This is how you talk about them when no one else is listeningComments
One of my longstanding positions is that people sometimes overrate the importance of venality as opposed to the sincere commitment to horrible ideas when explaining the reactionary movement in America. But as Michelle Goldberg points out, when it comes to Tucker and the other prime time bullshit artists at Fox News, the Dominion suit reveals that it’s definitely plenty from column A as well as column B:
People who remember Fox News host Tucker Carlson as a bow-tied creature of establishment Washington often wonder what happened to him. Twenty years ago, he was a preppy Beltway habitué and impishly libertarian magazine writer; a wryly affectionate account of Al Sharpton in Liberia that he wrote for Esquire was nominated for a National Magazine Award. Now he’s the sneering, conspiracy-obsessed host of what The New York Times called possibly “the most racist show in the history of cable news.”
As The Times wrote, there’s a long-running debate about “whether Mr. Carlson’s show is merely lucrative theater or an expression of his true values.” By most accounts, Carlson shares Donald Trump’s deep cultural resentments. But as an explosive new court filing in Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation lawsuit against Fox News demonstrates, in trying to explain why Carlson and many of his colleagues do what they do, we shouldn’t underestimate simple greed.
The brief, a motion for summary judgment in a case stemming from Fox’s egregiously false claims of Dominion-abetted election fraud, offers a portrait of extravagant cynicism. It reveals how obsessed Carlson and other leading Fox News figures were with audience share, and their fear of being outflanked by even further-right outlets like Newsmax.
“It’s remarkable how weak ratings make good journalists do bad things,” Bill Sammon, a Fox senior vice president until 2021, is quoted as saying. It’s a line that would fall flat on “Succession” because it’s too absurdly on the nose.
The character Tucker gets to play on Fox is probably closer to his actual views that the Reasonable Conservative MSNBC spent a lot of time and money trying to make a thing. But if there had been more money to be made in the latter racket, he’d almost certainly still be doing it.