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Tucker Carlson Helps Nazis Find Victims
No One Cares.
You can find an index of all my substack posts on fascism here.
I posted this on Medium in 2018 after it was spiked by a mainstream pub (more on that at the end.) I thought I’d re-up it since it still seems relevant. I still don’t think mainstream media is prepared to treat Carlson like the fascist propagandist he is.
When a small anti-racist group protested outside of Tucker Carlson’s home [in 2018], powerful writers and commentators rushed to defend him. In doing so, they ignored Carlson’s track record of untruths — including, as it turned out, his untruths about the protest itself. Perhaps more importantly, though, they overlooked the abuse he regularly directs at his enemies, abuse all too similar to the kind he claimed he had received. In the process, they also showed, once again, that the media is poorly equipped to deal with bad actors in its own ranks.
According to protestors on the scene at Carlson’s house last Wednesday, there were around 10 people there, including legal advisors. One protestor knocked sharply on the door; the group then stood on the street outside his home and chanted slogans for about ten minutes. This account is corroborated by the police report of the incident.
Tucker Carlson, though, offered the press a much more hyperbolic, and frankly deceptive, narrative of the incident. In an interview with the Washington Post, he claimed that during the protest someone had thrown themselves against the door, cracking and damaging it, and that they shouted violent threats. The police report does not corroborate any of these claims.
Since Carlson has been widely criticized for his lies and misrepresentations, his departure from the facts shouldn’t have come as a surprise. He also regularly hyperbolically attacks leftist protests: He has, for example, condemned peaceful NFL players kneeling against police violence as a threat to America. Given this history, you’d hope that mainstream commentators would treat his account of enraged, dangerous leftists smashing down his door with some skepticism.
But they did not. Instead, Carlson’s account was taken as gospel, and pundits from every side of the political spectrum lined up to condemn the protestors. Liberal late night host Stephen Colbert tweeted,”Targeting [Carlson’s] home and terrorizing his family is an act of monstrous cowardice”. Liberal television showrunner David Simon also excoriated protestors, insisting that “this tactic is disastrous for any republic.” CNN media reporter Oliver Darcy said, “This trend of harassing media figures and others at their homes is really detestable,” And so on.
The rush to defend Carlson while assuming the worst about protesters has been matched by a general indifference to harassment directed at those Carlson singles out for enmity. Carlson’s false account of the event, painting protestors as dangerous and evil, effectively made them into targets. Sure enough, Carlson’s fans shared the former home address and contact information of one of the protestors.
This was entirely predictable, because Carlson regularly, and deliberately, singles out enemies as a way to inspire far right organizing and harassment. At the end of 2017, for example, Carlson dedicated an entire segment of his show to the false claim that a transgender activist wanted to force men to date trans women. As a result, thousands of people lined up to insult the woman on Twitter. Similarly, Carlson aired a segment in which he falsely claimed that comedian W. Kamau Bell supported antifa and peddled hate. And sure enough, Bell received a barrage of harassment so intense he had to “take major steps to protect [his] family.”
In 2016, the Daily Caller, a website co-founded and co-ownedby Carlson, revealed the name of Matt Rivitz, the founder of Sleeping Giants, an anti-bigotry and corporate responsibility campaign. They also published the name of his wife and friends, which stayed on the site for days. “We were hit with an overwhelming wave of harassment including called-in death threats to my wife on her phone and highly specific death threats to my kids, including one which published the name of our former synagogue,” Rivitz told me by email.
Rivitz has sympathy for Carlson, and doesn’t approve of protests at his home. But, he says, there is a double standard with a media which “opted to publish stories for days about how terrible it was that Carlson’s house was approached without telling the other side of the story, that Carlson regularly engages in these types of tactics with others, weaponizing his audience against people with whom he does not agree.”
Many mainstream writers loathe Carlson’s bigotry. But they nonetheless see him as a peer. “I, too, dislike what @tuckercarlson says on television, in books, etc. But this kind of doorstep intimidation is reprehensible, “wrote Washington Post media reporter Erik Wemple. Media figures are quick to issue blanket condemnations of protesting outside the homes of media figures. That’s chattering class solidarity. Carlson’s protestors and his victims don’t get its benefits.
Part of the problem is that the dynamics of online weaponized harassment against the relatively powerless can be obscure or hard to see. Carlson doesn’t need to go to someone’s house to harm them. All he has to do is say inflammatory or false things about them on national television, and his admirers will do the dirty work. Since the resulting harassment is amorphous, without any clear culprit, and since it often involves people who are not national figures, it’s hard to trace the causal logic — and easy for mainstream outlets to overlook.
Critics of Carlson tend to condemn him for his racist views. But Carlson’s dog whistles aren’t just noise; they serve as blueprints for action. Thus, Esquire journalist Charles Pierce says he received death threats after Carlson directed his fans at him. After Carlson ran a story about protests at Evergreen State College, the college had to be closed for three days because of death threats. Again, Carlson has deniability for all of this; he can say he didn’t intend to cause harassment or violence. But harassment nonetheless follows his lead again and again. Carlson is very good at identifying targets who then serve as a focus for far-right actions, online and off.
That’s why Carlson is dangerous. He uses his platform to hurt individuals, and to build mainstream consensus for hurting large groups of people. Mainstream figures denouncing the protests at Carlson’s house think they’re protecting civil discourse. In practice, however, they just ended up giving him cover for stirring up more far right hate. If they don’t start doing better, we’ll have a lot more to worry about than peaceful protestors exercising their first amendment rights.
This piece was commissioned by a mainstream site (I guess at this point years later I might as well say it was the Washington Post.) It was about to be published, when a high ranking editor spiked it at the last moment. They felt that it was unfair to link harassment associated with Carlson to Carlson, because you couldn’t say for sure he intended it. It wasn’t equivalent to protesting outside someone’s house. As I say in the piece, this is exactly why mainstream media has difficulty reacting to or holding accountable figures like Carlson. A small protest is seen as incredibly aggressive; years of lying and targeting people with consistently horrific results, on the other hand, is not print-worthy. That’s why Carlson can portray himself as a victim, while his victims are mostly invisible.
You can find an index of all my substack posts on fascism here.
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