“The truth is contagious,” now-former Fox News host Tucker Carlson said in a speech at The Heritage Foundation’s 50th anniversary gala Friday night just outside Washington, D.C. “The more you tell the truth, the stronger you become.”
As you likely have heard by now, Carlson left the Fox News Channel on Monday. There is of course wild speculation as to why Fox’s biggest star left the network.
The reaction has been a mix of shock and, in some circles, celebration.
Ocasio-Cortez, a self-professed socialist, is apparently on the side of our current institutions smashing dissenters. Isn’t that interesting?
My biggest takeaway from Carlson’s exit from Fox News is that it represents a final break between “mainstream” corporate news and dissenting voices—whether on the Right or Left. I’d argue that even if you don’t like Carlson’s views, this is a worrisome moment for the United States.
Carlson was unique in that he gave airtime to stories almost nobody else wanted to touch. He extensively covered the Twitter files—revealing the disturbing ties between and among Big Tech, Big Business, and Big Government. He analyzed footage from Jan. 6, 2021, showing that what actually took place that day wasn’t in line with the narrative promoted by most legacy media outlets. He questioned the official narrative about Watergate and the role of intelligence agencies in American history.
Tucker Carlson was one of the rare dissenting voices on the war in Ukraine. Whether you agree with him or not on what the wisest U.S. policy is regarding support for Ukraine, isn’t it important that we keep an open mind about how best to serve American interests? After all, America faces immense challenges of its own, internally and externally.
We shouldn’t blindly trust our leaders and institutions to always do the right thing. Certainly not now, when they are so fully ideologically compromised. That should be particularly clear following the social unrest of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Afghanistan exit debacle, among other events in the past few years.
“Trust the science” was weaponized to mean “Do what you are told, or else.” Powerful people in powerful positions made bad, imperious calls with little consequence for them. Obvious failures have been glossed over without a reckoning for why they happened.
We left tens of billions of dollars in valuable military equipment behind in Afghanistan, where the Taliban quickly took over the country. Why did the Taliban seem to have a better handle on the situation than our military leaders?
“They couldn’t even secure a single runway,” Carlson said of our government’s actions in the days before the Afghanistan pullout. “And that’s the main lesson of the fall of Kabul. We are led by buffoons. They have no idea what they’re doing. We know that now. They’re imposters.”
Of course, no one in a high-level position lost their job or took full accountability for the disaster. Carlson supported the Afghanistan withdrawal, but rightly questioned why it was carried out so shambolically and with little subsequent accountability.
Apparently, the administration and most of the media are just going to let that slide. We should take that lesson and apply that to other important decisions for our country.
Writing a blank check for Ukraine aid is imprudent, whether we want more involvement in the conflict or less.
On Ukraine and countless other issues, Carlson has been willing to question the dominant narratives and even those of many people on his own side of the political aisle. Because of that, he made countless enemies on the Left and Right alike, especially those with power in the establishment.
The rise of Communist China is a unique threat to the country, as Carlson has discussed on his now-defunct show. How is the United States going to handle that threat with our other commitments? U.S. resources are vast, but not limitless. Assuming that we are still a self-governing people, we need to think clearly and seriously about our priorities.
Again, Carlson wasn’t afraid to stand out from the crowd, and while doing that, he rose to become Fox’s biggest star. For that, he was called reckless. His detractors said he was only telling those in his audience what they wanted to hear.
There’s been little reflection as to why his anti-establishment message has resonated with so many people. It’s as though we are supposed to pretend that something hasn’t fundamentally changed about our country and way of life in the past few years.
If Tucker Carlson now decides to go independent, he will join the ranks of the outsiders on Substack and independent platforms who now have a much, much larger audience than traditional cable shows and legacy newspapers. He will almost certainly succeed in whatever his next project is and the anti-institutional forces will likely get stronger. But we’ve still lost something with his departure from Fox.
It means the establishment media environment will become an even more stultified echo chamber, where dissenting voices are ignored, silenced, deplatformed, and siloed.
That’s “good” for the establishment, for the time being. But getting rid of Carlson and anyone else like him from legacy platforms won’t make the reason for his popularity go away.
Remarkable changes are happening in our society, where the official, “approved” message from the media has been proved in many cases to be spectacularly wrong. As people seek answers elsewhere, we risk a large-scale societal snap, when there is a shock to the system and the truth is revealed. The truth will prevail, but at a much greater cost.
The great French observer of American life, Alexis de Tocqueville, remarked that widespread freedom of speech and oppositional journalism made Americans less susceptible to revolution. We were a people used to hearing debate and ideas that contradicted our own, a people with a healthy amount of skepticism, but not cynicism.
How long can institutions lose trust as independent voices take their place? Will those institutions swoop down and crush the independents, maybe even with the help of the government? It seems that’s already happening.
This isn’t a sustainable model for a free society. If our current path continues, we will either fall into tyranny, or there will be some kind of revolution. We should hope we at least begin to solve our problems before getting to either of those points.
So, my sense is that Fox News will probably be fine, even if diminished. Carlson will be better than fine, with perhaps a bigger audience than ever. It’s the country that we should worry about.
Jarrett Stepman is a columnist for The Daily Signal. He is also the author of the book “The War on History: The Conspiracy to Rewrite America’s Past.”