Carlson leaves Fox with millions ready to accept fascist lies
Father Coughlin - Rush Limbaugh - Glen Beck - Bill O'Reilly. Tucker Carlson is the latest in a long line of right-wing media personalities whose job it has been to take fascist ideology mainstream in the U.S.

Tucker Carlson is the latest in a string of right-wing ideologues who, historically, rose to great heights in U.S. media to carry out the job of making fascism acceptable to Americans.

He is preceded in the distant past by Father Charles Coughlin, the fascist radio megastar of the 1930s who made Hitler palatable to Americans while he was planning to take over the world. Much later there was Rush Limbaugh, another right-wing radio megastar who dominated the talk airwaves through much of the 1990s.

Later, as the internet came into existence, there was Glen Beck who, while a Fox host, elevated racism through his constant lies and attacks on President Barack Obama. After it was embarrassed by Beck’s conspiracy theories, Fox got rid of him, and along came Bill O’Reilly, who lasted until his sexual attacks on women were exposed.

After all of them came Tucker Carlson, unquestionably the worst of all.

While each one of the fascist media megastars rose and then fell fairly quickly, there is one important thing common to all of them that has remained a constant: the job they all shared of pushing right-wing extremism and bringing it into the mainstream. Without a corporate media transmission belt like Fox, even a Republican Party now openly committed to fascism would be unable, by itself, to blast its agenda to the American people on a nightly basis.

After all, what are the Republicans offering voters these days?

  • They are presenting a rollback of child labor laws which, when it comes down to it, is not all that popular.
  • In Missouri, Republicans endorse the shutting down of all libraries when most people, of course, like libraries.
  • In many states, Republicans are taking away health care, another scheme that does not exactly endear them to voters.
  • Republicans are working overtime to reverse Biden’s cancellation of student loan forgiveness, one more GOP policy item that doesn’t sit too well with most people in the country.
  • And on another critical front, the GOP is busy undoing abortion rights. Never mind that reproductive choice is supported by 82% of the population.
  • To top it all off, their leading presidential candidate, Donald Trump, is under indictment on 34 felony criminal counts.

How does the Republican Party manage to rally people to its side even as it pushes such unpopular things? Historically, but especially these days, it operates a nationwide media outreach through which voters hear, night after night, propaganda and lies put forward by a plain-talking, sometimes folksy, television personality.

Tucker Carlson, looking like a slightly older version of the down-home character Opie on the old Andy Griffith Show, points to the camera and tells millions of older white people watching him, “They are coming for you!”

The “they” are diseased immigrants, Black Lives Matter protesters, and Jews who are allegedly bringing criminal immigrants into the country to replace what Carslon calls “legacy” Americans, meaning white Americans. He then tells viewers that aiding in this project, which he calls the Great Replacement Theory, is an army of liberal elites who are enabling all of these invaders and undesirables to “come for you.”

It’s an idea ripped straight from neo-Nazi and white supremacist ideology.

Of course, if such an “invasion” is really underway, then viewers must, as Carlson preached, arm themselves. Using the tactics of fear, Carlson was able to take the most extreme and criminal ideas festering on the fringes of the darkest corners of the internet and bring them into the mainstream. Taking fascistic and false ideas and turning them into everyday dinner table topics was the stock and trade of right-wingers even before the internet, of course, when they had only radio to use to manipulate the population.

Making extremist conspiracy theories mainstream was Carlson’s special skill, and he did it better than anyone else in his long line of predecessors.

We don’t yet know the full reasons as to why he was fired at this particular time. Is it related to the recent Dominion defamation settlement, which exposed the explicit and intentional lies that Carlson and other Fox hosts told about a 2020 election fraud?

Maybe, but it’s also entirely possible that some additional scandal could soon surface. Abbey Grossberg, the fired Fox producer, has sued Carlson and the network. The sexist attacks by Carlson and his top lieutenants against his own staff may be part of it. Perhaps there were plots by Carlson to push out top-level bigwigs at Fox whom he may have wanted to replace with himself.

Time will tell.

What we do know for sure, however, is that the right wing, which has tried to control the media since the days of Father Coughlin and before, will continue its project of shaping the information received by the public. They take facts, like changing demographics, and instead of showing how immigration and change have always been key to American progress and prosperity, pose them as a threat.

In their telling, things that have been part of U.S. history and enriched the nation are turned into an “invasion.” Watching him on the air, it was easy to confuse Carlson for a hypnotist. Night after night, he would stare into the camera, point his finger into the television in the country’s living rooms, and warn his white viewers that people of color were coming for them. As he sometimes said, once they come, “You will own nothing.”

Once he convinced people to believe that lie, it was easy to sell them further falsehoods, like the claim that the Trump mob that assaulted the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was basically a friendly crowd of peaceful protesters that simply ambled in to take tourist pictures. That lie makes even more criminal the decision by Republican leader Kevin McCarthy to turn over Capitol police tapes only to Carlson, who doctored them to fortify his lies about Jan. 6 to the public.

Once you trust Carlson, then the Nazi torchlight parade in Charlottesville—complete with fascists chanting, “Jews will not replace us”—becomes not a threat but rather a simple example of free speech. Never mind that a young woman marching against fascism was murdered by those same Nazis. And once you believe in the “Great Replacement Theory,” it’s not a stretch to give consideration to the possibility that the Charlottesville Nazis were maybe some “good people,” as Trump claimed in a news conference at the time.

It will be interesting to see what Fox drums up to replace Carlson during the 8 o’clock hour. The audience that the official national fascist network has built up for that primetime spot has been trained to believe almost anything the extreme right doles out to them. Carlson can be thanked for that.

A betting person could safely wager that the network will try its best to feed that audience with the red meat it wants. Fox will continue the century-old fascist attempt to build an apparatus to control the media in our country. We must be alert to this and fight it at every turn.

As with all op-eds published by People’s World, this article reflects the opinions of its author.

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John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.