There is, I suppose, a measure of comfort in constancy, in things and people that always stay the same no matter how the surrounding world changes. So it’s sort of nice to know that it takes more than a little siege of the U.S. Capitol to move Tucker Carlson off of his fatuous pseudo-populist horsecrap. On Wednesday night, hours after violent MAGA idiots stormed Capitol Hill in flights of rage over an election that right-wing media types have for months falsely told them was stolen, the Fox News host maintained equanimity as he warned his viewers about the dangers posed to America by … the radical left.
Carlson began his nightly program by referring darkly to the “self-interested demagogues [who] assure us the violence is justified, or necessary, as they have been assuring us, lying to us for the past six months.” For those of you not versed in Tucker-speak, the host was clearly referring to those left-wing figures whom he has deemed the prime movers behind the police-brutality protests in many American cities last year. Carlson and other right-wing shit-stirrers spent months falsely characterizing these protests and claiming that America’s cities were besieged by violent anarchists. On Wednesday, Carlson had an actual siege to condemn, and yet the host couldn’t seem to muster the same outrage that he directed at D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser this spring for having the gall to rename a section of 16th Street NW “Black Lives Matter Plaza.”
A woman was shot and killed in the Capitol this afternoon, and Carlson took some time to mention the incident, and to Just Ask Some Questions™ about what had brought her to the rally in the first place. “We don’t know anything about her but she did not look particularly radical,” he said. “She bore no resemblance to the angry children we have seen again and again wrecking our cities: pasty, entitled nihilists dressed in black setting fire, spray-painting slogans on statues. She didn’t look like that.” Instead, he implied, she perhaps looked like Carlson’s own viewers: the sorts of Main Street MAGA dogmatists who might tune into Tucker Carlson Tonight after a day when right-wing insurrectionists stormed the halls of Congress, in order to be reassured that someone else is still the problem.
Carlson, whose show and network are themselves vectors for right-wing radicalization, surely knows that the real radicals in America today look nothing like the cartoonish beatniks of his malignant fever dreams. He has nevertheless made much over the past year of the specter of antifa, the amorphous group whose loosely knit members have, as far as I know, never stormed and trashed the U.S. Capitol, or plotted to kidnap the governor of Michigan, or run down a pedestrian with their car at a Unite the Right rally. He has ascribed fantastical powers and devilish agendas to these alleged anarchists’ alleged enablers in the Democratic Party and the media. He has spoken of the threats that a Biden administration would pose to all liberty-loving Americans; of the suppressive, communistic intentions of Biden’s purported puppetmasters. He has created and amplified these inane conspiratorial fictions in order to give the uncritical thinkers in his audience something to stand against, and has positioned Donald Trump as the cure to this entirely imaginary disease.
Predictably, Carlson did the exact same thing Wednesday night. “Millions of Americans sincerely believe the last election was fake,” he said, conveniently omitting his own network’s role in not just disseminating this stupid, obvious lie, but in helping to create the conditions, over the past 20 years, for millions of Americans to believe such a stupid and obvious lie. “Rather than trying to change their mind, to convince them and reassure them that the system is real, that the democracy works—as you would do if you cared about the country or the people who live here—our new leaders will try to silence them,” Carlson continued. “What happened today”—please note the studied vagueness with which he described the literal siege of the U.S. Capitol as “what happened today,” and then please contrast it with the fury he directed at Maynard G. Krebs not two minutes earlier—“will be used by the people taking power to justify stripping you of the rights you were born with as an American.”
I am not a big fan of the counterfactual game. But, man, is there any doubt in anyone’s mind that if the people who stormed the Capitol had been wearing black hoodies and face masks instead of MAGA hats and American-flag bandannas, then Carlson would be chartering the plane to Guantanamo Bay for them at this very moment? All summer, Carlson and his peers kept their viewers hot and bothered about how nonexistent waves of violence allegedly perpetrated by “the left” portended the end of American democracy. On Wednesday, a group of violent right-wing radicals, hepped up on toxic memes and cable-news nonsense, invaded Congress to prevent it from certifying Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election. Instead of condemning this act in the same rageful, contemptuous, unequivocal terms he used all summer against wispy message-board fantasias, Carlson urged his viewers to see the siege for what it really is: a teaching moment for pompous leftists. “If you don’t bother to pause and learn a single thing from it, from your citizens storming your Capitol building, then you’re a fool,” said Carlson. Finally, something on which Tucker and I can both agree!
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