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Don’t Let Tucker Carlson Fool You

He might be saying the right things about our rotting ruling class, but his populism is a Trojan horse for a virulent strain of hate

You gotta hand it to Tucker Carlson. No other virulently hateful right-wing commentator has taken the phrase “a broken clock is still right twice a day” to heart quite the same way. 

The 50-year-old may be a Fox News stalwart, but once again, he’s inspired a mass of liberals to nod along happily to one of his hot takes. 

The newest case comes amid revelations that Republican senators Richard Burr (of North Carolina) and Kelly Loeffler (of Georgia) attended a private Senate meeting on the imminent threat of COVID-19 and then proceeded to sell off their stocks. On the same day, January 24th, President Donald Trump was still continuing to tell the public things were going to be fine. In other words, Burr and Loeffler are credibly accused of knowing something the rest of us didn’t — and selling off their toxic assets before the market tanked, all while doing nothing to rebuke the president’s passive bullshitting. 

So Carlson decided to kick the door down with the most eloquent, immediate and spicy take he could muster. Burr had “betrayed” America and ought to resign from the Senate, the host crowed on his show. 

The pats on the back came almost immediately. Carlson’s words were boldly quoted in a headline in the Washington Post. The clip went viral on social media, propelled by political news channels deeming it a “must-watch.” And, like confused bears emerging from the winter snow, Democrat and progressive voices sprung forth to marvel that, holy shit, Carlson was super right to call for swift, punitive consequences against corrupt politicians. 

Somewhere, Carlson is giggling and nursing a half-chub while scrolling through these RTs and fawning compliments from liberals. How quickly we forget that he’s a spoiled prep school kid who’s made a career out of championing cartoonish evil, like claiming immigrants make America “poorer and dirtier” while also fanning the flames of white nationalism. He’s equally deft at paranoid rants about the death and “replacement” of the white race, and at spitting Jewish control conspiracies. 

These are some of his newer cuts, but his brand of xenophobia, racism and sexism go back two decades. Carlson has always been a little man in a bow tie with powerful pretensions and a blue-balled thirst to be taken seriously. We’ve already seen every angle to the con. Yet it’s human nature to want to forgive, or at least forget — like when Carlson criticized the killing of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani earlier this year. 

That was another instance in which liberals took to social media to applaud this lightning bolt of sense from a seemingly senseless man. But read between the lines, and you’ll find the hate again. Of course Carlson is calling for the end of wars in the Middle East — because he believes it’s a “distraction” from the “crisis” of black and brown people crossing our borders. Of course he wants to criticize our hostile relationship with Iran — because he gets to repeatedly blame Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer as inciters without assigning blame on Trump himself. The dystopian truth is that Carlson isn’t merely a commentator. He holds the president’s ear and influences policy moves, too. 

The instinct to praise Carlson for being right, even knowing his history, seems intertwined with the habit of both mainstream liberals and centrist Democrats to believe in the wisdom of people and the truth. If only those Trump voters could be wooed by common sense, the voice whispers. If only we could learn to work together. No wonder seeing someone like Carlson stand up for the moral course of action makes people feel better. It’s as if the global catastrophe is bringing us closer, both together and to the common good. 

The bleak truth is that the world is just full of grifters who’d rather hoard and resell hand sanitizer to the rest of us at 200 percent original price. Carlson wants to portray himself as an omniscient voice for anti-elite reason, leading the way by speaking truth to power. In actuality, no matter what he says, he’s just another toady — croaking populist-sounding takes until someone, anyone, pats him on the back for merely saying the thing we were already thinking.