The Atlantic has yet another one of those “what is Tucker Carlson really thinking?” things that function as puff pieces by praising with a few faint damns. The first problem with the framing is that the question is ultimately unimportant; if he’s doing a white nationalist TV show whether he’s “really a white nationalist” is beside the point. But that aside, there’s no mystery here; he’s always been a race baiter, even during the relatively brief period when he was capable of actual journalism. That he makes no pretense to caring about journalism anymore doesn’t mean he’s actually changed his views:
Plott and her editors framed the piece around a false premise: That it’s hard to figure out how a “wealthy Washingtonian … with his prep-school education and summer home in Maine” can appeal to the masses, with a national nightly program featuring overt white supremacy and venomous attacks on immigrants, women, and minorities. As if searching his soul for something to redeem their own, the magazine titled it: “What Does Tucker Carlson Believe?”
There’s nothing unusual about aristocratic racists throwing red meat to their angry followers. We’ve seen it in every generation, from the Confederacy to the first pro-Nazi America First movement of the 1930s, to the present day. Carlson is part of a long conservative tradition, as Corey Robin has written, of “a ruling class resting its claim to power among a sense of victimhood.”
How such a vapid question could even get out of the drafting stage in an age when Fred Trump’s billionaire scion and the Etonian Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson are carrying the banners of white populism on both sides of the actual Atlantic is beyond me.
But what really got my attention was the quote pulled for the piece’s subhead. Confronted with a milquetoast quote from David French, in which Plott’s former National Review colleague aired his baseless hopes that Carlson will somehow confront “the reality of right-wing populism’s race problem,” the Fox News host responded: “Whatever. I’ve made a complete break mentally with the world I used to live in.”
Every piece of that—both question and answer—is bullshit. Carlson has occupied a share of the American spotlight for over two decades. And in that time, he has never changed the white supremacist rhythm behind his tune. Plott’s central “get” in the piece—Carlson’s racist rant about “immigrants” supposedly polluting the Potomac River—was just a rehash of the similarly fact-free racist rant he’d hosted a few days before, in which he and a guest smeared Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s district of New York.
He’s been saying similar things for years. Back in 2006, he was ranting on nationally syndicated radio about the supposed worthlessness of immigrant laborers (“illegals,” he slurred), arguing: “People who come to this country ought to have something to offer. Be hot, be really smart, you know what I mean?”
In 2008, he railed that “the Congressional Black Caucus exists to blame the white man for everything,” credited “the white man” for “creating civilization and stuff,” and called an effort to increase diversity in radio programming “worse than Jim Crow.”
Katz also goes on to point out that he strongly supported the Iraq War, which he now gets credit for retroactively opposing by the Donald the Dove crowd. Anyway, what Tucker is doing on Fox is no more a puzzle than “what’s happened” to Michelle Malkin between the time she wrote a book defending FDR’s concentration camps and and the current time when she continues to unleash unhinged racist screeds:
Ethnonationalism creates a kind of race to the bottom where parties seek to outbid each other in gestures of loyalty to the Volk. Moderates inevitably struggle to stop a stampede to the far right once that loyalty becomes the only coin of legitimacy.— Adam Serwer🍝 (@AdamSerwer) December 19, 2019
So what’s the point of pretending not to understand what’s very obvious about Tucker? Well…
In her short career since leaving Yale, she has carved out a niche of gauzy coverage of her fellow conservatives while subtly—often undetectably—calling them out for slights such as being too overtly racist. (It’s a winning career choice: Starting this week, she will be a political reporter for the New York Times.)
That’s a bingo! If you’d like a profile of Tucker that’s actually good, here you go.