadfully nihilistic, blindly angry, or just harboring an accepted ignorance in an apathetic and decadent civic space.
But the unpatriotic work of a right-wing media demagogue using the traditional family hour on television to push racist, fact-free, and deadly political messaging continued.
As Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine commenced, it didn’t take long for Tucker to brand this as another corrupt episode in America’s underground war machine.
To be fair, there are tons of credible, academic critiques of the state of America’s military presence abroad and its impacts on domestic policy and funding. However, Tucker took the dorm room philosopher route and suggested Ukraine was a corrupt nation ran by a dictator while questioning America’s resolve against Vladimir Putin’s tyrannical grip on the Russian people. He also suggested Ukraine was never real and just a client state of the U.S. State Department.
Meanwhile, Ukrainians, who have become accustomed to their own national identity and would like to establish an even greater degree of separation from its imperial oligarchic neighbor, are dying for their homeland. Noble pursuits like this don’t register for Carlson, who seems to be unable to make any kind of critique without demeaning the people he blatantly disdains while adding a fog of dystopic unseriousness to important developments where people need accurate information.
This is Carlson’s superpower.
He can turn a traumatizing and awareness-raising event into the harebrained schemes of a multicultural deep state that hates White Americans or wants to replace them.
Our modern divisions and the radicalized froth many conservatives live in today is the result of this insidious theater sponsored by the Fox Corporation.
Nothing New Under the Sun with Steward Beckham is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.