in

His post–Fox News journey just got even more embarrassing.

His post–Fox News journey just got even more embarrassing.
Announcement
Announcement

This is part of Sly as Fox, a short series about the perils of underestimating Fox News in 2024.

Announcement

It is always sort of heartwarming when a person fulfills their peak potential. Many of us never do so, after all, and instead spend our lives caught in the frustrating gap between ability and opportunity. When someone is able to bridge that gap and become their optimal self, it should count as cause for celebration. And so I am genuinely glad to see that former Fox News host Tucker Carlson is now doing the work that he was always meant to do: posting crackpot videos to the internet for an audience of angry loons.

It presumably came as the shock of Carlson’s life when, in April 2023, he was abruptly ousted from Fox News upon the sudden cancellation of his prime-time program there, Tucker Carlson Tonight. After all, Carlson was the unquestioned alpha of Fox’s talent roster, and his show often rated as the most popular prime-time show in all of cable television. He used his platform for many interesting purposes: to applaud political strongmen, to whitewash the events of Jan. 6, and to propagate a series of dark ethnonationalist theories that echoed themes long sounded in the least reputable corners of the internet. His formula was “Trumpism without Trump,” as the New York Times put it in a long 2022 profile, and it worked very well—right up until the day when his bosses, for whatever reason, decided that they had had enough.

While the justifications for his departure remain murky, the ramifications were as clear as day. Carlson was off the air, and because he was still under contract to Fox News—the contract reportedly runs through 2024—he could not seek employment at another media outlet. Sidelined on the brink of a general-election campaign, facing sudden irrelevance upon the loss of his prominent platform, Carlson decided to follow in the footsteps of many deposed mainstream-media icons before him: He took his talents online.

Within weeks of leaving Fox News, Carlson announced that he would independently produce a version of his show for broadcast on Twitter, now “X,” a website that is not known for having shows. In the first episode, he pretty much picked up where he had left off on cable: carrying water for Vladimir Putin, sneering at mainstream-media groupthink, and calling Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, who is Jewish, “sweaty and rat-like, a comedian turned oligarch, a persecutor of Christians, a friend of BlackRock.” There’s, uh, a lot to parse there.

According to Twitter, Carlson’s debut logged 114 million views within a week of its release—a number that seems much less impressive when you realize that a “view” only means that a logged-in user watched at least 2 seconds of a video with at least half of the video player visible on the user’s screen. This inaugural episode was met with a cease-and-desist letter from Fox News, and while Carlson neither ceased nor desisted, it ultimately didn’t matter, because “Tucker on Twitter” did not sustain its initial momentum.

Carlson seemed to be learning the same hard lesson that many other would-be multiplatform demagogues have learned: The internet is already oversaturated with perfervid dog-whistling about shadowy globalist cabals. Carlson’s VDARE-lite punditry was a novelty on mainstream cable television. On Twitter, though, he was just another wingnut with a webcam. But rather than reading the room and deciding to sit back and count his money while waiting for his Fox contract to expire, Carlson instead chose to double down on his online ventures.

In December 2023, with seed capital from an “anti-woke” venture capital firm and in collaboration with his college roommate and co-founder of the Daily Caller, Neil Patel, and the former executive producer of his Fox News show, Justin Wells, Carlson launched a website called the “Tucker Carlson Network,” or TCN—not to be confused with the cable network TCM, which also likes to present things in black and white. (On Wednesday, Semafor reported that Wells is leaving TCN.)

Announcement

I spent much of this past week poking around on TCN, which is perhaps best understood as a streaming service meant for the sorts of people who thought Heather Heyer had it coming. While I do not fully understand how this venture is allowable under the terms of Carlson’s Fox News contract, I suppose it’s possible that Fox took a look at TCN’s output and decided that there are some eyeballs that just aren’t worth competing for.

The website features various Tucker-centric programs covering various Tucker-approved topics, such as systemic racism against white Americans, the Biden administration’s alleged war on Christianity, and the many ways in which the QAnon Shaman got jobbed by the feds. Some TCN content is paywalled, and to access it you have to subscribe, for either $9 per month or $72 per year. Your subscription also buys you other perks, such as the opportunity to ask the host questions that he might subsequently choose to answer on camera, in an advice segment called Ask Tucker. (“I want to discipline my kids but I’m worried about turning into Tony Fauci. What do I do?”) The network’s logo resembles a “red pill,” as in the metaphorical medicine that alt-right podcasters urge their listeners to swallow so that they might stop feeling bad about being bigoted incels.

