The desperate pandering of Tucker Carlson

““We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights. I truly can’t wait.”
“I hate him passionately.”

“We’re all pretending we’ve got a lot to show for it, because admitting what a disaster it’s been is too tough to digest. But come on. There isn’t really an upside to Trump.”

Tucker Carlson sent all those texts — newly revealed as exhibits in the lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems against Fox — on January 4, 2021. (Through the discovery process, many Fox internal emails and documents were provided to Dominion, and the company’s attorneys have made them public by citing them in legal filings.)

Yet Carlson devoted his shows this week to a revisionist history of the attacks on the Capitol two days afterward, omitting Trump’s then-ongoing attempt to steal the election, portraying concerns about a stolen election as reasonable and even vindicated, and minimizing the violence that took place.

But to understand what’s going on here, it’s worth taking a closer look at the bigger narrative Carlson was trying to push this week.

The story of January 6, in Carlson’s extremely selective and misleading telling to his viewers, isn’t about how a mob whipped up by the president of the United States tried to prevent the transfer of power, or how that president tried to steal the election. It’s about how Democrats and the media were mean to Trump supporters.

The story is also about how he, Tucker Carlson, would never do something like that. He loves you, Trump supporters. He respects you. Pay no attention to those texts behind the curtain about how he disdains and disbelieves Donald Trump. He is your loyal champion against your enemies. So please — don’t change the channel.”

‘I hate him passionately’: Tucker Carlson was fed up with Trump after the 2020 election

“On Jan. 4, 2021, Fox News host Tucker Carlson was done with Donald Trump.
“We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights. I truly can’t wait,” he texted an unidentified person.

“I hate him passionately. … I can’t handle much more of this,” he added.

By this time, Fox News was in crisis mode. It had angered its audience when it correctly said Joe Biden had won Arizona in the presidential election. Executives and hosts were worried about losing viewers to upstart rivals, most notably Newsmax.

The private comments were a far cry from what Carlson’s viewers were used to hearing from the stalwart conservative host on his prime-time show every night.

“We’re all pretending we’ve got a lot to show for it, because admitting what a disaster it’s been is too tough to digest,” he wrote in another text message, referring to the “last four years.” “But come on. There isn’t really an upside to Trump.””

“In a group text chain from mid-November, Hannity, Ingraham and Carlson complained about their news colleagues and the network’s decision to call Arizona in favor of Biden. Fox News was the first network to do so, and the call was accurate.

“Why would anyone defend that call,” Hannity asked.

“My anger at the news channel is pronounced,” Ingraham said later in the exchange.

Carlson piped in, saying: “It should be. We devote our lives to building an audience and they let Chris Wallace and Leland [expletive] Vittert wreck it. Too much.”

Wallace and Vittert were Fox News hosts and anchors at the time.”

“In a conversation with Fox News journalist Chris Stirewalt on Dec. 2, 2020, about a month after the election, Bill Sammon, who was then the network’s managing editor, lamented the state of the place they worked.

“More than 20 minutes into our flagship evening news broadcast and we’re still focused solely on supposed election fraud — a month after the election. It’s remarkable how weak ratings make good journalists do bad things,” Sammon said.

Stirewalt added: “It’s a real mess. But sadly no surprise based on the man I saw revealed on election night.”

Sammon replied, “In my 22 years affiliated with Fox, this is the closest thing I’ve seen to an existential crisis — at least journalistically.””

What the right’s gas stove freakout was really about

“touches on a real, coast-to-coast crusade by liberal city and state leaders to prohibit gas stoves and furnaces in new buildings, on the grounds that they endanger health and contribute to climate change. But the White House has disavowed enacting any such ban at the federal level. (“The president does not support banning gas stoves,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters after the issue came up repeatedly at Wednesday’s news briefing.)”

“In December, Beyer and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) asked the Consumer Product Safety Commission to look at the health risks posed by gas stoves’ methane emissions.
Then a member of that five-person commission suggested to Bloomberg News in a story this week that a ban on new gas stoves could be one of many options to be pursued in the future. But the member, Biden nominee Richard Trumka Jr., had previously failed to get his fellow commissioners to support even regulating stoves, as POLITICO’s E&E News reported Tuesday. Instead, the commission plans to gather “public input” on stoves’ health hazards and possible solutions.

“I am not looking to ban gas stoves and the CPSC has no proceeding to do so,” Chair Alexander Hoehn-Saric later said in a statement.

By then, though, the issue had escalated to culture-war level — and lawmakers unleashed a barrage of snarky comments.”

“a rising number of studies point to possible health hazards, increasing the urgency of squelch any potential federal ban.

