“In one video, children cry amid rubble. In another, explosions rip through residential neighbourhoods. The images have gone viral on X (formerly Twitter), purporting to be from the ongoing chaos in Israel and Gaza. They actually originate from the war in Syria – including my family’s besieged hometown of Aleppo, where the Assad regime’s tanks once fired on my grandparents’ home while they were still inside.
They are not isolated examples, and the proliferation of misinformation on X is now so extreme that the European Commission began an official investigation last week. The past week has proved that the site is now unable to effectively tackle the spread of falsehoods in a time of crisis.”
“I have worked in English language media even longer than Carlson has, and I “understand” nothing like the totalizing constraints he describes, nor would a significant percentage of the people I have worked with. The editorial direction (not quite a set of “limits”) at an opinion magazine such as Reason, for example, tends to be tethered to a political/ideological/philosophical point of view, with content mutually understood by employer and employee alike to fit within a publicly stated organizational mission, and yet, I have for two decades felt perfectly free to explore out loud some of my least libertarian notions (including one, ironically enough, that was influenced directly by Tucker Carlson).
Reason may be on the tolerant extreme of the open-debate spectrum, but I was similarly untroubled by the specter of editorial no-fly zones at the Los Angeles Times, a newspaper that hired me after I had written a series of “Outside the Tent” columns criticizing…the Los Angeles Times. (That institutional courage to solicit internal criticism was not shared by Carlson at his own The Daily Caller: Blogger Mickey Kaus resigned from the conservative publication in 2015 after a post of his critical of Fox News was deleted on the grounds that, in Carlson’s words, as quoted by Kaus: “We can’t trash Fox on the site. I work there.”)
As the Caller example indicates, the “rule of what you can’t say” is often self-imposed, for reasons that can have more to do with narrow careerism than some broader globalist plot. As such, breaking free from presumed shackles is often as easy as just blurting out the allegedly verboten thing—not unlike Tucker Carlson’s often interesting, often exasperating television program these past seven years.
But the populist trick and conceit, one that Carlson is already ratcheting up in his new Twitter phase, is to not merely say the forbidden truth but to do so while, improbably enough, claiming that you cannot do so.”
“Thirty years ago, the main conservative critique of the mainstream media was that it was biased. Twenty or so years ago, bias had escalated into pursuing an active agenda. Now, that agenda has managed to become an all-encompassing yet secretive transpartisan snow job.
“The undeniably big topics, the ones that will define our future, get virtually no discussion at all,” Carlson postulated in his first Twitter video after being fired. “War, civil liberties, emerging science, demographic change, corporate power, natural resources. When was the last time you heard a legitimate debate about any of those issues? It’s been a long time. Debates like that are not permitted in American media. Both political parties, and their donors, have reached consensus about what benefits them, and they actively collude to shut down any conversation about it. Suddenly the United States looks very much like a one-party state.”
This seems like a good place to point out that the May issue of Reason includes debates about war, civil liberties, emerging science, demographic change, and so forth. And I’m guessing that anyone who truly believes there are no meaningful differences between the two main political parties in the U.S. did not have children attending public school during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Carlson’s fans, including some (masochistic?) libertarians, surely do not care that his hyperbole crosses so frequently into fantasia; what matters is that he (again, like Trump) has the right enemies—the media, the wokes, the Pentagon, Big Pharma. If the journalism profession is going to go on a “moral clarity” bender of ever-escalating pejoratives for conservatives, aggressive “deplatforming” even of elected Republicans, and enthusiastic collusion with the censorious state, what’s wrong with a little overstatement from a commentator who rightly pushes back?
Well, once you start taking seriously the idea that some puppet master or single-minded Borg is inflicting intentional wickedness on Everyman for personal profit, then all intellectual bets are off. Conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat offered this ideological shorthand soon after Carlson was fired: “For any idea with an establishment imprimatur, absolute suspicion; for any outsider or skeptic, sympathy and trust. It didn’t have to be political or contemporary, either. The U.F.O. mystery? He was there for it. The Kennedy assassination and the C.I.A.? He had questions.”
Carlson these days is frequently going there, whether in sympathetic interviews with the similarly conspiratorial Robert Kennedy Jr., or just musing aloud about Building 7, all while striking the classic populist pose of betraying his class interest by spilling the insidery beans.”
“Controlling the population is the media’s “only purpose,” Carlson continued. “They’re not here to inform you….Even on the big things that really matter, like the economy and the war and COVID, things that really matter and will affect you—no, their job is not to inform you. They’re working for the small group of people who actually run the world. They’re their servants, they’re the Praetorian Guard. And we should treat them with maximum contempt, because they have earned it.”
