July 17, 2021 Editor

Tucker Carlson’s Manufactured America

The Fox host has a new daytime show, and he’s using it to poison the meaning of patriotism.

By Megan Garber

July 12, 2021

WN: Sick . . .

Please also see an earlier piece by  Timothy Karr, : Tucker Carlson’s Racism: Paid for by You. We read:

Racism pays in America—especially if you’re the primetime host of a cable channel that panders to the country’s sizable population of white nationalists.

Fox News struck bigotry gold when it offered its 8 p.m. time slot to Tucker Carlson, who returned the favor by routinely fanning the flames of hatred against immigrants, Muslim and Jewish people, Black and Brown people, the LGBTQIA+ community and anyone else he considers threats to his supremacist world view.

Legum suggests that cable companies could simply offer a package of cable channels that excludes Fox News—something I’ve referred to previously as a “hate-free bundle.”

Carlson’s enormous paycheck comes out of the pockets Carlson’s enormous paycheck comes out of the pockets of millions of people who never watch his show or anything else on Fox. And there’s very little they can do to customize their cable so it excludes media properties owned by the Murdoch family.

Earlier this week, investigative journalist Judd Legum wrote about this dilemma: While the vast majority of cable-TV subscribers don’t watch Fox News, all of them pay on average $1.72 a month to receive it as part of the standard bundle of channels offered by the likes of Comcast, Spectrum and Verizon. When you lump in Fox Corporation’s other cable properties, including Fox Business News, FS1 and FS2, this monthly payout exceeds $2 per subscriber.

For those keeping count, that’s $1.6 billion in 2020 revenue for Fox News alone—about 57 percent of the station’s total revenue.

Why can’t we do the same with the cable channels we pay to receive? Subscribers could shave a couple of bucks off their monthly bills by refusing to help line Carlson’s pockets or fund the Murdochs’ hate-for-profit business model.

But it’s not his regular viewers alone who pay Carlson’s $10-million salary. Nor is it advertisers, who—with the notable exception of the MyPillow guy—have left the program in droves, refusing to have their products featured adjacent to Carlson’s bile.

Still another to view, bTuesday June 8, 2021: ‘We turned so far right we went crazy:’ How Fox News was radicalized by its own viewers. We find in it:

This article is adapted from the new edition of “Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth,” which was published in paperback on Tuesday.

When Donald Trump lost the presidency last November, Fox News lost too. But unlike Trump, Fox was never in denial about its loss. The network’s executives and multi-million-dollar stars stared the ratings in the face every day and saw that their pro-Trump audience was reacting to the prospect of President Biden by switching channels or turning off the TV.

“We’re bleeding eyeballs,” a Fox producer remarked in December. “And we’re scared.”

To fix the problem, Fox ran even further to the right. And here’s the thing: It worked. It was toxic for the American political system, but it was profitable for Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch.

“Fox is a really different place than it was pre-election,” a commentator said to me, with regret, after Biden took office.

The post-election changes at Fox happened one day at a time, one show at a time, but when viewed in totality, they are unmistakable and stark. Practically every change was about having less news on the air and more opinions-about-the-news. It was like serving dessert without dinner, when the dessert consisted of screaming about how awful the dinner was, and warning that the meal might be a socialist plot, and hey, while we’re at it, why are chefs so corrupt?

They did it by giving the viewers what they wanted: False hope. On Fox, Trump was treated as a political genius, not a lame duck who failed to win reelection. Some of the network’s key shows waded deeper into the voter fraud depths, eventually spurring massive defamation lawsuits by voting machine companies Dominion and Smartmatic.

“It’s really emotionally taxing,” a dissident Fox contributor told me as the Covid-19 case count exploded and Trump’s legal challenges imploded. “We denied the pandemic and now we’re denying the election outcome.”

The next step was to silence those dissenters.

Fox News commentator [Juan] Williams wrote a blistering op-ed for The Hill about “GOP extremism.”

“The ongoing power of the ‘Big Lie’ is fed daily with conspiracy talk and misinformation by social media, talk radio and cable opinion shows,” he wrote.

excerpts:

On the June 16 episode of Tucker Carlson Today, Carlson hosted a man the Southern Poverty Law Center classifies as an extremist—ideology: white nationalism—on the basis of his use of “racist pseudoscience and misleading statistics to argue that social inequality is caused by the genetic inferiority of the Black and Latino communities, women and the poor.” Carlson spoke with Charles Murray for nearly an hour. He flattered. He fawned. “We are honored to have you,” Carlson told him.

Murray, who disputes the SPLC’s assessment of him, spent the episode issuing the kinds of claims that have made him infamous. At one point, he stated as fact that white people are more qualified for cognitively challenging professions than Black people are. Carlson did not push back on the assertion. He nodded appreciatively as Murray dismissed Fox News’s latest manufactured threat, critical race theory, as “a repudiation of the American creed.”

The Carlson of the evening is overt about stoking his audience’s anxieties; a recently updated intro reel for Tucker Carlson Tonight features a Border Patrol vehicle and a person holding a sign that reads Freedom over fear!! America. The Carlson of daytime is more casually branded: just Carlson and a pal, the whole thing suggests, chatting in his cabin after a day of hunting or fishing—a little bit cable, a little bit Cabela’s. The setting helps hide the propaganda in plain sight. It takes the argument implied in most everything that Carlson broadcasts—they are coming for you—and recasts it as a natural outgrowth of rugged individualism. The April 26 episode of Tucker Carlson Today, an ode to the AR-15, is titled “I Will Not Comply.” The May 12 episode warns of the American education system leading to the “complete indoctrination of all kids K through 12.” The June 21 episode takes a stand against the “climate consensus.”

Fox News, at this point, is a fantasy factory, churning out historical mythologies in real time. Cancel culture gives way to woke culture gives way to critical race theory, the terms denuded of their true meanings and summoned as metonyms for people Fox does not include in its vision of “real America.” The pilot episode of Tucker Carlson Today featured Douglas Murray, an editor at The Spectator in the United Kingdom and a critic of identity politics as Fox defines it. He claimed that the path to success in today’s America is “to show that you are an oppressed minority.” He cast aspersions on “race hucksters and oppression-mongers” and proceeded to offer the kind of insight that can get one booked on the inaugural episode of a Fox News talk show: “The American people are proud. They have a lot to be proud of.”

America deployed as an easy branding exercise is not new. What is new, though, is the insistent ahistoricism of this version of America. Also new—and given the way propaganda has worked in the 20th century, this should serve as a dire warning—is the notion that the facts of the past should be sources only of national pride. Many conservatives, the historian Matt Karp recently argued, are abandoning the old rhetoric of the Lost Cause in favor of a more flexible form of nostalgia. “People on the right seem to be sort of sacrificing the Confederacy, to some extent, because it doesn’t do the work they want it to do,” Karp told Slate’s Rebecca Onion. “What does work is laying claim to the nation at the heart of the idea of America. Not in the old-school ‘the founders were geniuses and set aside universal freedom from everyone’ Lynne Cheney kind of a way, but in a new school way that just says, ‘America, fuck yes!’”

. . . [Umberto] Eco diagnosed an underlying quality of American culture: an assumption that the best kind of art and entertainment is that which is “realer than real.”

This approach to America is so enamored of its own woozy mythology that it treats reality itself as unpatriotic. QAnon’s followers aren’t conspiracy theorists, they insist; they’re patriots. This is the version of America that is summoned when Fox hosts, in reaction to Colin Kaepernick’s protests, express more indignation about “the flag” than they do about violence done against their fellow Americans. It is the America that is evoked when the ultraconservative Prager University sends a since-deleted Fourth of July tweet noting that “You should NOT be ashamed to #FlytheFlag,” accompanied by an image whose flag contains the wrong number of stars. It is America seen not as a nation but as an ongoing work of fan fiction.