A recently published study nabbed headlines for concluding that gas stove emissions contribute to one in eight cases of childhood asthma — likening it to the dangers posed by second-hand tobacco smoke. And a 2022 report from the American Lung Association that looked at dozens of prior studies found that gas stoves and ovens are major sources of harmful indoor air pollutants that the federal government doesn’t regulate because they occur indoors.”

The far-right threat to liberal democracy in Europe, explained

“In fact, far-right parties have been slowly but steadily increasing their electoral support and political power in Europe since the early 1980s. Over that time, they have moved from the political margins into the political mainstream. As a consequence, far-right parties currently constitute the biggest threat to liberal democracy in Europe.
Five European countries in particular (but not exclusively) deserve attention on this front. Going from the most to the least acute level of threat, the world should keep an eye on Hungary, Poland, Italy, Sweden, and France. In all these countries, far-right parties are electorally successful and politically powerful, though their ability to weaken liberal democracy varies.”

“It was only in the third wave, 1980-2000, that far-right parties started to break into national parliaments in various European countries, such as the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) and the misleadingly named Center Party (CP) in the Netherlands. These populist radical right parties shared a core ideology of nativism, authoritarianism, and populism. Although not strictly single-issue parties, they mostly profited from a growing political dissatisfaction that centered in particular on immigration.

That paved the way for the fourth wave at the beginning of the century, in which far-right parties moved from the political margins into the political mainstream and increased their electoral support, from an average of just 1 percent of the vote in EU member states in the 1980s to close to 10 percent in the 2010s.”

“Most of the relevant parties in this fourth wave are part of the same populist radical right subgroup, focusing primarily on issues like crime, corruption, and immigration. Unlike the extreme right, which consists of a broad variety of small, neo-fascist parties — parties that, in terms of ideology and symbols, hark back to the fascist movements of the early 20th century — the radical right supports democracy per se. That is, they support popular sovereignty and majority rule, while opposing key institutions and values of liberal democracy, such as an independent judiciary and media, minority rights, pluralism, and the separation of powers.”

“the main impact is indirect, through the co-optation of the far-right agenda or the collaboration with far-right parties — by, mostly but not exclusively, mainstream right-wing parties — as is happening in France and Sweden, for example. What makes this process particularly problematic is that it is often not perceived as far-right or threatening; within the political establishment, many might deny or minimize cries of authoritarianism or nativism among insiders.”

The bizarre far-right coup attempt in Germany, explained by an expert

“The plot originated out of a movement called the Reichsbürger — literally, “Reich citizens.” They believe that every German state since World War I has been illegitimate, a corporation rather than an authentic government, and thus feel entitled to ignore its laws. It’s not the first time the group has been implicated in a violent incident. In 2016, one alleged member killed a Bavarian policeman; in 2020, Reichsbürger adherents participated in an attempt to storm the German capitol during a protest against Covid restrictions. But a sizable armed cell plotting a coup takes the dalliance with violence to a whole new level (even though Heinrich isn’t much of a prince).”

“What [the Reichsbürger] are saying is the last valid German state was under the Kaiser, basically an aristocratic form of government. Every German state that came into existence after that is invalid for different reasons, but they’re all invalid. They’re all illegitimate. Basically, what they are trying to recreate, what they are trying to go back to, is essentially a monarchical system — the monarchy [that] ended in Germany with the defeat in World War I.
As a consequence, they do sometimes attract these failed aristocrats who are still aggrieved about the end of the monarchy over 100 years ago. I think it makes sense, from their ideological point of view, to say, “The new head of state has to be some kind of prince, has to be some sort of person with an aristocratic line.””

“The German security agencies only really got interested in this phenomenon of the Reichsbürger, or sovereign citizens, in 2016 — [when] a policeman was killed in Bavaria because they wanted to search the property of a supporter of the movement. Suddenly, people started asking questions: Why was that policeman killed? Why did the guy have a weapon? What was that search about?

As a result of that, for the first time we discovered that there was such a thing as the sovereign citizen movement [in Germany]. Security agencies started digging, and at the beginning of 2016, they said, “They have a few hundred supporters.” Only two or three years later, they actually came to the conclusion that they were probably up to 20,000 supporters across the country.

That’s not because, in those three years, the number increased so much. It’s because no one had looked for them and categorized them as a separate category before. It became obvious that there was a whole movement that had existed beyond that, that hadn’t been looked at before.

Then [the pandemic] came. The lockdowns and the rules around masks and vaccinations were, of course, a complete boon for the movement.”

“the second most used language in QAnon chat rooms on Telegram is German. The second most translated language of QAnon videos and documents is German. I myself follow a lot of German QAnon Telegram channels; a lot of people seem to be very fascinated by it.

I don’t know of any personal, physical connections between leaders of the movements, but there certainly seems to be a lot of inspiration. Once they understand and accept that a lot of this comes out of an American context, they are trying to find ways to translate it into a German context.