Carlson may not want to control the population, but what he offers as a replacement sounds a lot like passive consumption of a commiserative message…from Tucker Carlson. “Where can you still find Americans saying true things?” he asked in his first post-show Twitter video. “There aren’t many places left, but there are some, and that’s enough. As long as you can hear the words, there is hope.”
And now, having earned scores of millions of dollars from corporate media, Carlson is ready to burn it all down from the outside.
“The gatekeepers are still in charge,” he lamented in his video Tuesday. “We think that’s a bad system. We know exactly how it works, and we’re sick of it….There aren’t many platforms left that allow free speech. The last big one remaining in the world, the only one, is Twitter.””
“Former President Donald Trump’s reaction to the 2020 election arguably violated several federal and state laws. But any effort to prosecute him for those alleged violations would face the possibly insurmountable challenge of proving criminal intent.
Given Trump’s long history of embracing self-flattering assertions at odds with reality, it seems plausible that he sincerely believed, despite all the countervailing evidence, that the election was subverted by systematic fraud. If so, his various efforts to prevent Joe Biden from taking office would have been, from his perspective, attempts to correct a grievous wrong rather than attempts to illegally obstruct the peaceful transfer of power.
The select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot showed that people close to Trump recognized who had actually won the election and tried to dissuade him from embracing wild conspiracy theories to the contrary. But that testimony did not conclusively prove that Trump privately agreed with those advisers even while publicly promoting the stolen-election fantasy. A recent ruling by a federal judge in California supplies further evidence to support that interpretation, suggesting that Trump knowingly submitted false claims about election fraud in Georgia as part of a federal lawsuit.”
“Carter ruled that the crime-fraud exception applies to four emails related to Trump and Eastman’s “knowing misrepresentation of voter fraud numbers in Georgia when seeking to overturn the election results in federal court.” Carter says the emails indicate that Trump made those claims even though he knew they had been discredited.
In a state lawsuit filed on December 4, 2021, Carter notes, “President Trump and his attorneys alleged…that Fulton County improperly counted a number of votes,” including “10,315 deceased people, 2,560 felons, and 2,423 unregistered voters.” When they decided to file a federal lawsuit challenging the election results, Trump and his lawyers “discussed incorporating by reference the voter fraud numbers alleged in the state petition.” But in a December 30 email, Eastman “relayed ‘concerns’ from President Trump’s team ‘about including specific numbers in the paragraph dealing with felons, deceased, moved, etc.'”
The next day, Eastman elaborated on those concerns: “Although the President signed a verification for [the state court filing] back on Dec. 1, he has since been made aware that some of the allegations (and evidence proffered by the experts) has been inaccurate. For him to sign a new verification with that knowledge (and incorporation by reference) would not be accurate.”
Trump apparently was unfazed. “President Trump and his attorneys ultimately filed the complaint with the same inaccurate numbers without rectifying, clarifying, or otherwise changing them,” Carter writes. “President Trump, moreover, signed a verification swearing under oath that the incorporated, inaccurate numbers ‘are true and correct’ or ‘believed to be true and correct’ to the best of his knowledge and belief.”
In other words, Carter says, “the emails show that President Trump knew that the specific numbers of voter fraud were wrong but continued to tout those numbers, both in court and to the public.” The emails therefore “are sufficiently related to and in furtherance of a conspiracy to defraud the United States.””
“Since the 2020 election, millions of Republican voters have accepted former President Donald Trump’s false claim that the presidential election was stolen from him. And now, here in 2022, many Republican politicians have capitalized on this lie and have won elections of their own.
This election cycle, FiveThirtyEight is tracking the views of every Republican candidate for Senate, House, governor, attorney general and secretary of state on the legitimacy of the 2020 election. And now that we’re halfway through the primary season, we can say definitively that at least 120 election deniers have won their party’s nomination and will be on the ballot in the fall.”
“People believe and say things that aren’t true all of the time, of course. When false beliefs influence the outcomes of major elections or, say, decision making during a pandemic, it’s reasonable to consider ways to minimize the ill effects those false beliefs can create. But efforts by public officials to combat them—and tremendous confusion over how to identify them—may well make things worse, not better.”
“First off, let me be very clear tonight: The election in 2020 was rigged and stolen,” Perdue said at the beginning of his opening statement during a Republican gubernatorial debate on Sunday night.
