THURSDAY, DECEMBER 16, 2021
Tucker Carlson speaks: No, Virginia! In its current cover report, Newsmax magazine doesn't seem to be "rootin' for Putin," as Brian Stelter claimed.
The magazine isn't hailing his conquests with "Cheers! Champagne!" That's how Maddow dreamed it.
We'd also say that recent claims about Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham were also basically wrong. And by the way:
Can a nation survive with a "segregated" news environment—with a news environment in which each of its warring tribes hears nothing but the Storylines it loves, demands, prefers?
It's hard to imagine how that could work out. Increasingly, though, that's how our failed discourse works.
Today, though, we deliver some upbeat news. It's possible to make accurate statements about how crazy The Others are!
Our example involves Tucker Carlson. For starters, consider this passage from Jeremy Barr's recent report in the Washington Post:
BARR (12/14/21): Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who had said on Jan. 6 that “you’re not allowed to break windows or encourage people to break windows,” told his audience in September that the Capitol rioters “don’t look like terrorists. They look like tourists.” He has also baselessly suggested federal government involvement in the events of Jan. 6, culminating with his production of a three-part documentary series that featured claims that the deadly riot was a “false flag” or a “honey pot.” Two Fox News contributors, Jonah Goldberg and Stephen Hayes, cited that series as their primary rationale for resigning from the network, calling it “a collection of incoherent conspiracy-mongering, riddled with factual inaccuracies, half-truths, deceptive imagery, and damning omissions.”
We decided to fact-check the highlighted claim—the claim that Carlson said, back in September, that the Capitol rioters “don’t look like terrorists. They look like tourists.”
Here's why we decided to do that:
On its face, Barr's statement doesn't quite seem to make sense. If we're talking about people who are actual "rioters," in what way could they possibly "look like tourists?"
That didn't exactly seem to make sense. We wondered if Barr was being fair concerning what Carlson had said.
For the record, some of the people who went inside the Capitol that day didn't engage in rioting. Quite a few others did, of course. Other people engage in violent rioting on the steps leading into the building.
We googled around to see what Carlson had actually said. As it turned out, the quoted statement came from the monologue with which he opened his September 23 program on Fox. The headline on the Fox News transcript plus videotape says this:
Tucker: What really happened on Jan 6
Tucker was explaining "what really happened!" Below, you see the fuller passage from which Barr drew his quote:
CARLSON (9/23/21): [New] footage was just released. It was obtained by BuzzFeed. It covers 15 minutes on January 6th from 2:25 p.m. to 2:40 p.m. Eastern, and those are key moments in the so-called insurrection.
Now right now, you're seeing images from a surveillance camera positioned at the entrance to the Senate wing of the Capitol. You don't see people hiding bombs or using bayonets or firing weapons, trying to take over the country in an insurrection.
You see people walking around and taking pictures. They don't look like terrorists, they look like tourists, and all of them by the way are Americans.
The rest of the [new] footage, including shots from surveillance cameras outside the crypt of the Capitol, is similar to this.
Let's be fair! The people in that particular bit of footage actually weren't engaged in "rioting," at least not at that specific time.
As you can see in the videotape of Carlson's monologue, they actually were just "walking around and taking pictures." According to Carlson, the rest of the new footage from BuzzFeed showed other people who weren't engaged in rioting, at least not at that time.
Here's the problem:
If you read Tucker's entire monologue, he barely mentions the fact that other people very much did engage in violent rioting. At one point, he offers this:
CARLSON: So, it turns out, the vast majority of people inside the Capitol on January 6 were peaceful. They were not insurrectionists. They shouldn't have been there [but] they weren't trying to overthrow the government. That's a total crock.
And with that in mind, some of the other lies about January 6th start to make more sense.
Tucker did acknowledge the fact that the people in question shouldn't have been inside the Capitol building. But he said "the vast majority [of those people] were peaceful"—and elsewhere, as you can see from the transcript, he strongly implied that the people who were violent that day were actually "federal agents."
His evidence for that exciting claim was strikingly slender. Soon, he was offering garbage like this:
CARLSON (continuing from above): ...some of the other lies about January 6th start to make more sense. Do you remember this?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANA CABRERA, CNN: Officer Brian Sicknick died after being hit in the head with a fire extinguisher during the hours-long attack.
NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC: They beat a Capitol police officer to death with a fire extinguisher.
ANDERSON COOPER: Officer Brian Sicknick died after being hit in the head with a fire extinguisher during the fight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He died at the age of 42 after he was bludgeoned with a fire extinguisher.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: So here's a rule of thumb going forward. If you ever watch television again or read the newspaper, when they are absolutely insistent that you believe something, when they keep beating you over the head with the same talking point again and again and again, beware. There's a reason they're saying when all of them are using exactly the same line. Maybe there's a reason for that. Maybe it's coordinated. Maybe they're lying.
As it turned out, Officer Sicknick actually wasn't beaten to death with a fire extinguisher. There's also no apparent reason to think that people were "lying" when they reported that initial (inaccurate) claim.
Our liberal news orgs often do engage in clownlike behavior. In this case, Barr himself took some liberties in the claim he attributed to Carlson—the puzzling claim about the way the "rioters" looked.
In fact, Carlson's actual monologue was, at least on its face, crazier than the milquetoast statement attributed to him by Barr. In our view, major news orgs should be trying harder to come to terms with apparently crackpot presentations of the type Carlson delivered that night.
(In fairness to Barr, he went on to suggest that Carlson's "three-part documentary series" really was basically nuts. We haven't seen the three-part series; you have to pay to see it.)
Yes, Virginia! Carlson made an extremely strange presentation on his Fox program that night. For the record, it doesn't resemble the comparatively sane presentations made by Hannity and Ingraham on the evening of January 6.
That said, at times of tribal warfare, distinctions like that don't matter. The Others will always be said to be crazily wrong or profoundly dishonest, even when they pretty much aren't. Tribal warfare demands that.
For the record, Rachel was clowning hard again last night. Our own corporate "cable news" stars are often painful to watch.
Perhaps our physicians, within our own tribe, should think a bit more about healing ourselves, even as they look for ways to describe the (many) actual problems which exist at Fox.
On the evening of January 6, Hannity said the rioters should all be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Our own cable stars, to a person, are never going to say that.
They will never make you hear that. Given the way our species works, it simply isn't done.