In August 2020, there was an attempt to storm the Reichstag, the German parliament. It was in the context of a demonstration — 100,000 people in the streets of Berlin. Some of these Reichsbürger were actually trying to enter the building, just like the Capitol [on January 6]. They basically afterward said that they’d been convinced that Donald Trump was in town, that he’d secretly flown to Berlin in order to liberate Germany. This was one of those rumors that was spread on QAnon follower Telegrams.”

” We have a very fixed idea of what a far-right extremist looks like, because of our history. A far-right extremist is a neo-Nazi; anything that doesn’t fit into that box of neo-Nazi or fascist, we have problems with, and we don’t recognize. Up until they [the Reichsbürger] killed that policeman in Bavaria, most intelligence agencies basically had them under the category of nutcases, crazies. But they had their own far-right, albeit separate, ideology — a very strange ideology.”

What Trump vs. DeSantis says about the future of the American right

“a DeSantis victory in 2024 would not, in any sense, represent a return to Republican pre-Trump normalcy or the triumph of the “traditional GOP,” as some observers see it.
The Florida governor, who won a blowout victory in his reelection not a Republican cut from the Bush-Cheney-Romney cloth. He represents an evolution of Trumpism, a new way of channeling the illiberal populist forces unleashed by the former president’s rise to power in 2016.”

His ascendancy as Trump’s principal challenger represents not the return of the GOP establishment, but its adaptation to the insurgency that defeated it six years ago. His model is less John McCain or Mitt Romney, the last two GOP nominees before Trump, than Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban — a leader who, after being elected in 2010, proceeded to use his right-wing populist ideology as a cover for authoritarian power grabs.

This is not to say that Trump and DeSantis are identical. In fact, they represent two related but distinct versions of American right-wing populism: Trump its wild id, DeSantis its more calculating and intellectualized ego. If one looks closely at which prominent conservatives and media voices are backing which candidate, these subtle distinctions become clearer — pointing to the different ways that these two figures threaten liberal-democratic norms.

These distinctions are real, important, and, as an intellectual matter, quite interesting. But they should not obscure what this matchup really represents.

DeSantis versus Trump is not normalcy versus radicalism. It’s American Orbánism versus the berserk.”

“DeSantis’s Trumpism, like the original flavor, contained a healthy dose of hostility to basic liberal-democratic norms. After Florida voters passed a ballot initiative in 2018 that would end felon disenfranchisement, DeSantis signed a bill that would require felons to pay outstanding fines in order to vote — a poll tax, in effect, linked to debts so opaque and/or punitive that many could not feasibly pay them. In 2020, the ACLU argued that his law would functionally disenfranchise “hundreds of thousands” Floridians.

While not explicitly declaring the 2020 election stolen, DeSantis will not condemn “stop the steal” conspiracy theories when asked by reporters. He campaigned for hardcore deniers like Pennsylvania’s Doug Mastriano and, on the anniversary of the January 6, 2021, Capitol attack, downplayed its severity and mocked the media for continuing to focus on the day’s events. In advance of the 2022 elections, he allocated over a million dollars in state funds to a new police unit dedicated to investigating “voter fraud,” including violations of his pay-to-vote bill. The squad found virtually no actual crime but may have worked to deter lawful voters from showing up at the polls.

When Florida’s state legislature drew fairer election maps for the House in 2022, DeSantis vetoed them — demanding more Republican-tilted maps. He got what he wanted, delivering a multi-seat rightward swing”

“Harvard political scientist Erica Chenoweth warned that DeSantis’s governing record in Florida resembles some steps that “electoral authoritarians” like Orbán use to consolidate power. Chenoweth is most concerned by the efforts to disenfranchise felons and crack down on “voter fraud,” but notes a number of other troubling examples:

“DeSantis also signed a law that aggressively restricts the ability of people to submit others’ absentee ballots, which upended long-standing community organizations’ efforts to make it easier for working people and people with disabilities to vote. Along with partisan redistricting that dramatically reduces competition and representation, limits on expression in public schools, harsh penalties for various forms of protest, and trafficking immigrants as a political stunt with impunity, for example, we can see the hallmarks of electoral authoritarianism.”

The comparison to Hungary is not mere liberal slander. Rod Dreher, a prominent conservative pundit and one of Orbán’s biggest stateside fans, has suggested that “maybe Florida is becoming our American Hungary.” Not coincidentally, Dreher concluded after the midterms that “DeSantis’s smashing Florida victory last night makes him the head of the conservative movement.”

In this, Dreher is speaking for a broad swath of so-called “national conservative” or “New Right” intellectuals: the pundits and academics who have dedicated themselves to theorizing a new kind of American conservatism compatible with the populist sentiment unleashed by Trump. This corner of the right, where the culture war is paramount and Orbán is seen as a model, believes DeSantis better embodies the qualities they admired in Trump.”

