John Oliver got to the heart of what makes Tucker Carlson so dangerous and why we must pay attention to this “performatively outraged wedge salad” as much as we'd all prefer to ignore him. With humor, of course.
First, Oliver explained that the first night Carlson made his anti-military comments, his was the most-watched show on cable. He averages over three million views a night and does well in the 25-54 age group, Oliver added, which shows that young people are watching him.
Oliver went on the air just hours after CNN’s Brian Stelter called Carlson the right wing’s new Donald Trump (but I think potentially more dangerous), which was the subject of my previous post. Stelter focused on Carlson’s reach and influence, and Oliver pointed that out, too, but he dug deep into Carlson’s white supremacist messaging.
Although Carlson “spends 85 percent of his time making the befuddled face of a 13th century farmer learning about Bitcoin,” as Oliver put it, Carlson couldn’t be more cunning or more calculating about getting his white nationalism message across.
Tucker Carlson’s ‘just asking’ charade
OLIVER: So often [Carlson] positions himself as someone just asking the hard questions, the ones that they don’t want you asking. Questions like, “Is affirmative action racist?” And “Should America be selective with immigrants?” And “Has the Democratic party become anti-white and anti-male?”
Just asking questions while heavily implying that the answer to those questions is yes. But when, in turn, anyone questions him, they are not just censoring free speech, they are launching an attack on the foundations of our democracy and the vast working class who this humble TV-dinner princeling somehow represents.
And the most telling thing about Tucker’s framing of himself as the scourge of elites and the hero of the common man is that for Tucker, who constitutes the common man is very selective.
Any semi-regular reader of this blog knows that "extraordinarily loaded" trust-fund baby Carlson’s idea of the “common man” means white conservatives. Oliver made that point brilliantly as he went on to dissect Carlson’s attack on refugee-turned-Congresswoman Ilhan Omar for not being grateful enough to this country. I’m going to skip over those details and just add to them by saying that while Carlson is forever accusing others of not loving the U.S., Carlson makes millions by explicitly, belligerently and repeatedly hating on it.
Carlson is sly about promoting his white supremacy
OLIVER: [Carlson] is smart enough not to openly say into a camera that certain races are more deserving of scorn or less worthy of respect, he will just heavily imply that, depending on who he’s talking about.
As a great example, Oliver compared Carlson’s sympathy for Jan. 6 insurrectionists with his open disgust for Black Lives Matter protesters.
Here’s Carlson on the January 6th armed insurrectionists:
CARLSON: [January 6th] happened because millions of American voters were convinced that the last election was not fair. … They’re people, they’re American citizens who can see what’s happening and come to their own conclusions about it. … [Mail-in voting] corroded their faith and the public’s faith in our systems of election.
Here’s Carlson on last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests:
CARLSON: People like this don’t bother to work. They don’t volunteer or pay taxes to help other people. They live for themselves. They do exactly what they feel like doing, they say exactly what they feel like saying. They spray paint their opinions on buildings. On television, hour by hour, we watch these people, criminal mobs, destroy what the rest of us have built. … They don’t contribute to the common good, they never have. Yet suddenly they seem to have all the power.
Oliver commented, “It is interesting to see who gets to be American citizens who came to their own conclusions and who gets to be criminal mobs who destroy what the rest of us have built and it does seem like the dividing line for Tucker on that question is, how easily can you sunburn.”
Carlson pushes viewers to resist
It’s not just Carlson’s views that are so abhorrent but the way he deliberately sells them as patriotism to be fought for, much the way Trump egged on his followers to overturn the presidential election as a form of patriotism. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Carlson stopped just a hair short of endorsing the “Stop the Steal” meme in his above description of the January 6th insurrectionists.
OLIVER: The main narrative of Tucker’s show is that power is being taken away from you, his viewer, and that this needs to be resisted.
He might not say “Black” or “white,” he’ll insist that he’s for color blindness. He’ll build in deniability by phrasing things as a question, like, “What does racism look like?” while kind of embodying the answers. But when you put all of this together, the pattern is clear. He is scared of a country that looks nothing like the one he grew up in because diversity isn’t our strength, immigrants “make our country poorer, dirtier and more divided” and any attempt to change that culture is an attack on western civilization, all of which is really just a long way of saying that when Tucker asks, what is white supremacy, the answer is basically that.
While white supremacy is clearly dangerous when promoted by self-avowed white supremacists, it can actually be even more dangerous when it isn’t. And what Tucker Carlson’s show sells, in addition to utterly terrible pillows, is very seductive. It’s the idea that this country is fundamentally colorblind, that anyone who mentions race is ust trying to start trouble, that historic oppression is no longer relevant and that in fact you, his viewers, are the ones currently being oppressed.
And if he can sell his audience on his white identity politics, if he can persuade them that the big existential threat to America right now is diversity, it sort of doesn’t matter if he says aloud what his preferred solutions to that might be. And while it’s bad enough to hear that white supremacist families gather around to watch Tucker twice, the fact is, millions of viewers a night watch him once and once is already more than enough.
I highly recommend watching the entire video below, from the March 14, 2021 Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.
That last sentence should be “… GOPers would never win an election, would they?”
Isn’t it amazing how RWingers seem to think Dems have magic powers? Were that true, GOPers would never lose an election, would they?