Conservative host Tucker Carlson has held his own at Fox News. Carlson’s show has a high share of 21-54-year-olds (the “key demographic”) in the United States. Tucker Carlson also has a majority share of conservative ears.
Liberal activists and political candidates know that too. This is why #HeyTucker is still trending on social media sites like Twitter.
To be short and sweet, he has done nothing. And that inaction is his main problem.
“Tuckems,” as MSNBC host Joy Ried so often calls him, is not talking about the vaccine. However, he is laying out a nightly formula for creating massive distrust and seeding panic.
First, Carlson’s audience of widely conservative viewers hears him explain the government’s role in vaccine distribution. He claims not that it’s bad but that there remain “unanswered questions.”
Journalists and scholars are quick to point out this “bad faith” tactic. Carlson’s questions, to most participants, read as harmful and coercive rather than genuine. To viewers, however, Tucker is a trusted source wondering aloud about their safety.
Then, he follows these questions with actual fear-mongering. More direct claims of what the government can and will do. Wondering aloud about the ability of the federal government to force you to get a shot.
Well, first, it creates distrust. Let’s be real. Of the more than 300 million people in the US, less than 1 million reside in the District of Columbia.
You need to be able to trust your news outlets because you can’t be there. We all agree that the government keeps secrets and can make mistakes. We all know the government has a history of not publicizing or fixing those mistakes.
Journalists can pressure public figures through reporting and transparency. That act can lead to fair consequences — see my cancel culture analysis. However, it requires your knowledge and your trust.
Once that trust is gone in media or out of reach for local and national viewers, power shifts to bad actors. People who thread conspiracy theories into newsy-looking shows.
Those conspiracies then transition into actions. You may feel called not to get a life-saving vaccine because of a segment. Or maybe feel that an election was rigged despite evidence abounding. Maybe, just maybe, you will feel a call to action.
Journalism doesn’t just exist to inform you. Tucker Carlson, Joy Ried, and all the voices at Politicus don’t just talk about the news, share the news, and then expect nothing.
As a viewer, we expect that knowledge to impact what you do, how you think and make you a little smarter. And as viewers, we tend to follow suit on occasion unconsciously.
During the week, I enjoy a side hustle working at a pizza place. This week, a supervisor comes into the restaurant amid a hectic shift. While he’s there, he talks about Carlson’s show and how people on unemployment will find a job here.
I talked about how the minimum wage doesn’t allow full-time workers to pay rent in all fifty states. He then flags that he wouldn’t raise the wage at any establishment. His reply?
“Tucker Carlson’s got you there. They were talking about [economics and] these people on employment are going to need to work. Maybe 80 hours is what we have.”
And that isn’t even close to a discussion on his show’s flirtation with racist dog whistles and undertones. (Sometimes overtones, as is apparent.)
A patron sparked a conversation on how they won’t be getting vaccinated. They would continue going to work and never answer questions.
They had just gotten off work at an elderly care facility.
The young woman noted that Fauci “isn’t touching her.” And murmured something about the vaccine that I walked away from. (No, there aren’t microchips, I know if. If one appears, I’ll tell the bionic half of me to let the human half know.)
Carlson’s words are indefensible, including in courts of law. If you’re listening to him, you’re hearing the words of an often scrutinized host.
A host who wanted us to talk less about race in his early years. (Read his books at your own discretion.) a CNN to MSNBC to Fox host would retell stories of hometowns devoid of culture.
Now, Twitter is trying to change his mind. They want him to talk about the vaccine and convey if he even got it. (He has avoided the question when reporters ask.)
Or better yet, to admit what scientists already overwhelmingly agree to. To say that these vaccines are lifesaving efforts that have cut our death toll down substantially. And to stop poisoning the discourse.
Because this poison kills.
I’ve enjoyed being an excitable “Gen Z Themfluencer,” working in politics, writing as a student journalist, and discussing what matters most. I currently produce and host podcasts, contribute to hyper-local news outlets and continue my education as a Ph.D. student at the University of Maryland.
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