It wasn’t just a cheap applause line for the MAGA crowd. It was something more like a thesis statement for Perdue’s campaign. Perdue, a former Republican senator who lost his bid for reelection in 2020, is now running against incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in the GOP gubernatorial primary in Georgia. And in Perdue’s telling, everything from rising gas prices to illegal immigration and even the U.S. coming “to the brink of war” over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine were the result of Kemp allowing “radical Democrats to steal our election.” Something that he says Kemp was responsible for aiding and abetting.
Kemp, of course, was one of the Republican officials who blocked then-President Donald Trump’s attempt to get state legislatures and governors to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Two weeks after the election, as state officials finalized the results showing that Joe Biden won by about 12,000 votes, Kemp called for tightening voter ID laws in Georgia and making other technical changes in how the state conducts future elections. But he also certified the result of the 2020 election, against Trump’s wishes.
Since then, he’s been a target for Trump, who vowed not long after the 2020 election to boot Kemp from office. Trump has helped Perdue fundraise and has even chipped in $500,000 of his own campaign cash to Perdue’s campaign.”
“Perdue is staking his claim to the governorship on the hope that Republican voters are motivated primarily by the former president’s delusions and rage.
But Georgia is hardly the only swing state where this year’s Republican gubernatorial elections are focused on Trump. In Pennsylvania and Arizona, too, Trump-backed candidates who say they believe the 2020 election was stolen are running at or near the top of the polls. If they’re successful, those governors might create major complications for the next presidential election—as they would be in a position to do some of what Kemp, and others, refused to do in 2020: decertify results that go against the Republican nominee.”
“Is this really how Republican voters want to define their party going forward: as little more than a tool for for Trump’s self-serving lies about the 2020 election? These three races will provide an answer—and it might not be one Trump likes, as his preferred candidates are facing difficult paths to winning in November. Perhaps it’s too simple of an explanation, but the average Republican voter is likely not as motivated by Trump’s grievances as Trump himself.”
“it remains unnerving that so many high-profile Republicans—in Perdue’s case, even a former U.S. senator—have decided that the path to political success on the political right requires rallying around a blatant falsehood constructed to serve the political ambitions of a single man.”
“it is a falsehood. Audits and recounts in swing state after swing state failed to turn up evidence of a stolen election—one much-ballyhooed audit conducted by Arizona Republicans actually found that Biden won by a slightly larger margin than originally thought. Dozens of lawsuits filed by the Trump campaign or its supporters alleging voter fraud and anti-Trump conspiracies collapsed in court. The myth of the stolen election lives on as a way to raise money and as a way to snare the endorsement of the most popular man in conservative politics.”
“In a nutshell, this is the worry of liberals, anti-Trump conservatives, and anyone else harboring concerns about rising authoritarianism on the political right: What if this campaign rhetoric translates into official behavior. What happens if elected Republicans begin ignoring their oaths of office and the rule of law to declare illegitimate any election the GOP loses?”
“Arizona, Georgia, and Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial races are rated as “toss-ups” right now. That means characters like Lake, Perdue, and Mastriano will have a decent shot at being elected in the fall (and helped by a political environment that’s shaping up to be favorable to Republicans across the board) if they can win their respective GOP primaries during the spring and summer. And this trend goes beyond those three. In Wisconsin, Republican gubernatorial hopeful Rebecca Kleefisch said this week that she believes the 2020 election was “rigged.” According to Politico, some 57 participants in the January 6 protest are running for office this year—though mostly for lower-level posts.”
“polls say the majority of Republican voters believe, despite massive amounts of evidence to the contrary, that Biden’s victory was not legitimate.”
“There’s a mountain of baseless overlapping claims piled up inside the stultifying biodome of the Big Lie: voters casting multiple ballots, dead people voting, ballot-counting machines flipping votes, foreign nations hacking systems to swap totals. The Big Lie is an à la carte conspiracy theory — a bit like QAnon in that respect — where adherents pick and choose what sounds right to them and disregard what doesn’t. Each individual who believes the Big Lie has their own suspicions about what took place, a personal recipe of different conspiracies to nourish their belief that the election was illegitimate. In right-wing chat groups on the messaging app Telegram, these theories are traded as casually as chats about the weather.”
“Every iteration of the Big Lie, though, is wrong. The ones in the darkest corner of the Internet? Wrong. The ones brought forward in lawsuits by the Trump campaign? Wrong. The ones already debunked by news sources? Still wrong. There is no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election.
