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Threatening Tucker Carlson is wrong, and it’s also useless

Washington, D.C., police are investigating a protest outside the home of Fox News host TUcker Carlson as a possible hate crime.
Washington, D.C., police are investigating a protest outside the home of Fox News host TUcker Carlson as a possible hate crime. AP

Glenn Beck once said hateful things on Fox News. He called President Barack Obama a “racist.” He spread anti-Semitic messages. He trafficked in every kooky conspiracy notion on the planet. A targeted campaign against his advertisers forced his departure from the network back in 2011.

Bill O’Reilly once said stupid and offensive things on Fox News, all the while filling a filing cabinet with settlements with female co-workers for sexual harassment and outright abuse. An effective pressure campaign against his advertisers preceded his firing in April 2017.

Tucker Carlson, who now occupies O’Reilly’s time slot, says outrageous and divisive things on Fox News. He shills for President Donald Trump’s racist policies, demands that people defend the merits of diversity, scaremongers about the alleged perils of immigration and pleases white nationalists. The backlash against Carlson took an ugly and counterproductive turn away from pressuring advertisers on Wednesday night, as protesters showed up at his Washington, D.C., home.

“We want you to know, we know where you sleep at night,” one protester yelled, then the group chanted, “Tucker Carlson, we will fight! We know where you sleep at night!”

Twitter posts from the anti-fascist group Smash Racism D.C. argued that Carlson himself was responsible for injecting “fear into our homes.” A since-deleted tweet said, “Tonight you’re reminded that we have a voice. Tonight, we remind you that you are not safe either.” Protesters circulated Carlson’s address via Twitter, though the company deleted the tweets and also suspended Smash Racism D.C.’s account. Police patrolled the block to ensure the safety of Carlson’s family.

By all means: Protest Carlson and his white nationalist-pleasing rhetoric. But please don’t threaten him with language assuring him and his family that they’re not safe in their own home. That’s wrong, not to mention possibly illegal. A police spokesperson department told me, “There have been no arrests made regarding this incident. This case does remain under investigation.” Carlson didn’t respond to an email.

And then there’s the question of effectiveness, of which there’s none.

Scrolling back to late May 2017, Carlson did a clever segment on political violence in the United States, with a news peg from the body-slamming of Guardian journalist Ben Jacobs by then-congressional candidate Greg Gianforte in Montana. Carlson condemned the act, then accomplished one of his trademark pivots:

“America does face a threat of political violence. It does not come, by and large, from baby boomer evangelicals in Montana. Nor does it come from President Trump, whatever his flaws,” said Carlson. “The threat today comes from the progressive left and its growing enthusiasm for force as a political tool.”

Thereupon Carlson cited Teen Vogue writer Lauren Duca for tweeting something objectionable, people menacing Republican lawmakers, Rep. Maxine Waters of California’s supposed “celebrating racial violence during the L.A. riots” and a progressive activist who previously appeared on Carlson’s show and failed to denounce violence to the host’s standards.

That’s a pretty weak list. It gathers strength, however, from the threats chanted Wednesday night at Carlson’s residence. According to a police report, “It was discovered that unknown persons spray painted an anarchy symbol on the driveway.” The report also cites “suspected hate crime” with “anti-political” motivation.

If the goal is to stop Carlson, these tactics will ensure the opposite result. Fox News has thrived for years by hyping news stories about lefty protesters who overstep boundaries in expressing their views. Vandalism in the form of anarchy symbols is a valued visual at the network. By seizing on such stuff, Fox News has become a place where top management can say goodbye to O’Reilly and promote Carlson while maintaining its ratings preeminence.

A better approach is to view Carlson as a business who relies on advertisers, shareholders and cable subscribers to do his thing.

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