Tucker Carlson, Fear, and Loathing in the United States

Have we simply gone mad? Are we merely in some weird sci-fi movie in which everybody has lost their marbles? 

  • A couple of weeks ago, a family was playing basketball, and the basketball rolled into a neighbor’s yard. The neighbor took a firearm and fired at the girl and her parents. 
  • Then, in upstate New York, a group of girls, teenagers, were looking for a friend’s house. They drove into the wrong driveway. The homeowner began firing at the car, striking and killing the driver. 
  • In Kansas City, a young Black boy walked up to a door and rang the doorbell. He was looking for his brother. Unfortunately, he was at the wrong house. The owner opened the door and shot the young man in the head. While the man was on the ground, he shot him again in the arm. By some miracle the boy survived.

On the one hand, you could easily say that these were all isolated incidents. They had nothing to do with each other. America is a big place. We have over 330 million people in the United States. Yet all of these incidents, and more, are related. These men—all three of the shooters were men—were primed and ready. They knew exactly what they were doing. They’ve been repeatedly told that “everyone is out to get them.” Elites are stealing their power. Immigrants are trying to replace them. They have to fight for what is theirs. They have to “Stand Their Ground.”

The Most Dangerous Man in America
Tucker Carlson is a failed news anchor. He has been kicked off of CNN as well as MSNBC. Yet, he landed a prime-time spot on Fox News. Tucker Carlson looks innocent enough with his doughy face and frequent boyish bowties. His innocent appearance, along with his “we’re just asking questions” approach, has allowed audiences to be sucked in. Once you are sucked into that vortex, you can easily be hooked. 

Tucker Carlson will tell you that he is in your corner, that he is fighting for you. He assures you he is telling you the truth that nobody else will. He is the champion for the “legacy Americans.” (Yes, this is a term that Tucker Carlson has adopted from White supremacy websites. Legacy Americans. He is saying White Americans without being overtly racist.)

Several years ago, Tucker Carlson got into hot water while explaining his replacement theory. He stated that the Democrats wanted more immigration to get a docile population that would blindly vote for Democrats and replace white Americans. This would lead to democratic power forever. This white “replacement theory” comes directly from white supremacy websites. It is nuts. It has no basis in reality, but that doesn’t stop Tucker Carlson or the white supremacists from repeating this nonsense over and over again.

Tucker Carlson became the most-watched cable news show of all time by stoking the fears and anger of baby boomers. At no point does he ever tell his audience that there is nothing to be afraid of. Instead, he always gives them something to be angry about or fearful of. He always gives them a reason to explain why their life hasn’t turned out as great as they hoped. He always gives them somebody to blame. Whether it is Black Lives Matter or greedy immigrants at the border, or Democrats coming to take your guns, Tucker Carlson always, always gives his viewers a target for their anger.

Early in the Ukrainian war, Tucker Carlson went on a unique rant. He asked his audience why Washington elites have told them they should hate Vladimir Putin. What did Vladimir Putin ever do to them? Did Putin give their hard-earned tax dollars to unworthy welfare recipients? Did Putin force them to accept woke ideology? Of course not: it was the Democrats, especially Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi, doing those things to them.

Then, Tucker Carlson flipped to the other side and stated that we had no reason to support Ukraine, the country that gave Joe Biden’s family millions of dollars. Sure, there were lies and falsehoods in Tucker Carlson’s rant. There always are. At no point did Tucker Carlson ever state that Vladimir Putin has killed hundreds, if not thousands, of his countrymen. He never said that Vladimir Putin invaded Crimea for no good reason other than he wanted to. He never told his audience that Ukraine was a young, fledgling democracy like our country was more than 250 years ago. 

But the fact is, Ukraine was a sovereign country invaded by Russia—by Vladimir Putin—because he thought he could. He thought he could take over a sovereign European country and the rest of the world would sit by and watch. He thought Donald Trump had gutted NATO so thoroughly that it wouldn’t do a thing. He even thought Joe Biden would behave the way Donald Trump behaved.

Thousands of Ukrainians have died because Russia wanted to take the land and resources of Ukraine, but Tucker Carlson left all of this out. Instead, he painted Vladimir Putin as some friend of the United States. Here’s a fact check: Neither Carlson nor Putin is a friend of the United States.

After losing a $787-million-dollar defamation suit brought by Dominion Voting Systems, Fox News has fired Tucker Carlson. Finally. Now we are left to contemplate his legacy. 

We need to understand that, as humans, we are susceptible to certain types of persuasion. We are emotional beings. Looking back through history, the most persuasive speakers were probably the most passionate. I have mentioned this before, but the more emotional we get, the less logical we become. We shut down our logic centers. We begin to switch on our fight-or-flight response. 

This is what Tucker Carlson excelled at. He would lay down a series of statements designed to get an emotional reaction from you, the viewer. 

Tucker Carlson is not good for the United States. He is not good for democracy. He is not good for our politics, our policies, or our citizens. 

Unfortunately, I don’t think that Congress can reign in this chaos. Germany has done so. They have passed laws that make it illegal to spew inflammatory rhetoric. We don’t have the political will for Congress to pass the laws necessary to curb inflammatory speech. Even if Congress passed such a law, I suspect the Supreme Court would strike it down as unconstitutional. None of us should be surprised when Fox News finds another talking head who can use sociological triggers to tap into white resentment, white hatred, and white fear, just like Tucker Carlson did.

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Errington C. Thompson, MD

Dr. Thompson is a surgeon, scholar, full-time sports fan and part-time political activist. He is active in a number of community projects and initiatives. Through medicine, he strives to improve the physical health of all he treats.


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