Fox’s new Jan 6 Tucker Carlson project embraces conspiracy theories: NPR
Richard Drew / AP
Where Tucker Carlson Goes, Fox News and its viewers follow.
The network’s main host is now leading them to an examination of the violent siege of the United States Capitol on January 6 in a three-part series called “Patriot Purge,” which was posted this week on the network’s right-wing streaming service. , Fox Nation.
In the series, Carlson strongly suggests that the insurgency was orchestrated not by Trump fans but by his enemies, including the violent leftist group Antifa and even the FBI and other national security divisions. He plants the idea that the siege was a “false flag” operation to discredit Trump supporters.
Carlson promotes the series on his own prime-time show on Fox News – which is the highest-rated program in all of cable news – and on the popular morning show Fox & Friends.
“These types of January 6 conspiracy theories were once relegated to weird blogs and well-known conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones,” says Jared Holt, who monitors social media extremism for the Digital Forensic Research Lab. the Atlantic Council.
Holt argues that Carlson seeks to discredit reporting and court rulings regarding the siege.
“In a way, you don’t even need conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones to exist if Tucker Carlson is doing the conspiracy theorist job for them,” he says. Holt was among the researchers who reported levels of heated rhetoric ahead of the protests that led to the siege.
Fox News is in a “precarious situation”
Ironically, Fox News finds itself at a perilous time, despite being the country’s dominant cable news channel. Trump’s followers are his primary audience, and many viewers have vowed not to watch again after Fox became the first network to call Arizona for Joe Biden on Election Night 2020.
Some high-profile Fox hosts wooed them with a tight embrace from Trump supporters and their causes, including anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers.
Yet embracing Trump’s lies also took the network to court. Two election technology companies sued Fox, among other media, for defamation over multibillion-dollar claims. They come from the Fox hosts who amplify the lies from Trump and his allies that the 2020 election was rigged against him.
Fox vigorously disputes the allegations and defends itself against the lawsuits. Thus, the network tries to demonstrate its journalistic care and professionalism while seeking to retain millions of viewers who have little interest in one or the other.
“Fox is in a very precarious situation,” says Dannagal Young, a professor at the University of Delaware, who studies political communication and extremism. “They created a monster.”
Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott and her senior publicity executive did not respond to NPR’s written questions about the series. The network had requested that questions be submitted by email but has so far not responded.
The series draws on conspiracy theorists
In the series, Carlson draws on several conspiracy theorists to make his point.
Among those interviewed on camera was the editor of a site called Revolver News, which has propagated false statements about the election. The editor was Trump’s White House speechwriter and was fired in 2018 for speaking at a conference alongside white nationalists.
Other sources include a Glenn Beck’s reporter The fire who walked into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office with rioters and called them “revolutionaries” in a social media post, and a center-right researcher who concluded Antifa had led the disguised charge, based on the body language of the rioters. This claim has not been confirmed.
In fact, a defendant indicted in connection with the Capitol Riot said, according to court documents, “It was not Antifa on Capitol Hill. It was freedom-loving Patriots who were desperate to fight for the last. hope of our Republic. “
Shaky claims about two protesters who quit government jobs
In the second episode, Carlson’s film alleges that former Drug Enforcement Administration agent Mark Ibrahim lost his job at the DEA because he was outside the Capitol on January 6. But Ibrahim had already left the administration, according to federal prosecutors who say that on the day of the riot, “IBRAHIM was a probationary employee of the DEA and had, several weeks before the events of January 6, 2021, notified the DEA intends to resign. On January 6, 2021, IBRAHIM was on personal leave from the DEA. ”
The film also claims that Ibrahim was arrested only because he was outside the building. Federal prosecutors allege Ibrahim lied to federal investigators by telling officers he did not display his badge and weapon outside the Capitol. In fact, court documents include photos of Ibrahim posing outside the Capitol with his badge and weapon. Ibrahim is also said to have climbed to the top of the Peace Monument and delivered a monologue, with the aim of promoting his podcast “Liberty Tavern”.
Former Army Captain Emily Rainey, who had served as a psychological operations officer at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, said in the documentary series that the entire siege looked like it could be a “false flag” operation. under subterfuge by agents of federal agencies. She said she felt compelled to step down after her involvement in the pro-Trump rally came under scrutiny. As Fox News himself reported, citing CBS News, Rainey had previously resigned from his commission before heading to DC for the protest, following an unrelated reprimand.
Critics Say Carlson’s ‘Legacy Americans’ Plea is Racist
The series says the targeted patriots are those who support Trump and are “heritage Americans.” Such language has sparked objections from the Anti-Defamation League, among others, that Carlson advocates some form of white supremacy.
Carlson is also relying on people whose jobs wouldn’t succeed at most news agencies, including Fox News, to compile the draft documentary.
With regular producers of Carlson’s Fox, the series gives credit to Scooter Downey, a right-wing filmmaker who recently worked with Mike Cernovich, a former champion of baseless theories against Hillary Clinton and her Democratic allies. In addition, the series is firing footage from “The Steal”, a documentary project that peddles lies about the 2020 presidential election.
In text exchanges with NPR for the story, Carlson accused mainstream media of lying along with Democrats, saying his reporting showed there had been no insurgency. And he pointed to the coverage by NPR and other media just after the siege, as details were still emerging, to claim that the mainstream media had intentionally exaggerated the impatience of the rioters.
His series builds on the rhetoric and interviews he conducted on his show for months on end, basically accepting actual claims from some of his former guests and working them into a more radical narrative.
“They have started to fight a new enemy in a new war on terror,” Carlson warned his viewers in the first episode. “Not, you have to understand, a metaphorical war, but a real war, soldiers and paramilitary agencies stalking American citizens.”
Carlson is seeking to exonerate Trump supporters accused of participating in the sacking of the U.S. Capitol. He calls them the worst intruder and claims the media lied about their actions and motives.
Carlson uses real developments as stepping stones to baseless and sometimes disproved conclusions, against a backdrop of disturbing music and inflammatory footage. President Biden’s administration has argued that national white supremacists pose a greater terrorist threat to the United States than either IS or Al-Qaida. But its officials did not say that they intended to detain them in conditions similar to those at Guantanamo Bay or to torture them like the national guards did to Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, although both were visually invoked by the documentary.
“Things are getting out of hand”
“I see no end to what Tucker does other than violence on the part of his most passionate viewers,” Young of the University of Delaware says, calling them people “who logically answer what they are being told. said go to the world around them. ”
Young maintains that the Fox News management team no longer has effective control over what appears on the air. Former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes led the network with an iron fist for two decades. He was fired in 2016 and received $ 40 million in severance pay after being accused of sexual harassment and assault by waves of Fox News workers. He died the following year.
In the recent past, Fox News has vigorously opposed claims that Scott, the CEO, has not exercised strong editorial oversight of the network’s shows.
“Now I feel like things are completely out of whack,” Young says. “So [if] they tell Tucker that he’s not allowed to do certain behaviors, that he’s going to be on his show and complain about his network… and the censorship. “
Young says Carlson would turn his audience against Fox: “He’s basically going to mobilize his audience to do, who knows what to do at Fox News.”
For now, Young says, Carlson has been the defining figure of the network – whatever rabbit hole Carlson chooses to explore, Fox and his viewers will follow.