April 27, 2023 | Reading Time: 3 minutes
Tucker Carlson and why selling GOP groupthink had to end
With so many people centered on the same lie featuring the same private firm, it’s hard to think of better conditions for striking back.
Tucker Carlson is out. Maybe it’s because of the $788 million in Murdoch moolah that went up in smoke. But, according to the Post’s Erik Wemple, maybe it’s not. What’s certain, he said, is “a terrible individual” is gone.
It’s tempting to think, as Erik’s colleague Greg Sargent argued, that with the fall of Carlson comes the fall of maga. I don’t know about that, only because I doubt whether anyone can know. What we do know is choices have consequences, including unforeseen consequences.
A consequence of putting Carlson at the top of Fox, for nearly 15 years, was that every one of the Republicans said the same thing, over and over, so frequently and so intensely, that every one of the Republicans not only said the same thing, but seemed to think the same thing.
Carlson is just one cog in the rightwing media apparatus, which is global in scale, but that cog was, without a doubt, the biggest and most influential. Do not pity the poor heir to a frozen fish fortune. Sure, Tucker Swanson Carlson has been fired more than most. But he’s like herpes. It doesn’t matter how often he’s treated. He’s never going away.
While sameness of thought is usually good for capital, it’s bad when the social conditions, in which homogeneity had been operating, suddenly shift – as they did when Dominion Voting Systems sued Fox for lies that, though not explicitly told by Carlson, flourished in a climate of propaganda that Carlson was chiefly responsible for cultivating.
The more Fox told normal Republican voters that Donald Trump had been robbed by makebelieve forces in cahoots with Dominion Voting Systems, the more normal Republican voters said it in return. The more they said it together, the less they thought about it. The less they thought about it, the less they thought about the wisdom of saying it.
With so many people saying the same thing centered on the same lie featuring the same for-profit enterprise, well, it’s hard to imagine better legal conditions for Dominion Voting Systems striking back.
But it doesn’t take shifting social conditions for top executives of the country’s most lucrative media property to know that, over time, doing the same thing over and over doesn’t produce the same results. Doing the same thing over and over, expecting everything to remain the same, defines crazy. Top Fox executives are many things, but crazy isn’t one.
While it’s tempting to think the fall of Carlson means the fall of maga, I think it’s more useful to consider the development in simpler terms. We could be witnessing the fall of maga or we could be witnessing the fall of the way Carlson talked about maga – the end of the line of forcing every one of the Republicans to talk and think the same way, over and over, all the time, for fear being punished for disloyalty to Trump.
We could be witnessing Fox executives conceding, indirectly, that nearly 15 years of selling authoritarian collectivism, though good while it lasted, is like all good things. Eventually, it had to come to an end.
While Tucker Swanson Carlson will never really go away, on account of his kinship to a sexually transmitted virus, he’s gone as far as Fox is concerned. The old play is played out. Getting everyone to say and think the same thing is now costing Fox more than it’s bringing in. This was, strictly speaking, a business decision. It was time to move on – to a new face who will repeat Carlson’s success but make it seem different.
The irony is that liberalism, in the hands of liberals with the power to do something about it, including the president, had nothing to do with it. Today’s liberals are fixed on hypocrisy. For nearly 15 years, they beat that drum more times than Carlson fanboys tanned their testicles.
It’s a double irony.
For this entire time, liberals felt obligated to poke holes in Carlson’s arguments, though Carlson felt no obligation to stand by anything he said. All liberals had to do was point out the obvious – that he and the rest of the rightwing media apparatus, which is global in scale, forced every one of the Republicans to say the same thing, over and over, to the point where they appeared to be thinking the same thing, too.
Poking holes in authoritarian arguments is unnecessary when all you need to say is that people who say the same thing, and who think the same thing, can’t be trusted with anything, much less the whole truth.
Liberals never saw the utility. They get no credit. Only Fox executives get it. They don’t spend their time congratulating themselves, but instead make practical decisions about what works and what doesn’t.
Carlson doesn’t work anymore.
John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.