Carlson describes cities on fire, quaint towns invaded, Stalinist reeducation taking place in kindergartens. His 2018 book, Ship of Fools: How a Selfish Ruling Class Is Bringing America to the Brink of Revolution, is replete with claims about an illusory America. Among them: “Girls thrive when boys fail: this is the underlying assumption of modern feminism,” or “The main reason elites no longer talk about unfairness is that they don’t believe it exists.” No provocateur has gone wrong challenging the hegemony of the “elites”—even when the provocateur in question, the product of boarding school and generational wealth, is a member of the class he denigrates. Carlson claims that he is speaking for “America.” He refuses to be hindered by the fact that the America he is speaking for quite often doesn’t exist.

Carlson recently told an interviewer that were he to do it all over again, he’d move to Montana or Idaho. “I wouldn’t participate in the system at all,” Carlson said. “It’s a dead end. It’s collapsing. It certainly doesn’t want people like me.” The line is classic Carlson. Here he summons the majesty of the American landscape only to decry the corruption of the American “system.” He punctuates it with casual grievance. By “people like me,” Carlson means his viewers; he means “real Americans,” as Fox has taken pains to define them. Why are the “Dems” and the “libs” to be feared? Because they are not what you are. Why are the media to be mocked? Because they tell lies about your country. They are false flags in human form. And they are coming for you.

You might read this sort of rhetoric, fairly, as a form of neo-McCarthyism. It is on display in many episodes of Tucker Carlson Today: the Un-American Activities Committee not of the House, but of the Performatively Rustic Cabin.

Carlson, too, long ago abandoned any semblance of decency. He makes claims—claims that are bigoted, cherry-picked, fabricated; claims about the dirtiness of immigrants, about the danger of vaccines, about the existential threats posed by those who are not white or male or Christian—and answers the objections with a ready reply: He is not a journalist. He is merely an entertainer. This is the cynical core of his daily performances; people who criticize him, he insists, are missing the joke. People who believe him are missing the point. Carlson’s new set codifies that logic. Yes, Charles Murray came on his new show and argued that white people are more qualified for cognitively challenging professions than Black people are, but he did so from a Log Cabin syrup bottle brought to life. Can’t you recognize lighthearted entertainment when you see it? Why so serious?

The trick works. It has elevated Carlson to a position of direct influence over American hearts and minds. He is using the platform to do more than anyone, including quite possibly Donald Trump himself, to continue the grim work of Trumpism. He is, in that way, transcendent. A recent iteration of the Fox Nation site laid out five topic-oriented verticals: Fox Politics, Fox History, Fox Justice, Fox Religion, and … Tucker Carlson.

You might see, in the log-cabin campaign of 1840, the primordial outlines of the current moment. You might see Tucker Carlson, a member of the elite he finds it convenient to decry, fabricating his own version of Frontierland. Carlson is constantly rumored to be considering his own presidential run. If so, the setting would serve the attempt. Americana, in Carlson’s vision, is its own justification. The patriot does what he must, not for Americans but for America, the ideal. “Left untended,” Carlson remarks in the concluding chapter of Ship of Fools, “democracies self-destruct.” He continues:

There are two ways to end this cycle. The quickest is to suspend democracy. There are justifications for this. If your voters can’t reach responsible conclusions, you can’t let them vote. You don’t give suffrage to irrational populations, for the same reason you wouldn’t give firearms to toddlers: they’re not ready for the responsibility.

Please click on: Tucker Carlson’s Manufactured America

Editor

Wayne Northey was Director of Man-to-Man/Woman-to-Woman – Restorative Christian Ministries (M2/W2) in British Columbia, Canada from 1998 to 2014, when he retired. He has been active in the criminal justice arena and a keen promoter of Restorative Justice since 1974. He has published widely on peacemaking and justice themes. You will find more about that on this website: a work in progress.

Always appreciate constructive feedback! Thanks.

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