Tucker Carlson is dangerous, and The New York Times has collected the receipts and put them in easily accessible form for everyone to see. A two-part deep dive on Carlson’s career and how he built his strength at Fox News in recent years has a lot to offer, but the really critical thing to check out is a major interactive feature on how Carlson convinces his viewers that they are besieged and endangered and that he is here to stick up for them against the “ruling class” (of Democrats), the immigrants, the shadowy forces destroying masculinity, the anti-white racists.
In multiple graphs, the Times interactive team represents each one of the 1,150 episodes they analyzed from late 2016 through 2021 as a square, showing in how many episodes Carlson invoked each specific dangerous idea: the “ruling class,” replacement theory, falling birthrates and threats to masculinity as he defines it, and discrimination against white people or what he depicted as exaggerated allegations of racism against Black people.
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In more than 800 episodes, Carlson invoked the “ruling class,” a “they” trying to keep “you,” the Fox News viewer, down, saying things like:
- “Why are people who have taxpayer-funded bodyguards demanding that the rest of us disarm immediately?”
- “Our ruling class is obsessed with denying biology, because when you’re God, there is no objective reality.”
- “The point of the exercise is to humiliate the rest of us by forcing us to obey transparently absurd orders.”
In more than 400 episodes, Carlson promoted replacement theory, the idea that Democrats or other shadowy groups are trying to replace the “us” of white U.S.-born people—what Carlson has referred to as “legacy Americans”—through immigration.
- “In order to win and maintain power, Democrats plan to change the population of the country.”
- “I don’t want to live in a country that looks nothing the country I grew up in.”
- “As with illegal immigration, the long-term agenda of refugee resettlement is to bring in future Democratic voters.”
In more than 200 episodes, Carlson warned against changing gender roles, threats to masculinity as he defines it, or falling birthrates.
- “Well, American men are in deep trouble.”
- “If you destroy men, or complete the destruction of men, they’re pretty close to being destroyed, I would say how does that help women, exactly?”
- “What they’re trying to suppress is masculinity itself.”
In at least 600 episodes, Carlson insisted white people were being discriminated against or downplayed racism against Black people.
- “So, anti-white racism is exploding across the country.”
- “They hate white men more than they hate global warming.”
- “Businesses are receiving favorable treatment based solely on the skin color of their owners.”
He also stitches all these themes together in warnings that the United States is on the verge of collapse, doing that nearly 600 times.
- “America isn’t falling to foreign invaders—it is rotting from within because the people in charge don’t think it’s worth preserving.”
- “What we’re watching is a full-scale invasion from within on the West itself.”
- “Western civilization is our birthright. It makes all good things possible.”
- “If we care about our families and our civilization, about the future of our descendants, we have got to fight them like everything depended on it, because everything does depend on it.”
Carlson’s invocations of the ruling class and racism and his warnings about the imminent collapse of the nation have become more common through the run of his show, to a degree clearly visible in the graphs. This lines up with a process Nicholas Confessore traces out in the articles about Carlson’s career, in which, early in the Trump years, Carlson decided to stand for Trumpism but not Donald Trump himself. Over time, as he’s claimed that mantle, at times essentially depicting Trump as a squish who can’t be trusted to protect Trumpism, Carlson’s rhetoric has gotten more and more dangerous.
And as Carlson has gone all in on that message, Fox News, now largely controlled by Lachlan Murdoch, has gone all in on Carlson. Carlson’s value to the network comes not just in his high ratings—which he uses minute-by-minute viewership data to optimize—but in the dedication of his followers, who will spend extra money to see him on the streaming service Fox Nation. “Executives talk openly about Fox Nation as a boycott-proof version of Fox News — a walled garden where Fox can collect revenue directly from its viewers as carriage fees from cable providers decline,” Confessore reports.
Over time, he has virtually stopped having guests on his show who might disagree with him, creating a closed environment in which dissent doesn’t even exist as a thing to be shouted down, as it was in 2017 and 2018—and again, he is doing this with attention to his detailed ratings, concluding that his audience would rather see Carlson screaming about Democrats and immigrants and Black people who are never given any chance to respond than to see him screaming over a liberal Black woman’s efforts to speak. Carlson is further closing the world he offers his guests a view into by dramatically expanding the length of his monologues.
Tucker Carlson is telling his 92% white audience to be afraid of the non-white other, encouraging them in paranoia that there is a conspiracy against them—and, at least by implication, that if they lose this battle, they will be treated as poorly by the victors as they have treated people of color and immigrants and women and LGBT people. (Truly something to fear.) It’s a white nationalist message—white nationalism being something Carlson mocks as a term even as he embraces its substance—and Carlson has shown its appeal to a large audience.
Check out the full interactive, if you have a strong stomach.
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