Still, polling gives us a glimpse of the most popular theories on the Big Lie menu. Last summer, a YouGov/CBS News poll asked voters who thought there had been widespread voter fraud and irregularities in the 2020 election exactly what they thought had happened. They were asked about various sources of voting and how much of the voter fraud came from those sources, either “a lot of it,” “some of it” or “hardly any or none.”
Seventy-seven percent said “a lot” of voter fraud and irregularities had come from ballots cast by mail, and 70 percent said a lot of it had come from voting machines or equipment that were manipulated, but just 22 percent said a lot of the fraud had come from ballots cast in person. Racism also appeared to inform a lot of thinking around the Big Lie: 72 percent said a lot of the fraud had come from ballots cast in major cities and urban areas, compared with 22 percent and 14 percent who said a lot of it had come from suburbs and rural areas, respectively. And 39 percent of those who believed voter fraud was widespread said “a lot” of fraud had come from ballots cast in Black communities, while 25 percent said so for white communities and 27 percent said so for voters in Hispanic communities.”
“When they asked Americans to compare hypothetical political candidates, Republican voters favored candidates who embraced the Big Lie by an average of 5.7 percentage points to candidates who accurately said Trump lost the election. This suggests that the Big Lie is not going anywhere soon and that it will have a meaningful sway on elections. Already we’ve witnessed the Big Lie being wielded as a campaign tool by Republican candidates across the country, demonstrating the power of this belief among the party’s voters.
And as polls continue to capture the millions of Americans who endorse the Big Lie, precisely what they believe matters less than how that belief influences their actions.”
““Aaron Rodgers is a smart guy,” said David O’Connor, a virus expert at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Packers fan. But, he added, “He’s still vulnerable to the blind side blitz of misinformation.”
In the interview, Rodgers suggested that the fact that people were still getting, and dying from, COVID-19, meant that the vaccines were not highly effective.
Although imperfect, the vaccines provide extremely strong protection against the worst outcomes of infection, including hospitalization and death. Unvaccinated Americans, for instance, are roughly 10 times more likely to be hospitalized and 11 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than vaccinated Americans, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“As far as the people who are in the hospital with COVID, overwhelmingly, those are unvaccinated people,” said Angela Rasmussen, a virus expert at the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization at the University of Saskatchewan. “And transmission is being driven overwhelmingly by unvaccinated people to other unvaccinated people.”
Rodgers also expressed concern that the vaccines might cause fertility issues, a common talking point in the anti-vaccine movement. There is no evidence that the vaccines affect fertility in men or women.
“Those allegations have been made since the vaccines first came on the scene, and they clearly have been addressed many, many times over,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a vaccine expert at Vanderbilt University. He added, “The vaccines are safe and stunningly effective.”
There are a few potentially serious adverse events that have been linked to the vaccines, including a clotting disorder and an inflammation of the heart muscle, but they are very rare. Experts agree that the health risks associated with COVID-19 overwhelmingly outweigh those of vaccination.
Rodgers said he ruled out the mRNA vaccines, manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna, because he had an allergy to an unspecified ingredient they contained.
Such allergies are possible — a small number of people are allergic to polyethylene glycol, which is in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines — but extremely rare. For instance, there were roughly 11 cases of anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction, for every 1 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine administered, according to one CDC study.
The public health agency recommends that people with a known allergy to an ingredient in one of the mRNA vaccines not get those vaccines, but some scientists expressed skepticism that Rodgers truly had a known, documented allergy. Even if he did, he may have been eligible for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which relies on a different technology.”
“Biden made 67 false and misleading statements in his first 100 days in office, according to a report Monday from The Washington Post’s fact checker. That compares to 511 such comments from his predecessor Donald Trump in his first 100 days.”
“Two of Biden’s falsehoods have earned the Post’s “Four Pinocchio” rating, designated for “whoppers.” He claimed several times that Georgia’s GOP-led election law will end voting hours early. It won’t. The other is Biden’s claim that federal government contracts awarded to foreign companies went up by 30% under Trump, when in fact it was likely much less.
The fact-checking analysts noted that when Biden made exaggerated claims, he would often amend his wording in subsequent addresses in apparent response to news coverage.
Trump’s tally grew at a dramatically faster rate as his presidency progressed. Toward the end of his term, he was making around twice as many false claims a month as he did in his entire first year in office. On Nov. 2, the day before the election, Trump made 504 false claims in a day, nearly the same amount he made in his first 100 days.”