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Tucker Carlson is Aiding Anti-American Terrorists
Fox News' most popular show pushes an ideology that’s motivated deadly attacks
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We have a white nationalist terrorism problem. And Tucker Carlson is helping the terrorists.
That’s a serious accusation, and I don’t make it lightly. I’ve been teaching about terrorism for 15 years, primarily focused on the jihadists of al Qaeda and ISIS. But recently I’ve added more material on white nationalists to my courses, because they’ve committed the deadliest terrorist attacks in the United States in recent years, and some of the deadliest around the world.
Tucker hasn’t committed violence, provided material support, or anything direct like that. But his popular Fox News show regularly makes the same arguments as the terrorists, pushing the conspiracy theory that motivates their violence. It’s as if, after the September 11th attacks, a prominent TV host worked diligently to convince Americans that al Qaeda’s view of the United States was right.
The Terrorist Threat
Somewhat paradoxically, this white nationalist terrorist threat is transnational, as racists and xenophobes from majority-white, majority-Christian countries unite around a shared ideology. They tend to attack in their home country, but get inspiration from terrorism abroad, and encourage each other in online forums to take initiative in the real world. They don’t have a central organization, like al Qaeda or ISIS, which limits white nationalists’ ability to organize larger, more sophisticated attacks. But that also means counterterrorists lack targets. There are no training camps to bomb, no fundraising fronts to shut down, no network of cells to map. White nationalist terrorists operate on their own as self-starters, exhibiting a warped version of the activist mantra “think globally, act locally.”
What makes this nationalism transnational is a fixation on race, religion, and culture. Though they obsess over national borders, they see a sort of civilizational solidarity, casting themselves as defenders of the West, Christendom, or, most directly, white people. These white nationalists go far beyond normal concerns about immigration and border security, describing immigration of nonwhites and Muslims as “invasion.” Despite some protestations that they’re just trying to preserve culture, their racism is evident in their hostility to Christians from South America, American partners from Afghanistan, and democracy activists from Hong Kong.
Driving the ideology is a conspiracy theory called “the great replacement.” Often attributed to French writer Renaud Camus, the theory argues that immigration to the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand is not an organic phenomenon driven by economics and opportunity — the push-pull of poor conditions in countries of origin and better conditions in the destination — but a conscious effort by globalized elites to “dilute” the whiteness of their countries. Various versions put most of the blame on certain politicians, the media, or the Jews, but all claim it’s a coordinated conspiracy in pursuit of power. In the United States, adherents typically claim that liberal and progressive politicians expect people of color to vote for them, and once enough have been imported, they’ll shut conservatives out of power and then, in the most fevered imaginations, escalate to their ultimate goal: white genocide.
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that evidence for this conspiracy theory is nonexistent, or at least very stretched. The closest it gets to reality is predictions that America will continue becoming less white due to immigration and birth rates, and that this will benefit Democrats politically. The fact that the long-predicted “emerging Democratic majority” hasn’t materialized, party affiliation isn’t fixed, and Republican Donald Trump did better with black and Hispanic voters in 2020 than he did in 2016 — while losing ground with white voters — doesn’t faze the conspiracy theorists. Nor does the fact that Democratic president Barack Obama increased funding for border security and oversaw record deportations.
Great replacement theory has some parallels to racist and nativist movements past, such as the KKK and the Silver Shirts, but mainstream America first saw the modern version in August 2017, in Charlottesville, Virginia. At the “Unite the Right” rally, neo-Nazis — by which I mean people who literally carried swastika-emblazoned flags — and assorted white supremacists marched carrying tiki torches, chanting “You will not replace us. Jews will not replace us.” One participant deliberately drove his car into a group of counter-protestors, killing one.
In 2017, this argument was on the fringe. A more emboldened fringe, yes, but still a fringe. Now it’s a staple of basic cable’s most-watched show.
The white nationalist terrorism movement has some links back to Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, who was a fan of the white supremacist fantasy The Turner Diaries. But there were other factors involved in that 1995 attack, and McVeigh wasn’t really a believer in great replacement theory.
