Despite repeatedly stressing his sympathy for the Parkland, Florida school shooting survivors who have turned into gun-control advocates, Tucker Carlson found a cagey way to promote the right-wing smears against them: by presenting the right wingers as media victims.
As Think Progress noted, Carlson was one of several Fox News hosts mounting a more polite version of the smear campaign against the student gun-control activists who survived the Parkland, Florida school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last week.
The unifying principle of the right-wing smear campaign against the student survivors of the Parkland massacre is that they are puppets of larger, nefarious forces. The attacks first gained prominence on Monday on the pro-Trump blog Gateway Pundit which claimed, without any evidence, that student David Hogg was a pawn of the FBI and was “merely reciting a script” in media interviews. By Tuesday, as the initial attacks gained support from Donald Trump Jr. and a former congressman, Gateway Pundit escalated the attacks, suggesting Hogg and other students were crisis actors recruited from the school’s theater department by far-left groups controlled by George Soros. Similar outlandish claims went viral on Facebook.
Greg Gutfeld, cohost of The Five, promoted the smear by couching it as sympathetic advice to the students to “beware” having “other groups co-opt your protest.” Meaning, of course, liberals.
Martha MacCallum, host of The Story with Martha MacCallum, let Mollie Hemingway, Trump's unofficial media monitor, do the polite dirty work for her. Hemingway said the “traumatized children” were being exploited by the left-wing media to enact “a gun-control agenda.”
Carlson was the most pernicious. He not only used his “just being open-minded” shtick to work in the smears – while he feigned sensitivity toward the students - but he also painted the smearers as fellow victims.
“There’s a huge controversy online that I’m hesitant to even wade in on but I think it needs to be addressed,” Carlson began, as if he were heroically addressing a thorny issue on behalf of journalism.
“It’s over the protest led by the students, for whom all of us feel terrible, ‘cause you can’t imagine anything worse than your school getting shot up,” Carlson continued.
But he didn’t feel terrible enough not to promote smears of the students. “But all of a sudden you’re seeing these kids involved in calls for very specific pieces of legislation and the allegation has been that they are in some way in contact with organized anti-gun groups.” Then his voice rose in outrage, not for any of the right-wing smear merchants but on their behalf: “People who have suggested that have been denounced as immoral and heartless and how dare you question these kids or attack them – which, for the record, I am certainly not doing.”
Pro-gun guest Dan Bongino said “absolutely” the students’ voices “should be heard.” But he helped the victimhood effort by blaming the media for taking the kids too seriously on the subject of guns: “The media’s focused more on a teenager’s ‘expertise’ in supply-side control measures for guns which, Tucker, let’s be candid, they probably have not studied a very complicated, layered issue.”
“After what they’ve been through, we want to hear their voices, but the media is focusing on an agenda and not, ironically, where these kids can be most valuable,” Bongino continued. According to him, the kids should be talking about “Where were the signs missed?”
Carlson was still outraged on behalf of the smearers: “Well, they [the media] are using these kids in a kind of moral blackmail where you’re not allowed to disagree or you’re attacking the child which is, of course - I can speak for myself, the last thing I would ever do as a father of four. I would never attack the kid.”
But why does this “need to be addressed” in the first place? What does it matter even if the kids are working with organized, left-wing groups? Or if they don’t know all the ins and outs of policy. Donald Trump certainly doesn’t. If Carlson doesn't like their positions, why not just host a gun control debate and let the kids do whatever it is they want? They are obviously speaking out of passion, not brainwashing.
I think it's two reasons: One, Fox wants to send a palatable-to-the-mainstream dog whistle of solidarity to the Breitbart faction of the right; and two, the gun lovers are scared of these kids.
By the way, if the Florida teens are not already old enough to vote, they soon will be. Depicting them as ignorant dupes is probably not going to win them over. Just saying.