“The substance of the arguments for Trump or DeSantis is in some ways less revealing than the identity of the advocates themselves. On the one hand, you have those on the right who dream of Budapest on the Potomac; on the other, congressional bomb-throwers who enjoy nothing more than battling the left under the ring lights. Each represents a different vision of how to challenge the American political status quo, to pull it in a more illiberal and less democratic direction.

Elements of this radicalism have always been a part of the conservative movement. Prior to Trump, there was a sense among many that the “responsible” elite could prevent things from going too far.

That they are now backing a figure as illiberal as DeSantis proves that this guardrail has completely fallen off — if it was ever in place to begin with.”

With Lula’s Win in Brazil, the Left Dominates Latin America

“With Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva’s narrow victory over president Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil—the two-time former president defeated the incumbent by a 1.8 percent margin (50.9 to 49.1)—the Latin American left has completed its strategic dominance over the region’s seven largest countries.
In the 2000s, much was made of Latin America’s so-called “Pink Tide,” which began with Hugo Chávez’s first electoral victory in Venezuela (1998) and da Silva’s first term in Brazil (2002–2006). There followed an unprecedented rise of left-wing governments across the region. However, there were still important holdouts at the time; Mexico and Colombia didn’t veer left at all; Chile maintained its post-Pinochet social democracy; Peru’s original “Pink Tider,” Ollanta Humala, initially scared the markets in 2011 but proved to be mostly moderate in power.

By late 2022, however, hard leftists—often in cahoots with local communist parties—had handily won the last elections in each of these countries and in Argentina, which returned to Peronist Kirchnerism in 2019. Bolsonaro was the last right-winger standing”

January 6 isn’t a priority for voters — even where you’d most expect it

“In conversations with voters at an early-voting location in Virginia Beach, the economy weighed far more heavily than the attack on the Capitol. While jets from a nearby Naval Air Station roared overhead, those coming and going from casting their ballots didn’t view January 6 as a factor. Mike Malbon told Vox that he had voted for Kiggans. Although he had never voted for Luria, he described himself as a swing voter who had voted for Trump, Obama, and George W. Bush. Malbon said his vote was based on the fact that he was “just not really happy with what the Democrats were doing.” When asked if he’d thought about January 6 while voting, Malbon said, “I’ve thought about it for sure. I probably would never vote for Trump again, I would have otherwise.”
Melinda Salmons, who said she was voting for Kiggans because she thought Luria was in Nancy Pelosi’s pocket, echoed this. When asked about Trump, she told Vox, “Donald Trump doesn’t affect me one way or another. The man is not running. I’m like a lot of people, I like what my pocketbook says. I do not like what he says.””

Opinion | How to Message Against Far-Right Populism

“As a psychological anthropologist, my team and I have conducted new research showing the idea that the “system is rigged” is gaining ground among Americans of all political persuasions. That’s been particularly true post-2020, as Covid-19 shook the world, calls for racial justice became louder and a contentious election ended with a violent insurrection. It’s a dynamic that offers real opportunity for progressives. This rhetoric — if deployed in a way that doesn’t simply fuel despair — offers a blueprint for countering right-wing populism while providing the crucial fixes needed for our society.
Progressives already recognize the role systems play in determining opportunities and outcomes in the United States. Acknowledgment that institutions shape our lives can counter a tendency toward individualism and foster thinking that favors inclusion, justice and community. As an example, “systemic thinking” moves the conversation about poverty from one focused on individual deservingness to one about opportunity. More systemic thinking can also help people understand that environments influence our health outcomes, leading to greater support for safe housing and affordable child care and health care. “Systems” thinking can similarly help us see how racism is embedded in the criminal legal system — from harmful police incentives to over-patrolling of Black neighborhoods to cash bail.”

“Of course, there are also traps and dangers in acknowledging and feeding the narrative that the system is rigged, which is one reason why some progressives have shied away from this approach. Americans across the political spectrum feel the system isn’t working, but they aren’t always sure what the system is, who is rigging it, or how. This leaves system-is-rigged thinking open to manipulation and cooptation. The left may see a chance to critique corporate power and redesign the system for more equitable outcomes. But the right has used this narrative to push the story that government systems are rigged to benefit minority groups at the expense of “ordinary” Americans, leading to the spread of the racist replacement theory and reinforcing the view that government is part of the problem.”

“To channel the public’s thinking in productive directions — and show that the system is rigged while demanding that the system be reformed — progressives must consistently fill in four crucial gaps: What system is being rigged? Who is rigging it and how? What impact does this have on specific groups of people and our country more broadly? And, most importantly, how can we “un-rig” these systems that aren’t working?”