If this violent movement has a founder, it’s Norweigian terrorist Anders Breivik. In July 2011, Breivik set off a fertilizer van bomb — similar to McVeigh’s — near government buildings in Oslo, killing eight, and then shot up a youth summer camp affiliated with Norway’s center-left Labour Party, which was in power at the time. He killed 69 people at the camp, many of them kids. With 77 dead and over 300 injured, it’s one of the largest terrorist attacks in European history.
Like most terrorists, Breivik saw the attack as a way to draw attention to his political grievances, which he put in a manifesto arguing that Europe was committing “cultural suicide” by allowing Muslim immigration. Breivik wrote about Europe and Christians — claiming to be part of an “international Christian military order,” favorably referencing crusaders, and using pictures of crosses — but attacked the ruling party in Norway, which he blamed for allowing what he said was a Muslim takeover. In reality, about three percent of Norwegians are Muslim.
Breivik’s manifesto got passed around extremist internet circles, where it was favorably received. Far-right blogger Curtis Yarvin, who wrote under the handle “Mencius Moldbug,” gave a partially hedged defense of Breivik in an essay called “Right-Wing Terrorism as Folk Activism.” In subsequent years, the Norwegian terrorist’s biggest admirers have taken to calling him “Saint Breivik,” another example of Christian language.
(If you read this and think “that’s not real Christianity, it’s a sick form of identity politics,” you know how most Muslims feel about al Qaeda and ISIS).
Subsequent white nationalist terrorists praised Breivik and referenced his arguments. The Christchurch shooter, who live-streamed his March 2019 murder of 51 people at two mosques in New Zealand, called his manifesto “The Great Replacement.” It claims Breivik as an inspiration, and attempts to justify killing innocents as self-defense against an “occupying force” brought in as part of a “white genocide” conspiracy. In reality, about 1.3 percent of New Zealanders are Muslim.
Five months later, a different white nationalist attacked a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, targeting Hispanics. He killed 23 people in the largest anti-Latino terrorist attack in U.S. history. The El Paso shooter also released a manifesto, which claimed the Christchurch shooter as inspiration and made similar arguments, albeit versions more tailored to Texas than New Zealand. In this one, Hispanics, rather than Muslims, represent the “invasion” deliberately brought in by politicians in the name of “cultural and ethnic replacement.” According to the terrorist, this supposed conspiracy would soon lead to Democrats taking permanent control of Texas and by extension the United States. He hoped that by murdering innocent Latinos he could reverse the process and ensure continued white power.
Both shooters had spent time on 8chan, a fringey online image board. So had the perpetrator of an April 2019 attack at a synagogue in Poway, California that killed one. He too espoused conspiracy theories of impending “white genocide.” The Christchurch and El Paso terrorists’ manifestos spread on 8chan, and the Poway terrorist announced his intentions on the site. Due to its role in three deadly terrorist attacks in a five month period, 8chan’s host server kicked it off. A few months later, it resurfaced on a Russian web server, rebranded as 8kun.
One week after the El Paso attack, another white nationalist opened fire in a mosque, this time in Norway. He live-streamed the attack, called the Christchurch shooter a “saint,” and praised the Poway and El Paso attackers as “heroes.” Fortunately, he didn’t kill anybody, and injured only one.
These terrorists weren’t part of any organization, and probably never interacted directly with each other (or with Breivik). They didn’t attack under anyone’s orders. They acted on their own, inspired by each other, and encouraged by likeminded individuals online. All embraced versions of the same conspiracy theory.
So did the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter. In October 2018, he killed 13 at the Tree of Life synagogue in the largest antisemitic terrorist attack in U.S. history. Unlike the Breivik fans, he didn't release a manifesto, but his posts on Gab — a social network that’s basically Twitter for people who’d get kicked off Twitter — explain his motive.
“HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people,” the shooter posted an hour before he attacked, referring to a Jewish organization that helps refugees. “I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered.” 17 days earlier, he denounced HIAS, rhetorically asking, “You like to bring in hostile invaders to dwell among us?”
The supposed “invaders” in this context were Syrians fleeing a brutal civil war. The thing that supposedly made them “hostile” is that most are Arab and/or Muslim. “Watch my people get slaughtered” is “white genocide” delusion. And the terrorist’s decision to attack a synagogue because a Jewish charity helps nonwhite refugees settle in America is a violent parallel to the “Jews shall not replace us” chant heard at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville.
In February 2018, national security researcher Peter W. Singer ran the numbers and showed that, over the last decade, 71 percent of “politically or religiously inspired killings” in the United States were by right-wing extremists (who he defined as encompassing “white nationalism, white supremacy, anti-government militia, and Neo-Nazism”). 26 percent were killed by jihadists, and three percent by left-wing extremists. And that was before the El Paso and Pittsburgh attacks.
Singer’s numbers also don’t count failed plots — such as a thwarted attempt to blow up an apartment complex in Kansas that houses Somali refugees — nor the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Many factors contributed to Jan. 6, but it had white nationalist elements, and included some figures from the “Unite the Right” rally.
White Nationalist TV
Tucker Carlson Tonight first aired on November 14, 2016, eight days after Donald Trump was elected president. The show typically pulls 3.5 to 4.5 million viewers (which doesn’t count anyone who watches clips on the internet). It features arguments that are awfully similar to white nationalist terrorist manifestos, presented straightforwardly, almost indignantly, as if it’s obviously true and the reason others don’t say so is not because it’s paranoid hyperbole, but because it’s somehow forbidden.
For example, here’s Tucker on December 20, 2017: “Democrats know if they keep up the flood of illegals into the country, they can eventually turn it into a flood of voters for them… Their political success does not depend on good policies, but on demographic replacement, and they’ll do anything to make sure it happens.”
That last bit — “they’ll do anything to make sure it happens” — is standard Carlson. It sounds threatening, but remains ambiguous, manipulating more conventional immigration skepticism by stoking fear and prompting viewers to use their imagination. Tucker doesn’t explain what, exactly, Democrats are doing to make sure it happens, probably because Republicans controlled all levers of federal power at the time, and even when Democrats controlled the government, they oversaw a lot of deportations. Compared to Republicans, Democrats are generally more positive about immigration, but none of their actions remotely resemble the scary-sounding “they’ll do anything.”
Tucker kept up this type of fear-mongering throughout the Trump presidency, but went up a level after Joe Biden’s inauguration.
April 8, 2021: “The Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World… So every time they import a new voter, I become disenfranchised as a current voter.”
How an illegal immigrant who cannot vote disenfranchises citizens who can, while an American who turns 18 does not, Tucker does not say. Nor does he explain why immigrants from “the Third World” dilute his vote and immigrants from Europe do not.
This month, Carlson went up another level, using the term “great replacement theory” for the first time. On September 21, 2021, Tucker claimed Biden is trying “to change the racial mix of the country… to reduce the political power of people whose ancestors lived here, and dramatically increase the proportion of Americans newly-arrived from the third world… In political terms, this policy is called ‘the great replacement,’ the replacement of legacy Americans with more obedient people from far-away countries. They brag about it all the time, but if you dare to say it’s happening they will scream at you with maximum hysteria.”
Among the things Tucker says “they” will do to you if you embrace this conspiracy theory: “you could lose your bank account.”
I could not find a single instance in which funds in an American’s bank account were somehow confiscated because they espoused a white nationalist conspiracy theory. Tucker did not offer any examples either. Meanwhile, in reality, the Biden administration is facing criticism from immigration activists for expelling thousands of Haitian migrants that recently arrived at the southern border. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees released a statement saying the expulsion “is inconsistent with international norms and may constitute refoulement,” which violates international law.
