The NYT’s Tucker Trilogy: Trumpism Without Trump

The gray lady is complicated. That was the original title of this post. The NYT can drive you crazy with its both-siderism and visits to Trumpy diners. Then, they’ll produce a magnificent piece of journalism like Nicholas Confessore’s deep dive into depravity, Tucker Carlson-style.

The NYT’s Tucker Trilogy bears the overall title American Nationalist. I would have called it white nationalist BUT the intent of the piece is made clear by the sub-heads:

Part 1: How Tucker Carlson Stoked White Fear to Conquer Cable

 Part 3 is a multimedia extravaganza detailing Carlson’s use of repetition to bring his message home. He calls it communicating. I call it propaganda.

The Mothertucker started off as a common-garden variety conservative, but his early cable news failures pushed him father and farther to the right. Since his move from Washington DC to Maine, he’s lived in a bubble. Here’s how Confessore describes it:

“After a two-decade run of international reporting trips and regular steakhouse lunches at the Palm, Mr. Carlson now surveys the world from behind an anchor’s desk and rarely goes out to eat. He professes not to use social media or own a television, and communicates with friends and colleagues via late-night texting marathons.

He now lives much of the year in an old family vacation place in a rural, blue-collar corner of Maine. His neighbors today are the kind of people who watch his show, rather than the kind of people who confront him in public about it. At the height of his influence, Mr. Carlson exists in a carefully constructed bubble of his own — a retreat, and a bunker.

On many nights, the highest-rated cable news show in prime time airs from a converted town garage in the village of Bryant Pond, Maine, not far from Mr. Carlson’s home. Like many rural places, Bryant Pond is less busy than it used to be. On a visit last fall, a few large Trump flags still dotted the road into town, and no one bothered with masks at the convenience store. Mr. Carlson’s studio, which is decorated like a cozy cabin in the woods, sits behind a peeling and deserted old grange hall. It is the shiniest, best-kept building in sight.”

Cue obvious musical interlude:

There are some other fascinating biographical details in Part 1. One thing I learned is that Tucker is not a mama’s boy:

“She didn’t raise us, she was horrible, and then she dies and causes all these problems,” Mr. Carlson told the host, describing a conversation with his brother. “And he goes, ‘It’s just perfect — she’s a bitch from the grave.’”

Carlson’s mother was a debutante turned hippie chick who let Tucker’s father raise the kids and have custody when they divorced. She also left multiple wills, which fueled Carlson’s hatred, I didn’t know any of this previously. It explains but doesn’t excuse his misogyny. The world’s smuggest preppy prick has abandonment issues.

In Part 2, Confessore explores Carlson’s success at Fox News where he’s become a law to himself. They no longer fact check his work and he only reports to Lachlan and Rupert Murdoch. His ratings are that good. If this sounds like a horror movie, it’s because it is.

In the early days of the Trump regime, Carlson made a crucial decision:

Newly planted in Fox’s newly vacated 8 p.m. time slot — previously held by the disgraced star Bill O’Reilly — Mr. Carlson told friends and co-workers that he needed to find a way to reach the Trump faithful, but without imitating Mr. Hannity. He didn’t want to get sucked into apologizing for Mr. Trump every day, he told one colleague, because the fickle, undisciplined new president would constantly need apologizing for.

The solution would not just propel Mr. Carlson toward the summit of cable news. It would ultimately thrust him to the forefront of the nationalist forces reshaping American conservatism. “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” the host and his producers decided, would embrace Trumpism, not Mr. Trump. The show would grasp the emotional core of Mr. Trump’s allure — white panic over the country’s changing ethnic composition — while keeping a carefully measured distance from the president himself. For years, as his television career sputtered, Mr. Carlson had adopted increasingly catastrophic views of immigration and the country’s shifting demographics. Now, as Mr. Trump took unvarnished nativism from the right-wing fringe to the Oval Office, Mr. Carlson made it the centerpiece of “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”

The Mothertucker may be cynical, but he’s also smart enough to recognize a fuck-up when he sees one. The Impeached Insult Comedian is the fuck-up’s fuck-up, but he understands the dark, nativist side of the white American psyche. That led Carlson to double down on nativism, racism, and Islamophobia.

The decision to embrace Trumpism, not Trump led to Carlson’s current pre-eminence at Fox News. It tuned his show into an electronic white nationalist tabloid that goes much farther than his forebearers William F. Buckley, Pat Buchanan, Bill O’Reilly, and Sean Hannity had ever gone.

Confessore’s sources at Fox News believe that Roger Ailes wouldn’t have allowed Tucker’s takeover. I disagree. Carlson is channeling Rupert Murdoch’s most primal instincts. Some of Murdoch’s people in Australia watch the Mothertucker’s show because they think it reflects Murdoch’s thinking. That’s right: Tucker Carlson is worse than Roger Ailes.

Repeat after me: Don’t call them conservatives.

The final part of American Nationalist is a multi-media extravaganza that details how often Carlson uses his key buzz words and phrases. He understands what Joseph Goebbels, the man who invented modern propaganda methods, understood: repetition is the essence of propaganda. I know I just repeated myself but it’s the Goebbels/Carlson way. It’s contagious.

Part of Tucker’s technique is to direct his screeds directly at viewers, they’re YOU and people like us are THEY.

A brief musical interlude before going deeper into the heart of darkness:

Part 3 can be tough going. It took me somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes to get through it. I’m not sure because it was like running a high fever: it addled my sense of time and space.

Entering the Tucker Carlson Zone is much like Tommy T’s weekly deep dive into the Free Republic fever swamp. I should have borrowed his hazmat suit.

The NYT reviewed 1,150 episodes of Tucker Carlson Tonight and came up with the following buzz word count per episode:

  • Ruling Class Plot, 800+ episodes. “The Ruling Class wants you to shut up and obey”
  • Allusions to the replacement theory, 400+ episodes.
  • Shifting gender roles and falling birthrates, 200+ episodes
  • Anti-white male discrimination and denials that Black people are discriminated against, 600+ episodes.
  • Destruction of society, 600+ episodes.

Tucker Carlson Tonight should be retitled Apocalypse, Tucker. He’s tapped into people’s worse fears and instincts, and keeps driving his insidious points home by means of repetition. That’s why I almost called this post, Tucker Carlson: American Goebbels. I made it the tagline instead. It’s scary enough there.

I will continue to mock Tucker Carlson, but I will take him more seriously in the future after reading the NYT’s Tucker Trilogy. I previously discounted talk of his presidential ambitions. I no longer will.

Carlson seems to have a messianic streak and as I said in Of Orthodox Easter & Russia’s Unholy War: Beware of leaders with messianic dreams.

Trumpism without Trump has served Tucker Carlson well. One of my worst fears has been of a smarter Trumper taking the reins of Trumpism. Tucker Carlson might be the guy.

The last word goes to George Harrison: