Will Tucker Carlson face any consequences?
Just two days after a racist right-wing teenager spouting the Fox News host’s beloved “great replacement” theory—that Democrats and “elites” are working to replace white Americans with immigrants of color, echoed by Carlson on his show at least 400 times—murdered at least 10 people in Buffalo, N.Y., Carlson’s employer is facing its annual “upfronts” meeting to convince media buyers to place ads with Fox, including on Carlson’s show.
Will it work? I’d like to say that advertisers will rebel, but I can’t. As The New York Times revealed in one of its best investigations in recent years, consumer pressure has reduced the number of ads run on Carlson’s show—and yet the revenue has doubled. The folks invested in racism are super-invested—the viewers, but also advertisers. I have no reason to believe that will change after the Buffalo massacre. But we can dream.
Let’s be very clear: It’s not just Carlson. The replacement theory has gone mainstream in today’s Republican Party. Laura Ingraham and Jeanine Pirro have touted it on their Fox shows. You can hear an echo in the sick claim that immigrants bear some blame for the baby formula shortage American parents are facing. Former moderate GOP Representative Elise Stefanik tweeted Friday, “The White House, House Dems, & usual pedo grifters are so out of touch with the American people that rather than present ANY PLAN or urgency to address the nationwide baby formula crisis, they double down on sending pallets of formula to the southern border.” She knows her audience.
Oh, also “pedo grifters.” She’s calling us pedophiles on a grift—the foundation of the deadly QAnon conspiracy theory that Democrats and celebrities are behind a massive child sex trafficking racket. The QAnon nonsense has already led to violence, and it will almost certainly lead to more. Meanwhile, Ohio GOP Senate nominee J.D. Vance is accusing President Biden’s border policies of “killing Ohioans” with an influx of “illegal drugs” and “Democrat voters.” What’s to stop a Vance follower from using violence to stop those “killing Ohioans,” and claiming self-defense?
Murderer Payton Gendron, 18, was not acting alone, intellectually anyway. We’ve seen mass murderers cite the same replacement theory to justify their carnage before. The 2018 Christchurch, New Zealand, killer, Brandon Tarrant, wrote a “manifesto” titled “The Great Replacement,” explaining that European whites should fight “racial and cultural replacement” by immigrants. The next year, 21-year-old Patrick Crusius killed 23 people in an El Paso Walmart to protest a “Hispanic invasion” of the United States. The 2018 Tree of Life synagogue murderer Robert Bowers also insisted that Jewish charities—he killed 11 Jews— were bringing “invaders that kill our people” to America. Oh, and remember that the Charlottesville Nazis in khakis chanted “Jews will not replace us,” before acolyte James Alex Fields murdered Heather Heyer, and wounded four others, with his car, after a two-day white supremacist rampage in August 2017.
An Associated Press poll this month found that one in three American adults believes there’s an organized push “to replace native-born Americans with immigrants for electoral gains,” according to an Associated Press poll released this month. And people who mostly consume right-wing media—like Fox News, One American News Network, and Newsmax—were more likely to believe that than those who watched CNN or MSNBC.
Gendron’s own manifesto praised the Christchurch killer and 2015 Charleston racist murderer Dylan Roof. (He reportedly plagiarized more than half of it from the Christchurch manifesto.) He expressed concern about declining white birthrates (it’s hard not to think about the footnote in Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion striking down abortion rights that quotes a 2008 CDC report referring to a “virtually nonexistent” “domestic supply of infants” for adoption). He blames “the Jews [for]…spreading ideas such as Critical Race Theory and white shame/guilt to brainwash Whites into hating themselves and their people,” but insists “they can be dealt with in time.”
And while there’s no evidence that he was a Carlson fan, he practically quoted the Fox host verbatim in one section of his online screed, writing: “Why is diversity said to be our greatest strength? Said throughout the media, spoken by politicians, educators and celebrities. But no one ever seems to give a reason why. What gives a nation strength? And how does diversity increase that strength?” On a 2018 show Carlson asked: “How, precisely, is diversity our strength? Since you’ve made this our new national motto, please be specific as you explain it. Can you think, for example, of other institutions such as, I don’t know, marriage or military units in which the less people have in common, the more cohesive they are?”
Gendron’s personal twist on the replacement theory was his hatred of Black people, even the native-born. He chose Buffalo’s East Side, he said, because “it has the highest black population percentage” that was nearest to where he lived, 200 miles away, in rural Conklin, N.Y. “Here’s your reparations,” he wrote on one gun; the n-word was written on the other side. The teenager wore body armor and livestreamed his brutality.
The Tops supermarket he targeted was a community development project built in what had been a low-income “food desert,” where people couldn’t buy fresh or affordable food, and where community groups over the years have worked to put grocery stores. Did Gendron know that? I doubt it. For now, it’s a food desert again, while the store is closed for clean-up and investigation.
I got into trouble in 2009 by suggesting that Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly had mainstreamed hatred of Dr. George Tiller, a Wichita abortion provider, in the years leading up to his murder. “When Bill O’Reilly goes on TV every night and calls Dr. Tiller a baby killer and a Nazi and a Mengele, and shows where he works, why do we put up with that?” I wrote in Salon. “Why is that entertainment in our culture? It’s demonizing a private citizen for doing a lawful job? Why are people doing that? Why is that acceptable?” O’Reilly invited me on his show, where he proceeded to brutalize me verbally and tell me I had blood on my hands.
I’d never go on Fox today, but once again the network’s stars, especially Carlson, bear some responsibility for fomenting violence, specifically by pushing the spurious and idiotic replacement theory. Carlson’s seen political and racial hatred turn to bloodshed multiple times before; now he’s seen it in Buffalo, brutalizing a low-income Black neighborhood that was created by redlining and discrimination. Can he be prosecuted? Of course not. Can he be blamed? Of course he can, and so can all the other Republicans who are descending into this sewer of hate. They can’t deny that anymore.