When Carlson said “great replacement theory” on the air, white nationalist and far right internet circles got excited, and encouraged people to spread the clip.
Does Tucker personally believe all this? Is he a white nationalist in his heart? Does he believe political violence against nonwhites, non-Christians, and Democrats is justified, and hope to see more? Or is he just saying this stuff in pursuit of ratings, money, and political gain?
I don’t know, but it doesn’t really matter. The effect is the same either way.
And he’s at least somewhat aware of it, but evidently doesn’t mind. Talking to Tucker on her radio show, Megyn Kelly brought up how the Anti-Defamation League — an organization dedicated to fighting antisemitism — denounced Carlson’s use of “great replacement theory.” Tucker’s response: “Fuck them!” And later: “obviously, I’m not going to stop.”
He doesn’t defend the terrorists outright, but he pushes the same ideology, with the same paranoid worldview. That provides justification for their actions, and indirectly encourages more.
Does this mean everyone who watches Tucker is a white nationalist? Hardly. If he were preaching to an entirely racist choir, it’d still be bad, but what makes it especially dangerous is all the regular Republicans who watch him. Carlson tells his viewers they’re victims, stoking existing grievances and introducing new ones, which he weaves together with a conspiracy theory. For five years, he’s fed them an escalating diet of white nationalist propaganda, increasing the overlap between mainstream conservatism and no-longer-fringe extremism.
The vast majority of Tucker’s viewers aren’t about to become terrorists. But since he reaches millions, if we assume 99.9% of Carlson fans would never turn to violence — even if they think they’re victims of a grand conspiracy — that leaves thousands who would. And the rest will be more likely to think the violence is justified, or at least understandable, even if they wouldn’t do it themselves. Expecting a friendly reception from a major media figure and his millions of fans makes a potential terrorist more likely to go through with it.
And it’s not just Tucker. Right-wing activist Charlie Kirk has been pushing versions of great replacement theory as well. For example, on August 16, Kirk argued that Biden intentionally collapsed Afghanistan to create refugees he could bring to the United States to “change the body politic permanently.” That’s absurd and convoluted, Kirk he says it with conviction and his millions of followers don’t seem to mind.
On his radio show on September 23, Kirk called for Texas to “deputize a citizen force” to go to the U.S.-Mexico border to stop “the invasion of the country” because Democrats are “bringing in voters” with the aim of “diminishing and decreasing the white demographics in America.” That’s what the El Paso Walmart terrorist thought he was doing.
On September 25, Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz tweeted that Tucker Carlson “is CORRECT about Replacement Theory as he explains what is happening to America. The ADL is a racist organization.” By that, Gaetz meant that the antisemitism-fighting group is racist against white people because they object to a conspiracy theory that motivated terrorist attacks against Jews.
This is what it looks like when a fringe idea gets mainstreamed.
What Can Be Done?
Trying to use state power to get Carlson off the air would blatantly violate the First Amendment, and probably make things worse. Even if it succeeds, the damage to freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and free enterprise would be immense. Any proposals along these lines should be rejected.
Private action doesn’t have the same problems. Criticism directed at Tucker or Fox News is free speech, as is boycotting their advertisers. (It’s your money; how you spend it is up to you.) Activists such as Sleeping Giants can try to use threats of bad PR and lost customers to get companies to adjust their business calculations and pull ads from Tucker’s show, thereby getting Fox to adjust as well.
But many have tried that already, and Fox executives evidently get enough of what they want from the show to keep it going. And besides, even if you think getting Fox to ditch him would be a good idea on the merits, the only thing it’d accomplish is moving Tucker to YouTube or a further right network like Newsmax.
It’s very likely Tucker remains on the air, providing indirect aid and comfort to anti-American terrorists by making versions of their arguments, mainstreaming their ideas, and misleading viewers, stoking anger and resentment. There might not be anything we can do in response, besides call it out, explain why it’s both wrong and dangerous — thereby hopefully limiting the number of people who fall for it — and, if he or his fellow travelers run for office, defeat them in elections.