TCN’s shows are all pretty similar. Carlson opines on current events and conducts interviews with an ideologically predictable roster of guests, such as mixed martial artist and alleged cultural cancelee Gina Carano; former Times reporter turned vaccine skeptic Alex Berenson; Joe Biden sexual-assault accuser Tara Reade; and Twitter user Catturd. He also interviewed the notorious mid-2000s internet jackass Tucker Max, whom Carlson inaccurately described as being a “beautiful prose stylist.” (I suppose I should not be surprised that America’s two most irritating Tuckers know each other.) Carlson also interviews heavier hitters, such as Andrew and Tristan Tate, the sibling social-media influencers who are each currently facing rape and human trafficking charges in Romania; Jeffrey Epstein’s brother Mark, who refused to appear on camera; and Vladimir Putin, whom Carlson traveled to Russia to meet earlier this year, and who subsequently disparaged the host for conducting a softball interview.

Putin was a big “get” for Carlson, no doubt about it, even if the interview made the host look more like a credulous tourist than a serious journalist. And yet most of Carlson’s guests on TCN are neither as prominent nor as important as Putin. The host isn’t sitting down with world leaders every week; he’s sitting down with the sorts of guests whom you can also find on plenty of other alt-right online shows and podcasts. After poking around the Tucker Carlson Network for the better part of a week, I couldn’t help but wonder: Who, exactly, is the website for?

Earlier in this column I speculated that Carlson’s audience was made up of angry loons—but as I already mentioned, there’s already a lot of competition online for these people’s attention, and many of these outlets do not require said loons to spend $9 per month to get their cortisol fix. “The whole vision is to create the next media company that is purpose-built for the 2020s and 2030s,” one of Carlson’s financiers told the Wall Street Journal. The pitch seemed somehow both ominous and empty, much like many of Carlson’s monologues. I might not be an anti-woke VC, but I do know enough about media to say that actual next-generation media companies generally aren’t built around middle-aged race-baiters interviewing cranks and weirdos from their paneled living room. That’s a podcast, not a viable startup.

Podcasts and online shows can be lucrative, that’s for sure, and perhaps Carlson’s intention is simply to bigfoot some of the other alt-right commentators who have staked their claims in that space. But to play in the same sandbox as people such as Joe Rogan and Alex Jones—in a recent appearance on Rogan’s show, Carlson implied that Jones may be some sort of prophet—Carlson’s going to have to keep matching or exceeding them thematically. The farther he goes over into true wingnut territory, the harder it becomes to build an actual media company around him.

What’s Carlson’s endgame here? A March interview that Carlson conducted with ex-CNN guy and current NewsNation host Chris Cuomo perhaps offers a clue. It ran for almost two hours, and while I confess to only skipping around in it instead of watching the whole thing, the unmistakable impression I got from the conversation is that these are two guys who really miss their old platforms. Seen in that context, you begin to understand that the Tucker Carlson Network is primarily meant for Tucker Carlson himself. It’s a vanity project designed to keep the host busy as he counts down the days to when he can return to cable once again.

For now, though, he’s working hard to remake his cable persona for the needs and desires of the alt-right internet. Although a new program called The Tucker Carlson Show just launched this week—Carlson’s first two guests were podcaster Dave Smith and ayahuasca enthusiast Aaron Rodgers, who announced, inaccurately, that Carlson’s interview with Putin had been “awesome”—TCN’s flagship show up to now has been Tucker Carlson Uncensored, in which the host monologues a bit and then generally chats with a guest. While the show’s title implies that the host was in fact censored in his previous job, the Tucker Carlson Uncensored episodes I watched were all thematically similar to his Fox News output.

Announcement

If there is a discernable difference between this new, free-to-speak-his-mind version of Carlson and his ostensibly muzzled predecessor, I suppose it is that Uncensored Tucker hardly even bothers to camouflage his true opinions and intentions. The Ukraine skepticism and careful Putin apologism that pervaded the last year or so of his Fox show has become a full-fledged effort to portray Ukraine as the real enemy. And while Carlson spent countless hours on Fox News fanning the flames of xenophobic nativism, on Uncensored he’s doing stuff like interviewing white nationalist Lydia Brimelow. You get the picture. Carlson is no longer wasting any time trying to hide the ball, which I suppose is why I’m happy for him. In becoming an internet video guy, Carlson has emerged fully from the shadows and stepped fully into the unflattering light of his own biases. There is something to be said for self-actualization—if only so that the rest of us can see who someone’s true self was all along.



Announcement


Source link

Announcement

What do you think?

Written by Politixia

Announcement
Announcement

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Announcement
Watch: Bear blocks traffic on California highway

Watch: Bear blocks traffic on California highway

California Road Charge proposal would have motorists pay by miles driven instead of per-gallon gas tax

California Road Charge proposal would have motorists pay by miles driven instead of per-gallon gas tax